Monday, September 21, 2015

Treasures of Zen

Fukeshū. (普化宗).

Kakushin (1207–1298)

Fukeshū. (普化宗). In Japanese, “Puhua Sect”; a secondary sect of the Japanese Zen school, founded by Shinchi Kakushin (1207–1298). While Kakushin was in China studying under Wumen Huikai (1183–1260), he is said to have
met a layman, the otherwise-unknown Zhang Can (J. Chō San; d.u.), who claimed to be a sixteenth-generation successor of the little-known Tang-dynasty monk Puhua (J. Fuke; d.u.), supposedly an eccentric friend of Linji Yixuan and a successor of Mazu Daoyi. Four lay disciples of Zhang’s accompanied
Kakushin when he returned to Japan, helping Kakushin to establish the sect. There is no evidence of the existence of a Puhua school in China apart from Kakushin’s account, however, and the school seems to be a purely Japanese creation. During the Tokugawa era (1603–1867), in particular, the school attracted itinerant lay Zen practitioners, known as “clerics of emptiness” (komusō), who played the bamboo flute (shakuhachi) as a form of meditation and wore a distinctive bamboo hat that covered their entire face as they traveled on pilgrimage around the country. Because masterless samurai (rōnin) and bandits began adopting Fuke garb as a convenient disguise during the commission of their crimes, the Meiji government proscribed the school in 1871 and it vanished from the scene.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Origin of Komuso is Masakatsu Kusunoki
Masakatsu, who is the grandson of Masanari Kusunoki succeeded ancestor’s will and raised a loyal army to fight again and again. However, he was not able to make the most of it and lost the battle. At last, he decided to escape from the world, then opened up Nyoshinji-temples and learned about Zen and Shakuhachi (bamboo flute) under Kofu at Sekizanzensikai. Masakatsu wandered from place to place for religious mendicancy with Shakuhachi with “nothing”mental condition. He is generally considered to have started Komuso (musician in traditional costume and mask).
At that time, Shakuhachi was one of the religious tool for the repose of Buddha. The faith of Masakatsu was that people in religious mendicancy must not to take off Tengai (weave hat) even if they met the nobility or acquaintance. In addition, however hard the rain was, they ware not allowed to put up another umbrella. That was also the faith of him.
That is said to have become a religious precepts of Komuso later. As time went on, the number of Komuso had increased remarkably by Samurai(warrior) in the sympathy for Masakatsu’s faith. The Shakuhachi Buddhist who didn’t renounce the world had been called “Komuso”, and it had become “Fukeshu”. In 1793, the middle of Tokugawa period, there were more than 120 Komusoji-temples all over the country. These temples kept the acme of its prosperity until the fall of Tokugawa shogunate. Komuso had prospered because of the hard practices of Samurai spirit and asceticisms, receiving the benefit from Tokugawa shogunate.
After the fall of Tokugawa shogunate, the regime had changed. On October 28th Meiji period, the low provided that Fukeshu and Komuso should be prohibited. Komuso should settle themselves.
Then, Shakuhachi had became not only sacred special tool but also ordinary instrument as well and come into wide use as a musical instrument all over the country.
With the time, Shakuhachi has slipped out of our mind gradually, though it used to be a sacred tool for Zen practice and have very precious history of 1300 years. Now, I put my heart as much as possible into our Shakuhachi to conserve and hand it down to the coming ages.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Following the scent of roses blooming on a residential street, I explore the town area of Haramachi, stopping at an ochre-colored wall. Inside, I find Hosshinji, a 1631 Zen temple affiliated with Engakuji in Kamakura.

Priest Daitetsu Kosuge, 73, waves me inside, where he promptly prepares me some thick green tea. The wind outside and the swish of the bamboo chasen (whisk) frothing the tea mingle nicely.

In conversation, I gradually learn that Kosuge harbors a special passion for the bamboo shakuhachi flute, an integral part of the Fuke-shu sect of Zen Buddhism. “Monks once practiced suizen, a form of prayer through playing basic meditative pieces, which were known as the honkyoku,” he explains. “These monks — many of whom were samurai that had lost their commissions once Japan was unified under the Tokugawa shogunate — were known as komuso.”

