In the XIII° century, Dogen, a Japanese monk, after a stay in China, brought the Zen practice in Japan. He founded the Japanese Zen Soto school, and his literary work, the Shobogenzo ( the true treasure of the eye of Dharma), is one of the most precious religious and philosophical pieces of literature in the world. For Dogen, practice manifests enlightenment , and it occurs with “ letting body and mind go “, transcending dualism.
After Dogen Zenji, Dharma’s light was transmitted to Ejo Zenji, to Gikai Zenji and then to Keizan Kenji, fourth ancestor of the Zen Soto Japanese lineage. Differently from Dogen Kenji, who studied and deeply explored the “self “, Keizan Kenji, used his capabilities to diffuse the doctrine. Over 15.000 temples today witness this diffusion.
Kodo Sawaki Roshi
In the 20th century Western, mainly after World War Two, Europe became interested in the philosophical aspect of Zen, also thanks to the influence of the beat movement of the late '50's while in Japan, at the same time, Master Kodo Sawaki, was giving new vitality to the Zen Soto tradition. We must however wait until the end of the '60s to see the first serious contacts between the Westerners and the Japanese Zen masters.
Some important Masters who gave their contribution in spreading Soto Zen to the West are: Shunryu Suzuki, Taizan Maezumi and Dainin Katagiri, that deeply rooted this tradition in the United States, Taisen Deshimaru, that spread widely the practice in Europe and Kosho Uchiyama, Kodo Sawaki’s successor, who greatly influenced many Western practitioners, although he never left Japan.