Ikkyu, who lived from 1394-1481, was known as one of Japan's most
irreverent and iconoclastic Zen masters. He spent much of his life
as a vagrant monk, wandering here and there, and mingling with
people both high- and low-born. On occasion, Ikkyu played Robin
Hood, taking money given by the rich and spending it on the
homeless. Interspersing his travels with retreats deep in the
mountains, he eventually became head abbot at the most important
Zen temple in Japan. Much of his verse rants against the pervasive
hypocrisy of the Buddhist establishment and the corruption of the
imperial court, but his writing is at its finest when centering
around what he loved most: the unfettered Zen life and the joys of
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