Shōhaku Okumura

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Shōhaku Okumura
Shōhaku Okumura in 2006
Born (1948-06-22) June 22, 1948 (age 70)
Religion Zen Buddhism
Nationality Japanese
SpouseYūko Okumura
ChildrenYōko and Masaki
School Sōtō
Education Komazawa University
Senior posting
Based in Sanshin Zen Community
Predecessor Kosho Uchiyama
SuccessorHōkō Karnegis

Shōhaku Okumura (奥村 正博, b. 22 June 1948) is a Japanese Sōtō Zen priest and the founder and abbot of the Sanshin Zen Community located in Bloomington, Indiana, [1] where he and his family currently live. From 1997 until 2010, Okumura also served as Director of the Sōtō Zen Buddhism International Center in San Francisco, California, which is an administrative office of the Sōtō school of Japan.

Japanese people ethnic group native to Japan

Japanese people are a nation and an ethnic group that is native to Japan and makes up 98.5% of the total population of the country. Worldwide, approximately 129 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 125 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live outside Japan are referred to as nikkeijin(日系人), the Japanese diaspora. The term ethnic Japanese is often used to refer to Japanese people, as well as to more specific ethnic groups in some contexts, such as Yamato people and Ryukyuan people. Japanese are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world.

Abbot Religious title

Abbot, meaning father, is an ecclesiastical title given to the male head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not the head of a monastery. The female equivalent is abbess.

Sanshin Zen Community

Sanshin Zen Community is a Soto Zen sangha based at the temple Sanshin-ji in Bloomington, Indiana founded by Shohaku Okumura.



Shōhaku Okumura was born in Osaka, Japan in 1948. He received his education at Komazawa University in Tokyo, Japan, where he studied Zen Buddhism. On December 8, 1970, Okumura was ordained at Antaiji by his teacher Kōshō Uchiyama, where he practiced until Uchiyama retired in 1975. [2] He then traveled to the United States, where he co-founded Valley Zendo in Massachusetts [3] and continued Uchiyama's style of zazen practice there until 1981. [3] In that year, he returned to Japan and began translating the writings of Uchiyama and Eihei Dōgen from Japanese into English. Prior to founding the Sanshin Zen Community in 1996, he was a teacher at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota from 1993 to 1996 [4] and at the Kyoto Sōtō Zen Center[ citation needed ].

Komazawa University university

Komazawa University abbreviated as 駒大 Komadai is one of the oldest universities in Japan. Its history starts in 1592, when a seminary was established to be a center of learning for the young monks of the Sōtō sect, one of the two main Zen Buddhist traditions in Japan.

Kosho Uchiyama was a Sōtō priest, origami master, and abbot of Antai-ji near Kyoto, Japan.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.


Okumura attributes his desire to become a Buddhist the discovery of a book while he was in high school called Self (自己, jiko) by Kōshō Uchiyama, who would become his teacher not long after. After Okumura became a teacher in his own right, his message remained much the same as Uchiyama's and is centered around the practice of zazen, largely to the exclusion of other rituals associated with the tradition. Okumura also focuses on the translation of the works of Eihei Dōgen and associated texts into English, as well as aiding his students in the study of such writings. His practice of zazen is built on what Uchiyama called "sesshin without toys.” These sesshins of three, five, or seven days are completely silent and consist of fourteen hours of zazen each day, punctuated only by meals and sleep in the evening. There are no services, chants, or work periods. These alternate with "genzō-e retreats", which are five days of intensive study of one or more fascicles of Dōgen's collection of writings called the Shōbōgenzō . He has published several translations of material previously unavailable in English such as Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community and Eihei Kōroku , both with Taigen Dan Leighton. [5]

<i>Zazen</i> meditative discipline in Zen Buddhism

Zazen is a meditative discipline that is typically the primary practice of the Zen Buddhist tradition. The precise meaning and method of zazen varies from school to school, but in general it can be regarded as a means of insight into the nature of existence. In the Japanese Rinzai school, zazen is usually associated with the study of koans. The Sōtō School of Japan, on the other hand, only rarely incorporates koans into zazen, preferring an approach where the mind has no object at all, known as shikantaza.

A sesshin is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery.