Throughout the Edo Period (1603 — 1868), komuso, wearing their distinctive tengai (a woven bamboo or rattan hood meant to render their own egos void), were offered rare license to wander across the country’s borders freely, so as to visit other temples and sustain their mendicant lifestyle. Kosuge suggests it might have been this freedom of movement, plus their samurai training and secretive hood, which led many to suspect the Komuso of moonlighting as spies for the shogunate.

The Meiji Restoration in 1868 greatly curtailed the practice of Buddhism in favor of the Imperially-preferred Shinto religion, and the practices of Komuso monks were banned. “The main Komuso temple was only about 2 km from here,” Kosuge says, “So many of the monks took refuge in this temple.” I contemplate the horror of being an egoless priest, only to have even that practice voided.

Seeing that I’m keen on the subject, Kosuge guides me to a temple room where he has stored more than twenty shakuhachi. He plucks one off the rack, and as his breath enters the bamboo, the sound blows away the afternoon. For all its overuse in documentaries and by restaurants hoping to evoke a taste of Japan, to hear a well-played shakuhachi in person is stirring.

Kosuge next shows me upstairs to his museum of shakuhachi, Komuso songbooks, rare ephemera, woodblock prints and unusual flutes. After the Meiji Era, the shakuhachi was taken up as a purely musical instrument, but Kosuge sees a revival of interest in the classical pieces these days, too.

At last, I (journalist Kit Nagamura) request a try at the flute, ignoring the sexual innuendo often associated with women and shakuhachi. Kosuge laughs as I struggle to establish an effective embouchure. When a note purls out, it feels, frankly, as though my whole soul follows it as it floats off. Kosuge nods. This makes sense to him.

I could blow off the rest of the day with Kosuge, but knowing he must be busy, I excuse myself. Heading back toward Okubo Avenue, the priest’s gentle humor and hospitality lingers like notes well-played.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

One Note of Zen

After Kakua visited the emperor he disappeared and no one knew what became of him.  He was the first Japanese to study Zen in China, but since he showed nothing of it, save one note, he is not remembered for having brought Zen into his country.
Kakua visited China and accepted the true teaching.  He did not travel while he was there.  Meditating constantly, he lived on a remote part of the mountain.  Whenever people found him and asked him to preach he would say a few words and then move to another part of the mountain where he could be found less easily.
The emperor heard about Kakua when he returned to Japan and asked him to preach Zen for his edification and that of his subjects.
Kakua stood before the emperor in silence.  He then produced a flute from the folds of his robe, and blew one short note.  Bowing politely, he disappeared.

The first Japanese monk to transmit the Rinzai teachings to Japan was the Japanese Tendai monk Myoan Yosai [Eisai] 明菴榮西 (1141–1215). Born in present Okayama Prefecture, he became a Tendai-school monk at the age of eleven and studied the esoteric teachings of that tradition. He went to the Tendai headquarters on Mt. Hiei two years later, and was ordained in 1154. In 1168 he traveled to China, where he studied the Tiantai teachings and practiced Tiantai meditation methods for six months before returning to Japan.
Twenty years later, in 1187, he once again sailed for China, hoping to make a pilgrimage to India, the home of Buddhism, in order further his goal of restoring Japanese Zen to its original ideals. When the Chinese government refused him permission to travel beyond its borders, Eisai made his way to Mount Tiantai and undertook the practice of Linji (Rinzai) Zen with the Huanglong (Oryo) 黄龍 lineage master Xuan Huaichang 虚庵懷敞 (J., Koan Esho; n.d.), under whom he studied both meditation and the vinaya.
In 1191 Eisai returned to Japan, bringing not only the Rinzai Zen teachings but also the practice of tea-drinking. He founded the monastery Shofuku-ji on the island of Kyushu, avoiding the capital of Kyoto for the time being because of opposition to the Zen teachings from the older established sects of Tendai and Shingon. Later he did go to the capital to answer charges made against him by the older schools, presenting his arguments in his chief work, the Kozen Gokokuron (Propagation of Zen for protection of the nation). In 1199 he went to Kamakura to assume the abbacy of the temple Jufuku-ji 壽福寺, built for him by the Kamakura Shogunate. In 1202 he agreed to become abbot of the new temple Kennin-ji in Kyoto, where, until the end of his life in 1215, he taught a combination of Zen meditation with Tendai and Shingon ritual. Although Eisai's Oryo lineage did not continue long, he was important in setting the stage for the restoration of monastic discipline and the establishment of Zen meditation practice.
He introduced the cultivation of tea into Japan, and wrote a book, entitled On Drinking Tea as A Way of Nourishing Spirit (Kissa-yojo-ki 喫茶養生記). His other works include the Discourse on the Propagation of Zen and Protection of the Stat e (Kozen-gokoku-ron 興 禅護国論), which is the first Zen work in Japan. He was given the posthumous title, Senko Kokushi 千光国師 (State Master a Thousand Rays of Light). 

