When I was asked to be the Director of the Soto Zen Education Center, I thought I was not the right person for the position because I know only zazen. The missionary work of Soto-shu must be much broader. I know nothing about other activities taking place at Soto Zen temples and Zen centers. However, because of my vow, finally I could not say no again.
Although I have been practicing zazen with mainly American people [for] almost thirty years, I haven't had much of a relationship with the American Zen centers or the ethnic Japanese Buddhist sangha. . . [T]here was not much interaction until the mid-eighties between the Japanese Soto sangha in America and the various American sanghas. I think the same is true between the American sanghas. Each group or lineage is in a sense independent or, to put it differently, isolated. When I first came to the US with my dharma brother, we avoided being kaikyoshi because we didn't want to be missionaries sent by Japanese Sotoshu. Rather, we thought we were establishing a branch of Antaiji. We didn't want to interact with other American Zen centers because we believed our practice was the most genuine and the American Zen centers' practice was somewhat questionable. We tried to stay away from the whirlpool of the Zen boom. When I heard of the many problems at various Buddhist sanghas in the US in the mid-eighties, I thought we were right in this decision. However, after the mid-eighties I began to make more friends from the various Zen centers. [I participated in various conferences and sesshin and visited American Zen centers to teach and lead practice.] Through these opportunities to share practice with people from various lineages, I got acquainted with the many teachers and students in the various groups. They were sincerely continuing to practice with the difficulties after the many problems in the eighties.
Through those encounters, I learned many things and my view of American Zen practice became open and broader. I found many sincere people who were studying dharma and practicing zazen although each person and group had a different style. Now, I think the attitude I had toward other groups in the seventies and early eighties was not open and constructive. I think independence is important but isolation is not necessary. I believe what we have to do is find a way for us to come together and create a place where we can share our study of dharma and practice, and where we value and respect the uniqueness of each other. Without healthy independence there is no way to have healthy interdependence. And when independence becomes isolation interdependence is not possible.