May 11, 2014

Far Out Zen (With Ikkyu).

buddha meditating sit quiet nature grass

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 

~ Jack Kerouac

Ikkyu Sojun is my personal hero.

I talk about how much I like him pretty often. He was the embodiment of iconoclastic Zen. He rebelled against many of the monks and Zen teachers of his time who had become corrupted by politics are greed. He called out the practice of selling Enlightenment certificates.

His Zen wasn’t held down by needless structure and tradition.

It was about just this moment, real ultimate reality. Mystical truth, not religion.

That’s what he’s known for. But he did something else as well. He took Zen teaching to places that had no experience of it. Most of his contemporaries gave teachings only to monks. Ikkyu wasn’t like that. Not content to live in a monastery, he took Zen into the world.

His temple was the street.

And he taught people that monks would never teach. He taught Zen practice to prostitutes, artists, homeless people and alcoholics. He brought the Dharma to the misfits and radicals, those who were looked down on by society.

I’m no Ikkyu. I couldn’t possibly live up to his legacy. He is a legendary figure. But, I want to do what he did.

I want to take the Dharma to strange places. I am bringing the teachings to Poets and Artists, Pagans and Hippies, Radicals and Misfits. I am not content to sit in a Zen temple ‘preaching to the choir,’ talking about Zen with people who are as boring as I am. I’m taking the Dharma to artist collectives and hippie drum circles and naked pagan festivals.

I want to bring Zen to people who burn like roman candles, to people who are not ordinary.

Ikkyu called his Zen ‘Furyu,’ which means Far Out.

Here in the modern era the phrase ‘Far Out’ brings to mind images of hippies from the 1960s. It’s easy to picture a long-haired man in a tie dye t-shirt holding up a peace sign and saying, “Far Out Zen, man.”

And that’s okay. With the ideals of peace, love, equality and rebellion that the hippie movement represents, I don’t think Ikkyu would have a problem with the connection at all. He was skeptical of tradition and authority figures too.

Zen is Far Out.

I’m going to call my Zen the same thing my hero Ikkyu called his.

Welcome to Far Out Zen.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wonderlane/Flickr

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