The Zen Poetry of Dōgen and the Wanshi School of the Early Medieval Sōtō Sect
About the talk:
This paper examines from historical and philological perspectives the significant role of poetry in the writings of Dōgen (1200-1253), especially his verses in Sino-Japanese or kanbun, as well as in the understudied movement known as the Wanshi School that flourished as a branch of the Sōtō (Ch. Caodong) Zen sect during the fourteenth century. For the most part Japanese Sōtō Zen is not known for the composition of poetry, particularly in comparison with the Rinzai Zen sect that produced voluminous collections of kanbun verses by dozens of monks, many of who travelled to China to study with prestigious monk-poets.
While this assumption is valid in many ways, it should not cause us to overlook two important counter-examples. First, Dōgen composed more than 300 kanbun poems during all stages of his career that form an essential component of his oeuvre. Furthermore, the Wanshi Ha (named after the Japanese pronunciation of the famous Chinese Caodong lineage monk-poet Hongzhi), exerted a strong influence on both the Sōtō and Rinzai sects in medieval Japan. Verses will be discussed that were written by Wanshi School participants Betsugen and Taichi, who both spent a decade training on the mainland.
About the speaker:
Steven Heine is professor of Religious Studies and History and director of Asian Studies at Florida International University. His research specializes in the formation of Zen Buddhism in Japan based on the influences of Chinese texts and religious practices, especially involving the role of Dōgen, founder of the Sōtō Zen sect. A recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun Award from Japan, Heine has published more than thirty books, including The Zen Poetry of Dōgen, Did Dōgen Go to China?, Dōgen: Textual and Historical Studies, and From Chinese Chan to Japanese Zen. He is currently translating a fourteenth-century set of verse comments on Dōgen’s major work, the Shōbōgenzō (Treasury of the True Dharma-Eye) that was composed by the monk Giun, who was the fifth patriarch of Eiheiji temple established by Dōgen.