Soto Zen in Oregon
(Joseph, OR, USA)
The Soto Zen Temple in Joseph, Oregon. It's called Wallowa Buddhist Temple
My name is Joseph. I live in Joseph, Oregon, in the very Northeast of the state. We are surrounded by mountains and canyons, with a very small human population. I moved here from Utah in 2006, accepting a transfer of station within the U.S. Forest Service, for whom I fight wildland fires. The winters are long and cold in this part of the state, owing a great deal to the Wallowa Mountains that shade our small town from the day's sunlight.
Not long after moving to Joseph, I heard about a Buddhist Temple just outside of town, inhabiting a 5-acre parcel of forested land at the mouth of one of the Wallowa Mountain's big drainages. I don't remember my first visit to the temple grounds, but I soon became a regular visitor to Sunday services there. I began my practice with very little explanation from the Reverend-Master, but also, with very little expectation from myself. As I would later learn, these two conditions enabled a great opportunity to initiate a true religious practice where beliefs, devotion, scripture, and everything else I associated with religion were secondary to sitting in meditation.
The temple and priests I have been practicing with for these few years are of the Soto Zen tradition. The writings of Great Master Eihei Dōgen, a 13th Century Japanese monk who traveled to China to bring Soto Zen to Japan, are relied upon heavily. His writings, and the interpretations of his work from Masters of the order have become paramount to how Soto Zen is practiced today.
I actually lived in Japan for a few years when I was in the Marines. Although not interested in Buddhism at the time, I did gain some feel for the Japanese culture at large. I am reminded of this in the way we practice Soto Zen. The discipline, aesthetics, and devotional art can readily be traced to the wonderful Japanese culture. Yet, it seems throughout history cultures have inherited characteristics from Buddhism and vice versa. Ultimately, however, I feel the true teaching of Buddhism is beyond these distinctions, and today I modestly strive to reach that place beyond disparities.
I put my faith in Dogen's teachings. Where faith was not required in the beginning of my practice, it is now that which propels me to practice. I sit now just to sit. With twisted, soar legs I stare at my curtain. I chase my thoughts. I wait to be still.