Ikkyu, Comics and the Red Thread.

Ikkyu is the manga biography of the famously irreverent and controversial Buddhist monk Ikkyu from the late and great manga artist, Hisashi Sakaguchi. Set in 14th century Japan, Ikkyu must learn to live and excel as a monk, despite his aristocratic background, erratic behavior and struggle with the monastic ties to the government. Legend paints him as a troublemaker, rude, violent and a heavy drinker but with deep spiritual roots and charisma. Kicked out of the monastery and wandering around as an eccentric, he was surrounded with the writers and artists of his time. The manga is mostly based upon popular stories about Ikkyu’s antics and rghtly has a mature rating. My personal favorite part of the Ikkyu mythos is the story that his first satori was initiated by the caw of a carrion crow following the death of several villagers after a flood – a harbinger of the monk’s wandering life and acceptance…

Read the series (almost) online here.

Check out more on some Buddhist comics over at Elephant Journal’s Top Six Buddhist Inspired Comics..

and my favorite Ikkyu verse.

I have been ten days in this temple
    and my heart is restless.
The scarlet thread of lust at my feet
    has reached up long.
If someday you come looking for me,
I will be in a shop that sells fine seafood,
    a good drinking place,
       or a brothel.



2 thoughts on “Ikkyu, Comics and the Red Thread.

  1. Great find, thanks for sharing!Ikkyu is by far my favourite poet, and that’s got to be one of my favourite verses! Strangely enough, the translation I have makes it sound as if he’s bored of temple bureaucracy and is off for a change of pace:”ten fussy days running this temple, all red tapelook me up if you want to in the bar whorehouse fishmarket”A second version I have, by a different translator, refers to “the red thread between my legs” which seems more similar to yours, and which I personally think more accurate than the red tape version. Still it’s funny how much a little mis-translation can change a whole verse!I also love this one:“Who among Rinzai’s des­cend­ants really trans­mits his Zen?It is con­cealed in this Blind Don­key.Straw san­dals, a bam­boo staff, an unfettered life–You can have your fancy chairs, med­it­a­tion plat­forms, and fame-and-fortune Zen.”

  2. He was a fiesty one to be sure. Baisao was another one of those “throw off the shackles of temple life and live with the real people” Zen poets. He was more tea and artists than saki and whores though…Wonderful book. on him that I reviewed here

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