Rinzai-Ji

rinzai-ji_zendoRinzai-ji’s main training center, Mt. Baldy Zen Center, was opened in 1971 in an abandoned Boy Scout camp high in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. Located in the middle of a national forest, Mt. Baldy operates under a 99-year lease from the government. The monastery sits beneath towering conifers on a scree slope strewn with granite boulders – notoriously hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It has been refurbished to accommodate resident monks and nuns, as well as visitors attending dai-sesshin. Mt. Baldy Zen Center has gained a reputation in American Zen circles for its rigorous practice, which includes 19-hour-a-day sesshin schedules. Most of Rinzai-ji’s monks and nuns have received some or all of their training there.

With the establishment of the Rinzai-ji and Mt. Baldy ZenCenters in the late 1960s mt_baldyand early 1970s, Joshu Roshi had laid the groundwork for a corps of ordained monks, nuns and priests to help him carry out his work. When a student named Michelle Martin asked Roshi to come to New Mexico to conduct a dai-sesshin, he playfully replied, “You find hot springs, I come.” Back in New Mexico, Martin and a friend found an old Catholic monastery for sale in Jemez Springs. They invited Roshi to inspect the facilities to see of they were appropriate for a Zen community, and, in 1974 Jemez Bodhi Mandala (now known as Bodhi Manda Zen Center) was founded.

BMZC Sutra HallBodhi Manda became Roshi’s second training center, offering daily zazen and communal work practice. Bodhi Manda borders the Jemez River, set deep in a canyon with towering red sandstone walls. The facility includes dormitories, a communal dining hall, and guest quarters. Bodhi Manda residents have extensively renovated the property, expanding the hot pools, piping geothermally heated water through the living quarters to provide heat, and planting an orchard and an extensive garden, which provide fresh vegetables and fruit for the residents.

Bodhi Manda Zen Center integrates a challenging daily schedule of formal practice and samu with monthly zazenkai and spring and fall training periods known as kessei (each of which includes several dai-sesshins). Jiun Hosen Christiane Ranger, Osho, serves as Bodhi Manda’s vice-abbess.

Another important component of Joshu Roshi’s work in the United States has been the annual Summer Seminars on the Sutras, begun at Mt. Baldy Zen Center in 1977. Over the past 30 years, the seminars have drawn Buddhist scholars from around the world to examine the fundamental principles of Buddhism. The seminars have been held at Bodhi Manda Zen Center since 1985.

Joshu Roshi has traveled extensively to lead dai-sesshins. He has conducted sanzen (koan practice) with students in the U.S., Canada, Poland, Norway, Austria, Germany, Spain, Belgium and New Zealand. For nearly 10 years, he held regular dai-sesshins for Trappist monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass.

Meanwhile, Roshi’s students have established Zen centers in places as diverse as Albuquerque, Tempe, Ariz., Boulder, Colo., Vashon Island, Wash., Pittsboro, N.C., Vienna, Austria, San Juan, P.R., Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, B.C., Ithaca, N.Y., Brooklyn, N.Y., Miami, Fla., Mt. Cobb, Calif., and Princeton, N.J.