Zen Buddhism as the Ideology of the Japanese State

Albert Welter

Edited by Dale S. Wright

in Zen Classics

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780195175257
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199784608 | DOI:
 Zen Buddhism as the Ideology of the Japanese State

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This chapter reassesses Eisai and his attempt to reform the Japanese Buddhist state along the lines suggested by the model of Sung Ch’an, by examining the message of the Kōzen Gokokuron and the Ninnō-kyō (Sutra of Benevolent Kings), both texts central to Eisai’s theoretical vision. Eisai is a major figure in the Japanese Zen tradition, known for introducing Zen and winning major political support for it in the newly formed Kamakura bakufu. The discussion emphasizes not only the ideological sway that this text had over Eisai, but also how Eisai conceived of the practical implementation of the text’s ideological vision in terms of Ch’an institutions and practices observed by Eisai in Sung China. The study examines the Kōzen gokokuron in terms of three leading ideas around which Sung Ch’an had been formed: lineage, institutional organization, and conceptions of Ch’an vis a vis the Buddhist tradition as a whole. This examination concludes with a comparison of how Yen-shou was understood in the Kōzen Gokokuron and the Jōtō Shōkaku Ron, a text associated with Nōnin and the Daruma faction, a leading early contender for the mantle of establishing a separate Zen “school” in Japan.

Keywords: Eisai; Kōzen Gokokuron; Kamakura bakufu; Ninnō-kyō; Sutra of Benevolent Kings; Yen-shou; Jōtō Shōkaku Ron

Chapter.  23389 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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