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Seven Stumbles, Eight Blunders: The Lifetime of Tetsu Gikai


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What you’ll discover on this put up

What you’ll discover here’s a deep dive into the lifetime of Tetsu Gikai (Pervading Readability Justice Mediator), the third ancestor within the Japanese Sōtō succession, to not glorify him, however as inspiration on your personal follow now. Gikai has lengthy been a robust instance for me as a result of of the tough bumps he encountered … and the way he handed by means of. For those who suppose that when you notice definitive awakening that your troubles can be over, properly, suppose once more.

Gikai’s life didn’t end up like he (nor Dōgen and Ejō) anticipated. And neither has mine and I wager yours hasn’t both. But, Gikai succeeded in ways in which he (and so they) most likely by no means may have imagined. Gikai lived by means of his troubles, although, with unimaginable aplomb, and is now a typical ancestor to all of contemporary Sōtō Zen.

However particularly what you’ll discover right here: first a freestyle telling of Gikai’s story, then a translation of Gikai’s biography that I don’t imagine has beforehand appeared in English, after which notes to the interpretation.

Might all of us notice the Buddha Manner collectively.


A freestyle telling of Gikai’s story

Gikai was born to a number one household and left residence anyway, or perhaps due to such, and sought the Manner first with a wrong-way lineage, Daruma-Shu, after which a right-way lineage, Tendai. When he met Dōgen he knew that he’d discovered an outdated Buddha and so spent the remainder of his life clarifying and expressing the Manner by means of Sōtō Zen.

In his youth, Gikai was Dōgen’s golden boy. He had extra power and keenness for the Manner than anybody, and as tenzo could possibly be seen charging up the mountainside by means of the snow with buckets of rice so as to serve the bodhisattvas their noon meal. And he would nonetheless sit zazen each night time till daybreak.

He heard Dōgen discuss spring colours and had an awakening, but his tough enthusiasm nonetheless bought in the way in which of assembly individuals as they had been.

After Dōgen died, he ran the monastery for Ejō after which let go of himself utterly, receiving Ejō’s thorough-going affirmation. Then to China and again, additionally in order that he may help the monastery and deeply set up the genuine approach.

Gikai then succeeded Ejō as Eiheiji’s abbot and discovered his personal voice, his personal fashion of follow, integrating some parts of Shingon with Dōgen’s Zen. However his friends wouldn’t comply with him and so he stepped down from the place as Eiheiji’s abbot when solely in his fifties, a monk with numerous promise that he had failed to meet.

A damaged monk, he took care of his mom and lived in a hermitage for twenty years – alone, chilly, and friendless – till an outdated buddy from his Daruma-Shu days, now at Daijōji, known as and requested him to steer a repurposed monastery. Then in a contemporary area, he absolutely unfurled the Zen Manner, passing the lamp of illumination to Jokin (and three others).

Jokin seized the day and ultimately turned recognized with the fashion of follow that was Gikai’s creation. This was the exact same fashion of follow that led to Gikai’s huge stumble from Eiheiji. It turned out to be precisely what Jokin employed to unfold the buddhadharma broadly all through the land.

9 bows to you, outdated man. 


The Biography of Daijōji Gikai (1219-1309) (1)

The instructor’s posthumous identify was Tetsu and his dharma identify was Gikai. Etsu province was his residence and Fujiwara was his clan identify. He was a descendant of Nice Normal [Toshihito], born the second day of the second month within the 12 months of Jōkyū (1219). (2)

At 13 he went to Hajakuji on Honshu. Venerable Ekan shaved his head. The subsequent 12 months he ascended the auspicious peak and obtained full ordination. He studied the Tendai educating and surrendered to the obligations of receiving the precepts. He rigorously studied and illuminated the Śūraṅgama Sûtra. (3) 

At twenty-three, Gikai modified robes and practiced with the Venerable Dōgen at Kōshōji. He was devoted and wholehearted. At some point, Gen went as much as the corridor and stated, “‘This dharma abides in a dharma place. Worldly appearances are everlasting.’ Spring colours, a whole bunch of pink flowers; excessive within the willow, a partridge calls.” (4)

The grasp heard this and woke up.  

