Clear Mind School
the sutras we chant to the posture and breathing that we do in zazen,
the brand of Rinzai Zen practiced at Albuquerque Zen Center is strong
and uncompromising, embodying the spirit of our founding teacher,
Kyozan Joshu Sasaki, Roshi. Although he has now reached 100, the
intensity of Roshi's teaching has not wavered since he first arrived
45 years ago on a mission to bring Zen to Americans.
Many consider him to be the dean of Zen teachers in America, due
to his seniority and the 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 (or Tathagata) Zen,
which combines a rigorous analysis of dharma activity with realization.
Joshu Roshi was born in April 1907 in Miyagi Prefecture.
He became a novice at the age of 14 under Joten Soko Miura Roshi,
who went on to head Myoshin-ji in Kyoto, headquarters of the largest
school of Rinzai Zen. Joshu Roshi trained at Myoshin-ji between
the ages of 21 and 40, and in 1947 he received teaching authority
as a roshi. In 1953 he became abbot of Shoju-an, an abandoned temple
in Iiyama, Nagano Prefecture that had once been presided over by
Dokyo Etan, teacher of Hakuin Ekaku, who revitalized Rinzai Zen
in the 18th century.
Joshu Roshi was 55 when the kancho (abbot) of Myoshin-ji asked
him to relocate to America. He arrived at Los Angeles International
Airport on July 21, 1962, where he met his sponsor, Dr. Robert Harmon.
Both men remember that Roshi, who spoke little English, carried
with him both Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionaries.
Harmon rented a small house on Mariposa Street in Gardena, where
Roshi took up residence. With few furnishings or amenities at first,
the house was Roshi's residence by day and a zendo at night. He
conducted Zen meetings on weeknights and Sunday mornings, as well
as weekly meetings 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 Dojo Association. Over the next few years, as Roshi's reputation
spread throughout Southern California, he led group zazen in homes
in the Hollywood Hills, Laguna Beach and Beverly Hills. When the
Mariposa zendo outgrew its quarters in 1966, the group started holding
zazen in office space donated by Harmon. Around the same time Roshi
ordained his first monks, among them Kodo Ron Olsen andGentei Sandy
In July 1967, Roshi commemorated his fifth anniversary in the U.S.
by conducting his first seven-day dai-sesshin in the mountain village
of Idyllwild, Calif. In January 1968, the organization's name was
changed to Rinzai-ji, Inc., and it bought its first property, Cimarron
Zen Center. A complex of buildings surrounded by high walls, Cimarron
Zen Center needed extensive renovation before it was formally dedicated
on April 21, 1968, and Roshi took up residence there along with
a group of students. Cimarron now is known as Rinzai-ji.