Gazan Joseki (峨山韶磧)

Joseki GAZAN (1275 - November 23, 1366) was a Soto sect priest from the end of Kamakura period to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). He was from Noto Province. He was the 2nd generation priest of Soji-ji Temple.

At the age of 16, he entered the priesthood at Mt. Hiei, and he studied Tendai sect under Enshu. One theory stated that he was a practitioner of Hakusan Shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism-shamanism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts). In 1297, while he was traveling to Kyoto, he met Jokin KEIZAN.

In 1299, he visited Keizan at Daijo-ji Temple in Kaga Province, and in 1306, he received a certification of enlightenment from Keizan.

In 1321, he received the shiho(to inherit the dharma from a priest master) from Keizan, and in 1324 he became the 2nd Soji-ji Temple priest, and thereafter established the foundation for the development of the Soto sect.

Gazan followed after Keizan, who established the Waju System at Eiko-ji Temple, in which several priests were in rotating shifts to become the chief priest, and established the rotating system for the Soji-ji Temple. There were many outstanding disciples called 'Gazan niju-go tetsu' (25 hoshi (a successor to an abbacy) of Gazan), and he had Taigen Soshin, Tsugen Jakurei, Mutan Sokan, Daitetsu Soryo and Jippo Ryoshu open sub temples, with the five of them rotating as the chief priest of Soji-ji Temple.

In 1340, he concurrently served as the chief priest of Eiko-ji Temple, and expanded the teachings of Buddhism throughout Japan, traveling between the two temples for 20 some years until his death.

There is a legend that early every morning, after finishing his morning duty at Eiko-ji Temple, he walked 52 km of the mountain road to perform his morning duty at Soji-ji Temple. The mountain road that he supposedly took is called the Gazan-do path. In Soji-ji Temple, there is a way of lengthening the pronunciation of each word in the Daihishindarani, a method called Fugin-hou, which is said to have started in order to wait for the arrival of Gazan from Eiko-ji Temple.

He died in 1366 at the age of 92.

[Original Japanese]