Public Teisho During September OSesshin

Please Note
There will be no public teisho on September 9th.

Every day during the September OSesshin (Sept 6th – 12th) except for the 9th, there will be a daily Teisho (dharma talk) from Shodo Harada Roshi. Talks are in Japanese with translations by Daichi Zenni. The talks begin at 1pm and it is requested that attendees arrive 10-15 minutes early to allow time to walk to the zendo and get settled. There will be staff to assist with parking and making your way to zendo. There will be chairs and cushions available for seating and staff on hand to facilitate finding your seat.

Roshi will be speaking on koans from the Blue Cliff Record, please do come for this unique opportunity to hear a living Zen Master speak on the words of our Zen ancestors. 

Directions to the Monastery can be found here:
Visiting Tahoma Zen Monastery

Public Teisho During May OSesshin

Each day during the May OSesshin (May 6th – 12th) there will be a daily Teisho (dharma talk) from Shodo Harada Roshi. Talks are in Japanese with translations by Daichi Zenni. The talks begin at 1pm and it is requested that attendees arrive 10-15 minutes early to allow time to walk to the zendo and get settled. There will be staff to assist with parking and making your way to zendo. There will be chairs and cushions available for seating and staff on hand to facilitate finding your seat. We require that all visitors be fully vaccinated and masked to attend this event.

Roshi will be speaking on koans from the Blue Cliff Record, please do come for this unique opportunity to hear a living Zen Master speak on the words of our Zen ancestors. 

Directions to the Monastery can be found here:
Visiting Tahoma Zen Monastery

May 2023 Sesshin

Dear One Drop Sangha and Friends,

The May 2023 Osesshin at Tahoma Zen Monastery begins with kokuho on the evening of May 5th and concludes the evening of May 12th.  Please note that we will consider only applicants who are fully vaccinated, including with the latest bivalent booster. The latest booster is the one that became available in September 2022. 

Osesshin: Friday, May 5th – Friday, May 12th, 2023

  • Kokuho is Friday evening, May 5th.
  • Osesshin, led by Harada Roshi, concludes the evening of Friday, May 12th.
  • Full time participation is required.
  • The cost of Osesshin is $415.  

The application deadline for Osesshin is Friday, March 31st.  You will receive an email regarding your acceptance or waitlist status soon after the deadline date of March 31st.  Please send your sesshin fee once you have been notified of your acceptance.  Payment information will be included in the acceptance email. 

Apply here: [signups are closed. Please contact the registrar for late consideration]

Continue reading “May 2023 Sesshin”

February 2022 OSesshin Canceled

Dear One Drop Sangha and Friends,

Once again the planning team write with sad news – we are cancelling the upcoming sesshin. 

Roshi and Chisan are unable to travel to the USA, and have asked that we cancel the February Sesshin at Tahoma and the ko-sesshin in Los Angeles and Mexico. 

The current wave of Omicron has created significant travel restrictions that have led to this unhappy decision. Japan is now requiring all returnees to quarantine at a designated hotel upon re-entering the country and flights between Osaka and the West coast are reducing to one per week. 

Along with these difficulties the potential for a large surge in cases creates a real possibility of break-through infections at our gatherings with real health risks to all present.

Roshi and Chisan have said they hope to come in May, they ask that we keep that time available and plan to meet together then. 

With deep regret,
Tahoma Zen Monastery Sesshin Planning Committee

September 2021 Training Month

Application deadline is August 6th.

Apply now: [registration is closed]

The September 2021 training period at Tahoma Zen Monastery begins on Saturday the 4th, and concludes Wednesday the 22nd.  Please Note: Applications are available to those who are fully vaccinated.  The online application provides a field to upload an image of your vaccination document.

OSESSHIN: Saturday, September 4th – Saturday, September 11th, 2021
Kokuho is Saturday evening, September 4th.  Osesshin, led by Harada Roshi, concludes the evening of Saturday, September 11th.  Full time participation is required.

KOSESSHIN: Sunday, September 12th – Wednesday, September 15th, 2021
Kokuho is Sunday evening, September 12th.  Three full days of sitting led by Harada Roshi concludes the evening of Wednesday, September 15th.  

KOSESSHIN: Friday, September 17th – Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021
Kokuho is Friday evening, September 17th.  Five full days of sitting led by Daichi Zenni concludes the evening of Wednesday, September 15th.  

The application deadline is Friday, August 6th .  Acceptance emails will be sent soon after the deadline date. Please send your sesshin fee once you have been notified of your acceptance.  The cost of Osesshin is $400. The cost of kosesshin is $60/day.  Dates may be subject to change.

