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descending the mountain

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roshiThis morning’s mail brought a reminder that John Daido Loori, Roshi, abbot and founding teacher of Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York is near the end of his life.

Although I cannot claim to be one of his students, I include him and the monastery among key stops on my brief Zen journey. My formal training began ten years ago after I spontaneously googled Zen Training and flew across the Continent to get to Woodstock, NY. Daido Roshi was never my direct teacher (by the time I arrived he was no longer taking on new students), but the monastery clearly bore the imprint of his presence and discipline. That’s how he taught me; that’s how he initiated me into a 2500-year lineage; that’s how he prompted me to vow ‘to be of service’ on December 31, 2000.

zendoI vividly remember sitting in early morning meditation, waiting for the headlights of his jeep to brush over the zendo (meditation hall), hearing his booming voice in the adjacent Buddha Hall as he paid homage to the ancestors, awaiting his attendant’s bell announcing the abbot’s entry and ‘morning rounds,’ as he walked briskly up and down long rows of meditators by way of greeting and inspection. Tired and aching as I was on most days, my posture and attention always sharpened as he passed my cushion, leaving in his wake scents of winter air and incense emitting from his robes.

groupDaido Roshi is a “dharma brother” to my own teacher Chozen Roshi of Great Vow Zen Monastery, as both were ordained by and received authority to teach from Taizan Maezumi Roshi, late founder of Los Angeles Zen Center. 

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