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Sōtō Zen or the Sōtō school (曹洞宗 Sōtō-shū?) is the largest of the three traditional sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism (the others being Rinzai and Ōbaku). It is the Japanese line of the Chinese Cáodòng school, which was founded during the Tang Dynasty by Dòngshān Liánjiè. It emphasizes Shikantaza, meditation with no objects, anchors, or content. The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference.
The Japanese brand of the sect was imported in the 13th century by Dōgen Zenji, who studied Cáodòng Buddhism (Chinese: 曹洞宗; pinyin: Cáodòng Zōng) abroad in China. Dōgen is remembered today as the co-patriarch of Sōtō Zen in Japan along with Keizan Jōkin.
With about 14,000 temples, Sōtō is one of the largest Japanese Buddhist organizations. Sōtō Zen is now also popular in the West, and in 1996 priests of the Sōtō Zen tradition formed the Soto Zen Buddhist Association based in North America.