Shōhaku Okumura

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Shōhaku Okumura
Religion Zen Buddhism
School Sōtō
Education Komazawa University
Nationality Japanese
Born (1948-06-22) June 22, 1948 (age 74)
Osaka, Japan
Spouse Yūko Okumura
Children Yōko and Masaki
Senior posting
Based in Sanshin Zen Community
Title Priest
Predecessor Kosho Uchiyama
Successor Chikō Corona, Shōtai de la Rosa, Denshō Quintero, Shōju Mahler, Shōryu Bradley, Shōdō Spring, Hōkō Karnegis, and Eidō Reinhart

Shōhaku Okumura (奥村 正博, b. 1948) is a Japanese Soto Zen priest and the founder and guiding teacher of the Sanshin Zen Community (Sanshinji) located in Bloomington, Indiana,[1] where he and his family currently live. From 1997 until 2010, Okumura also served as Director of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center in San Francisco, California, which is an administrative office of the Soto school of Japan (formerly located in Los Angeles California under the name North American Soto School in Los Angeles).


Shōhaku Okumura was born in Osaka, Japan in 1948. He received his education at Komazawa University in Tokyo, Japan, where he studied Zen Buddhism. On December 8, 1970, Okumura was ordained at Antaiji by his teacher Kosho Uchiyama, where he practiced until Uchiyama retired in 1975.[2] He then traveled to the United States, where he co-founded Valley Zendo in Massachusetts[3] and continued Uchiyama's style of zazen practice there until 1981.[3] In that year, he returned to Japan and began translating the writings of Uchiyama and Eihei Dogen from Japanese into English. Prior to founding the Sanshin Zen Community, in 1996, he was a teacher at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota from 1993-1996[4] and at the Kyoto Soto Zen Center, in Japan.


Okumura has dedicated his life to zazen and to the study and translation of Dogen's writings. Among contemporary Zen teachers, he offers the unique perspective of a practitioner who is active in both the Japanese and Western Soto Zen communities, as well as insights that come from his translation work. The two main focuses of Okumura's teaching career have been sharing the zazen practice of his teacher Kosho Uchiyama and giving extensive commentaries on the works attributed to Dogen. In addition to sesshins, he leads four intensive study retreats (called genzo-e) each year, which are dedicated to particular fascicles of Dogen's Shōbōgenzō. These take place at Okumura's home temple, Sanshinji, at other American Zen centers, and occasionally outside the United States. Okumura's wife, Yuko, serves as the sewing teacher at Sanshin Zen Community, continuing the nyoho-e style of okesa and rakusu sewing that was encouraged by Uchiyama's teacher, Kodo Sawaki. The author James Ishmael Ford describes Shohaku Okumura as both "Possibly the leading figure in the direct line of this lineage in North America..."[5] and "...a tireless worker bridging the gap between Japanese and non-Japanese practice communities."[6]

Dharma heirs

In recent years, several priests have received shiho ("Dharma transmission") from Okumura:

  • Chikō Corona (Los Angeles, CA),
  • Shōtai de la Rosa,
  • Denshō Quintero (Comunidad Soto Zen de Colombia Bogotá, Colombia),
  • Shōju Mahler (Zendo L'eau Vive Alès, France),
  • Shōryu Bradley (Gyōbutsu-ji in the Ozark Mountains near Kingston, Arkansas),
  • Zenkai Taiun Michael Elliston (Atlanta Soto Zen Center) has also received transmission from Okumura to further legitimize the sometimes disputed Soto lineage of Soyu Matsuoka.
  • Shōdō Spring (Northfield, MN)
  • Hōkō Karnegis (Hokyoji Eitzen, MN),
  • Eidō Reinhart


See also


  1. Okumura, Shohaku (Fall 2005). "Kokoro". Buddhadharma: the Practitioner's Quarterly. Retrieved 2008-03-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Uchiyama, Kosho; Thomas Wright; Jishō Cary Warner; Shohaku Okumura (2004). Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice. Wisdom Publications. pp. xvii–xxi. ISBN 0-86171-357-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Okumura, Shohaku (2012). Living By Vow. Wisdom Publications. pp. 182–183. ISBN 9781614290100.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Okumura, Shohaku (2012). Living By Vow. Wisdom Publications. pp. ix. ISBN 9781614290100.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Ford, James Ishmael (2006). Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Wisdom Publications. p. 140. ISBN 0-86171-509-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ford, James Ishmael (2006). Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Wisdom Publications. p. 139. ISBN 0-86171-509-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links