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WikiProject Buddhism (Rated C-class, High-importance)
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I changed the structure of the article, corrected some false statements and I added some info about the history and texts Hippocrates

The article is a bit strange now - did Dogen found the sect or not..? (the article isn't clear about it) Hippocrates

Dogen was the founder of the Japanese branch of the Caodong school, which is called Soto in Japanese. Dongshan Liangjie founded Caodong, which could be referred to as Chinese Soto if one were so inclined. So it's ambiguous to say "Who founded the Soto sect", because it's unclear whether Soto means just the Japanese branch or the whole thing. This article as it stands currently seems to be about the Japanese branch specifically and there is a different page for Caodong. Not sure if they should be merged. - Nat Krause 05:13, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)
The current opening, "Soto 曹 洞 宗 (Japanese: sōtō-shū) is one of the famous Japanese Zen sects, founded by Dogen Zenji (1200-1253). It was based upon the Chinese Caodong school, which Dogen brought to Japan," has a slightly problematic implied ontology: If Soto is only based on Caodong, and Dogen brought Caodong to Japan, it is implied that Caodong has an existence of Japan apart from Soto--as though Dogen brought the original sect to Japan and then created his own version of it. There's the further question of whether Soto is a transliteration of Caodong--is it?--in which case I think we should recognize a certain continuity and indicate the original founder. -- कुक्कुरोवाच|Talk‽ 19:13, 15 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Well, it's certainly a complicated situation to try and explain. Soto is definitely the same word as Caodong. I generally agree that it would be more accurate to say that Dogen Caodong to Japan rather to say that he founded Soto. But, on the other hand, I'm fairly certain that there are major formal differences between the Japanese and Chinese versions (many of which, if I recall correctly, were instituted by Dogen's successors). Given that Dogen himself was such an intellectual giant, it would seem likely that there are also significant substantive differences. - Nat Krause 11:38, 16 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I looked it up in a biography. Dogen was born in Japan. He wanted to be a monk and went with his teacher Myozen to China. There he visited several monasteries (rinzai). One of those was the monastery on the mountain T'ien-t'ung, where he met Ju-ching. This master however was a member of Caodong (although this monastery was controlled by Rinzai people). Dogen stayed 2 years with this man. He also got enlightened and received the Caodong transmission from Ju-ching. Then he went back to Japan and founded a monastery (and wrote the Shobogenzo). I, as well as my book, agree with Nat that Dogen did a great part of the job. A lot of new teaching came from him. Also, the records say that Ju-ching was not a great teacher at all. After Dogens death the soto church developed. Hippocrates
Dogen (his monastic name) was already a monk in Japan *before* he left for China (he was ordained under Koen, the head of the Tendai school, at Senkobo monastery in approximately 1213ce). He learned Zen at Kennin-ji monastery (which he entered in 1217ce) under Myozen (who was Eisai's successor) who also taught sutras and Tantric rites. The motivation for traversing the China Sea (a rather dangerous trip in those days) was Dogen's disappointment at the condition of Zen practice in Japan, and his desire to go 'back to the source' of Zen (China, particularly in the tradition of the 6th Patriarch) and bring back to Japan an authentic (more pure) practice. Myozen and Dogen set out on this trip to China in 1223ce. For confirmation of this information please see/cite 'Zen Buddhism: A History' by Heinrich Dumoulin (Macmillan, 1990), p.51-53 MatthewStevenCarlos This comment added 20 October 2005
Soto is not a "church" in any ordinary usage of the word. Hu
