Zen Buddhism as the Ideology of the Japanese State

Albert Welter, Dale S. Wright

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter reassesses Eisai and his attempt to reform the Japanese Buddhist state along the lines suggested by the model of Sung Ch'an, by examining the message of the Kōzen Gokokuron and the Ninnō-kyō (Sutra of Benevolent Kings), both texts central to Eisai's theoretical vision. Eisai is a major figure in the Japanese Zen tradition, known for introducing Zen and winning major political support for it in the newly formed Kamakura bakufu. The discussion emphasizes not only the ideological sway that this text had over Eisai, but also how Eisai conceived of the practical implementation of the text's ideological vision in terms of Ch'an institutions and practices observed by Eisai in Sung China. The study examines the Kōzen gokokuron in terms of three leading ideas around which Sung Ch'an had been formed: lineage, institutional organization, and conceptions of Ch'an vis a vis the Buddhist tradition as a whole. This examination concludes with a comparison of how Yen-shou was understood in the Kōzen Gokokuron and the Jōtō Shōkaku Ron, a text associated with Nōnin and the Daruma faction, a leading early contender for the mantle of establishing a separate Zen "school" in Japan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationZen Classics
Subtitle of host publicationFormative Texts in the History of Zen Buddhism
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages60
ISBN (Electronic)9780199784608
ISBN (Print)9780195175257
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006


  • Eisai
  • Jōtō shōkaku ron
  • Kamakura bakufu
  • Kōzen gokokuron
  • Ninnō-kyō
  • Sutra of benevolent kings
  • Yen-shou

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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