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January 18th 1769: Ekaku dies

On this day in 1769, the Zen Buddhist master Hakuin Ekaku died. He was one of the most important masters of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. Hakuin was born on January 19th 1686 in Hara, a small town at the foot of Mt. Fuji on the Tokkaido Road between Edo (modern day Tokyo) and Kyoto. Rinzai is known for its rather eccentric teaching methods, favouring shouting and sometimes physical violence in order to encourage a student to experience satori (instant enlightenment). Thus Rinzai was the religion of the samurai warriors, and Soto (the other main Zen school) was for the farmer and the peasant. He died on 18th January 1769, aged 83. Now, Hakuin is probably best known for one particular koan (riddle-like question) he invented for use in Rinzai training:

“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”