Dokusan at Kyoseikan Dojo, July 17, 2019

For those of you in, or near, Grand Rapids, I will be giving dokusan tomorrow evening during the regular zazen period, 5:30-6:30 PM, at Kyoseikan Dojo (located at the northwest corner of US-131 and Hall St., in Suite B-148). Dokusan is the private interview tradition by which Zen students get individual questions answered and work through practice issues or obstacles with a teacher.  It is an indispensable part of Zen practice.

Note that, because I will be in Grand Rapids tomorrow, the regularly scheduled Wednesday evening zazen at Myogenji in Ludington is canceled.

I hope to see you at Kyoseikan tomorrow!

Gendo Roshi
John Gendo Wolff, Roshi


New Affilliate Sitting Groups Forming


I wanted to write one more time to those of you who participated in the Zen Fundamentals course this spring to let you know that Great Wave will now be sponsoring a new affiliate sitting group at Kyoseikan Dojo in Grand Rapids.

Kevin Muzo Holohan

Postulant priest Kevin Muzo Holohan will provide informal leadership for this new group.  Meetings will take place on Wednesdays, from 5:30 – 6:45 PM, starting on June 19.

Another delightful outcome of the Zen Fundamentals course is that our Cadillac, Michigan, participants have begun to arrange for a half-day Introduction to Zen workshop, tentatively scheduled to take place on July 7, from 1:00 – 5:00 PM, at the First Congregational Church in Cadillac.  Here too we are hoping that an affiliate sitting group will take shape and continue meeting on a weekly basis.

Volunteer efforts to create and sustain affiliate sitting groups like those at Kyoseikan and in Cadillac go a long way toward helping Great Wave Zen Sangha fulfill its mission to perpetuate the Buddha-dharma.  I’m grateful to all of you for helping to make these things possible.

Of course, it is also important for all of us to sustain the organization through regular danaDana is the first of the six Buddhist paramitas (or “perfections”), a practice of generosity, or giving, that helps us see through our self-clinging.  When dana is directed toward a Zen center such as Great Wave Zen Sangha, then the sangha has the means to offer practice opportunities to everyone who wants them, including those who cannot afford even nominal workshop, retreat, or course fees.

Dana also helps us support our practice by enabling us to purchase necessary office supplies such as paper, printer cartridges, staples, folders, and so on.

And dana is, of course, what enables us to purchase cushions and other meditation and practice supplies that we need to support our practice.  I hope, therefore, that those of you who are chartering and participating in new sitting groups in Grand Rapids and Cadillac will consider becoming members of Great Wave Zen Sangha.

Great Wave currently allows for different membership levels—two are most applicable here: for those of you who have requested (or wish to) that I be your teacher, pledging dana at the “Practicing Members” level is appropriate (and allows for significant discounts on retreat and workshop fees); for others who hope to be coming to one of the new affiliate sitting groups, the appropriate membership level would be “Affiliate Member.”

If you are a student, or are on disability income, or otherwise find regular dana financially difficult, you may want to opt to become a member of GWZS at the “Friendship” level.  (Note: No one will be turned away from GWZS practice opportunities because of a lack of ability to pay.)

To set up regular dana payments, please visit our membership page at

Thank you so much for your practice.

In gassho,

Gendo Roshi

Fragrant Grasses Zazenkai

Decorative image of grass with the following caption:

One day Chōsa went for a walk. When he retuned to the gate, the head monk said, “Oshō, where have you been strolling?” Chōsa said, “I have come from walking in the hills,” The head monk said, “Where have you been?” Chōsa said, “First I went following the fragrant grasses, and now I have returned in pursuit of the falling blossoms,” The head monk said, “You are full of the spring.” Chōsa said, “Better than the autumn dews falling on the lotus leaves.”

—Case 36, Blue Cliff Record (Sekida, trans.)

To practice Zen is to return to your true home. It is also to appreciate your life, just as it is.

We hope, therefore, that you will follow in Zen master Chōsa’s footsteps and join us at Kyoseikan Dojo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Fragrant Grasses Zazenkai. This retreat will take place on Sunday, June 9, 2019, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Practitioners of all levels of experience are encouraged to attend this day that will be rich with opportunities for meditation, scripture recitation, teisho, and dokusan with Gendo Roshi. A vegetarian lunch will be included.

To participate, please complete our Event Registration Form by no later than June 5. Your timely registration and payment allow us to plan a menu and make other arrangements.

We look forward to practicing with you!