Gikai moved with Dōgen to Eiheiji and served as the pinnacle prepare dinner (tenzo) and subsequent because the comptroller (kansu). On a regular basis he managed many points for the meeting. Each night time he sat zazen till daybreak. Gen noticed that he may apply his aspiration. He [Gen] all the time slapped his thigh and stated, “A real dharma vessel! Sometime he [Gikai] will definitely unfold my dharma broadly.” (5)

After Gen died, the good honorable Koun stuffed his seat and assigned the grasp [Gikai] to be head of the meeting. At some point, the grasp hurried into the instructor’s small room (J. jōshitsu) and stated, “Right this moment anyone attained realization by means of the phrases of the prior grasp [Gen]’s ‘bodymind drop off.’”

Koun stated, “What did you do to offer start to realization?” 

The grasp stated, “If I’m not mistaken, the barbarian’s beard is pink. Nonetheless there’s a red-bearded barbarian.” (6)

Koun authorised of him and stated, “You’re within the place acquired by the prior grasp, realizing his nondiscursive intent, absolutely understanding the prior grasp’s nice samadhi, hitting the mark. You personally skilled closing enlightenment. Throughout the buddhadharma, this attainment is most tough for people. It appears that evidently if an individual avoids extinction, the buddha seed doesn’t develop. Despite the fact that they turn into human, they’re not a vessel [for the buddhadharma]. Additionally inevitably, there may be hardship. That is the problem that sages of the previous have struggled with, and people within the current too should battle with, that I now have obtained. You could have already escaped this hardship. Right this moment, then, you may have died by no means once more to remorse. Who’s it that’s nonetheless alive?” 

Tearfully, on this approach, the residing grasp [Gikai], bowed and withdrew. (7)

He lastly hoped to cross the ocean and carve a wish-fulfilling wheel of empty area, vowing earlier than a picture of two nice masters, saying, “If I am going south, then I’ll return gloriously adorned.” 

Thereupon in 1259 he went to Track China, wandering by means of the monasteries, visiting all of the famous lecturers, and receiving their appreciation. Then he returned residence in 1262. Koun was extraordinarily happy, assembly him on the mountain gate. Prime Minister Hatano Shigemichi sought [Gikai’s] Zen counsel and provided his help. (8)

Then the grasp [Gikai] opened the corridor, provided incense to Koun Ejō and succeeded him [as abbot]. He respectfully confronted the meeting and publicly extinguished selfishness. Consequently, he distanced himself from the Manner of the complete moon, and administered the monastery for six years. 

He then abdicated so as to look after his mom. He took up the fashion of Mùzhōu. Homeowners all through the nation and the emperor admired him. They fashioned an extended line to ask the grasp [to leave his hermitage and lead another monastery]. (9)

Then the grasp had a night-time dream, the place he tried to go away the mountain, however tangling vines coiled round his ft. He did his utmost to chop by means of them, however couldn’t. After he wakened, he contemplated this, and thought, “My ancestors don’t allow me to go.” 

Then his aspiration to go away declined, and he deserted himself to leisure for twenty years. Hatano Shiro provided meals and clothes, however the grasp didn’t settle for. Alone, chilly, austere, peerless, tasting the settled life whereas drifting with the clouds. 