Payment information will be included in the acceptance email.

Schedules, guidelines for conduct, and directions to the monastery can be found here: Sesshin Guidelines.

Please note: Attending Osesshin is a commitment to full time participation.  Kosesshin allows for less than full time participation.  In order for kosesshin to run smoothly, we request that you provide your arrival and departure dates and approximate times, and keep us updated of changes. Temple housing is limited and we appreciate your flexibility.  Any help with set up before or clean up following sesshin will be greatly appreciated.  There may be a wait-list for any segment of this month of practice. People on the wait-list will be contacted immediately as spaces become available.  

Guidance in the time of Corona 30

Dear All,

Already 3 months we all have been making huge efforts. Our dedication has brought us to this point today that the actual numbers of people becoming infected was not as big as assumed. I would like to thank each person who has made such great effort.

The Buddha went to Takuhatsu and in one house, there was one young man who had just washed his face, then facing the east, he bowed, facing the south, he bowed, he faced the west and bowed, he faced the north and bowed, he faced upwards and bowed, he faced downwards and bowed. The Buddha saw these dedicated bows, and went to the young man: “You are very young, yet very devoted to your bowing. Is that how you bow every day?” – “Yes, I bow daily.” – “Whom do you pray for in the east, who is it in the west, and who in the south and north?” – “There is no meaning in my bowing, I just do as my parents taught me.” – “Since you are doing something of importance, yet since you are doing it without knowing the meaning, that is a pity and is not good enough. Your bowing is very devoted, yet you need to know the purpose, I will teach you now. When you bow to the east, you bow in thankfulness to your parents who gave life to you. When you bow towards the south, you express your thankfulness towards all of your teachers, who taught you in school, taught you how to cook and sew, taught you your profession, express your thankfulness towards all who have taught you something. When you bow to the West, you express your thankfulness towards your partner and children. When you bow towards the north, you express your thankfulness towards your friends and acquaintances in life. When you bow upwards, you express your thankfulness towards those who have shown you the spiritual path and have supported you on it. When you face downward and bow, you can express your thankfulness for those who have made so many efforts to support your life.
This is called bowing in the six directions,“ the Buddha taught him.

The Buddha is teaching that we cannot lose our attitude of thankfulness towards anything we encounter. We have been supported until now and are still being supported thanks to many karmic connections, for this we can be thankful. Nowadays people have become lonely and poor in mind, this is the time we are living in.

The existence of each person is equal. We have so many natural disasters in the world, so many problems in the world and they seem to increase. And the number of people who spread their dissatisfaction onto others also seems to increase. This is where we as humans need to return to being thankful.

We may still know and be aware of our thankfulness towards our teachers, in any country in any religion this is being taught. The Buddha said: Bow towards your partner and children. He says bow towards those who are working and supporting you. Live in a way that you feel thankful for each person.

The Buddha said this 2600 years ago, when women were still looked upon as not being equal. Still the Buddha said, bow towards your wife, bow towards your husband. Truly seeing the human value of each person, and seeing the need for each relationship needing to find a balanced way in harmony.

We need to live our life with the feeling of thankfulness. In a dojo, a professional place of training, the monks learn to bow towards one another.

We can understand somehow that we bow to our partner, since he/she supports our life as well. But bowing to our children? If we are not careful, we believe that our children are our children. Seen from a Buddhist point of view this is different. The life of the children came forth from the womb of the mother yet the life energy is being passed down from ancient past. We all had a past life, and since we are only aware of what happened after we were born in this life, we do not know about what was before. We simply forgot. We were not suddenly born by chance. We all have a past. When you have many children you will know that each child has their particular abilities. This child has never heard music at home yet may have a deep appreciation for it. The parents may not be painters, yet a child may be gifted in drawing. This shows that the base for this ability may have its origin in a past life. Scientist talk about DNA yet that is not all there is to it. Each person´s personality is expressing the past life. This child has its own past life and now has the karmic connection to be born through my womb, we can only be thankful for this.

Nowadays even though hardly anyone will say so, there are many parents who see their children as their own. When we think about this, we as parents are here to stop that special ability in our child and support it in developing it further, so that it can live a life standing on its own feet.

That is why the Buddha is teaching us that we should also express our thankfulness towards our children. The parents did not make the child, but the child appeared and borrowed the womb of the mother to take form.

