With hey, ho, the winde and the raine

Here's a poem by Ikkyū that I probably don't understand. Its title is 自然外道, i.e. "The Naturalist [or Senika] Heresy." This is the belief that there is no such thing as causality so you should just do whatever, man, because everything will spontaneously happen as it should, and you're, like, already Buddha. Dōgen in particular got very worked up about the naturalist heresy. He believed in discipline.


When the Great Way is abandoned, the Way of Man arises.
Who breaks from wisdom sinks deep into ideas.
Pipes and strings, singing and playing: these are within humanity's power.
The wind and rain is the music of the world.

The first two lines are a reference to chapter 18 of the Tao Te Ching: "When the Great Way was abandoned, ethics appeared. When wisdom emerged, deceit appeared." (大道廢,有仁義;智慧出,有大偽.) Of course, Ikkyū is no doubt talking about the way outlined by Buddha rather than what Laozi had in mind, which might be why he changes the second line: 智慧 (here translated "wisdom") is a term of art in Buddhism, and a desirable thing. "Ideas" (義), which could also have been translated "reasoning," "logic," "words," etc., are no substitute for 智慧.

Ishii "de Sade Trial" Kyoji 石井恭二, the editor of the Ikkyu edition I have, claims that the first line is subtly altered too: "人道" means not just ethics, morality, the right thing to do, but also the "human" level of the six realms: we are down here because we have quite literally lost our Way.

The second half is the interesting bit. My interpretation would be something like this: "Yeah, the wind and rain happen spontaneously as they are supposed to, and that's the music of the universe — but humans make their own music, and that's the flaw in the Naturalist Heresy." But I wouldn't bet very much money on it. Anyone got a better interpretation?

Popularity factor: 14


Well, I'm no expert, but you did ask... so if I may critique your critique.

So I'll start by not trusting your (or the translator's) fluency and probably commit a big sin of reading the title's kanji out of context by looking them up individually. This leads me to believe the title to be "outside the way of the self that is," which if 自 is the self that's the same as <i>jiko</i> is a loaded term in Buddhism, especially "the self that is." While it's complicated, it's basically a synonym for "buddha nature."

As far as Dogen disliking "naturalist heresy," yeah, it's what made him to go to China and discover the tradition of "zazen as enlightenment" which he brought back to Japan to start the Soto school to give the Rinzai (who hold the idea of "zazen to enlightenment") a run for their money.

To bluntly say he believed in discipline may be a little, well blunt, though. You cultivate virtue and make "good" behavior a habit so when a situation arises, the ruts are so deep you don't have to think about it and your buddha nature shines through. Which fits nicely with the poem.

I would say, being born causes us to abandon the Great Way. We're born into that "human" leven as you say and our first present is an ego which requires rules (Way of Man) to follow so that its desires don't run amok.

Therefore, being born is to "break from wisdom;" the ego acts as a wall separating us from our "self that is." To "sink deep into ideas," is to leave the moment, "breaking from wisdom." Which is where it gets interesting.

Dogen has an expression "jin-issai-jiko" which I've found translated as the "complete-all-inclusive-self" which inspired the phrase "jiko ga jiko wo jiko suru" which is essentially the "goal" of zazen. (p. xxv of "Opening the Hand of Thought, by Uchiyama Roshi) For "the self/buddha nature to self/etc the self/etc." which is basically being in the moment. To be in the moment is to accept fully what is happening. No worrying, regretting, planning or dreaming, which brings us peace.

But this requires practice and effort just as to play instruments and sing, requires practice and effort to get to the point where it can happen spontaneously. When the situation arises, there is no need to think, as anyone who plays an instrument well should know. They are "within humanity's power" to perform just as the universe expresses itself through wind and rain.

Although Ikkyu was freewheeling and Rinzai, it doesn't mean he was against discipline, he embraced zazen. Given his status, I think he knew what was up and this is an example. He's saying to express our buddha nature requires effort, it's always there, but to be natural is not natural when born into the "human realm," so we must cultivate ourselves to transcend.

Thank you for this wonderful poem and opportunity to express/explore my beliefs. I knew reading your blog would pay off. I hope I didn't go too long.


This contains my favorite Japanese word: fûu.

Incidentally, the classical Chinese here seems all over the board. I guess I'm too used to reading pre-Han texts, because the grammar here just seems like butt to me.


Could this be related to the part of the Zhuangzi where they talk about the piping of Heaven and Earth? Zhuangzi was pro-the piping of Heaven, but it seems here like the natural piping is considered to be no more than a howling wind--meaningless.

