「禅尺八」現実研究   ホームページ

The "Zen Shakuhachi" Reality Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi History, Ideology & Practices in Particular

Torsten Olafsson • 無穴笛オーラフソン トーステンデンマーク • Denmark



About this Research Project

Realizations & Conclusions

Wikipedia: Inaccuracies & Misunderstandings
     regarding Komusō, Fuke-shū, Suizen etc.

Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

To be - or not to be: a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?

1549 ... The Catholic Christian Century
     and the Temple Patron Household System

Fuke Zenji, Komosō, the Catholic Invasion,
     Rōnin Samurai, Komusō and Kyōto Myōan-ji
     - a Factual & Unbiased Chronology

Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology
     and the Realization of The Non-Dual
     - Highlighted Quotations

A Select Chronology of Ascetic Shakuhachi
     Ideology-related Names, Terms & Concepts

Highlighted Illustrations

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama:

 •  India

 •  China

 •  Japan

 •  The West

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

Research Cases of Special Significance:

c. 1470?: The Kyōgen Play Rakuami

1494 & 1501: Two Unique Muromachi Period
     Poetry Contest Picture Scrolls

1505: Kōrin's Shakuhachi Essay

1512: The Taigenshō Music Treatise

The Komosō & Fuke-komosō Sources

1614: The Keichō kenmon-shū Story Book

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Document

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

The Early Komusō-related Texts
     - from c. 1640 to c. 1752

1640s?: The Butsu-gen Komusō Document

1646: Abbot Isshi Bunshu's Letter
     to the Komusō Sandō Mugetsu

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi/Kakushin Legend

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

1664: The Shichiku shoshinshū Music Treatise

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1677: The Enpō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Komusō Set of Rules

1678: The Enpō 5, 12th Month Komusō-ha Oboe
     Bakufu Memorandum of January 11th, 1678

1680s?: The Kyotaku Denki Tale:
     Shinchi Kakushin, Kichiku & Kyōto Myōan-ji

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Komusō Set of Rules

c. 1685-1690: The Yōshū fu-shi
     & Jinrin kinmō zu-i Myōan-ji Evidence

1694: Myōan-ji Founder Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Rules for his Komusō Disciples

1703 & 1705: The Kyōto Myōan-ji
     c/o Kōkoku-ji & Myōshin-ji Interrelationship

1722: The Kyōhō 7, 6th Month,
     Reihō-ji Komusō Memorandum

1730: The Kyōhō 15, 7th Month, Ichigetsu-ji
     & Reihō-ji Komusō Memorandum

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki
     and Early Honkyoku History

1735: Kyōto Myōan-ji Temple Chief Admin
     Kandō Ichiyū's Essay about Sankyorei-fu,
     the "Three Non-Dual Spirit Music Pieces"

1751: The Keichō no okitegaki Fabrication
     The Many Existing Different Versions

1752: Myōan-ji Restorer Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Fixed Rules for the Komusō

1795: The Kyotaku denki kokujikai Source Book

1812 - A Literary Curiosity: "Two Komusō"
     - a Shakuhachi-inspired Story Book

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki Book

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō: Hitori mondō a.o.

1830: The Kiyū shōran Encyclopedia

1871: The Abolition of the Komusō Fraternity
     and of the Practice of Religious Begging

1950: The Myōan Temple of the True Fuke Sect
     is Opened at Tōfuku-ji in Kyōto

Noteworthy Early Post-Edo Period
     Source Examples - Commented Links:

c. 1875?: The Komusō zakki Source Collection

1892: Suzuki Jisuke alias Higuchi Taizan's
     Shakuhachi shian Study Book

1894-1912: The Gunsho ruijū Source Collection

1896-1914: The Koji ruien Source Collection

1902: Mikami Sanji's Critical Essay
     About Fuke-shū-related Matters

1915: The Shakuhachi dokushū annai
     Self-study Book

1918/1975: Kurihara Kōta's Investigations
     Into Shakuhachi History

1931-32: The Tokugawa kinreikō
     Prohibition Law Collection

1936-39 & 1979: The Legacy of Pioneer
     Shakuhachi Historian Nakatsuka Chikuzen

1899/1910 ... Translations of Source Texts
     in Western Shakuhachi-related Publications
     including the Internet/WWW



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info

To be - or not to be: a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?

虚無僧 禅宗? - KOMUSŌ and the ZEN SECT?

To be - or not to be: a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?

     Were the 'komusō' ever real "Zen monks"?

     Was the "Fuke Sect" ever anything like a "Zen Buddhist sect"?

禅と尺八 - 関係全然無い!

"Speaking about 'Zen' and 'Shakuhachi' - there is absolutely no connection!"

In early 1977 I was introduced to a prominent professor at Kyōto University.
I had just been enrolled as a "foreign special research student" at the university, you see.

Having explained to the professor that I was very interested in studying the possible (at least so claimed) relationship "between Zen and the bamboo flute shakuhachi", the professor plainly replied,

"There is no connection whatsoever!"

