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.
It may appear, on face value, that the celebrations and observances around these events, from the recorded story of different religions, represents the same kind of dynamic for adherents of the various traditions. But comparing and contrasting attitudes, and the activities they inspire, may illustrate the difference.
Please join us in celebrating Matsuoka-Roshi's (11/25/12-11/20/97) life and legacy. We invite you to celebrate in several ways.
Both STO Affiliates and STO Supporting Members, make a special onetime donation and an ongoing pledge of Dana to STO in honor of Matsuoka's efforts bringing Zen to America. Click here to donate.
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 headquartered at Atlanta Soto Zen Center with 15 affiliates throughout US and Canada.
Help fund the documentary of Matsuoka's Legacy by going to
Taiun Elliston-Roshi, Zenku Jerry Smyers and others traveled to Japan in October to gather information about Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi. Interviews, film footage, and pictures will be used to create a documentary about Matsuoka's legacy. Here the STO Pilgrimage Group is visiting Rev. Hideo Matsuoka, who is Soyu Matsuoka Roshi's nephew and Abbot, at our Founders' home Temple, Tenjoji, on an island south of Hiroshima. We will share film clips in coming weeks. Please stay tuned and help us off-set costs for the project.
Purchase Matsuoka-Roshi's collected talks The Kyosaku and Moku-Rai. Click here for ordering information.
"The original nature is already present and shining. Most of us have become so conditioned and so scattered in our thoughts, emotional surges of despair an elation, and in our livelihood and leisure actions, that we have forgotten this real self. In Soto Zen when we sit, we let this original nature shine as it is. Its rays are perfect and of their own nature seek to radiate abundantly in all directions. When we simply stop interfering, this original nature will melt all our hardness; will untangle our confusion; will blunt all our sharp and jutting angles; and will balance us perfectly without any effort of the small self directing an assault on the great and enlightened self." (excerpt from O'Sensei Matsuoka's "Dyannayanna" lecture from Moku-Rai)
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Read and hear more about Matsuoka-Roshi's life.
Click here for Matsuoka-Roshi's biography on the STO website.
Zenku Jerry Smyers shared a few pearls of wisdom from Matsuoka-Roshi.
"One Sunday during tea after zazen and morning service, Matsuoka Roshi was asked the questions of, 'How do you know if you are making progress in your zazen practice'. Even though in our zen practice, of letting go of self-centeredness, we do not look to gain anything, Matsuoka Roshi, after a moment consideration said to the student, 'Sitting Mountain feeling'."
"On another occasion, at a similar setting Matsuoka Roshi was asked by a student, 'What is the purpose of zen practice'. Matsuoka Roshi thought for a moment and said, 'Confidence in Everyday life'."
We are planning a STO Founders Pilgrimage to Japan for the month of October, 2015. Our primary purpose is to honor our lineage Founder Soyu Matsuoka Roshi, trace his history and visit important sites such as Sojiji, Komazawa University in Tokyo, and his home Temple near Hiroshima. We will also visit several Temples important to our Japanese Soto Zen Founder, Dogen Zenji. This trip will serve to deepen and broaden our understanding of our rich Zen history and Zen practice in Japan, and Japanese culture. We plan to stay at temples and monasteries, where possible, and participate in retreat schedules there. We are making arrangements to stay at the Soto Zen Headquarters at Eiheiji, for sesshin, at the conclusion of our trip. We will document our travels and share our experience with our STO Sangha and all interested. If anyone is interesting in more information about the trip or in joining the trip contact Zenku (below).
I share this news with everyone so we can all participate and draw inspiration from the experience. For those who would like to support our efforts on this important trip we are starting a fund raising effort. We are looking to raise $10,000 by October to help cover Taiun Roshi's travel expenses and aid our efforts to create a trip documentary upon our return. All donations are welcome. For everyone making a donation of $100 or more we will bring back a special gift to express our deep appreciation.
These special donations can be made online by directing the contribution to STO and indicating in the transaction comment message, "For 2015 STO Founders Pilgrimage to Japan". If you would like to give via check please make it out to STO and add the comment above on the check comment line and send it to Zenku Jerry Smyers, 25364 Old US Highway 93, Dayton MT 59914.
Thank you in advance for your help in making this Founders Pilgrimage possible.