Lineage: a continuing historyů

The history of Zen Buddhism presents itself as a family saga. Each priest of the S˘t˘ school today belongs to an uninterrupted line which traces itself either to Gasan J˘seki Zenji (1276-1366) or to Meih˘ Sotetsu Zenji (1277-1350), two disciples of Keizan Zenji, all other Japanese lines having since become extinct. One is integrated into a lineage at the time of the ceremony of Transmission of the Dharma, by which the Master makes the Disciple his successor. Presented here is the chain of teachers that connects Eihei D˘gen Zenji to Gudo Nishijima Roshi, and in the 41st generation from Dogen, Jundo James Cohen of the Treeleaf Zendo. As well, its links are said to reach back in time through China and India, on to the historical Buddha, Śhākyamuni. The line is also closely associated, ever since the middle of the 15th century, with the temple T˘kei' in, located near to the Japanese town of Shizuoka. It is a long, yet continuing history. In an important sense, it is not to be limited to any place or nation, nor is it merely a timeline which flows from past to present: In Dogenĺs teachings, past is present is future, while the future flows into the past as the past becomes the future. In this way, each teacher stands for all others, and all are with us now.

References: For a history of the development of Zen in Japan, please refer to William Bodiford, S˘t˘ Zen in Medieval Japan, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1993, as well as Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism: A History, Volume 2 - Japan, New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990. The following is a translation of the original French version by Eric RommeluŔre, Dharma Heir of Nishijima Roshi and Dharma Brother to Jundo, founder of the ôUn Zen Occidentalö Sangha in Paris.



1. Eihei D˘gen (1200-1253)

The Zen of the Japanese S˘t˘ school begins from him. Born in 1200 into the highest Japanese aristocracy, D˘gen entered adolescence as a novice priest at Mount Hiei, the principal monastery of the Tendai school. He left to study with Master Ry˘nen My˘zen (1184-1225) at Kenninji, where he was initiated into Zen. With My˘zen, he traveled to China in 1224. Remaining there for three years, he accepted transmission from Master Rujing (1163-1228, jap. Nyoj˘). On his return, he first remained close to Kyoto, where he established the initially specifically Zen monastery in Japan, K˘sh˘ji. In 1243, Dogen left Kyoto with his disciples for the province of Echizen (the current Fukui Prefecture) where he build the monastery of Daibutsuji, renamed thereafter Eiheiji, and still one of the two head temples of Japanese S˘t˘ Zen Buddhism. He is the author of any number of works important to the S˘t˘ school and the Zen world, including the Sh˘b˘genz˘ (ôDharma Treasury of the True Eye.ö) Dogen died in 1253.


Eihei D˘gen

2. Koun Ej˘ (1198-1280)

A member of the Fujiwara clan. Ej˘ belonged to the Zen school of Dainichi N˘nin (known as the Daruma-shű) prior to eventually joining D˘gen at his monastery of K˘sh˘ji in 1234. A faithful disciple, Ejo was appointed as chief monk of K˘sh˘ji in 1236, and assisted D˘gen in the compilation of his Sh˘b˘genz˘. Ejo succeeded Dogen as second abbot of Eiheiji. The last years of his life were marked, however, by what is known as the ôThird Generation Controversy,ö which arose between Gikai, his successor, and other members of the school. After having given up his role as abbot, Ejo had to finally take it up again after the rather forced departure as abbot of Gikai. Ejo is the author of the ôSamÔdhi of the Treasury of the Radiant Lightö (K˘my˘z˘ Zanmai, 1278). We also owe to him the ôRecord of Things Heard from the Sh˘b˘genz˘ö (Sh˘b˘genz˘ Zuimonki), a compilation of extemporaneous talks by D˘gen, composed at the end of the years 1230, and always regarded as a ôreadableö introduction to the thought of the Master.


Koun Ej˘

3. Tettsű Gikai (1219-1309)

Born to a branch of the Fujiwara clan in the province of Echizen, Gikai was originally one of the disciples of Ekan of the Daruma-shű school. When that school was persecuted, Ekan and several of his disciples, including Gikai, joined Dogenĺs community at K˘sh˘ji. Later, at Eiheiji, he occupied the key monastic role of temple cook (jap. tenzo), and there received transmission from Ekan in 1251. After the death of D˘gen, Ej˘ conferred his own transmission on Gikai in 1255. Gikai may have then traveled for a few years, including to China. On his return to Eiheiji, he erected new buildings and introduced new rituals. In 1267, Gikai succeeded Ej˘ as third abbot, but a conflict emerged with his fellows concerning his duel lineage. Finally, Gikai was forced to depart after five years spent as the head of Eiheiji. He lived many years thereafter with his mother, in a hermitage not far from Eiheiji. Later, he converted a monastery of the Shingon school into a Zen monastery, Daij˘ji, which was officially opened in 1293.


