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The Characteristics Of Do-gen The Founder Of The Japanese So To Sect








In the meantime seekers after a new truth gradually began to knock at
his door, and his hermitage was turned into a monastery, now known as
the Temple of Ko-sho-ji.[FN#77] It was at this time that many
Buddhist scholars and men of quality gathered about him but the more
popular he became the more disgusting the place became to him. His
hearty desire was to live in a solitude among mountains, far distant
from human abodes, where none but falling waters and singing birds
could disturb his delightful meditation. Therefore he gladly
accepted the invitation of a feudal lord, and went to the province of
Echi-zen, where his ideal monastery was built, now known as
Ei-hei-ji.[FN#78]


[FN#77] It was in this monastery (built in 1236) that Zen was first
taught as an independent sect, and that the Meditation Hall was first
opened in Japan. Do-gen lived in the monastery for eleven years, and
wrote some of the important books. Za-zen-gi ('The Method of
Practising the Cross-legged Meditation') was written soon after his
return from China, and Ben-do-wa and other essays followed, which are
included in his great work, entitled Sho-bo-gen-zo) ('The Eye and
Treasury of the Right Law').

[FN#78] The monastery was built in 1244 by Yoshi-shige (Hatano), the
feudal lord who invited Do-gen. He lived in Ei-hei-ji until his
death, which took place in 1253. It is still flourishing as the head
temple of the So To Sect.


In 1247, being requested by Toki-yori, the Regent General
(1247-1263), he came down to Kama-kura, where he stayed half a year
and went back to Ei-hei-ji. After some time Toki-yori, to show his
gratitude for the master, drew up a certificate granting a large
tract of land as the property of Ei-hei-ji, and handed it over to
Gen-myo, a disciple of Do-gen. The carrier of the certificate was so
pleased with the donation that he displayed it to all his brethren
and produced it before the master, who severely reproached him
saying: O, shame on thee, wretch! Thou art -defiled by the desire
of worldly riches even to thy inmost soul, just as noodle is stained
with oil. Thou canst not be purified from it to all eternity. I am
afraid thou wilt bring shame on the Right Law. On the spot Gen-myo
was deprived of his holy robe and excommunicated. Furthermore, the
master ordered the 'polluted' seat in the Meditation Hall, where
Gen-myo was wont to sit, to be removed, and the 'polluted' earth
under the seat to be dug out to the depth of seven feet.

In 1250 the ex-Emperor Go-sa-ga (1243-1246) sent a special messenger
twice to the Ei-hei monastery to do honour to the master with the
donation of a purple robe, but he declined to accept it. And when
the mark of distinction was offered for the third time, he accepted
it, expressing his feelings by the following verses:

Although in Ei-hei's vale the shallow waters leap,
Yet thrice it came, Imperial favour deep.
The Ape may smile and laugh the Crane
At aged Monk in purple as insane.

He was never seen putting on the purple robe, being always clad in
black, that was better suited to his secluded life.






Next: The Social State Of Japan When Zen Was Established By Ei-sai And Do-gen

Previous: The Introduction Of The So-to School Of Zen



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