The Zen Garland Order Beginnings

Roshi Paul Genki Kahn founded The Zen Garland Order in the Zen Buddhist tradition and through the authority of his empowerments as a Dharma Successor (Shiho) and Zen Master (Roshi) by Zen Master Bernie Tetsugen Glassman in Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi’s Soto Zen lineage. Bernie and Genki studied together under Maezumi Roshi at the Zen Center of Los Angeles, which Bernie helped found lead and develop. While there, Genki was Maezumi Roshi’s personal attendant and was ordained by him, and served in various roles including Shuso, Director of Training and Director of Center Publications.

Maezumi was born in Japan on February 24, 1931 to Yoshiko Kuroda-Maezumi and Baian Hakujun Kuroda, a prominent Sōtō Zen priest, in his father’s temple in Ōtawara, Tochigi. In later years, he took the name Maezumi, his mother’s maiden name, to preserve her family name, as there were no sons to do so. He was ordained as a novice monk in the Sōtō lineage at age eleven, and in high school began studying Zen under a lay Rinzai instructor, Koryū Osaka. While studying under Koryu he attended Komazawa University, the academic center of Soto Zen scholarship. After college he trained at Sōji-ji, and then received Shihō, Dharma Transmission, from his father in 1955. Although Maezumi Roshi became a Dharma Successor in two lines of Rinzai Zen, he only held and transmitted lineage in the Soto Zen tradition through his father’s line, which included Dogen Zenji and extended back through Chinese and Indian ancestors to Gautama Siddhartha Shakyamuni Buddha.

In 1956 he was sent to the United States to serve as a priest at the Zenshu-ji in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, the Soto Zen Headquarters for the United States. Early in the 1960s, Maezumi began holding zazen at Zenshuji for Western students, which eventually led to the opening of the Zen Center of Los Angeles in 1967. Maezumi began studying with Hakuun Yasutani, completing kōan study under him and received inka (final approval as a Roshi) in 1970. He had continued his studies with Koryu Osaka Roshi who empowered him with inka in 1973. Maezumi Roshi was a recognized and honored Zen Master in the Sōtō, Rinzai and Sanbo Kyodan schools.

Maezumi Roshi taught an integrated approach to Zen beyond sectarianism, combining koan study and an emphasis on enlightenment experience with the teachings of Dogen. He did not want Zen bound by tradition. He encouraged creativity and encouraged his students to master the essence of Zen, then find appropriate expressions for our time, cultures and personalities.

Roshi Genki has established the Zen Garland Order, independent of the Japanese sects of Rinzai and Soto, to provide a holistic approach to Zen training appropriate for our time. The priests and teachers at Zen Garland carry Maezumi Roshi’s lineage and are teachers and priests in their formal organization, The Zen Garland Order.

Roshi Genki talks about Zen Master Bernie Glassman and the time at ZCLA

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