In very straight and direct Japanese: Zen to shakuhachi: kankei zenzen nai!

Much surprised, as I was - honestly, I recall to have answered something like,

"Oh, I had better then look a lot more into that problem!"

Which is, in fact, certainly and very much "exactly" what I have been doing very much
- ever since then.

Clarifying Statements

Acc. to Wikipedia, Japan:


"The socalled komusō were monks of the Fuke Sect, a branch of the Zen Sect; they lived a life as half monks, half lay Buddhist practitioners [han-zō han-zoku] who did not shave their heads [teihatsu shinai]."

     Link: Wikipedia, Japan: 虚無僧

Acc. to Yamato Hōmei, 山戸朋盟:


" ---
Summing up, to say that "komusō temples were Zen temples" and that "komusō were Zen monks" is inconvenient [lit.: "circumstances are bad"].

Likewise, if one should not [say] that Myōan-ji was a "Fuke temple", and that the komusō were "Fuke monks", there would be a lot which could not be explained to the public.

To cut a long story short, the komusō did not shave their heads [i.e. take the tonsure; become monks].
Also, although they did not wear a sword in public, they were "armed" with a dagger or a shakuhachi.

In addition, they did not engage themselves in the ascetic practices of an ordinary Zen monk, such as rising early in the morning and chanting sutras, doing seated meditation [zazen], performing Zen question-and answers sessions [Zen mondō; Kōan] and the like.

Furthermore, neither did the "Fuke temples" have any patron households [danka], nor did they perform Buddhist funeral services.

Moreover, they do not appear to have been doing any earnest studies - in fact, they did not even preach to the masses, nor did they, basically, live any life of propagating the faith.

On the contrary, within the "Fuke temple" precincts, they both drank alcohol unscrupulously and engaged in gambling.

As an extreme example, there were some [komusō] who even pledged the temple's land or treasures, furniture and utensils.

From the standpoint of the komusō, that might perhaps be expected?

The reason was, as for them, that their social status as monks was [but a] "temporary refuge", and that they were proudly conscious of themselves as being essentially "brave warriors".
- - - "

     Link: Hōmei's Homepage: 朋盟のホームページ

Acc. to the official homepage of Izu City, Shizuoka Prefecture:


Komusō gravestones at Rōgen-ji


"Komusō gravestones at Rōgen-ji

[The members of] the Fuke Sect, while not having their heads shaved, wore a sacred shoulder scarf [kesa] (over their shoulders) and concealed their faces under braided basket hats [tengai/amigasa].

The sect of the komusō who blew the shakuhachi while travelling (as ascetics) all over the country, are said to have been a branch sect of the Rinzai Sect.

Together with the Shugendō (of the yamabushi) and the like, as the Fuke Sect did not perform funeral ceremonies, the (komusō) monks of Rōgen-ji were patrons [danka] of the Kinryū-in (temple), and it seems that the Buddhist priests of Kinryū-in performed their funeral rites.

However, judging from the location of the graves, we understand that these were placed inside the precincts of the Rōgen-ji (itself)."

     Links: Izu City Official Website & モリリン日記 weblog

     Acc. to Nakatsuka Chikuzen (1979, p. 97),
     Rōgen-ji was a subtemple of Anraku-ji, the
     head temple of which was Reihō-ji near Edo.
     Rōgen-ji was located in the vicinity of Izu City
     on the Izu Peninsula, southwest of Tokyo.

Acc. to the weblog of Makihara Ichiro, 牧原一路: 尺八と一休語りの虚無僧一路 , August 10, 2007:

「禅宗には、臨済宗と曹洞宗、黄檗宗、そして普化宗の4 つがあり、 虚無僧は普化宗の僧侶です」と中学の教科書にまで書いてある。

「虚無僧は、中国の普化(フケ)という禅僧を祖とする普化宗で、 日本には、鎌倉時代、紀州由良興国寺の法灯国師心地覚心が 伝えた」と。
- - -
虚無僧は、剃髪もせず、得度受戒もせず、僧籍も無いのだから、 僧ではない。

"It is written in Japanese junior high school textbooks that (quotation)
"Within the Zen sect, there are 4 sects, namely the Rinzai Sect and the Sōtō Sect, the Ōbaku Sect, as well as the Fuke Sect;
the komusō are Buddhist priests [sōryo] of the Fuke Sect."

Also, when looking at related internet sites, it generally reads as follows:
"As for the komusō, the founder of the Fuke Sect was the Chinese Zen monk Fuke;
the tradition was transmitted to Japan by Hottō Kokushi Shinchi Kakushin of the Kōkoku Temple in Yura in the Ki Province [present Wakayama Prefecture]."

