Green Gulch Zen Center: Background
What is Zen and how did it get to Marin County? In the last century Zen has grabbed the attention of the West and tends to crop up almost everywhere. Zen is a sect of Japanese Buddhism that traveled quite the distance to arrive here in the early 20th Century. In fact, Buddhism has quite the history of travel. It originated in India as a response to Hinduism endless karmic chain, known to Buddhism as samsara. Samsara is the cause of the Buddhist notion of suffering and Nirvana is the cessation of that suffering. Nirvana is the promise of Buddhism. From India, Buddhism travelled to China along the Silk Road. There a the sect known as Cha’an was established. Cha’an translates to Zen in Japanese. Japan was the next stop for Buddhism.
D.T. Suzuki is credited with bringing Zen to the West. He was not a Zen master of Japan, but he did study under one by the name of Soyen Shaku. Shaku sent Suzuki to the States to work with Paul Carrus as a translator for his publishing company. His time was also spent writing about Buddhism and Zen in English. In Japan there are several different schools of Zen Buddhism, the two largest being Soto and Rinzai. The Zen Center at Green Gulch identifies with the Soto school. Zen is a scholarly monastic tradition where the central participants are the monks themselves. The Zen Center at Green Gulch has residents that live there that live a monastic style life. In tradition of Zen, Buddhism is studied through different texts and lectures that are deconstructed in order to gain an true understanding of the Dharma, or the Buddha’s teachings. Traditionally, monastic life was only available to men, but at Green Gulch women are not excluded. In fact the Roshi, or Zen Master, is a woman. Zen has been able to travel and settle all over the world due of desire to end all suffering, the source of its adaptive nature.