In 1191, the famous Zen priest Eisai (栄西; 1141-1215) brought back tea seeds to   Kyoto. Some of the tea seeds were given to the priest Myoe Shonin, and became the basis for Uji tea. The oldest tea specialty book in Japan, Kissa Yōjōki (喫茶養生記; How to stay healthy by drinking tea) was written by Eisai. The two-volume book was written in 1211 after his second and last visit to China. The first sentence states, "Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one's life more full and complete". The preface describes how drinking tea can have a positive effect on the five vital organs, especially the heart. It discusses tea's medicinal qualities which include easing the effects of alcohol, acting as a stimulant, curing blotchiness, quenching thirst, eliminating indigestion, curing beriberi, preventing fatigue, and improving urinary and brain function. Part One also explains the shapes of tea plants, tea flowers and tea leaves and covers how to grow tea plants and process tea leaves. In Part Two, the book discusses the specific dosage and method required for individual physical ailments.
Eisai was also instrumental in introducing tea consumption to the warrior class, which rose to political prominence after the Heian Period. Eisai learned that the shogun   Minamoto no Sanetomo had a habit of drinking too much every night. In 1214, Eisai presented a book he had written to the general, lauding the health benefits of tea drinking. After that, the custom of tea drinking became popular among the Samurai.
The Kissa Yōjōki 「喫茶養生記」 or “Tea drinking Good for the Health” of Eisai Zenji, the famous Buddhist scholar and architect who went to China in 1187, is the first work on Tea written in Japan. It is small pamphlet of some twenty printed pages devoted to the virtues of Tea and of Mulberry Infusion which he strongly recommends for the Five Disease, viz. the water-drinking disease, the want of appetite disease, paralysis, boils and beri-beri . There are two MSS of it, one dated 1211 and the other 1214. It was in this latter yare that Eisai is said to have cured the Sogun Sanemoto of some malady by means of Tea, and as a result it became a fashionable remedy. Other medicines, he observes, cure only one kind of disease, but Tea is a remedy for all disorders. As the Sung poet says, “The Pest-god gets out of his chariot to salute the Tea tree.” 「皇帝が馬車を降りて茶の木におじぎをする」。 Eisai quotes the Sonsho Darani Kyo as declaring that of the Five Viscera, the Liver likes acid taste, the Lungs pungent, the Heart bitter, the Spleen sweet and the Kidneys salt. Now the Heart is the chief of the Five Viscera, as Bitter is the chief of the Five Tastes. And since Tea is the chief of bitter tastes naturally it is best for the Heart. 

