Mission, vision, history
Sanshin Zen Community exists to enable practice in the style of Kosho Uchiyama Roshi: shikantaza, deep study of Dogen Zenji’s teachings, and commitment to beneficial action. These three elements--zazen, study and work—are the foundation of Sanshin’s practice vision and calendar of activities.
Sanshin was founded in 1996 by Shohaku Okumura, a Soto Zen priest and respected translator of the thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master, Eihei Dogen Zenji. We're based at Shobozan Sanshinji 正法山 三心寺 in Bloomington, IN, where we offer opportunities for daily practice, weekly dharma talks, sesshin and retreats, and a three-month ango (practice period). Activities are open to anyone with a sincere interest in the practice of Soto Zen. We're largely a lay sangha, with most regular activities happening on weekday and Sunday mornings as well as occasional evenings in order to accommodate lives of work and family.
Okumura Roshi originally founded Sanshin in Iowa City, IA with the help of Taiken Yokoyama. Thanks to the efforts of sangha members, the land in Bloomington was purchased in 2001 and construction work began in winter of the next year. By August 2003, all community activity had moved to Bloomington. In 2005, Sanshin received authorization from the Soto Zen denomination as an official overseas temple, so it serves as an accredited site for ango (practice periods).
Click here for Lion's Roar's profile of Sanshin Zen Community.
Okumura Roshi on "Sanshin" as a founding principle
Ichiza, nigyou, sanshin 一坐, 二 行, 三心
One sitting, two practices (vow and repentance), three minds (magnanimous mind, nurturing mind, joyful mind)
This is the expression Uchiyama Roshi used in his last lecture at Antaiji. He retired from Antaiji in 1975, many years ago. I was 26 or 27 years old, so it was more than 40 years ago. He said that what he has been keeping in mind while he was the teacher or abbot of Antaiji was that these three things are the most important, and he transmitted these three points to his disciples. After that, I had to come to this country and practice without my teacher, so this teaching has been my teacher. To me, sanshin is the conclusion of his teaching.
Of course, most important is zazen, but sanshin is how our zazen works in our daily lives, whether we are living in a monastery or in society, with our families, in our workplaces or in society at large. When we live together with other people we need these three minds. For Dogen the three minds is a practical teaching for monks within the monastery, but Uchiyama Roshi said that this teaching is not only for monks in the monastery but for anyone who lives with others. Whether it’s a Buddhist sangha or whatever kind of community, we need these three minds.
Likewise, the teachings in Dogen’s Eihei Shingi (Pure Standards for the Zen Community), according to Uchiyama Roshi, are an introduction to how our zazen practice can work outside the zendo in our daily lives. Originally these were instruction for monks in the monastery, but Uchiyama Roshi says they are not only for monks who live in the monastery but are important for anyone who lives in a community with other people. In the part of this text called Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions for the Cook), Dogen writes about the three minds. The tenzo, like all bodhisattvas, must keep these three minds as he or she prepares meals for the community.
I taught at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center from 1993 to 1997 (to 1996 as head teacher). In 1996 I established Sanshin Zen Community and I used this word sanshin as the name of the community. Often American Zen centers use the name of a place as a part of their names, for instance San Francisco Zen Center, Minnesota Zen Center, and there are many more. But at that time we didn’t have a place; only four people got together and made the decision to create a Zen community. There was no way to put a place in our name. We were looking for a suitable place to locate this community and we didn’t know where we would be. That’s why I used this word sanshin to indicate a community in which the members practice together with three minds.
