N ingen Zen Kyodan was founded by Koun-an Tatsuta Eizan *Roshi (the first president). Koun-an Roshi was born at Honjyo in Tokyo in the 26th year of Meiji(1893A.D.). * Roshi means Zen Master
When he was a student of the Second High School under the old education system, he pursued Zen practice at Zuigan-ji Temple in Matsushima under Banryu Roshi and attained Enlightenment under him. When he studied biology at Tokyo Imperial University, he continued his Zen practice under Ryobo-an Shaku Sokastu Roshi, the heir of Ryoga-kutsu Shaku Soen Roshi, who was the Chief abbot of Engaku-ji Temple (famous Rinzai Zen Tample), and was transmitted of Dharma Seal.
Ningen Zen Central Meditation Center
In the following, we look for the source of Ningen Zen Kyodan historically. The origin of Ningen Zen was Ryobo-Kai which Yamaoka Tesshu, Takahashi Deisyu of Meiji established to train promising figures, being anxious for the future of the state, and accordingly solicited Soryu-kutsu Imakita Kosen Roshi, the chief abbot of Engaku-ji Temple to train them. But Ryobo-Kai later suspended for a while.
S okatsu Roshi started on a travel to Southeast Asia for nourishing the enlightened spirit still more for two years, after being transmitted of Dhama Seal by Ryoga-kutsu Soen Roshi at the age of 29 years old. This travel was full of hardships.
When Sokatsu Roshi accomplished this travel and returned to Engaku Temple, Ryoga-kutsu Roshi gave him the hermitage name "Ryobo-an" as the celebration for his virtue and suggested the revival of the Ryobo-Kai by him.
Ryobo-an Roshi had no intention to live in a temple throughout his lifetime against the temple-Buddhism, renounced the original mission and resolved to open the way of "Layman's Zen" independent from any sect of Zen, accepting the revival of the Ryobo-Kai.
This "Layman's Zen" was essentially different from the "Zen of Layman" in the next point. Hitherto the transmission of Dharma Seal was restricted only to priests and laypersons were absolutely excluded from the transmission.
The "Layman's Zen" of the new Ryobo-Kai newly opened the gate of the qualification of the transmission to laypersons. Therefore the practice of "Layman's Zen" bears the responsibility for the transmission of the Dharma Seal, surpassing the individual cultivation.
This is of revolutionary significance in the history of Zen Buddhism.
The new Ryobo-Kai made steady progress in opening chapteres in many districts of Japan, even in North America, developing into the "Ryobo-Kai" and the "Ryobo Zen Kyokai." But at the end of World War II, Ryobo-an Roshi declared to shut down the "Ryobo-Zen Kyokai."
Under Ryobo-an Roshi, there were three Masters to whom the Dharma Seal was transmitted, Koun-an Tatsuta Eizan Roshi, Ichimu-an Ohazama Chikudo Roshi, Sokei-an Sasaki Shigetsu Roshi. The latter two Roshis passed away before the end of the war.
Koun-an Roshi newly founded "Ningen Zen" which means "Zen cultivation of the human spirit" carried out on the basis of transmission the Dharma Seal in the midst of the social confusion of postwar Japan, because turning the wheel of the Four Great Vows of Buddhists should not be abandoned under any circumstances.
K oun-an Roshi established "Ningen Zen Kyodan" of non-priest or non-secular humanity and proclaimed following "The Establishment Purport of Ningen Zen Kyodan." Kyodan means Sangha in Sanskrit. Sangha is a group of Buddhist followers in which every member has the mission to establish eternal peace in the world by turning the wheel of the Four Great Vows(please find descriptions on "the Four Great Vows" in the "About the Practice of Zen" page) throughout each life.
1. Our Sangha aims to build up an earthly paradise by turning the wheel of the Great Vows for benefiting ourselves and at the same time others, savoring the true human life.
2. Our Sangha encourages our members to realize enlightenment free from delusion by the practice of Zazen, developing everlastingly the life of Buddha-Wisdom of the Patriarchs.
3. Our Sangha is the home for those who live the upright, delightful and harmonious life with genuine humanity.
4. Our Sangha honors freedom and equality as the primary essence of Zen Buddhism and respects every member's individual personality.
5. Our Sangha relates no mystery, nor expounds any superstition and exalts the Evam Dharma with a dignified attitude and proclaims Ningen Zen in carrying out Gassho.
T his purport made clear that Ningen Zen was essentially different from the traditional Zen Buddhists who aimed principally at Dharma-transmission for the sake of Dharma-transmission, but Ningen Zen stressed Dharma-transmission for the sake of the mission to establish an earthly paradise.
Subsequntly, Koun-an Roshi enacted the order of Sangha composed of 30 stipulations. Roshi selected 200 Koans, complied systematically according to the grade of depth of enlightenment and proclaimed them publicly as "Gasensyu," the Koan's book.
Still more, Koun-an Roshi reorganized the order of the chapters of the transcript of lectures such as "Hekigansyu," "Mumonkan" and others, adopting the same principle as shown in the "Gasensyu" and published them, newly opening an unexplored way.
Regarding the management of the Sangha, its financial basis was established entirely on the membership fee different from temple Buddhism, which was depending totally on the offering of the temple supporters. Furthermore, he established an independent and democratic system of administration for the Sangha.
By the birth of such a new Sangha, the Zen practice of students was carried out not only within the Zen hall, but social activity itself was also elevated to the status of important Zen practice. And under these circumstances the Gassho movement evolved on the basis of the fundamental spirit of "Upright, Delightful, and Harmonious."
In this way, the establishment of the "Ningen Zen Sangha" made progress to meet the needs of the times compared with "Zen of Laymen" which principally aimed at the training of individuals. This development was based on the personality of Koun-an Roshi who was a modern scientist of a broad vision quite different from the Patriarchs in the past.