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
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.