Kyozan Joshu Sasaki, Roshi (1907 – 2014)
Born in 1907 in Japan’s rural Miyagi Prefecture, Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi became a novice at the age of 14 under Joten Soko Miura Roshi, a master in the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. Under Joten’s guidance, Joshu Sasaki became an Osho after seven years, and when Joten was appointed head abbot of Myoshin-ji, the preeminent Rinzai temple, Joshu Sasaki followed him there to continue his training.
In 1947 at age 40 Joshu Sasaki received full authority as a Roshi and became abbot of his own temple, eventually relocating to, restoring and presiding over Shoju-an, a remote monastery in the Japanese Alps founded by Shoju Ronin, teacher of the great 18th Century Zen master Hakuin. In 1962, Daiko Furukawa, Joten Roshi’s successor as abbot of Myoshin-ji, asked Joshu Roshi to begin teaching in America.
Joshu Roshi arrived in Los Angeles on July 21, 1962, and has remained a US resident ever since. Rinzai-Ji, his main city temple, was established in Los Angeles in 1968, followed by his two main training centers, the Mount Baldy Zen Center in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California (1972) and the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in New Mexico, just outside Albuquerque (1973). His students have opened centers in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, Austria, and Germany. Through his teachings and work he emphasizes direct experience over an intellectual or pious approach to spiritual growth. Today, he represents the last of a generation of pioneering Japanese teachers who brought dharma to the West. In early February of 2012 Joshu Roshi became ill with aspiration pneumonia and has not taught at MBZC (or any affiliate Zen Center) since. On November 10, at a dedication ceremony for the Zendo remodel, Joshu Roshi officially resigned as abbot of the Mount Baldy Zen Center. Joshu Roshi passed away in July, 2014.