matsukadecemberSTO Founder's Month Celebration Continues

Bows of gratitude to Silent Thunder Order's Founder Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi for his efforts to bring Soto Zen to the West! Please join us in celebrating Matsuoka Roshi's life and legacy.

Todai-ji TempleTodai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan

The Matusoka Roshi Video Documentary Project is seeking funds to complete the documentary on Matsuoka-Roshi's life and his efforts to bring Zen to America. Please click here to help us reach our $10,000 goal and to see the latest Indiegogo fund raising effort and new video footage from the STO Pilgrimage to Japan.

Please listen to the biographical talk about Matsuoka-Roshi given by Zenku Jerry Smyers at ASZC during Winter Ango in February 2010. Click the following link to the audio recording.

STO Affiliates and STO Supporting Members, please make a special onetime donation and an ongoing pledge of Dana to STO in honor of Matsuoka's efforts bringing Zen to the West. Click here to make your donation. Please enjoy the following video on the history of our STO Lineage created in 2011.

mission mountain2

Mission Montain Zen Center

Please help us continue to support Matsuoka-Roshi's legacy of bringing and sustaining Zen in the West. What he started in 1939 when he first arrived in the US continues today through Silent Thunder Order training center.

Matsuoka-Roshi's lineage is represented by 16 Zen Centers throughout North America. ASZC is the training center for Silent Thunder Order lead by STO Abbot Taiun Michael Elliston (click here for Sensei's bio). STO Associate Abbot of Operations Zenku Jerry Smyers leads Mission Mountain Zen Center (shown above) in northwest Montana. STO Associate Abbot of Training Tesshin Jim Smith leads Atlantic Soto Zen Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Click here for a complete listing of Affiliates.

Purchase Matsuoka-Roshi's collected talks: The Kyosaku and Mokurai.
Click here for ordering information.

Practice Zazen
And support your local affiliate with your presence. See the above affiliate list for the affiliate closest to you.

Participate in a Poetry Reading (Atlanta area only) & Fundraiser
Kuya Minogue, practice leader at our British Columbia affiliate, Sakuraji, will be reading from her book, Zen Essentials, December 13 at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center after morning practice. The book collects poems about her zen practice and her life as a zen trainee. The poems are a personal reflection of a genuine Zen practice which will resonate with all zazen practitioners and be a true companion for those following the Middle Way.  All profits from book sales will be donated to STO.  Send an email to [email protected] to purchase a copy.  Below is an poem from the book. 

To Dogen
I climb long steps to Eiheiji,
bow in the Buddha hall
sit zazen in your shrine
question your ashes.
"How did you see eternity
from this treed-in temple?
When did you awaken from
this dream of dreams?
Where did you meet quantum physics
in thirteenth century Japan?
Do mountains really walk?"
"Shhhh," you whisper,
Kuya. Cross you legs,
Do zazen."

Dharma Byte and Japan Journal 4

In my recounting of my first trip to Japan in 1989, I remarked that when we arrived in Tokyo and settled in at our "businessman's hotel" (J. seifuso), breaking out our sitting cushions (J. zafu), and sitting in zazen, it became clear to me that I had not gone anywhere. Ten thousand miles and four thousand dollars later, we were — or at least I was — in the same place. And, indeed, that there is only one place. Some historical references may be appropriate here, to get a grip on the historical scope of Matsuoka Roshi's mission to the US, in the context of the times as well as those leading up to his lifetime, and our following in his gentle footsteps.

This month we celebrate Founder's Month, recognizing that our founding teacher from Japan, who asked to be called, simply, Sensei, was born, and died, in the month of November, the former in 1912, the latter in 1997, some 20 years after the founding of ASZC.

Read more.....


The Zendo at ASZC has had some water damaged from recent heavy amounts of rain in Atlanta. Consequently we are forced to cancel our week long Rohatsu Sesshin this year. A modified Rohatsu Retreat will be offered and a limited schedule of events available until repairs are completed. Please check ASZC's website for the adjusted schedule of events. 


Bright Pearl
Bright Pear was submitted by STO Associate Abbot of Training Tesshin Jim Smith who leads Atlantic Soto Zen Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia

ROHATSU – Celebrating Buddha's Awakening
As we approach the end of the 38th year of the founding of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, established in 1977, we enjoy a spirit of celebration. At year's end, most societies, however "primitive," observe some sort of ritual recognition of the passing of the old year; as well as the potential represented by the new.

