http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... July 29, 2003


In This Issue:

1. A City's Police Turn to Buddhism to Fight Gangs ...By KATIE ZEZIMA
2. Life as a Benedictine Nun
...Sister Donald Corcoran
3. Taking the unknown path

4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week: The Rinzai-ji Zen Center
5. Book Review: Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free
...by Ken Wilber


1. A City's Police Turn to Buddhism to Fight Gangs ...By KATIE ZEZIMA


LOWELL, Mass. — Ten young boys, each of whom is in a gang, yet not old enough to shave or drive, fidgeted in their chairs and taunted one other as a yellow-robed monk tried to teach them how to be good students and exemplary Buddhists.

"You need to learn good seating, good talking and good association with your friends," said the monk, the Venerable Monriath Pinn, handing them a list of Buddhist characteristics of good students.

He soon moved to the next lesson: meditation, done while walking and holding a cup of water. Several of the boys eagerly followed him across the room to try it out while others lagged behind.

Regardless of whether the students like it, learning self-discipline and introspection are the core of this crime-fighting program where the sacred meets the streets in this city of shuttered mills, 30 miles northwest of Boston.

Lowell, a city of 105,000, has had a large influx of Southeast Asians in the past five years, most of them Cambodians who have settled in the Highlands neighborhood. The 2000 census shows that Asians constitute about 17 percent of the population here, a figure officials believe has since grown. The city has also seen a sharp rise in Cambodian gangs, which were virtually unknown here 10 years ago.

Most gang members are boys 12 to 16, Capt. Robert DeMoura of the Lowell Police Department said. They join mostly for protection on the streets, Captain DeMoura said, and a gang is a family of sorts when it is not unusual for parents to work two or three jobs.

Most gang members do not carry guns, and the city's rate of violent crime has remained relatively steady, Captain DeMoura said, while there has been a steep rise in crimes like car theft, robbery and, most recently, drug use.

The police, the captain said, want to stop the gang members from committing more serious crimes. Their first target, the police decided, would be adolescent runaways, a growing problem amongin Lowell's Cambodians.

Previous outreach projects had failed, mainly because of the language barrier, Captain DeMoura said, and the department was willing to try anything. So this time, it decided to use religion, citing the strong place it has in Cambodian life and culture.

The police enlisted the help of Chanda Soth, a police project assistant who lives in the gang members' neighborhood and has strong ties to a Buddhist temple in neighboring town of North Chelmsford, a five-minute drive from here. Ms. Soth also speaks Khmer, and acts as the police translator. The seven monks who live at the temple immediately agreed to a program intended to help the troubled Cambodian youngsters.

So the department recently plucked the names of five young runaways from its records. Ms. Soth and Captain DeMoura met with their parents, assuring them that their boys would be safe and together.

The boys spend two nights each week, more if they want, at the temple. The monks teach them how to improve themselves from the inside out and become better citizens, students and Buddhists. The first meetings were in early June. Five more boys have already been added to the program, and officials hope to enroll as many as 50.

The Venerable Khon Sao, the leader of the monks at the temple and president of the Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks, an association of 80 temples nationwide, believes the program is unprecedented among Buddhists in the United States. He said he had received inquiries about it from police departments and temples around the country.

Captain DeMoura said, "This program is definitely not going to reduce the amount of gang violence on the streets today, but our hope is that it will reduce the amount of gang violence tomorrow."

While three boys intently tried to cross the room with glasses filled with water, boys on the sidelines heckled them. The Venerable Monriath Pinn gave a cup to the smallest boy, 11, who swatted it away and swore under his breath. "Don't you want to be a good boy?" the monk asked.

All of the boys soon followed the monk across the room, where, silent for the first time, they knelt in front of a shrine to Buddha and clasped their hands in prayer. The monk sounded the gong for three prayers to Buddha. On each chime the boys bowed.

After the monk left, the boys reverted to their street-selves. Wearing Dickies the color of their gangs, they bragged in salty language about brushes with the law and getting jumped in gang initiations. But minutes later they were sneaking chocolates from the monks' kitchen and rolling on the floor, giggling like children while trying to make a boy shout "uncle."

None said they would leave a gang any time soon. Were they to quit, they said, not only would other gangs be after them, but also the spurned gang. They get in trouble because there is nothing else to do, they said. But the program has taught them about the importance of education and respect. They know they are here to improve themselves, and all said they would try to stay out of trouble and do well in school, so as not to disappoint Ms. Soth or the monks.

