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date: 08 December 2019

Eiheijilocked

  • Dennis Lishka

Extract

Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery of the Sōtō sect, in Fukui Prefecture. Eiheiji’s significance derives largely from the place in the history of Japanese Buddhism of its founder, Dōgen (1199–1253), and to his interpretation of Sōtō Zen monastic practice. After 1217 Dōgen joined the dominant Tendai school of Buddhism, but he grew disillusioned with Japanese Buddhism as a feasible human soteriology, although he was much attracted to the practice of Zen meditation. In 1223 he left for China, then under the rule of the Song dynasty (ad 960–1279), to practise Chinese Chan (Jap. Zen) Buddhism under the master Rujing (1163–1228) at Mt Tiantong. After his return in 1227 he advocated Sōtō Zen but was continuously harassed by Tendai-sect monks until he cleared donated land in 1243 in Echizen (western Japan) for the first Sōtō Zen monastery, Eiheiji (Monastery of Eternal Peace). At Eiheiji, Dōgen faithfully reproduced Chinese Chan Buddhism in two important ways: experientially, with daily meditation integrated into such basic activities as eating, walking, working, begging and washing, whereby enlightenment might be attained by the practitioner and by others; and architecturally, the buildings in the temple compound, each unique in structure and function, being tightly integrated into a working site for daily Zen discipline and arranged to fit into the topography of the forested hillside....

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