Toshi (historiography) (燈史)

Toshi is a term generally used to represent history books of the Buddhism, specifically, that of the Zen Sect.

Toshi represents the process of handing down the teachings of Buddhism from a teacher to his students and from those students to their students in the manner similar to that of the Olympic Torch Relay, and also means history books describing the history of that tradition. It was consequently compiled in chronological order by pairs of a teacher and a student and was not organized by category as in hongi (biographical records) or retsuden (a series of biographies) that were written in style of biographical historiography represented by Shiki (the Chinese Historical Records).

With respect to the Zen Sect during the Tang Dynasty, the shishi sosho (transmission of the teachings and the way of Buddhism from a teacher to a disciple) relationship was not clearly defined. Unsui (a postulant awaiting acceptance into a monastery of a novice monk who has undertaken Zen training) traveled to various places and studied Zen with many masters to receive enlightenment from them. Additionally, Unsui generally continued to study with masters even after receiving Inka (certification of spiritual achievement). As a result, there were some instances where differences in perception of the relationship occurred between the priestly teacher and disciples.

With toshi such as "Sodoshu" being compiled, however, it became necessary to unite Zen monks together as an exclusive group. As a result, Shisho and Inka became regarded as important. It also helped Zen monks define perspectives to gain their awareness of the school of the Buddhist sect which they belong to. The outcome was Goke Shichishu (five sects and seven schools derived from the original Zen Buddhism).

In the Northern Sung Dynasty, as Zen flourished, 'Soto' (genealogy of the teachings of Buddhism) came to gain acute interest among the public became and, as a result, Toshi, which was a compilation of Soto, was completed.

Typical Toshi

"Sodoshu" (established in 952)
"Keitokudentoroku (books of the genealogy of Zen Buddhism, consisting of biographies of priests in India and China)" (established in 1004)
"Shumon Rento Eyo" (established in 1189)
"Goto Egen" (established in 1253)
"Nihon Tojo Rentoroku" (established in 1742)

[Original Japanese]