Sekito Kisen and the Sandokai

in Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 1999 | ISBN: 9780520219823
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936232 | DOI:
Sekito Kisen and the Sandokai

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Sekito Kisen (Ch. Shitou Xiqian, 700–790), author of the Sandokai, was born in Guangdong Province in southern China at the beginning of the eighth century. This was a formative era in which Zen was growing in popularity and was first articulated as a unique school and lineage. It was also during this period that Zen became known for its emphasis on the direct experience of reality and the practice of seated meditation. Not much is known about Sekito's life. The first recorded event is an encounter, at the age of twelve, with the Sixth Ancestor, Daikan Eno (Ch. Dajian Huineng, 638–713). The Sandokai (Ch. Cantongqi) addresses the division between the Northern and Southern schools as well as other dichotomies such as one and many, light and dark, sameness and difference. Made up of twenty-two couplets (forty-four lines), the poem often follows a pattern of distinguishing first discontinuity, then continuity, and finally complementarity.

Keywords: seated meditation; Sekito Kisen; Sandokai; Zen; poem

Chapter.  1331 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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