The boys come because the temple is the only place they know where they will be out of trouble.

"We use our anger outside," one boy said. "When we're in here, we're peaceful. It's the only peaceful place we can find."

Last month two of the boys took Ms. Soth's silver BMW for a joy ride and were stopped by the police. One of the boys, Jimmy, 15, spent a week in a youth detention facility. Afterward, he came back to the temple because, he said, he missed it. Jimmy said he realized the value of the program while in detention, where he he said he meditated when "bad thoughts" came into his mind.

Jimmy said it was an honor to be taught by someone of the stature of the Venerable Khon Sao. He is "the only person we're actually afraid of," Jimmy said.

Jimmy said he was determined to stay out of trouble, for Ms. Soth's sake more than anyone else. She forgave him for stealing the car.

Ms. Soth, 30, has become a surrogate sibling to the boys. She takes them to the movies and burger cafes and even sleeps at the temple several nights a week, as the boys often choose to stay there rather than go to their homes.

"I sacrifice all my time," said Ms. Soth, who says she intends to remain single to better solve social problems. "If they call at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, I answer. I say, `What can I do to save you?'

"But it's amazing what happens once they build that trust. They're great kids. They're troubled kids, but they're great kids."

2. Life as a Benedictine Nun ...Sister Donald Corcoran


Sister Donald Corcoran, OSB, Cam., is a native of Minnesota, USA. She has been a Benedictine nun for thirty-five years. From 1976 to 1979, Sister Donald was co-director of the Institute of Religious Formation at St. Louis University where she also headed the M.A. in spirituality program. She remains an adjunct professor at St. Louis University where she returns every January to teach a course on the history of Christian spirituality. She has a Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University with a specialization in spirituality. Her dissertation is entitled "The Spiritual Guide: Midwife of the Higher Spiritual Self," a study of the classic master/disciple relationship in the great spiritual traditions. In 1979, she helped found the Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor, New York, where she currently lives. Her present interest is a comparative study of Benedictine and Confucian spirituality. [June 1995]

We have great fortune to be here together, to learn from each other and to share with each other. This evening I would like to speak about four topics: the monastic archetype, my particular tradition, how I came to be a Benedictine nun, and spiritual formation.

The Monastic Archetype

Monasticism is a worldwide phenomenon: we find Buddhist monks and nuns, Hindu ascetics, the Taoist hermits of China, the Sufi brotherhoods, and Christian monastic life. Thus, it's accurate to say that monastic life existed prior to the Gospel. For whatever reasons, there is an instinct in the human heart which some persons have chosen to live out in a deliberate and continual way for their entire life; they have chosen a life of total consecration to spiritual practice. In a New York Times book review of Thomas Merton's poems a number of years ago, the reviewer commented that a remarkable thing about Merton was that he made an extreme life option seem reasonable. That was a wonderful comment about monastic life! It is an extreme life option: the normal way is the life of the householder. The way of the monastic is the exception, and yet I think that there is a monastic dimension to every human heart--that sense of the absolute, that sense of a preoccupation with the ultimate and what it means. This has been lived out and concretized historically in several of the major religious traditions of humankind. So, Chodron and I are here this evening to speak to you and share with you about our own experience in our traditions as women monastics and what monastic life means.

The Benedictine Tradition

I am a Roman Catholic Benedictine and love my tradition very much. In fact, I think any good Buddhist would tell me that I am far too attached, but maybe a little ebullience like that creates some success. Many years ago a sister from another order told me, "Maybe we should just finish with having so many Orders in the Church and have just one group called the American Sisters." I said, "That's fine. As long as everyone wants to be Benedictine, that's fine!"

Founded in 529, the Benedictine order is the oldest monastic order of the West. St. Benedict is the patron of Europe and is called the father of Western monasticism. Two and one-half centuries of monastic life and experience happened before him and he is, to some extent, the conduit through which the earlier traditions--the spirituality of the desert fathers, John Cassian, Evagrius, and so on--was channeled through southern France, Gaul. The source that Benedict primarily used, "The Rule of the Master," is a distillation of much of that two and one-half centuries of monastic experience and tradition. Benedict added a pure Gospel rendering and provided a form of monastic life that was the via media, a way of moderation between extremes. It was a livable form of monastic life that was created just at the time the Roman Empire was crumbling. Thus Benedict's monastic lifestyle and his monasteries became a backbone of Western civilization, and the Benedictine monks saved much of classical culture--manuscripts and so forth. The sixth to the twelfth centuries are called by historians the Benedictine Centuries.

