Monday, January 9, 2017

How I becamce Abbot of Kanzeonji

All my martial arts instructors since I was a little kid, included meditation. But the Buddhist stuff didn't come in till in the early 80's with my teacher Hirotaka Okubo Sensei. We did Kendo, Kendo Kata, and Iaido; along with a warm up from Kyudo.

When I began Kyudo with Hirokazu Kosaka Sensei in 1983, we used a large staff like a bokken for our warm up to Kyudo. So it all flowed together for me. Kosaka Sensei is a Shingon Priest and I consider him my root teacher in Buddhism.

In 2000 I wanted to deepen my meditation and practice and asked Kosaka Sensei what to do. He told me to find a Zen temple near my home and go there everyday. So I started looking and visiting, but nothing 'clicked'.

One day at the local Japanese Bookstore, Kinokuniya, the had a list of Buddhist temples and I the book fell open to the page for Kanzeonji. I said, 'wow here's a great sounding Zen Temple, and it's right by my house'. I wrote down the number and called them. The fellow on the phone (who turned out to be the Abbot) said, 'Don't bother to come start, we're moving the temple to Ojai, too far away, so we're not taking any new students'.

I was a bit disappointed but, kept looking. A year or two later we were at jamba juice and saw a flyer for kids yoga. My daughter had been doing yoga poses as a baby and forever after just for fun on her own, knowing nothing of yoga. So we called, the number sounded familiar. When we arrived at Kanzeonji for the kids yoga class, the Abbot came to welcome us. I heard his voice and asked, "Hey, isn't this the same Kanzeoni that's 'moving to Ojai?'" "Oh," He said, "All the students begged me to stay, so we're keeping this space too." "Why don't you come sit with us."

So the next day I started sitting there every morning with the monks. I had no plans other than that, just a group to sit with every day.

3 years later he said, "one of our Kohai is taking nyumon tokudo (initiate vows); why don't you take it too. "ok" I said, I was just doing what he asked, since he asked.

They started me helping around the place etc and teaching me stuff.

3 years later he said, "You're kohai is taking zaike tokudo (lay discipleship), you should take it too." "ok" I said.

About 3 years later he thanked me for taking care of so much at the temple and kept having the monks teach me stuff. I would run the temple when they went to Japan on pilgrimage and such.

On one return trip he said, "I'm sorry, you're just like a monk (training there everyday and helping etc)" But I have nothing else to give you. (All of our tokudo ceremonies above zaike tokudo were for people who had actually lived in the temple).

Didn't really matter to me. Than one day he said, I could still give you dendoshi (a kind of transmission). I didn't know what it was, but that he wanted to give me something 'special was appealing'. So then we started teasing eachother about it; till he backed off and said, "Well, on my deathbed, I'm going to open one eye and see who is standing there, if it's you, I'll might give it to you."

Since it was just appealing and not that important to me I stopped asking about, realizing I had gone too far, and not really caring that much about it, just a kind of joke really.

But a few years later some of my kyudo students were asking to sit with me in the little zendo I made in the backyard. I wasn't really comfortable with having 'Zen' students though. I told this to Ryugen Osho (the Abbot of Kanzeonji). He said that with zaike tokudo I could teach meditation in my Zendo no problem, and answer any questions I knew the answers too, no problem. But he could see I still hesitated. I said that if he would come do a blessing ceremony for the zendo, that I would consider this his permission. He agreed and we arranged it.

He came and did a beautiful blessing ceremony. It was much longer and more in depth than any blessing ceremony we had done before; I'd been helping him with house blessing ceremonies etc. So when I took him home, I thanked him for the indepth blessing ceremony and for naming the zendo Jizo-an.

He responded, "Oh, that wasn't a blessing ceremony. That was a temple dedication ceremony. You're Zendo is now a Temple, Jizo-an, and you are it's Anjyu, please take good care of it.

When I asked what an Anjyu is, he just told me stories about different Anjyu in history. From then on he called me Anjyu-san.

Then, year before last he started talking about Dendoshi again. I realized that as the Anjyu of of Jizo-an, that in a way, I had been 'living' at the temple, and thus 'sort of' fulfilled that requirement of his.

But by this point I didn't really care if he gave me dendoshi or not, and told him so. This seemed to convince him even more. But we didn't do it right away. After one morning service that only he and I attended. He gave me the dendoshi certificate. I have his old robe, begging bowls, etc... that he just kind of casually gave me.

Shortly after that, he started talking about semi-retirement and me taking over, at least while he was traveling etc. When we would do a ceremony, he would say, if I'm not around you should do these ceremonies. Things like that.

At this time when we discussed his semi-retirement, he talked like this would be the end of 2017. But early 2016 he suddenly announced that he was closing Kanzeonji, and what did I want to do? Would I keep it running. I said of course. He said what do you want. We discussed it. He gave me all the main altars and temple items and asked me to keep the spirit alive. Gave me a few more pieces of paper. Said I was now the Abbot of Kanzeonji...

Friday, September 16, 2016

2016 Sept. 16th. University of Hawaii

This is the Peace Memorial at the University of Hawaii Manoa.

The Peace Memorial was actually an accidental discovery. Though there to meet up with a friend, I was wandering the campus to head for the Japanese Garden and Teahouse (Jaku-an).

