Daihonzan Chozen-ji is a Rinzai Zen temple established in Hawai‘i in 1972 by Omori Sogen Rotaishi who is a Direct Dharma Successor of the Tenryu-ji Line of Rinzai Zen. He is also a successor of Yamaoka Tesshu's Taishi School of Calligraphy and of the Jikishinkage School of Fencing. In 1979, Omori Rotaishi established Daihonzan Chozen-ji as the main temple and headquarters of a new line of Zen with Tanouye Tenshin Roshi as the abbot.
Born Stanley Tanouye, Tanouye Roshi was a kama‘aina – born of the land of Hawai‘i – and a public school teacher with a specialty in music who turned his school room into a martial arts dojo every afternoon. He was also a determined student of the martial arts and earned the 6th or 7th degree in seven different arts including Judo, Kendo, Karate, Iaido, and Jojitsu. Given this background, he revolutionized Zen training with his principle of “Ki-ai First!”– to cultivate and live into one’s essential spiritual energy as the primary focus. Tanouye Roshi taught that this spirit is cultivated physically through one’s own breath and center, and he developed an accessible method for this practice that emphasized the interruption of habits and attachments. In doing so, he gave practical form to Omori Rotaishi’s proclamation in the first line of the Chozen-ji Canon:
Zen is to transcend life and death (all dualism), to truly realize that the entire universe is the “True Human Body,” through the discipline of “mind and body in oneness.”
A Manawa , A Spiritual Mountain in Hawai'i
As a public school teacher, Tanouye Roshi spent summers training with his teacher in Japan. Omori Rotaishi asked him to return to Hawai‘i and make Chozen-ji a Daihonzan – its own headquarters that may make its own institutional and teaching decisions. Perhaps he recognized that the ancient practice was evolving in an important way, and that it would be best incubated in Hawai'i, possibly as a recognition of the similarities between Zen and ancient Hawaiian spiritual practices.
On her first visit, Pilahi Paki, a great Hawaiian spiritual teacher and activist, recognized Chozen-ji as a Manawa, one of four spiritual energy “mountains” of Hawai‘i thought to be lost in modernity. True to its name (meaning the Temple of Zen transcending Zen), Chozen-ji seeks to go beyond the forms that differentiate us, and acknowledge the essence of who we are. Nana Veary, another renowned Hawaiian spiritual teacher, said she felt like she came home when she came to Chozen-ji and that Tanouye Roshi was a Zen Master who taught and embodied the spirit of Aloha.
Enter Zen through the Body and the Ways
At Chozen-ji, one enters Zen through the physical body and the Ways. In stillness and in activity, the student refines breath, posture, and awareness to cultivate vital energy. The various practices, especially meditation, are intended to grow the state of concentration and relaxation in which one is fully present, moment by moment.
For those who wish to go deeper, Chozen-ji also offers practices, methods and teachers to foster the practice discipline intended to accelerate our pathways to wisdom and compassion. These are characteristics that many people attain naturally as they grow older. Thru deep practice, we can benefit our communities earlier in our lives.