Sesson Yubai (雪村友梅)

Sesson Yubai (1290 - January 14, 1347) was a Zen monk of the Rinzai Sect who lived from the late Kamakura period to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan).

Becoming a disciple of Issa
His father was of the Ichinomiya clan (a descendant of the Minamoto family) and a local clan in Echigo Province, and his mother was from the Suda clan (a descendant of the Fujiwara family) in Shinano Province. In 1290 he was born in Shiratori, Echigo Province. When he was small, he went to Kamakura and served Issan Ichinei at the Kencho-ji Temple as saburai-warawa (a boy accompanying a dignity). It seems that he learned about China including the Tang language from Ichinei who was a naturalized priest from the Yuan Dynasty, China. Then, after he vowed to follow the precepts of Buddha at the Kaidanin-in Temple on Mt. Hiei, he moved to the Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto.

Going to Yuan
Before long, in 1307, when he was eighteen years old, he traveled by sea to Yuan. For two years he looked around Cambuluc (Beijing City) and visited many priests and scholars such as Genso Gyotan, Hikoku Kirin, Tosho Tokkai, Kaiki Ganki, and Johei Koryu. However, as the relations between Japan and Yuan worsened, Japanese priests in Yuan were regarded as spies, and he was imprisoned in Huzhou. Johei was also arrested for sheltering Sesson, and died in prison. On the verge of execution Sesson impulsively recited Rinken no ju, a poetic verse 'Endangered by a sword' by Mugaku Sogen, and the overwhelmed executer postponed the capital punishment, and thus Sesson escaped execution. Chugan Engetsu who visited Kangnam some decades later recorded that the Rinken no ju had been attributed to Sesson, but not Sogen there after this event.

Being excused from the death penalty, Sesson was banished to Changan, and three years later again to Chengdu, Sichuan Province, where he spent ten years. During this period he read various books on Confucianism and history, and it is said that he used to rip the pages and throw them away into the river once he had memorized the contents.

After he was released under an amnesty, he went back to Changan to spend three years there. Though he began feeling strongly homesick in those days, he became the chief priest of the Suibi-ji Temple in Nanshan, Changan as requested, and was conferred the title of 'Hokaku Shinku Zenji' by the Yuan Dynasty.

After returning to Japan
He took passage in a merchant ship and came back to Hakata, Japan in May 1329. On the same ship were Minki Soshun and Jikusen Bonsen who were coming to Japan, as well as Tenga Eko and Motsugai Kaju who were returning to Japan. He went back to Kamakura, and next year he became the tassu, the priest who takes care of a tacchu, sub-temple founded to commemorate the death of a high priest.
The tacchu, 'Gyokuunan' of the Kencho-ji Temple had been founded for Issan, the mentor of Sessan

Later, in 1331 he was invited by Mitsusada KANASASHI, the Shinto priest of the Suwa-jinja Shrine and the head of a powerful family, and went to Shinano Province. He founded the Tokuun-ji Temple by the request of Tameyori, the Shinto priest as well. Furthermore the next year, he was invited by Norihide OGUSHI, a samurai in Kyoto and became the chief priest of the Saizen-ji Temple in Saga (Kyoto City). Also, he was invited by the Otomo clan in Bungo Province, and moved to Oita to serve as the chief priest of the Manju-ji Temple and lived there for three years. He went to Kyoto again and lived a secluded life in Toganoo, but recommended by Norihide OGUSHI, Norimura AKAMATSU, the Governor of Harima Province invited Sesson to found the Houn-ji Temple (Kamigori-cho) built by Enritsu. Comparing the clear waters reflecting the colored leaves of the Chikusa-gawa River nearby to the Kinko, or Jing Jiang River in Shou (Chengdu) where he was imprisoned, he named the sango (literally, "a mountain name"), the title prefixed to the name of the Houn-ji Temple, Mt. Kinka (the characters mean gold and flower).

In 1340 the ASHIKAGA brothers Takauji and Tadayoshi bid Sesson serve as the chief priest of the Manju-ji Temple in Kyoto repeatedly, but he refused it firmly because of his illness (palsy). But Enshin's earnest request lasted for several years and at last moved him; in August 1343 he took the post of the chief priest of the Manju-ji Temple. However, after only one year he resigned, and moved into Seijuan in Higashiyama the next year. His paralysis worsened in this period, and he went to Arima Hot Springs in Settsu Province for a cure.

Nevertheless, the Imperial Court this time ordered him to become the chief priest of the Kennin-ji Temple, and he was inaugurated in March or April 1345. Sesson's fame made the inauguration ceremony magnificent. Between December 1346 and January 1347 the next year he served as the officiating priest for the memorial service of the thirteenth anniversary of his senior priest Sekiryo Ninkyo's death. When he reached the fifth part of Ryogon ju mantra and was burning incense and bowing three times, he became paralyzed on his right side (possibly by a cerebral stroke). He refused all the doctors and medicine delivered from the Imperial Court and samurai, and on January 22, 1347 he tried to write his final poem with his left hand in vain, threw away the brush in anger splashing the ink around, and passed away. Died at the age of fifty-seven. During the golden age of Gozan Literature he was the priest who acted as the central figure; his collections of poetry and prose included "Bingashu," a collection of his gatha, or poetic verse of Buddhism during his stay in Yuan, and "Hokaku Shinku Zenji goroku," a collection of poetry, prose, and sayings of Hokaku Shinku Zen priest, after returning to Japan.