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Dōgen (道元)

Dōgen Kigen 道元希玄 (1200-1253). Founder of the sole surviving branch of the Soto lineage in Japan; one of the "two ancestors" of the present Soto school. Dōgen was ordained as a Buddhist monk in the Tendai school on Mt. Hiei at age 13. Later he resided at Kenninji 建仁寺, one of the first Chinese style Zen monasteries to be opened in Japan. There he became a disciple of Myōzen 明全, a leading follower of Eisai 榮西 (1141-1215), the founding abbot who had spent many years training in Song dynasty China. In 1223, Dōgen accompanied Myōzen to China, where he visited and trained in several large public Buddhist monasteries that were dominated by followers of the Zen school. Before his return to Japan in 1227, Dōgen became a dharma heir of Nyojō 如淨, a monk in the Soto branch of the Zen lineage who was the abbot of a large public monastery on Tiantong Mountain (Tendōzan, C. Tiantongshan 天童山). Dōgen understood his mission as the transmission of true Buddhism from China to Japan, including (a) the forms of individual and institutional monastic practice then current in mainstream Chinese Buddhism, and (b) the historical lore and teaching methods of the Zen lineage, as contained and reflected in the traditional literature of the Song Zen school. After his return to Japan he built a Chinese style monastery named Kōshōji 興聖寺 in Uji, south of Kyoto, then moved to the province of Echizen (modern Fukui Prefecture) where he founded the Chinese style monastery that became known as Eiheiji 永平寺. Dōgen named three main dharma heirs, the most important of whom (from the perspective of posterity) was Koun Ejō 孤雲懷奘 (1198-1280), the teacher of Tettsū Gikai 徹通義介 (1219-1309), who in turn transmitted Dōgen's dharma to Keizan Jōkin 瑩山紹瑾 (1268-1325). All members of the modern Soto clergy trace their lineages of dharma inheritance back to Dōgen. His major writings include: a diverse set of lectures given to disciples collected under the title Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma (Shōbōgenzō 正法眼藏); the Eihei Extensive Record, a record of Dōgen's sayings and exchanges with disciples in a number of formal and semi-formal settings; six treatises on various aspects of monastic discipline collected and published in the Edo period (1600-1868) under the heading Eihei Rules of Purity (Eihei shingi 永平清規); and a short piece entitled Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen (Fukan zazengi 普勸坐禪儀).