Letter from the Abbott: Mysterious Wonder at Chozen-ji

Ten - Shin - Myo calligraphy by Omori Sogen Rotaishi

Ten - Shin - Myo calligraphy by Omori Sogen Rotaishi

“The Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind.” Omori Sogen Rotaishi wrote these characters on the sign that hangs above the altar in the Budo Dojo at Chozen-ji. To me they describe how Chozen-ji has come to enjoy a second spring.

More than 500 people from Hawaii, the mainland US and overseas have experienced Chozen-ji this year—whether to celebrate New Year's, attend the Art Show, learn about Zen training for the first time or do shugyo. There is new gravel on the grounds; buildings and signs have been painted; a new wood burning kiln is taking shape; and new classes in tea, ceramics and Karate have started. Most meaningfully, more students are doing sesshin.

Many people have contributed their effort and resources for this all to happen, but there has been too much synchronicity for us to not attribute the Dojo's rebirth to the depth of our training and the Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind. As Honda Roshi puts it, “All we can do is train hard. The rest is the will of Heaven.”

As I write, we are on the fifth day of the Winter Sesshin. Everyone, from the people making and serving the meals to the students sitting zazen in the Dojo, are giving it their all. Alani Apio and Rosie Abriam Roshi—who were ordained as Chozen-ji priests in October—are training in the kitchen with Wong Roshi and a student from Toronto. In sesshin and beyond, several old time Dojo members have returned to Chozen-ji to train and support the Dojo.

Hard at work building the wood-fired kiln.

Hard at work building the wood-fired kiln.

Synchronicity made other important things happen at the Dojo, including a leadership retreat with 18 members of the management team from Hilo-based hardware, building supply and design company HPM. We also have a new treasure trove of Kendo gi, hakama and bogu to lend to new students until they can purchase their own. This is not only due to the generosity of Dojo members who contributed to the Gi & Hakama Fund, which we announced in the last newsletter, but also to the Hilo Hongwanji Kendo Club, who were disbanding and sent over three pallets of clothing and equipment, along with a donation to cover the cost of shipping.

Both the HPM retreat and the Hilo Hongwanji donation can be traced back to profound encounters with Tanouye Roshi decades ago. Tanouye Roshi taught the Hilo Hongwanji Kendo Club back then, and they were happy that their kendo equipment would be given new life at Chozen-ji. 20 years ago Mike Fujimoto, the CEO of HPM, his wife and his son Jason met Tanouye Roshi at Chozen-ji. At this meeting Tanouye Roshi drew a “Z” on Jason’s back without touching him to demonstrate kiai, and it was Jason, now the COO of HPM, who set up the leadership retreat.

The students here for sesshin right now are amazed at how much effort goes into making a sesshin and all of the training here at Chozen-ji possible. As one student put it, it is indeed “luxurious” to be able to train in such a beautiful place with people who are so determined and supportive. As Mike Fujimoto also describes in his article, the depth of training done at Chozen-ji provides inspiration and hope for humanity.

I hope you will train with us in the New Year and thank you deeply for your support.

Office Admin