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Bruce A. Coats

(b Ise Prov. [now in Mie Prefect.], 1275; d Kyoto, 1351).

Japanese Zen master, poet, scholar and garden designer. As spiritual adviser to both Emperor GoDaigo (reg 1318–39) and the military leaders who overthrew him, Musō was politically influential and acted as mediator during the civil wars of the 1330s. At various times in his life Musō served as abbot of Nanzenji, one of the various Gozan (Five Mountains) Zen monasteries including Nanzenji in Kyoto (see Kyoto §IV 4.). The support of both imperial and shogunal courts enabled him to found many new Rinzai Zen temples. He was instrumental in popularizing Zen teachings, though also criticized for the secularization of some Zen institutions. Three times during his life and four times posthumously he was given the honorific title kokushi (National Master).

Musō began Buddhist studies at the age of three. Although his early training was in the Esoteric Tendai and Shingon doctrines, attraction to Zen brought him to Kamakura, where he received instruction from the Japanese disciples of distinguished Chinese Chan (Jap. Zen) monks, including Kōhō Kennichi (...