NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2007/11/7


道元 Dougen Dogen

Jp En

Dogen is the founder of the Soto sect of the Japanese Buddhism. Born in Kyoto in 1200, he entered a Buddhist monastery in Mt. Hiei at the age of 13. He became a priest in the next year and studied the Tendai Buddhism and Zen doctrines. Then he went to China to study “Shoho (true dharma)” and visited Zen monk Nyojo (Ju-Ching, 13th Patriarch of the Soto lineage of Zen Buddhism) in Mt. Tiantóng in 1225, when he became the Dharma successor. His way of Zen is “Shikan Taza,” which means “zazen alone.”

When Dogen returned to Japan, he stayed at Kenninji Temple in Kamakura, where he wrote down “the Fukan Zazengi (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen),” a short text emphasizing the importance of and giving instructions for zazen, or sitting meditation. In 1233, he founded Koshoji Temple in Uji, south of Kyoto, where he stayed for 8 years and devoted himself to the propagation of Zen Buddhism.
In 1243, he was invited to Echizen province, where his followers founded Daibutsuji Temple (present-day Eiheiji Temple) as a comprehensive center of Zen practice. Dogen spent the remainder of his life at this temple teaching young priests.


Dogen’s masterpiece “the Shobogenzo,” collected together in ninety-five fascicles, has been studied even up to the present day as the book that lead us to enlightment.
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2007/10/11


親鸞 Shinran Shinran

Jp En

Shinran was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the early Kamakura period (1192-1333) and the founder of the Jodo Shinshu of japanese Buddhism. Born in Hino (now a part of Fushimi, Kyoto) in 1173, Shinran had been a monk of the Tendai school of Buddhism at Mt. Hiei, where he studied for 20 years since he was at the age of nine. In 1201, Shinran met Honen and became his disciple. He arrived at the conviction that “Tariki Nenbutsu (reciting Buddhist invocation to takes refuge in the other power of Amida Buddha)” is the only way to lead us to the Pure Land.

Shinran together with the desciples of Honen spread this new doctorine in the streets of Kyoto, but their movement was banned by the Imperial court. Eight monks including Honen and Shinran were exiled. Shinran was sent to Echigo province (present-day Niigata Prefecture) and was stripped of his religious name.

After Shinran was pardoned, he left for Hitachi province (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture), where he spent 20 years being engaged in missionary works. He took a stand that he was neither a monk nor a layman.
In 1224, he authored his most significant text, “Kyogyoshinsho,” which is a series of selections and commentaries on Buddhist sutras pertinent to Pure Land Buddhism. The sayings of Shinran, “the Tannisho (the Lamentations of Divergences)” is still read by many people today.

In 1234, Shinran returned to Kyoto, where he died in 1263 at the age of 90. The Japanese imperial court awarded Shinran the honorific designations “Kenshin Daishi (Great Teacher Kenshin)” in 1876.
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2007/10/5


西行 Saigyou Saigyo

Jp En

Saigyo was a famous Japanese poet of the late Heian period (794-1192). Born to a military family in 1118, he started his careear as an Imperial Guard to retired Emperor Toba at the age of 18. He was a handsome young man, who was both a good warrior and a good scholar. He came to be known in the political circles of the time, but for some unknown reasons, he quit worldly life to become a monk at the age of 23. Later he took the pen name “Saigyo” meaning Western Journey.

He did not belong to any sect of Buddhism and stayed in a hermitage in a deep mountain to seek for enlightment through writing waka poems. Being attracted by the beauty of nature, he made his temporary hermitage in the suberbs of Kyoto and Nara including Mt. Ogurayama in Saga, Mt. Kuramayama, a holy mountain of Yoshino and Mt. Koya, the sanctuary of the Shingon Buddhism. He also made a number of trips to visit temples and shrines in Shikoku and Ise.

94 poems of Saigyo’s work are collected in “the Shin Kokinshu.” His other important collections of poems are “Sankashu (Mountain Home Collection),” “Sanka Shinchu Shu,” and “Kikigakishu.” He died at Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi province (present-day Kanan-cho in Osaka Prefecture) in 1190.
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2007/10/4


良寛 Ryoukan Ryokan

Jp En

Ryokan was a Soto Zen Buddhist monk in the late Edo period (1603-1868). He is also known as a calligrapher and poet, who wrote both Japanese waka poems and Chinese classic poems.

He was born in in the village of Izumozaki in Echigo Province (now Niigata Prefecture) in 1758. He was much influenced by his father, who was a Nanushi (village officer) and poet. Ryokan studied under Omori Shiyo, a scholar of Chinese classics and became his father’s assistant.

Later he visited and stayed at Entsuji Temple (in present-day Okayama Prefecture), where he was ordained priest by the Zen master Kokusen. It was around this time that Ryokan also took interested in writing poems and deepened exchanges with many poets of the time.

Ryokan attained enlightment and was presented with an Inka (a formal acknowledgement of a student’s completion of Zen training) by Kokusen at the age of 33. He left Entsuji Temple to set for a long pilgrimage and necer returned to the monastery life. He lived the rest of his life as a hermit and taught Buddhism to common people in easy words instead of difficult sermons.

He disclosed his own humble life, for which people felt sympathy, and placed their confidence in him. A lot of artists and scholars also visited his small hut, Gogo-an, where he talked with them over a drink of Hannya-yu (enlightening hot water, namely Japanese hot sake). He died in 1831. His only disciple, Teishin-ni published a collection of Ryokan’s poems titled “Hasu no Tsuyu (Dewdrops on a lotus leaf).”
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日蓮 Nichiren Nichiren

Jp En

Nichiren was a Buddhist monk in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Born in Awa province (present-day Chiba Prefecture) in 1222, Nichiren began his Buddhist study at a nearby temple, Seichoji, at the age of 12. He was formally ordained four years later at 16. Then he visited temples in Nara and Kyoto including Shitennoji Temple and Koyasan Kongobuji Temple for more in-depth study. Through the study of Nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation), Zen and Shingon (esoteric practice), he became convinced of the pre-eminence of the Lotus Sutra. In 1253, he founded his own sect of Buddhism at Seichoji Temple and recited “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” for the first time. He changed his name to Nichiren, wherein the kanji character for nichi (日) means “sun” and that for ren (蓮) means “lotus.”

In 1260, he wrote “the Rissho Ankoku Ron (Treatise on securing the peace of the land through the establishment of the correct),” in which he criticized all the other sects of Japanese Buddhism. It prompted a severe backlash, especially from among priests of other Buddhist sects and the Kamakura Shogunate. Nichiren was harassed and exiled four times in his life. When he was exiled to Sado, an island in the Japan Sea, he wrote two of his most important doctrinal treatises, “the Kaimoku Sho (On the opening of the eyes)” and “the Kanjin no Honzon Sho (The object of devotion for observing the mind in the fifth five-hundred year period).” It was also during his exile on Sado, in 1272, that he inscribed the first Gohonzon, the mandala that he intended as a graphic representation of the essence of the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren spent the rest of his life at Minobu, where he and his disciples erected Kuonji Temple and he continued writing and training his disciples. In 1282, Nichiren died in Edo (present-day Tokyo). The Japanese imperial court awarded Nichiren the honorific designations “Nichiren Daibosatsu (Great Bodhisattva Nichiren)” in 1358 and “Rissho Daishi (Great Teacher Rissho) in 1922.
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