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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
PHOTOSBY(l-R):BaRBaRaWENgER,MaRYEllENMCCOuRT,MaRYlaNg Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a sesshin from July 7-14 and a special ceremony on July 15 honoring the many great Zen masters and lay supporters who have contributed to its rich history in the Dharma. Located near the small town of Livingston Manor, New York, on the highest lake in the Catskills, DBZ, as it is often called, traces its synchronistic history in America to Soyen Shaku, the first Japanese Zen master to visit the United States for the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. One of his students, D.T. Suzuki, wrote many books that created enormous interest in Zen all over the world. Another of his students, Nyogen Senzaki, came to live in the United States in 1905, worked as a cook and waiter, and was able to establish a small Zen sangha in Los Angeles. He corresponded for decades with Soen Nakagawa Roshi, with whom he chanted "Namu Dai Bosa" at the same time on the 21st of each month on either side of the Pacific. Both talented writers, they did not meet in person until after the war in 1947. One of Soen Roshi's most promising students was a young monk named Taisan, who was asked to go to Los Angeles and become Senzaki's attendant in 1958. When Senzaki died unexpectedly, Taisan instead helped to establish a Zendo in Honolulu and enrolled at the University of Hawaii in 1960. Told by Soen Roshi that Japanese Zen had many monks and would survive without him, but in America he could be "a drop of rain in the Sahara Desert," Taisan arrived in New York City on December 31, 1964, with no money and unshakable trust in the Dharma. Working clerical jobs, he took over what was left of The Zen Studies Society, founded by D.T. Suzuki who had gone back to Japan in his old age. With the financial help of Xerography inventor Chester Carlson and his wife Dorris, Taisan opened New York Zendo Shobo-ji in Manhattan on September 15, 1968. In 1972, Taisan received Dharma transmission from Soen Roshi and became Eido Shimano Roshi. He opened Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji on July 4, 1976, America's Bicentennial, with a ceremony that was covered by the New York Times Magazine and attended by many Buddhist dignitaries from around the world. The ashes of Soen Roshi and Nyogen Senzaki are buried in Sangha Meadow, a cemetery which overlooks Beecher Lake and Dai Bosatsu Zendo. With no experience in finance or construction, Eido Roshi was at first quite intimidated by the many decisions required to build a genuine Rinzai Zen monastery in the United States. His friend Bill Johnstone, a retired executive from Bethlehem Steel, said, "If you want a comfortable life, forget it. If you want a meaningful life, do it. I will help you"--words he has often passed on to his students. He has also been guided by Soen Roshi's dictum, "If you give your life to the Dharma, the Dharma will give itself to you." Since World War II, many western intellectuals have expressed the hope that Buddhism, with its acceptance of science and humble view of humanity's place in nature, might change the heart of America and Europe in ways that Christianity has not. Historian Arnold Toynbee said that the arrival of Buddhism in the West "may well prove to be the most important event of the 20th century." Philosopher Bertrand Russell concurred: "If we are to feel at home in the world, we will have to admit Asia to equality in our thoughts, not only politically but culturally. What changes this will bring, I do not know. But I am convinced they will be profound and of the greatest importance." We still do not know how these changes will manifest, but we do know that the countless students and seekers who have learned Zen practice at Dai Bosatsu Zendo under the guidance of Eido Roshi have indeed changed profoundly as the Dharma becomes more firmly rooted in the West. "Many have said, 'Practice 30 more years.' Master Rinzai has said, 'What kind of juice can you squeeze out from such dried-up old sayings?' Practice 300 more years! Practice 3000 more years!'" says Eido Roshi, who recently translated The Book of Rinzai. "I am still amazed that DBZ was born. I am even more amazed that after all that has happened, we continue our practice as if nothing had happened. It feels like a miracle, and I am grateful for it." Dai Bosatsu Zendo offers three-year training for monks on the path to ordination, 100-day "kessei" training for students seeking total immersion in Zen practice, six weeklong sesshin retreats and two five-day sesshins of intensive sitting per year, and numerous introductory weekends for beginners. For more information, or to make reservations, visit the website at www.daibosatsu.org or call 845-439 -4566. Three Decades in the Dharma DAI BOSATSU ZEN MONASTERY Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji Opening Day 1976 ADVERTISEMENT