The Transmission of the Dharma from the Buddha through to the present day is an important part of our Soto Zen practice. Each day we recite our Ancestral Line in gratitude and appreciation for the Buddhas and Ancestors. In additional to the listing of names below, here is the Ancestral Line in chart form Ancestral Line Chart copy
The Ancestors in Our Tradition. (The Ancestral Line)
Bibashibutsu Great Priest (Vipaśyin (S), Vipassin (P) Buddha)
Shikibutsu Great Priest (Śikhīn (S), or Sikhī (P) Buddha)
Bishafubutsu Great Priest (Viśvabhū (S) or Vessabhū (P) Buddha)
Kurusonbutsu Great Priest (Krakucchanda (S), Kondañña (P) Buddha)
Kunagonmunibutsu Great Priest (Kanakamuni (S), Koṇāgamana (P) Buddha)
Kashōbutsu Great Priest (Kāśyapa (S), Kassapa (P) Buddha)
The above Buddhas represent the Buddhas of the ages past.
Shakyamunibutsu Great Priest (Śākyamuni Buddha): (623-543 BCE) Siddārtha Gautama of the Śākyas, the historical Buddha.
Had many disciples from whom all the schools of the Dharma are descended.
Makakashyo Great Priest (Mahākāśyapa (S),Mahākassapa (P)): Chief Elder after death of the Buddha; convened the lst Council to preserve the Teaching.
Ananda Great Priest (Ānanda): Personal attendant of the Buddha for 20 years; upheld the cause of women in the Order; died at age of 120.
Shōnawashyu Great Priest (Śāṇakavāsin (S) or Śāṇakavāsa): One of the Elder Arhats present at the 2nd Council 100 years after the Buddha’s death.
Ubakikūta Great Priest (Upagupta (S)): Spiritual advisor to King Ashoka.
Daitaka Great Priest (Dhṛṭaka (S) or Dhītika): Descendant of the Gautama family.
Mīshaka Great Priest (Micchaka (S) or Miccaka)
Bashūmitsu Great Priest (Vasumitra): Chief Elder at 4th Council.
Butsudanadai Great Priest (Buddhanandi)
Fūdamitta Great Priest (Buddhamitra): a woman
Barishība Great Priest (Pārśva)
Funayashya Great Priest (Punyayaśas): Descendant of the Gautama family; renowned for his diligent practice.
Anabotei Great Priest (Aśvaghoṣa): One of the greatest Buddhist authors; reputed author of The Awakening of Faith and a life of the Buddha in verse; considered a Bodhisattva.
Kabimora Great Priest (Kapimala): Known as an Arhat.
Nagyaarajyuna Great Priest (Nāgārjuna): Greatest of Indian Ancestors; author of many works on the Scriptures of Great Wisdom; emphasized the via negativa; in all schools of the Mahayana he is considered to be a Great Ancestor and a Bodhisattva.
Kanadaiba Great Priest (Āryadeva): Chief disciple of Nāgārjuna; had only one eye; killed by anti-Buddhists.
Ragorata Great Priest (Rāhulatā or Rāhulata): Reputed to have performed wonders.
Sōgyanandai Great Priest (Sanghanandi or Sanghānandi)
Kayashyata Great Priest (Gayāshata or Sanghayaśas)
Kūmorata Great Priest (Kumārata)
Shyyata Great Priest (Sayanta or Jayata or Śayata)
Bashyubanzu Great Priest (Vasubandhu): Brother of the great master Asanga; major author of many works including a Buddhist encyclopedia the Abhidharma-kosha; he emphasized the via positiva.
Manura Great Priest (Manora or Manorhita): From a princely family.
Kakurokuna Great Priest (Haklenayasas or Haklenayaśas): From the Brahmin caste of northwestern India
Shishibodai Great Priest (Simhabhikshu or Āryasimha or Simhabodhi): A native of central India; executed in persecution of Buddhism ca. 259 CE in Kashmir.
Bashyashita Great Priest (Vasiasita): From Kashmir; died ca. 325 CE
Funyomita Great Priest (Punyamitra): Author of several works on meditation.
Hannyatara Great Priest (Prajñātāra): A woman who taught in southern India; died ca. 457 CE
The above Ancestors represent the Indian Ancestors.
Bodaidaruma Great Priest (Bodhidharma): From a royal family of southern India; travelled by sea to China; 1st Chinese Ancestor.
Taisō Eka Great Priest (Dazu Huike, Hui-k’o): Became disciple of Bodhidharma at age 40; received Lankāvatāra Sūtra from him; was executed at age 120 in persecution.
Kanchi Sōsan Great Priest (Jingzhi Sengcan, Chien-chih Seng-ts’an); possibly a woman who lived as a hermit; author of “Hsin-hsin-ming”; died ca. 606 CE.