Many doctors and nurses and caregivers are working for those who have been infected by the corona virus, they even may become infected themselves. Yet they continue their work and make efforts. When we see this, we need to be thankful for their devoted efforts. This is the great treasure they are giving us during this time which we deeply need to be thankful for.

If we receive the teaching of the Buddha, we need to deeply feel this thankfulness from the bottom of our mind. We also continue our efforts, seeing the efforts not only the medical team but of the many people working in society.

Please everyone take this huge state of mind of yours as most important, that can see the efforts which each person is making. This is my deep wish.

(this is the final entry of the Guidance in the time of Corona, by Shodo Harada Roshi)

Guidance in the time of Corona 29

Dear All,

Today is the 21st of May, we did let go of all the corona information for a while and had sesshin with 27 people. In 2 days we will have our next sesshin, the time inbetween is used by the people of training to look around and see the situation.

The lockdown is being relieved in many countries, in many towns, moving one step ahead. Yet the data is still showing that many people are still being infected, as well as many people dying.

I just found a DVD in my cupboard from 15 year ago, a documentary made by the BBC . For my own study I watched this DVD and was most astonished to see that the situation happening now is exactly being described in that documentary from 15 years ago.

At that time it was certain that this would happen, all types of information were showing in this direction. All this was already know by the experts, politicians, economists. Even while it had not happened, yet it was already warned that this would bring great distress to all people. In the past we have been through many pandemics, looking at these times, the Spanish fever for example, many people died at that time. Nowadays we are lucky that medicine has developed and can support people to some degree who have become infected.

Experts say that humans developed, evolved while fighting viruses. Our evolution was urged on by the viruses affecting us. Thanks to these viruses, we developed. A virus is not an enemy, yet it brings forth our life force. We do have desires and self satisfaction, this being our base, we do things not without meaning, but bring forth confusion ourselves.
Thus while we try to take one step ahead, we need to be responsible, we cannot only follow our own desires and self satisfaction. This is important for all of humanity now. We learn this now, we can develop as humans and create a society where we can help one another. How is this possible? This is where we need to focus.

In Buddhism it says: If you want to know the past, look at the present. If you want to know the future, look at the present face. This is the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism that all is based on cause and effect.

Humans started off fighting one another, yet as time goes by, we created a society which developed more and more social values as well, supporting also the weak in the system. When we see this, the situation now could not have been imagined by anyone. We were just living according to our desires and wishes. Now the corona virus is teaching us that we need to cooperate. We need to help one another. This is what is right in front of our face.

Now countries need to see clearly how they can continue, making depts yet supporting the people of the country now so that each person may be supported in their wish to live. We never had a situation like this and it demand great effort from all of us.

For those who have become unemployed because their company became bankrupt, they don´t know how to continue not receiving any income, those people need our support now. This is our actuality. The corona virus is our enemy yet also the source of us being able to evolve at this moment now. We have been falling apart in many different classes and countries, yet now we do need to support one another, this is our lesson now.

We can review ourselves, not just following along but checking for ourselves, how can we open or eye of wisdom, this effort is needed. In Mahayana Buddhism the mysterious not two. Self and other are not separated, they are not two. This world and me are one, past and present and future are not separate, they are tied together.

In the sutras the Dhammapada teaching the law of cause and effect by taking the sample of a lotus flower. The lotus flower does not grow in the pure mountain waters. The lotus only grows from mud and from there it blossoms. While it rises up from the mud, the flower and leaves are beautiful and have not the slightest bit of dirt or mud stuck to them. This is the mysterious not two.

Not running away from challenges, from a difficult situation and country, but taking all your strength each person can let their flower blossom. Not just as a mental idea, but in our hands, in our feet, in our efforts we need to find the truth. These efforts cannot be stopped.

This fall, whether there will be rain or storm, I still keep picking the weeds today.

Whether it will be gain or loss, joy or sorrow, this is not what we look at, but how we can live in a straight forward way, that is what we need to look at, or else it becomes mental, hoping for something better in the future. This would not be a healthy way of living.

We learn from yesterday, we have hope for tomorrow and walk each step now strongly connected to the ground. Each person needs to reflect upon the value of their life. A see of grain was the beginning, bringing forth uncountable grains. Thus we have our karma of the past, and according to our wish for the future, we can bring forth the result we have hoped for.

The pain, suffering, anxiety, loneliness of each person cannot drown us, but by taking each step with all the life energy we have, a new path opens up. This is my great wish for all.

