Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Ordination ceremony

On Sunday, September 19, 2010, Kyōon Dokurō ordained his first disciple and also the first nun of Hōun-an, Dharma Cloud Hermitage. The ordination ceremony was attended by members of the Sangha, guests and ended with an informal vegetarian lunch.

We welcome Myōki (明気) McTighe to our sangha as an ordained disciple in training and wish her all the best in her Zen training within the Rinzai-ji tradition. Myōki started her practice with Teido Stephens, who is a disciple of Kozan Gentei Stewart, who studied with Sasaki Roshi and teaches in North Carolina. When Myōki moved to the Boston area for a new job she searched for a place to sit and joined the practitioners at Dharma Cloud Hermitage in 2005. Since then she has been a steady presence in the Zendo and attended several week-long retreats with Sasaki Roshi. Her training will continue locally but also include frequent participation in Dai-sesshin at training facilities where Sasaki Roshi teaches.

The ordained sangha at the temple now consists of the Vice-abbess Shūko, Myōki, and the Abbot, Dokurō. Together with the other practitioners we will continue to further a strong place of Zen practice that is sincere, genuine, and welcoming.

July Dai-sesshin at Mt. Baldy

Dharma Cloud Hermitage had a good showing of four participants in the July Dai-sesshin that opened Mt. Baldy Zen Center’s Summer Seichu (training period). Shuko, Myoki, Taigen, and Dokuro participated in the week of intense schedule. The number of participants was around 30 full-time, which made it a good match for Roshi, who gave four sanzen (private interviews) a day, and the usual daily teisho (lecture).

The weather was at first cool, but then turned into a hot stretch. It was nice to be able to connect with many long time students of Sasaki Roshi, just sitting in the same meditation hall, and to see that there is still agood number of younger Zen students who join these retreats.

At this point Roshi is in the last days of a five-day retreat at Rinzai-ji, celebrating his 48 years in the United States.  Roshi’s health is good, as reported by Myoren, who has been serving as his Inji for some time now. Dokuro had a phone call with Roshi yesterday, and Roshi sounded strong and healthy. We congratulate him on his 48th anniversary of arriving in the US. May there be many more in good health.

Summer Schedule: July – Mid-September 2010

Weekly Schedule

Wednesday, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Evening Zazen

Doors will open 15 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting times.

During the summer we reduce our schedule to a once-a-week meeting on Wednesday nights. The reduced schedule lasts until mid-September, when the full schedule will resume. We will have one occasion for a longer sit this summer, which yet remains to be determined and which will be announced here as well as by an email update.

Have a great summer!

Open House

Once a month the Open House offers guests and newcomers a glimpse of formal Zen training. An abbreviated schedule is followed by refreshments and the opportunity to ask questions and chat with sangha members.

The dates for the summer Open House events are:

July 14, August 4, September 1, all occur during the regular Wednesday time. We start at 7:30 pm and end about 9:00 pm.

May Update 2010


On May 2nd we had an extended sitting that ended with the Buddha’s Birthday celebration, Hanamatsuri. A few non-regulars came, and we had nice attendance. After the ceremony there was an informal vegetarian lunch that was in part provided by some of the participants. Special thanks to Jamie and Ginny for the delicious vegetable stew. Also thanks to Michael, Martha, and the other visitors for joining us on this special day.

Other News

We had a nice crowd of visitors for the Open House on May 5. A group of high school students from Concord Academy made their way to the Zendo to learn a little bit about the practice in which we are involved. The abbreviated formal schedule offered a short Dharma talk by the Abbot, and as usual the evening ended with refreshments, conversation, questions and answer style dialog. The sangha is always glad to welcome visitors and give the opportunity to have a look into what formal Zen practice encompasses.

April 2010 Update

On April 1, 2010, Joshu Roshi celebrated his 103rd birthday. To commemorate the occasion and Buddha’s birthday a Hanamatsuri Dai-sesshin at the root temple Rinzai-ji in Los Angeles was given. Roshi gave Teisho on Case 1 from the Blue Cliff Record (Hekigan-roku). Shuko and Dokuro were participating in the Dai-sesshin and the Hanamatsuri ceremony, which was on April 8. The following Saturday, April 10, Roshi ordained Kumiko Yasukawa as a Zen nun and gave her the dharma name Myoren. Congratulations!

The Zendo, in conjunction with a personal donation from the abbot and vice-abbess, gave Roshi a 27″   HDTV/Monitor and a five DVD set “Earth” from BBC as a birthday present. Roshi enjoyed watching the entire first presentation, taking in the wonderful visuals from the BBC production. For an hour and a half he was completely absorbed by the images, temporarily forgetting about the sciatica and other pains that come with a 103-year-old body. Roshi is in good health for his age and his mind is still as sharp as ever. We all wish him good health for many more years. The monitor will enable him also to see digital pictures sent to the Inji via email on the large screen.

