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Shohaku Okumura is retiring!

CedarTreeCedarTree Private Island Explorer

Many that follow Soto Zen or are involved in Soto Zen practice are aware of Shohaku Okumura the abbot of Sanshin Zen Community.

Shohaku Okumura is one of the most well known students of the famous zen master Kosho Uchiyama. When Kosho Uchiyama retired Shohaku Okumura left Antai-ji and was one of the first Zen masters in the west.

Shohaku Okumura is known as one of the primary Zazen and Dogen teachers in the West. His students have established many sitting groups, zen centers, and even a American version of the well known Antai-ji Buddhist Temple - Gyobutsuji Zen Monastery whos abbot Shoryu Bradley is one of Shohaku Okumura's main students, having received Dharma Transmission in 2010.

To be honest I am really saddened to hear about Shohaku Okumura retiring. This is a giant in Zen practice and a man widely respected in both Rinzai and Soto communities.

When I was a younger man in my early and mid 20's I desperately wanted to train at Sanshin Zen Community.

The new abbot is a woman named ​Hoko Karnegis. I was wondering if anyone knows of ​Hoko Karnegis or has run into her in the Soto Zen Community? I am sure if she has been chosen by Shohaku Okumura she will be a great successor.

Thankfully I have heard that Roshi will continue to publish and expand on Dogen. There has been in a sense a call for this.

All in all I guess we are turning a page but still kind of saddened to see it happen. Thankfully his students have done an excellent job in expanding authentic Zen practice in many spots and in a lineage dedicated to Zazen and truly knowing ones self.


  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Retiring from what?

  • CedarTreeCedarTree Private Island Explorer

    Being abbot of his Zen community and formal teaching. I believe still writing but that will be it as far as I understand.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Everything changes. Nothing stays the same, nothing is permanent, all is transitory.

    Get over it.
    Welcome change and rise up to greet it.
    Such stuff is what makes Life, what it is.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Will his sad students be pensioned off too?

    I am glad for him and pleased he will be writing, not that I intend reading any of his material. I prefer books with pictures. What exactly are you sad about?
    Loads of zen teachers about.

    You can write to some working Zeniths and abbots here in the 'Ask a Teacher' section ...

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    (We've all got to quit work sometime! I guess Masters, Gurus and Teachers are no exception.)

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I'll bet he's going to Disneyland! :grin:

  • CedarTreeCedarTree Private Island Explorer

    Lol I have to thank some of the posters in this one. Actually made me get a good laugh.

    Your right everything has it's season and things change.

    I guess I have been very lucky to be able to enjoy time and resources from great Theravada and Mahayana locations, monastics, academics and sometimes I worry the next generation or material won't be of the same caliber and or provide the same benefit.

    I'm glad I posted hah

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    This is something that I, as a one-time-student who is now 'of a certain age,' wonder about: Put one way, it is the natural progression of the child or student whose parents/teachers die or retire or relinquish or whatever ... leaving the child or student to be the grown-up/teacher. Pretending to be the parent or teacher is easy when there is a teacher to pin your ears back or encourage, but there is an eeeek factor that enters when the child realizes s/he's the only catbird seat that's left. No more pretense (or is there? ... you ... are... the teacher. Read 'em and weep.

    There is no talking yourself out of these circumstances. No more TED talks, no more Buddhist talks ... this is really and fershur ... you are the grown-up, you are the teacher and even if nothing has changed, everything has changed. It's a real challenge which reminds me vaguely of, I think it was Huang Po/Obaku, who was once lecturing his students and said, "There is no such thing as a Zen teacher." One of the students in the assembly stood up and said, "But master, how can you say such a thing when you are clearly standing before us and teaching us?" And Huang Po replied, more or less, "I did not say there was no such thing as Zen. I said there was no such thing as a Zen teacher."

    How can you be the grown-up when you are so busy playing the grown-up?

    Oh give it a rest! Eat a Twinkie!

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    @genkaku reminds me of something I read recently:

    The Big Joke of Zen Practice
    It seems that resistance to systems and distinctions is a big point for Zen. This entire text of mind training is for the purpose of reducing self-centeredness and generating compassion, yet in Zen it’s said that there is no such thing as compassion, because reality is already compassionate by its very nature, so there’s no such thing as compassion per se, as distinct from anything else. Why, then, prattle on about compassion? Nor is there any such thing as meditation, since consciousness is essentially meditation already. So why talk about meditation or postmeditation as distinct categories?   

    This is the humor, the Big Joke, of Zen practice that one finds over and over again in the sayings of the old masters. Whatever you privilege, whatever you define and adhere to, is always wrong and will, because wrong, always lead to a problem and a danger. Whether it is meditation or compassion or goodness or truth or enlightenment—whatever noble thing you’d want to know, experience, or aspire to—as soon as you privilege something and make a big deal out of it, there is always trouble. Whatever we designate as this or that, is just that, a designation, no more and no less, and we should recognize this and not get so excited about it.

    Excerpted from:
    Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong
    by Norman Fischer
    page 126

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    Hey @Jeffrey . That piece you quoted really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing it. Much appreciated. ???

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