September was a beautiful month for Tenpyozan...

Rev. Gengo Akiba, Sokan or "Bishop" for North America, was able to touch the very heart of Zen practice in the United States by reaching out to the ASZB at Zenshiji in Los Angeles at the beginning of the month and then to the SZBA at its bi-annual colloquy in Minnesota at month’s end.  He provided status reports and further clarification of the scope and meaning of the project, well supported by the subtle and effective skill of his excellent translator, Rev. Gyokei Yokoyama; as well as by Tenpyozan’s project manager, Rev. Juntoku McCoy and its interim development director, Rev. Myosho Kyle Brown.  

Following is a combined summary of his meetings with these two important national leadership organizations…


A young monk enters a monastery and is given the task of sweeping leaves.  He is eager and committed.  However, the monastery is in a dense forest and it is autumn. He tries one strategy after another, yet leaves cascade down upon his head and whirl about him.  He is soon overwhelmed.  Finally, his teacher approaches and counsels him.   “Sweep only what is in front of your broom!”

So is it with Tenpyozan.  Everyone involved in this volunteer effort is beset with the usual busyness of practice, work, family and travel and yet slow and steady progress can be reported in every area…one broom-full at a time.




-  Tenpyozan successfully completed the process of becoming a legal, nonprofit organization, receiving its 501C3 designation.

-  As such, it has an official bank account (not that there is much money in it) and no longer needs to be under the formal umbrella of the Oakland Zen Center.


-  Its board of directors has grown to six members, the newest being Margaret M.  

  Russell, Professor of Law at Santa Clara University.  She brings a truly global  

  perspective.  Her international travels include a Fulbright scholarship in Tanzania,

  teaching posts in England, Japan, South Africa, Republic of Korea and top

  universities throughout the US, and this summer, a faculty position at the

  International Criminal Courts in The Hague.  She has served on the Boards of

  Directors of legal, educational, and cultural nonprofits, and has particular

  experience in leadership during challenging ‘start-up’ and transitional phases of

  now successful nonprofit organizations.    


   Professor Russell is also the first board member to join the board  from outside

   Kojin An’s initial volunteer development group.  The Tenpyozan Board looks  

   forward to others in the Soto Zen international community joining the board.

-  The Tenpyozan monthly Newsletter is being well received.  Rev. Hoko Karnegis

   successfully completed her tenure as editor…that responsibility will now be

   shared by several other volunteers, who have assigned themselves to write and

   edit specific issues over the next year.  Deep bow of appreciation to Hoko san and

   to all who have stepped forward to continue her work.


“We know that the good building is… one that makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before that building was built.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright


-  The master carpenters have returned and will stay into the new year, enclosing the Monks' Hall, beginning its interior work, protecting stored lumber over the winter and preparing the roof for completion in the spring. 



Initially, fundraising efforts were focused on two main areas: first, acquiring leadership gifts from major donors and, second, launching a coordinated campaign to achieve the full involvement of all international sangha members.  However, upon deeper reflection, it was determined that leadership for Tenpyozan will always come from its sangha.  Major donors will only be approached to match sangha donations and help to meet and complete specific goals.  

In recognition of this understanding, focus shifted to first reaching out to the international sangha with the Kawara-Gaki Roof Tile Inscription Project.  


Sangha Leadership:  The Kawara-Gaki Roof Tile Inscription Project was announced at the ASZB’s meeting and formally launched at the SZBA colloquy.   A letter from Rev. Akiba was handed out to all members, to be used as is, or customized for outreach to their individual sangha members and supporters.


Building the sheltering roof of Tenpyozan is conceived of no differently than sewing a rakasu or okesa, as the kawara-gaki project is a collective patchwork who’s thousands of  individual tiles will integrate into the complete roof  There are almost 800 priests in the US alone.  How many priests are in the international sangha?  How many Zen temples or practice centers?  How many sangha members?  And how many families and friends support their efforts?  Some early progress…


-  Already severalthree priests including… Zuiko Redding, Domyo Burk, Taigen Leighten, James Ford, Daijaku Kinst and Shinshu Roberts (permission needed to use their names and confirm their involvement)… have taken on tile dedication as a personal or Sangha Project.   The board is excited to see how this approach will stimulate full participation.


-   When a kawara-gaki page was added to the Tenpyozan website, 65 tiles were dedicated right away…some for whole families or sangrias! After the SZBA presentation, several members made contributions...


-  The $35 tile contribution doesn't actually cover the cost of the roof.   It is intended to be an accessible amount that will encourage the fullest possible participation of every member of our international sangha.

-  Other ASZB and SZBA members had dedicated roof tiles.  Many others made generous contributions to the project before the roof tile campaign began.  A yearend letter will be sent to all these existing donors inviting them to dedicate a tile "at no additional charge." What is important to Akiba Roshi and the board is that the name of every single member of the international sangha is represented.


Major Donors:  National leaders with wealth and a direct association with Zen and/or traditional Japanese architecture have been identified and efforts are being made to make connections with these individuals.  



However, in the same way that the board came to see that true leadership can only come from the sangha, it has also come to see that some major gifts might also best come from local leaders who participate in and support individual Western temples and sanghas.  How much stronger and more resilient would Tenpyozan be if it was established on such a diverse foundation?



Therefore, a brief project summary is being written and translated into several languages. (needs to be written by mid November) This summary will enable western priests to transmit Tenpyozan’s spirit and vision and give a basic description of its buildings, purpose, future programs and budget.  The Board hopes that once given these materials, people will be feel empowered and inspired to talk about Tenpyozan widely.



An illustrative story…during the decades-long period of searching for land for Tenpyozan, Juntoku McCoy happened to be at a local gym in Oakland and was talking about the project with a friend in the locker room.  It was a lively discussion.  Another man overhead and said he had always wanted a zendo on his land.  It turned out to be Jerry Brown, Governor of California.   Though it was eventually decided to choose different land, that association led to many other possibilities.



All Soto Zen priests and sangha leaders are being asked to spread the word about this important and historic project.


Peaceful Life

Being told that it’s impossible,
One believes, in despair, “Is that so?”
Being told that it is possible,
One believes, in excitement, “That’s right.”

                                                                                                           Katagiri Roshi