Monday, March 1, 2010

20th Anniversary of Dainin Katagiri Roshi's Death

Twenty years ago today, Katagiri Roshi, a root teacher for so many of us here in Minnesota, died at the age of 62. Even though I was a mere bumbling teenager at the time of his death, and never met the man, I feel his presence deeply in my practice. His teachings pour out of his students, who are now my teachers, and his sincere dedication to Zen shines brightly through both the books and lectures he left us, as well as the attention to details and rituals manifested in my own sangha and others here in the Twin Cities, and greater Minnesota.

I was fortunate to work with Tomoe Katagiri, Roshi's wife and a deep practitioner in her own right, during jukai a year and a half ago. Tomoe's devotion to Zen sewing practice as an expression of the dharma is probably unmatched, at least here in North America, and I credit her repeated firm, but gentle efforts to turn us back to the present moment, just this stitch, for helping me not only enjoy sewing, but also really taking the precepts into my life in a bodily way. I can only imagine what it was like when both her and Roshi were alive together, how they impacted those they worked with, practiced with, in small and great ways.

Dainin Katagiri didn't live a very long life, and cancer made the last period of his life a difficult one. However, his beneficial impact continues through his many students, who are now leaders of their sanghas. Many bows to Dainin for crossing the ocean, leaving your home country behind, and helping us set up Zen practice here in the land of 10,000 lakes.

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