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Extracts from Imai Fukuzan’s Introduction to Warrior Zen


According to the Nyudosanzenki (Records of Lay Zen) — the postscript of the first volume of the manuscript of Zenko and the introduction to volume eight of the Kencho manuscripts — the Zen training of warriors at Kamakura fell into two stages. Up to the end of the Muromachi period (1573), incidents from the training of the early warrior disciples were set as koans to beginners, and only afterwards were the classical koans concerning Buddhas and patriarchs used extensively. The incidents from the Zen training of warriors were the kind recorded in the Shonankattoroku.

But after the end of the Muromachi era, it became common among teachers to present warriors with nothing but classical koans from the very beginning, and those who used the incidents from warrior training as koans gradually became very few. So that the three hundred odd koans of warrior Zen which are known to have existed in Kamakura Zen came to be forgotten.

Among the teachers after Hakuin (died 1768 at age of eighty-four) there were still some who presented these incidents to pupils, but they were not set as koans to be wrestled with and answered in interviews with the teacher. There were some who, when a pupil stuck too long over one of the classical koans, brought out one of these old stories of the early samurai as a means to get him round the obstacle and bring him on to the right path from a new direction. In the interviews given by teachers of the Hakuin line, it can be said that no more than twelve or thirteen of the incidents from

the training of warriors were known. Only in the Soryukutsu (blue dragon cave) line were there still over a score of them in use.

However, teachers of the line from Kogetsu (died in 1751 aged eighty-five; founder of Fukujuji in Kurume, Kyushu) had a great deal to do with samurai, and in their interviews they preserved a tradition of this Zen, as suited to the inclination of their pupils. They used over a hundred such koans. The Sorinzakki (Zen Analects) and Bukedoshinshu (Records of Warriors Aspiring to the Way) list three hundred warrior koans, but in the Kogestsu tradition one who could pass through seventy-two of them was reckoned to have a complete mastery of the whole three hundred. In the interviews only 108 were being actually set as koans, and to solve the seventy-two main ones was to pass the whole collection. After the Meiji Restoration (1868) the last teachers to use them were Shinjo of the Hakuin line, and Shunno of the Kogetsu line, and there were none who followed them in this, so that at present (1920) there are no teachers who use them. Thus there, are very few today who know anything about the incidents recorded in the Nyudosanzenki and the other collections.

By the end of Muromachi the Kamakura koans were gradually being forgotten, and in the Zen which followed Hakuin they were almost entirely discarded. There was however still some tradition about them in Kyushu, and at the time of the Meiji Restoration Zen teachers all over the country were continually being asked about this Zen by samurai of the main Kyushu clans like Satsuma and Choshu. Many Rinzai teachers found they could not answer. However in the Soto line, Ekido the abbot of Sojiji temple, Kankei the abbot of Eiheiji, Bokusan of Kasuisai, and others knew warrior Zen well, and could meet the questions of the Kyushu civilians and warriors.

In the Rinzai line, there was an impression that samurai Zen had been Zen of repeating the Name of Amida (nembutsu Zen), and the teachers did not know about the Kamakura koans. Gyokai, abbot of Zojoji, of the Jodo sect, and Tetsujo, abbot of Chionin, and other spiritual leaders of this line taught samurai Zen as being Nembutsu, and often preached to the high officials and generals of those times. The teachers of other lines knew the stories, but simply related them and did not set them as koans to be wrestled with. And in fact what goes on in the interview room is different with each line, and is not something that ought to be lightly spoken about.

Warrior Zen began with the samurai who came to Eisai at Jufukuji in Kamakura, from 1215. (This temple was burnt down in 1247 and again in 1395, many of the records being lost.) Historically this Zen was taught in the interviews of Rinzai masters, but now there are few within the Rinzai lines who know of it, though quite some outside who have some knowledge. This is an ironic fact, on discovering which many inquirers into Zen have had to suppress a smile.

In the first years of Meiji, the Daikyo-in in Tokyo began work examining old records in Zen temples, collaborating with some priests of the Rinzai line as well. (The Daikyo-in was set up with some official support to advise on religious matters.) A glance at their bulletin makes the facts clear. Temples all over the country sent old records concerning warrior Zen to the Daikyo-in for examination. The material was there classified under five heads: Zen connected with the Imperial palace, with the Shogun rulers, with nobles, with the gentry of various clans, and with simple warriors. Those parts which recorded koans were collated. This project was initiated at the suggestion of a monk named Taikoan. It was found that the Rinzai temples, obsessed with the principle ‘no setting up of words’, had not merely seen little necessity to keep records, but were very indifferent to the preservation of what records did exist. So there is very little material about what koans the teachers gave to the princes, to the nobles, to the warriors and to the ordinary people. Again, one incident

which takes up five or six pages in records of the Soto and Obaku Zen lines, in the Rinzai account may have barely half a page, so that sometimes it is quite difficult to make out all the main points. There are those who maintain that this is in accordance with the principle of directness, that ‘just one inch of the blade kills the man’, but if this principle is applied to historical records, along with the other one of not setting up words in the first place, surely it is going too far.

