Ryukei Shosen (龍渓性潜)

Ryukei Shosen (September 15, 1602 - October 6, 1670) was a priest of the Obaku Sect in the early Edo period. His secular surname was Okumura. His pseudonym was Jojo Rojin. His shigo (a posthumous name) was Taiso Seito Zenshi (meaning "high-ranking zen priest honored by the imperial court"). He was born in Kyoto.


He entered To-ji Temple at the age of eight and studied the Shingon Esoteric Buddhism.

First, he became a priest at Fumon-ji Temple in Settsu Province (the Rinzai Sect) when he was 16, and called himself Sotaku. Then, he became the 9th juji (chief priest) of Fumon-ji Temple in 1620 when his mentor, Chushitsu Gensho (籌室玄勝), died. He practiced Zen meditation under Hakuho Eryo (a high-ranking Zen monk) at Ryoan-ji Temple, changed his name to Ryokei Sozen, and was eventually given inka (formal confirmation of a student's awakening) by Hakuho. He traveled across the country, and in 1627 when the Shie Incident took place (a conflict between the imperial court and Tokugawa shogunate, where the shogunate blamed the imperial court for having given purple canonical robes (shie) to priests without its permission), he played an important role in it under the guidance of his master Hakuho. After Hakuho died, he lived in a tatchu (dormitory built near the master's tomb) called Koto-an of Ryoan-ji Temple and served as the top-ranking priest of Myoshin-ji Temple in Kyoto thereafter.

Although he returned to Fumon-ji Temple and lived there temporarily, he gave kosetsu (lectures on Buddhist scriptures) at Myoshin-ji Temple during 1648 and 1651. In September 1651, he assumed the position of chief priest of Myoshin-ji Temple at the age of 50, and was given a shie (purple canonical robe). Later, he returned to Fumon-ji Temple again after he retired from the position.

In 1654 when a Chinese priest, Ingen Ryuki, came over to Japan from China, he became one of his pupils. In 1657, he gave Emperor Gomizunoo kosetsu and was embraced by the Emperor to be given the title of Taiso Seito Zenshi. He assisted Ingen in founding Manpuku-ji Temple on Mt. Obaku in Uji and was committed to the establishment of the Obaku Sect in Japan. In 1663, he received inka from Ingen and changed his posthumous name to Shosen.

In January 1664, he was appointed as the juji of Shomo-ji Temple in Hino town (Shiga Prefecture), a chokugan-ji (a temple built at an imperial command, praying for the stability of the country and the prosperity of the imperial family) built by Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo. In April 1668, he was invited by the Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo to Naiin (the innermost shrine of Shomo-ji Temple) and gave him bosatsu-kai (bosatsu (bodhisattva)'s commandments) there. In April 1669, he officially took over Ingen's teachings and became the first Japanese who mastered Ingen's esoteric techniques. He was given the title of Taiso Seito Zenshi by the Cloistered Emperor.

In August 1670, he went over to Osaka to attend a saie (a Buddhist mass where meals are served to priests) held at Kyuto-in Temple, but on August 23, a storm hit the area.

Despite danotsu's (the supporters of the temple) and his pupils' urgent request to evacuate, he remained seated at a zen hall even while the hall was being inundated, and eventually, he was found dead, seated in a zen position after the water receded. He died at the age of 69.

[Original Japanese]