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Shakamuni (釋迦牟尼)

S. Śākyamuni, literally "Sage of the Śākya clan." An epithet for the "historical" Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion in the present world cycle. In the Zen tradition, Shakamuni is revered more than any other buddha in the Mahayana pantheon because he said to have founded the Zen lineage when he vouchsafed his formless "mind dharma" (shinbō 心法) to his disciple Makakasho in a "separate transmission apart from the teachings" (kyōge betsuden 教外別傳). An image of Shakamuni (shakazō 釋迦像) is the main object of veneration (honzon 本尊) on the central altar of most Zen monasteries and temples. The traditional story of the life of Buddha Shakamuni is broken into major episodes in his career, often depicted in a series of sculptures or paintings. In India, famous events in the Buddha's life (as well incidents said to have occurred in his past lives) were also commemorated by stupas built at the locations where they were believed to have taken place. The four episodes (as told in Chinese Buddhist texts known across East Asia) that are deemed most important in the Zen tradition are: (1) Shakamuni's miraculous birth in the Lumbinī Grove near Kapilavastu, where he emerged from his mother's side as she stood holding a tree branch, took seven steps, looked in the four directions, pointed to the sky with one hand and to the earth with the other and declared, "In the heavens above and this earth below, I alone am uniquely honored" (tenjō tenge yuiga dokuson 天上天下唯我獨尊); (2) his "attainment of the way" (jōdō 成道) in Magadha, where he sat in meditation under the bodhi tree (bodaiju 菩提樹) and declared that he would not move until he attained awakening; (3) his first preaching of the dharma (seppō 説法), also called "turning the dharma wheel" (tenbōrin 轉法輪), which took place in the Deer Park in Sārnāth, near the city of Vārāνasī; and (4) his death or "entry into nirvana" (nyūmetsu 入滅), which took place between a pair of Sal trees (sara sōju 娑羅雙樹) on the banks of the river Hiraνyavatī in Kuśinagara. All four of these events are recalled on a daily basis in Soto monasteries in the Verse upon Hearing the Meal Signal (Montsui no ge 聞槌の偈), and three of them are commemorated in major annual observances called the Buddha's birthday assembly (buttan e 佛誕會), Buddha's attainment assembly (jōdō e 成道會), and nirvana assembly (nehan e 涅槃會).