There is a twelfth-century story that the first Japanese monk who
journeyed to China to study Ch'an returned home to find a
summons from the Japanese court. There, in a meeting
reminiscent of the Chinese sovereign Wu and the Indian
Bodhidharma some seven hundred years before, Japan's
emperor commanded him to describe the teachings of this
strange new cult. The bemused monk (remembered by the name
Kakua) replied with nothing more than a melody on his flute,
leaving the court flabbergasted.1 But what more ideal expression
of China's wordless doctrine?
As in the China entered by Bodhidharma, medieval Japan
already knew the teachings of Buddhism. In fact, the Japanese
ruling classes had been Buddhist for half a millennium before
Ch'an officially came to their attention. However, contacts with
China were suspended midway during this time, leaving
Japanese Buddhists out of touch with the many changes in
China—the most significant being Ch'an's rise to the dominant
Buddhist sect.2 Consequently the Japanese had heard almost
nothing about this sect when contacts resumed in the twelfth
century. To their amazement they discovered that Chinese
Buddhism had become Ch'an. The story of Ch'an's transplant in
Japan is also the story of its preservation, since it was destined to
wither away in China.
Perhaps we should review briefly how traditional Buddhism
got to Japan in the first place. During the sixth century, about the
time of Bodhidharma, a statue of the Buddha and some sutras
were transmitted to Japan as a gift/bribe from a Korean monarch
seeking military aid. He claimed Buddhism was very powerful
although difficult to understand. Not all Japanese, however, were
overjoyed with the appearance of a new faith. The least pleased
were those employed by the existing religion, the Japanese cult of
Shinto, and they successfully discredited Buddhism for several
decades. But a number of court intrigues were underway at the
time, and one faction got the idea that Buddhism would be helpful
in undermining the Shinto-based ruling clique. Eventually this new
faction triumphed, and by the middle of the seventh century, the
Japanese were constructing Buddhist temples and pagodas.3
Other imports connected with these early mainland contacts
were Chinese writing and the Chinese style of government. The
Japanese even recreated the T'ang capital of Ch'ang-an,
consecrated at the beginning of the eighth century as Nara, their
first real city. The growing Buddhist establishment soon
overwhelmed Nara with a host of sects and temples, culminating
in 752 with the unveiling of a bronze meditating Buddha larger
than any statue in the world.
Japan was now awash in thirdhand Buddhism, as Chinese
missionaries patronizingly expounded Sanskrit scriptures they
themselves only vaguely understood. Buddhism's reputation for
powerful magic soon demoralized the simple religion of Shinto,
with its unpretentious shrines and rites, and this benign nature
reverence was increasingly pushed into the background. The
impact of Buddhism became so overwhelming that the alarmed
emperor finally abandoned Nara entirely to the Buddhists, and at
the close of the eighth century set up a new capital in central
Japan, known today as Kyoto.
The emperor also decided to discredit the Nara Buddhists on
their own terms, sending to China for new, competing sects. Back
came emissaries with two new schools, which soon assumed
dominance of Japanese Buddhism. The first of these was Tendai,
named after the Chinese T'ien-t'ai school. Its teachings centered
on the Lotus Sutra, which taught that the human Buddha
personified a universal spirit, evidence of the oneness permeating
all things. The Tendai school was installed on Mt. Hiei, in the
outskirts of Kyoto, giving birth to an establishment eventually to
number several thousand buildings. The monks on Mt. Hiei
became the authority on Buddhist matters in Japan for several
centuries thereafter, and later they also began meddling in affairs
of state, sometimes even resorting to arms. Tendai was, and
perhaps to some degree still is, a faith for the fortunate few. It did
not stress an idealized hereafter, since it served a class—the idle
aristocracy—perfectly comfortable in the present world. In any
case, it became the major Japanese Buddhist sect during the
Heian era (794-1185), a time of aristocratic rule.
The other important, and also aristocratic, version of
Buddhism preceding Zen was called Shingon, from the Chinese
