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. 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, w
ere 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


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').

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.