Zen Buddhism evolved from the teachings of the historical Buddha who lived 2500 years ago in India. These teachings were transmitted from India to China by Bodhidharma in the 6th century. Zen (Cha’n in China) developed in Mahayana temples in 7th century China, inspired by the Chinese practice of the Tao (‘Way’) which emphasises nature’s wisdom and spontaneity of action.
The Soto Zen way was developed in the 9th century by two Chinese monks Sozan and Tozan, the first syllables of their names combining to form ‘Soto.’ They placed an emphasis on seated, silent meditation without a gaining idea or goal. In the 13th Century, the Japanese monk Eihei Dogen travelled to China and on his return transmitted the Soto Zen lineage to Japan. From here Soto Zen flourished for hundreds of years in Japan and spread to the West after the Second World War. Today, there are numerous Soto Zen Centres and sanghas in both Europe and America.
The core of our practice is Zazen or seated meditation. We do this wholeheartedly, with no gaining idea. We call this Shikantaza or ‘just-sitting.’ Zazen allows us to develop an understanding of the workings of our own mind. This helps us to be mindful and committed in all our activity. Soto Zen emphasises that the Truth is right here, right now.
Soto Zen Buddhism places importance on lineage, which is sustained by the transmission of the teachings from teacher to student. Our lineage can be traced back to Dogen in the 12th century through to the historical Buddha himself.
Gudo Wafu Nishijima (29 Nov 1919 – 28 Jan 2014)
Nishijima Roshi became a disciple of the great Zen master Kodo Sawaki at the age of 21. Shortly after the Second World War, he received a degree in Law from Tokyo University and started his career in finance. In the 1960’s, he started giving public lectures on Zen Buddhism as a lay person. He was ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1973 by master Rempo Niwa, 77th Abbot of Eihi-ji Monastery in Japan (the monastery founded by Master Dogen) and former head of the Soto Zen School. 4 years later he received Dharma Transmission from Rempo Niwa, formally accepting him as one of Niwa’s successors. From the 1980’s he gave lectures in English and had a number of Western disciples and Dharma heirs. Nishijima was the author of several books in Japanese and English and a notable translator of classic Buddhist texts. Working with one of his Dharma Heirs Mike Chodo Cross, he compiled a complete translation of Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo.
Taigu is the guiding teacher and founder of the Blue Mountain Hermitage in the Soto lineage of Nishijima Roshi. He is a child dreamer and poet who discovered Buddhism very early in life at 10 years old when deeply attracted by the image of the seated Buddha. He began to sit at age thirteen or fourteen. At the sight of an old nun in Zazen he felt deeply touched and converted by the truth of Kesa. He practiced at the temple of Valenciennes, Hoku Futsu Zenji. He received Tokudo in 1983 from the hands of Étienne Mokusho Zeisler, a disciple of Deshimaru and Dharma Heir to Rempo Niwa, teacher and monk at Soto Zen Temple of Gendronnière. He facilitated a very active Dojo in Lille from 1982 through to 1989. After the death of Étienne Mokusho Zeisler, he became a monk without a sangha. He often sewed Kesas which he offered to others. After living in Syria, he settled in the Dunkirk area and continued practice. Taigu left for Britain in 1997 and practiced zazen and taught kesa sewing. This is where he met Zen Master Mike Chodo Cross, successor to Master Nishijima and began study under him. He received Denpo and Shiho from Chodo Cross in 2002. Since 2006 he has lived in Japan where he teaches, practices, sews and repairs Buddhist robes in nyohoe tradition. He practices the ritual begging Takuhatsu, with special devotion to Jizo and Kannon.
Taikyo has been practicing meditation and Buddhism for 40 years. He has spent practice time in places of different Buddhist traditions, such as Chithurst Monastery in Sussex and Vajaloka (FWBO) in Mid- Wales, but found the way in Zen practice.
He dedicated himself to Zen Buddhism 20 years ago, first practicing on his own and then with various Sanghas around the UK. He has spent time in Zen monasteries such as Throssel Hole in Northern England, Kanshoji in France, Zen River in Holland and has been on many other retreats and sesshins throughout Europe. He took the lay precepts (Jukai) 4yrs ago and received Tokudo (priesthood ordination) from his teacher Taigu Turlur in August 2014. Taikyo received Denpo (dharma transmission) from Taigu Turlur in December 2016.
Taikyo has a PhD in philosophy and teaches philosophy and buddhist philosophy at the University of Wales, Lampeter. He is the guiding teacher of both Lampeter Sangha and Swansea Sangha, diverse communities of dedicated Zen practitioners who collectively form the Zen Association Wales. The Zen Association Wales also runs regular talks, visits and retreats throughout Wales each year and is working to make Soto Zen Buddhist practice and teachings more accessible to the people of Wales and all sentient beings.