To me, these three minds are really important and that’s why we studied the Eihei Shingi in the Wednesday dharma study group for the first few years after I established this temple in Bloomington in 2003. We read the entire Eihei Shingi. I knew that this is not a monastery; I didn’t intend to establish a monastery, so monastic regulations don’t make sense as a study topic. Still, in a monastery there is a structure—the abbot who has ultimate authority, the officers and teachers who can lead the practice and who can teach the training monks, experienced training monks, and young training monks. There is a hierarchy, and if it’s a good community, new monks are taught by the elders based on Dogen’s instructions. The teachings in the Eihei Shingi are actually transmitted within the monastic community, generation after generation. But because Sanshin is not a monastery, there were no such people in such a system. I was the only teacher and although there were several ordained people, basically this was a new community and people were not familiar with monastic structure or formal practice. Therefore I thought it was important that each person understand the spirit of monastic or community practice. That’s why I decided to study the Eihei Shingi at the very beginning of the history of this temple. I’m not sure whether it worked well or not, but at least that was my intention.
Shapers of the Sanshin style
Sanshin's board of directors
Mark has been practicing at Sanshin for several years, frequently participating in the Wednesday evening zazen/book group and the Sunday morning dharma talks. He's the associate director of IU's Political and Civic Engagement program. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Philosophy/Neuroscience/Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Public Administration from University of Washington’s Evans School of Policy and Governance. He has extensive experience in community organizing, political campaigning, legislative relations, strategic communications, and non-profit management.
David Fukudō Thompson
Director of the Dōgen Institute
David joined the board of Sanshin in February 2012. He has been practicing with Okumura Roshi since 2004 – in Pittsburgh, North Carolina, and Bloomington. David has also practiced at other Zen Centers on the East Coast. He began sitting in 2001 with a student of Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi and received the precepts from Reb in 2009. David is currently editing one of Hojo-san's books-in-progress. He is a retired IT strategy consultant, with Master’s degrees in American Civilization and in Organization Development. He is thrilled to have been leading the Dōgen Institute since 2012 and enjoys working and corresponding with its many volunteers across the world. David is a native of Philadelphia, PA, enjoys hiking, and is an avid student of Japanese.
Karla started practicing with Sanshin in 2016 and received lay precepts from Okumura Roshi in 2018. She has recently made a career change away from investigating microbes in the laboratory to her current role as Medical Writer & Editor in Medical Education at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She has a Master’s degree in Painting from Wayne State University and a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology from the University of Michigan. Karla has experience practicing in the Korean Seon tradition, and she has been to India three times to teach biology at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries for the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative. A resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, she is a bit of a bird and bug nut, a walking enthusiast, and a book lover.
Charan is a Financial Planner, registered with the Financial Regulatory Authority (FINRA) of USA, a regulatory arm of Securities and Exchange Commission. For more than 20 years prior to this he worked as a corporate business leader at various Silicon Valley technology firms. He began his engineering career in 1988 as a circuit design engineer and an IEEE (802.3u) standards developer. He acted as Dean of Deans for accredited Technology Training Institutes, granting associate and bachelor’s degrees in Information and Electronics Technologies to tens of thousands of students. He has taught at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, at University of Louisiana, Lafayette and at University of California, Santa Cruz Extension. Charan holds a BSEE and a MSEE from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, has completed pre-medical curriculum and has pursued graduate work in Biotechnology at John Hopkins University.
Charan spent his childhood near Bodh Gaya, has been a Sanshin sangha participant for several years, has stayed at Eiheiji in Japan to further his insights and has visited monasteries worldwide to experience the monastic life. He enjoys swimming at Indiana University pool, is an avid reader, and takes keen interest in internalizing eastern insights.
Outside lineage director
Zuiko Redding began practicing as a university student in Houston in the early 1960s. She has a Ph.D. in sociology/demography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she was a university professor in the seventies and eighties.
Zuiko received novice ordination from Rev. Tsugen Narasaki at Zuioji monastery in Japan in 1992. She trained in Japan under his direction, receiving final ordination in 1996 and returning to the United States in 1997. In the 1980s and 90s, Zuiko practiced with Rev. Tozen Akiyama in Milwaukee and with Rev. Dainin Katagiri.
Zuiko is the resident pastor at Cedar Rapids Zen Center. Founded in April, 2000, the center has about seventy-five members. She's also active in the Association of Soto Zen Buddhists. In her spare time she hikes, reads and hangs out with her two cats.
