Category: In Memory Of
Published on Thursday, 07 August 2014 15:25
Written by D.V. Lawrence
Joshu Sasaki Roshi, founder of the Rinzai Ji Zen Center in West Adams and esteemed teacher of countless Zen monks and practitioners throughout the world, has passed away at the age of 107. Roshi was born near Sendai Japan in April 1907. At 14 years he began his life as a Zen student, at 21 he was ordained an Osho (priest) and at 40 became a Roshi (an honorific given to one who has mastered the practice of Zen). On July 21, 1962, at age 55 he arrived in the United States with an English translation book and a vision of establishing a Rinzai Zen practice in America. By 1968 and with 200 students he celebrated the opening of the Rinzai-Ji Temple on Cimarron at Adams, establishing the first of several Rinzai Zen Centers in America. Sasaki Roshi was also the teacher of the celebrated musician/songwriter, Leonard Cohen, who became a monk in the Rinzai order. The following excerpt is from my notes of one his teishos or talks given 7 years ago at the temple: "Such lucidity and power in his voice at his 100-year-old age! And so funny. Today, the last day of Sanzen, the bell went off to give him his "wrap it up" signal and usually he finishes his talk within 5 or 10 minutes but this time he kept going like a train speeding past the stations. He was bursting with information about “positive and negative” a consistant theme in his talks. I thought, "This may be his last teisho! He must be feeling the need to get it into our thick heads while he still can." He kept going and going and you could hear the benches creak as people started shifting around. But it didn't deter him as he continued to illuminate his point from every angle.Outside the gardeners were cutting hedges with their loud saws but the noise just seemed to spur Roshi on. He told the story of a man and woman "shaking hands." Afterwards they peacefully lay together. Suddenly the woman jumps up. He asks her what she is doing and she tells him she has work to do! In my limited understanding, I took this as a metaphor for the activity of positive and negative, opposites joining to manifest "0" A state of tranquility, balance, no here, no there, nothing to run from, nowhere to run to. Stillness, presence, fullness, No Thing, then…. up and at em! Time to get things going! Activity! Manifestation!Finally he admits he has gone on longer than usual and he could continue to go on much longer, there is so much to be said but he thinks maybe some people have to go to the bathroom (a few giggles) so he will stop his talk....an hour and a half after he began. After his talks I always feel full, saturated, my mind connected to something within me that has been allowed to blossom." A tireless teacher deeply loved and grieved.