Shaku Soyen (釈宗演)

Soyen SHAKU (January 10, 1860 - November 1, 1919) was a priest of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism during the Meiji and Taisho periods. He was born in Takahama-mura (present-day Takahama-cho), Oi-gun, Fukui Prefecture. His original surname was Ichinose, original first name was Tsunejiro, and his azana (popular names) were 洪嶽, 楞迦窟, and 不可往.


At the age of 12, he entered the Buddhist priesthood under Ekkei Shuken of Myoshin-ji Temple in Kyoto, and practiced asceticism at the Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto and Sogen-ji Temple in Okayama Prefecture.

In 1878, he received a certification of enlightenment by visiting Kosen IMAKITA at the Engaku-ji Temple, Kamakura. While practicing Zen ascetic training, he learned English and Western studies from Yukichi FUKUZAWA at the Keio Gijuku.

In 1887, he graduated from the Keio Gijuku and at the age of 29, on the recommendation of Yukichi FUKUZAWA and Tesshu YAMAOKA, he went to Ceylon and India to study. After he returned to Japan, he was appointed to the chief priest of Horin-ji Temple in Kuraki-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture.

In 1892, he was appointed to the chief abbot of Engaku-ji School at the age of 34.

In 1893, with support from Yukichi FUKUZAWA, he visited the US to participate in the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. After leaving the US, he visited several countries and then returned to Japan via India.

In 1902, he lectured on Zen to Americans for the first time at the Engaku-ji Temple.

In 1903, he was appointed to the chief abbot of the Kencho-ji School as well.

In 1905, he resigned from the posts of chief abbot and became the chief priest of Tokei-ji Temple in Kamakura.

In 1906, he visited the US again accompanied by Daisetsu SUZUKI as an interpreter and lectured on Zen Buddhism to Americans.

In 1914, he was appointed to the president of Rinzai University.

In 1916, he was appointed to the chief abbot of the Engaku-ji School again. He was a lecturer at Hekigan-kai organized by Soho TOKUTOMI, and had many followers through lectures and instructions for the political and financial circles as well as for intellectuals including Soseki NATSUME as a Buddhist layman.

In 1919, he died at the age of 61.

[Original Japanese]