On Saturday, April 24, Dokuro was invited to lead a retreat for the Harvard Buddhist Community. The retreat drew some nine participants; it was held at the Center for the Study of World Religions on Francis Avenue. Zazen, walking meditation, discussion, and a dharma talk made up the program. Laura Votey, who organized the retreat for the HBC, also helped facilitate a lunch with contributions from other members of the HBC. The overall consensus was that more such retreats should be offered throughout the year.

We are planning on the Hanamatsuri ceremony at the CBA sometime early in May. A separate announcement will be sent out via the email list. If you would like to be on that list please send us a quick note via the contact form on this site.

January Update

We greeted the New Year with a Joya-no-kane sit on New Year’s eve. There was a good number of friends who came to the CBA to help us celebrate the old and welcome the new. It was nice to be able to share the 108 strikes of the large bell with everyone who came.

The Open House events in January and February were well attended, and some new faces have joined the sittings. It is nice to see that the practice at the CBA draws seekers without having to advertise.

Shinge Roshi gave a teisho at the CBA on January 10, 2010 on the Rinzai Roku. We were very glad to have the opportunity to have her visit the former place of her practice (with Maurine Stuart) and to have a teisho presented. Although there are many different schools and traditions it is very important to keep the wonderful fact in mind that we all are working on investigating the same Great Matter. Many thanks to Shinge Roshi for her generosity.

During the Rinzai-ji Dai-sesshin in January Sasaki Roshi’s Inji called up and told Shuko that Roshi was looking for a particular translation of the Hekigan-shu (Blue Cliff Record) Case 1 and Case 2 by D.T. Suzuki. Roshi remembered that he used to have it, but he could not find the translation. Several scholars were contacted, but none was able to come up with it. Shuko did a little investigation about it on the Internet and found out that the translations were published in a particular periodical out of Otani University in 1968, The Eastern Buddhist. With the help of that knowledge and the OCLC WorldCat (a catalog of holdings of libraries around the world) we were able to find out that Harvard Divinity School should have the 1968 Vol.1 and Vol. 2. Dai-sesshin had already progressed to the second day without translation of the cases. Shuko had the brilliant idea to go and look at the CBA if we had these volumes in the library – and voila! Right there, on the shelf, just what Roshi was looking for. A quick scan, email to Rinzai-ji, and the Dai-sesshin had finally the required translations. Many thanks to Shuko for her investigation and brilliant idea!

At this time we are deciding when to hold our next day-sit. If it does not work out in February, we’d like to have something in March. Please come back to the site and check for news about that, or check the RSS feed that you can susbscribe to at the bottom of this page.

We also wish Taigen a quick recovery from his injury – six screws in his clavicle. We miss him at the Zendo and send him our best.

December Retreat Update

It is Sunday morning, and we are just about the start the regular morning sitting. This is the second day of our retreat to commemorate Buddha’s enlightenment.  About ten participants joined us for the retreat, some of them part-time, the majority full-time for both days.

The Saturday schedule looked like this – if you’re ever interested in joining one of our retreats:

6:00 am Sarei – formal tea, followed by the morning chanting (choka)
7:00 am Zazen (seated meditation), kinhin (walking meditation) alternating unti
8:10 am Informal, silent, self-serve breakfast
9:30 am Zazen, kinhin (alternating)
10:30 am Dharma Talk, followed by zazen, kinhin
11:45 am formal lunch followed by 20 minutes of cleaning (nitten soji)
1:15 pm Zazen, kinhin
1:50 pm Hosan sarei (tea) followed by afternoon chanting (banka), zazen
3:30 pm Samu, one hour of meditate action, i.e., “work”
4:45 pm Gyodo – walking chant (Heart Sutra), zazen, kinhin
5:45 pm Closing

The officers were:
Shika: Shuko
Shoten: Hogen

Tanto: Dokuro
Jikijitsu: Myoki
Shoji: Jodo


Participants had a chance to sit for an extended time, chant the entire Sutra Book three times, and reap the benefit of a strong group sitting together. The formal meal also offers a good entrance into the world of extended formal practice and surely is a good preparation for participation in a Dai-sesshin with Joshu Roshi. Participants also had the option the meet privately with Dokuro.

We are going to plan the retreat dates for the coming year and will announce them here, so that we have a longer lead time and our friends can make plans with plenty of notice.