In the Christian tradition, the birthday of Jesus Christ is celebrated in December. But in Buddhism, it is Siddhartha Gotama's Awakening, instead. Then, in the spring, Buddha's birthday is celebrated, as is the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven, believed by the faithful to have happened after his crucifixion, 2000 + years ago. Notably, both of these seminal events — of Christ's passion, and of Buddha's enlightenment — occurred when each was in his mid-thirties.

But Buddha lived to an old age, of some 80 years, and died of natural causes, or, as one legend has it, of tainted pork. Which poses a challenge to those who think, or believe, that Buddha and his followers were vegetarian. We have to be somewhat circumspect as to these kinds of details, some 2500 years later.

Read more.....

Aurora 68x49Aurora 68x49" by Taiun Michael Elliston-Roshi

Elliston-Roshi's One Man Art Show titled "Alchemy" is opening on December 11th and running through January at Kai Lin Art (999 Brady Ave. NW, Suite 7, Atlanta, GA). Sensei will arrange guided tours for anyone interested. Click here for a link to Sensei's art work and Kai Lin Art.

Photo of the Month
Impermance was submitted by STO Associate Abbot of Training Tesshin Jim Smith who leads Atlantic Soto Zen Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Calling all shutterbugs! Photo submissions can be send to Gaku Stephen Sengupta. [email protected]

Affiliate News!
Sakuraji Rohatsu Retreat December 16th through the 21st

Rohatsu Sesshin marks the enlightenment of the Buddha. It is a powerful gathering of practitioners and friends who are dedicated to realizing the way. Kuya and Sakuraji's senior students will explore the enlightenment of the Buddha, the story and its meaning in our lives today, during this powerful annual retreat. There will be, walking practice, yoga and possibly Qi Cong classes during the retreat.

The retreat is in silence, with sitting and walking meditation, eating formally in the traditional oryoki mealtime ceremony, daily study and/or classes, private interviews with Kuya, liturgy and samu. Sesshin provides a powerful container supporting the unification of body and mind, and our individuality with the community and the world.

Please register early. For out-of-towners, there are two residential rooms available. Others will sleep either on a pullout bed in the Zen centre house or on a foamy in the zendo. Drop-ins for part of the retreat are welcome.
Cost: Drop-in practice by donation. Drop-in meals: Breakfast $5.00; Lunch $9.00 dinner $7.00; Full participation: $350 (Includes meals and where necessary, a place to sleep.) Dana: donations for monk support are always welcome.

Falmouth Soto Zen Sangha
Unshin Sangaku Dan Joslyn Enjitsu Chris CharykUnshin Sangaku Dan Joslyn (on the left) and Enjitsu Chris Charyk

On Saturday Falmouth Soto Zen Sangha celebrated Jukai which is the ceremony, including Taiun Elliston-Roshi, via Skype, of an initiate taking his/her first vows to follow the middle way of Buddhism-reducing suffering. Please welcome Enjitsu (Joyfully Genuine) into the Sangha. The sangha sat zazenki before the service and enjoyed a wonderful lunch afterwards. Many people worked hard in preparing, cooking, hosting and cleaning-up after twenty-three well wishes. Many bows for this.

Atlantic Soto Zen Centre
Workshop - Using Zen Meditation to Confront Anxiety
December 6 and December 13 at 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Quiet Room of the Dalhousie Multifaith Centre
All are welcome to attend as we examine anxiety in the University context and what the method of zazen meditation has to offer.
"In Zen, every day is a happy day." Rev. Dr. Zengaku Soyu Matsuoka Roshi

Affiliates Listing
Atlanta Soto Zen Center, Atlanta, Georgia (founded 1977)
Atlantic Soto Zen Center,
Dalhousie Multifaith Centre, Halifax NS Canada
Buddhist Philosophies
NCSU Campus Group, Raleigh North Carolina
Falmouth Soto Zen Sangha, Falmouth, Massachusetts
High Plains Zen Ness City, Kansas
Iqaluit Soto Zen Group Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
Jacksville Soto Zen Meditation Group, Jacksville, Florida
Memphis Zen Community Memphis, Tennessee
Mission Mountain Zen Group Dayton, Montana
Nashville Zen Center
Nashville, Tennessee
Ottawa Soto Zen Ottawa, Canada
Sakura-ji Creston, British Columbia Phone - 250-428-6500
Southwind Sangha Soto Zen Buddhist Assoication Wichita, Kansas
Treehouse Sangha Troy and Cohoes, New York
Wire Grass Soto Zen Group, Headland AL
Zen Group of Chattanooga Chattanooga, Tennessee