Daiī Dōshin Great Priest (Dayi Daoxin, Tao-hsin)
Daiman Kōnin Great Priest (Daman Hongren, Ta-man Hung-jen): 601-674; Became a disciple when he was seven years old; served his master for 30 years; first Chinese Ancestor to teach openly and take many disciples. Had 500 disciples.
Daikan Enō Great Priest (Dajian Huineng, Hui-neng): 638-713; 6th Patriarch.
Nangaku Ejō (Nanyue Huairang, Nan-yüeh Huai-jang) 677-713.
Rinzai Gigen (Linji Yixuan, Lin-chi); Rinzai school named for him; d. 866.
Seigen Gyoshi Great Priest (Qingyuan Xingsi, Ch’ing-yüan Hsing-ssu): 660-740; from whom is descended the Sōtō school; chief disciple of Huineng (Hui-neng).
Sekitō Kisen Great Priest (Shitou Xiqian, Shih-t’ou Hsi-ch’ien): 700-790; author of Sandōkai; had many disciples.
Yakusan Igen Great Priest (Yaoshan Weiyan, Yueh-shan or Yao-shan Wei-yen): 751-834.
Ungan Donjō Great Priest (Yunyan Tansheng, Yun-Yen or Yün-yen T’an-shen): 742-841.
Tōzan Ryokai Great Priest (Dongshan Liangjie, Tung-shan or Tung-shan liang-chieh): 807-869; known for gentleness; had many disciples; Sōtō school named for him and Sōzan; author of the Most Excellent Mirror—Samadhi and the Five Ranks of host and guest; originated the term Lord of the House.
Sōzan Honjaku (Caoshan Benji, Tsao-shan): 840-901.
Ungo Dōyō Great Priest (Yunju Daoying, Yun-chu or Yün-chü Tao-ying): Foremost disciple of Tōzan; placed great emphasis on monastic training and the Precepts; one of the most influential persons of his time; greatly influenced Dōgen; d. 902.
Dōan Dōhi Great Priest (Tongan Daopi, Tao-pei): 889-955.
Dōan Kanshi Great Priest I (Tongan Guanzhi, Kuan-chih)
Ryozan Enkan Great Priest (Liangshan Yuanguan, Yuan-kuan)
Daiyō Kyogen Great Priest (Dayang Jingxuan, Ching-yuan): 943-1027; a very great master; sought the best person he could find to be his disciple; that monk, Fushan Fayuan (Fu-shan) (991-1067), already had a master but he promised to find an excellent person to continue the line after the death of Jingxuan; Tōsu Gisei was that person.
Tōsu Gisei Great Priest (Touzi Yiqing, Tou-tzu): 1032-1083; because of the above, he was called “Master of of marvelous continuation”; renewed and spread the Sōtō school; had many disciples.
Fuyō Dōkai Great Priest (Furong Daokai, Fu-yung): 1043-1118; placed great emphasis on meditation and Precepts; a very great master who had much influence on Dōgen; refused the honor of a purple robe from the Emperor.
Tanka Shijyun Great Priest (Danxia Zichun, Tan-hsia): 1064-1119
Wanshi Shōkaku (Hongzhi Zhengjue, Hung-chih): 1091-1157; great champion of the “serene reflection” tradition; had great influence on Dōgen; Abbot of Tendō-zan.
Chōrō Seiryō Great Priest (Zhenxie Qingliao, Chen-hsieh): 1090-1115.
Tendō Sōkaku Great Priest (Tiantong Zongjue, Tsung-chueh): 1091-1162.
Setchō Chikan Great Priest (Xuedou Zhijian, Cho-an): 1105-1192.
Tendō Nyojō Great Priest (Tiantong Rujing, Ju-ching): 1162-1228; Abbot of Tendōzan; Dōgen’s True Master; refused the purple robe.
The above Ancestors represent the Chinese Ancestors.
Eihei Kōsō Great Priest (Dōgen Kigen): 1200-1253; “Founder of Eihei-ji”; “Father” of the Sōtō school in Japan; refused the purple robe.
Koun Ejō Great Priest: 1198-1280; chief disciple of Dōgen; recorded the works of Dōgen in Shōbōgenzō; wrote Shōbōgenzō-Zuimonki; famous for his faithfulness to his master.
Tetsu Gikai Great Priest: 1219-1309; studied first under Dōgen then became Ejō’s disciple; visited China; Abbot of Eihei-ji.
Keizan Jōkin Great Priest: 1268-1325; “Mother” of the Sōtō school in Japan; founder of Sōji-ji and Yōkō-ji; wrote Denkōroku; spread the Sōtō teachings widely.
Gasan Shōseki: 1274-1365; founder of the Gasan Line.
Meihō Sotetsu Great Priest: 1277-1350; visited China; became abbot of Yōkō-ji; had many disciples.
