Shuho Myocho (宗峰妙超)

Myocho SHUHO (1282 - January 21, 1338) was a priest of Rinzai Sect in the last Kamakura period. He is generally known as Daito Kokushi.

His imina (personal name) was Myocho and his go (pen name) was Shuho. He was originally from Harima Province (Hyogo Prefecture). He was born as a child of Ikkoku URAKAMI, who was a member of the Urakami clan, which was Gozoku (local ruling family) in Urakami no sho Manor in the same Province, and the vassal of the Akamatsu clan, then shugo (provincial constable) of the province. He was bestowed the title of kokushi (the most reverend priest), Kozen Daito and Kosho Seito, by the Imperial Court. He was a founder of Daitoku-ji Temple in Kyoto.


He joined Engyo-ji Temple on Mt. Shosha, a big temple at his birthplace, and started to study teachings of Tendai Sect when he was 11 years old, but later on, he became aware of the Zen sect and studied Zen teachings under Kennichi KOHO in Kamakura and Jomin NANPO (Daio Kokushi; 1235 - 1308) in Kyoto. When Jomin NANPO moved to Kencho-ji Temple in Kamakura, Shuho also moved to Kamakura and obtained Inka (Certification of spiritual achievement) from his mentor in 1307 when he was 26 years old. After Shiho (inheriting the dharma from a priest master), he practiced kotsujiki-gyo (begging for offerings from community members) for about 20 years at a tea hut in Kyoto. As he practiced a Zen Style with unparallel severity, few people visited him.

With the devotion of Norimura AKAMATSU (Enshin), who shared birthplace with him, Shuho constructed a small temple at Murasakino of Rakuhoku (north of the capital of Kyoto) in 1315 (or 1319). This is believed to be the origin of Daitoku-ji Temple. Emperor Hanazono (1297 - 1348) devoted to Shuho and he issued an imperial command to make Daitoku-ji Temple a place of prayer in 1325. Around that time, he boosted his reputation by confuting priests of both exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism on Shochu no shuron (debate about teachings of Tendai Sect and Shingon Sect). Egen KANZAN (1277 - 1360) was his disciple.

When Myocho became seriously ill in 1337, he recommended Egen KANZAN as the Zen priest who was to be the mentor of the Cloistered Emperor Hanazono after Myocho died, upon the request of the Cloistered Emperor Hanazono,. In addition, when the Cloistered Emperor Hanazono converted his detached palace at Hanazono into a Zen temple, Myocho named it Myoshin-ji Temple on Mt. Shobo and he died on January 21 of the same year. The founding year of Myoshin-ji Temple was 1337 and Egen KANZAN, who received Myocho's last words, was its founder.

Zen Style emphasized to attainment of one's own enlightenment through strict, severe and relentless ascetic practice and it intended to revive the Zen Style prevailed in the period of the Tang Dynasty. Myocho nurtured his disciples with his own Zen conundrums and made a frontal challenge to the essence of Zen without using hoben (expedients).

The Buddhist lineage from Jomin NANPO (Daio Kokushi), Myocho's mentor, through Myocho SHUHO (Daito Kokushi) to Egen KANZAN is called 'otokan' (literally means Daio, Daito and Kanzen) which all of the current Rinzai Sects in Japan belong to. Among his writings, "Daito Kokushi goroku" (Analects of Daito Kokushi), "Kana-hogo" (Buddhist sermon in kana (the Japanese syllabary)) and "Shoun Yawa" (Dialogue of Myocho SHUHO and Hikari Osho at Shoun-an Hut) are well known.

Myocho SHUHO was fond of oriental melon. When Emperor Hanazono came to know that Myocho was in the group of beggars, he instructed a government officer to post a notice stating that oriental melons would be given to beggars free of charge on a certain day. On that day, when an officer told the group of beggars to 'come here without using your feet,' one of the beggars immediately responded with 'give it to me without using your hands' and as a result, the beggar in question was identified as Myocho.

As Myocho stood tall when he first met with Emperor Hanazono, the Emperor said 'A Buddhist priest is strange because you stand tall even when meeting with the emperor,' but Myocho immediately responded 'The emperor is strange because you stand tall even when meeting with a Buddhist priest.'

[Original Japanese]