Shugyo at Chozen-ji

By Tenshin Tanouye Rotaishi

The basic philosophy behind Zen and Chozen-ji is similar to that found in many of the world’s great religions and philosophies – that the highest fulfillment of man lies in a joyful life completely devoted to the benefit of other beings. In Buddhist terms, this can be referred to as the rediscovery of one’s original nature. Yet, from the Zen point of view, holding this merely as another idea is not enough – it is essential that single-minded service to others becomes the reality of our day-to-day life. Making this ideal truly part of ourselves is an enormous task – it cannot be accomplished solely through intellectual study. Instead, there is a need for rigorous spiritual training (Shugyo).

Shugyo is a maturing activity –through it we learn to transcend the duality that causes suffering and hampers our development as human beings. Self and others, tension and relaxation, expecting and not expecting – all of these become one. Many people attain this sort of maturity late in life—the goal of training is to accelerate this process, so that we develop in time to be able to pass the benefits of our attainment on to others.
The core of Shugyo as practiced at Chozen-ji is zazen, or sitting meditation. In conjunction with this, we also practice martial arts and fine arts. These arts are not studied as ends in themselves (though Zen art often possesses a depth and clarity not generally found in other arts). Rather, we study these arts in order to understand their inner principles with the ultimate goal of learning to apply these principles to each moment of our daily lives. For example, if we use the intensity and timing of Kendo in business, or the perception and creativity of ceramics in household tasks, both the richness of our own lives and our effectiveness in helping others increases tremendously.

Chozen-ji provides a place where Westerners can do Shugyo without the financial, linguistic, and cultural difficulties involved in travel to Japan.  Although Zen is rooted in Buddhism, it is not a religion in the Western sense; it emphasizes training, not theology or religious beliefs.  In fact, many non-Buddhists find Zen training to be essential in their attempts to realize the inner meaning of their own religious or philosophical tradition.  Among current Chozen-ji students, one can find both Buddhists and Christians, as well as others with no set religious orientation.

The meaning of “Chozen” is “transcending the form of Zen,” or “super-Zen.”  We wish to serve as one gateway for the introduction of true Zen into America, not only as a philosophy but as a way of training.  Also, as a center for the study of Zen art, we hope to make a contribution to American cultural life.


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