In the early days of the Monastery, Daido Roshi did everything. Each month he led an introductory retreat. He would offer the introduction on Friday night, all the retreat sessions on Saturday; and dokusan for everyone who attended. Almost every Sunday for many, many years he gave a teisho. And during the early years, for each month’s week-long sesshin he would offer five or six talks during the week and dokusan every day. I don’t know how he did it. And this on top of everything else that needed to be done: administering the place, developing the training, initiating new programs of training, traveling to affiliate groups, our early prison groups, and New Zealand. He had a deep, boundless love and enthusiasm for this dharma and for the sangha.
Daido Roshi was involved in every aspect of our training. He envisioned, gave birth to, and got the sangha excited and interested in the various projects and organizations we’ve developed over the years: Dharma Communications, Fire Lotus Temple, Zen Environmental Studies Institute, and the National Buddhist Prison Sangha. This last was always significant for me because I knew how reluctant Roshi was to go into the prisons. Many years ago when he was in the Navy, he had talked back to one of his officers and was ordered to spend a week in solitary confinement with only bread and water. After that experience, he really did not want to go into prisons at all. But a group of prisoners who really wanted to practice Zen asked him to come and teach them, and he couldn’t say no.
Now that Daido Roshi has passed away, how do we hold his absence? And more importantly, how do we repay his kindness and fulfill our filial obligation? Over these months, I’ve seen vividly how he touched so many different people, in many different ways. We can certainly speak about the kind of teacher he was—his teaching style, his qualities as a person—but the fact is, like any good teacher, he had no fixed form. In speaking with the many students who studied with him, it becomes clear that each had his or her own unique experience. This is particularly true in the dharma, because the nature of this practice is so personal and intimate, it affects us in ways that we’re often not even aware of until something happens to bring that fact into relief.
As many of you know, Daido Roshi was a demanding teacher. He would take risks to try and help students realize their self-nature, and the more dedicated, the more sincere the student was, the more he or she would be challenged. Roshi expected each of us to come forward and meet the dharma, to leave our conditioned ways of being and stand on the ground of reality. He would not bring the dharma to the student, in the sense of making it overly accessible or comfortable. He was not afraid of a student being uncomfortable, because he understood through his own practice that sometimes that’s necessary if we are to meet the source of our suffering within ourselves.