the crazy one

After offering a convincing response when Kaso later challenged the validity of his awakening, Ikkyu went on to admit that he had practiced for a decade “seething with anger” only to find that as the raucous cawing of a crow shattered the evening’s silence “an enlightened disciple of the Buddha suddenly surfaced” from within the mud of his emotional torment.

Ikkyu continued practicing under Kaso for another four years, earning the deep respect of his master as well as a reputation for eccentricity. According to a biography completed by Ikkyu’s disciples not long after his death, when Kaso offered Ikkyu a “seal” of his enlightenment (inka) — a document essential for anyone seeking advancement in the Rinzai hierarchy — Ikkyu refused to accept it. Later discovering that Kaso had given the document to a laywoman for safekeeping, Ikkyu took possession of the inka, tore it to shreds, and asked his disciples to burn it. 

On another occasion, when Kaso was hosting a memorial ceremony for his own master, Ikkyu spurned the custom of wearing ceremonial raiment and showed up in patched robes and grass sandals, drawing the considerable ire of the rest of the community. Questioned by Kaso about his behavior, Ikkyu said that he was dressed simply, as a monk should be, while everyone else was prancing about in sumptuous “shit covers”. At the end of the service, when Kaso who was asked who would be his Dharma successor, he reportedly surveyed the gathering and said, perhaps with some reluctance, “the crazy one”.

…Ikkyu had devoted himself to Kaso precisely because he carried the torch of Daito’s personification of a “true person of no rank” — a rigorously ascetic approach to Zen exemplified by Daito having tempered his own enlightenment by living under a bridge with beggars and other outcasts for five years.

 

Peter Hershock

 

Having

realized understanding

kindness and the excellent nature

of opportunities and dangers, one ably

breaks through the net of doubts snaring all

sentient beings. Departing from ‘is’ and ‘is not’,

and other such bondages…leaping over quantity and

calculation, one is without obstruction in whatever

one does. With penetrating understanding of the

present situation and its informing patterns,

one’s actions are like the sky giving rise

to clouds: suddenly they exist, and

then they don’t. Not leaving

behind any obstructing

traces, they are like

phrases written

on water.

 

Ikkyu