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SOTOZEN.COM > What’s Sotoshu? > Denomination


Name of the School (Shumei)

Sotoshu - The Soto Zen School

Tradition (Dento)

The Soto Zen School transmits the true (Buddhist) Dharma from Shakyamuni Buddha through the Ancestors.
The Soto Zen School endeavors to transmit the true Buddha Dharma that has been handed down generation after generation through our line of Ancestors from the founder of the doctrine, Shakyamuni Buddha, to the present day.

The Establishment of the School in Japan (Nihon Kaishu)

The Soto Zen School recognizes two eminent Ancestors as our founders, Dogen and Keizan Zenji. The essence of the Soto Zen School was transmitted from China, eight hundred years ago, during the Kamakura period by Koso Dogen Zenji. The fourth Japanese ancestor of the school was Taiso Keizan Zenji who was instrumental in enhancing the teachings and expanding the school.

Taiso Keizan Zenji
Taiso Keizan Zenji
Koso Dogen Zenji
Koso Dogen Zenji

The Two Head Temples/Monasteries (Daihonzan)

Eiheiji of Fukui Prefecture, venerable founder Koso Dogen Zenji, and Sojiji of Kanagawa Prefecture, venerable founder Taiso Keizan Zenji


The Main Image of Worship (Honzon)

The main image of worship of the Soto Zen School is Shakyamuni Buddha. Most Soto Zen temples and home altars enshrine an image of Shakyamuni Buddha.

The Main Chant for Expressing Devotion to Shakyamuni Buddha (Honzon Shomyo)

Namu-Shakyamuni-Butsu (Homage to Shakyamuni Buddha)

Buddhist Doctrine (Kyogi)

We are all children of the Buddha and come into this world endowed with the Buddha-Mind (busshin). However, failing to realize this, we live selfish, willful lives, causing much suffering.
If we make repentance to the Buddha and take refuge in him, our minds will come to rest, our lives will experience harmony and light, and we will rejoice in being of service to society. We will also experience the deep faith that will allow us to stand up under any hardship. To discover happiness and a life worth living is the teaching of the Soto Zen School.

Buddhist Sutras (Okyo)

We recite various Buddhist sutras, including the Meaning of Practice and Verification (Shushogi), the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra (Hannya Shingyo), The “Avalokiteshvara Boshisattava Universal Gateway” Chapter of the Lotus Sutra (Kannongyo) and the “Life Span of the Tathagata Chapter” of the Lotus Sutra (Juryohon).