Parts of the Daikyo-in records have been damaged by insects and so on, but what follows is a list of the published collections of records which were then available to them.

The Homeisbii (Record of the cry of the phoenix — in the records of Kenninji) and the Undaigendan (Discourses from the cloud dais — records of Nanzenji) in reporting the same incidents differ only in the length and detail of their accounts. Both of them begin with the interviews between the Empress Tachibana (Danrin), consort of Emperor Saga, and the Chinese Zen master Giku, about AD 815, and follow with an account of the interest taken in Zen by sixteen emperors, from Gotoba (1183—98) up to Go-mizuno-o (1611—29). Both of them have the imperial utterances expressed in classical Yamatokotoba, which are thus difficult to read without a translation into standard language. For this reason Shunpo himself had the impression that these are paraphrases of old Court documents. However a copy in possession of Ekido of Sojiji was finally discovered which turned out to have these sections all transcribed into orthodox Chinese characters and thus easy to read.

Sorinzakki (Zen analects) and a commentary on it were pieced together by Shunpo from various copies of parts of it which existed in the Kyoto temples, though owing to the fragmentary nature of the material he was never able to reconstruct a complete original text. In any case none of the Kyoto copies have anything before Onin (1467) and they stop at Genroku (1688), so that they cannot be compared with the detailed historical accounts in the Kamakura records. The

most complete version of the Sorinzakki and its commentary existed in Zenkoji in Kamakura, but even this goes no further than 1716 and can tell us nothing after that.

Bukeddsbinshu (Records of warriors aspiring to the Way — no connection at all with the published book of the same name) is a collection of biographies of warriors who entered Zen training, took interviews with a teacher for some years, and were given a Zen name by the teacher when they had mastered the principle of Zen.

Busbosodan (Zen stories of warriors and generals) and Ryueizenna (Zen tales of willow camp) give accounts of Zen incidents from the lives of generals from Hojo Tokiyori up to the Tokugawas. In the Jufukuji library these two have been bound together as an appendix to the Bukedoshinshu, with the title Bumontetsuganzei (pupil of the warrior eye). This was written out by priest Gettei of the Jufukuji sub-temple Keikoan.

Nyudosanzenki (Accounts of lay Zen) and Gosannyudosbu (Lay training at Rinzai temples) are accounts of warriors training at the five temples of Kamakura.

Sbonankattoroku (Record of Kamakura koans) has a hundred koans consisting of incidents from the training of warriors. A full account of this book is given in the other appendix.

Ka-an-zatsuroku (Analects of Ka-an) is a random collection of notes of incidents concerning the warriors, nobles and officials who came from all over the country to priest Ka-an at Manjuji. At the beginning of the Meiji era many temples had manuscript copies of this, but now (1920) there is only one copy, consisting of twelve fascicules copied by Soku of Hokokuji.

Zenddguzuki (Record of the propagation of Zen) begins with the meeting at Jufukuji between Eisai and Gyoyu, and gives further accounts of Zen training in Rinzai temples up tc O-ei (1394). There is a manuscript copy in the library at Nirayama.

Zenjomonsbokan (Mirror of Zen samadhi) consists of biographies of warriors who trained under Zen teachers and finally received the full ‘approval’ (inka) from them. This book extracts from the accounts in Bukedoshinshu, Gosan- nyudoshu and others those cases where the master finally gave approval to the pupil as having completed the training.

This book was at Kanazawa before the partial dispersal of the library there, and is known to bibliophiles as an ‘ex- Kanazawa book’, as in the case also of Shoinmanpitsu (Jottings from the shade of the banana tree), Zenrinroeishu (Zen songs of retainers), Sbochoshu (Pine and sea), Towa- fusoshu (Wind and seaweed of eastern Japan), Sekirozakki (Jottings from a stone hearth), Shotoseigo (Holy words from pine and tide), Fukugenrenpeki (Wall round the front of bliss), Hamanomezarashi (Vision of the beach), Kaenshu (Flowering hedge anthology), and others. All these record incidents of the warrior Zen tradition, and also some of them give poems which the warriors composed as answers to the koan tests. (This kind of answer is technically called agyo.)

