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November is Founder's Month in honor of Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi!

Matsuoka collage3

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. Click here.

Matsuokas nephew
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)

Practice Zazen!

Support your local affiliate with your presence. Click here to find the affiliate nearest you.

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'."

Last Updated (Monday, 09 November 2015 20:59)


November 2015 Dharma Byte


For those who have never done so, and wonder about traveling to Japan, I would encourage you to consider it. You will do better if you develop some conversational Japanese, but you can get along without it, especially if you have a friend or a guide who has the language. We were fortunate to have a guide on most of this trip, which made our ambitious itinerary possible, owing to his grasp of not only the language, but the transportation system.

Many Japanese people who see that you are having a difficult time will step up to help out, if they are more fluent in English than most. In general, the people are extraordinarily warm and friendly, and sympathetic to westerners, especially if you are friendly with them. A smile goes a long way, as does any attempt to use polite language. Especially when they find out that you are there for something to do with Buddhism, or their culture, they seem to blossom. There were more than one instance where we spontaneously launched into chanting the Hannya Shingyo with some local women, notably at a Shingon monastery, and once on the train platform.

The infrastructure for traveling by train in Japan, from light rail to the bullet train, makes the US look like a third-world country. In LA airport, the litter and generally dirty environment contributed to the impression, and the sheer lack of alternatives to the automobile, there as well as in Atlanta, reinforces the idea that we have left true civilization far behind, by returning home. It is a weird feeling. In Chicago or New York City, the transportation system begins to level out, but the filthy character of the environment makes you shudder for the visitor from Japan whose first impression must be pretty disturbing.

Japan 2015 Journal Entry 2

Japan Day 1b w1500Visiting the national treasure sites in Nara, we were all overwhelmed and awed, like everyone else who visits them, by the sheer scale and majesty of the temple buildings, and the statuary they contain. There is something about standing in the presence of these massive, towering works of transcendent art, further enhanced by the meaning they are meant to convey, of such power radiating from compassion, that is impossible to describe. It is a bit like looking at the Grand Canyon, or the Hubble images of the far reaches of the universe, and wondering how could this possibly be.

But the effect of the temples on your mind is compounded by the stunning fact that these architectural and sculptural masterpieces were built by mere mortals, with full awareness and intention as to their effect upon others of the time, and far into the unforeseeable future. At this time, there was no communications technology such as we have today - no movies, TV, radio or other broadcast media - so, if you wanted to make an impression, what did you have at your disposal? The construction materials of the day, the giant cypress trees, stones, and the combinations of grasses and clay to make stucco and ceramics, as well as metal ore mined and forged, and the beginnings of alloys of copper, tin and iron, for example to make bronze. And, not to mention, various combinations of pigments and vehicles to make surface finishes, such as whitewash and paint. And, of course, gold and gold leaf, tons and tons of gold leaf.

But the main dimension you had at your disposal was the sheer size and scale you were willing to undertake. Going from temple to temple on a trek like this is exhausting, physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It also challenges credulity that there would be yet another, and then another, sometimes many in the same neighborhood. One area alone, at the top of a mountain range accessible by cable car, is said to boast 117 temples, each of which occupies an incredible amount of land, and features uncountable buildings, statuary, paintings, and any number of skillfully designed and constructed amenities and necessities to support the ritual devotions of the pilgrims and visitors, and to properly honor the sponsors with monuments.

Last Updated (Monday, 12 October 2015 21:47)

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