One perhaps useful way to crossculturally misread this is as a debate about original sin. The Zennites are in the original sin camp, because they think it's only a lot of toil that will clean off your mirror. The Daoers are in the antinomian camp, because they think that things are already going pretty well. Buddhists think there is a better (enlightenment) and worse (nonenlightenment), but Wayanauts think it's all good in it's own way.


If that's the misread, yeah, I can see that. It's a pretty gross oversimplification though.

Taoists are still dualistic in their view of "the" way and the way of man.

While zazen is pretty boring (okay, really boring), I don't really think "toil" is good way of putting it. If Buddhists held sin as a concept, I would be more likely to agree with you. Your statement implies sacrifice while zazen is more like exploration. The more often you visit a place, the more familiar it gets until you're able to "go there" whenever you want.

I came to Zen through Taoism, and I still learn from its teachings. Personally some things don't resonate with me anymore though. Before I thought that the "Tao of Pooh" and the "Te of Piglet" were wonderful, but now I find them unreadable.

I find the "Vinegar Tasters" a little biased too. Especially as a cook, that sourness serves its purpose. (who the hell tastes vinegar and finds it bitter? how is that even a metaphor?)


Yes, a misreading, but hopefully a useful one.

Who are the true anti-dualists? Zhuangzi would say if you have the anti-dualists and their teaching and you compare it to the others and their heterodoxy, then you've got two things dualism has returned! The only answer is not to ask it.


Oh, yes, Ikkyu was unorthodox in a lot of ways but he still had some core Zen beliefs. That's why these poems are interesting to read. The popular image of him is all "Whee, freedom, sex can be a spiritual practice too," but at the same time he has opinions on heresy (and not, it seems, in favor of the freeliving heretics).

Thanks for the expansion on Dogen's beliefs -- "he believed in discipline" was probably too curt (and also I should have made it clear that Ikkyu believed in discipline in many similar ways -- he did zazen and all that too).

Carl: I don't think that the wind and rain are being called meaningless here -- they're specifically called "music" (or "scale" or "tuning" -- 音律 -- definitely an orderly, pleasing system), not "noise" or "fluctuation" or whatever.


Is that the answer? I never really considered how Taoists deal with that issue, it just seemed like they accepted dualism as a manifestation of the Way.

Buddhists just see it as an illusion, to be seen through. (Which I guess is kind of the same way Taoists do)

I agree to create a "anti-dualist" position is against the spirit of the activity of dissolving dualism. Maybe that's why Taoism and Buddhism see their respective views as paths to walk instead of a stance to have.


I had initially wondered as to what extent I could put Ikkyû into my camp of unorthodox zen practitioners. Clearly, by his rank of oshô, he was appreciative of monastic life and teacher/student transmission. But there seems to be many Han-Shan-esque elements about him.


My thought on "unorthodox" zen practitioners, or at least transmitted teachers, is that they somewhat martyr themselves on the cross of bad behavior to remind us to lighten up. Just as being wild and out of control isn't Buddha's way, being super orthodox and dogmatic isn't the middle way either.

So in a way the unorthodox are just as paradoxical as the teachings by being orthodox. They kind of point us at that dualism business pointed out above.


I never really considered how Taoists deal with that issue, it just seemed like they accepted dualism as a manifestation of the Way.

Buddhists just see it as an illusion, to be seen through.

I just have to butt in to say: depends on the Buddhism. Non-dualism isn't something you see in all the Indian schools, even if it is typical of (at least most) Mahayana ones.

And even if Tendai monks sometimes write cranky texts about people taking the idea too far.


A lot of the Indian difference has to do with the role of Nagarjuna. More or less all of the East Asians accept Nagarjuna, but in India, he's basically a Madhyamaka only phenomenon.

The East Asians also tend to have a different take on the meaning of "Buddha nature."


Precisely, re Nagarjuna. And, like most people here at least, I'm more about the East Asian Buddhism (although I'm not quite sure about Burma or Thai strands), but I felt the need to recognize the Pali texts that 19th century scholars fetishized so much.


Good to know. I've got enough trouble soaking up Zen stuff to try and deal with the Pali cannon right now. There's a bit of a debate/criticism going on about Zen practitioners and other Western Buddhists (far-West, according to the above standards, though) and other Mahayanists not appreciating the Pali cannon and clinging to the Kalama sutra as reason to ignore it.



It would be an honor to be linked on your site because I noticed you referenced the Tao and I created a new Tao te Ching Illustrated site where various translations are cited and community interpretations are welcomed.

If you would like, I could list you as a resource at http://taotechingme.com/resources which is underway and if you are interested in us linking to you, please send me the link and any description you'd like.

Linking to my site would be done here:



Comment season is closed.