Tettsű Gikai

4. Keizan J˘kin (1264-1325)

In 1271, Keizan accepted the tonsure from Gikai, then became for some time his personal attendant at Eiheiji. But it is only at the end of various travels, at the age of thirty-two, that Keizan finally joined Gikai at Daij˘ji. In 1295, Keizan received the transmission and the robe (jap. kesa) of D˘gen previously presented by Ej˘ to Gikai. Three years after, Keizan succeeded Gikai as abbot of Daij˘ji. Thereafter, he established the monastery of Y˘k˘ji on the Noto peninsula, where he settled in 1317. This monastery would remain the principal monastery of the immediate disciples of Keizan. He also established the monastery of S˘jiji in 1324, which would later go on to become, with Dogenĺs Eiheiji, one of the two head temples of the Soto school. Keizan is the author of several works, in particular, The Three Kinds of Zen Practitionerö á(Sankon Zazen Setsu), ôPoints to be Observed in Zazenö (Zazen Y˘jinki), ôThe Collection of the Transmission of the Lightö (Denk˘roku), a series of sermons in the style of the collections of the Chinese lamp, such as ôThe Pure Rules of T˘kokuji,ö better known under the title ôThe Pure Rules of Keizanö (Keizan Shingi).

Keizan J˘kin

5. Gasan J˘seki (1276-1366)

A son of the Minamoto family, with origins in the province of Noto (the present Ishikawa Prefecture). Gasan began his Buddhist studies within the Tendai school then, after a meeting with Keizan in Kyoto, joined with Keizan at the monastery of Daij˘ji, where he became one of Keizanĺs principal disciples. He was later the second abbot of S˘jiji, which he directed over a period of forty years, and was briefly the fourth abbot of Y˘k˘ji. Gasan was the first master in Japan to make study of the dialectical system of the ôFive Degreesö (jap. goi) of Chinese Master Dongshan Liangjie (jap. T˘zan Ry˘kai, 807-869), founder and namesake of the S˘t˘ school. Of the six principal disciples of Keizan, only Meih˘ Sotetsu (1277-1350) and Gasan J˘seki have played a part in determining the later development of the school. Gasan had twenty-five successors, including five that he described as particularly ôsensible.ö

A famous dialogue between Keizan and Gasan has been preserved. One night, as they contemplated the starry sky. Keizan asked of Gasan: ôDo you know that there are two moons?ö At that time, Gasan failed to understand. Keizan responded, ôIf you do not know that there are two moons, you cannot be a bud in the S˘t˘ line.ö Gasan went on to practice most intently. When the time was ripe, Keizan sent him to study with other Masters, in particular with Ky˘˘ Unry˘, a Rinzai Master. On Gasanĺs return, he replied to Keizan, ôWe must inherit this mind that is as beautiful as the moon.ö Keizan Zenji heard that reply and recognized Gasan Zenji as his successor,ôNow you can finally be a bud in the S˘t˘ line.ö


Gasan J˘seki

6. Taigen S˘shin (died in 1371)

Born in the province of Kaga (in the present prefecture of Ishikawa). After having received ordination at a temple which remains unspecified, he went on to S˘jiji, where he studied under the direction of Gasan. Taigen accepted Zen transmission from Gasan in the 5th year of the J˘wa era (1349). Immediately after the death of Gasan, Taigen became the 3rd abbot of S˘jiji then, at the end of his life, the 13th abbot of Y˘k˘ji. He also founded the monastery of Butsudaji (in the province of Kaga). Taigen died in the 4th year of the Oan era (1371). His teaching was inspired, like Gasan, by the dialectic of the ôFive Degrees.ö


Monastery of Y˘k˘ji.

7. Baisan Mompon (died in 1417)

One of the most important figures of the S˘t˘ school at the end of the 14th century. A native of Mino Province (in the current prefecture of Gifu) , Baisan took the priestly vows at Genjiji, a monastery of the Vinaya school of Buddhism. He later studied Zen at S˘jiji and succeeded as heir to Taigen S˘shin.
In 1382, Baisan became the abbot-founder (jap. kaisan) of a monastery in the province of Echizen (in the current prefecture of Fukui), in fact an old temple which he renamed Ryűtakuji. He also founded the temple of Kong˘ji and was the abbot of Butsudaji. Baisan was appointed in 1390 as the eleventh abbot of S˘jiji, and founded in this monastery, with the heirs to Gasan, a system of abbacy rotation. Under this system, abbots of Sojiji were to be alternatively selected from among the principal lines originating from Gasan. Baisan died in the 24th year of the Oei era [1417].

