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Rinzai-shū (Jap. pronunciation of ‘Lin-chi’, the Chinese founder of the line, + shū, Jap., ‘tradition’, ‘school’, or ‘teachings’). With Sōtōshū, one of the two dominant forms of Zen Buddhism widely practised in Japan. This tradition, founded by the Chinese master, Lin-chi I-hsüan (d. 867), is usually considered to have been introduced into Japan by Yōsai, also known as Eisai (1141–1215). In fact, however, it did not crystallize as an independent Japanese school until two or three decades after his death. The modern Japanese tradition owes much of its spiritual development to the revitalization of the practice brought about by Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768).

Rinzai-shū is noted for its emphasis on the more audacious forms of Zen training, including shouting, striking, and the dynamic exchanges between master and disciple centring on the kōan. According to Hakuin, the master's role is to bring about a crisis in the student called the ‘Great Doubt’ or the ‘Great Death’ so that, in a moment of realization (satori), the student makes a spiritual breakthrough.

When the Rinzai school was officially recognized by the state, it was organized in a tripartite system of gozan (Five Mountains), jissetsu (Ten Temples), and shozan (the remaining larger temples). The list of Five Mountain temples changed many times (though it remained based on Kyōto and Kamakura), but this structured and state-recognized form of Rinzai is often called Gozan Zen.

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