Blue Cliff Becoming Boundless Way Zen West

Blue Cliff first zazenkai 24June17
Big changes are afoot for our Zen project here on the West Coast. And I thought I’d take a few moments to share with you where we are at this moment.

If you’re familiar with Boundless Way Zen, you know that it is something enormously dear to my heart. About fifteen years ago I began a collaboration with some amazing people, chief among them as founders of this project were David Rynick, who would become a dharma successor in the lineage of the Korean Linji master Seung Sahn, Melissa Blacker, who had been authorized to teach in a renegade offshoot of the Rochester Lineage established by Philip Kapleau and then became my first Dharma successor, and Josh Bartok who’d trained with several teachers, principally Daido Loori before becoming my student and eventually dharma successor. Me, for those unfamiliar, I’d been ordained a Soto priest by Houn Jiyu Kennett and later completed koan introspection practice in the Harada Soto reformed koan system with John Tarrant.

The Boundless Way project had and continues to have several foci. Most important was to offer regular Zen meditation and as quickly as we were able to offer Zen retreats. We were also deeply interested in preserving the traditions we’d received, not least of which was that koan curriculum. But, also increasingly the Soto priestly tradition become important to us. David would eventually ordain and we continue to offer ordination as a part of our training. We at Boundless Way are also interested in flattening the hierarchy, inspired by Unitarian Universalism, which many of us have been involved in. We also wanted to be open to multiple lineages. So, my own hybrid of Soto and the reformed Koan Soto, and the Korean line brought West by Master Seung Sahn in one organization.

And Boundless Way has been wildly successful. There are now seven guiding teachers, and sitting groups throughout New England. The Boundless Way temple in Worcester is a fully functioning training temple. And the center in Cambridge has its own dedicated site and growing program schedule.

Then two years ago Jan Seymour-Ford and I relocated to Long Beach, California. We began a sitting group. And then with Chris Hoff, a second one. And, now, this coming weekend we will be receiving two more sitting groups in Washington State led by a Janine Larsen, a senior Zen student, into our forming organization. Also, we’ve been working increasingly with Gesshin Greenwood, a dynamic young Zen priest just returned from six years training in Japan.

I’ve been in close communication with the leadership at BoWZ about all of this. And we’ve agreed it is appropriate and time for us here on the West Coast to form our own organization. Melissa Blacker Roshi suggested we call our umbrella Boundless Way Zen West. We continue to be heartfully connected to BoWZ (let me call it here BoWZ East). And I will continue on the BoWZ Guiding Teachers Council. However, there are sufficient differences in our forming leadership here at BoWZ West, joined with the distance of our projects, three time zones away, that we are creating an independent organization.

Boundless Way Zen West continues to be focused on offering zazen and Zen retreats, as well as to cultivate leadership for our emerging North American convert Zen communities. But, also we see our particular focus here being more clearly part of the Soto tradition, adapted to our local needs. This will be most visible in our embracing more traditional Soto forms than we do in our Eastern sanghas.

Also, as we develop our own version of that openness to multiple lineages, we are bringing Gesshin Greenwood’s Soto line derived through Sedo Suzuki (no relation to either the renowned scholar nor the founder of the SFZC) along with my own Kennett-Tarrant line. We are also in conversation exploring the possibility of providing part of the training for a priest candidate in the SFZC Soto lineage. I can see how in good time we at BoWZ West will be a collaboration of three distinct Soto lineages. Maybe more. The universe is mysterious.

Personally, I look forward to my own practice being enriched by our deepening Soto style, as well as being given the opportunity to help restore koan introspection within the Soto lineage, at least as it is manifesting here in North America.

There is much yet to do. And we are admittedly rather thin on the ground here in California and up in Washington. And, okay, who knows how it will turn out? But, there is also some genuine enthusiasm. And, I see some amazing opportunities to be of use in these later decades (one hopes) of my life.

I invite you to visit the Boundless Way Zen West webpage. (It is still housed with our beginning name Blue Cliff Zen, but will be given a new address before long, but this link will continue, if as a pointer…) It is dynamic. We will be changing it again next week, I expect, after formally receiving the two groups up in Washington to provide pointers to those sitting groups.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood, check us out.