In 1400 Zen master Daigaku Shuei made an examination of the Kanazawa library and catalogued the Zen manuscripts. Later Zenju, the 178th Master of Kenchoji, when he became the teacher at Ashikaga college, examined the old manuscripts at the Kanazawa and Nirayama libraries, and catalogued many hundreds of the old Zen records which he found there. The Zen teachers who were members of Daikyo-in, in their search for accounts of warrior Zen, found and borrowed for examination, through the librarian Suzuki Soei, many of the old manuscripts there. The examination made it clear that the koans about which officials and warriors at the beginning of the Meiji era were asking Rinzai teachers, were in fact very early incidents of the training of warriors by teachers of this same Rinzai sect.

No one can estimate how many hundreds and thousands of lay people have practised Zen in Japan since the Empress

Danrin at the beginning of the ninth century, and there must have been innumerable records of the koans set to them. The first time I saw any material on warrior Zen was in 1872 or 73, when Zen master Bokusan presented my father with a notebook made by the Soto master Gattan, and a manuscript written by Zuiun of the Obaku sect. From these I got some idea of how teachers of Soto and Obaku used to handle their warrior pupils in the past. Then after attending the addresses in Tokyo given by Shunpo, roshi of Daitokuji, about the old records like Bushosodan and Bukedoshinshu, I discovered the still more drastic means which were used in the Rinzai sect for warriors. Later, Bairyo, kancho of Nanzenji, gave me copies of Undaigendan, Homeishu and other texts, from which I came to know about the direct Zen traditions which there had been at the Imperial palace. Only after seeing the Shonan- kattoroku text which Yamaoka Tesshu had received from Shojo of Ryutaku temple in Izu, did I first come to know that there had been a separate Zen tradition at Kamakura.

In 1872, Master Tekisui was elected general head to represent the three Zen sects, and there were many laymen training in Zen. Master Shunpo too was active in the Daikyo-in, and many leading figures in Zen were studying warrior Zen traditions; material about it was being collected in Tokyo so that there were good opportunities to study the koans of that tradition. But as in the case of the Homeishu text, where the Imperial utterances in the palace tradition were reported in Yamatokotoba, here too there was much use of classical Japanese words of antiquity, which could not be understood without a gloss in contemporary Japanese. In the Kamakura records again, there are many local words from several centuries previously. To read the records themselves one has to peruse an old manuscript entitled ‘Old Deer-brush’ by Master Sanpaku (156th Master of Enkakuji), and then one has to know the obsolete words. Furthermore, the founders of all the Kamakura temples were Chinese of the Sung or Yuan dynasties, and in the old accounts there is much Chinese transcribed phonetically in a distorted way by writers who did not understand it. Without the glossary compiled by Ryuha, the 178th Master of Kenchoji, there are many passages which could hardly be read, let alone understood. In an old Zenkoji record (which was still preserved in Jufukuji around 1868) there is a report of a meeting between Hojo Tokimune and Bukko Kokushi, and in it comes this: ‘Kun-sun-rii, kun-sun- rii, raunau, ya-shi-yan-kin-gu-a’. Today there is hardly a soul who could read this and understand it. It was always supposed that it must have been some koan. Round about 1873, when there were many great figures in Zen coming and going round the Daikyo-in, there was no one, not even Shunpo Roshi who was consultant professor to the three head temples Daitokuji, Myoshinji and Kenninji, who could suggest any meaning for this Sung Chinese which Bukko spoke to Tokimune. Nobody had any idea what it was. But when the glossary by Ryuha was acquired by the Daikyo-in, the passage kun-sun-rii . . . turned out surprisingly to be ‘Come in, come in! I have something to say to Your Honour.’ This caused general laughter. In the Kamakura temples there are many similar old records of Sung Chinese transcribed phonetically. So there are many inconveniences in the study of warrior Zen there. But after being presented with the Reikenroku (Record of the spiritual sword — the copy in the Butsunichi-an is called Jintoroku) with the red-ink notes by Kaigan Roshi and textual amendments by Tokoku Roshi, I found that the bulk of the 300 warrior koans recorded in the Sorinzakki and elsewhere were Kamakura Zen.

