life period : 1327 - 1387 | place of birth : Kanagawa Prefecture, JAPAN
nationality : Japanese | occupation : Life mission to revitalize Zen Buddhism in Japan
teacher/guru : Oko | education : Rinzai Zen
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Bassui Tokusho was a Japanese Rinzai Zen master who made it a life mission to revitalize Zen Buddhism in Japan during his lifetime. In that vein, Bassui preferred living the life of a hermit rather than settling in to a monastery. Orphaned at birth, he was left as an infant in an open field and a servant of his family found him there and raised the child. His natural mother had premonitions while carrying him that he was a demon child and so abandoned him. It is likely her leaving him in the field was done with the knowledge that the servant would then raise him.
As a young man Bassui was already asking the great philosophical questions such as, “Who is it that hears, sees and understands?” At age twenty he entered training at Jifukuji and studied with Zen Master Oko, ordaining as a monk nine years later after much reluctance to do so. He then went on to receive instruction from the hermit monk Tokukei Jisha, with whom he developed a close friendship.
While headed for a temple in Kii Province, Bassui became sidetracked and had a stay at Eigenji where the master there was Jakushitsu Genko, the great haiku poet. He wandered from there from hermitage to hermitage and, around him, a reputation for being a clear and enlightened teacher had developed. By the last decade of his life he had become so well-known that living as a hermit was no longer possible. He soon settled in Enzan and established Kogaku-an, where he lived and taught the remainder of his life. At his death, Bassui was sitting in meditation with his monks.