Changes for 2010

For the upcoming year we – as a sangha in conjunction with the abbot and the vice-abbess – have decided to move the Sunday morning schedule back thirty minutes. Instead of starting at 9:30 a.m. we will be starting at 10 a.m. sharp, following the same schedule that constitutes the regular Sunday morning. We hope that this change will help to accommodate those who need just a little more time on Sunday morning before joining us here at the Zendo.

We have also started a new process in which all sangha members who have received jukai and a dharma name will be responsible for running the retreats under the supervision of the ordained members of the sangha. This will help us come up with the dates for retreats earlier and as a community.

Rinzai-ji October Dai-sesshin

Last week the vice-abbess Shuko and I went to participate in a five day retreat at Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles.

Joshu Roshi changed the General Sesshin that ran from 10/14 through 10/18 into a Dai-sesshin, meaning that there was full-time sitting schedule with four sanzen and teisho. The numbers were quite impressive, having as many as 37 participants. A large number, almost 20, came all the way from Europe to sit with Roshi. This contingent also included Seiun Genro, Osho from the Bodhidharma Zendo in Vienna – the teacher with whom I first made contact with in 1982 and who started me in formal Zen practice. It was nice to meet many people with whom I go back as far as 27 years of practicing together. It is just amazing to be able to see and appreciate the changes that take place over this amount of time. I feel very fortunate and grateful to have met such outstanding teachers and human beings. A good number of these European practitioners I have not seen since I moved to the US, that means for more than fifteen years. It was nice reconnecting with them.

Joshu Roshi was in good health condition and did not skip a single sanzen. Although he is working slower now than in the past, he saw each of us four times a day. With this number of participants the time elapsed during sanzen varied between four and six or seven sitting periods. This translates to anywhere between two and three and a half hours – which adds a massive amount of sitting to an already tight schedule. Some days we did not close the zendo before 10:45 pm, which pushed the schedule way beyond the 9 pm regular closing. Even with these changes, the 3 am wake-up remains in effect. Altogether this made up for an intense Dai-sesshin that had a quiet and calm overall tone. I had the honor to serve as Jikijitsu and lead the group through most of the retreat. Roshi has moved on to Saisho, Mt. Cobb in northern California, where he is giving a Dai-sesshin starting on the 22nd of October. Mt. Cobb is an evolving center that is aspiring to build Rinzai-ji’s senmon dojo – the monastic training center for future generations of Rinzai-ji monastics, teachers, and leaders. A full plan for all facilities is in development and Gido Osho, who is in charge of Saisho, is working very hard to realize this aspiration on Roshi and his sangha. Many thanks and a deep bow to him and his helpers.

Many thanks also to everyone who helped in making another Dai-sesshin with Roshi possible, and to all who covered for us absentees during that time. We’re back!

Early Fall ’09

We have resumed our full schedule after Labor Day weekend and the Zendo has come back to its full life. With the new site there will be more frequent updates on what’s happening, articles, essays, and other materials that pertain to what we do at Houn-an.

The October 7 Open House was well attended, we had visitors from the Harvard Buddhist Community, as well as individuals who just came to check out the CBA. A quick sit, followed by walking meditation, and an introduction to the practice of chanting made up the formal part of the evening. Refreshments after allowed for a lively discussion, question and answers, in which visitors and sangha members contributed. We always appreciate the visitors, and sometimes we see faces return and join the sangha.  Like a living organism that constantly changes, our group also undergoes changes. We have a core group of practitioners who sustain the practice and serve as officers during the formal sittings. This is a good place to thank them for their support and participation in the activities of the temple.

Today we learned that the Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, John Daido Roshi, has succumbed to cancer. He was a successor to Maezumi Taizan, but had also studied with Nakagawa Soen. The Mountain and Rivers Order has lost their founder and the American Zen landscape a fixture and prominent personality.

The loss of a Zen teacher always makes me keenly aware of the unfathomable privilege to have been able to study with Joshu Roshi over the last decades, and to be still able to go and work with him in his 103rd year here on this planet. In fact, next week the vice-abbess and I will be able to participate in a Jidori Sesshin with Roshi and a good number of his European sangha at Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles. If all works out I will also have the opportunity to meet again with Seiun Genro Osho, with whom I first started in the early eighties of the last century. Genro is himself geeting up there, 85 years of age, and it will be neat to have him there with Roshi. There will also be a good number of ‘old’ Zen students I know from my early Zen times in Austria.

In our absence the Zendo will be run by our senior sangha members. Please attend frequently and take advantage of the opportunities to sit, chant, walk, and share the spirit of the sangha. Your participation is important and we are truly grateful having you be part of our community.