On a different note than my personal health battles, I did want to mention a couple of items of interest. On Sunday, when I was feeling pretty well, I met with Ed, a newly arrived Zen priest who only lives a few blocks away from me. Ed is a member of the Boundless Way Zen organization, which is actively primarily in New England. James Ford, who has an active blog presence, is one of the heads of this organization and I’ve had some correspondence with him over time online. He put me in touch with Ed, who moved to the Bay Area back in August.
Ed and I sat and chatted on a variety of topics, especially local Zen groups and where to sit, for a few hours. It was nice to get to chat in person with someone with similar interests. Ed has a lot more experience than me and it was interesting to hear his perspective on things. I expect that he and I will be chatting again in the future. He also gave me some recommendations on groups to sit with that also had a nice community of people associated with them. I largely practice alone or with my wife on occasion and the lack of a community of fellow travelers is something that has almost always been missing in my practice. I’ve never had a local group that I was well enmeshed with, either here or back in Seattle, since I began practicing Buddhism. I’ve had online friends, even groups of them, but it is still a rather abstract connection when it comes to fellowship. It is nice to be around people who are doing what you are doing or at least understand and participate in practice.
Aside from visiting with Rev. Ed, I managed to visit two temples in Salt Lake City when R and I went out there (with my daughter) to visit my mother over Thanksgiving. Mom wanted me to have a chance to visit some places of interest. We visited Urgyen Samten Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist temple of the Nyingma tradition, and the Kanzeon Zen Center, a Soto Zen temple run by Dennis Genpo Merzel.
Urgyen Samten Ling has a very nice space that reminded me strongly of Orgyen Dorje Den in Alameda locally. It is a converted stake house, a kind of Mormon church building, that had apparently been a dance club at some point. They’ve completely refurbished the interior and also had a nice martial arts studio in the downstairs space.
We ran into one of the senior practitioners there (whose name I forget!) and she very nicely spoke with us about the space, the group, their teacher, etc. Coincidentally, my mother ran into her and their lama a few days later near her work and had a chat with them again. It turns out that he knows some Shingon priests in Japan.
Kanzeon Zen Center operates out of a refurbished house in downtown Salt Lake City. They also have another house next door where their priests/monks live and have some kind of presence (perhaps ownership) of an apartment building on the other side as well. It’s a pretty big set of spaces. Kanzeon has some controversy associated with it because their primary teacher, Rev. Genpo, incorporates a set of modern psychological techniques into a method that he calls “Big Mind.” He also runs fairly highly priced retreats around the world. That being said, the teachings that I’ve seen him do (through recordings) on traditional Zen have not appeared untoward to me so I have reserved any judgement on such matters.
The main room in the zendo for sitting is fairly large in that it is most of the second floor of the house but is much smaller than some spaces that I’ve been in, such as the Berkeley Zen Center’s zendo or the one at Green Gulch in Marin. One thing that I found to be very interesting is that along with a picture of Rev. Genpo’s teacher, Taizan Maezumi Roshi, on the altar, there was also one of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Kagyu teacher who also founded the Shambhala Buddhist tradition here in America. I’ve never heard of a connection with Chogyam Trungpa and Kanzeon before though I do know that Chogyam Trungpa did cultivate connections with Zen teachers during his life.
It was nice to get a chance to visit these two places while in Salt Lake City. It is pretty interesting to me to see how groups establish themselves and their temples here in the United States after having visited temples in Japan and Thailand.