Jeff is a professor of psychological and brain sciences at IU, where his particular areas of study include animal learning and behavior, behavioral neuroscience and developmental psychology. He's been practicing at Sanshin for several years, frequently participating in the Wednesday evening zazen/book group and the Sunday morning dharma talks.
Michael Komyo Melfi is the primary organizer for Grove City Zen in Ohio. After gaining an interest in Buddhism in High School, Michael began reading and studying more in college and discovered Sanshin Zen Community in his backyard in Bloomington. He took precepts with Hoko Karnegis at Sanshin in Bloomington in 2019 receiving the Dharma name “Komyo” meaning ancient light. After leaving Bloomington and moving to the Columbus area he wanted to continue to practice Zen in the Sanshin style and give others the opportunity to do the same. Michael is currently a pre-novice under Hoko Karnegis, meaning that he is in the process of training and completing requirements to ordain as a novice monk in the Sanshin lineage. Michael studied History and Religious Studies at Indiana University and has a passion for studying Buddhist Philosophy and History. He lives in Grove City with his wife and two dogs.
Inside lineage director
Eido was raised as a Presbyterian, but as a young adult in the seventies her attraction to contemplative and monastic traditions led her to become a Roman Catholic. Influenced by Thomas Merton, she entered a Catholic contemplative monastery (Sisters of St Clare) from 1979 to 1980. Before this she had become acquainted with Zen meditation, and it became her prayer posture. She participated in sesshin with Dainin Katagiri Roshi in Minnesota. During this time another important influence was the early version of what would become Kosho Uchiyama’s Opening the Hand of Thought. She followed these parallel Christian and Zen paths (Christian and Zen) for many years and much of her zazen practice was on her own. After leaving the Catholic monastery she participated in a summer seichu (practice period) at Mount Baldy in California, a Rinzai practice center started by Joshu Sasaki Roshi, who was in residence at that time. He also wrote a book called “Buddha is the Center of Gravity’ which included the significant statement “There is no God but he [she] is always with you.”
She returned to her life in Minneapolis where she worked as a physical therapist for 50 years. In the eighties she got married and had two sons and later, two granddaughters. She lived in Juneau (AK) from 1985 to 1992 and there was no Zen practice going on there. She continued her parallel paths
(Catholic and Zen) but the Zen practice was mostly private except for attending a week-end sesshin annually at Minnesota Zen Center when she visited family and friends in Minneapolis. After Katagiri Roshi died she returned to MZMC in 1993 to discover that Shohaku Okumura was the
temporary abbot. Eventually she chose him as her teacher, practicing at MZMC while he was there and for several years beyond that. She received lay precepts from him, then ordination as a novice and eventually transmission.
Eido participated in two three-month angos in Japan (2013 and 2016), participated in zuisse in Japan and is recognized by Sotoshu as kokusai fukyoushi (international teacher/missionary).
Mark was a voting member of the board from 2009 to 2019 and now serves in an advisory capacity for development. He received the precepts from Okumura Roshi in 2001. From 2001 to 2004, he served on the board of Stillpoint, a Soto Zen practice community in Pittsburgh, PA, where he was the leader of the gardening crew, a member of the outreach community, and webmaster. When he first joined Sanshin's board of directors, Mark focused on our communication and technology resources supporting the local and global Sanshin community. He served as board secretary from 2010 until serving as president from 2017 to 2019. Over his career, Mark has worked in many different fields, including photography, music, and media production. Since 2008, he has worked as a researcher of the human experience of using complex technology.
Founder and Abbot
Shohaku Okumura, founder and abbot of Sanshin Zen Community, was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1948. In 1970, he was ordained by the late Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, one of the foremost Zen masters of the twentieth-century. He received Dharma transmission from his teacher in 1975 and, shortly after, became one of the founding members of Pioneer Valley Zendo in Massachusetts. He returned to Japan in 1981 and began translating the works of Dogen Zenji, Uchiyama Roshi and other Soto masters from Japanese into English. In 1993, he moved back to the United States with his wife, Yuko, and their two children. He has previously served as teacher at the Kyoto Soto Zen Center in Japan and at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center in Minneapolis, and was Director of the Soto Zen International Center in San Francisco for thirteen years.