school Chen-yen, a magical-mystery sect thriving on secrecy and
esoteric symbolism. It appealed less to the intellect than did
Tendai and more to the taste for entertainment among the bored
aristocrats. Although Shingon monasteries often were situated in
remote mountainous areas, the intrigue of their engaging
ceremonies (featuring efflorescent iconography, chants, and
complex liturgies) and their evocative mandalas (geometrical
paintings full of symbolism) made this sect a theatrical success.
This so-called Esoteric Buddhism of Shingon grew so popular that
the sober Tendai sect was obliged to start adding ritualistic
complexity into its own practices.4
The Japanese government broke off relations with China less
than a hundred years after the founding of Kyoto, around the
middle of the ninth century. From then until the mid-twelfth
century mainland contacts virtually ceased, and consequently
both Japanese culture and Japanese Buddhism gradually evolved
away from their Chinese models. The Japanese aristocracy
became obsessed with aesthetics, finery, and refined lovemaking
accompanied by poetry, perfumes, and flowers.5 They distilled
the vigorous T'ang culture to a refined essence, rather like
extracting a delicate liqueur from a stout potion.
The Buddhist church also grew decadent, even as it grew
ever more powerful and ominous. The priesthood became the
appointment of last resort for otherwise unemployable courtiers,
and indeed Buddhism finally degenerated largely into an
entertainment for the ruling class, whose members were amused
and diverted by its rites. This carefree aristocracy also allowed
increasing amounts of wealth and land to slip into the hands of
corrupt religious establishments. For their own part, the Buddhists
began forming armies of monks to protect their new wealth, and
they eventually went on to engage in inter-temple wars and
threaten the civil government.
During this time, the Japanese aristocracy preserved its
privileged position through the unwise policy of using an emerging
military class to maintain order. These professional soldiers seem
to have arisen from the aristocacy itself. Japanese emperors had
a large number of women at their disposal, through whom they
scattered a host of progeny, not all of which could be maintained
idle in Kyoto. A number of these were sent to the provinces,
where they were to govern untamed outlying areas. This
continued until one day the court in Kyoto awoke to find that
Japan was in fact controlled by these rural clans and their
mounted warriors, the samurai.6
In the middle of the twelfth century, the samurai effectively
seized Japan, and their strongman invented for himself the title of
shogun, proceeding to institute what became almost eight
centuries of unbroken warrior rule. The age of the common man
had arrived, and one of the shogun's first acts was to transfer the
government away from aristocratic Kyoto, whose sophisticated
society made him uncomfortable, to a warrior camp called
Kamakura, near the site of modern Tokyo. The rule of Japan
passed from perfumed, poetry-writing aesthetes to fierce, often
illiterate swordsmen.
Coincident with this coup, the decadence and irrelevance of
traditional Buddhism had begun to weigh heavily upon a new
group of spiritual reformers. Before long Tendai and Shingon
were challenged by new faiths recognizing the existence and
spiritual needs of the common people. One form this reformation
took was the appearance of new sects providing spiritual comfort
to the masses and the possibility of eternal salvation through
some simple act, usually the repetition of a sacred chant. One,
and later two, such sects (Jodo and Jodo Shin) focused on the
Buddhist figure Amida, whose Paradise or "Pure Land" in the
hereafter was open to all those calling upon his name (by
chanting a sort of Buddhist "Hail Mary" called the nembutsu,
"Praise to Amida Buddha"). Another simplified sect preached a
fundamentalist return to the Lotus Sutra and was led by a
firebrand named Nichiren, who also created a chant for his largely
illiterate followers. A formula guaranteeing Paradise had particular
appeal to the samurai, whose day-to-day existence was
dangerous and uncertain. The scandalized Tendai monks
vigorously opposed this home-grown populist movement,
occasionally even burning down temples to discourage its growth.
But the Pure Land and Nichiren sects continued to flourish, since
the common people finally had a Buddhism all their own.
