MATERIAL: Ilustrated
TYPE: Manuscript
DIMENSIONS: 6 x 4.5 inches
COMPONENTS: Illustrated manuscript.
ITEM ID: 5044
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Handbook of Japanese Zen Koans

DATE
Year: 1864
Notes: The date is Genji

Handbook of Japanese Zen koans used in Zen training. One of the verses appears to invoke Enma, the King of Hell. This story may be particular to the Japanese Soto Zen school.

Soto Zen or the Soto school (曹洞宗, Soto-shu) is the largest of the three traditional sects of Zenin Japanese Buddhism (the others being Rinzai and Ōbaku). It is the Japanese line of the Chinese Cáodòng school, which was founded during the Tang dynasty by Dòngshān Liánjiè. It emphasizes Shikantaza, meditation with no objects, anchors or content. The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference.

The Japanese brand of the sect was imported in the 13th century by Dōgen Zenji, who studied Caodong Buddhism (Chinese: 曹洞宗; pinyin: Cáodòng Zōng) abroad in China. Dōgen is remembered today as the co-patriarch of Sōtō Zen in Japan along with Keizan Jōkin.

With about 14,000 temples, Soto is one of the largest Japanese Buddhist organizations. Soto Zen is now also popular in the West and in 1996 priests of the Soto Zen tradition formed the Soto Zen Buddhist Association based in North America.

According to scholar Anya Ando, “不藏録頌古? (A versified commentary on the sayings on emptiness? unless, this transliterates to something like “the verses not recorded in [Shobo Gen]zo”) This seems related to Zen discourses, I’d have to look this up further. An interim colophon mentions Shobo Genzo 正法眼藏, most likely referring to Dogen’s medieval treatise. Could be a short illustrated handbook of Japanese Zen koans, for children’s study. Just a wild guess.

One of the verses appears to invoke Enma, the King of Hell. But I wonder how all the other segments relate to that. This story may be particular to the Japanese Soto Zen school (I’ve only looked through briefly, but I’m not a specialist on Soto Zen literature.”

According to scholar Alexander Vesey, “Never seen anything like this. The photo marked with a like is a list of koan used in Zen training. The time is Genji (1864).”