Nonetheless, when receiving the dharma transmission gown at Eiheiji, handed down by his instructor, [he was told] “Don’t enable this to be minimize off.” Then the Venerable Chōkai of Daijōji, having obtained a big donation from the Fujiwara household, got here and requested the esteemed outdated instructor [Gikai] in regards to the dharma. He [Chōkai] then modified [Daijōji] to the Zen lineage, and requested the grasp to turn into the primary era instructor. The grasp accepted and have become abbot, hung his dharma banner excessive, and opened the gate of the principle corridor broad. The varied monasteries despatched 4 tables of dana in appreciation for the outdated man’s nice compassion, inspiring the meeting to cross the river. (10)

Later, following future, the eminent monk Keizan Jokin stuffed his seat. So after ten years, the grasp constructed a straw hut close to the principle monastery and closed the door, forgetting the methods of the world together with his strolling employees, rain hat, monk’s bundle – nothing extra. (11)

On the twenty-fourth day of the eighth month, 1309, he confirmed illness. On the second day of the ninth month he known as a novice monk to shave his head. On the twelfth day an meeting gathered and he spoke on the primary temple till the fourteenth day when he left the meeting. 

This verse explains his educating: 

Seven stumbles, eight blunders – ninety-one years
Reed flowers coated with snow

From midday to nighttime the moon is full

He then sat cross-legged for a second and died, having loved an extended lifetime of 91 years with 78 summer time retreats. His disciples used his dharma platform to keep up [his teaching]. He gave dharma transmission to 4 individuals: [Keizan] Jōkin, Gi’in Shūen, Kaiki, Kakuzen Monfū.


Notes for these of the dharma geeky persuasion

(1) From Biographies of Soto Masters in Japan (日域洞上諸祖伝), trans, Dōshō Port. Tetsu Gikai is name Daijōji Gikai right here as a result of Daijōji was the identify of his final monastery and Zen masters had been typically known as by their place names (e.g., Eihei Dōgen).

For different sources about Gikai, see William M. Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan, Chapter 5 Gikai: The Founding father of Daijōji; Steven Heine, From Chinese language Chan to Japanese Zen: A Outstanding Century of Transmission and Transformation; Richard Bryan McDaniels, Zen Masters of Japan: Second Step East, 67-69; and Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism: A Historical past (Japan), 130-137.

(2) Like Dōgen, Ejō, and Daiō, Gikai was a member of a number one aristocratic clan, the Fujiwara, and though the clan had seen their influences waning, they had been nonetheless one of many main households in Japan. Particularly after shifting to the mountains, Dōgen’s group was depending on the native feudal lords for help, which is famous above. In different phrases, Gikai and most of the early members of the Zen motion had been socio-economically within the higher class and/or supported by the higher class.

(3) Ekan, like Ejō and plenty of of Dōgen’s disciples, was a member of the Dharma-Shu. See The Luminous Koun Ejō Zenji: Background, Awakening, Legacy for extra. “…Ascended the auspicious peak” refers to Gikai coaching at Mt. Hiei, the middle of the Tendai faculty. He obtained full monastic ordination there, most likely with the ten main and forty-eight minor bodhisattva precepts. Gikai was despatched to Mt. Hiei by his instructor, Ekan, whose faculty, the Daruma-Shu has been often dismissed due partially to their disregard for the precepts. And but right here we have now Ekan sending Gikai to obtain the precepts – one of many many historic inconsistencies which might be discovered within the file.

Gikai’s relationship with Ekan continued even after Dōgen took some members of the Daruma-Shu into his neighborhood, together with Ekan, who then turned a number one pupil of Dōgen, serving at Eiheiji as head monk. Gikai obtained Dharma-Shu transmission from Ekan, simply earlier than Ekan died, apparently with Dōgen’s blessing. Dōgen advised Gikai that he regretted not giving Ekan transmission, saying that he simply forgot to do it.

Later, Gikai handed Ekan’s Dharuma-Shu transmission to Keizan Jokin, the place the road ended. However, the embrace and prevalence of twin transmissions within the early generations of the Japanese Sōtō succession is definitely a part of our inheritance.

(4) “Altering robes” was obligatory as a result of Dōgen introduced the clothes fashion of thirteenth Century China with him when he returned to Japan. Apparently, Dōgen’s change of robes for monastics brought on fairly a stir.

“Gen” is used for Dōgen all through this textual content after he’s launched. This widespread follow to discuss with monks with the final character of their dharma names in basic Zen texts and nonetheless at this time in some Zen communities.