Baisan is the subject of various miraculous anecdotes. In one, Baisan is said to have once taken refuge in aá deserted house, lost in the countryside, to spend the night there. But the owner of the place returned in the middle of the night, dead drunk, and took the monk for a robber, unsheathed his saber and sliced sharply the intruder. The next morning, the householder awoke and was taken with remorse when he saw, to his great surprise, Baisan calmly seated in meditation. The man exclaimed: ôHow is this possible?ö but Baisan did not answer, being satisfied to remove from his sleeves a small statuette of Kannon which he always carried with him. The statuette was sliced into two. The man prostrated and became ľ as one might expect - the disciple of Baisan.

Baisan is said to have had a particularly strong devotion to meditation. In the monastic code that he wrote in 1415 for his monastery Ryűtakuji, he enjoined its monks to meditate twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, if they did not have anything else to do!


Baisan Mompon

8. Jochű Tengin (1365-1437)

A native of the province of Shinano (in the current prefecture of Nagano), his family surname was Mino. Tengin studied with the Rinzai Master Daisetsu Son˘, from whom he accepted ordination, then later with Baisan Mompon from whom he received transmission. Thereafter, Tengin went on to the province of Omi (in the current prefecture of Shiga) where he built a hermitage of the name T˘shun'in, that he soon renamed T˘ju'an. A lord of the province of T˘t˘mi (in the current prefecture of Shizuoka) named Yamauchi then requested him to build a temple at which the lord could make prayers. In 1401, Tengin gave up all his other activities and went in search of a favorable location. He found the place guided, according to legend, by the Bodhisattva Kannon. There, he built a temple that he later named Dait˘'in, inaugurated in 1411. Tengin made his own Master, Baisan Mompon, the honorary founder of the temple, with Tengin himself becoming officially the second abbot. The shogun Ashikaga Yoshimochi offered neighboring lands in donation.

Once the monastery was completed, legend goes, the kami of the mountain came during the night into the apartments of Tengin in order to receive from him the Zen precepts. These were granted, and in thanks the kami promised Tengin to create a mineral spring not far from there. The next morning, there occurred a light earthquake and water spouted out of the mountainside, flowing even today ů

In 1430, Tengin took over as the Abbot of Ryűka'in in the province of Echizen (in the current prefecture of Fukui), where Tengin remained three years before returning to T˘ju'in. He died in the 12th year of the Eiky˘ era (1440) at the age of 75 years. Before dying, Tengin required of his disciples that his funeral would remain simple and that, in the place of ceremonies, they would all assemble to sit in meditation. Of the 17,549 current temples of the S˘t˘ school, more than 3.200 trace their line to Jochű Tengin.


The Zendo of Dait˘' in (ę Dait˘' in).

9. Sekis˘ Enchű (death in 1455)

Second abbot of T˘kei'in. In 1452, via his brother, a vassal of Fukushima Iga No Kami, this last entrusted to Sekis˘ lands which were close to an old temple of Shingon Buddhism named Kikei'an, close to the current town of Shizuoka. Sekis˘ renamed this the T˘kei'in and dedicated it to Zen. He named his late Master, Jochű Tengin, the abbot-founder (jap. kaisan) of the temple, with himself officially becoming its second abbot.

The Temple of T˘kei'in

á(click on photograph for a virtual visit).

10. Taigan S˘bai (death in 1502)

Third abbot of T˘kei'in, who built the entirety of its buildings at the request of his Master. Three of his disciples followed one another as head of T˘kei'in: Kens˘ J˘shun, Gy˘shi Sh˘jun and Efu Keimon, who were respectively the fourth, fifth and sixth abbots. The abbacy was then assumed in turns until 1872, by each line originating from these three abbots, following the system of rotation in use in the S˘t˘ school.

11. Kens˘ J˘shun (death in 1507)

Fourth abbot of T˘kei'in. He assumed the position of abbot of T˘keiĺin and S˘shinji. He also established the temple of Shinju'in in the old province of Suruga (the current prefecture of Shizuoka), and had two principal disciples, Toshun and Jisan.

12. Jisan [Var. Jisen] Eikun
Second abbot of Shinju' in. Abbot-founder of Gofuzan Yômeiji (in the current prefecture of Nagano)

13. Daichű Reij˘
Third abbot of Shinju' in. Abbot-founder in 1530 of Myôonji (in the current prefecture of Nagano), his tomb stone is found there.

