Three Ages of Zen2 min read

The translations in this text illustrate three phases of Zen in Japan: Warrior Zen of crisis, when Japan faced and repulsed Kublai Khanu2019s naval attacks in the thirteenth century; feudal Zen for officials in the 250 largely peaceful years up to the Western naval attacks in the mid-eighteenth century; and twentieth-century Zen, before, through, and after World War II.
The three parts are concerned mainly with laymenu2019s Zen. Mahayana Buddhism has always had a close connection with the world. It is indeed possible that it began with groups of laymen in India. In the first text, the warriors remained in fact laymen, taught mostly by monks. It is to be noted that some of them were women. There was no prejudice in Zen, as there sometimes was in other branches of Buddhism. But there were no concessions either.

The second part is an essay written for a samurai official by abbot Torei. Zen had fallen into decay and was being dramatically revived by Hakuin. It had to contend with government-sponsored Confucianism. That code,like the code of the gentleman, could become a culti-vated semi-skepticism and end up as a shell of acceptable behavior masking emptiness within.
The third part consists of extracts chosen by me from the published autobiography of Zen master Tsuji Somei (with his agreement). He did most of his training as a layman, becoming a priest relatively late in life. The account gives details of Zen practice in very severe conditions, when the author was a prisoner of war in Siberia and other parts of Russia. (I should add that the heroism of Mrs. Tsuji, when left to bring up the family on her own, was of equal stature.)
Zen practice for laypeople in the world will be a more useful model for Westerners than monastery practice. There are some 15,000 temples in Japan but almost none in Western countries.