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Letting Go

Peter Haskel (trans.)

Publication Year: 2001

Of the many eccentric figures in Japanese Zen, the Soto Zen master Tosui Unkei (d. 1683) is surely among the most colorful and extreme. Variously compared to Ryokan and Francis of Assisi, Tosui has been called "the original hippie." After many grueling years of Zen study and the sanction of a distinguished teacher, Tosui abandoned the religious establishment and became a drifter. The arresting details of Tosui's life were recorded in the Tribute (Tosui osho densan), a lively and colloquial account written by the celebrated scholar and Soto Zen master Menzan Zuiho. Menzan concentrates on Tosui's years as a beggar and laborer, recounting episodes from an unorthodox life while at the same time opening a new window on seventeenth-century Japan. The Tribute is translated here for the first time, accompanied by woodblock prints commissioned for the original 1768 edition. Peter Haskel's introduction places Tosui in the context of the Japanese Zen of his period--a time when the identities of early modern Zen schools were still being formed and a period of spiritual crisis for many distinguished monks who believed that the authentic Zen transmission had long ceased to exist. A biographical addendum offers a detailed overview of Tosui's life in light of surviving premodern sources.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Front Matter

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pp. IX-XIV

As with so many of the acquaintances who brighten one’s life, I encountered Zen Master Tòsui Unkei (d. 1683) quite by accident— much as did the nameless beggars, day laborers, and assorted townsfolk who chance upon him in the pages of his colorful biography, the...

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pp. XV

My labors on the present book were considerably lightened by the assistance and encouragement of a number of individuals and organizations. I am especially grateful to Professor Ryuichi Abe of Columbia University’s Department of Religion, who freely gave of his time, wisdom...

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Introduction: Japanese Zen in the Age of T

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pp. 1-40

Although the Zen schools in Japan tend to emphasize their medieval1 origins, Japanese Zen as we know it today, which is to say the modern S

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About the Translation

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pp. 41-42

Tribute to the Life of Master T

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Tribute to the Life of Zen Master T

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pp. 43-93

The Master’s formal name was Unkei, his common name Tòsui.1 He was a native of the castle town of Yanagawa2 in Chikugo Province, the child of a merchant family. His family belonged to the Pure Land sect.3 His father and mother were both devout believers, taking care to...

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Biographical Addendum:Tòsui’s Story

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pp. 95-119

From what we learn of him in the Tribute,T

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Appendix: Biography of Master T

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pp. 121-123

The Master’s formal name was Unkei, his common name Tòsui.1 His birthplace is not definitely known. He entered the monastery as a child. By nature he was sharp-witted, but outwardly he seemed stupid. When he was mature, he resolved to find a teacher under whom he...

Notes to Text, Notes to Poems

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pp. 125-154


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pp. 155-159


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pp. 161-166

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About the Translator

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pp. 167

Peter Haskel received his Ph.D. from Columbia University, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. He is the author of Bankei Zen (Grove, 1985), co-author with Ryuichi Abe of Great Fool: Zen Master Ryòkan (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1996), and co-editor of the forthcoming...

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863340
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824823580

Publication Year: 2001