Sexuality and Zen Buddhism in Ikkyu Sojun’s Poetry


  • Hameeda L. Linog LPT MAELT Mindanao State University-Main Campus, Marawi City 9700, Philippines


Sex, Zen Buddhism, Zen, meditation, love play, enlightenment, buddha nature, Philippines


This study examined the portrayal of sex and Zen Buddhism in the poetry of Ikkyu Sojun. More specifically, it examined (1) how sex was depicted in his poems; (2) how Zen Buddhism and sex were connected in his poems, and (3) what other unorthodox ways were evident in the poems. To determine these, the paper employed the formalistic critical theory known as New Criticism and Textual Analysis. New Criticism accentuates the importance of close reading. That is, examining a text closely without the use of external evidence to explain the work. Textual analysis, on the other hand, is a methodology that involves understanding language, symbols, and/or pictures present in texts to gain information regarding how people make sense of and communicate life and life experiences.
The findings reveal that sex is depicted to be as natural as breathing, which means that it is a necessary component of life. It is portrayed to be fruitful because it bears a life, making a human being immortal. It is a message of truth that other Zen masters refuse to understand, and it is better than a hundred thousand years of meditation, contemplation, and reflection. If one wants to realize the Buddha nature in him then he must accept and embrace his human nature. Sex is also depicted to be a paradise, “a celestial garden,” and a platform for meditation. Masturbation is natural, and a female’s private part is something human beings can get lost in, the origin of all Buddhas. Sex is also portrayed to cause pain if a person becomes attached to it, but it also brings forth joy and gentleness of thoughts. Most importantly, sex is a source of Zen. By enjoying sex, one is also tasting life. It is intimate, beautiful, a “love pact” between lovers, and something that can make an old man feel young again.
As for the connection between Zen and sex, findings reveal that enlightenment is manifest in many ways, which means that sex is one these countless of ways, a path to spiritual awakening. To break it is to go against the nature of Zen. Sex is also a way of meditation, a platform which can cause a man to shun fame and fortune. Most importantly, sex is the act of perceiving and accepting the nature of things, embracing being human, and merging with the universe. It is essential to being a Zen master.
As for other unorthodox ways reflected in the poems, findings reveal that Ikkyu is unafraid to break religious taboos and spiritual conventions. He unabashedly calls and proclaims himself to be “Crazy Cloud,” “Blind Donkey,” and “Master of Love.” He is blatant in speaking openly about his love of sexual acts, having a lover, and mocking other Zen priests for failing to appreciate and understand the “truth” about sex. Lastly, he declares proudly that he is “tangled in red thread.” The red thread is that which indicates humanness. Thus, by saying that he is tangled in it, he is declaring that he is tied to his bodily pleasures. He is proud of it because one cannot realize his buddha nature by not accepting his human nature. To understand human nature is to experience it.


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How to Cite

Hameeda L. Linog LPT MAELT. (2022). Sexuality and Zen Buddhism in Ikkyu Sojun’s Poetry. International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research (IJSBAR), 62(1), 1–11. Retrieved from