Hi Hu! (this must be a cliche :) ) I know, little joke. Is it a sect, a school, a denomination, or maybe a church? (on the other hand, a Dutch book I read did mention soto as a church...) Thanks for reading precisely. Hippocrates
Of the choices you offer, "sect" is the one that comes closest. However, I would call it a "following". One could also call it a "school" for variation, but not at the first reference. "Creed" is another possibility. The reason it is not a church or congregation or denomination is that there is no worship involved. Even the words "sect" or "creed" are verging on the idea of a worshipful religion. Other phrases that could be applied to people is "group of adherents" or "followers of soto". -- Hu.
I disagree. Denomination comes closer. In fact, I think this is the most precise term for Soto and Rinzai (a denomination is is a large, long-established subgroup within a religion that has been in existence for many years. see: sect or religious denomination). Hippocrates
A creed is a statement of belief—usually religious belief—or faith, see creed. Well, this is not the correct term for religious groups like soto and rinzai. A sect is a small religious group that has branched off of a larger established religion, see sect. This comes close, yet soto and rinzai are quite large. Also the word sect has a negative connotation. So Soto (denomination) and Rinzai (denomination) would be best. Hippocrates
That assumes it is part of a religion, Hippocrates. It is not a religion because it does not worship. Therefore it is not a denomination. Hu 19:39, 2004 Nov 19 (UTC)
I think you're using a spuriously precise definition of religion, which is a term with an extremely broad range of reference and an etymologically vague history. The ongoing debates at pages like Talk:Religion and Talk:God bear out the consequences of overly narrow definitions of terms in the religious studies field. Buddhism is generally considered a religion in English-language scholarship and also in English-language commonplace discussion, as well it should be, since it combines (a) a group of tenets and/or basic assumptions, (b) a soteriology, and (c) organizations of authoritative clergy and communities of lay practitioners. Worship is not intrinsic to religion; no one quality or behavior is in all and only religions, but Buddhism in general, including the Zen schools in particular (except possibly in modern philosophical or casual reinterpretations that should be differentiated), exhibits a sufficient number of the qualities which are often present in religions to be called religious. -- कुक्कुरोवाच|Talk‽ 20:16, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Buddhism is a religion. Zen is not. "Zen Buddhism" probably is a religion. There are many followers of Soto zen who do not worship and don't see themselves as being part of a religion. Zen may have historically evolved from a religion, but zen (the philosophy) is not a religion. It is precisely the distinction with philosophy that is important. Hu 20:46, 2004 Nov 19 (UTC)
As I mentioned, worship is nonessential; so, for the purposes of scholarship, is the position of the followers on this point, quite frankly. Also, it's really not a philosophy, in the modern English sense of the word; it isn't an academic practice, nor does it have the same areas of inquiry as a philosophy. In fact, in the modern English context, philosophy has a non-practical connotation that I think would (or should) be quite anathema to most schools of practical Buddhism. -- कुक्कुरोवाच|Talk‽ 18:30, 20 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Accepting for sake of argument your assertions above, isn't Soto a "Zen Buddhist" group and therefore relgiious? - Nat Krause 03:21, 20 Nov 2004 (UTC)
We could discuss whether zen is a religion or not. Yet maybe it's more important to take into account what it's generally considered to be. I think Kukkurovaca is right when he says 'Buddhism is generally considered a religion ... '. I guess most people consider Zen to be part of Buddhism. Therefore, a religion. Or at least, a group with religious tendencies. Hippocrates