This is all wrong, a big lie [ō-uso].
- - -
Because the komusō neither shaved their heads [teihatsu mo sezu], were not initiated into Buddhist monastic life receiving the precepts [tokudo jukai mo sezu], nor were members of the Buddhist priesthood [sōseki mo nai], they were not Buddhist priests.
"Being a priest, or not a priest."
That is, in everything, a Zen paradox [Zen mondō]."

     Link: 尺八と一休語りの虚無僧一路

Acc. to the weblog of Makihara Ichiro, 牧原一路, 尺八と一休語りの虚無僧一路 , August 10, 2007:


"Originally, the komusō temples were places for masterless samurai to gather [rōnin no tomariba].

They neither conducted funerary services, nor did they have cemeteries [bochi mo nai]."

     Link: 尺八と一休語りの虚無僧一路

Acc. to the weblog of Makihara Ichiro, 牧原一路, 平成の虚無僧一路の日記 , October 24, 2007:

もともと仏教界には普化宗など存在しませんし、虚無僧は出家得度を受けた僧では ありませんので、本物の僧侶ではありません。

"From the outset, the Fuke Sect and the like did not exist within the world of Buddhism [bukkyō-kai ni wa ... sonzai shimasen], and - because the komusō were not monks who had been initiated into Buddhist monastic life receiving the precepts [shukke tokudo o uketa sō de wa arimasen] - they were not real Buddhist priests [hommono no sōryo de wa arimasen]."

     Link: 平成の虚無僧一路の日記

Acc. to Yamaguchi Masayoshi, 2005, p. 187:

一般の寺院と異なり、経典らしきものもなく檀家もなく従って仏事も行なわない 。

"What, possibly, constituted the financial basis of the Fuke Sect temples and the komusō?

In contrast to the ordinary Buddhist temples, they had nothing similar to Buddhist scriptures [kyōten], nor did they have any patron households [danka] and, therefore, did not perform Buddhist funerals and memorial services [Butsu-ji]."

Acc. to Yamaguchi Masayoshi, 2005, p. 128:

普化宗の虚無僧の特徴は、まず普通の禅僧のように座禅や禅問答、民衆への説法 などは一切行わず、また檀家を持たないので法事などを行うこともなかったこと である。
- - -
つまり禅宗側から 「禅宗の一派」であると積極的に認めた形跡は全く見えず。

"As for the distinctive features of the komusō of the Fuke Sect, they did above everything not at all - like ordinary Zen monks - engage in practices such as seated meditation [zazen], Zen questions and answers [mondō], or preaching (the Dharma) to the populace [seppō].

Furthermore, as they did not have any patron households [danka], they did not perform Buddhist funerals and memorial services [hōji]."
- - -
"In the final analysis, from the viewpoint of the Zen Sect there is not at all to be seen any positively recognizable evidence of (anything like) "a branch of the Zen Sect" [Zenshū no ippa] whatsoever."

Acc. to Dr. phil. Oliver Aumann,

"Die Komusō zogen durch ganz Japan und die Tempel, die ihnen Unterkunft gewährten, und ihnen als Ausgangspunkte für ihre Bettelgänge (takuhatsu) dienten, werden heute allgemein Komusō-Tempel (komusō-dera) genannt. Streng genommen handelte es sich dabei jedoch nicht um Tempel im eigentlichen Sinne, denn sie hatten weder eine buddhistische Gemeinde (danka) noch erfüllten sie die Funktion von Familientempeln (bodai-ji), sondern sie unterhielten sich zunächst ausschließlich von den Almosen, die von den Komusō auf ihren Bettelgängen gesammelt wurden. Sie werden in den historischen Quellen als Badeplätze oder Bade-Tempel (furo-ji) bezeichnet. In der Edo-Zeit (1600-1867) dienten diese "Tempel" dann generell als Herbergen und finanzierten sich auch durch diese Einkünfte. Mit unserer heutigen Vorstellung von einem Tempel als Ort religiöser Übungen hatten diese Bade-Plätze nur wenig gemein. "
- - -
"An den Badeplätzen wurden, da die Komusō eine Art Zwischenstatus zwischen Laien- und Mönchsstand (hanzō-hanzoku) einnahmen, keine buddhistischen Zeremonien und auch keine Bestattungen durchgeführt und auch die Komusō selbst wurden nach ihrem Tod nicht dort, sondern in ihren jeweiligen Familientempeln beigesetzt. "

     Links: & Oliver Aumann


Nakatsuka Chikuzen: Kinko-ryū Shakuhachi Shikan
     (A Historical View of Kinko-ryū Shakuhachi).
     Nihon Ongaku-sha, Tokyo, 1979.

Nam-lin Hur: Death and Social Order in Tokugawa Japan:
     Buddhism, Anti-Christianity, and the Danka System.
     Harvard East Asian Monographs 282, Harvard University Asia
     Center, Cambridge, Mass. & London, 2007, 550 pages.

Yamaguchi Masayoshi: Shakuhachi-shi gaisetsu
     (An Outline of Shakuhachi History).
     Shuppan Geijutsu-sha, Tokyo, 2005.

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