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Sangha Says . . .

The Midwest Zen Summer of 1983
— Natalie Goldberg

Posted here on Lion’s Roar.

Joy and serenity
— Will Hegeman

I had not been to Hokyoji before the 2014 spring work weekend. In fact, I had never been to that corner of the state, even though I’ve lived in Minnesota for 46 years. I had no expectations. But as I drove along the river, entered the town of New Albin, and then made my way down the gravel entrance road to Hokyoji, I could feel that this was a special place.

The weekend was one of deep joy and serenity. The morning and evening zazen, the wonderful communal meals, the preparations that would enable Hokyoji to welcome summer visitors — all left me profoundly grateful that I could be part of this sangha.

Hokyoji is indeed special. I look forward to returning.

Different and not so different
— Dan Ryan

In late April I spent a three day weekend at Hokyoji participating in a work weekend. This wasn’t my first work weekend and I was looking forward to it. One of the nice things about going to Hokyoji is that it is different from my everyday life and everyday practice. It doesn’t hurt that the place is so beautiful, but it is certainly a welcome change of pace. We work pretty hard and stay pretty busy, but its a more casual experience of Hokyoji than a formal retreat. Everyone is welcoming, friendly and they seem genuinely glad when people come to help. Maybe what’s most striking to me, though, isn’t the distance and the difference of the place, but the understanding that its not so different. The opportunity to practice with the Hokyoji residents and some of the local members of the Hokyoji community is reaffirming and encouraging because I see again (and again) that we are not so very different or far away. This allows me to see that the aspiration to realize some kind of human freedom is really not so very rare; is really not limited to my small experience. So by going to this isolated corner of Minnesota I come away feeling that I’ve actually connected in some way to a far bigger world. Thanks Hokyoji. I’m glad you’re there.

Ideal place
— Steve Wilklow

I visited Katagiri’s resting place. Somehow he knew deep down inside the power of that location for Hokyoji. The hills and valleys leading down to the great river valley are an ideal location to access the “inner net”.

A week in the snow
— Kathleen Copple

I decided to spend a week at Hokyoji for the beginning of the 2014 winter practice period, partly motivated by the fact that I may not be able to attend a summer sesshin this year, and partly intrigued with the thought that the season of winter would add another dimension to sitting many periods of zazen. In what way I was not sure, but winter in itself can be a time of reflection.  

My practice at home can be rather erratic at times; some weeks I sit every day, and other weeks I miss several days.  At Hokyoji, it was getting up at 4:30 in the morning and sitting throughout the day till 9 pm; sleepy with a continuous commercial swirling in my head the first 2 days. By day 3, more awake, less chatter. By day 4, a rhythm sets in.  You never know what it all means, this sitting, but you do it. By day 5, the end of the week, I feel I could go on — and then it’s time to leave.

I was struck by something I read the day after I returned home about the founder, Dainin Katagiri Roshi.  “Katagiri Roshi emphasized zazen as wholehearted surrender rather than using zazen as a means to psychological healing or even to become a buddha. He lived the precepts of conduct as the expression of wonderment rather than moralistic regulations. He taught a Zen that offered no sweet cookies rather than a means to build personal or collective fame or fortune. And Roshi emphasized the central role of the teacher-student relationship.”

I returned home with deep appreciation. I am grateful that Hokyoji exists and that it has such a wonderful abbot and teacher, Dokai. I am also grateful for the other resident monk, Hoko, for her teaching and guidance.  Thank you for your devotion to ‘free all beings’.

Rohatsu sesshin at Hokyoji
–Bruce Carlson

I sat my first Rohatsu Sesshin with Nonin at Hokyoji in 1990. I remember it well. We had invaded Kuwait that day and exiting my vehicle outside the cabin, I slipped on glare ice in the cold black December night, under the new moon and the glittering of stars, and dislocated my little finger on my left hand. What a start to my Rohatsu sitting experience.

In 1996 sitting with Shoken Winecoff and Jikan Kondrick, we sat in 20-below-zero temps with our backs at the wood stove and our ventral surfaces freezing cold. Jikan served me my first ginger tea, and it packed a punch that lit an inner fire but did not touch the cold in the zendo. It snowed about 18 inches and several people could not join us, so we had the place to ourselves and the teaching was to lean into the cold.

Dokai has been so generous to let me sit with the group when my schedule allows. The evening sitting schedule and chosan in the morning with the sangha has been a delight for me these past three or four years. The dharma comes alive around the round table. The heated zendo is such a great addition; 60 degrees was the low inside, which was 50 degrees above the outside temperature–cozy compared to the past.

I met Katagiri at Hokyoji in1986.  It was a brief but life altering experience. We talked about the spring, and the exhilaration of splashing into the cold. Four years later I heard of his death and was moved to try and understand what his practice was about. Hokyoji is a special place. It oozes tranquility, peace and calm–that is, on the outside.  Sitting in the zendo, I have found my mind anything but the aforementioned . I am blessed to have Hokyoji in my backyard.