view of his staff as a sign of his vocation so that “No longer was it some-thing to be viewed as a source for money. It was now representative of power and authority from God.”19Much of this narrative could also apply to Zen, including supernatural claims of Moses’ staff turning into snakes before the Pharaoh to make a point about spiritual skill in connection with expressing the power of moral superiority. For Zen, as with the biblical passages, the staff is paradoxically comforting precisely because it usually causes discomfort, and vice- versa. As suggested by the title of a work by Suzuki Shōsan (1579– 1655), A Safe Staff for the Blind(Mōanjō盲安杖), which he wrote in 1619 to proselytize before he took the tonsure, the Zen staff when used for the purpose of reaching out to lay followers can be considered among the most reliable and trustwor-thy of objects.20
Zen Staffs as Implements of Instruction 9Zen Staffs in JapanGiven its overall importance in the unfolding of the Zen tradition, it is not surprising that the staff played a crucial role in the establishment of the Sōtō and Rinzai sects in Japan during events that occurred nearly a cen-tury apart in the Kamakura era, as initiated by eminent temple founders and lineage perpetuators, Dōgen (1200–1253) and Daitō (1282–1336). Two remarkable stories about how these masters enacted the teaching styles of their respective factions of Zen discourse highlight how the staff served in various ways as the main implement of instruction for both.21In these instances, understanding the historical context is crucial for clarifying why the staff became so prominently useful for the purpose of transmission. As recorded in 2.147 of his Extensive Record(Eihei kōroku), Dōgen’s incident took place during an evening sermon (jōdō) presented in the Dharma Hall at Eiheiji temple in 1245, when the monastery was still called Daibutsuji before being renamed a year later. He was intent on implementing the style of preaching he observed during his four-year stint in the 1220’s in China, where he attained enlightenment under the tute-lage of Rujing (1163–1228). The new temple had recently been constructed in the remote district of Echizen province far from Kyoto, which Dōgen left in the summer of 1243. The reasons for his exodus are unclear, but it was due in part due to turmoil instigated by the actions of jealous Tendai tem-ple leaders as well as competition from a rival Rinzai faction. The monk Enni (1202–1280) had returned in 1241 from spending six grueling years in China while training under master Wuzhun (1178–1249) to build Tōfukuji temple with the support of the regency. Tōfukuji was situated nearby, and it apparently dwarfed in scope and prestige Dōgen’s much more modestly sized Kōshōji temple. Both temples were modeled to a large extent after the kinds of monasteries the monks had experienced on the mainland.