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In Lesson 26 we learned of a few of the masters who established Rinzai Zen in Japan—Eisai, Daio, and Daito. By Ikkyu's time, we saw, true Zen teaching had virtually disappeared in the temples, and as an old man he chose to rebuild Daitoku-ji. Nevertheless, with the exception of a few unique individuals such as Bankei, Rinzai Zen remained, overall, spiritually dormant until the middle of the Tokugawa era, in danger of disappearing from the spiritual landscape. when there appeared one of the most truly inspired Zen teachers of all time, Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769).


Endowed with enormous personal force and spirit, Hakuin was a rarity among Zen Masters and a lion among men. He was an accomplished artist and calligrapher and a voluminous author—he left a written legacy that is arguably the most extensive of the masters of the Chan or Zen, traditions. His caustic tongue and pen were legendary, and his words still breathe fire today. Yet his compassion was equal to his fire, and he was beloved by the common folk of his time and remains a favorite among lay practitioners of Zen. Hakuin single-handedly transformed the moribund Rinzai school into a tradition focused on arduous meditation and koan practice. Essentially all modern practitioners of Rinzai Zen use practices directly derived from the teachings of Hakuin.