"For those of us involved in practice while we are living in the world of words, it is veryimportant to have a clear insight into that world that is prior to words. But people whoremain fixated in the world of words, believing the world of words is basically the onlyworld, typically are those who have great fears relative to death. We commonly findmany people who are fixated in the world of words, believing that the world of words andall that is associated with it is the only world. On that basis they want to achieve the mostluxurious and comfortable lifestyle and are not concerned very much with other people.Such people inevitably are doomed to suffer. If we take the trouble to become sensitive toour situation, we come to see that although the world of words appears fairly substantial,it is actually a very conditional world subject to dissolution at any time. When we clarifythe whole matter of dissolution and what is prior to the world of words, we can live herein tranquility."From the book, The Zen of Myoshin-ji Comes to the West, 1987Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi has taken his strong – some would say severe – style ofRinzai Zen to thousands of Western students, a sizeable network of training centers andZen organizations has grown up to facilitate practice and preserve the Rinzai tradition herepresents. Ironically, when he came to these shores Roshi did not expect to build a largeorganization. "I had thought of having five or six students who really lived the life of Zenand that would be it," he said in an interview last year. "I would die in America. I had noplan to create temples or centers."Many consider him to be the dean of Zen teachers in America, due to his seniority andthe vitality of his dharma, but he is easily among the oldest Zen priests in the world.He is the foremost representative in America of a teaching method called Nyorai (orTathagata) Zen, which combines a rigorous analysis of dharma activity with realization.Joshu Roshi teaches that in every moment we must manifest our true nature, emptiness orzero, and realize dharma activity. Tathagata Zen teaching declares that the Dharmakaya,perfect complete unity, is never fixed. It is always spontaneously dividing itself andreuniting to realize a new Dharmakaya. The Dharmakaya divides itself into two primalactivities, Tathagata and Tathaagata, or expansion and contraction, and gives rise to thethree worlds of past, present, and future. Self, world, space, and time – everything – arisefrom the Dharmakaya dividing itself and everything returns to the Dharmakaya asexpansion and contraction reunite. The aim of Tathagata Zen practice is to manifest ourtrue nature and realize dharma activity as our true self.Joshu Roshi has kept a relatively low profile throughout his time in the US, preferring towork with his monks and lay students while maintaining a rigorous monastic trainingenvironment at Mount Baldy Zen Center in California. But he has mythic status in Zencircles. He is the teacher with whom many other well-regarded Buddhist teachers come tostudy. Shinzen Young, Genki Takabyashi Roshi, and George Bowman have all calledhim their teacher.
Joshu Roshi has stated that most Americans dont grasp Japanese Rinzai Zen. Americanshave been taught that they cannot exist without God, he said.From the Buddhist point of view, God is not a living thing you can look upon, saidRoshi, who speaks in Japanese and uses an interpreter. God is not something you cantake as an object. Buddhism says there is no God, there is no absolute personified beingother than the manifestation of the complete self.The person who takes God as an object is the mistaken self, he said. Zen practice bringspeople to their true selves. That is a dangerous concept in a country where most peoplebelieve in God, he said. The goal of Zen is zero, or the state of emptiness. At that point,Roshi said, there is no God and no need to take God as an object because a person isexperiencing God. That is God. That is the perfect self. There is no need to ask God forhelp, he said. There is no need to want to see God.But he likes Americans, even if they have a hard time understanding Zen. They like to trynew things, and they have a strong will to make a new culture, he once said. Im over 93years old, so I dont really care if Zen is really born in America or not. Im just here,practicing with you, he said.Over time, Joshu Roshi evolved his own koan system to teach American students. Herealized that most American Zen students lacked the background in Buddhism that isassumed when a monk enters a monastery in Japan. Rather than starting his students witha koan from the Mumonkan, Joshu Roshi developed a family of koans