For his research on old Kamakura Zen, Shunpo made many notes on the backs of used pieces of paper. (He almost never used a clean sheet, but always the backs of pieces of wrapping paper and so on. The only time he used a new sheet of paper was for a final fair copy.) Before he could collate all his material into a text, he had to return to Kyoto in 1875, on account of urgent affairs connected with the administration of the colleges attached to the great temples there — so I heard indirectly from others. No one else who had been studying warrior Zen had completed any of the drafts either, and finally it was left to the general research council of ten Zen temples (I recall that this was founded in 1875), which entrusted it to Imagita Kosen Roshi. At that time however he was himself engaged in many projects, and from Enkakuji was promoting Zen vigorously in the Kanto area. He became head of the seven lines of the Rinzai sect, and with all his administrative engagements had no time for examining ancient records. He therefore divided the task among the many laymen who were training under him.

Ichinyo (Miyata Chuyu), Ryumon (Hirata Yasumaru) and others examined the records of Zen at the palace; Mumon (Oi Kiyomichi), Rakuzan (Suzuki Yoshitaka) and others took the documents on shogun Zen; Ryozen (Ishii Tokihisa), Katei (Yamada Toshiaki) and others studied warrior Zen; Daian and Kido worked solely on Kamakura Zen. But many of them had official duties and little time for the research, and if they were sent abroad it had to be set aside. Moreover those officials in the ministries of Education and the Army who had given support round about 1878, were completely occupied with their political responsibilities when the Satsuma rebellion broke out, and had no opportunity for anything else. Senior men like Otori Keisuke and Soejima had to carry out diplomatic missions abroad, and the interest in warrior Zen slipped into the background.

After the death of Yamaoka Tesshu in 1889, those who could say anything on this kind of Zen gradually became few; Katsu Kaishu, Takahashi Deishu, Shimao Tokuan and other great Zen laymen died, and almost no one knew anything about the subject. While the Daikyo-in existed in Tokyo there were a good many among the Zen teachers who knew about this laymen’s Zen, and there were many who used Zen stories of the warriors. As we can see from their recorded sermons, Masters Dokuon and Keichu were speaking on palace Zen,

Mugaku, Teizan and Shunpo on warrior Zen in general, and Kosen and Shinjo on Kamakura Zen in particular. But as there was nobody who could present Kamakura Zen apart from the dozen koans which were given in interviews, teachers who had not seen texts like the Sorinzakki and its commentary tended to think that Kamakura Zen was nothing more than these dozen koans — perhaps to the quiet amusement of men like Tesshu and Kaishu. But Shunpo Roshi on the other hand had heard the discourses of Master Myoho of Hofukuji (at Iyama in Bicchu) on the Bukedoshinshu, Reikenroku, Bushosodan and so on, and knew well about the Kamakura koans, information which he transmitted to inquirers in Tokyo; those who wanted warrior Zen called him prince of teachers.

In 1875 he left Tokyo and in March two years later passed away in Kyoto. It is just fifty years since his death, and there are left in Tokyo only nine people who came into touch with his greatness, all of them fine vigorous old men. Talking to them about the teacher and about Kamakura Zen, one has the strong feeling of how Zen has changed. For the fiftieth anniversary in March this year, Zen master Nyoishitsu of Sofukuji desires to distribute some work of Shunpo as a ‘fan for the eternal breeze of the Way’. But the only draft which the teacher left was one called Shokaigifu (Voyager on the ocean of the absolute), which was not concerned with warrior Zen, and all the rest was no more than notes not yet written up into a text.

When I looked through these notes and fragments formerly, I noticed that a great number were concerned with Kamakura Zen; but to arrange these miscellaneous scraps written on the backs of used pieces of paper into a connected text was not something that could be done in a hurry. It would have been impossible, with the limitations imposed by the publication plan, to write up everything connected with Kamakura Zen. So it came about that Master Nyoishitsu began to press for the publication, on the fiftieth anniversary, of a first part only.

No. 1 The Grave of Shunpo

This was to be an edited and supplemented edition of the Shonankattoroku.

The whole work projected is to be called Bushizenkienshu (Records of warrior Zen training) and the present text is to be just a first part. I have been told that there are in existence 3,600 pages about warrior Zen, bound into thirty-six volumes of a hundred pages each, which have been produced by laymen under the direction of great Zen teachers. And I have wondered whether it might be possible to put them into permanent form. With the loss of so many of the old manuscripts in the Kanto earthquake, it is not feasible to collect an^ collate all the material in a short time. All I can hope is, that one day I shall complete the work on warrior Zen, of which this Shonankattoroku is to be the first part. I am a retired scholar already over seventy, and writing is more and more a burden. But I have a dharma-link with my old teacher Shunpo, whose discourses I so often attended, and I rejoice that the draft of the work has been completed for publication of the fiftieth anniversary of his passing. I beg the indulgence of readers for faults they may find in it.

Imai Fukuzan 1925

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