Thursday, April 12, 2012

13. Ikkyu

13. Ikkyu

the indulgent monk proselytizes: know, experience, enjoy all the world
with my vice in hand, I toast to you

     nobody understands why we do what we do
     this cup of sake does

Ikkyu was a Buddhist abbot in fifteenth century Japan. Despite his profession as a religious man, he indulged in the world around him. From his point of view, how could you understand life, and so the teachings of Buddha, if you did not know the all of it. He also accepted the Buddhist belief that mortality was fleeting and that the world we lived within was meaningless in the greater scheme. So  in order to be the best monk and person he could be, he accepted his vices and felt obliged to indulge in them. His most notable vice was sex. In his senior years, he took a young (20 or so year old) wife who was blind. In his last years, he devoted much of his poetry to her, especially poems about making love to her. But we wrote about all of his vices.

Now most of us wouldn't think of sake as wine, but it is rice wine. So for Ikkyu, sake is his wine. And as he wrote, only the wine understands what we do. There is something visceral and natural about this concept. Since the wine understands us, we can use it as a gateway to understand ourselves: we know ourselves when we give into such indulgences, experience and take joy in them. It is in this act that we may know ourselves. Of course, we know because it gets to the root of who we are. Serious wine drinkers and enthusiasts know this. We know it is a big part of who we are. Since starting this blog, I have had to come to that revelation.  In fact, as my husband and I talked on Sunday this week, I realized that wine is a part of me. It has come to define a part of my life. 

So, thanks to Ikkyu and his encouragement to enjoy the things in life that many will tell us to avoid. I have learned about myself. What I have learned is that I love wine. Kompai Ikkyu-senesei.

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