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Practical uses / Crazy Cloud - Ikkyu’s love poems


<POINT> Japanese Zen master Ikkyu was an amalgam of Taoism, Zen Buddhism, Shintoism, and even the Tahitian way of love.

Pacific cultures' influence on Japan is not ignorable. "Love what your body demands as Gauguin and his Tahitian girl friends did."

The total submission to your desire is one divine way to live Kami nagara no michi (=Gods' Tao, =Shinto). Zen is not suppression of desire. Neither is Taoism. Desire is something absolutely beautiful.

In his poetic anthology «Kyounshu 狂雲集», which means the anthology of Crazy Cloud, Ikkyu 一休 wrote:

If I ever forget about the deep kindness of Shin's Ya,

I will keep on reincarnating in a bestial body forever.

Here, in this context, "Ya" means the valley between Shin's legs or her dark crevice of femininity. Shin was a blind singer and his mistress 50 years junior to Ikkyu. Is he a typical dirty old man? No, he isn't.

Lao Tzu never alludes to the worship of carnal fertility. Neither do any Zen masters except Ikkyu (1394 - 1481).

Because libidinous desire is part of a hologram, it exists only as a catalyst. It is not supposed to have any special value as you find in Shintoism.

But Zen priest Ikkyu made plenty of funny poems concerning male-female lustful relationships in a brothel and monk-monk carnal engagements in a Buddhist temple.

It must have been something to do with Ikkyu's origin. Many people suspect that he was an illegitimate child of a Japanese emperor, who is the chief of all the Shintoist priests.

So, in his body, Shintoism and Zen Buddhism were completely mixed. For him, there was nothing dirty to compose a poem about lust, which is natural and beautiful. Often, "cloud" alludes to the libidinous energy that amounts around a genital organ.

«The Calf»

My naked passions, six inches long.

At night we meet on an empty bed.

A hand that's never known a woman's touch,

And a nuzzling calf, swollen from nights too long.

(Translated by Bernard Faure; «The Red Thread»)

«Kami nagara no michi»

Lust is part of Kami nagara no michi (=Gods' Tao, =Shinto). If you try to suppress it, it creates resistance. Accepting his desire of "six inches" is also a way to be one with Tao.

He worshipped her dark depth of femininity as he did Buddha. Her female anatomy was a shrine where he met Buddha.

He also adored her generous fountain of feminine water. He composed poems about it.

«Lecherous Fluids»

I'm infatuated with the beautiful Shin from the celestial garden:

Lying on the pillow with her flower stamen,

My mouth fills with the pure perfume of the waters of her stream.

Twilight comes, then moonlight's shadows, as we sing our new songs.

«A Woman's Body has the fragrance of a Narcissus»

One should gaze long at King Chu's hill, then ascend it.

Midnight on the jade bed amid regretful dreams.

A flower opening beneath the thrust of the plum branch,

Rocking gently, gently her water-nymph thighs.

(Translated by Bernard Faure; «The Red Thread»)

First of all, thank you, Dr. Bernard Faure, for translating such controversial Zen poems from «Kyounshu, the collection of Crazy Cloud» and introducing them to the English speaking world, where, to the eyes of some Japanese, Zen is not really well understood.

Some Westerners imagine Zen is something clean and far from dirty. It is a little hospital-like. It is hilarious to see a Caucasian gentleman with the head shaven in brand new Japanese-looking work costume (Samue) cheaply made in China. The outfit is the least important in Zen. You can surely reach Satori the enlightenment in jeans.

The grass is always greener in your neighbor's front yard. It is understandable and the Japanese do the same thing. (☞See No Shortness)

And it is funny, too.

That's why it is fairly important to promote "crazy" Ikkyu's "dirty" poems and ask them whether they are ready to accept all, not only the cleaner part of Zen, but also the dirtier one. If not, a seemingly clean Zen in front of them will stay incomplete. It is a half-Zen. It is an eternal koan without any goal.

Well, it is Zen-like, too. If they like it, let them stay in a half-Zen.

The cleaner side needs the dirtier side as Yin cannot exits without Yang. (☞See Chapter 2 Do not judge) You have to accept all. Ikkyu knew it well. More like, he suffered from not being capable of accepting all. He wrote a funny poem caricaturing a night in a Buddhist temple of his time.

You receive money and food for free all of your life.

If you are shameless and ignorant, you can get tons of money.

Brave boys and beautiful nuns! It is crowded.

In this Spring Sun Temple, white snow squirts.

Oh! Once again the sound!       [Watch Video]

(Translated by Naoto Matsumoto for «Tao by Matsumoto»)

At that time, boys were the objects of male pleasure in a Zen temple. Desperate nuns looking for some carnal comfort were plentiful there as well. Ikkyu knew it very well because he was raised in one of those.

Are you able to say "Do not judge" in front of naked desire and provocative bodies?

Life is a koan, isn't it?

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In Daisetz Suzuki's «Zen and Japanese Culture»,  the modern scholar on Buddhism and other religions talks extensively about the Noh play «Yama Uba» and Ikkyu's objective to explain to the laymen of his time how Zen functions.

鈴木大拙 禅と日本文化 能 山姥 一休

-«The Red Thread» by Bernard Faure. A fantastic work! It has plenty of information and profound thoughts.

-«Yama Uba the Zen play». Ikkyu Sojun wrote the Noh play «Yama Uba» to tell us how Zen functions. Daisetz Suzuki introduced the play to those who are willing to find out how Zen works in his «Zen and Japanese Culture». It has now been adapted into a modern theater piece by Naoto Matsumoto.

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  Zen Master Ikkyu and his Noh actor friend Komparu Zenchiku presented the play «Yama Uba» in the fifteenth century in Japan.

一休禅師 金春禅竹 山姥

  [Practical uses]  Crazy Cloud - Zen Master Ikkyu’s love poems