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Ryōkan


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(1758–1831).

A Japanese monk of the Sōtō school of zen during the Edo period. After receiving a Confucian education (see Confucianism) in his youth, he turned aside from the path of governmental work laid out by his father and entered the Sōtō order at 18. This was a period in which, under the influence of Chinese Ts'ao-tung monks.the Sōtō school was undergoing a wave of reform, and many were advocating strict regimens of meditation and the study of Sōtō founder Dōgen's works. Ryōkan fell in with this reformist programme, and studied with several strict and uncompromising masters. In 1792, he received word that his father had travelled to Kyoto to present a work to the government denouncing political intrigue and corruption, and had then committed suicide.apparently to call attention to his protest. Ryōkan arranged the funeral and subsequent memorial services, and then set out on religious pilgrimage for several years. Only in 1804 did he settle down on Mt. Kugami, where he stayed for twelve years. He is remembered for the depth of his enlightenment that manifested in the spirit of acceptance and equality that he showed to all, from officials to prostitutes. He played with children, composed poetry in praise of nature, was renowned for his calligraphy, lived in extreme simplicity, and showed love for all living things to the extent of placing lice under his robes (see cīvara) to keep them warm, allowing thieves to take freely from his possessions, and letting one leg protrude from his mosquito net at night to give the mosquitos food.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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