There were others, however, who believed that the
aristocratic sects could be reformed from within—by importing
them afresh from China, from the source. These reformers hoped
that Buddhism in China had maintained its integrity and discipline
during the several centuries of separation. And by fortunate
coincidence, Japanese contacts with the mainland were being
reopened, making it again allowable to undertake the perilous sea
voyage to China. But when the first twelfth-century Japanese
pilgrims reached the mainland, they were stunned to find that
traditional Buddhism had been almost completely supplanted by
Ch'an. Consequently, the Japanese pilgrims returning from China
perforce returned with Zen, since little else remained. However,
Zen was not originally brought back to replace traditional
Buddhism, but rather as a stimulant to restore the rigor that had
drained out of monastic life, including formal meditation and
respect or discipline.7
Credit for the introduction of Lin-chi Zen (called Rinzai) in
Japan is traditionally given to the aristocratic priest and traveler
Myoan Eisai (1141-1215).8 He began his career as a young monk
in the Tendai complex near Kyoto, but in the summer of 1168 he
accompanied a Shingon priest on a trip to China, largely to
sightsee and to visit the home of the T'ien-t'ai sect as a pilgrim.
However, the T'ien-t'ai school must have been a mere shadow of
its former self by this time, and naturally enough Eisai became
familiar with Ch'an. But he was hardly a firebrand for Zen, for
when he returned to Japan he continued practice of traditional
Some twenty years later, in 1187, Eisai again journeyed to
China, this time planning a pilgrimage on to India and the
Buddhist holy places. But the Chinese refused him permission to
travel beyond their borders, leaving Eisai no choice but to study
there. He finally attached himself to an aging Ch'an monk on Mt.
T'ien-t'ai and managed to receive the seal of enlightenment
before returning to Japan in 1191, quite probably the first
Japanese ever certified by a Chinese Ch'an master. He was not,
however, totally committed to Zen. His Ch'an teacher was also
occupied with other Buddhist schools, and what Eisai brought
back was a Buddhist cocktail blended from several different
traditions.9 But he did proceed to build a temple to the Huang-lung
(Japanese Oryo) branch of the Lin-chi sect on the southernmost
Japanese island, Kyushu (the location nearest China), in the
provincial town of Hakata. Almost as important, he also brought
back the tea plant (whose brew was used in China to keep drowsy
monks awake during meditation), thereby instituting the long
marriage of Zen and tea.
Although his provincial temple went unchallenged, later
attempts to introduce this new sect into Kyoto, the stronghold of
traditional Buddhism, met fierce resistance from the
establishment, particularly Tendai. But Eisai contended that Zen
was a useful sect and that the government would reap practical
benefits from its protection. His spirited defense of Zen, entitled
"Propagation of Zen for the Protection of the Country," argued that
its encouragement would be good for Japanese Buddhism and
therefore good for Japan.10
As in India, so in China its teaching has attracted followers and
disciples in great numbers. It propagates the Truth as the ancient
Buddha did, with the robe of authentic transmission passing from
one man to the next. In the matter of religious discipline, it
practices the genuine method of the sages of old. Thus the Truth
it teaches, both in substance and appearance, perfects the
relationships of master and disciple. In its rules of action and
discipline, there is no confusion of right and wrong. . . . Studying
it, one discovers the key to all forms of Buddhism; practicing it,
one's life is brought to fulfillment in the attainment of
enlightenment. Outwardly it favors discipline over doctrine,
inwardly it brings the Highest Inner Wisdom. This is what the Zen
sect stands for.11
He also pointed out how un-Japanese it would be to deny Zen a
hearing: Japan has been open-minded in the past, why should
she reject a new faith now?
In our country the [emperor] shines in splendor and the influence
of his virtuous wisdom spreads far and wide. Emissaries from the
distant lands of South and Central Asia pay their respects to his
court. Lay ministers conduct the affairs of government; priests and
monks spread abroad religious truth. Even the truths of the Four
