Hokoji was founded in 1983 by Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi, with his student Bob Watkins, other practitioners, and close friends. The zendo was formally opened in 1986. Kobun’s brother, Keibun Otogawa Roshi, and Murakami Roshi, the father of one of our Sangha members, both came from Japan to facilitate the opening. It was a festive day with banners, chanting, incense offering, and an eye-opening ceremony for the Manjusri statue.
Hokoji has always been a non-residential practice center. In the early days there was a succession of various caretakers; in recent years, the caretaking is managed by the community (sangha). The house is now a community house used for housing and cooking during retreat; solo retreats; and a place for quiet reflection, study, and tea.
Our practice is ‘family-style’ rather than ‘samurai-style’. Given the freedom to practice within one’s ability, both physical and mental, those who attend meditations and retreats typically find they are able to practice at a deep level as there is no pressure; no pressure as there is nothing to accomplish, simply to be present and Aware, which reveals habituated patterns as luminosity in the vastness of Luminous Space. There is no sequential teaching just direct understanding.
From the beginning, as practice was begun at Hokoji, Kobun introduced shikantaza (a way of meditation), oryoki (a formal way of receiving food during retreat), and chanting the Heart Sutra; simultaneously, he carefully tugged on the strings of the traditional Japanese forms, unraveling the outer wrapping to reveal their essence. Hokoji honors the Japanese forms as our base while continuing to unravel the essence of their purpose. The critical intent is to reveal our own essential essence.
Kobun was one of the early Japanese Zen teachers who introduced Soto Zen practices to Americans. Kobun encouraged his American students to connect Zen to their cultural backgrounds. As well, Kobun emphasized a focus on ceaseless Awareness in the midst of everyday life versus a monastic approach to Buddhism. He imparted a unique energetic which embraces the wisdom of tradition with the openness of directly experiencing Mind regardless of conditions. At Hokoji, the dynamic continues to evolve as we actively consider and experiment with what American Zen might look like. We invite students, zazen practitioners, and Way-seekers of all ages to join us in this exploration.