View Full Version : About the Names of the Ancestors

09-04-2022, 06:44 AM
Hello Modern Day Folks,

We would not be here if it were not for all the folks who came before. In Soto Zen Temples, it is common to chant a traditional list of Ancestors each day. In our Sangha, we chant the full list each year, during our Rohatsu Retreat in December, although we also chant an abbreviated version (beginning with Shakyamuni Buddha, to Dogen, to Niwa Zenji and Nishijima Roshi) each week for our Treeleaf weekly Zazenkai. In fact, I consider our sitting Zazen to be the ultimate recitation ... and embodiment ... of all the Ancestors! Our full list for my Lineage is ...

Bi bashi butsu Dai osho,
* Shiki butsu Dai osho,
* Bi shafu butsu Dai osho,
* Kuru son butsu Dai osho,
* Kuna gon muni butsu Dai osho,
* Kasho butsu Dai osho,
* Shakya muni butsu Dai osho,
Maka ka sho Dai osho,
Anan da Dai osho,
Shona wa shu Dai osho,
Ubaki kuta Dai osho,
Dai taka Dai osho,
Mi shaka Dai osho,
Vashu mitsu Dai osho,
Butsu da nan dai Dai osho,
Fuda mit ta Dai osho,
Bari shiba Dai osho,
Funa ya sha Dai osho,
Ana bo tei Dai osho,
Kabi mara Dai osho,
* Na gya hara jyuna Dai osho,
Kana dai ba Dai osho,
Rago rata Dai osho,
So gya nan dai Dai osho,
Kaya shya ta Dai osho,
Kumo rata Dai osho,
Sha yata Dai osho,
Va shu ban zu Dai osho,
Man ura Dai osho,
Kaku ro kuna Dai osho,
Shishi bodai Dai osho,
Basha shita Dai osho,
Funyo mi ta Dai osho,
Hann ya tara Dai osho,
* Bodai daruma Dai osho,
Tai so Eka Dai osho,
Kanchi Sosan Dai osho,
Dai-i Do shin Dai osho,
Daiman Ko nin Dai osho,
* Dai kan Eno Dai osho,
Seigen Gyoshi Dai osho,
Seki to Kisen Dai osho,
Yaku san Igen Dai osho,
Un gan Don jo Dai osho,
* To zan Ryo kai Dai osho,
Un go Do yo Dai osho,
Do an Do hi Dai osho,
Do an Kan shi Dai osho,
Ryo zan En kan Dai osho,
Tai yo Kyo gen Dai osho,
Tosu Gisei Dai osho,
Fuyo Do kai Dai osho,
Tanka Shi jun Dai osho,
Cho ro Sei ryo Dai osho,
Ten do So kaku Dai osho,
Set cho Chikan Dai osho,
* Ten do Nyojo Dai osho,
* Ei hei Do gen Dai osho,
Ko un Ej o Dai osho,
Tetsu Gikai Dai osho,
*Kei zan Jo kin Dai osho,
Gasan J˘seki Dai osho
Taigen S˘shin Dai osho
Baisan Mompon Dai osho
Jochű Tengin Dai osho
Sekis˘ Enchű Dai osho
Taigan S˘bai Dai osho
Kens˘ J˘shun Dai osho
Jisan Eikun Dai osho
Daichű Reij˘ Dai osho
Nan' ˘ Ry˘kun Dai osho
Daijű Ryűzon Dai osho
H˘gan Zensatsu Dai osho
Ry˘zan Ch˘zen Dai osho
Kisshű Gensh˘ Dai osho
Kigai Mon'˘ Dai osho
Kanshű Taisatsu Dai osho
Tens˘ Juntetsu Dai osho
Kenkoku Keisatsu Dai osho
Raiten Gensatsu Dai osho
Kengan Zesatsu Dai osho
H˘koku Satsuyű Dai osho
Rotei Shoshuku Dai osho
Fuh˘ Tatsuden Dai osho
Kachű Jakuchű Dai osho
Bunzan K˘rin Dai osho
Daichű Bunki Dai osho
Ch˘ko Bungei Dai osho
Roshű Ezen Dai osho
Reisai Emon Dai osho
Tokuzui Tenrin Dai osho
Shogaku Rinzui Dai osho
Butsuzan Zuimy˘ Dai osho
Bukkan My˘koku Dai osho
Butsuan Emy˘ Dai osho
* Zuigaku Remp˘ Dai osho
* Gudo Wafu Dai Osho

The "Dai osho" next to each name means "Great Priest." The list actually begins with the 6 legendary Buddhas before Shakyamuni who, even if not historical figures, represent symbolically the endless lines of Buddhas who are to be found in all times and places. Some of the other stars on the list (marked with stars * ) include Ven. Nagarjuna (the founder of Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy who, actually, was probably not a "Zen" fellow as such), the semi-legendary Bodhidharma (said to have brought Zen from India to China), Daikan Eno (aka, Huineng, the 6th Chinese Ancestor and semi-legendary author of the 'Platform Sutra'), Tozan Zenji (one of the founders of the Soto Zen Line), Tendo Nyojo Zenji (Dogen's Teacher in China), Master Dogen, Master Keizan (a great popularizer of Soto Zen, considered a "co-founder" of Soto Zen with Dogen) and Nishijima Roshi's teacher, my 'Dharma Grandfather,' Niwa Zenji (who was former Head Priest of the Soto-shu in Japan, and the Abbot of Dogen's monaster, Eiheiji). I won't be on it (in the 92nd Generation counting from Shakyamuni Buddha as the 1st Generation) until I kick the Buddha Buddha bucket.

