Organized Panel Session
This paper examines a veritable explosion of more than eighty commentaries produced during the Edo period on the Shōbōgenzō (Treasury of the True Dharma-Eye), the masterwork of Dōgen (1200-1253), founder of Sōtō Zen in medieval Japan, whose writings were greatly influenced by voluminous Song-dynasty Chan literary materials. This development occurred mainly during the eighteenth century when the actual publication of Dōgen’s text was prohibited. Nevertheless, Sōtō monks composed extensive comments to analyze rhetorical and theoretical elements of the founder’s appropriation of continental sources. There are several levels of significance. First, this helps defeat two stereotypes often expressed in Western studies: one is that the Shōbōgenzō was more or less ignored, with a small handful of exceptions, from the time of its inception in the thirteenth century until the twentieth century; and the other is that the text consists of 95 fascicles, which was just one of numerous compilations being considered in the Edo period. Another area of significance is to discern innovative and, in some ways, “modern” commentarial methods being crafted to carefully distinguish between reference works that are annotations, chrestomathies, concordances, citation indexes, critical editions, explanations, or interpretations. Third, this paper reveals how a fierce debate unfolded that remains vital in contemporary Japanese scholarship concerning whether Dōgen’s idiosyncratic uses of Chinese sources represented either a series of errors in need of being corrected or a deliberately “changed or altered set of readings” (yomikae) of the original works, elevating his status to that of a “genius of misreading” (godoku tensai).