Omori Sogen: The Art of a Zen Master

Omori Sogen: The Art of a Zen Master


“Omori Sogen: The Art of a Zen Master” is a biography of Omori Sogen Rotaishi produced by Daihonzan Chozen-ji, the Rinzai Zen temple he founded in Hawaii in 1972. First edition hardcover.

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From the inside cover:

Omori Sogen (1904-1994) was one of the foremost Rinzai Zen teachers of the 20th century, his life spanning the years from the 1900’s when teachers schooled in the samurai tradition were still alive, to the late 1990’s when Japan’s international roles in business, technology, design and diplomacy were well established. As an expert in Kendo (the Way of the sword) and Shodo (the Way of the brush), and as a political activist, scholar and university president, his approach to teaching was totally different from other Zen masters. His Zen emphasized the vitality of the martial arts, the spiritual depth of Zen and the refinement of fine arts. Although Omori Sogen wrote extensively throughout his life, much of his writings have been lost and little other than An Introduction to Zen Training has been translated into English.

By telling the story of his life, much of it in his own words, the first half of this biography illustrates how a life of training in the Way can include broad service and engagement with all facets of life. Before World War II, Omori Sogen was a widely respected sword teacher and advisor to the Japanese Cabinet. While his Zen training had started early in his life, his formal monastic training took place during the devastation that followed the war. As a newly-ordained priest, living in a small temple in Tokyo with his family, he describes a life of poverty that few of us today can imagine. As Japan rebuilt he watched the evolution of Japanese society from the vantage point of his work as a court magistrate. In his later years, his widely-respected teaching led to his position as President of Hanazono University, the principle Rinzai university in Japan, and to an increasing international role with a special interest in the transmission of Zen to the West.