The phrase, “This dharma abides in a dharma place. Worldly appearances are everlasting,” quoted by Dōgen is from the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 2: Skillful Means. An identical poetic capping phrase by Dōgen might be present in Dōgen’s In depth Document, 91. 

(5) Referenced right here is Dōgen’s mysterious transfer from close to Kyōto to Echizen within the late summer time of 1243 and what turned Eiheiji. Gikai’s connections to the realm, in addition to Ejō’s, might properly have led to the transfer. Actually, Ekan’s former monastery, Hajakuji, was situated close by, shut sufficient for monastics to maneuver back-and-forth. Gikai often visited Hajakuji whereas coaching with Dōgen.

Earlier than Eiheiji was constructed, Dōgen’s small band of monks stayed on Mt. Zenjiho in an outdated temple constructing that lacked a kitchen. Gikai served as tenzo and cooked meals at a farm home a couple of mile down the mountain. He would haul up meals alongside a steep mountain path twice every day. Shohaku Okumura Rōshi experiences visiting each websites and that it took about an hour of intense climbing to go from the farm home to the realm the place Dōgen’s monks stayed. Though the explanation for his or her departure from the Kyoto space is unknown, and the reason for a lot hypothesis, they seem to have deserted a functioning monastery advanced and moved into emergency quarters with out advance planning, very similar to they had been hiding from the mob.

Regardless of Gikai’s years of extraordinary service to Dōgen and the sangha, in addition to his awakening expertise with Dōgen, he didn’t obtain dharma transmission from Dōgen. Nor, for that matter, did Jakuen who had adopted Dōgen again from China, and Ekan, talked about above, who had been an abbot of a Daruma-Shu temple, Hajakuji, and then turned a pupil of Dōgen, bringing not less than a number of college students with him, together with Gikai.

Clearly, Dōgen had a typical for dharma transmission past preliminary awakening and extraordinary service. Dōgen advised Gikai that he wanted to work on grandmotherly coronary heart, the thoughts of kindness towards all residing beings. Gikai reported, “I’ve not forgotten the admonishment that I didn’t have a grandmotherly coronary heart. Nonetheless, I don’t know why Dōgen stated this.” 

In Dōgen’s closing directions to Gikai, he additionally advised him to remain at Eiheiji and that if he, Dōgen, recovered from his sickness, then he would give Gikai transmission.

(6) It appears that evidently Gikai was utilizing Rújìng and Dōgen’s expression, “bodymind drop off,” as a kōan. Gikai’s response performs with the Wild Fox kōan. After Huangbo slapped Bǎizhàng, he clapped his arms and laughed, saying, ”You bought me! The Barbarian had a pink beard, and right here’s a pink bearded barbarian.”

Thomas Cleary in Timeless Spring, translating a unique textual content, Eihei kaisan goyuigon kiroku (Document of the Ultimate Phrases of the Founding father of Eiheiji), has a considerably totally different model of this encounter and the aftermath: 

“Later, when Ejo inherited the seat at Eihei, the grasp Gikai assisted him. At some point when he went to the abbot’s room, Ejo requested, ‘How do you perceive the shedding of physique and thoughts?’ Gikai stated, ‘I knew barbarians had pink beards, right here is one other pink bearded barbarian.’ Ejo agreed with him. Subsequently Ejo used differentiating tales of the previous and current to refine him totally. After a very long time at this he obtained the dharma.” 

(7) Notable right here, in comparison with the above model of Ejō’s response, is that right here Ejō gives an intensive verification of Gikai’s attainment. He additionally highlights the importance of the journey and describes the trail for closing awakening. Wow! And together with his final sentence, “Who’s it that’s nonetheless alive?” assigns Gikai a life kōan.

(8) When Dōgen died, the development of Eiheiji had not but been accomplished. Ejō had not been to China and so didn’t know first-hand how the assorted buildings had been for use. So one of many causes for Gikai’s pilgrimage was to check the structure and functioning of the Chinese language monasteries on which Eiheiji was modelled. It’s reported that in his journey, Gikai was constanting sketching what he noticed.

