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


Now we have to observe the condition of the country when Zen was

introduced into Japan by Ei-sai and Do-gen. Nobilities that had so

long governed the island were nobilities no more. Enervated by their

luxuries, effeminated by their ease, made insipient by their

debauchery, they were entirely powerless. All that they possessed in

reality was the nominal rank and hereditary birth. On the contrary,

despised as the ign
rant, sneered at as the upstart, put in contempt

as the vulgar, the Samurai or military class had everything in their

hands. It was the time when Yori-tomo[FN#79] (1148-1199) conquered

all over the empire, and established the Samurai Government at

Kama-kura. It was the time when even the emperors were dethroned or

exiled at will by the Samurai. It was the time when even the

Buddhist monks[FN#80] frequently took up arms to force their will.

It was the time when Japan's independence was endangered by Kublai,

the terror of the world. It was the time when the whole nation was

full of martial spirit. It is beyond doubt that to these rising

Samurais, rude and simple, the philosophical doctrines of Buddhism,

represented by Ten Dai and Shin Gon, were too complicated and too

alien to their nature. But in Zen they could find something

congenial to their nature, something that touched their chord of

sympathy, because Zen was the doctrine of chivalry in a certain sense.

[FN#79] The Samurai Government was first established by Yoritomo, of

the Minamoto family, in 1186, and Japan was under the control of the

military class until 1867, when the political power was finally

restored to the Imperial house.

[FN#80] They were degenerated monks (who were called monk-soldiers),

belonging to great monasteries such as En-ryaku-ji (Hi-yei),

Ko-fuku-ji (at Nara), Mi-i-dera, etc.