Samurai Zen: The Warrior Koans2 min read

The collection of 100 odd koans here presented in translation was put together in 1545, under the name Shonan Kattoroku, from records in the Kamakura temples dating back to the foundation of Kenchoji in 1253 when pure Zen first came to Japan. For a long time the teachers at Kamakura were mainly Chinese masters, who came in a stream for over a century. As a result, this Zen was conducted between masters and pupils not fluent in each otheru2019s language.

On the political and religious background, there are explanations in my book Zen and the Ways, in which I translated about one quarter of these koans. In that book I gave some account of the then Rinzai system of koan riddles, and the modifications that were introduced when this line of Zen came to Japan.
The text in its present form was reconstituted from fragmentary records in Kenchoji and other temples in Kamakura by Imai Fukuzan, a great scholar of Zen in the early part of this century. He was joint author, with Nakagawa Shuan, of a standard reference book of Zen phrases, Zengo-jii- Imai was himself a veteran Zen practitioner, as had been his father before him, and he knew personally many of the great figures of Zen at the end of the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth century. In the small edition (500 copies) of the Shonan Kattoroku collection which he published in 1925, he put a number of notes of his own, and I have translated most of these along with the koans to which they refer. His Introduction to the text is put here at the beginning, along with extracts from his Introduction to a much longer work, to have been called Warrior Zen, of which this was to have been only the first part. That work was never completed, and much of the Introduction consists of long lists of Zen masters at the Imperial palace, with feudal lords, or teaching warriors in various parts of the country. However, there are some references to the present text, and these I have translated, along with a few personal details which he gives.