Shōbōgenzō is the title most commonly used to refer to the collection of works written in Japanese by the 13th century Japanese Buddhist monk and founder of the Japanese Sōtō Zen school, Eihei Dōgen. Several other works exist with the same title, and it is sometimes called the Kana Shōbōgenzō in order to differentiate it from those. The term shōbōgenzō can also more generally as a synonym for the Buddha Dharma as viewed from the perspective of Mahayana Buddhism.


International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

See also

Buddhism in Japan focuses on the historical development of Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism in Japan has been practiced since its official introduction in 552 CE according to the Nihon Shoki from Baekje, Korea, by Buddhist monks. Buddhism has had a major influence on the development of Japanese society and remains an influential aspect of the culture to this day.

Buddhism in the United States

Buddhism, once thought of as a mysterious religion from the East, has now become very popular in the West, and is one of the largest religions in the United States. As Buddhism does not require any formal "conversion", American Buddhists can easily incorporate dharma practice into their normal routines and traditions. The result is that American Buddhists come from every ethnicity, nationality and religious tradition. In 2012, U-T San Diego estimated U.S. practitioners at 1.2 million people, of whom 40% are living in Southern California. In terms of percentage, Hawaii has the most Buddhists at 8% of the population due to its large Asian American community.

Below is a timeline of important events regarding Zen Buddhism in the United States. Dates with "?" are approximate.

Related Research Articles

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Gentō Sokuchū was a Sōtō Zen priest and the 50th abbot of Eihei-ji, the school's head temple. He was part of a 17th and 18th century movement within the Sōtō school that sought to bring the school's teachings back in line with those of the 13th century founding teacher, Dōgen. To this end, he edited major editions of works by Dōgen and succeeded in disseminating them widely. He is best remembered for compiling the Eihei Rules of Purity, a collection of writings by Dōgen laying out a strict code of conduct for monks. These rules had been largely unheeded in the school in the preceding several centuries, and Gentō used his high position as abbot of Eihei-ji to reintroduce and enforce them. His work on the Eihei Rules of Purity was completed in 1794 while he was serving as the eleventh abbot of Entsū-ji. The following year he became the 50th abbot of Eihei-ji. He was also involved in editing Dōgen's master work, the Shōbōgenzō.

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Jishō Warner American buddhist priest

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Daigo-tettei is a Japanese term used within Zen Buddhism, which usually denotes a "great realization or enlightenment." Moreover, "traditionally, daigo is final, absolute enlightenment, contrasted to experiences of glimpsing enlightenment, shōgo" or kenshō. According to Dōgen in a fascicle of the Shōbōgenzō titled Daigo, the master Dōgen writes that when practitioners of Zen attain daigo they have risen above the discrimination between delusion and enlightenment. Author J.P. Williams writes, "In contrast, in SG Daigo, the apparently positive 'great enlightenment' is more clearly an extension of the meaning of fugo, no-enlightenment, than 'enlightenment.'

Bendōwa (辨道話), meaning Discourse on the Practice of the Way or Dialogue on the Way of Commitment, sometimes also translated as Negotiating the Way, On the Endeavor of the Way, or A Talk about Pursuing the Truth, is an influential essay written by Dōgen, the founder of Zen Buddhism's Sōtō school in Japan.

Tenzo Kyōkun (典座教訓), usually rendered in English as Instructions for the Cook, is an important essay written by Dōgen, the founder of Zen Buddhism's Sōtō school in Japan.

Genjōkōan (現成公按) sometimes translated as Actualizing the Fundamental Point is an influential essay written by Dōgen, the founder of Zen Buddhism's Sōtō school in Japan. It is considered one of the most popular essays in Shōbōgenzō.

Maka hannya haramitsu, the Japanese transliteration of Mahāprajñāpāramitā meaning The Perfection of Great Wisdom, is the second book of the Shōbōgenzō by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. It is the second book in not only the original 60 and 75 fascicle versions of the text, but also the later 95 fascicle compilations. It was written in Kyoto in the summer of 1233, the first year that Dōgen began occupying the temple that what would soon become Kōshōhōrin-ji. As the title suggests, this chapter lays out Dōgen's interpretation of the Mahaprajñāpāramitāhṛdaya Sūtra, or Heart Sutra, so called because it is supposed to represent the heart of the 600 volumes of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra. The Heart Sutra focuses on the Buddhist concept of prajñā, or wisdom, which indicates not conventional wisdom, but rather wisdom regarding the emptiness of all phenomena. As Dōgen argues in this chapter, prajñā is identical to the practice of zazen, not a way of thinking.