In Gassho,
Gendo Roshi

Gendo Roshi

Finding the Way of Reality

Dear Friends of Great Wave Zen Sangha,

If you’re like me, you are probably both numbed and shocked by world events—from the breakdown of civility in our culture to the UN’s recent prediction of the extinction of one million plants and animals in the next twenty years.  On a more personal level, you may, like most Americans, feel overworked and stressed out.  These are uncertain, volatile times.

It was under similar conditions that Zen grew to ascendency in ancient China.  It presented a life-path originally formulated by Shakyamuni Buddha, a way of being at peace in an unstable world.  It is a path that does not depend on escapism or denial but penetrates into the enduring root, or the source, of reality.  Serenity with engagement, peace of mind within daily life—this is what the Zen tradition offers, and it is why I’m appealing to you to register today for Great Wave’s brand new Zen Fundamentals course.

Image of an enso, or Zen calligraphic circle.
The Zen Circle (Copyright © John Gendo Wolff, Roshi, 2015 Onwards).

The Zen Fundamentals course will take place at Kyoseikan Dojo, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on four consecutive Sundays, starting May 12,  2019.  (Details can be found here.) I and a senior student will provide instruction in breathing meditation, Buddhist scripture and ceremony, Zen ethical precepts, and the student-teacher relationship.  Discussion, refreshments, print materials, and a class certificate will be offered.  Once you have completed the course, you’ll be in a position to go deep with Zen practice and to settle for yourself the “great matter of life and death.”

Seating for the Zen Fundamentals course is becoming increasingly limited, so please complete the Event Registration Form as soon as possible, preferably today or tomorrow.

I look forward to practicing the Way of Reality with all of you.

In Gassho,
Gendo Roshi




Dragon Howls and Tiger Roars

Eihei Dogen Zenji once said to his assembly:

A dragon howls in a dark cave; the whole universe quiets.  A tiger roars at the edge of a cliff; the cold valley becomes warm.  Kaa!”

Utagawa Yoshitsuya (1822-1866), Japanese.
Utagawa Yoshitsuya (1822-1866), Japanese.

This is what you have been hearing all along, even if you don’t realize it.  You hear it when the wind blows through the trees or when you set a spoon down on the table.  But to hear it right, you have to become a dragon or a tiger.

How do you do that?  How do you become a dragon or a tiger?  It’s all well and good to answer, “Let go!” or “Sit!” or “Practice zazen!”  But if you sit in zazen that is just the cave; if you let go, that is just the edge of a cliff.  Where is the dragon, where the tiger?  How do you hear the howl at the center of the universe, the roar beyond life and death?

Sometimes, as I take a step when walking in kinhin, I disappear.  But the stepping is still there.  Seated in zazen, the cushion is all by itself, but breathing still happens.  If you want to penetrate into this, you will have to be alone.  I do not mean that you need to be solitary.  To be alone means to apprise yourself of your immaculate nature.  To apprise yourself of your immaculate nature, leave off dragons and tigers entirely.  Do not make something up about sun-warmed valleys or the quiet of interstellar space.

Gendo Roshi
Gendo Roshi is Spiritual Director of Great Wave Zen Sangha.

Just go on toward it and, without howling or roaring, tell me: what is the sound of your whole life?



Call to Join the 2018 Rohatsu Zazenkai

Dear friends of Great Wave Zen Sangha,

It is at this time of the year when the Zen tradition commemorates the enlightenment, 2500 years ago, of Shakyamuni Buddha.  It was at that moment that he is said to have uttered the words, “Wonder of wonders! I and all beings on Earth together attain enlightenment!”

Image of the Buddha depicted touching the earth at the moment of his awakening
The Buddha depicted touching the earth at the moment of his awakening.

In the aftermath of his awakening, the Buddha questioned whether he should even try to tell others how they too could awaken.  The path he had taken to emancipation had been difficult. But he soon decided that there would always be someone who was willing to do what has to be done to realize the truth of this life.  And so he began what would become a 50-year teaching career.

What will be your special connection to this story?  How will you realize, and then actualize, your Buddha-nature?  These are questions you can spend a lifetime exploring, and the best way to do that is by entering into a traditional retreat environment where each of us strives to awaken just as Shakyamuni Buddha did 2500 years ago.  I invite you, therefore, to attend the upcoming 2018 Rohatsu Zazenkai and to share in the spirit of gratitude for the Buddha’s extraordinary example.

You can find more information about this retreat and a link to the registration form by navigating to our events calendar.

I look forward to practicing with you.