One quirk on this narrative is {that a} Chinese language monk, Jakuen, who had returned from China with Dōgen and adopted him all through his profession, stayed at Eiheiji for eight years after Dōgen’s demise. So plainly his experience may have been used fairly than Gikai going to China, a visit with a 50% charge of mortality. In any case, when Gikai returned, his promotion to abbot was supported by the principle benefactors of Eiheiji, the Hatano household.

The pictures of the “two nice masters” Gikai prayed earlier than is unclear, however most likely Dōgen and Ekan. Ejō may have been the second grasp, though as he was nonetheless residing, it appears extra prone to have been Ekan. Additionally, on condition that one of many details within the criticism of the Daruma-Shu was that nobody within the lineage (together with Nonin, Kakuin, and Ekan) had been to China, Gikai was placing this lineage difficulty to relaxation.

(9) Mùzhōu was a successor of Huángbò who, after finishing his coaching, retired to look after his mom. Mùzhōu additionally made straw sandals and hung them in bushes close to pilgrimage routes to help practitioners on the Manner.

Historians are not sure about why Gikai stepped down as abbot of Eiheiji, however there was most likely extra to it than eager to look after his mom and weave straw sandals, particularly since Dōgen had advised Gikai to remain at Eiheiji, and it seems that each Dōgen and Ejō had groomed Gikai for management. Some students speculate that in Gikai’s journey to China, and maybe attributable to his pure proclivities, he developed a mode considerably totally different than Dōgen, including some esoteric parts, and basically growing the concentrate on liturgy. Maybe it was his lack of grandmotherly kindness, the problem Dōgen had recognized, that led the outdated Eiheiji guard to reject him and his new educating emphasis. In any case, it may be very tough to maneuver from being a peer to being the grasp. 

(10) Daijōji had been a Shingon temple earlier than Gikai’s abbotship. This foreshadowed a typical improvement – Sōtō masters taking up Shingon temples within the country-side and changing them into Sōtō monasteries. It is usually notable that the textual content cites the place the monetary help got here from, this time from the Fujiwara clan. 

(11) Keizan not solely stuffed Gikai’s seat at Daijōji, however appears to have adopted his fashion. And, though it had been rejected by Eiheiji monks, it was this very fashion that was one highly effective aspect within the overwhelming success of Sōtō Zen by means of the medieval interval.

Steven Heine observes that “The important thing to Keizan’s success was a syncretic strategy combining Chinese language views of temple life, based mostly on practising meditation whereas giving public lectures (an strategy he discovered about from his instructor Gikai, who went to the mainland within the firm of Daiō to check continental follow), with indigenous Japanese rituals that integrated esoteric Buddhist and Shinto beliefs. This distinctive combination of austere Zen coaching and the worship of native gods by means of native rites drastically contributed to the exceptional reputation the Sōtō sect loved in medieval Japan exterior of the capital.” (141)

Bodiford (87) estimates that throughout the interval between 1450 and 1650, on common, forty-three new Sōtō temples had been constructed or transformed from current temples annually. That in a nation of about 25 million individuals. Present US inhabitants is about 13 instances that. We must see about 550 new Sōtō temples annually for 200 years to match that extraordinary charge of development.  


Dōshō Port started practising Zen in 1977 and now co-teaches together with his spouse, Tetsugan Zummach Sensei, with the Vine of Obstacles: On-line Assist for Zen Coaching, an internet-based Zen neighborhood. Dōshō obtained dharma transmission from Dainin Katagiri Rōshi and inka shōmei from James Myōun Ford Rōshi within the Harada-Yasutani lineage. Dōshō’s translation and commentary on The Document of Empty Corridor: One Hundred Traditional Koans, is now out there (Shambhala). He’s additionally the creator of Maintain Me In Your Coronary heart a Whereas: The Haunting Zen of Dainin KatagiriClick on right here to help the educating follow of Dōshō Rōshi.




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