The late Tekio Sogen (Omori) Roshi (1904-1994) is considered one of the greatest Japanese Zen masters of the 20th century. He was a direct successor in the Tenryuji line of Rinzai Zen, a successor in the Taishi school of calligraphy of Yamaoka Tesshu, and a teacher of Jikishinkage Ryu swordmanship. After becoming a priest in 1945, Omori Roshi taught Zen for more than 40 years, serving as a president of Hanazono University (the Rinzai university in Japan), authoring more than 20 books, and founding Seitaiji monastery in Japan. Because of his background in bujutsu (martial arts) and fine arts, his Zen integrated insights from these disciplines with traditional practice. This style of training, unique for its physicality, vitality and power, was transmitted to the west through Daihonzan Chozenji, the temple he founded in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1979 (and the first Rinzai headquarters temple established outside of Japan). From Chozenji, it has spread to the American mainland and to Europe.
Two of Omori Roshi's successors, Tenshin Giryu (Tanouye) Roshi (1938-2003) and Kizan Dogen (Hosokawa) Roshi were responsible for helping this important line of Zen take root in the west. Tanouye Roshi, a Japanese-American who was an extraordinarily gifted martial artist as well as a music teacher before becoming a Zen priest, was the force behind the founding of Chozenji. His meeting and subsequent training with Omori Roshi was the historic event leading to the transmission of Omori Roshi's lineage to the United States. Tanouye Roshi himself travelled from Chozenji to lead our first sesshin (retreats) on the mainland.
Hosokawa Roshi, a Japanese priest who trained under Omori Roshi in Japan and later came to Hawaii, continued this work as shike (abbot) and then kancho of Chozenji. From 1987 until his retirement in 2005, Hosokawa Roshi travelled tirelessly several times a year to the mainland USA to teach and lead sesshin. He continues to play an active role advising his successors and students today.
Chicago, the home of the late Zen and Aikido master Toyoda Tenzan Rokoji (1947-2001), became the center of activity as this lineage began to take root in the U.S. mainland. Toyoda, having come to the United States in 1974 to teach his martial art, already had his own long history of involvement with Zen training. In 1977 he was introduced to Tanouye Roshi, and became his student. Interestingly, Toyoda had met Omori Roshi while a young trainee at the famous Ichikukai Dojo in Tokyo. The cooperation between Tanouye Roshi and Toyoda Sensei led to the first Zen retreats (sesshin) in Chicago, which continue to this day. Toyoda was named a dharma successor by Tanouye Roshi in 1997.
The temple now called Daiyuzenji was originally established by Toyoda Sensei on Chicago's north side, and was incorporated as a betsuin (branch) of Chozenji in 1982. Following Toyoda Sensei's death in 2001, the betsuin relocated to its current home.
In 2005, now having our own resident roshi to guide students, we became a fully independent temple. Hosokawa Roshi designated one of his successors, So'zan Miller Roshi, to be our Abbot. He designated our new name to be Sokeizan Daiyuzenji: "Sokei" refers to the mountain on which the 6th Zen patriarch, Hui Neng, lived. "Daiyu" refers to the place where Pai-chang, the originator of the Zen monastic system, lived. These two persons, who together created and defined what became the Zen we practice today, serve as reminders of our tradition's deep roots, as well as models of a pure, vigorous, living Zen which must now take root in the West.
In 2008 we began an exciting project: the establishment of our sister center, a rural training monastery near Madison, WI named Korinji. Our community has continued to grow, and with Korinji we now anchor an evolving community of practice groups in North America and Europe: the Rinzai Zen Community.
Our future as contributors to the planting and nurturing of Zen in the United States, is an exciting one. We invite you to participate as our history continues to unfold...