Benedict represents a kind of mainline monastic life. Both men and women have existed in Benedictine monastic life from the beginning because St. Benedict had a twin sister named St. Scholastica who had a convent nearby his monastery. Even when the Benedictines finally were sent to England by Pope St. Gregory the Great--St. Augustine--Benedictine nuns were established very early on the Isle of Thanet off of England. In that way the male and female branches of the Order have existed right from the beginning in the Benedictine tradition. In fact, this is true also of the older religious Orders in the Catholic Church: the Franciscans and Dominicans both have male and female branches, although as far as I know, there are no female Jesuits--yet.

The Benedictine way of life is a balanced life of prayer, work, and study. Benedict had the genius to provide a balanced daily rhythm of certain hours for prayer in common--the Divine Office or Liturgical Prayer--times for private prayer, times for study--a practice called lectio divina, a spiritual reading of the sacred text--and time for work. The Benedictine motto is ora et labora--prayer and work--although some people say it's prayer and work, work, work! This balanced life is a key to the success of the Benedictine tradition. It has lasted for fifteen centuries because of a common sense, and because of an emphasis on Gospel values. Benedict had a great sensitivity for the old and the young, the infirm, the pilgrim. For example, an entire chapter of the Rule deals with hospitality and the reception of guests. One way the Benedictine motto has been described is that it is the love of learning and the desire of God. The Benedictines have a wonderful sense of culture and a great tradition of scholarship.

Women have been very important in the Benedictine tradition. Women like St. Gertrude and Hildegarde of Bingen, who have been rediscovered in the last five or ten years, have always been important in the Benedictine tradition. Earlier today when Chodron and I met, we discussed transmission and lineage, and although we in the West don't have the master/disciple type of lineage that Buddhism has, we do have a kind of subtle transmission in the monasteries, a spirit that carries over from generation to generation. For example, an abbey of Benedictine nuns in England has a unique style of prayer which they trace back four centuries to Augustine Baker, the great spiritual writer. The nuns in this monastery pass this tradition on from one person to another. Monasteries are great reservoirs of spiritual power and spiritual knowledge in the tradition; they are a priceless resource.

In early Buddhism, monastics wandered from place to place in groups and were stable only during the monsoon season. Chodron told me she is continuing this tradition of wandering, even if it be by airplane! Meanwhile, the Benedictines are the only order in the Roman Church that has a vow of stability. That doesn't mean that we have a chain and ball and have to literally be in one place. Rather, at the time Benedict wrote the rule in the sixth century, there were a lot of free lance monks wandering around. Some of them were not very reputable, and these were called the gyrovagues, or those who traveled around. Benedict tried to reform this by creating a stable monastic community. However, throughout the history of the Benedictines, there have been many who have wandered or who have been pilgrims. Even I have been on the road a lot for someone who has a vow of stability! The essential thing, of course, is stability in the community and its way of life.

My Vocation and Experience as a Nun

I trace my vocation back to when I was in the eighth grade and my maternal grandmother unexpectedly died of a heart attack. I was suddenly confronted with the question, "What is the purpose of human existence? What is it all about?" I remember very clearly thinking, "Either God exists and everything makes sense, or God does not exist and nothing makes sense." I reflected that if God exists, then it makes sense to live entirely in accordance with that fact. Although I was not going to a Catholic school and did not know any nuns, in a sense that was the beginning of my vocation because I concluded, "Yes, God exists and I am going to live entirely in terms of that." Although I was a normal child who went to Sunday Mass, but not daily Mass, I really didn't have much of a spirituality before this sudden confrontation with death brought me to question the purpose of human existence.

A few years later, in high school, I began to perceive a distinct call toward religious life and Benedictine life in particular. It was at this time that I felt the rising of desire for prayer and contact with that divine reality. In 1959, I entered an active Benedictine Community in Minnesota that engaged in teaching, nursing, and social work.

