Letter from the Abbott: Chozen-ji, A Place To Do Shugyo
"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…(Chozen-ji is) a place of Zen training where persons of any race, creed, or religion who are determined to live in accordance with the Buddha Nature (the Inner Self or the Way) may fulfill this need through intensive endeavor without paying any dues or fees." —Tanouye Tenshin Rotaishi
At its heart, Chozen-ji is a place for people who are sincerely seeking the Way and are determined to realize their True Self through shugyo. Shugyo is a Japanese word which has no equivalent in English. The Japanese have six words for training, each signifying a deeper, more encompassing path: keiko-practice, renshu-training, kunren-discipline, tanren-forging, kufu-struggling to solve a problem with one’s entire being, shugyo—the deepest spiritual self-discipline. Shugyo is likened to forging a sword from iron ore. Fire, water, and iron are folded upon each other by the pounding of a hammer over and over again to create the cutting edge. At Chozen-ji “through intensive endeavor” in zazen, the martial and fine arts, and sesshin (a 6-day training) samadhi becomes deeper and clearer, and kiai becomes stronger.
Tanouye Roshi wrote, “Sesshin, Zazen, and Hojo are the core of shugyo.” Historically, students came up to Chozen-ji for classes once or twice a week, sitting zazen before practicing Hojo and their art. Many students did sesshin at least yearly, and did so for years. Today, the numbers of new students attending weekly classes, participating in sesshin and living in for several days to several months are growing. The people doing sesshin and living in have the most transformative experiences. Living at Chozen-ji allows the vibration of Chozen-ji to change their being. Concentrated, uninterrupted practice is necessary to collect the mind and experience samadhi. After leaving Chozen-ji, daily practice is necessary to keep centered and to keep perspective in the midst of the ten thousand things spinning around us.
As we continue to explore ways to transcend the form of Zen in today’s world, I believe live-in training adjusted to the individual needs of the student is a form of practice which has the potential of making shugyo available to people from around the world. Since last July, over 20 students, ranging in age from 25 to 83 and training experience from none to years, have lived in. They describe their experiences in this newsletter. This past sesshin, two men in their late 60’s and early 70’s participated with less than a year of training. They went beyond their self-imposed limitations, acutely aware of the limited time left to them and sincere in their desire to realize their True Self. Seriousness and sincerity are the only requirements for live-in training.
One may think shugyo is severe discipline requiring great sacrifice, but that is a beginner’s attitude. As one’s practice matures, zazen is pleasurable, and shugyo is fulfilling. Tanouye Roshi wrote, “Of course the training is strict, but that is the nature of things. The young child is born happy but without the capacity to savor life. Only through shugyo (spiritual self-discipline) can a man or woman gain the power to live freely and get the taste of life. Shugyo builds up the hara, the seat of control; it enlarges life.”
We hope that you will do shugyo with us at Chozen-ji, and others will benefit from your attainments.