White Plum Lineage
The White Plum Lineage was established by Taizan Maezumi Roshi (1931–1995), one of the great pioneers of modern Zen who, alongside a handful of other Japanese masters, turned the wheel of dharma in our age and opened up a unique tradition of Buddhist practice to a worldwide movement. Maezumi Roshi received not only Shiho (Dharma Transmission) in Soto Zen from Baian Hakujun Kuroda Roshi, which he transmitted to his Dharma successors, but he also received Inka (Seal of Approval) in the Shakyamuni Kai from Osaka Koryu Roshi and in the Sanbo Kyodan from Hakuun Yasutani Roshi. As he incorporated the approaches of all of these masters, he could draw from an exceptionally rich background and express the teaching of the Buddha in a very broad and colourful way. As abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles he guided thousands of students and produced twelve successors, who spread his teaching all around the world. These twelve have further transmitted the Dharma to new generations of successors currently close to 200 in total. Most of these successors are a member of the White Plum Asanga. For a listing see the White Plum Asangha website.
As a major contribution to the transmission of Buddhist teachings to the West, Maezumi Roshi was instrumental in bringing to realization the formation of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) of American Soto Zen teachers. Maezumi Roshi also promoted exchange programmes among priests and lay practitioners between the United States and Japan. He has published commentaries on major Buddhist works. Collections of his talks appeared in book form under the titles Appreciate Your Life (Shambhala), The Echoless Valley (Dharma Communications) and Teaching of the Great Mountain (Tuttle). Maezumi Roshi passed away unexpectedly on May 15, 1995, while visiting Japan. Intimate funeral services were held in Tokyo and Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife Martha Ekyo Maezumi and their three children, Kirsten Mitsuyo, Yuri Jundo and Shira Yoshimi.
Genpo Merzel Roshi (1944, Brooklyn, USA) is the second dharma successor of Taizan Maezumi Roshi. After receiving dharma transmission in 1979 he stayed at the Zen Center of Los Angeles for four more years to assist Maezumi Roshi in teaching. Since 1982 he also started visiting Europe several times a year to conduct Zen retreats and workshops, creating the international Kanzeon Sangha. For some twenty years he was particularly active in The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and France. And even though he was first installed as abbot of Kanzeon Zen Center in Bar Harbor, Maine, in 1988 and later moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, most of his students were European during those years. Several times he invited Maezumi Roshi across the Atlantic to lead a series of sesshins in the various countries together with him. These visits were highly appreciated and are still treasured by sangha members as very precious occasions. Maezumi Roshi passed away in 1995, and up till 2000 Genpo Roshi’s teaching was clearly based on the models he had inherited. Since then he started to diverge from those models and developed an interactive method called ‘Big Mind’, which combines the way of Zen with Western psychological insights. This method proved to be very successful and led him to conduct workshops and conferences for large groups all over the USA and Europe. The “Maha Sangha Gathering”, an international retreat with the emphasis on Big Mind, held annually for many years on the island of Ameland, just off the northern coast of The Netherlands, ended up attracting over 300 participants; the last one of these retreats was held in January 2011. For personal reasons, Genpo Roshi decided to give up the Salt Lake City Zen Center’s property, to resign from the White Plum Asanga, and to more explicitly follow his own course. He now focuses on teaching Big Mind as a secular practice at various locations primarily in the USA, including Maui, Hawaii.
Genpo Roshi has given Shiho (Dharma Transmission) and Inka, the final seal of approval, to Tenkei Coppens (1996 / 2006), to Myoho Gabrysch (2008 / 2011), and to a still growing number of other students (see bigmind.org). Genpo Roshi is the author of five books: The Eye Never Sleeps, Beyond Sanity and Madness, 24/7 Dharma, The Path of the Human Being, and Big Mind/Big Heart: Finding your way and created numerous DVDs on Big Mind.
Junyu Kuroda Roshi
Baigaku Junyu Kuroda Roshi, better known to most as ‘Hojo-san’, is a younger brother of Maezumi Roshi and Abbot of two temples — Kirigayaji in Tokyo and Fujidera in Gotemba, close to Mount Fuji. According to him, he has “no life, no biography”. Yet we know that he was born in 1940 and raised in Koshinji, the family temple in Otawara. He graduated from Komazawa University in 1963 and received Shiho from his father in 1968. In addition to traditional Sodo training in Sojiji, he completed in a special course there that qualified him as a Zen Master in 1970. Since then he has travelled widely and, for example, in 1974 attended the second World Conference of Religions in Belgium and met with Paulus VI in the Vatican. In 1979 he went to Thailand to practice in the Theravada tradition. Later on, he developed a special connection with Bhutan.
From 1973 on Hojo-san often went to the US to support Maezumi Roshi in the Zen Center of Los Angeles where he was, as Tanto, in charge of monk’s training. In turn, Maezumi Roshi would always stay with Hojo-san in Kirigayaji during his annual visits to Japan and together they would discuss the future of Western Zen Buddhism. Over time, Hojo-san has become an important bridge between East and West and his role became all the more relevant after his brother passed away. He has students all over the world and yet he says “I have no extra, no luggage. Just I am I.” Hojo-san is the father of two daughters, Keiko and Hitomi, and has given dharma transmission to ten successors: Nishimaki Taijun, Kono Seiho, Nakamura Shokan, and Baiyu Matsubara from Japan, Enjo Stahel from Brazil, Seisen Saunders and Egyoku Nakao from the USA, Kanzen Maslankowski and Hojun Szpunar from Poland, and Ingrid Shugetsu Appels from The Netherlands.
In 2000, Tenkei Roshi and Myoho Roshi lived and practised for six months with Hojo-san at Kirigaya-ji. Ever since Hojo-san has been very supportive of their life vocations, and mutual visits occur almost every year. The gorgeous Buddha statue in the Hatto of Zen River and the Manjushri statue in the Zendo are two of his most precious donations. He has also introduced Tenkei and Myoho to a wide circle of friends in Japan and China, and has orchestrated many of the special ceremonies at Zen River, most notably Roshi’s Shinsanshiki (abbot’s installation ceremony) in 2002, and the inauguration of the new Zendo in 2012 by the abbots of Tiantong and Qita temples in Ningbo, China.
In 2010 Hojo-san became Gondai Kyoshi or Vice-President of the Japanese Soto School, and in 2012 he received the title of Daikyoshi, which is one of the highest ranks in the school.