Shodo Harada Roshi
Harada Seicho was born on August 26, 1940 in Nara, Japan, to a temple priest and his wife. He was their third child and second son; three younger children, all girls, completed their warm and loving family. He had a normal childhood, playing with his younger sisters and leading them into the usual mischief children get into, including devising creative ways to get unto the theaters for free to view his passion – adventure films. The temple was poor and times were hard; there was no extra money for such things.
Although his father was an Osho-san and he was raised in a Buddhist temple, young Seicho was not interested in becoming a Buddhist priest. As a child he was fascinated by rockets and wanted to become a pilot. By his teenage years he was thinking of becoming a psychologist, having by then developed a keen interest in the nature of the human mind.
While he was attending Hanazono University his father died, and his older brother took over the family temple in Nara. Upon graduating from university, he headed on foot, over the mountains and through the forests to Shofukuji in Kobe, and became a monk under Mumon Roshi. He was given the name ShoDo (True Way).
He trained hard at Shofukuji, doing many intensive week-long retreats (sesshins). However, after one particular sesshin he felt completely dissatisfied with his mind state; though he had been trying very hard, he still hadn´t realized kensho. After two further years of intense training and still no kensho, he sought out Mumon Roshi to ask his permission to leave the monastery. He wanted to go into the mountains to practice alone until he attained awakening, he said. Mumon Roshi said nothing but looked at him for a few moments, then asked, “What will happen if you don´t realize kensho?” “I won´t come back until I do!” was the determined reply. He was given permission to go.
Camping in the mountains between Hiroshima and Shimane Prefectures, he sat zazen long and hard, determined to somehow breakthrough. How much time passed, he did not know. Then one Sunday afternoon some hikers encountered him and stopped to ask questions: “Are you a Buddhist monk?” Answered in the affirmative, they commented, “How fortunate you are to be able to practice all day, all week like this! We have to work in the world, so we only have this one day in which to come up onto the mountain and chant the Buddha´s name.” Suddenly,
it was like all of my burdens had dropped off, as if someone had hit me on the back and everything was awakened within. I realized right then the mistake I´d been making and immediately went back to the monastery. That day on the mountain I realized that there was no self to be bothered! I had been crushing myself and making myself miserable worrying about the problem of realizing enlightenment, when in fact it was found in the living of every single day!
Shodo Harada practiced at Shofukuji for twenty years. One day the elderly abbot of Sogenji called on Mumon Roshi and requested a successor for the temple. Mumon Roshi chose Shodo Harada, and in 1983, having received inka -formal transmission, Harada came to Sogenji to teach, welcoming people from all over the world. Some years later he journeyed to the United States to teach, leading his first sesshin there in 1989 for the group that eventually established Tahoma Sogenji Zen Monastery on Whidbey Island, Washington. A few years later he began traveling and offering sesshins in Europe. Eventually he established Hokuozan Sogenji Monastery in Asendorf, Germany. Groups of his students have sprung up all over the world since then. He is utterly dedicated to keeping the Buddha Dharma alive at its most profound level.
Daichi Zenni is Abbot of Tahoma Zen Monastery and serves as Harada Roshi’s primary translator
After graduating from Ithaca College, at the time when she was baking bread professionally, she recognized her deep interest in Japanese pottery and in Zen. Chance encounters brought her to Takayama to work as an apprentice to a potter.
Throughout those years she maintained her hunger for Zen meditation. During the years of apprenticeship, a question remained – should she focus on pottery or on Zen? Many people told her that she must chose one or the other, as the Japanese saying advised, “choose one or the other, or else it will be like trying to were two pair of shoes”.
A Zen monk friend introduced her to Mumon Roshi, who was traveling throughout Japan to teach at that time. She was able to ask him about this life question. Mumon Roshi’s answer was: “Pottery – Zen. One Path”.
Her life opened then and she began Zen training, first at Shofukuji, and since 1982, at Sogenji.
Daichi Zenni has lived and practiced at Sogenji continuously. She has served at Harada Roshi’s translator and in 2016 Harada Roshi instructed Chisan to begin to teach formally, holding sesshin at Tahoma and at Water Moon Dojo.
She continues to do pottery.