Rinka Zen

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  • Japanese: 林下 (rinka)

Rinka (lit. "in the forest" or "beneath the trees") temples were smaller Zen temples which sprang up in the Muromachi period outside of the Five Mountains (Gozan) network of officially recognized & patronized Zen temples. Primarily popular among merchants, peasants, and lower-ranking samurai, they were located in more remote areas and commercial towns. Rinka temples provided local religious services, including blessings and funerals, and placed little emphasis on complex ritual, instead employing simplified rites and emphasizing zazen meditation.

When the Five Mountains system declined in conjunction with the decline of the Ashikaga shogunate, Rinka temples began to gain greater patronage from prominent local samurai families and others, gaining in prominence. Much of what Rinzai and Sôtô Zen are today is owed not to the big-name Five Mountains temples in Kyoto and Kamakura but to regional Rinka temples.


  • William de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol 1, Columbia University Press (2001), 310-311.