Hindu Vedas are not neglected. Why then reject the five schools
of Zen Buddhism?12
Eisai was the classic tactician, knowing well when to fight and
when to retire, and he decided in 1199 on a diversionary retreat to
Kamakura, leaving behind the hostile, competitive atmosphere of
aristocratic Kyoto. Through his political connections, he managed
to get installed as head of a new temple in Kamakura, beginning
Zen's long association with the Japanese warrior class.
Eisai seems to have done well in Kamakura, for not long after
he arrived, the current strongman gave him financing for a Zen
temple in Kyoto, named Kennin-ji and completed in 1205. Eisai
returned the favor by assisting in the repair of temples ravaged by
the recent wars. It was reportedly for a later, hard-drinking ruler
that Eisai composed his second classic work, "Drink Tea and
Prolong Life," which championed the medicinal properties of this
exotic Chinese beverage, declaring it a restorative that tuned up
the body and strengthened the heart.
In the great country of China they drink tea, as a result of which
there is no heart trouble and people live long lives. Our country is
full of sickly-looking, skinny persons, and this is simply because
we do not drink tea. Whenever one is in poor spirits, one should
drink tea. This will put the heart in order and dispel all illness.
When the heart is vigorous, then even if the other organs are
ailing, no great pain will be felt. . . . The heart is the sovereign of
the five organs, tea is the chief of the bitter foods, and bitter is the
chief of the tastes. For this reason the heart loves bitter things,
and when it is doing well all the other organs are properly
regulated. . . . When, however, the whole body feels weak,
devitalized, and depressed, it is a sign that the heart is ailing.
Drink lots of tea, and one's energy and spirits will be restored to
full strength.13
This first Zen teacher was certainly no Lin-chi. He was merely
a Tendai priest who imported Lin-chi's sect from China hoping to
bring discipline to his school; he established an ecumenical
monastery at which both Zen and esoteric Tendai practices were
taught; he consorted with leaders whose place was owed to a
military coup d'etat; and he appeared to advocate Zen on
transparently practical, sometimes almost political, grounds. He
compromised with the existing cults to the end, even refusing to
lend aid to other, more pure-minded advocates of Ch'an who had
risen in Kyoto in the meantime.14 But Eisai was a colorful figure
whom history has chosen to remember as the founder of Zen in
Japan, as well as (perhaps equally important) the father of the cult
of tea.
Eisai ended his days as abbot of the Kyoto temple of Kennin-ji
and leader of a small Zen community that was careful not to
quarrel with the powers of Tendai and Shingon, which also had
altars in the temple. Eisai's "Zen" began in Japan as a minor
infusion of Buddhism's original discipline, but through an
accommodation with the warrior establishment, he accidentally
planted the seeds of Ch'an in fertile soil. Gradually the number of
Zen practitioners grew, as more and more of the samurai
recognized in Zen a practical philosophy that accorded well with
their needs. As Paul Varley has explained: "Zen . . . stresses
cultivation of the intuitive faculties and places a high premium on
discipline and self-control. It rejects rational decision-making as
artificial and delusory, and insists that action must come from
emotion. As such, Zen proved particularly congenial to the
medieval samurai, who lived with violence and imminent death
and who sought to develop such things as 'spontaneity of conduct'
and a 'tranquility of heart' to meet the rigours of his profession.
Under the influence of Zen, later samurai theorists especially
asserted that the true warrior must be constantly prepared to
make the ultimate sacrifice of his life in the service of his lord—
without a moment's reflection or conscious consideration."15
It can only be ironic that what began in China as a school of
meditation, then became an iconoclastic movement using koans
to beat down the analytical faculties finally emerged (in an
amalgam with other teachings) in Japan as a psychological
mainstay for the soldiers of a military dictatorship. There was,
however, another Japanese school of Zen that introduced its
practice in a form more closely resembling original Ch'an. This
was the movement started by Dogen, whose life we may now