I have been a Benedictine for more than thirty years now, and I think it is a great grace and a wonderful experience. I have no regrets at all; it's been a wonderful journey. At the beginning of my monastic life in Minnesota, I taught as well as lived a monastic life. As time went on I felt that I wanted to concentrate on my spiritual practice; I felt a call to contemplative life and didn't know how I would live this out. For six years I taught high school, and then came to the east coast to study at Fordham. Increasingly I began to sense that living a contemplative life was the right thing to do, but before that was actualized I taught at St. Louis University for three years. I knew two sisters who were in Syracuse and intended to start the foundation from scratch in the Diocese of Syracuse, and I asked my community in Minnesota for permission to join them. But before doing that I decided that I should visit first, and so in 1978 drove from St. Louis to New York City, with a stop in Syracuse. On the Feast of the Transfiguration, I drove from Syracuse to New York City and on the way was almost out of gas. I pulled into the little town of Windsor, and as I drove down the main street, said to myself, "It would be nice to live in a small town like this." The sisters had no idea where in the Diocese of Syracuse they were going to locate. Six months later I got a letter from Sister Jean-Marie saying that they had bought property in the southern tier of New York about fifteen miles east of Binghamton. I had a funny feeling that I remembered what town that was, and sure enough, it was Windsor. I believe the hand of God has been clearly guiding me along the way, specifically to Windsor.

After teaching graduate school in St. Louis for three years, I moved to Windsor to work with the other sisters to start a community from scratch, which is quite a challenge. Our aim is to return to a classical Benedictine lifestyle, very close to the earth, with great solitude, simplicity, and silence. Hospitality is a very important part of our life, so we have two guest houses. We are five nuns, and we hope to grow, although not into a huge community. We have a young sister now who is a very talented icon painter.

One privilege that I've had within the Order is that for eight years I was on a committee of both Benedictines and Trappists--monks and nuns--who were commissioned by the Vatican to begin dialogue with Buddhist and Hindu monks and nuns. In the mid-seventies, the Vatican Secretariat dialogued with the other major religions of the world and said that monastics should take a leading role in this because monasticism is a worldwide phenomenon. For eight years I had the privilege of being on a committee that began the dialogue with Hindu and Buddhist monks and nuns in the United States, and we sponsored visits of some of the Tibetan monks to American monasteries. In 1980, I was sent as a representative to the Third Asian Monastic Conference in Kandy, Sri Lanka, which was a meeting of Christian monastics in Asia. Our focus for that meeting was on poverty and simplicity of life, and also the question of dialogue with other traditions.

Spiritual Formation

What is spirituality all about? To me, spirituality or the spiritual life comes down to one word-- transformation. The path is about transformation, the passage from our old self to the new self, the path from ignorance to enlightenment, the path from selfishness to greater charity. There are many ways that this can be talked about: Hinduism talks about the ahamkara, the superficial self, and the atman, the deep self that one attains through spiritual practice. Merton talked about the transition or the passage from the false self to our true identity in God. The Sufi tradition discusses the necessity of the disintegration of the old self, fana, and ba'qa, the reintegration in a deeper, spiritual self. I am not saying that all of these are identical, but they are certainly analogous, even homologous. Tibetan Buddhism talks about the vajra self, and it is interesting that Theresa of Avila in The Interior Castle describes going inward to the center of her soul through steps and phases of spiritual practice. She said, "I came to the center of my soul, where I saw my soul blazing up like a diamond." The symbol of the diamond, the vajra, is a universal or archetypal symbol of spiritual transformation. The diamond is luminous--light shines through it--and yet it's indestructible. It is the result of transformation through intense pressure and intense heat. All true spiritual transformation, I believe, is a result of spiritually intense pressure and intense heat. In the Book of Revelation, chapter 22, there's a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem which is the consummation of the cosmos or the consummation of our individual spiritual journey. The writer of the Book of Revelation describes a mandala: "I saw the vision of the city, a twelve-gated city and in the center was the throne with the Lamb on it, the Father/Son, and a river of life flowing in four directions, the Holy Spirit." This is the Christian trinitarian interpretation. As the author of the Book of Revelations describes it, the waters were crystal or diamond-like. That light of the grace of God, the divine, the ultimate that transforms us is that crystal light, that diamond-like luminosity that shines through us. We chose to name the monastery at Windsor Monastery of the Transfiguration, because we believe that monastics are called to be transformed themselves in order to transform the cosmos; to transform not only ourselves, but the entire world; to let that light, that luminosity, radiate out from us to all of creation.

