50 Years in the West

On July 21, 1962, Kyozan Joshu Roshi arrived in the United States to begin teaching in the West. On July 21, 2012, Rinzai-ji hosted a ceremony and celebration to honor the fifty-year treasure of that teaching.

A foretaste of the Anniversary celebration came on Tuesday, July 17, with the arrival of a delegation from Zuigan-ji Temple bringing gifts and congratulations to the Roshi from a temple where he had formerly served as head master at Yotoku-in in Zuigan-ji Temple in Japan. (See the post on this website for this event.)

On Thursday, ordained sangha and students began arriving from Mt. Baldy as well as from around the United States and Canada to finalize preparations for the Anniversary, proper. Friday was a day of dai-samu that included readying for a ceremony at Rinzai-ji and for a celebration on the North lawn of the nearby Clark Memorial Library.

Early Saturday saw plenty of activity in both venues. Among the last-minute details: double-checking the guest list (over 250 names!); trouble-shooting the live sound and video feeds for two remote venues from which to view the ceremony; touching base with exhibit and parking coordinators, caterers, and security at the Clark Library; and readying the sanzen room for a sarei to welcome a delegation from Myoshin-ji, headed by Noritake Roshi, that soon arrived with gifts and congratulations for the Roshi.

A high spirit of good harmony and cordial exchange continued through the ceremony which included a dharma talk by Sasaki Roshi and loud cheers of “Bonzai” (live a thousand years”) from the sangha. Following the ceremony, Roshi visited the courtyard and greeted individual guests, especially delighting in the children who were present.

At a signal from the Shika, a “slow migration” began from Rinzai-ji to the Clark Memorial Library, directly across Cimarron St. from the zen center. Awaiting the guests were exhibits that included calligraphy by Kyozan Joshu Roshi, photographs organized within the theme of “Fifty Years of Teaching in the West,” and nineteen individual displays representing sanghas from as nearby as Phoenix and as far away as Berlin. A buffet luncheon of Mediterranean cuisine brought everyone together under three large open tents, accompanied by live solo piano from a centrally-located stage.

In the time leading up to scheduled performances, guests enjoyed visiting with one another, viewing the exhibits, and exploring the elegant estate of the Clark Library. Performances included Kinnara Gagaku (Japanese court music orchestra) from nearby Senshin Buddhist Church, “Three Seasons” a collaboration (poetry and music) between two long-time students of Joshu Roshi, and Perla Batalla who sang an unforgettable medley of songs by Jikan Leonard Cohen.

A closing sarei, that included delightfully impromptu remarks by Noritake Roshi, formally ended the celebration. Overall, the day was a joyous affirmation of Roshi’s teaching from the morning: “This one point, the real place of meeting—All are here together.” With the Roshi’s example, we have a strong incentive to carry forward in the spirit of that teaching.

Paul Humphreys
Vice president, Rinzai-ji Board of Directors