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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
76 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 THE LAST THING HE WANTED to do was speak English. Shohaku Okumura had studied Buddhism and the thirteenth-century writings of Eihei Dogen at Tokyo’s Komazawa University, then taken priest’s vows and entered training at Antaiji, a Soto Zen temple in Kyoto headed by his late teacher, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. But because many Americans and Europeans were studying there, Uchiyama urged him to study English. When Uchiyama retired in 1975, he asked Oku- mura and two brother monks to move to the hills of western Massachusetts to help build a new Zen center. Nearly forty years later, Okumura Roshi is still building. Now based in Bloomington, Indi- ana, he and his students have in the span of a decade established a training center that draws students, lay and ordained, from around the world. And through his translations, he is con- tinually expanding the English Zen canon—it is by Michael Haederle in part through his efforts that Western students now have access to the entirety of Dogen’s work. This is how Okumura strives to fulfill the legacy of his beloved teacher. English just comes with the territory. Practice at his center, Sanshin Zen Community, begins most mornings before dawn. Zen students come together in the high-ceilinged basement of a white three-story building set back from the street and take their places on rows of tatami mats. There they face a wall and sit in silence. Shikantaza—just sitting—is the heart of the practice here. It’s a simple, austere approach that dispenses with much of the ritual often associated with Soto Zen. During Sanshin’s five-day sesshin, for example, the schedule includes neither chant- ing nor dharma talks. Instead, one forty-minute period of zazen follows the next for a total of fourteen hours a day. Okumura says he is preserv- ing the tradition of his late teacher, who called his retreat style “sesshin without toys.” PROFILE SANSHIN ZEN COMMUNITY Shohaku Okumura (center) and his wife, Yuko, visit with his teacher, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, in Nagano, Japan, 1984 PHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWNPHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWN