Remembering Dogen: Eiheiji and Dogen Hagiography

Dōgen (1200–1253) occupies a prominent place in the history of Japanese religions as the founder of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism. This essay examines the religious rituals and historical vicissitudes that helped elevate Dōgen to his present position of prominence. It uses the example of Dōgen to illustrate how new historical identities are constructed in response to social imperatives and institutional struggles. It argues that we cannot fully understand Japanese religions in general and Sōtō Zen in particular unless we become more sensitive to the ways that these historical, social, and institutional factors shape our received images of the past.