Premodern Japanese Zen

Taigen Leighton

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Premodern Japanese Zen

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Japanese Zen developed in distinctive ways after the Chan traditions were imported from China during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and during the subsequent Muromachi period (1336–1573). The two main schools of Japanese Zen are Rinzai (initiated from the Chinese Linji tradition) and Sōtō (developed from the Chinese Caodong lineage). One stereotype about the two schools is that Rinzai was for samurai and Sōtō for peasants. While there are exceptions, it is true that Rinzai was the dominant form of Zen in the capitals of Kyoto and Kamakura, whereas Sōtō came to have many more temples and parishioners in the countryside, where it spread more widely. The word “Zen” comes from the Chinese chan as a transliteration of the Sanskrit dhyāna, in China implying meditation generally. So Zen is the meditation school, although another, misleading stereotype is that Sōtō specializes in seated meditation, or zazen, while Rinzai specializes in the study of koans, the classic teaching stories. The reality is that both schools included both zazen and koan practice. Rinzai was more influential in Zen culture as a leading force in the development of many unique Japanese aesthetic and art forms. Arguably Zen had its largest impact in Japan generally through Japanese everyday arts, many associated with the Way of Tea, such as calligraphy, landscape painting, garden design, pottery, flower arrangement, and architecture. Both schools of Zen, though perhaps Rinzai somewhat more, were influential in supporting samurai religion and codes. This entry is organized somewhat chronologically in terms of the medieval periods (Kamakura and Muromachi) and then the Tokugawa (1600–1867), thus covering material up to the mid-19th century. Entries are divided for convenience between Rinzai and Sōtō developments and figures, although many practitioners and teachers had some exposure to both schools as well as other branches of Japanese Buddhism. Between the medieval and Tokugawa headings, entries that pervaded all of these periods are presented thematically, that is, the arts, monasticism, koan practice, meditation, and samurai Zen.

Article.  9751 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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