14. Nan' ˘ Ry˘kun
Abbot of Shinju'in


15. Daijű Ryűzon
Abbot of Shinju'in

16. H˘gan Zensatsu
Abbot of Shinju'in

17. Ry˘zan Ch˘zen
Abbot of Shinju'in

18. Kisshű Gensh˘
Abbot of Shinju'in

19. Kigai Mon' ˘
Abbot of Shinju'in

20. Kanshű Taisatsu

Abbot of Shinju'in. Originally from the temple of Eimeiji (in the prefecture of Nagano), he went on to Shinju'in and, in 1592, was invited to take the direction of an old temple of the Shingon school, Fuz˘'in, in the old province of Suruga (the current prefecture of Shizuoka) which he renamed Bukkokuzan H˘z˘ji. He became the abbot-founder (jap kaisan). H˘z˘ji was made a subordinate temple (jap. matsuji) of Shinju'in.


The current entryway of H˘z˘ji.

21. Tens˘ Juntetsu
Second abbot of H˘z˘ji

22. Kenkoku Keisatsu
Third abbot of H˘z˘ji

23. Raiten Gensatsu
Fourth abbot of H˘z˘ji

24. Kengan Zesatsu
Fifth abbot of H˘z˘ji


25. H˘koku Satsuyű
Sixth abbot of H˘z˘ji


26. Rotei Shoshuku
Seventh abbot of H˘z˘ji


27. Fuh˘ Tatsuden
Eighth abbot of H˘z˘ji


28. Kachű Jakuchű
Ninth abbot of H˘z˘ji


29. Bunzan K˘rin
Tenth abbot of H˘z˘ji


30. Daichű Bunki [Daichű Getsuzan]
Eleventh abbot of H˘z˘ji.


31. Ch˘ko Bungei
Twelfth abbot of H˘z˘ji.


32. Roshű Ezen
Thirteenth abbot of H˘z˘ji.


33. Reisai Emon
Fourteenth abbot of H˘z˘ji.


34. Tokuzui Tenrin
Fifteenth abbot of H˘z˘ji.


35. Shogaku Rinzui
Sixteenth abbot of H˘z˘ji.


36. Butsuzan Zuimy˘ (Masuda)

Seventeenth abbot of H˘z˘ji and fourth superior of the temple T˘kei'in (in the new system of classification post-Meiji).


37. Bukkan My˘koku (Niwa, (1862-1904))

Became Third Abbot of Tokei-in in 1896, where he cared for the development and rebuilding of the temple which, despite its prestigious past, had little money during the years of Buddhist persecution of the early Meiji Period. Bukkan also planted more than six hundred plum trees in the fields nearby. For twelve years, he then served as personal attendant to Master Goyu Morita, the 64th abbot of Eiheiji. He was seen as himself a possible future head of the Soto Sect, but died young at age 42.


38. Butsuan Emy˘ (Niwa, 1880-1955)

Fifth superior of Tokei'in.


Niwa Butsuan was the fifth abbot of the Tôkei'in and the Executive Director (kan'in) of Eiheiji monastery. Together with his Heir, Zuigaku Rempo, Butsuan was a very influential figure in the development of "Baikaryu" hymn singing in the Soto Sect.

39. Zuigaku Remp˘ (Niwa, 1905-1993)

He succeeded Butsuan Emy˘ Niwa as superior of the Tokei'in. After having assumed the station of vice-abbot, he became in 1985 the 77th abbot of the Eiheiji monastery, one of the two principal temples of the S˘t˘ school. He then received the imperial title of Jik˘ Enkai Zenji (ôGreat Zen Master of Compassion, Ocean of Plenitudeö). He died in September 1993 Tetsuzan Gend˘ Niwa succeeded him in 1986 as the abbot of Tokei'in.

Zuigaku Remp˘ Niwa Zenji was noted for his brush calligraphy, and works by him can be found under various pen names, including Robai (ôthe old plum treeö) and Baian (ôthe plum tree hermitageö).

Rempo Niwa

40. Gud˘ Wafu (Nishijma, 1919-2014)

Born in November 1919, in October 1940, he took part in a first Sesshin at the temple of Daichűji under the direction of Master Zen K˘d˘ Sawaki (1888-1965). In December 1973, he received ordination from Remp˘ Niwa, then transmission from Niwa Zenji in December 1977. He was the author of over thirty works in English and Japanese, and translated into many other languages.

He died in January, 2014. Nishijima Roshi taught  "Life is just the fact in this moment; death is just the fact in this moment."

Gudo Nishijima - Photographie : Jeremy Pearson

41. Chigen Jundo Cohen (1960 -áááá )