A Lineage of Zen practice brought to Japan by Eihei Dogen zenji. While in Japan the Soto Zen Church (Soto-shu) functions primarily as a chain of funeral parlours, there are many Soto Zen monasteries and centres in the West that present a vigorous schedule of zazen.
Originally the Ts'ao-Tung (jp. Soto) branch of Ch'an (jp. Zen) Buddhism in China founded by Dong Shan Liang-Chieh and Pen-Chi in the 9th century and brought to Japan by Eihei Dogen zenji in the thirteenth century. This school emphasizes the experiential practice of seated concentration called Zazen (sometimes called Silent Illumination) over ritual or academic activities. Ts'ao and Tung are the names of mountains near the monasteries where this school began.
Soto Zen is characterized by its emphasis on Shikantaza or "just sitting" zazen meditation.
Important texts include Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien's poem "The Harmony of Difference and Sameness", the Heart Sutra, and Dogen's Shobogenzo.
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