that forced hisAmerican students to re-examine their own everyday activity, for example, “How do yourealize your true nature when driving a car?” or “Where is god when you see a flower?”Joshu Roshi has avoided publishing his teaching, for the most part, because his teachingmethods are always evolving. In the past few years he has committed himself morestrongly than ever to rooting his Rinzai-ji network of Zen centers on a foundation ofdharma activity.Joshu Roshi was born into a farming family in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan in April 1907. Atthe age of fourteen, Roshi traveled five hundred miles to Sapporo in Hokkaido, northernJapan, to become a zen student. There he was made a novice monk under Joten SokoMiura Roshi, who went on to head Myoshin-ji, one of the two preeminent Rinzai templesin Japan. Roshi was ordained an osho (priest) at the age of twenty-one, receiving thename Kyozan. Between the ages of 21 and 40, Joshu Roshi lived as a priest at Myoshin-jiin Kyoto, but in 1947 at the age of forty, he received his authority as a roshi and becameabbot of his own monastery. In 1953, Roshi became abbot of Shoju-an in Iiyama, NaganoPrefecture. Shoju-an, the temple founded by Hakuins master was in disrepair, and Roshiset about restoring it. Roshi taught at Shoju-an until 15 years later, when Joshu Roshi wasasked by the abbot at Myoshin-ji to relocate to America.Dr. Robert Harmon and Gladys Weisbart were both members of the Joshu Zen Temple inLittle Tokyo, Los Angeles, and had been independently trying to bring a Rinzai Zenmonk to Los Angeles. Once they found out about each others efforts, they began a united
campaign. In Joshu Roshi, Dr. Harmon found an interested candidate. After working outthe details by correspondence, the Kancho of Myoshin-ji, Daiko Furukawa Roshi,formally requested Joshu Roshi to begin teaching Zen in the United States.He arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 21, 1962, where he was met byhis sponsor, Dr. Robert Harmon. Both men remember that Roshi, who had but arudimentary commmand of English, carried with him both Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionaries. Dr. Harmon rented a small house on Mariposa St. in Gardena,where Roshi took up residence. With few furnishings or amenities at first, the house wasRoshis residence by day and a zendo at night.Roshi conducted Zen meetings on weeknights and Sunday mornings, as well as weeklymeetings at the homes of some of his students. He served as jikijitsu, shoji and tenzo,while also giving sanzen and leading the chants at the beginning of each meeting.In November 1963, Roshi and his Zen students incorporated the Rinzai Zen DojoAssociation. Over the next few years, as Roshis reputation spread throughout SouthernCalifornia, he led group zazen in homes in the Hollywood Hills, Laguna Beach andBeverly Hills. When the Mariposa zendo outgrew its quarters in 1966, the group startedholding zazen in office space donated by Harmon.Around the same time Roshi ordained his first monks, among them Kodo Ron Olsen,who had studied with him since 1964. Kodo, who is married to Myosen Marcia Olsen,now is abbot of Joshu Zen Temple in Redondo Beach, Calif.In July 1967, Roshi decided to commemorate his fifth anniversary in the U.S. byconducting his first seven- day Dai-sesshin in the mountain village of Idyllwild, Calif. InJanuary 1968, the organizations name was changed to Rinzai-ji, Inc., and it bought itsfirst property, Cimarron Zen Center.A complex of buildings surrounded by high walls, Cimarron Zen Center neededextensive renovation before it was formally dedicated on April 21,1968, and Roshi tookup residence there along with a group of students. Cimarron now is known as Rinzai-ji.Three years later, Rinzai-jis main training center, Mt. Baldy Zen Center, was openedhigh in the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles. Formerly an abandoned BoyScout camp located in the middle of a national forest, Mt. Baldy operates under a 99-yearlease from the government. Rinzai-ji has been refurbished to accommodate residentmonks and nuns, as well as visitors attending Dai- sesshin.Mt. Baldy Zen Center has gained a reputation in American Zen circles for its rigorouspractice, which includes 19-hour-a-day sesshin schedules. Most of Rinzai-jis monks andnuns have received some or all of their training there.With the establishment of the Rinzai-ji and Mt. Baldy Zen Centers, Joshu Roshi had laidthe groundwork for a corps of ordained monks, nuns, and priests to help him carry out hiswork. When a Mt. Baldy student named Michelle Martin asked Roshi to come to NewMexico to conduct a dai-sesshin, he playfully replied, "You find hot springs, I come."