Shugan Dōchin Great Priest: d. 1387.
Tetsuzan Shikaku Great Priest
Keigan Eishō Great Priest
Chuzan Ryohun Great Priest: 1350-1432.
Gisan Tōnin Great Priest: 1386-1462.
Shōgaku Kenryu Great Priest: d. 1485.
Kinen Hōryu Great Priest: d. 1506.
Teishitsu Chisen Great Priest 1461-1536.
Kokei Shōjun Great Priest: d. 1555.
Sessō Yuhō Great Priest: d. 1576.
Kaiten Genju Great Priest
Shūzan Shunshō Great Priest
Chōzan Senyetsu Great Priest: 1581-1672.
Fukushū Kōchi Great Priest
Meidō Yūton Great Priest
Hakuhō Genteki Great Priest: 1594-1670.
Gesshū Sōkō Great Priest: 1618-1696; ordained at age of 11; great reformer of Sōtō school.
Manzan Dōhaku Great Priest: 1635-1714; chief disciple of Sōkō; his descendants called Manzan Line; worked hard to remove the greed and corruption in the appointments to monastic offices; he wrote many commentaries on the works of earlier masters; clarified much confusion regarding the Transmission; one of the most influential masters of his day.
Gekkan Gikō Great Priest: 1653-1702; continued to spread his Master’s influence and teachings.
Daiyu Esshō Great Priest
Kegon Sōkai Great Priest
Shōun Taizui Great Priest
Nichirin Tōgō Great Priest
Sonnō Kyodō Great Priest
Sogaku Reidō Great Priest
Daishun Bengyu Great Priest
Kohō Hakugun Great Priest: he restored and became abbot of Yōkō-ji.
Keidō Chisan Great Priest: 1879-1967; Chief Abbot of Sōji-ji; a major historian of Buddhism; author of many works on all aspects of the Dharma; after World War II visited USA and Europe in order to spread the Dharma to the West; Transmission Master of Rev. Jiyu-Kennett; Founder of Shasta Abbey.
The above Ancestors represent the Japanese Ancestors.
Hōun Jiyu Great Priest: 1924-1996; An English woman, ordained in Malaysia, trained in Japan, and certified there as a Master of the Sōtō Zen lineage, before coming to the United States in 1969. Founder of Shasta Abbey, Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, and the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, as well as temples and meditation groups in North America and Europe. Served as Abbess and spiritual director of Shasta Abbey for 26 years. She taught and wrote extensively on Buddhism.
1. Chinese Buddhist Order of Sangha. A Dictionary of Buddhism: Chinese-Sanskrit-English-Thai. Bangkok: Chinese Buddhist Order of Sangha, 1976.
2. Daitō Shuppansha. Japanese-English Buddhist Dictionary. Tokyo: Daitō Shuppansha, 1965.
3. Dōgen. Vol. 1 of Shōbōgenzō. Trans. Kōsen Nishiyama and John Stevens. Sendai, Japan: Daihokkaiku Publishing, 1975.
4. Dumoulin, Heinrich. A History of Zen Buddhism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1963. (This book is not recommended except for certain research.)
5. Kodera, Takashi. Dōgen’s Formative Years in China. Boulder, Colorado: Prajna Press, 1980.
6. Ku, Y.H. History of Zen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1979.
7. Nārada, Thera. A Manual of Buddhism. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: The Buddhist Missionary Society, 1971.
and many, many others.
1. List of the twenty-eight Buddhas
2. Zen lineage charts
The Ancestors—exploration of alternative spellings
Vipashyin, Vipashyī, Vipaśyin(S)*, Vipassin (P)*or VipassīBuddha
Sikhin,Śikhīn(S)*, or Sikhī (P)* Buddha
Vishvabhū, Viśvabhū (S)* or Vessabhū(P)* Buddha
Krakucchanda (S)*, Kondañña (P)* orKakusandhaBuddha
Kanakamuni (S)* orKoṇāgamana(P)* Buddha
Kasyapa, Kāśyapa (S)*,Kāshyapa orKassapa(P)* Buddha
Ananda or Ānanda(S&P)*
Śāṇakavāsin (S)* or Śāṇakavāsa*, Śānavāsa, Sambhūta, Śāṇavāsi, Sanakavasaor Shānakavāsa
Dhṛṭaka (S)* or Dhītika (S)*
Micchaka (S)* or Miccaka* or Bibhaka
Aśvaghoṣa* Ashvaghosa, Ānabodhi or Aśvaghoṣa
Sayanta or Jayata or Śayata
Manora or Manorhita
Simhabhikshu or Āryasimha or Simhabodhi
Some of the spellings are from Wikipedia:
1. List of the twenty-eight Buddhas
2. Zen lineage charts