Today, Okumura Roshi is recognized for his unique perspective on the life and teachings of Dogen Zenji derived from his experience as both practitioner and translator, and as a teacher in both Japanese and Western practice communities. He gives frequent lectures on the Shobogenzo and other foundational texts; transcriptions have appeared in Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Dharma Eye, and Buddhism Now. He has also written or contributed to a number of books; the complete publication list is available from our Dogen Institute.
Hōkō was ordained as a novice by Shohaku Okumura in 2005, and she completed her shuso hossen that same year at Kogetsu-an in Shiga, Japan. She received dharma transmission in September, 2012 and completed zuise at Eiheiji and Sojiji in November of that year. In January, 2016 Hōkō was named vice-abbot and successor at Sanshin. She previously served as communications director at Hokyoji Zen Practice Community in southern Minnesota from 2013 to 2016 and as interim practice director at Milwaukee Zen Center from 2011 to 2013. She has served as an adjunct instructor at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, WI, where she taught Eastern Religious Traditions in the classroom and online, and now teaches Zen through Ivy Tech Community College's lifelong learning program. She is recognized by Sotoshu as nito kyoushi (second-rank teacher) and as a practitioner of baika, a type of Japanese Buddhist hymn created by Sotoshu in 1952. She is serving her second four-year appointment from Sotoshu as kokusai fukyoushi, or international teacher.
(See abbot and founder Shohaku Okumura and vice abbot Hoko Karnegis above.)
Shussui (work leader), Wednesday morning jikido/doan, Thursday morning doshi.
Hosshin Michael Shoaf found his way to meditation in his senior year in high school but didn’t really come to Zen practice until 1990 after reading Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. He moved to Bloomington in January of 1981 to enter Indiana University to study painting, sculpture and art history, finishing his studies in 1985. In 1986 he started a construction company that focused mainly on remodeling and renovation.
Six years later Hosshin met Myoyu Andersen Roshi and began a 17-year practice with her that blended Soto and Rinzai Zen. At the same time he was part of a sitting group in Bloomington that later encouraged Okumura Roshi to consider that city as his base of operations. In 2009 he officially became a student of Okumura Roshi's at Sanshin. He ordained in 2013 and was shuso during the 2018 ango (practice period).
These days, along with temple duties as work leader, Hosshin considers himself a cabinet and furniture maker, thoroughly enjoying the design process, finding it as satisfying as painting or sculpture. He lives in the woods in a 100 year old log cabin on the outskirts of town and is in the process of renovating it until he dies.
Wednesday morning doshi, occasional editorial assistant to Okumura Roshi
Having first met Okumura Roshi at the “Many Faces of Dogen” conference at Zen Mountain Monastery in July 2004, Seigen moved to Bloomington in 2008 to practice with the Sanshin community. As a young man, he developed an interest in Taoism in college in the early 1970s and then shifted over to reading extensively on Zen Buddhism in the mid-1970s, taking up regular zazen practice following a first visit to the Paris Zen Temple in 1978. Through 1978-79 he would sit regularly Sunday mornings with a small, informal group of practitioners in Madrid, Spain, and he did his first summer sesshin with the sangha of the International Zen Association in the French Alps in August 1979. Having received precepts and the dharma name “Seigen” from Taisen Deshimaru in 1981, he was ordained two years later in that sangha. Throughout the 1980s and early 2000s, he participated in a number of sesshins at the Temple of La Gendronnière (including a five-month residence there in 1983) and in Quebec. Academically, he pursued grad studies in Spanish in Cincinnati and linguistics in Illinois and worked teaching (mainly) Spanish, including at the university level and in a local high school in Bloomington. Before moving to Indiana, he directed the Central Michigan Sangha, a sitting and dharma-study group on the Central Michigan University campus. He is now retired from professional teaching.
