Once upon a time, there lived a well known priest apprentice boy named Ikkyu.
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It was around the time when Ikkyu had grown up to be a man.
"Happy new year "
"May this year also bring you the best of luck ."
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People were greeting each other on one New Years day morning.
In the center of town, while everyone was making their first visit of the year to the shrine, a very dirty looking priest came walking down the road.
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It was Ikkyu！
But, what a strange sight. On his shoulder he was carrying a long bamboo pole high up in the air.
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And what’s more, there was something white stuck to the end of the bamboo pole.
"What in heavens name is that?"
If you were to look very carefully you could see that it was a skull.
Everyone looked up and were very surprised to see such a hideous skull on the end of the pole.
"Why, its a priest .come to play tricks on us in the New Year. "
"Or has Ikkyu really lost his mind?"
Everyone started to discuss this noisily together.
However, Ikkyu seemed totally unfazed by what they were saying and just walked on by.
A few curious people excitedly started off behind Ikkyu .
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Finally, Ikkyu reached the house of the richest man in the village who goes by the name of Kyuei Kaneya, stood outside his door and shouted at the top of his lungs.
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"I beg to ask you a favor. It is I, Ikkyu, come to greet you on this New Years Day! "
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Someone then came out of the house,As Ikkyu was standing there so dirty and with a skull stuck on the end of the pole, The person of the house was struck with terrible fear.
The person hurriedly ran back into the house to tell the head of the household.
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Upon hearing that the respectful Ikkyu had come all the way to pay his respects to the head of the house Mr. Kaneya, he hurriedly ran out of the house.
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"Why if it isn’t Kyuei, my friend.
Happy New Year." Said Ikkyu
"Ikkyu. Why, how kind of you to come, thank you.
I hope that this year will also treat you kindly.
But as soon as Kyuei noticed the skull on the end of the pole he jumped back in astonishment.
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Was all he could say and presently became deathly pale.
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"Why, Ikkyu, what can this be?
To bring a skull on the first day of the year brings the worst possible luck! "
Ikkyu then replied back to the angry Kyuei.
"Ha ha. ha"
Ikkyu burst out into laughter.
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"Well well. I’m sorry to have surprised you at the start of the New Year., but there is a reason for this."
"What is the meaning of all this then?” Replied Kyuei.
"Well. I was wondering whether you like to hear a song I have composed“.
Then Ikkyu proceeded to sing aloud his song.
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♪ New Year is a milepost in our lifelong journey to the other world.
♪ A time to celebrate a time to mourn
Upon hearing Ikkyus strange song, Kyuei tilled his head from left to right in bewilderment.
"I wonder, A time to celebrate a time to mourn. What does it mean"?
What does it all mean Ikkyu? "
Every time a new year is welcomed in, another year of life is taken away from our us.
So that means that every time New Year approaches, we get closer to our destiny with the other world.
That means we will be getting closer to death.
Therefore, when New Year comes it is also a time for mourning.
So, that’s why it is a time for celebration and a time for mourning ".
"Ah, now I see. "
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"No matter who you are, someday you will die.
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You will become like this skull here.
We do not know how many New Years we will be able to welcome in again.
The same goes for you "
"Yes…That is true ".
"Kyuei, while you are alive, please make the most of your life.
Then you will be able to reach paradise"
"You are a very rich man.
Even if it is only a little bit, please give your left over money to people who are having difficulties.
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Since you cannot bring your money with you into the other world.
That is all, goodbye."
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From then on starting with Kyuei, other rich people then decided to follow Ikkyus example
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and started to help the poor in need.
※One piece of advice: Nothing in life is forever, make the most of what you have.