In fact, the line becomes a bit fuzzy, and less than historical certainty or fact, about 1200 years ago, and the early Chinese Ancestors. Many of the figures in the list from there and earlier may never have met each other, or lived years apart, or were not even Zen folks particularly, and sometimes never lived at all. This does not concern me so much because, well, 1200 years of verifiable figures is still quite a history! Plus, those imagined figures stand for unknown, countless "somebodies" who developed this Way over time, and kept the flame going generation by generation. We celebrate them all.

If you would like to hear the legendary account of our Soto Lineage, up to a generation after Dogen, Master Keizan wrote his "Denkoroku" (Transmission of the Light) tell the stories, often fantastic, about each Ancestor until the time. One English translation is my Francis Cook (LINK (https://books.google.co.jp/books/about/The_Record_of_Transmitting_the_Light.html?id=PG4sE AAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y)), and the Soto Zen Text Project has a wonderful new version, with excellent footnoting, available for free here: (LINK (https://www.sotozen.com/eng/library/denkoroku/index.html))

Our Treeleaf Lineage, from Dogen through Nishijima Roshi, down to me, is listed here:

TREELEAF SANGHA NIWA-NISHIJIMA LINEAGE (LINK) (https://www.treeleaf.org/articles/TreeleafTheLineage.html)

In any case, that is the traditional list of Zen Ancestors (which we used to called "Patriarchs" until recent years, when a less sexist term came to be preferred in English.) However you call it, however, the list of traditional Ancestors is a real boy's club! Women did not typically have power in ancient Asian societies (except for the odd empress here and there), and this lack of authority is represented by the list. To rectify this fact, a couple of decades ago, much recent was done by Soto teacher Grace Schireson and others to compile a list of women ancestors. We recite such list during our Rohatsu retreat, and it is this:

Prajna Paramita Dai osho, Mother of All Buddhas *
Maha Maya Dai osho, Birth Mother of Buddha *
Yasodhara Dai osho, Wife of Buddha *
Mahapajapati Gotami Dai osho, Adopted Mother of Buddha & Founder of the Nun’s Sangha *
Srimala Dai osho. Mother of All Lay Disciples*
Khema Dai osho
Sundarinanda Dai osho
Patacara Dai osho, Who overcame great grief
Bhadda Kundalakesa Dai osho
Sumana Dai osho, Who nursed others
Kisagotami Dai osho, Who sought the mustard seed
Dhamma Dai osho, Whose husband refused to allow
Uppalavanna Dai osho, Who was a victim of violence
Soma Dai osho
Sakula Dai osho
Bhadda Kapilani Dai osho
Singalaka mata Dai osho
Samavati Dai osho
Sanghamitta Theri Dai osho
Prasannasilla Dai osho
Jingjian Dai osho
Myoren Dai osho, Twining Vine of Bodhidharma
Empress Wu Dai osho
Laywoman Lingzhao Dai osho
Ling Xingpo Dai osho
Moshan Liaoran Dai osho
Liu Tiemo Dai osho
Miaoxin Dai osho
Shiji Dai osho
Juhan Daojen Dai osho
Huiguang Dai osho
Huiwen Dai osho
Fadeng Dai osho
Yu Daopo Dai osho
Zhidong Dai osho
Wenzhao Dai osho
Miaohui Dai osho
Jizong Xingche Dai osho
Jifu Zukui Dai osho
Shenyi Dai osho
Zenshin Dai osho
Empress Kōmyō Dai osho
Ryonen Dai osho
Shogaku Dai osho
Egi Dai osho, Disciple and nurse of Eihei Dogen Dai osho
Kakuzan Shido Dai osho
Ekan Daishi Dai osho. Abbess and mother of Keizan Dai osho
Kontō Ekyu Dai osho *, First among Soto women heirs in Japan
Mokufu Sonin Dai osho
Soitsu Dai osho
Eshun Dai osho, Who transcended physical beauty
Yōdō Dai osho
Kodai-in Dai osho
Soshin-ni Dai osho
Tenshu Dai osho
Daitsu Bunchi Dai osho
Tachibana no Someko Dai osho
Tokugon Riho Dai osho
Teijitsu Dai osho
Otagaki Rengetsu Dai osho
Mizuno Tenmyō Jorin Dai osho
Hori Mitsujo Dai osho
Nagasawa Sozen Dai osho
Kendō Kojima Dai osho, And all who sought reforms and equality
Kasai Joshin Dai osho, Who brought sewing of the Kesa to the West
Ruth Eryu Jokei Fuller Dai osho
Jiho Sargent Dai osho

