Zen Poets of Wisdom, Love and Passion: Leonard Cohen and Ikkyu Sojun

Sunday 24th March 2019 1:30-3:30pm  

Arrive between 1:10pm and 1:30pm

@ The Shambhala Meditation Centre,
(in the Young Place Shopping Center) (see details below)

When I can undress a women without touching her
When my heart is broken as usual
Over someone’s evanescent beauty
And, look, I wheeze my way
Up to her incomparable privacy…
Why should I want to be enlightened?
Why should I want to smile forever?
—Leonard Cohen from The Book of Longing

A woman is enlightenment when you are with her and the red thread
Of both your passions flares inside you and you see
—Ikkyu (Version by Stephen Berg from Crow with No Mouth)

Event Overview

Part of the tradition of Zen is practitioners who live the Buddhist dharma free of religious dogmatism and egoic self-possession. Their behavior can be at times outrageous, unconventional, and/or very sensual. Rather than being serious and austere they enjoy life. They can be very critical of any Buddhist monks whom they see as using Buddhism for their own self-interest. These practitioners sometimes write regarding Zen philosophy, their own poetic inspiration, satires of Buddhist institutions, and sensual relations. Very rarely, though, have Zen poets written openly about their love affairs, along with their experiences and thoughts about Zen. Two great poets who have done so are Leonard Cohen and Ikkyu Sojun. Cohen is more famous as the writer of songs like “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne.” Many people do not realize that he spent five years as a Zen monk at Mount Baldy Zen Center in California, USA. Many of his poems are about this experience, and how he combined it with his life of passion. (Google “Leonard Cohen poems”). Ikkyu was a Japanese Zen master of the 15th century, now still well known for his poetry and his eccentric teachings. He scandalously celebrated his love affairs in verse. (Google “Ikkyu poems”).  Cartoons about his boyhood, which celebrate his sharp intelligence, are popular in Japan and Thailand. (Search on YouTube). In our meeting, we will read and discuss poems by both authors, and what they have to say about the relationship between Zen wisdom, religious dogmatism, love, and sexual passion. There will also be a short meditation period.


Leonard Cohen                                Ikkyu Sojun


Arrival Time: Come from 1:10pm to 1:30pm

Session: 1:30-3:30pm.

1:10pm – 1:30pm: Gather at Shambhala Center (see map below)

1:30pm: Welcome and Zen meditation

1:50pm: Discussion of the poetry of Leonard Cohen

2:35pm: Break – chat time

2:45pm: Discussion of the poetry of Ikkyu Sojun

3:30pm: Ends

This event is free of charge, however, in line with welcoming and supporting Zen Club programs we do ask for dana (donations) to help with the expenses of the event.

It is in English only.

There should be plenty of room. However, there is a 15 person limit, so if you want to ensure a seat and are certain you will attend, please send a reservation request to Reggie Pawle at reggiepawle@yahoo.com.

This meeting will include a short biography of both writers, a discussion of their Zen philosophy, a reading of a selection of their poems, and a discussion of these poems. Attention will be given to their views on religious dogmatism, sexuality, and spirituality. There will be time for questions, discussion, and some Zen experience.

If you would like to do some reading of the poetry of Cohen and/or Ikkyu, a couple recommendations are written here. Both books are available on amazon.com. If you have any questions from your reading of these books or any other about Cohen and Ikkyu, please ask them during the Question and Answer periods.

Berg, Stephen. (2000). Ikkyu: Crow with No Mouth: 15th century Zen master. Copper Canyon Press.

Cohen, Leonard. (2007). The Book of Longing. Ecco.

About the Zen Club

The Little Bangkok Sangha is open to Buddhists of all styles of practice. One type of Buddhist practice is Zen, which developed as part of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition in China and then Japan. Zen practitioners now are spread  around the world.

Zen has its own particular ideas and practices. The Zen Club explores these many facets of Zen. Each meeting focuses on a specific theme. Usually there is a presentation and discussion of the meeting theme. Occasionally Zen teachers have spoken at our meetings and also sometimes movies with themes related to Zen have been shown.

Some themes of past meetings are: introduction to Zen, the Four Noble Truths, Zen and the Eightfold Path, true self and original nature, Zen meditation, oneness, death, love, enlightenment, Zen literature, Zen koans, and the old Zen texts such as The Gateless Gate and the Blue Cliff Records.


Everyone who has an interest in the practice of Zen, whether they have any experience of Zen or not, is welcome. All a person needs is their inquiring mind and the willingness to look at oneself. In Zen, this is referred to as examining the ground on which one stands.

If you have any questions about Zen or wish to discuss anything about Zen, you can email us directly at: joeshakarchi@gmail.com or reggiepawle@yahoo.com


Our regular facilitators are Joe and Reggie and from time to time we are also fortunate enough to host guest teachers.

About Joe Shakarchi:

Joe Shakarchi has been studying Buddhism since 1979, and was a student of Paul Haller and Norman Fischer at San Francisco Zen Center, where he also produced poetry and music events. He did PhD work on the influence of Buddhism on American poetry. Joe taught writing and literature at several schools, including San Francisco State University, while also publishing poetry and essays. His poetry and poetry/music CD and videos can be found on www.joeshakarchi.com. Joe has been living in Bangkok for six years, writing poetry, studying Theravada, and helping to spread the seeds of Zen.

About Reggie Pawle:

Reggie Pawle PhD, has been a Zen Buddhist practitioner since 1974. He has studied with Joshu Sasaki (Rinzai school) in the U.S. and with Sekkei Harada (Soto school) in Japan. He also sat with Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in 1989. He has a PhD in Buddhist causality, attachment and no-self. Reggie works as a psychotherapist, integrating Buddhism and Western psychology. Since 1999 he has been based in Japan. He lived for three years in Bangkok (2015 to 2018), teaching psychology and studying Buddhism. He has now moved back to his Zen roots in Japan and comes to Bangkok for meetings and study. His blog is at: https://reggiepawle.wordpress.com


Address: The Shambhala Meditation Centre, 3rd Floor (next to elevator), 118/79 Young Place, Sukhumvit Soi 23, Khwaeng Khlong Toei Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110

The Bangkok Shambhala Meditation Center is located on Sukhumvit Soi 23 in the Young Place Shopping Center on the 3rd floor. From the Asoke BTS station or even closer from the Sukhumvit MRT, you can walk (10 minutes) or take a motorcycle taxi from the Soi 23 side. Once you enter the Young Place building, turn left, and walk to the end of the hall to get to the elevator. Take the elevator to the third floor. Turn left when you exit the elevator and you’ll see the Shambhala Meditation Center. Website: http://bangkok.shambhala.info

Here is the map in English:

Shambhala Meditation Centre