Bright, breezy autumn weather greeted attendees at the November 3rd ceremony dedicating the first structure at Korinji, formally marking the "birth" of Korinji as a place of Zen practice. Zen priests, students and supporters from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Utah gathered together to witness the event and recognize the effort of so many which has led to this point.
The ceremony began at the Korinji gate with So'zan Roshi (abbot of Daiyuzenji in Chicago) and Meido Roshi (the Korinji abbot) assisted by Kozan, a Daiyuzenji priest. Meido Roshi dedicated this new gate by sprinkling salt and water on its upright posts while reciting the hak'ku darani, which is the heart mantra from the Surangama sutra. Moving uphill to the zendo where guests were being seated, this continued within the building as each corner of every room was sprinkled in the same manner. Salt and water are traditional purifying substances, and the mantra recited has the power to liberate beings; in this way negative forces are cleansed from the structure.
Following this Meido Roshi moved to a small altar which had been set up, drew an enso (circle) in the air with lit incense, and immediately gave a katsu shout. With that So'zan Roshi, assisted by Enmei Hunter, began striking the instruments for the chanting portion of the ceremony.
The Heart Sutra was chanted by all, followed by several repetitions of the Great Compassion Dharani (Daihishu) and the Crisis-Averting Dharani (Shosaishu). Dedication was given first to Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri, the Bodhisattva often enshrined in places of meditation). Further dedication was then given to the attendees and their families, to all donors and volunteers throughout Korinji's history, and to teachers both living and dead whose inspiration has been crucial to Korinji's establishment: Tekio Sogen Roshi, Tenshin Giryu Roshi, Kizan Dogen Roshi, the lay Zen master Tenzan Gensei Rokoji (Toyoda Sensei), and the priest and Aikido master Tenryu Kigan (Chiba Sensei).
After this formal ceremony several individuals spoke to the group:
So'zan Roshi gave the opening greeting and reflected on the chain of circumstances which led to Korinji. This started with the transmission of our lineage to the west by Sogen Roshi through the temple he founded in Hawaii, Chozen-ji, and continued through to the untimely death of Toyoda Rokoji - who dreamt of founding a place like Korinji - and the preservation of his dream by the Korinji founders today.
Enmei Hunter, speaking on behalf of the Korinji board of directors, spoke to the precious nature of our training and of a place like Korinji, with its power to enrich our lives in today's world.
Greg Dekker and James Mills, the Korinji project and construction managers, spoke regarding the long process of building Korinji - from the earliest days when only a few individuals struggled to clear the building site and carry hundreds of bags of concrete through the forest by hand, to the present day when we could sit within a nearly completed building.
Finally Meido Roshi gave a brief teisho (formal talk). Reminding that a poem is traditionally offered by a newly arriving abbot, he recited the following to mark the occasion of Korinji's birth:
A crow flies over this valley,
white with frost.
Dawn comes with flashing blade
and a bowstring's hum,
thrusting through with her spear
the poles of the spinning world.
What is the goal of the Patriarchs?
Gathering twigs for a fire,
pulling in our chins
against the cold.
In his talk following he explained some of the poem's meaning, which also sketches out an essential "map" of Zen practice:
The first line, he said, references Hakuin's description of his own kensho (awakening) experience. Thus is signifies not only the direct recognition of one's own Dharmakaya wisdom which is the entry into Zen, but also the arrival of our Rinzai Zen line - the line of the great master Bodhidharma, of the Sixth Patriarch, of Hyakujo, of Rinzai, of Daio, Daito and Kanzan, of Hakuin, and finally of Sogen Roshi - to this forested hillside in the upper midwest. "White with frost" further carries meaning which could be grasped by those who have themselves entered into kensho.
The lines about dawn he explained refer not only to Marishiten, the guardian figure of Korinji, but to the experience of practice after awakening by which kensho is embodied and integrated in the continual upwelling of liberative wisdom. Practitioners who have reached this point in their training will immediately grasp what is meant by "spinning the world", and the seamless activity symbolized by the flashing, humming weapons of Marishiten who is said to move as a flash of light that can nowhere become stuck or fixed. This also has a meaning in regard to internal cultivation and embodiment in Zen training.
Finally, "goal of the Patriarchs" is a reference to the sango, or "mountain name", of Korinji: So'tekizan, "mountain of the Patriarch's target/goal". "What is the goal of the Patriarchs?" thus can mean "what is the final fruition of Zen practice?" as well as "What is this place? What is Korinji monastery?". Regarding this he recited the final lines, "Gathering twigs for a fire/pulling in our chins/against the cold" and said, "I'll explain that some other time!"
Following teisho a short break was given while the zendo was set up for a zaike tokudo (jukai) ceremony. On this auspicious day four students took refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) and took up the practice of the five precepts for laypersons; each was given a dharma name composed of two characters to mark the occasion. They are:
Ken Bringer: Yushin, "courageous, brave/heart, mind"
Greg Dekker: Genshin, "original, origin/loyalty, fidelity, faith"
Nicholas Oldfather: Kyosei, "mirror/truth, sincerity"
Kristen Radtke: Myoan, "miraculous, mysterious/grace, benefit, blessing"
With official activities ended, guests enjoyed tea, coffee and sweets wonderfully arranged by Karen Radtke. Everyone was invited to sign a flat piece of polished cedar wood which will be lacquered and then sealed within the zendo ceiling to commemorate the occasion.
All in all it was an amazing day...and the culmination of quite a few amazing years of work. Many contributors and volunteers could not be present, but all were remembered. Though Korinji is still some years away from raising sufficient funds to build a residence on-site, the substantial completion of this first structure marks the beginning of new stage and the historic birth of a new Rinzai Zen monastery in the West. It is with great gratitude and deep emotion that we reflect on all the circumstances - and especially all the people whose life energy has been so freely given - which made such a day as this come about.
A gallery of additional photos may be found here.