Short History of the Sanbô Kyôdan
*1: All Japanese names on this Web site are written in the original Japanese way, namely, the family names come first. In order to avoid possible misunderstanding all family names are written in capital letters.

* The First Abbot * YASUTANI Haku'un Roshi *1


   The Sanbô-Kyôdan is a Zen-Buddhist Religious Foundation (shûkyô-hôjin) started by YASUTANI Haku'un Roshi on 8 January 1954.

   YASUTANI Roshi, who was born on 5 January 1885 in Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, formally became a Soto Buddhist monk when he was 13 years old. In 1925 he met HARADA Sogaku Roshi (1871-1961), and eventually became one of his Dharma successors. YASUTANI Roshi deplored how the Soto monks of the time were preoccupied with superficially carrying out Buddhist ceremonies and neglected the vital practice of realizing one's true self. So he left the Soto school and founded an independent religious foundation, the Sanbô-Kyôdan, in order to re-vitalize authentic Zen among those earnest seekers of the Way, who, at that time, happened to be mostly lay people. "Sanbô," literally "three treasures," signifies the three most basic principles of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. "Kyôdan," on the other hand, means "religious organization." In this name, therefore, one can perceive YASUTANI Roshi's aspiration as well as his determination to create a religious community that purely devotes itself to maintaining the true Buddhist Way.

   The genesis of the foundation reveals already that the basic character of the organization is that of the Soto line. But, following the tradition stemming from HARADA Sogaku Roshi, the Sanbô-Kyôdan integrated the Rinzai method of koan study as well in its Zen training in order to bring its students effectively to the realization of their true self.

   YASUTANI Roshi thus instructed a countless number of practitioners both in Japan and, from 1962 on, in Europe and the United States. In 1970 he resigned from the abbotship and had YAMADA Kôun Roshi take the leadership of the organization. YASUTANI Roshi passed away on 28 March 1973.
YASUTANI Haku'un Roshi

* The Second Abbot * YAMADA Kôun Roshi


   The second abbot of the Sanbô-Kyôdan, YAMADA Kôun Roshi, was born in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, on 18 March 1907. He started Zazen in Manchuria in 1943 under the guidance of KÔNO Sôkan Roshi. Upon returning to Honshu, Japan, in 1945 he devoted himself to zazen practice under ASAHINA Sôgen Roshi of the Engakuji in Kamakura as well as under HANAMOTO Kanzui Roshi of the Mokusenji in Ôfuna. However, he never became a monk and continued to work in the business world; his major position was president of the Tokyo Kembikyôin Medical Center.

   YAMADA Roshi received the Buddhist precept from HARADA Sogaku Roshi in 1950; through this connection he came into contact with YASUTANI Roshi, HARADA Roshi's disciple, whom YAMADA Roshi invited in 1953 to launch the Zen group called "Kamakura Haku'un-kai" and to begin a monthly zazenkai in Kamakura. In the same year he experienced an unusually deep enlightenment, which led him to the Dharma succession in 1960. In 1967 he was appointed Zen Master (shôshike) of the Sanbô-Kyôdan. Three years later he became the president of the Kyôdan.
YAMADA Kôun Roshi
zazen
The San'un Zendo as the Central Dôjô

the entrance to the San'un Zendo
   In 1970, Kôun Roshi, together with his wife Dr. Kazue YAMADA , built the San'un Zendo in his family compound. ("San'un" means "three clouds," representing the three Zen masters in the same lineage: "HARADA Daiun [big cloud]," "YASUTANI Haku'un [white cloud]," and "YAMADA Kôun [plowing cloud]"). Subsequently the San'un Zendo became the central dôjô [place of practice] of the Sanbô-Kyôdan. Here, YAMADA Kôun Roshi guided both Japanese and non-Japanese students in the zazenkai (zazen gathering at the weekend, held twice a month) as well as in the sesshin (zazen gathering for several days, held several times a year).

   Especially after Father Hugo M. ENOMIYA-LASSALLE became an earnest student of YAMADA Roshi, many Christian priests, nuns and pastors started to seek the guidance of YAMADA Roshi.

   By the time of his passing on 13 September 1989 as many as 24 Japanese and 21 non-Japanese disciples had finished the formal course of Zen training.
Kôun Roshi with Mrs. Kazue Yamada
Father ENOMIYA-LASSALL*
Father ENOMIYA-LASSALL(Center)

the entrance to the San'un Zendo

Kôun Roshi with Mrs. Kazue Yamada
the board called han the drum and gong in meditation San'un Zendo
the board called han the drum and gong in meditation San'un Zendo




* The Third Abbot * KUBOTA Ji'un Roshi
   KUBOTA Ji'un Roshi, was born in Tokyo in 1932, and became YASUTANI Roshi's student in 1949, finishing his koan training in 1970. After YASUTANI Roshi passed away in 1973 he sought YAMADA Kôun Roshi's guidance. In 1983 he was appointed Zen Master (shôshike) of the Sanbô-Kyôdan, and consequently succeeded to the Dharma of YAMADA Kôun Roshi in 1985. After the passing of YAMADA Kôun Roshi in September 1989 KUBOTA Roshi took over the presidency of the Sanbô-Kyôdan in October of the same year, remaining in the office until October 2004.
KUBOTA Ji'un Roshi


* The Fourth Abbot * YAMADA Ryôun Roshi



   YAMADA Ryôun Roshi was born in 1940 in Manchuria, and became YASUTANI Roshi's disciple when he was 16 years old. In 1978 he finished his formal Zen training under YAMADA Kôun Roshi, and in 1985 he succeeded to the Dharma of Kôun Roshi. As a Zen Master (shôshike) of the Sanbô-Kyôdan he took over the office of the Abbot of the Sanbô-Kyôdan in October 2004.




* Gundula MEYER Roshi

   There are other Zen Masters (shôshike) in the Sanbô-Kyôdan: Gundula MEYER (Zuiun-an)Roshi, born in Lübeck in Germany, is an ordained minister in the Protestant Church. She became a disciple of YAMADA Kôun Roshi in 1977, and has devoted herself in Zen ever since. Completing her koan study after several years, she went back to Germany and opened her Zendo in Ohof in northern Germany in 1987. She has been active in guiding a zendo also in Sweden. In 2001 she received the Dharma from KUBOTA Roshi and was appointed Zen Master (shôshike) of the Sanbô-Kyôdan.


* TONOIKE Hekiun Roshi
   Born in 1926 TONOIKE Roshi started his Zen practice under YASUTANI Hakufun Roshi in 1968. After Hakufun Roshifs retirement in 1971 he practiced under YAMADA Kôun Roshi. From 1976 on he was attendant to YAMADA Roshi, finishing his koan study in 1978. For a long time he has been the secretary general of the Secretariat of the Sanbo-Kyodan Society. He has long been guiding the practitioners as the chief leader of the Sanfun Zendo assembly as well as the leader of his Kanda-Zazenkai in Tokyo. In November 2009 he was appointed Zen Master (shôshike) of the Sanbo-Kyodan by the Abbot YAMADA Ryôun Roshi.
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