Part III - The Temple Joins The Sangha
The discussion around the nature of practice in our society did not end with Katherine’s clear guidance and the new level of formality she brought; it flourished. The zendo had accumulated decades of sitting and through good times and bad, the sangha had matured. Many of the students who came at this time went on to devote decades of energy and interest in Zen and Santa Cruz Zen Center, some of those eventually receiving dharma transmission and becoming the teachers who now lead our study.
Similar to the earliest days of Santa Cruz Zen Center, the community took interest in improving the physical properties. More work was done on the dokusan hut, a bathroom was added, and the zendo saw its first tans, or sitting platforms.
In February 1993 Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi visited from Rinso-in in Yaizu, Japan. Hoitsu is the son and dharma heir of Suzuki Roshi, the founding abbot of San Francisco Zen Center and author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, which is largely credited with popularizing Soto Zen in America. Hoitsu visited Santa Cruz primarily based on his father’s close teacher-student relationship with Katherine Thanas. During his visit, Hoitsu offered incense in the zendo and inspected the new tans. A formal tea was served in the dokusan room, and then there was a meal of miso soup and sushi. It was an honor and a great experience for the practitioners of the temple, who didn’t know quite what to expect from a traditional teacher from Japan. But Hoitsu’s most important visit would be almost a decade later.
The center thrived in the 1990s, with Katherine’s teaching leadership, coupled with guidance from a revitalized board, and students assuming organizational roles—such as work leader, zendo manager, property manager. Here we see the Buddha’s birthday procession in 1997, featuring a healthy range of senior and junior practitioners.
With the maturation of students at the Center came their wish to experience longer retreats. Many students did three-month practice periods at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, where Katherine had trained. With the experience of formal practice periods came a new interest and understanding of the place of ritual and ceremony in Zen practice. Students returned from longer retreats with a deeper appreciation of formal practice. By the late ’90s, there were several students who had studied for a decade or more. Some found themselves called to priest ordination. This is an important step for any center as it became clear that the next generation was ready to teach.
Another step of maturation for the community was inviting Katherine to be recognized as abbot of Santa Cruz Zen Center, and producing a formal Mountain Seat Ceremony in 2002. As part of this landmark event, Hoitsu Suzuki returned with Gengo Akiba Roshi, the bishop of Sotoshu in North America. Sotoshu is the official governing board of the Soto School, the denomination of Zen to which we belong. While this tradition and Sotoshu itself is based in Japan, based on the level of formality and dedicated practice at Santa Cruz Zen Center, these proceedings made it an official Sotoshu temple. The ceremony was attended by Suzuki’s wife, Mitsu, and many of Katherine’s teachers and friends from San Francisco Zen Center: Blanche Hartman, Reb Anderson, Linda Ruth Cutts and Steve Weintraub, Gaelyn Godwin, Daigan and Arlene Lueck, and many more friends and dharma siblings. In addition to the formal ceremony, there was a full taiko drumming demonstration and reception.
With this recognition came the official temple name for Santa Cruz Zen Center: Jorinzan Gyokuonji, or Quiet Grove Mountain, Warm Jewel Temple. Hoitsu had been on a walk among the redwoods at UC Santa Cruz, which inspired the ‘Quiet Grove Mountain’ part of the name; his relationship with Katherine, and experience of the warmth of the community, gave the second part of the name— ‘Warm Jewel’.
2002 was a year of transition. While the temple’s beloved founder, Kobun Chino, had moved on years ago, it was no less of a shock for the sangha to hear that he tragically drowned in Switzerland that July.
After years of planning, 2002 and 2003 also brought a complete remodel of the zendo. While the sangha sat at an interim location, the structure was stripped down to the skeleton and a foundation poured. The inside sitting space was expanded, a bathroom was removed, and in the process, artifacts - including some from the mission period, were uncovered.