Again, many of the women on the list, especially in the early generations, are fictional, in whole or large part. That is okay because, again, the names stand for somebodies, somewhere and sometime, who were dedicated to this Way and faced often great difficulties in undertaking its practice because they were women. The list is read during a ceremony of our annual Rohatsu Retreat. If you would like to read more about many of these women, we recommend Grace's great book, "Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters (LINK) (https://www.google.co.jp/books/edition/Zen_Women/alIyxDc446IC?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover)."

Until a couple of years ago, our Eko "Dedication of Merit" during our ceremonies at Treeleaf use to mention "male and female" honored ones. Now, we have changed to wording to the even more inclusive "same yet diverse honored ones." Thus, our Eko now reads:

Buddha Nature pervades the whole universe, Reality, existing right here now: In reciting THE HEART OF THE PERFECTION OF GREAT WISDOM SUTRA we dedicate our sincere efforts to:

• Shakyamuni Buddha Honored One; the Historical Buddha and Teacher,

and to those ancestral teachers:
Eihei Dogen Honored One
Soji Keizan Honored One,
All successive Honored Ones up until
Zuigaku Rempo Honored One and
Gudo Wafu Honored One

and to all other Honored Ones throughout history, same yet diverse Honored Ones, whose names have been forgotten or left unsaid.

We also dedicate these efforts to the Three Treasures, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha,

To all Awakened Ones and Teachers in all places and times.

A couple of years ago, our Treeleaf Sangha also developed a Lineage of "Differently Abled Ancestors," to recognize a symbolic line of the countless unknown individuals who, through the millenia, encountered obstacles and impossibilities to enter monasteries and practice, or who otherwise suffered discrimination in the Buddhist world, due to physical and mental disabilities. Everyone undertaking Jukai in our Sangha will receive a special Lineage Chart with the names of both the Women Ancestors and Differently Abled Ancestors, and we recite the list of Differently Abled Ancestors during our Rohatsu Retreat as well:

... we dedicate our sincere efforts to the successive generations of Buddhas and Ancestors who transmitted the flame, those of different body and special mind so often misunderstood by the many, those who may have been met with exclusion or fear, those for whom the Path was filled with obstacles and barriers, we honor those for whom entrance was so often denied and halls once barred, successive generations of buddhas and ancestors who transmitted the flame:

The Venerable Lakuntaka Bhaddiya Dai Osho: Whose body was bent, and who
met with scorn, but who persisted without resentment, and was praised by the Buddha
for the highest attainment.

The Bodhisattva as Baby Prince Dai Osho: Who lived in a body without hearing,
speech or free limb, in protest of injustice and cruelty in this world.

Khujjuttara Dai Osho: Bent of back, she cleansed her own heart, and was praised
by the Buddha as "most learned."

Cakkhupala Dai Osho: Without sight, he saw clearly the true effects of malice and
of killing which most others cannot see.

Patacara Dai Osho: At the deaths of the family she loved, left emotionally
troubled and living homeless in the streets, a victim of derision from passers-by, the
Buddha showed her the True Path and True Home through Impermanence.

Sanu Dai Osho: Prone to fits then little understood, seizures once thought an evil
curse, he opens all our eyes.

Jianzhen (Ganjin) Dai Osho: Courageous and learned, without sight, he came
from China to Japan to bring Buddhist Teachings and arts of healing.

Suppabuddha Dai Osho: Living with leprosy, he teaches not to judge by
appearance or false beauty when many would turn away.

The Moso Dai Osho: Without sight, barred from Priesthood but with lutes in
hand, they brought the Teachings to others in music and tales.

Arya Chudapanthaka Dai Osho: Slow to read and learn in words such that others
gave up, the Buddha taught him to polish without and sweep the mind within.

Toju Reiso Dai Osho: Quick to forget, the slow student who persevered, a
protector of Buddhism in difficult times, mender of sandals as his only gift, yet becoming
the Abbot of great temples.

Those many sentient beings, each and all Teachers in their way, who have struggled with addictions, confusion, depression and mental conditions often misunderstood. And to all the many other honored ones, same yet diverse beings through the generations, to whom the doors were closed, or whose names have been forgotten or left unsaid. We now seek to welcome all with doors flung open, halls unbarred.

This list of Differently Abled Ancestors was developed here at Treeleaf, based on our research into Buddhist history. We have tried to interest other Zen Sangha into reciting the list, but so far, have not had much success. You can witness on of our Differently-Abled Ancestors recitations here:


In any case, that is the past ... and the Lineages continue on and on ...

Gassho, J