Joshu Sasaki, Roshi, was an instrumental influence in the creation of the AZC. Roshi was trained in the Myoshin-ji tradition of Rinzai Zen in Japan. He completed his training and received inka in 1947. In 1962 he was asked to come to the United States. From a modest beginning in Gardena, California, Roshi established Rinzai-ji, Mt. Baldy and Bodhi Manda Zen Centers in the early ‘70s, teaching a demanding style of Rinzai Zen practice that became the standard at these and other centers.
In 1989 a group of Roshi’s students in Albuquerque decided to start a sitting group and rent facilities for regular daily practice. With guidance from Seiju, the group rented a small house in southeast Albuquerque and started offering daily Zen practice.
After a few years of steady growth, the Albuquerque students started looking for a more permanent home for the Center. The sangha was able to find a suitable piece of bare land, but there were no resources to purchase it. Roshi stepped in and donated the purchase price of the property that is the current home of Albuquerque Zen Center. The practice and teaching offered at the Center are based on Roshi’s teaching and Seiju’s training. The Center would not exist in its current form without the contributions of Joshu Roshi.
Besides being a remarkable teacher and inspiration for many students, Joshu Sasaki was also a troubled human being. For decades Roshi pursued sexual relationships with some of his female students. This behavior was responsible for much pain and suffering among his sangha. In Albuquerque, some sangha members were deeply distressed by this and chose to leave the sangha.
Albuquerque Zen Center is deeply appreciative of Roshi’s many contributions to the Center. The Center does not condone Roshi’s behavior, and forbids sexual relationships between its teachers and students. To properly appreciate Sasaki Roshi’s impact on American Zen all of his behavior must be acknowledged.