Another way that the Tibetan Buddhists talk about enlightenment is the intermarriage of wisdom and compassion. I've thought about this, and may be stretching your meaning of it a little bit, but I think that in each human being there is a tendency towards love and a tendency towards knowledge. Those basic virtues, those instincts in us, must be transformed in order to complete love and knowledge. Our love is like the anima that must become animus, and our knowledge is the animus which must become anima. That is, our knowledge must become wisdom by becoming loving, and our loving must become wise in order to be transformed. I believe that we can identify that process leading to the intermarriage of wisdom and compassion in all the great paths of holiness.

I haven't said much about women and women's experience, but we'll get to that in the discussion after our presentations. Chodron and I certainly had some interesting discussions about it today at the monastery! I believe scholars have found that perhaps the first evidence of any sort of monastic life was with the women who were Jains in India. Perhaps the first monastic life in history that we know of was a women's form of monastic life.

3. Taking the unknown path ...By Georgia Rowe ...TIMES CORRESPONDENT


Barbara Gates' diagnosis of breast cancer prompted her to take health-promoting neighborhood walks, which in turn led to some unexpected discoveries.

Already Home: A Topography of Spirit ...by Barbara Gates


Ten years ago, Barbara Gates embarked on a remarkable journey. Unlike many explorers before her, though, she didn't have to brave uncharted wilderness to get to her destination. In fact, she seldom left the Berkeley neighborhood she calls home.

Her travels began with a crisis. Diagnosed with breast cancer and prompted by the sudden realization of her own mortality, Gates did what many women in the same position have done: She began taking walks. But what started as a quest for wellness evolved into a profound exploration of the environment and her place in it, as well as a deeper sense of what it means to be "home." The results of her journey are recorded in "Already Home," a poignant and inspiring memoir that interweaves themes of family and friendship, ecology and Zen Buddhism, health and home with one woman's search for connection with the world around her.

Gates, a free-lance writer and editor who, along with Wes "Scoop" Nisker, co-founded Inquiring Mind -- a Buddhist journal with 30,000 international subscribers -- is the picture of fiftysomething health. Petite and vivacious, with sparkling blue eyes and a ready smile, the former high school teacher radiates the calm of one who regularly meditates. And she has the trim figure of a woman who spends a lot of time walking.

Yet, during a recent interview at the comfortable Victorian home she shares with her family -- husband Patrick, a lawyer with the State Judicial Council; teenage daughter Katy; and their dog, Cleo -- Gates says she was in bad shape when the events described in the book began.

"I was in a panic," says Gates. "I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was dealing with a lot of fear -- fear that I would die young, that I would leave my daughter without a mom. I started walking in the hills, for my health and for my spirit."

Even though she was walking often -- mostly in and around Tilden Park -- and enjoying it, Gates says her fears kept her from fully seeing her surroundings. A visit to an acupuncturist -- one of the many traditional and nontraditional healers she worked with to overcome the cancer -- provided a wake-up call.

"His prescription for me was 'take more risks,'" she recalls. "At first I was a little angry: 'What do you mean? Do you say this to everybody?' And he said, 'No, I'm saying it to you.'"

A few days later, Gates was walking in Tilden Park. It was a familiar trail -- worried about getting lost or being attacked, she always stayed on paved areas -- but a sudden impulse drove her off the path.

"I went straight into the park, irrespective of my fears of rapists, coyotes and whatever else might be in there," she says. "I just let that go."

Gates realized that she wanted to take the same kind of departure in her own neighborhood -- a place she'd inhabited for six years but seldom explored. Over the next few years, she walked the streets, trails and back alleys of the west Berkeley area known as Ocean View, which encompasses industrial plants, residential housing, older commercial zones and newer, upscale shopping districts. Gates explored them all, and she writes of her concern over issues from toxic emissions -- which she suspects contributed to her cancer -- to the equally toxic problems of violence, homelessness and drug use.

Along the way, she befriended neighbors. She started a meditation group and a series of informal dinners. She made connections with local activists. She reached out to a homeless woman named Dee, a former neighbor who frequently slept in the back seat of the author's car.

Gates acknowledges that people might not see these things as particularly risky -- "they're not like bungee jumping," she says wryly -- but for her, each step represented a "risk of the imagination" supported by her longtime Buddhist practice.

