Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Sonoma Mandala Project

The Mandala Project - video by Tim Metzger


The word "Mandala," meaning "circle” in Sanskrit, actually conveys many other ideas as well. It can also suggest the way time and space manifest in a single instant of creative energy. For Kwong-Roshi there is “a true Mandala that fully exists within ourselves, and that can help guide us to our own original stillness, which is always there."
Sonoma Mandala Project Homepage

Jakusho Kwong-roshi has long envisioned creating a Mandala of buildings on Sonoma Mountain near Santa Rosa, CA to continue Suzuki-roshi’s lineage and support authentic practice, dedicated to the protection and awakening of all beings, for the next three hundred years. Recently it’s become clear that the existing zendo (meditation hall), which does not meet county code requirements, must be replaced. Since the cost of renovation and retrofit would be nearly the same as building a new zendo, Roshi, with his Advisory Board, has begun the process of designing a Mandala master plan, which will also eventually include a kitchen, an office, a dining hall, and accommodations for staff as well as guests. The new zendo will be the first, central step. The complete Mandala will follow.

Kwong-roshi is a successor in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi. He has been teaching Zen in the United States and Europe for more than thirty years. He is the founder and abbot of the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center outside of Santa Rosa, California. In 1995 he was given the title of Dendo Kyoshi, Zen Teacher, by the Soto School in Japan. He is one of nine Western Zen teachers to receive this acknowledgment. "Zen," he says, "is the aliveness we bring to each moment."


Sonoma Mountain Zen Center was formed by Jakusho Kwong-roshi in 1973 to continue the Soto Zen lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi and to make everyday Zen available to people in Sonoma County. We are situated on 80 acres of rolling hills and mountainous land, located 11 miles from the town of Santa Rosa. Our sangha consists of a small residence and a larger membership that joins us in Zen practice from the local area, as well as other parts of the United States and Europe.


We respectfully make this announcement to all buddhas in the ten directions, to sages and monks in the heavenly and human worlds, to the eight types of guardians in the dragon realm, and to generous men and women. We wish to construct a training hall with donations, however small they may be, from people's pure heart.

The Bodhisattva Precepts Sutra says, "Children of the Buddha, you should guide sentient beings by constructing monasteries and building stupas in the mountains, forests, gardens, and fields. You should establish training halls for holding winter and summer practice periods for zazen and all other practices. You would be negligent if you failed to do so."

All temples and monasteries are practice places of buddhas. Buddhist monasteries in China are modeled after those in India. Japanese monasteries should follow these examples. Constructing a monastery is of great significance and its merit is profound; it has much to offer to people.

For some years now, ever since I returned to Japan from China, I have vowed to establish a monastery. But there has not been a place suitable to support monks' formal practice using bowls and robes. Now we have acquired an excellent place. It is located in the compound of the Gokuraku Temple near Fukakusa. We have named this place the Kannondori. Although it is still covered with weeds and not yet functioning, we plan to build a training monastery here.

The primary components of a monastery are a buddha hall, a dharma hall, and a monks' hall. We have a buddha hall and we do not have a dharma hall. But we urgently need a monks' hall. We need to build [describes size, platforms]sacred figure of Manjushri will be enshrined in the center of the hall, to be surrounded by the practicing monks.

The ancient practice of formally taking refuge in the three treasures together as a group in one hall is still alive today. Its merit is enormous and its effect is broad. We will thoroughly engage in each activity in order to cultivate fertile conditions to transform the ten directions.

We will acknowledge the gifts by installing the donors' names inside the sacred image of Manjushri. The enshrined names will form myriad syllables as seeds of wisdom illuminating everyone. Those who attain the way in this hall will be guiding masters of the people, and will not only reach the human realm, but beyond. They will transform beings in the heavenly realm and in the dragons' palace. Those in the realms of invisible and divine will also listen. Thus this dharma wheel transmitted from Shakyamuni Buddha will reach everywhere.
Respectfully yours, Abbot of the Kannondori Monastery
The 12th month, the 1st year of the Katei Era.
(Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen, ed. Kaz Tanahashi)

Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen, was born on January 2, 1200 CE. This was during the Kamakura Period of Japanese history, the year following the death of Minamoto Yoritomo. It is said that his father was Koga Michichika, a government minister, and that his mother was Ishi, the daughter of Fujiwara Motofusa. Presumably, young Dogen lived in comfort. However, at the age of thirteen, he climbed Mt. Hiei, and the next year he shaved his head and became a monk. It is said that he became a monk because he felt the impermanence of the world on his mother’s death when he was eight years old.

links / see also
Sonoma Mandala Project Homepage
Sonoma Mountain Zen Center
DONATE to SMZC Sonoma Mandala Project

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