RS: As much as Daido Roshi was a traditionalist, I think of myself as being even more traditional. I trust tremendously the simplicity, the discipline, the rigor, of zazen, and paying very careful attention to the people coming here and what they are asking for. This hasn’t changed over the twenty years that I have been here. I don’t think we need to be reinventing the wheel. We have plenty here to work with for a long time.
SS: I think our responsibility—and this was very much Daido Roshi’s teaching—was that he definitely wanted us to continue his vision and the Eight Gates of Training and the integrity of practice and the intensity, and so on. But he also didn’t want to confine us. There were times we actually came to him and said, “We think this needs to be more defined,” and he would say, “No. It’s too much.” It needs to have a certain amount of spaciousness so that the next generation can respond to what it needs to respond to and not be held back.
We have made some small changes, and some things we wanted to wait on, out of respect for him, as well as for the sangha…
S: Like not serving meat-sauce on Sundays?
SS: [Laughing] Yes, you can look at any of these things and they seem like small things but all of these small things are what makes up the whole thing and they are part of what’s conveying and creating a person’s experience of this place and training. So we take this very seriously.
S: Is there anything that either of you want to add?
SS: One of the things I would like the sangha to understand is that a lot of people saw Daido Roshi as having a very controlling hand—and he did, and he was also well aware of that. He was a very strong person, with a powerful personality, and he had clear aspirations for this Monastery and Order. He could be fierce in his teachings and insistence that practice be real and sincere; that to the best of his understanding and ability, it be true buddhadharma. But within that there was also, beginning many years ago, a ceaseless process of his letting go. He often said, whenever someone felt too selfimportant, that no one should be indispensable; and he meant himself as well. So many years ago he asked the board to approve provisions for what would happen if he were to die suddenly without a successor. He had the seniors begin giving the talks during the introductory weekends and sesshin, when in the beginning he would do all of them himself.
It was interesting. There was both a sense of him wanting to be very aware of and very much in charge of all that was happening within the Order, but at the same time he was simultaneously giving a lot of responsibility to us. He was always holding us accountable and testing our understanding, and at the same time, entrusting us in very profound ways to move freely and take responsibility. I deeply feel that he was always thinking of and being concerned about the sangha; past, present and future. His profound love of this dharma poured through the life that he created here on this mountain and into all of us who studied with, or had some contact with him. There were certainly times when we wrestled with him, struggling with things we found difficult, individually and collectively. But through it all, I never doubted that what he did was all for me and you, for this sangha
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei is the head of the Mountains and Rivers Order, abbot of the Zen Center of New York City. He received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 1997.
Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Sensei is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 2009.
Bethany Senkyu Saltman has been an MRO student since 1998. Her interviews, poems, and essays have appeared in magazines and journals like The Sun, Parents, Buddhadharma, and Witness