Some of the book's most engaging recollections are of the author overcoming small fears -- raccoons in the back yard, a rat in her refrigerator, a confrontation between a skunk and Gates' beloved Cleo. As she walked, Gates says that the dog -- a 14-year-old Australian shepherd and border collie mix -- often led her into places she didn't even know existed.

"In one sense, I was exploring the world through the nose of my dog," she says with a laugh. "Cleo will follow scents that I probably wouldn't."

One day they discovered a tiny alleyway between 5th and 6th streets. Gates says it was like stepping back into another century. "There was a building that was part of a former farm," she says. "The trail was unpaved, and it gave the sense of a trail created by wagon wheels. This was just a few blocks down from the Burger Kings and gas stations of San Pablo Avenue."

She began to study the history of the area, talking to local historians, geologists, archaeologists and scholars about the people who had lived there in generations past. She started combing libraries, historical societies and government offices for official records. She learned about the family of German immigrants who built her house and others on her block, and the American Indians who created the 5,000-year-old shellmound villages along the nearby shoreline -- areas that are now entirely covered by landfill, she notes. She researched the creeks that formerly flowed through her neighborhood, now channeled into culverts.

Gates says she began to feel deeply connected to her predecessors, and the knowledge of their history dramatically changed her perceptions. "As I walked through the streets, I began to peel back the pavement in my mind and imagine what it was like when the creeks ran free," she says. "This was a wet neighborhood. There were little bridges built across University and San Pablo Avenue in the rainy season because the creeks overflowed. It was extraordinary to imagine these dry paved streets wet and filled with life."

For Gates, that knowledge also gave her a keener sense of how the world interacts. "This neighborhood is very instructive of what we're all experiencing on the planet right now, because everything here is in close proximity," she says. "You have factories and residences right next to one another, so it's more apparent that the fumes, the runoff to the creeks, is going to impact the people who live nearby."

Perhaps more importantly, she began to see her own place in her neighborhood with a clearer perspective. "I don't think of home so much as a place anymore," she says. "I see it as more of a relationship, a way of seeing one's place between the outer terrain of the streets and the inner terrain of the mind. ... As I became intimate with my neighborhood, there was an opening to my own place in the world, my own personal history. I began to feel more at home, and then there was a recognition that actually I'd been home all along. I just hadn't seen that before. Learning about my place and the evolution of the place allowed me to relax, to become more comfortable with my life as it was and to have more moments of feeling at home than I'd ever had before."

Gates eventually opted for a lumpectomy followed by radiation treatment. Today she's cancer-free and feeling healthier than when she started. Reaction to the book has been overwhelmingly positive, she says -- in fact, Gates is starting a series of "Already Home" workshops and developing a curriculum based on the book for teachers. "I hope that when people read this book, it will inspire them to explore the terrain of their own lives," she says. "To learn the names of their neighbors, to learn the history of their block, to find out what creeks might run under their streets. To find out about toxic emissions in their neighborhoods. To find out who lived in their house, and maybe who built their house. To learn from what they find out, and in the process, to find more ease and openness to their own experience of their lives in the places where they live."

4. The Rinzai-ji Zen Center


Rinzai-ji Zen Center

2505 Cimarron Street
Los Angeles, Ca 90018
United States of America
Telephone: (323) 732-2263
E-mail: office@rinzaiji.org

Our History

Rinzai-ji Zen Center was first known as Cimarron Zen Center of Rinzai-ji. The Center, at the corner of 25th and Cimarron Streets in the Adams District of Los Angeles was opened officially April 21, 1968 as part of Roshi’s 61st birthday celebration. The building that houses Rinzai-ji was constructed in the 1920’s by a California Senator as a gift for a friend. The house was comprised of a court yard, dining area, private quarters and a spacious main hall. The main hall was converted to the Zendo, the heart of Rinzai-ji. The cathedral ceilings and tile floor have created a unique combination of open space above in contrast to the compressed space of the heart of a major city. This theme is carried further into the flagstone court yard and Buddha bath surrounded by plants and trees to provide a unique haven from the busy confusion of the city.

