Julian Daizan Skinner is the first Englishman to go to Japan and become a Roshi or Zen Master in the rigorous Rinzai tradition of Zen. Over twenty years ago, he gave up a promising career as a scientist in the pharmaceuticals industry, sold his house, gave all the money away and entered a Zen monastery.
Daizan Roshi – his story
Over many years of strict training, in Japan and the west, Daizan Roshi received Dharma Transmission and permission to teach in both the Rinzai and Soto lineages of Zen. He has also undergone training as an enlightenment intensive master with Lawrence Noyes, leading student of the creator of enlightenment intensives, Charles Berner. Daizan Roshi received inka from Shinzan Miyamae Roshi of Gyokuryuji, with whom he continues to study (see below).
Upon returning from Japan in 2007, Daizan Roshi went on walking pilgrimage up the centre of the island of Britain from the south tip of the Isle of Wight to the north tip of Scotland, living solely on alms food. He met many of his students from different parts of the UK during this time. Daizan Roshi currently offers sanzen (‘interviews’ or training encounters with his students) at Yugagyo Dojo (Zen Yoga) in London as well as using Skype for remote students. Together with his students, he has established, “Yugagyo Dojo”, a Zen training place in London. Daizan Roshi was teaching at The Buddhist Society, the oldest non-sectarian Buddhist Society in Europe, until his retirement from the post in December 2011.
His Zen study incorporated yoga practice. He has also studied yoga in Europe, America and Asia. He brings this wide range of yoga experience to sharing a practice that combines physical challenge with mental and spiritual development. He is registered with the Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level and is registered with the Independent Yoga Network as a Yoga Elder with more than 5000 hours of successful teaching experience. Daizan trains yoga teachers to find an expression that is authentically their own and will bring them success when they teach. His knowledge and training in Zen gives him the background to guide you on your spiritual journey.
Shinzan Miyamae Roshi
M eeting Shinzan Miyamae Roshi is like meeting a Zen master from the golden age. Openly critical of the institutionalisation and routinisation of much of modern Zen and emphatic on the importance of genuine insight, he has charted an unorthodox course.
Born in 1935 in Niigata, Japan, he graduated from Doshisha University with a degree in Economics. In his twenties he failed in three business ventures, experiencing great hardships. Contemplating suicide, he was by chance transformed upon meeting a Zen nun. He was 31.
He was ordained a Zen monk by Mitsui Daishin Roshi who sent him to train at Shogenji monastery with his own master, the formidable Kajiura Itsugai Roshi. Shogenji, known as the devil’s dojo, had the reputation of being the strictest training monastery in Japan. It was founded in the mountains of Gifu-ken on the spot where Zen ancestor Kanzan Egan (1277-1360) in his post-monastery training worked as a cow herder by day and sat zazen on a precipice by night. Recognising his understanding, Itsugai Roshi wished Shinzan to succeed him at Shogenji.
Shinzan Roshi instead went on to study at Kokutaiji in the north of Japan. The resident teacher, Inaba Shinden Roshi, requested Shinzan to become the next Zen Master of Kokutaiji.
After completing his koan study, Shinzan Roshi took the unusual step of visiting every Zen Master in Japan seeking to test and deepen his insight. Later he restored Gyokuryuji, the hermitage of the great Zen master Bankei. He has become known for protesting against institutional abuses and Zen teachers without insight. He parted ways with the Myoshinji branch of Rinzai Zen over excess charging for funerals. Shinzan Roshi went on to found Zendo Kyodan (Zenways Sangha), a primarily lay-based Zen organisation dedicated to fostering true awakening in the modern world. He has taught in the US, Canada and Europe and has written two books in Japanese, one about true Buddhism and one about finding happiness.
Impressions and memories of Shinzan Roshi
|Daizan remembers his first week at Gyokuryuji with Shinzan Roshi||David Bernstein remembers Shinzan Roshi on sesshin in 2009||Encounters with Shinzan Roshi by Matt Shinkai Kane|
|It was the beginning of April, the time when most Zen temples in Japan have an elaborate ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Buddha’s birth. Instead, Shinzan Roshi, had us out in the bamboo grove digging up fresh bamboo shoots to eat. The ease and vigour of his movements belied his seventy-odd years. Shinzan Roshi sat beside me. “No ceremony today,” he said. “ We make new baby Buddha like this.” He made digging movements with his hands. READ MORE>>||I was fortunate to go on sesshin with Daizan Roshi to Gyokuryuji in 2009. Shinzan Roshi made an immediate impression. Through the brilliance of his teaching, Shinzan Roshi was able to take complex Zen concepts, distil them down and make them personally relevant to everyone in the room. I learnt a great deal during the two weeks I spent at his temple. READ MORE>>||The first time I met Shinzan Roshi he was driving up the steep path to Gyokuryu-ji in a big shiny dark blue Toyota Crown Royal and leaned out the window to ask what the hell I was doing weeding his irises… READ MORE>>|
| Mark Westmoquette remembers Shinzan Roshi, the embodiment of grounded strength
||Mu on the Mountain
||My Shinzan Roshi by Dainei Tracy|
|I first met Shinzan Roshi when I went over to Japan with Daizan for a retreat in 2010. Shinzan’s Roshi was unlike anyone I’d ever met before. Physically he looked like what you might expect of any 76 year old (as he was at the time) – thin, short, slightly stooped, wrinkled. But there was something about him that immediately struck me… READ MORE>>||“This is not your training place.” Shinzan Roshi points towards the forested mountain behind the temple. “That is your training place.” Since I arrived at this Rinzai Zen temple in central Japan, he’s repeatedly told me to find, “Only one mu in the whole universe.” He’s talked about how in his own training, he’d spent fourteen months plunging himself into mu, trying to find the meaning of it. READ MORE>>||I met Shinzan Roshi the first time in the Sanzen room on retreat in 2011 at Gaunts House.
He had set us all the Mu koan and I didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing with it at all, although I heard someone shout it out as a sort of power sound when it was their turn with him… READ MORE>>
|An encounter with Shinzan Roshi by Chris Owen
||Shinzan Roshi – a Force of Nature, by Ed Evans
|Picture the scene. A week’s trip to the central mountains of Honshu, Japan to our home temple in Gyokuryuji including a five day sesshin. Up early with each day filled with silence and meditation. Day 3. My alarm rings at 5.25am. Time for a quick shower before early morning taiso (Zen exercise)… READ MORE>>||It was the summer of last year and I was half way through the second day of my first proper Zen sesshin. I was waiting in line to see Shinzan privately for an interview which would test my understanding, and I can’t overstate how highly I was valuing this. We weren’t going to have many chances to see him and I knew what was on offer with Zen and had been wearing my zeal like a badge of pride… READ MORE>>|
In this interview, recorded at Gyokuryuji in July 2014, Daizan Roshi asks him how he got into Zen and how he became a Zen master.