Jaku-an is the cottage of tranquility; the grounds and garden adjacent to the teahouse certainly brought a sense of peace and harmony as I walked down the path following the flow of the stream.

2016 Sept. 16th. University of Hawaii

This is the Peace Memorial at the University of Hawaii Manoa.

The Peace Memorial was actually an accidental discovery. Though there to meet up with a friend, I was wandering the campus to head for the Japanese Garden and Teahouse (Jaku-an).

Jaku-an is the cottage of tranquility; the grounds and garden adjacent to the teahouse certainly brought a sense of peace and harmony as I walked down the path following the flow of the stream.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Jyozen and Kanzeonji L.A.

I've had several teacher's over the years. But there are two main ones. One is my 'root' teacher Hirokazu Kosaka Sensei; He calls me his legacy holder. He's a Shingon Priest, but I am not; the legacy I 'hold' is his teachings on traditional Japanese Culture; for me this is primarily the practice of kyudo or Japanese Archery that he taught me.
My other teacher is Rev. Ryugen Watanabe Osho. A Disciple of Soyu Matsuoka Roshi. Matsuoka Roshi was among the first Soto Zen Priests to come to America and specifically want teach those of non-Japanese ancestry. With some disagreements with Soto-shu Japan on how to do that, he recommended to several of his disciples to not worry about maintaining that relationship with Soto-shu Japan. So at that time we became non-sectarian. My teacher has openly embraced this as a way to reconcile the many sects and not be Zen per se, but simply Buddhist. But our practice, inherited from Matsuoka Roshi is primarily based on the same Soto-Zen Model. But we also have a variety of 'moving meditations' as promoted by other streams that Watanabe Osho studied.
With both of us having multiple influences from a variety of Buddhist Sects and Shinto too, we really like the non-sectarian model.
Also we have not traditionally used a temple setting; but simply use one of the members homes, or convert a home into a meditation space. So we simply practiced in one of homes Watanabe-Osho owned on Terrace 49 in Mount Washington CA. Recently he sold the last home, and is now a wandering homeless monk, which he seems to be enjoying quite immensely.
He, and everyone else, has assumed that I will take up the mantle. To some degree I will, though I have a zendo and some surrounding grounds here at home, that a few years back he dedicated as Jizo-an, a small Zen temple, and appointed me as it's anjyu. In this way I could 'live' at a temple and fulfill his requirement as eligible to take over in due time. It also gave me some experience in running a small temple with a few Sangha members. So, actually I like this small arrangement. But now, he says, I am the Abbot of Kanzeonji, we have moved most of the Temple Altars and other items to my place, and I've set up a temporary space. But it's much too small for more than the private or semi-private practices, I've already been holding. So I will continue that way, at least until the sangha can help decide how to expand; and even then, I would prefer not to expand too much. Best to be small, humble, invisible to some degree.

Non-Sectarian Temple

Kanzeonji moved to from Terrace 49, where it was founded in 1984 by Rev. Ryugen Watanabe Osho, A Japanese Buddhist priest who is also a Swami (yoga meditation master),to it’s new home on the same grounds as Jizo-an. Practice at Jizo-an, and now Kanzeonji L.A., is lead by a direct disciple of Watanabe Osho, Jyozen.
Rev. Watanabe wrote: “There are many sects in Buddhism. The teaching of Buddha is very deep and profound. Therefore, in order to study and practice his various teachings in depth, we had to separate them fo the past 2,500 years. For example, in Japanese Buddhism there are the “Soto” and “Rinzai” sects, also know as “Zen Sects”. These sects focus their practice on Zen meditation, and so they are meditation specialists. The “Nichiren” sesct focuses its pract on the Lotus Sutra exclusively. The “Shingon” sect concentrates on the esoteric teachings of Buddha, such as mantra, mudra, and meditation. There are many more sects than these.
All sects of Buddhism concentrate on the true teachings of Buddha, but each one approaches them differently. Sectarian Buddhism is wonderful. It has given us the opportunity to practice the various teachings deeply for all these years. Every sectarian teaching has merits and demerits. For the past 2,500 years the sectarian schools have completed there mission. Now it is time to unify the sects again.
There is one “laughing matter” in Buddhism; all the different Sectarian Buddhists should respect each other. But in reality some of the high priests teach that their sect is better than the others. They teach that “this sect is the true teaching, and the other sects are wrong”! One of the main teachings of the Buddha is non-attachment, but these so-called masters are very attached to the teachings of the sect to which they belong. It is very sad to see Buddhist of different sects fight against each other. They argue over doctrine. But whoever loses is an embarrassment to Buddha, and whoever wins insults Buddha’s teachings. No wonder many sincere followers of Buddha are confused by sectarian priests.
One of the purposes of Kanzeonji Non-Sectarian Buddhist Temple is to correct this “laughing matter” of Buddhism and to serve the public by presenting Buddha’s teaching in a non-sectarian way, creating a place for all Buddha’s disciples to get together to exchange energy and information. In one sense, Non-Sectarian Buddhism is just another sect: yes- the sect of no-sect!
This approach should not be restricted to Buddhism. Kanzeonji Temple attempts to approach all different kinds of religions with oneness.”