Guidance in the time of Corona 28

Dear All,

Ryokan says:

“Without intending it, the flower attracts the butterfly.
Without intending it, the butterfly approaches the flower.
I do not know the other
The other does not know me.
We naturally follow the universal way
When we meet, we do so without intending it.”

The flower did not call the butterfly, yet when it blossoms the butterflies gather. The butterfly fly to greet the flower? When the butterflies fly, that is when the flowers blossom. I do not know the other, they do not know me.

This poem has a deep sense. The butterfly and the flower did not intend to meet one another, yet how did it come about? They meet. The seasons change, the karma brings forth connections to other humans, this is one happening, which can be called: empty minded karmic connection.

Empty minded is a state of mind when we do not have a plan to do a certain thing and still our functioning arises. Many people are infected by the virus, which is so sad, yet so many people have recovered. We do not want to get into such a situation, yet it may happen. Whether we see it as good or bad is up to our state of mind.

We may be on a train, people are sitting next to us, the scenery is constantly changing, why is this one person sitting next to me? Why is this other person standing in front of me? We do not know one another, if we think about it, it is rather strange. It may be predestined, which is the law of an imaginary god, yet in zen there is not imagined god existing. This is where Ryokan puts it well. This imaginary god is called the law of karmic connection in zen.

Our encounters are not just created by a god. There is a cause for our encounter which is connected by invisible strings to the outcome. Ryokan says, we naturally follow the universal way. Ryokan does not leave it at an encounter coming about curiously, but says it depends on our karmic connections.

In Europe at the entrance to a town it says:

Giving the traveler a place to rest, the visitor a smile, and for the departing we wish happiness. We pray for the good for those who need to go. We have such precious chance which we encounter and how we give life to them, how we bring forth our wisdom, this is where we constantly need to look sharply at.

Guidance in the time of Corona 27

Dear All

We already have mid May. Are you taking good care of your essence? In Sogenji we are in Osesshin, 28 people are here in training. Sitting daily 12 hours of zazen, coming for sanzen 4 times a day and teisho – all this is supporting the deepening of their practice.

In Okayama prefecture all regulations have been lifted, yet people of training do not leave the monastery, now already for 3 months they stay inside. The present situation is like a constant sesshin. The Corona time is an extreme time, yet for people of training their essence can be looked at clearly and it is a chance for further deepening. The essence grows, and there are many who can experience in their sitting that they can drink down their body, the zendo and the whole universe. This experience is not an easy one to have.
This time is a very supportive time for people of training. The ancients left their wisdom for us, we study this and use it to expel all anxiety during these unsettled times. And thus we deepen by using the guidance of the ancients.

How can we greet someone who is sick? How can we deal with us becoming sick? These points we have been looking at. Sickness shows in our body, past, present and future have effect on our being, yet if we do not get stopped by the body, we do not get confused by the body. This is the theory which does not help us, rather we need to actualize this for ourselves.

Vimalakirti teaches us how important it is to deepen. We can actually experience this, using koans, using sussokan, actually deepen in our sitting. For this we need to let go of all this information which is around, or else we cannot deepen. When we do zazen we become zazen, when we do samu we become samu. There can be no extraneous thought entered. Thus we become full and taught inside, with each breath, with each mind moment we become one with the koan. This essence then becomes real and can be experienced.
Even if we do not have this type of professional experience, Hakuin teaches us the Naikan (introspection) method:

This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
it is all my true and original face.
How can that original face have nose holes?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
It is all the home and native place of my original being.
What news or tidings could come from that native place?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
It is all the pure land of my own mind.
How could the splendours of that pure land exist apart from my mind?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy –
It is all the Amida Buddha of my own self.
How could Amida Buddha preach the Dharma apart from that self?

Using these words, we let our awareness settle within. Not opening from one moment to the next, not making a gap and letting the essence deepen, just like blowing up a balloon. This is how full we feel. And with this all thoughts and imaginations which fill our mind during our daily life, have become torn away, all disappeared. And we only face the reality right here under our very feet. Tasting the reality of this moment only. Once we settle to this degree, we are like a blown up balloon. Our awareness becomes sharp and clear. Then simply the tip of a needle touching the balloon will make it burst. No extraneous thoughts can enter because the energy is so full and taught.

This experience is possible in a monastery but also in society if we continue our efforts. Usually we get tired in our mind by following along all sense perceptions, but when turning inside, we again can actually experience this original energy of us.