I am a Soto Zen Buddhist, have been for some time now. It is my religion... most of the people in my temple would answer the question "What is your religion?" with "Soto Zen." We've discussed this in dharma talks and group discussions at length. -Lisa Mann

Soto is (or was) one of the five sects of Zen-Buddhism not in Japan but in China. Two of the five are Soto and Rinzai. I don't know how to spell other three sects in English: Igyo, Un-mon, and Ho-gen, maybe. In Japan Soto and Rinzai (and Obaku) are the main zen sects, I believe.Miya 04:11, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)

One might consider the appropriateness of refering to Soto as a 'style' of Zen, or one of the three major 'Schools' (see the Wikipedia Editing Talk for Zen) of Japanese Zen. It is also accurate to refere to Zen and/or Zen Buddhism as a 'practice' rather than a religion or a philosophy as this is around what Zen (and especially Soto) centers (sitting). This comment added 17 October 2005 by MatthewStevenCarlos


There is no soteriology. To be "saved" is to be saved "from" something or some fate. But since zen rejects dualities, there is nothing to be saved from. There is only acceptance and embrace and unity (all manifestations of the one reality). Hu 20:51, 2004 Nov 19 (UTC)

Zen rejects dualities, but it is not a religion; is that it? - Nat Krause 03:21, 20 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Response to Nat Krause: I appreciate the irony of your question. One could say zen rejects dualities so it is both "not" a religion and "is" a religion, but that would either be too cute or a koan, wouldn't it, since we could equally ask "does a dog have Buddha-nature?". If you prefer to think of it as a religion, go right ahead. I was just trying to help by trying to make the distinction, but rather than get trapped by it, I'm just going to let you do your thing while I do mine. Hu
^5! - Nat Krause 05:29, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Of course, unity should also be anathema to all Buddhism, since Buddhism is founded on anatta and consequently a rejection of monistic ideals. Also, the goal of "acceptance and embrace and unity" (which bear no resemblance to the writings of Zen foundational thinkers like Dogen and Linji, who are interested in plurality and incisive, penetrating awareness, however) is obviously a soteriology. -- कुक्कुरोवाच|Talk‽ 18:30, 20 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Response to Kukkurovaca: unity is a concept orthogonal to impermanence (anatta). Of course the universe changes, as does everything in it, but that does not deny its essential unity. It would seem to me that the quotation from Dogen on the Dogen page, which ends by saying "to remove the barriers between one's self and others", is exactly about embrace and unity, so I don't know what writings you are referring to. Penetrating awareness is a concept orthogonal to ideas of unity or duality, though of course penetrating awareness is very useful to see the essential unity of all things. Plurality (the diversity of humans, human experience, and the universe) is wonderful and to be celebrated, but does not deny their essential unity. That the realization of unity (not attainment or achievement but acceptance of it) may bring some peace does not make the goal a soteriology (a salvation) any more than going to a dentist to get some peace from a toothache is a soteriology. Buddhists may seek nirvana to escape a wheel of re-incarnation and that concept may appear in Zen Buddhism but not necessarily in the philosophy of zen. Hu
On the contrary; Buddhism arose in response to and rejection of a unity-based metaphysical system impermanence is anitya, not anatta (though of course the two are intertwined)...Nagarjuna clearly lays out that things are neither the same nor different, neither at one nor as many; the chain of relation established in pratityasamutpada is not one of unity even though it does make everything inextricable: "Anekartham, ananartham, anucchedam asasvatam; etat tal lokanathananam buddhanam sasanamrtam," Neither (aimed at)one nor many, neither annihilated nor eternal, this is the immortal teaching of the Buddhas, world-lords. Though, of course, Soto is rather far after Nagarjuna. But to remove barriers between one's self and others is not to establish an identity-condition for the whole, and while I can see how some images in Dogen like the "one bright pearl" might incline one to see things as a unity--and for all I know words tranlsatable as "unity" are used, too--I regard this as an unnuanced reading. And when a dentist creates a school which has initiated clergy and lay practitioners and draws on an established salvific tradition, then he, too, is engaged in soteriology. The fact that, at a level of theory, it is possible to argue that nirvana and samsara are one, and that "even the cave of demons on black mountain is the one bright pearl," this does not obviate the soteriological practices that (help) establish the tradition as a religion. -- कुक्कुरोवाच|Talk‽ 04:13, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Revision Needed[edit]

This article really could use some work. It spends far too much time explaining about funeral rites and not nearly enough covering the founder, Dogen, the history beyond China, and a basic breakdown of beliefs. It's amazing that the main temple or honzan is not even mentioned in the article. I realize Zen is all about not getting hung up on words and all, but really, it doesn't excuse the format of this article. Zen is not my forte, so I won't risk making things worse, but can someone who is familiar with Zen help flesh out other parts of this article.

Advice to people writing this article: don't get hung up on what Zen is or isn't. Just imagine what a good encyclopedia article looks like and go nuts.


Gassho, --Ph0kin (talk) 04:25, 7 May 2008 (UTC)

Funny how 6 months later I look at this page, and find my own comment there still unanswered. In any case, I made some notable changes this time around. I removed the second paragraph because it spent too much time explaining how Soto is larger than Pure Land (if someone really wants to put this back in, move it into the 20th century section, not the opening paragraph). I also moved some pictures around (removed one that wasn't necessary), and tried to make the article more readable.


Oddly enough it seems I can't add the link to the japanese 曹洞宗 (Soutou lineage) page because it's already in use by page "Caodong". Although the link between Soutou-shuu and Caodong makes sense, I think the japanese page should be linked to this one, since Caodong deals with the chinese segment of this lineage which is known mainly in its japanese incarnation. (talk) 20:44, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

(The links in question are ja:曹洞宗, zh:曹洞宗, and Caodong school). It does seem strange that there is no ja.wikipedia link here. Is there a more fitting Japanese article that should be paired with Caodong? Grayfell (talk) 21:00, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

I'm afraid there's not, since the japanese page has a special section about the chinese part of the lineage and they don't need another one. I think only (maybe other western wikis too) has a specific page on chinese Caodong - which is perfectly understandable - but as I said, the japanese branch (spelled Sōtō) should be linked here and not with Caodong. Keep up the good work :) (talk) 19:44, 28 September 2014 (UTC)