Sunday morning tea coordinator
Ritoku is a Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy and Religion having received said degree in 1993 from the California Institute of Integral Studies. From Indiana University he has earned a B.A. in Philosophy and a M.S. in Philosophy of Education. His undergraduate interest was Non-Western perspectives on Western Thought, those perspectives being Eastern Thought and indigenous philosophies such as may be found among Native Americans. He is of Cherokee descent and grew up with an interest in Native American culture. He has been active in the Native American Church, and has been educated in several forms of Native American religions. In 1988 he taught at the Rough Rock Demonstration School in the Navajo Nation. This school was the first Native-American-run school with a cross-cultural curriculum that included Navajo culture, language and religion. After this he served in the Peace Corps teaching philosophy and social science at the National University of Samoa.
When living in San Francisco Ritoku entered Zen practice at the Zen Center of San Francisco. He became a member of the Hartford Street Zen Center, which is affiliated with the Zen Center of San Francisco. The Hartford Street Zen Center is both a Zen Temple and a hospice, and as part of his Zen training he worked with issues of death and dying. After he received his Ph.D, he became a resident scholar at the Zen Center of Los Angeles studying under Maezumi Roshi. He lived two years there after which Okumura Roshi ordained him as a novice.
Ritoku's current interests include cross-cultural philosophies, philosophical psychology of religion, Asian and American Indian philosophies and religions. He is on the associate faculty in the Philosophy Department and the Native American and Indigenous Studies program at Indiana University School of Liberal Arts. He has taught: Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, Environmental Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Buddhist Philosophy, Philosophies of China, American Indian Philosophies, and a variety of courses on Non-Western Philosophies. He has a book published: Primal Way and the Pathology of Civilization.
Event Coordinator, Getting Started in Zen Practice facilitator, Tuesday morning doshi, Tuesday evening jikido, Thursday morning jikido/doan
Dōju grew up in the Washington D.C. area. He received an undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and a master's degree in evolutionary biology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. While in the latter program, he began practicing zazen at the Missouri Zen Center in St. Louis after deciding against an academic career but lacking another clear direction. Inspired after reading Kōshō Uchiyama’s Opening the Hand of Thought, in 2015 he moved to Sanshinji in Bloomington to practice under Okumura Rōshi. Dōju was ordained as a novice priest in 2017. To supplement his priest training, Dōju studied Buddhism at Indiana University, receiving a master's degree in Religious Studies in 2021. He is interested in the intersection of practice, ecology, and politics, and how to engage with these topics while being true to the Buddhist tradition.
Yuko started to practice zazen when she was 16 and later went to Komazawa University to study Buddhism. During her time there, she had an opportunity to learn nyoho-e style sewing. She received lay precepts from Kin-ei Otogawa Zenji at Sojiji in Japan in 1977. After being married to Shohaku Okumura in 1983, she lived at Antaiji for one year to study okesa sewing. Since Sanshinji's establishment in Bloomington, she has been helping lay people to sew their rakusu and ordained people to sew their okesa. In 2018 she led an online kesa study group where she shared the English translation of the book Study of Kesa by Kyuma Echu.
Mark Myogen Ahlstrom
Mark Myōgen Ahlstrom
Getting Started in Zen Practice facilitator, Friday morning jikido/doan
In traditional American fashion, Mark came to Buddhism through a book, The Razor's Edge. He couldn't let go of the question of why Larry burned his books on the mountain top. He took refuge at the Karna Thegsum Choling Dallas with Lama Dudjom Dorjee under the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism in 2006. In 2007 he moved to his native home of Bloomington-Normal Illinois and joined the Bloomington-Normal Zen Group (The Dharma Wind Zen Center), which he eventually ran for about five years. There he met and took precepts with Zuiko Redding at Jikyouji in Cedar Rapids (2010). He took a job with IU as a Database Administrator in 2015, and started practicing at Sanshinji. There he tries to balance work-life and and zen-life and usually laughs at the idea -- as if there is a difference!
Policies and guidelines