SokukoJi Founding Abbot & Teacher
Sokuzan was born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1960, while he was in the U.S. Marine Corps, he read a book called “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones” by Paul Reps, which sparked his interest in Buddhism and meditation. But it wasn’t until more than a decade later, in 1973, that he started pursuing Buddhism more seriously.
He came across Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, in Read-More Book Store in downtown Battle Creek. “I saw his book and kind of shied away from it for a couple of weeks,” Sokuzan said. “I picked up his book, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this guy’s alive instead of some dead monk.’ That kind of frightened me, but I went back." Before he was halfway through the book, he was on the phone trying to find out where Trungpa was. "I felt a really strong connection," he said. He searched out, met and then started studying under Trungpa in late 1973.
In 1974, Sokuzan attended the first session of Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
In 1975, he established the Dharma Study Group of Battle Creek, Michigan. It offered weekly meetings for meditation and study, as well as monthly nyinthuns, which are all-day retreats.
In 1978, Sokuzan became an authorized meditation instructor through Vajradhatu in Boulder and later completed the Vajradhatu Seminary in 1980 at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.
In 1990, Sokuzan met Kobun Chino Otogawa, a Zen meditation master from Japan, and became a student of his. He received lay ordination from Kobun’s brother, the late Hojosama Keibun Otagawa.
He moved to Minnesota in the ‘90s, and the study group in Battle Creek faded out. After he retired in 2003, he moved back to Battle Creek and restarted it.
Sokuzan received full ordination as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage in 2007, and Dharma transmission from Kuzan Shoho Michael Newhall, one of Kobun's dharma heirs, and Abbot of Jikoji in Los Gatos, California, in 2013.
On November 18, 2020, Sokuzan formally established Sokukoji Buddhist Temple Monastery as a separate order known as the Order Of Immediate Light.