“Sentient beings can get completely lost in it”: the erotic poems of IkkyūPosted: December 9, 2013
Ikkyū / 一休宗純 (Zen Buddhist monk, 1394-1481, Kyoto, Japan)
It is nice to get a glimpse of a lady bathing—
you scrubbed your flower face and cleansed your lovely body
while this old monk sat in the hot water
feeling more blessed than even the emperor of China.
A woman is enlightenment when you’re with her and the red thread
of both your passions flares inside you – and you see.
A sex-loving monk, you object!
Hot-blooded and passionate, totally aroused.
Remember, though, that lust can consume all passion,
Transmuting base metal into pure gold.
Ten days in this temple and my mind is reeling.
Between my legs the red thread stretches and stretches.
If you come some other day and ask for me,
Better look in a fish stall, a sake shop, or a brothel.
Follow the rule of celibacy blindly, and you are no more than an ass;
Break it and you are only human.
The spirit of Zen is manifest in ways countless as the
sands of the Ganges.
With a young beauty, sporting in deep love play;
We sit in the pavilion, a pleasure girl and this Zen monk.
Enraptured by hugs and kisses,
I certainly don’t feel as if I am burning in hell.
A Man’s Root
Eight inches strong, it is my favourite thing;
If I’m alone at night, I embrace it fully—
A beautiful woman hasn’t touched it for ages.
Within my fundoshi there is an entire universe!
A Woman’s Sex
It has the original mouth but remains wordless;
It is surrounded by a magnificent mound of hair.
Sentient beings can get completely lost in it.
But it is also the birthplace of all the Buddhas of the
ten thousand worlds.
The Dharma Master of Love
My life has been devoted to love play;
I’ve no regrets about being tangled in red thread from
head to foot,
Nor am I ashamed to have spent my days as a
But I sure don’t like this long, long bitter autumn of
no good sex!
To Lady Mori with Deepest Gratitude and Thanks
The tree was barren of leaves but you brought a new spring.
Long green sprouts, verdant flowers, fresh promise.
(Mori, a blind minstrel, was 77-year-old Ikkyū‘s young mistress.)
Pleasure, pain, are equal in a clear heart.
No mountain hides the moon.
I’m up here in the hills starving myself
But I’ll come down for you.
I think of your death, I think of our touching,
My head quiet in your lap.
Suddenly nothing but grief
So I put on my father’s old ripped raincoat.
Translations from the Japanese: John Stevens, Stephen Berg
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