Cimarron Zen Center was not always such a pleasant place. One must remember the state of Los Angeles and the nation in 1968. The country was at war without in Vietnam and within in the states, city, and towns. It was the time of race riots and assassinations. Only a year before Newark and Detroit had been engulfed by riots, closing down those cities completely for a time. January 1968 marked the peak of the Vietnam War with the Tet offensive. Following John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Malcom X in 1965, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis TN, April 4th 1968 and Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles, June 5th 1968.

The house at the corner of 25th and Cimarron Streets has been unoccupied for more than a year serving as a hangout. The City of Los Angeles had condemned the residence as unsafe for occupancy. A group led by Dan Sunada helped Roshi purchase and renovate the derelict structure with the help of students.

Following a Dai-sesshin in Vancouver in April 1968, Roshi returned to Los Angeles where more than 200 students helped Roshi celebrate his birthday and the official opening of Cimarron Zen Center April 21st. After six years of work, Roshi had established the first permanent Rinzai Zen Center in the United States. For the next two years Roshi Sasaki set the tone for the traditional strict practice he brought to America. Sanzen was given morning and evening. Roshi patrolled the Zendo correcting postures and applying the Keisaku as required. Those who stayed grew stronger under his rigorous discipline. Following the purchase of Cimarron, two other neighborhood houses, Gentei-an and Genro-an were donated by senior students to the center. The additional spaces allow students to live and practice at the center.

The role of Cimarron has changed through the years. Mt Baldy Zen Center and Jemez Bodhi Manda were founded in 1971 and 1974 to host formal monastic training. Cimarron Zen Center became the ceremonial center for Roshi’s Sangha. An example of this role was the visit of the Kansho of Myoshin-ji, Kajiura Roshi, to Cimarron in 1977. Myoshin-ji is the source temple for Roshi’s lineage and Rinzai-ji. Cimarron, now Rinzai-ji Zen Center, continues to be the location for the annual celebrations of Hanamatsuri (Buddha’s Birthday), Buddha’s death day, Rinzai’s Memorial day, Bodhidharma’s Memorial day, Roshi’s birthday, and Roshi’s arrival in America day on July 21st.

In the early 1990s Cimarron Zen Center of Rinzai-ji became Rinzai-ji Zen Center to be more in accord with the role of this Zen Center in Roshi Sasaki’s Sangha. Most recently Roshi celebrated his 95th Birthday, his 40th Anniversary in America, and Bodhidharma day.

Our Mission

Rinzai-ji Zen Center is an urban meditation center that offers daily Zen practice and the opportunity for residential Zen practice. Rinzai-ji also serves as the main temple of Rinzai-ji, Inc., an organization of temples founded by Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Several times during the year Buddhist ceremonies are performed at Rinzai-ji and Dai-sesshin with the Abbott, Joshu Roshi, is held.

The mission of Rinzai-ji is to serve the local and regional community as a place for Zen studies, a place for reflection and insight.

The spacious Zendo invites everyone to participate in the formal Zazen practice, to join their voices in the daily recitation and chanting practice.

There are many ways in which one can engage at Rinzai-ji and everyone is welcome to join our community.

5. Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free ...by Ken Wilber


I‚ve thought of each of you after reading "Boomeritis - A Novel That Will
Set You Free," by Ken Wilber. Perhaps some of you have followed this man‚s
career or have read some of his books. I made time for reading only two;
the story of the death of his first wife by cancer - "Grace and Grit:
Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber" - a
book that was almost too heartbreaking to finish, and just recently,
"Boomeritis." His great tomes of psychology, consciousness studies, and
integral theory I have conveniently managed to ignore due to laziness, a
preoccupation with pursuing one of those college degree thingies, and a
general dismissal of anything beyond the realm of verifiability and

Having just finished "Boomeritis," I now feel prepared to breach those
limitations and welcome once again into my mental universe Wilber‚s very
compelling ideas governing consciousness studies. The novel was a treat; a
joyful revisitation through the Flatland of Baby-boomer narcissism and the
darker side of post-modernism. Wilber pulls no punches; those who may most
enjoy the work will regard the story as an extraordinarily readable
experience in cognitive housekeeping. Those who don‚t necessarily define
themselves as classic liberals, but who plot their ideas on multiple points
along the political and cultural spectrum, will also find much to rejoice
about as they witness a language that escapes the confines of our bifurcated
left/right discourse. Wilber uses the "Spiral Dynamics" model of the
evolution of consciousness developed by Don Beck, the individual largely
responsible for engineering the dissolution of apartheid in South Africa, to
explain with profound breadth the seemingly intractable problems facing our
world. All in all, the story is Wilber‚s attempt at boiling down his
thirty prolific years into a rollicking fun read, one that can leave even
the most disillusioned Bush - era souls amongst us with a renewed sense of
optimism and hope for the future. What‚s more, after reading it, you will
be able to go to cocktail parties and proclaim with confidence, "Why yes, I
am familiar with the work of Ken Wilber." ...Cheers! Scott

Amazon.com- Reviewer: Nicq MacDonald from Sioux Falls, SD United States... What will realize god-consciousness first- Carbon or Silicon?

