Zen 101

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Revamping Website

Hi All, Just a quick note letting you know I am revamping my website.  To quote someone famous, "Why don'cha come up and see me sometime!" Address: http://daihoroshi.org

Monday, December 29, 2014


With palms together,
Dear Readers,

Recently I retired from my leadership role at the Order of Clear Mind Zen.  A new abbot has taken my place and the three local Zen sanghas have come together under one roof to be now referred to as Daibutsuji Zen Temple with its headquarters at the Zen Center of Las Cruces.  I am pleased at these developments.  The new abbot, Rev. Shukke Shin-sensei, has tons of new ideas and brings a younger, fresher face to the Sangha.

The Order of Clear Mind Zen will continue but not as a formal corporate entity.  We are a religious Order upon which our priests and lay precept holders are trained and ordained.  I will continue to be its head teacher and will continue my work with my students.  While initially I thought I would no longer accept students, I believe I am changing my mind and will, indeed,  begin to accept new students and teach.  It's what I do.

If you should wish to become my student please email me at daihoroshi@gmail.com telling me something of your background and interests. We will then schedule an initial interview.  I accept students from all over the world and offer interviews through Skype or FaceTime.

I will be using this blog site in conjunction with Facebook and my website (daihoroshi.org) as primary venues for my written work and notes regarding my activities and so forth.  If you should wish to friend me on Facebook, please send me a friend request. My Facebook name is "Sodaiho."

Take time to practice Zazen today even if its just five minutes.,


Liberation, Part One


From Rev. Senzaki’s correspondence in “Eloquent Silence,” (p 386) a few noteworthy notes: 

“… present day Japanese Buddhists do not understand true Buddhism, but are clinging to sectarian ideas instead.”  

And of Priest emissaries here to teach Zen:

“With few exceptions they are not accomplishing anything here but propaganda and the advertisement of their titles and cathedrals, like sandwich men peddling their wares.”

…”They may think they can do things here in America just as they do in Japan, but they are badly mistaken.”

Yet, today, years later, some of us cling to the Japanese as final arbiters of what is and is not Zen.  Authenticity from mind-to-mind transmission, practice, and up-right living are not as important, it would seem, as what lineage we are from and whether that lineage is officially recognized by Soto Shu in Japan.  

Senzaki-roshi, like Matsuoka-roshi, wished to build an authentic Zen practice here in the United States, a practice not dependent on Cathedrals, titles, and brocade robes. Theirs was a simple practice, one Rinzai, the other Soto, but each engaged in a simple, straightforward practice of Zen.  As we so often say, it was “nothing special.” 

The quotes above remind me of Dogen Zenji’s travels to China and his desire to bring “True Buddhism” to Japan.  His True Buddhism was in the daily practice of Zazen.  As Dogen Zenji attempted to find an authentic teacher, he went through a lot of “advertisements” and those closely affiliated with governing bodies first.  His true teacher, like another Zen radical, Uchiyama-roshi, simply practiced Zazen.     

Many have written and spoken about Zen in America.  There have been retreats dedicated to discovering, or perhaps creating and directing, what Zen in America is or will become. I fear these are essentially a wasted effort, as Zen cannot be directed, especially from the top down, or by groups of well meaning priests.

My Dharma grandfather was a pioneer in Zen here in the United States. He had a fresh vision developed Zen from its true roots, practice.  When he initially taught, Zen Centers were rare.  He did what Senzaki did, he practiced living room Zen.  His centers often, if not always, began from establishing sitting groups in living rooms. Nothing fancy and no trained assistants. He made do, training an Ino when necessary.  Training a Tenzo when meals were needed. As was pointed out (as if a criticism of Matsuoka), by James Ford and Michael Elliston, he often ordained people before they were ready and trained them into their positions. Today we call that OJT.  It is not a bad way to teach.  Its hands on. In fact, we might say, “it's the American way.”

In truth, living room Zen is good, practice in parks and on the streets is good, and practice in our offices or on our motorcycles is good.  Each of these require nothing but the willingness to sit down and shut up.  Pandering to benefactors, holding out one’s lineage as something special, or making idols of dead teachers: these are our jailers, dear friends, not our advocates.