Sandai Sōron - Historical Context

Historical Context

Sōtō's founder Dōgen named Koun Ejō as his successor, but Ejō did not name a definite successor. The four monks who received dharma transmission from Ejō all made claims of friendship with Dōgen and Ejō, with various levels of honesty, and adherence to the principles of Sōtō, which were interpreted in varying ways.

It is clear that Jakuen voluntarily left Eihei-ji by himself. His monks at first remained behind, possibly contributing to the fragmentation of Jakuen's line.

Giin and Gikai also left Eihei-ji under unclear circumstances, but with more followers than Jakuen or Gien. Gikai's successor Keizan became the most famous figure of Sōtō after Dōgen, and by the early modern era, Keizan's version of Sōtō had become the only one practiced in Japan.

Gien (義演) was eventually decided to be the rightful third abbot of Eihei-ji, but he failed to make any other impact on history. In fact, by the time monastic histories were compiled, nobody remembered anything about Gien other than his role in the power struggle. The power of Eihei-ji quickly dwindled, eventually being taken over by Jakuen's disciple Giun. The Jakuen line continued to control Eihei-ji until 1468.

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