History of Soto Zen
Soto Zen Buddhism, i.e. the teaching of Buddha has been transmitted to Japan from ancient India through ancestors.
The origin of Soto Zen is Buddha, therefore our main object of veneration is the Buddha Shakyamuni.
We call Dogen Zenji, the founder of Eiheiji who brought the teaching to Japan as ‘Koso’, and Keizan Zenji the founder of Sojiji who spread the teaching of Buddha to all of Japan as “Taiso”, and call two founders as “Ryoso”, and we worship and adore them as “Ichibutsu-Ryoso” (Buddha and two founders).
We worship by chanting ‘Namu shaka muni butsu’. Nowadays, there are 15,000 Soto Zen temples, and 12 millions Soto Zen followers in Japan.
Ryōso (two ancestors)
Soto Zen Buddhism has two head temples: Eiheiji in Fukui prefecture and Sojiji in Yokohama city. It just like we have parents, father and mother, Soto Zen has ‘Ryo Daihonzan’ (2 head monasteries) of which Eiheiji was founded by Dogen Zenji and Sojiji by Keizan Zenji.
Dogen Zenji brought Buddha’s teaching from China to Japan, and Keizan Zenji, who is 4th generation from Dogen Zenji, spread the teaching all over Japan, and laid the foundation of Soto Zen Buddhism in Japan.
Daihonzan (head monastery)
(Sojiji head monastery)
The history began in 1321, when “Taiso” Keizan Zenji renamed “morookadera” in Ishikawa prefecture to ‘Shogakusan Sojiji’. Sojiji was relocated from Ishikawa to Yokohama city due to a large fire accident in Meiji era. Sojiji was established as an international primary temple of Soto Zen with easy access.
(Eiheiji head monastery)
In 1244, “Koso” Dogen Zenji established the Eiheiji with high ideals as a fundamental practice temple for Buddha’s teachings. Eiheiji has a history of over 750 years and also at present about 200 monks are training day and night.