Sokushin zebutsu, rendered in English as Mind is Itself Buddha, is a book of the Shōbōgenzō by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. It was written in the spring of 1239 at Dōgen's monastery Kōshōhōrin-ji in Kyoto. The book appears as the fifth book in both the 75 and 60 fascicle versions of the Shōbōgenzō, and it is ordered sixth in the later chronological 95 fascicle Honzan editions. The title Sokushin zebutsu is an utterance attributed to the 8th century Song Dynasty Zen monk Mazu Daoyi in a well known kōan that appears most notably as Case 30 in The Gateless Barrier, although Dōgen would have known it from the earlier Transmission of the Lamp. In addition to this book of the Shōbōgenzō, Dōgen also discusses the phrase Sokushin zebutsu in several of his formal Dharma Hall Discourses, namely numbers 8, 75, 319, and 370, all of which are recorded in the Eihei Kōroku.

Gyōbutsu igi, known in English as Dignified Behavior of the Practice Buddha, is a book of the Shōbōgenzō by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. It was written in the winter of 1241 at Dōgen's monastery Kōshōhōrin-ji in Kyoto. The book appears as the sixth book in both the 75 and 60 fascicle versions of the Shōbōgenzō, and it is ordered 23rd in the later chronological 95 fascicle Honzan editions. Dōgen discusses similar concepts in two of his formal Dharma Hall Discourses, namely number 119, which was written shortly after Gyōbutsu igi, and number 228, both of which are recorded in the Eihei Kōroku.

Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, sometimes known by its English translation The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Record of Things Heard, is a collection of informal Dharma talks given by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen and recorded by his primary disciple Koun Ejō from 1236 to 1239. The text was likely further edited by other disciples after Ejō's death.

Eihei Kōroku, also known by its English translation Dōgen's Extensive Record, is a ten volume collection of works by the Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. The bulk of the text, accounting for volumes one through seven, are formal Dharma hall discourses, or jōdō (上堂) as they are known in Sino-Japanese, given from 1236 to 1252. Volume eight consists of "informal meetings" or shōsan (小參) that would have taken place in Dōgen's quarters with select groups of monks, as well as "Dharma words" or hōgo (法語), which were letters containing practice instructions to specific students. Volume nine includes a collection of 90 traditional kōans with verse commentary by Dōgen, while volume 10 collects his Chinese poetry.

Daigo, also known in English translation as Great Realization, is a book of the Shōbōgenzō by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. The book appears tenth in the 75 fascicle version of the Shōbōgenzō, and it is ordered 26th in the later chronological 95 fascicle "Honzan edition". It was presented to his students in the first month of 1242 at Kōshōhōrin-ji, the first monastery established by Dōgen, located in Kyoto. According to Gudō Nishijima, a modern Zen priest, the "great realization" to which Dōgen refers is not an intellectual idea, but rather a "concrete realization of facts in reality" or "realization in real life". Shohaku Okumura, another modern-day Zen teacher, writes that Dōgen equates the term daigo with the network of interdependence in which all beings in the universe exist rather than something that we lack and need to obtain. Given this, Okumura writes that Dōgen is encouraging us to, "to realize great realization within this great realization, moment by moment; or perhaps it is better to say that great realization realizes great realization through our practice."

Shōryū Bradley is a Sōtō Zen priest and the founder and abbot of Gyobutsuji Zen Monastery located near Kingston, Arkansas.


  1. Okumura, Shohaku (Fall 2005). "Kokoro". Buddhadharma: the Practitioner's Quarterly. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
  2. Uchiyama, Kosho; Thomas Wright; Jishō Cary Warner; Shohaku Okumura (2004). Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice. Wisdom Publications. pp. xvii–xxi. ISBN   978-0-86171-357-8.
  3. 1 2 Okumura, Shohaku (2012). Living By Vow. Wisdom Publications. pp. 182–183. ISBN   9781614290100.
  4. Okumura, Shohaku (2012). Living By Vow. Wisdom Publications. pp. ix. ISBN   9781614290100.
  5. Haederle, Michael (12 November 2013), "Profile: Sanshin Zen Community", Lion's Roar , retrieved 2018-05-08