In Boomeritis, Ken Wilber's first novel, and probably his most avant-garde project yet (which is saying quite a bit), the philosopher-sage from Colorado jumps into the pop spirituality marketplace with a book that pokes fun at the New Age movement, takes a flamethrower to the sacred cows of what Spiral Dynamics refers to as the "mean green meme", and has enough raunchy sex fantasies to make Robert Anton Wilson blush. This ain't James Redfield or Deepak Chopra, not by a long shot.

"Boomeritis" is the "Great Postmodern Novel". It's about nothing but theory, filled with two-dimensional characters and silly, cruel dialogue, constantly self-references, interrupts all meaningful thoughts with lewdness, reduces all meaning to surface features and irony- and this is precisely what makes this novel so brilliant. In writing such a novel, Wilber shows his reader precisely what is wrong with "flatland" by subtly [pulling] the reader into his worldview, and then bludgeoning the reader with the realization that he's been had- that the shallowness of the novel and the endless gags are nothing but a ploy and a put on by a literary zen master in an attempt to beat the reader into awakening. It's a turnabout that will catch the reader unprepared, even if he thinks he's prepared for it. Wilber's deviousness and tongue-in-cheek humor, though evident in his scholarly works as well, are out in full force here.

But "Boomeritis" is more than just an extremely long koan. It's a musing on consiciousness, artificial intelligence, and meaning. It has a wonderful segment in which Wilber relates true stories from his friend, the musician Stuart Davis, who is featured as a prominent character in the story. Best of all, the ending is an absolute blast.

Pick up Boomeritis, for Wilber tells the truth, if in a somewhat roundabout way- this novel will set you free.

Amazon.com- Reviewer: Sid Mehta from Canada... Wilber truly has written the great postmodern novel here - a novel of ideas that implicitly rejects and undercuts its own premises! This piece of work places a world-historical view of America's current spiritual/social development in terms of Wilber's own "theory of everything." The ultimate conclusion: all America's current cultural problems are caused by -liberalism! Except Wilber calls it the "green meme". This whole conclusion is brilliantly laid out step by step throughout the narrative.

It is absolutely fascinating to see a genius like Wilber wittily describe point after damning point rejecting liberalism, his own current ideology, then agree with those facts - and yet never quite realize that he is refuting his own belief system in his own novel! Truly contradictory enough to be postmodern, and a psychological death knell for American liberals. If the smartest one of them has begun to doubt and reject these beliefs - how long before the rest follow? This novel is truly a portent of things to come in the American psyche.

Amazon.com- Reviewer: Paul b Burns from Vancouver, BC Canada... Some Very important literary things to remember:

1. In post modern novels the characters are often flat.

2. Post modern novels have a strange twist of self-reflexivity. I kept asking, Are these professors a bunch of boomers with another brilliant idea to save the world? The novel creates space for this question and many more hard-liner self criticisms.

3. A post modern novel cannot be poorly written. This book is almost all dialogs. Descriptions, colors and environments are assumption of the reader - this could be considered interactivity. Does the reader create the reality of the book? Does the reader have legitimate interpretations of the diced up choppy dialog. Sometimes the novel is talking at you and sometimes it invites you only as a witness; in any case it seems to stress a spectrum of legitimacy the reader can have of the novel or any observable objective information- this protects the novel against interpretations by deconstructionist (or boomers themselves). The novel means what is means and is written in a style that best communicates the meaning.

4. Mythical themes are always interlaced in post modern works. Wilber seems to be suggesting that Harvard and MIT are contemporary mythical ideas - the panicle of academia.

5. This novel will hopefully bring non-gag-factor hope to Xs, Ys, and Boomers. And it suggests Xers are standing on the shoulders of boomers reaching for the yellow sun.


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