A sesshin is for this actual experience. In Sogenji we sit the golden hour for 1,5 hours. Not just 25 minutes because this does not really help us deepen in this way when our awareness can still wander around. When our zazen settles, huge energy is experienced, and then the worries and anxiety dissipates. This again gives us confidence not matter what challenge we may face. True confidence only arises from an actual experience.

Please wherever you are keep up your work and deepen your state of mind. This is my great wish.

Guidance in the time of Corona 26

Dear All,

Some say that there may be a vaccine next year and that only in spring of 2022 the pandemic will have settled. If the restrictions are taken off too soon, there may be new cases appearing. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms while they could infect others. We do need to reflect upon our wisdom, if we were to get sick, how we can deal with this situation in the best possible way.

What this means for us in our training is that we do need to have patience. It is not about yesterday and today only, but we need to continue our efforts. We need to see how we actually can live within challenging situations. We receive the wisdom of Vimalakirti.

Vimalakirti says, “because society is sick, that is why I get sick. We need to have a huge mind and not only see our own life.” Vimalakirti taught us how we can greet and support someone who is sick. Now how about if we ourselves get sick? This is what Vimalakirti is teaching us now.

Monjusri visits Vimalakirti, yet both encounter each other with a bright mind, that it is hard to know, who is the sick person. When we get sick, we easily get depressed, we cannot go outside and depend on others support. We feel this as a heavy burden. Yet Vimalakirti does not even look as if he is sick. His state of mind is bright and clear, and the person visiting him does not feel any pressure put on him.

Monjusri asks him: “You are sick yet you do not look sick. How are you managing?” Vimalakirti answers: “If sickness catches us and we fall into sickness, that becomes a heavy weight for us. Of course, I am actually sick. I have symptoms of sickness. Yet what truly makes us sick in mind are those attachments, memories, grudges which we carry around from the past. And because of these arising, that is why we feel the pressure. It is because of those past unclarities, that we feel heaviness.”

These are not extraneous thoughts, yet they do colour our experience of the moment. We cannot get stopped by them. Our physical body which we have received from our parents may get sick, and since we identify with this body, that is why we create our own heaviness. We of course may get sick, yet it is not our body alone that feels the sickness, it is mainly our mind that feels the sickness.

Ikkyu Zenji said in his death poem:

The body that I have borrowed, today I do return it.

Because we only see the physical body, we are not aware of the huge mind, which uses this body. Of course, we do not want to get sick, yet going through the experience of sickness, we need to bring forth wisdom which helps us rise above this physical experience. We cannot stay stuck in our body only, this would be a big mistake.

It is important that we do not feel stuck in our sick body, or else we create an even greater sickness than our physical one. This is what we need to awaken to. We may feel bad, have pain, have difficulty breathing, have no appetite or sense of smell, yet we cannot let our mind get drowned within this experience.

Over 100 years ago in Japan the poet Masaoka Shiki lived, he practiced zazen from a young age. He said that Zen was about being prepared to die anytime, yet later in his life he said that he realized when he was sick, when he did not know how long he had to live, he said that Zen is not about being prepared to die anytime but Zen is about receiving this life energy anew each moment, receiving the energy to live.

Masaoka clearly looked at his own sickness, and when the end neared he called his students and gave this poem:

The Hejima flower is blooming
The mucus is filling up my throat
Is this the Buddha?

This is a flower that blosoms in June in yellow colours, this flower must have been all around, in this season he was ready to face his last moment of being sick with tuberculosis. The pain must have been huge, while the students gathered around only wished to give their teacher some relief. In this uncertain situation, he gave the first two lines of the poem, then again was struggling to get some air, the students had tears running down their cheeks. They wanted to take the pain onto themselves. They quietly sat by his bed side, waiting, when Masaoka Shiki gave the last line of the poem: Is this the Buddha?

Someone who has died is said to become a buddha yet also someone who is awakened is called a buddha. Masaoka gave this poem, his breathing must have been difficult, when this mucus fills his throat, that is the last moment. He speaks about himself as if he is watching himself from high above. It is about himself, yet his state of mind is quiet and filled with wisdom.

That is what Vimalakirti is saying, that we cannot stay stuck in our body, that we cannot drown in our suffering, if we down then we are at the end. That is not how it should be. From a high level we can reflect upon our state of mind, we can review our state of mind. It is the mind which uses this body, the mind is not stuck in this body. It does need to depart from this body at one point, yet we can awaken to our true nature and share this experience with many.

I may be suffering but there are others who suffer even more. If there is a chance, I would like to use my life to help others, to support others. That is what we need to see as important in our life, Vimalakirti is teaching us.