Ikkyū Sōjun 1394-1481

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Ikkyū 一休宗純 Ikkyū Sōjun 1394-1481 was an eccentric, iconoclastic Japanese Zen Buddhist priest and poet and one of the creators of the formal Japanese tea ceremony.

Ikkyu was born in 1394 in a small suburb of Kyoto as the illegitimate son of Emperor Go-Komatsu. His mother was forced to flee to Saga, Japan, where Ikkyu was raised by servants. At age five Ikkyu was separated from his mother and was enrolled as a monk at the Rinzai Zen temple, Ankokuji. The temple masters taught Chinese culture and language as part of the curriculum, a method termed Gozan Zen. He was given the name Shuken, and learned about Chinese poetry, art and literature.

When Ikkyu turned thirteen he entered Kennin-ji in Kyoto to study Zen under a well known priest by the name of Botetsu. Here Ikkyu began to frequently write poetry which was non-traditional in form. He was openly critical of Kennin-ji's leadership in his poetry, disheartened with the social stratum and lack of zazen practice he saw around him.

In 1410, at age sixteen, Ikkyu left Kennin-ji and entered the Mibuji, and then soon to the Saikin-ji by Lake Biwa region where he studied with abbot Keno. In 1414, when Ikkyu was 21, Keno died. Ikkyu performed funeral rites and fasted for seven days. In despair Ikkyu tried to commit suicide by drowning himself in Lake Biwa, but was talked out of it from the shore.

Ikkyu found a new teacher, a master named Kaso at Zenko-an, a branch temple of Daitoku-ji. Ikkyu concentrated on koan study. In 1418 Ikkyu was given Case 15 of the Mumonkan, Tozans 60 Blows. One day a band of blind singers performed at the temple and Ikkyu penetrated his koan while engrossed in the music. In recognition of his understanding Kaso gave Shuken the Dharma name Ikkyu, which roughly means One Pause.

In 1420 Ikkyu was meditating in a boat on Lake Biwa when the sound of a crow sparked satori.

Ikkyu's personal life was erratic. He drank to excessand di not get along with some of his more serious monk brothers. Ikkyu went on the road as a vagabond. Around this time, he established a relationship with a blind singer Mori who became the love of his life. During the disasterous Ōnin War the Daitokuji was destroyed. Ikkyū reluctantly agreed to become abbot and rebuilt it.

In Rinzai Zen tradition, he is both heretic and saint. Ikkyū argued that his enlightenment was deepened by consorting with whores. He entered brothels wearing his black robes, since for him sexual intercourse was a religious rite. he was an accomplished flute player and the piece Murasaki Reibi is attributed to him.

Ikkyū wrote in classical Chinese, as did many of the literary men in Japan at the time. He was also a calligrpher and painter.

Damo Staring Down The Wall 面壁達摩
In Praise of A Painting 贊畫圖 下 一九零

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