1. This anecdote is in Martin Charles Collcutt, "The Zen Monastic
Institution in Medieval Japan" (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard
University, 1975).
2. Although there were various attempts to introduce Ch'an into
Japan prior to the twelfth century, nothing ever seemed to
stick. Dumoulin (History of Zen Buddhism, pp. 138-39)
summarized these efforts as follows: "The first certain
information we possess regarding Zen in Japan goes back to
the early period of her history. The outstanding Japanese
Buddhist monk during that age, Dosho, was attracted to Zen
through the influence of his Chinese teacher, Hsuan-tsang,
under whom he studied the Yogacara philosophy (653). . . .
Dosho thus came into immediate contact with the tradition of
Bodhidharma and brought the Zen of the patriarchs to Japan.
He built the first meditation hall, at a temple in Nara. . . .
"A century later, for the first time in history, a Chinese Zen
master came to Japan. This was Tao-hsuan, who belonged to
the northern sect of Chinese Zen in the third generation after
Shen-hsiu. Responding to an invitation from Japanese
Buddhist monks, he took up residence in Nara and
contributed to the growth of Japanese culture during the
Tempyo period (729-749). . . . The contemplative element in
the Tendai tradition, which held an important place from the
beginning, was strengthened in both China and Japan by
repeated contacts with Zen.
"A further step in the spread of Zen occurred in the following
century when I-k'ung, a Chinese master of the Lin-chi sect,
visited Japan. He came at the invitation of the Empress
Tachibana Kachiko, wife of the Emperor Saga, during the
early part of the Showa era (834-848), to teach Zen, first at
the imperial court and later at the Danrinji temple in Kyoto,
which the empress had built for him. However, these first
efforts in the systematic propagation of Zen according to the
Chinese pattern did not meet with lasting success. I-k'ung
was unable to launch a vigorous movement. Disappointed, he
returned to China, and for three centuries Zen was inactive in
Another opportunity for the Japanese to learn about Ch'an
was missed by the famous Japanese pilgrim Ennin, who was
in China to witness the Great Persecution of 845, but who
paid almost no attention to Ch'an, which he regarded as the
obsession of unruly ne'er-do-wells.
3. A number of books provide information concerning early
Japanese history and the circumstances surrounding the
introduction of Buddhism to Japan. General historical works of
particular relevance include: John Whitney Hall, Japan, from
Prehistory to Modern Times (New York: Delacorte, 1970);
Mikiso Hane, Japan, A Historical Survey (New York:
Scribner's, 1972); Edwin O. Reischauer, Japan: Past and
Present, 3rd ed. (New York: Knopf, 1964); and George B.
Sansom, A History of Japan, 3 vols. (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford
University Press, 1958-63).
Studies of early Japanese Buddhism may be found in:
Masaharu Anesaki, History of Japanese Religion (London:
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1930: reissue, Rutland, Vt.:
Tuttle, 1963); William K. Bunce, Religions in Japan (Rutland,
Vt.: Tuttle, 1955); Ch'en, Buddhism in China; Eliot, Japanese
Buddhism; Shinsho Hanayama, A History of Japanese
Buddhism (Tokyo: Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, 1966); and E. Dale
Saunders, Buddhism in Japan (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1964).
4. In fact, the popularity of esoteric rituals was such that they
were an important part of early Zen practice in Japan.
5. This world is well described by Ivan Morris in The World of the
Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan (New York: Knopf,
1964). A discussion of the relation of this aesthetic life to the
formation of Japanese Zen may be found in Thomas Hoover,
Zen Culture (New York: Random House, 1977; paperback
edition, New York: Vintage, 1978).
6. One of the most readable accounts of the rise of the Japanese
military class may be found in Paul Varley, Samurai (New
York: Delacorte, 1970; paperback edition, New York: Dell,
7. This theory is advanced eloquently in Collcutt, "Zen Monastic
Institution in Medieval Japan." In later years the Ch'an sect in
China itself actually entered a phase of decadence, with the
inclusion of esoteric rites and an ecumenical movement that
advocated the chanting of the nembutsu by Ch'anists—some
of whom claimed there was great similarity between the
psychological aspects of this mechanical chant and those of
the koan.
8. Accounts of Eisai's life may be found in Dumoulin, History of
Zen Buddhism; and in Collcutt, "Zen Monastic Institution in
Medieval Japan."
9. See Collcutt, "Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan."
10. See Saunders, Buddhism in Japan, p. 221.
11. Translated in Wm. Theodore de Bary, ed. Sources of
Japanese Tradition, Vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1958), pp. 236-37.
12. Ibid., p. 237.
13. De Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, pp. 239-40.
14. Again the best discussion of this intrigue is provided by
Collcutt, "Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan."
15. Varley, Samurai, p. 45.

Komuso Generations

Father and Son?

Kokokuji Fire Festival

Komuso take part in the Kokokuji-no-toroyaki, one of the three biggest fire festivals in Japan with over 700 years of  history. It features a 3 meter long big torch, weighing 300 kilograms.