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Monday, November 13, 2017

Ikkyu The Quick-Witted Novice

一休

Once upon a time, there was a monk who was the head of a very famous temple. It was his secret pleasure to sip a special jar of sweet sugar syrup in his private room, hidden even from his young novice, Ikkyu. One day the monk had to go out for an appointment. Anxious for his little treasure, he called Ikkyu and said, "Ikkyu, I must go out. Now you must never touch or taste what's in this jar. It is a very strong poison, and even a single drop can kill you."

The Quick-Witted Novice.


Ikkyu's curiosity was aroused by his master's suspicious behavior, and as soon as the monk had left, Ikkyu rushed back into the monk's room and opened the lid of the jar. He dipped his finger into the sticky liquid and licked it thoroughly. The "poison" was sweet and delicious! Ikkyu lost himself in devouring this wonderful treat, lick after lick until the jar was completely empty.

Suddenly Ikkyu realized what trouble he was in. "What am I going to do when the monk comes back! He'll be so angry." But Ikkyu was a clever boy, and a bright idea soon popped in to his head. "Yes! That's it!” he cried. He ran to a shelf and picked up the monk's finest flower vase and dashed it to the floor. He then fell to the floor himself and began sobbing pathetically.

When the monk saw his treasure scattered on the floor, he flew into a rage. "How many times have I told you to be careful with this vase? Do you realize what you’ve done?"

"Yes, master," replied Ikkyu. "It is the worst thing I have ever done. How could I break your precious vase, even accidentally? I was so ashamed that I decided to take responsibility and kill myself with your poison. I ate it all, but alas! I am not yet dead. I cannot even die properly. What shame!"

The monk, blind to Ikkyu's clever wit, could not resist such a heart-wrenching display of feeling. "Enough, Ikkyu, enough. You did not mean to do it. I forgive you. Now, please stop crying," said the monk helplessly.

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