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Rinzai school of Buddhism
Eisai, founder of the Rinzai school of Buddhism

Rinzai ( 禅の臨済宗) is the Japanese name of the Chinese Linji or Lin-chi sect of Buddhism. The Rinzai school is known for its emphasis on sudden enlightenment and the use of devices like the koan to achieve this end. Founded in Tang China by Linji, it was later brought to Japan by Eisai in 1191.

The Rinzai school has historically been closely linked to various martial arts traditions in Japan, China, and Korea. In pre-modern Japan, Rinzai was widely popular among the warrior aristocracy and samurai, in distinction from Sōtō Zen which was more associated with artists and poets.

In brief

  • Founder: Linji (臨済), China, c. 850
  • Chinese name: Linji (臨済), named after founder
  • First Introduction to Japan: Eisai (栄西), 1191 CE
  • Major Influences: Hosso, Kegon
  • Doctrine: zazen (座禅, "sitting meditation"), especially koan (公案, "public matter") practice
  • Primary Texts: Transcendental Wisdom Sutras aka Prajnaparamita Sutras (般若波羅蜜経), incl. Heart Sutra
  • Head Temples : Daitoku-ji (Kyoto), Tenryū-ji (Kyoto), Nanzen-ji (Kyoto), Myōshin-ji (Kyoto).

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