After she returned to New Mexico, Martin and a friend found an old Catholic monasteryfor sale in Jemez Springs. They invited Roshi to inspect the facilities to see of they wereappropriate for a Zen community, and, in 1974, Jemez Bodhi Mandala was founded, nowknown as Bodhi Manda Zen Center.Centro Zen de Puerto Rico, Inc. was established in 1983 by the Puerto Rican students ofRev. Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Roshi has been giving dai-sesshin in Puerto Rico since 1979under the sponsorship of Dr. Oscar Moreno who organized several sesshins withoutbenefit of having an existing Center. In 1983, with the help of many people here, theACOPRO (Accion Comunitaria para el Progreso) center, built by Don Salvador Sendra,was offered and acquired as Centro Zen.Rev. Tando Jeffrey Bower was invited from California to help direct and develop theCenter and remained as director of Centro Zen until 2001. He was substituted by Rev.Zengetsu Wanda Stewardson who became Kanju of Centro Zen until October 13, 2006when Rev. Gentatsu Oscar Pereira was appointed Vice Abbot by Kyozan Joshu SasakiRoshi._____________________________________________________________________Rinzai (Lin-Ji) Lineage of Joshu Sasaki RoshiTang DynastyHui-neng 638-713Nan-yueh Huai-jang (Nangaku Ejo) 677-744Ma-Tzu (Baso) 709-788Pai-chang (Hyakujo) 749-814Huang-po (Obaku) d.850Lin-chi (Rinzai) d.866Sung DynastyHsing-hua Tsung-chiang (Koke Zonsho) 830-888Nan-yuan Hui-yung (Nanin) d. 930Feng-hsueh Yen-chao (Fuketsu Ensho) 896-973Shou-shan Shen-nien (Shuzan Shonen) 926-993Fen-yang (Funyo Zensho) 942-1024Shih-shuang (Sekiso Soen) 986-1039Yang-chi Fang-hui (Yogi Hoe) 992-1049* this is the beginning of the Yogi line of ZenPai-yun Shou-tuan (Hakuun Shutan) 1025-1072Wu-tsu Fa-yen (Goso Hoen) 1024-1104Yuan-wu (Engo) 1063-1135* beginning of the Engo line
Hu-chiu (Kukyu) 1077-1163Ying-an (Oan) 1103-1163Mi-an (Mittan) 1118-1186Sung-yuan (Shogen Sogaku) 1139-1209Last Zen Master in the Mumon kanYun-an Pu-yen (Unan Fugan) 1156-1226Hsu-tsang Chih-yu (Kido Chigu) 1189-1269 • After Hsu-tsang transmits to Shomyo, Chan begins a severe decline in China. The Mongol rule begins and Confucianism & Taoism are injected into the lineages. Later in the Ming dynasty Pure Land is merged with Chan.Pure Kanna (Koan) Zen goes to JapanShomyo (Daio Kokushi) 1235-1309Myocho Shuho (Daito Kokushi)founded Daitoku-ji TempleKanzan Egen (Muso Daishi) 1277-13602nd Abbot Daitoku-ji Temple1st abbot Myoshin-ji TempleJuo Sohitsu 1296-1390Muin Soin 1326-1410 *Tozen Soshin (Sekko Soshin) 1408-1486 *Toyo Eicho 1429-1504Youzan Keiyou *dates unknown, listed in an old Japanese document.Other names are possible.Gudou Tosyoku (gudo kokushi) 1577-1661 **So far we have not been able to determine Gudous teacher. He was a long term monk at Myoshin-ji and itsaccepted that he was an heir of this line. Youzan Keiyou shows up in an old Japanese lineage chart, but as yet I havenot found any information on him.Shidou Bunan -- 1602-1676Shoju Rojin (Dokyu Etan)HakuinGassan Jitou 1727-1797Inzan Ien, Shoto Ensho (1751-1814)Taigen Gisan, Taigen Shigen (1768-1837) Shoen Daisetsu, Daisetsu Joen, Daisetsu Soen (1797-1855)Dokun Joshu, Ogino Dokuen, Dokuen Joju, (1819-1895)Banryo ZensoJoten SokoJoshu SasakiInformation compiled from several sources including a list from Roshi Sasaki, Zen in Japan--Dumolin, Jikyu-an, and Shambala dictionary.