Shozan and the Founding of Mt. Baldy Zen Center

In 2011 we celebrate Mount Baldy’s 50th anniversary. It moves us to thank and honor Joshu Roshi, our teacher, along with one of the pioneers of our Sangha, whose contributions interlaced with Roshi’s vision and teaching to build a foundation for strong practice.

In this spirit we want to recognize one of our longest-practicing Sangha members, Shozan Marc Joslyn, Osho. Mt. Baldy Zen Center would likely not exist without his efforts and our lives would most certainly be different.

In conversations with Jodo, Shindo and Myodo (his wife), Shozan recalled the following:

In 1962, he heard about a Japanese Zen Master coming to California. Given his experiences with fake religious teachers in the past, he thought that this so-called master would likely be a disappointment too.

A friend urged him to overcome his skepticism and a year or so later he finally gave in and decided to see Roshi, who was giving a talk at an artist’s house in Laguna Beach.

Shozan recalls arriving at the house in the rain and seeing shoes lined up outside on the porch. Inside he saw people sitting formal zazen. He went in and since his only experience of Zen was reading and meditating without traditional instructions, he copied everybody else and sat quietly. In time a fellow practitioner came over and whispered, “Do you want to see the Roshi?”. When Shozan nodded, he was instructed in how to bow formally.

From his first experience inside the Sanzen room, Shozan does not remember much. What he does remember however, is feeling desperate and uttering “I don’t understand”.

WHACK! Roshi had hit him with his stick. Instantly, Shozan realized: Roshi is not a fake; Roshi is his teacher; and Zen is his way of life.

At the time, Shozan was working towards a degree in psychology and about a month after his first meeting with Roshi, he started a Zen group in Claremont, CA.

The group practiced with Roshi at the local Quaker church every Monday for several years and consisted mostly of students and professors from nearby colleges.

During those early days, his students had more direct interaction with Roshi, who taught in simple everyday ways. They saw him mostly in work clothes not Zen robes.

Shozan visited Roshi at his little Gardena house regularly and joined the other students of Roshi to form caravans driving around Southern California to find a more appropriate place for practice.

Finding a suitable place was not an easy task and the search continued for a number of years and covered a large territory.

Eventually, several students, including Shozan, located and bought the Cimarron Street property, a former Catholic school for girls in Los Angeles, which is now known as “Rinzai-ji”. At this time, Roshi began to offer more of a formal practice, including seshins.

In 1969, the Claremont group decided to buy a local house and remodel it for Zen practice. Roshi was asked to come and approve this venture but instead, had someone drive him up Mt. Baldy road, where Shozan and Dan Sunada had taken him before to get some big granite rocks for his rock garden at the Gardena house.

 He chose a site for a training center, where a more monastic form of Zen could be practiced. Unfortunately, the property had been already sold and earmarked to become Mt. Baldy primary school.

Shozan continued the search and found a Boy Scout summer camp at the six thousand feet level of Mt. Baldy. He phoned Roshi and Dan Sunada to come up and see the property. To Shozan’s surprise, Roshi was unequivocal in his endorsement of the site as a place for the new training center, despite the fact that the camp was in a state of utter disrepair and in need of much attention. The property was bought in 1970 and the first Sesshin was held in 1971. In 1974, the site was officially incorporated as Mt. Baldy Zen Center (MBZC) and became Roshi’s main training center.

Shozan was ordained a monk in 1972 and an Osho in 1982 and served as the Vice Abbot of MBZC for a while.

Shozan and Myodo met in those early days, but did not become a couple until 1973. At first, they lived in a small rented house near Claremont but eventually bought a place in Barrett Canyon, where they lived for 13 years while practicing Zen at MBZC with Roshi.

Shozan continued to work as a psychotherapist at clinics in Fontana and San Bernardino and in private practice in Claremont. In 1986, Shozan, Myodo and their son Chris moved to Bainbridge Island, WA, where they established a residence that includes a zendo, which hosts weekly zazen, chanting and dharma talks. The name of their temple is “Entsu-an”, which, according to Roshi, means “free of human, free of God”. Shozan is an active member of “Apricot Mountain Order” and is a regular contributor to “Burnt Eyebrows”.

It is with great appreciation and gratitude that we recognize Shozan Marc Joslyn, Osho for his efforts and contributions to MBZC and our Sangha.

Thank you Shozan! He will be 93 in July.