Zen After The Downfall Of The Ho-jo Regency


Towards the end of the Ho-Jo period,[FN#90] and after the downfall of

the Regency in 1333, sanguinary battles were fought between the

Imperialists and the rebels. The former, brave and faithful as they

were, being outnumbered by the latter, perished in the field one

after another for the sake of the ill-starred Emperor Go-dai-go

(1319-1338), whose eventful life ended in anxiety and despair.

[FN#90] Although Zen was first favoured by the Ho-jo Regency and

chiefly prospered at Kama-kura, yet it rapidly began to exercise its

influence on nobles and Emperors at Kyo-to. This is mainly due to

the activity of En-ni, known as Sho-Ichi-Koku-Shi (1202-1280), who

first earned Zen under Gyo-yu, a disciple of Ei-sai, and afterwards

went to China, where he was Enlightened under the instruction of Wu

Chun, of the monastery of King Shan. After his return, Michi-iye

(Fuji-wara), a powerful nobleman, erected for him To-fuku-ji in 1243,

and he became the founder of a sub-sect of the Rin Zai, named after

that monastery. The Emperor Go-saga (1243-1246), an admirer of his,

received the Moral Precepts from him. One of his disciples, To-zan,

became the spiritual adviser of the Emperor Fushi-mi (1288-1298), and

another disciple, Mu kwan, was created the abbot of the monastery of

Nan-zen-ji by the Emperor Kame-yama (1260-1274), as the founder of a

sub-sect of the Rin Zai under the same name.

Another teacher who gained lasting influence on the Court is Nan-po,

known as Dai-O-Koku-Shi (1235-1308), who was appointed the abbot of

the monastery of Man-ju-ji in Kyo to by the Emperor Fushi-mi. One of

his disciples, Tsu-o, was the spiritual adviser to both the Emperor

Hana-zono (1308-1318) and the Emperor Go-dai-go. And another

disciple, Myo-cho, known as Dai-To-Koku-Shi (1282-1337), also was

admired by the two Emperors, and created the abbot of Dai-toku-ji, as

the founder of a sub-sect of the Rin Zai under the same name. It was

for Myo-cho's disciple, Kan-zan (1277 1360), that the Emperor

Hana-zono turned his detached palace into a monastery, named

Myo-shin-ji, the head temple of a sub-sect of the Rin Zai under the

same name.

It was at this time that Japan gave birth to Masa-shige (Kusu-noki),

an able general and tactician of the Imperialists, who for the sake

of the Emperor not only sacrificed himself and his brother, but by

his will his son and his son's successor died for the same cause,

boldly attacking the enemy whose number was overwhelmingly great.

Masa-shige's loyalty, wisdom, bravery, and prudence are not merely

unique in the history of Japan, but perhaps in the history of man.

The tragic tale about his parting with his beloved son, and his

bravery shown at his last battle, never fail to inspire the Japanese

with heroism. He is the best specimen of the Samurai class.

According to an old document,[FN#91] this Masa-shige was the

practiser of Zen, and just before his last battle he called on Chu

Tsun (So-shun) to receive the final instruction. What have I to do

when death takes the place of life? asked Masa-shige. The teacher


Be bold, at once cut off both ties,

The drawn sword gleams against the skies.

Thus becoming, as it were, an indispensable discipline for the

Samurai, Zen never came to an end with the Ho-jo period, but grew

more prosperous than before during the reign[FN#92] of the Emperor

Go-dai-go, one of the most enthusiastic patrons of the faith.

[FN#91] The event is detailed at length in a life of So-shun, but

some historians suspect it to be fictitious. This awaits a further


[FN#92] As we have already mentioned, Do-gen, the founder of the

Japanese So To Sect, shunned the society of the rich and the

powerful, and led a secluded life. In consequence his sect did not

make any rapid progress until the Fourth Patriarch of his line,

Kei-zan (1268-1325) who, being of energetic spirit, spread his faith

with remarkable activity, building many large monasteries, of which

Yo-ko-ji, in the province of No-to, So-ji-ji (near Yokohama), one of

the head temples of the sect, are well known. One of his disciples,

Mei ho (1277-1350), propagated the faith in the northern provinces;

while another disciple, Ga-san (1275-1365), being a greater

character, brought up more than thirty distinguished disciples, of

whom Tai-gen, Tsu-gen, Mu-tan, Dai-tetsu, and Jip-po, are best known.

Tai-gen (died 1370) and big successors propagated the faith over the

middle provinces, while Tsu-gen (1332-1391) and his successors spread

the sect all over the north-eastern and south-western provinces.

Thus it is worthy of our notice that most of the Rin Zai teachers

confined their activities within Kamakura and Kyo-to, while the So To

masters spread the faith all over the country.

The Shoguns of the Ashi-kaga period (1338-1573) were not less devoted

to the faith than the Emperors who succeeded the Emperor Go-dai-go.

And even Taka-uji (1338-1357), the notorious founder of the

Shogunate, built a monastery and invited So-seki,[FN#93] better known

as Mu-So-Koku-Shi, who was respected as the tutor by the three

successive Emperors after Go-dai-go. Taka-uji's example was followed

by all succeeding Shoguns, and Shogun's example was followed by the

feudal lords and their vassals. This resulted in the propagation of

Zen throughout the country. We can easily imagine how Zen was

prosperous in these days from the splendid monasteries[FN#94] built

at this period, such as the Golden Hall Temple and the Silver Hall

Temple that still adorn the fair city of Kyo-to.

[FN#93] So-seki (1276-1351) was perhaps the greatest Zen master of

the period. Of numerous monasteries built for him, E-rin-ji, in the

province of Kae, and Ten-ryu-ji, the head temple of a sub-sect of the

Rin Zai under the same name, are of importance. Out of over seventy

eminent disciples of his, Gi-do (1365-1388), the author of Ku-ge-shu;

Shun-oku (1331-1338), the founder of the monastery of So-koku-ji, the

head temple of a sub-sect of the Rin Zai under the same name; and

Zek-kai (1337-1405), author of Sho-ken-shu, are best known.

[FN#94] Myo-shin-ji was built in 1337 by the Emperor Hana-zono;

Ten-ryu-ji was erected by Taka-uji, the first Shogun of the period,

in 1344; So-koku-ji by Yosh-imitsu, the third Shogun, in 1385;

Kin-Kaku-ji, or Golden Hall Temple, by the same Shogun, in 1397;

Gin-kaku-ji, or Silver Hall Temple, by Yoshi-masa, the eighth Shogun,

in 1480.