Jules Shuzen Harris Roshi, a Zen Buddhist teacher and founder of the Soji Zen Center in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, died at his home on May 8. He was 83 years old. According to his Dharma heir, John Ango Gruber Sensei, Shuzen Roshi suffered from several health issues.
Shuzen Roshi was a Dharma successor to Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara and a member of the Zen Peacemakers and White Plum sanghas. He was a 40-year-old practitioner, teaching Soto Zen at Soji Zen Center. Despite her health issues, Shuzen Roshi maintained a full teaching schedule.
Ango Sensei praised Roshi's devotion to his students, noting that despite his poor health, he continued "to show up, week after week, to sit with us, sing with us, see students for interviews and offer Dharma teachings in both languages”. his words and his example. (The lion's roar)
Shuzen Roshi holds a doctorate in education from Columbia University. He worked as a psychotherapist, blending Zen Buddhist wisdom with secular psychology. He was also a skilled martial artist, holding a black belt in kendo and a fourth degree black belt in iaido.
Shuzen Roshi founded the Soji Zen Center in 2005, describing the center's purpose as a place "where people can go to slow down, meditate, and experience the healing qualities of the mind." We all agree that training the body through exercise and diet is beneficial, but rarely in Western society do we focus on awakening the healing energies in our brain. (Soji Zen Center) In the White Plum tradition, Soji combines elements of Soto and Rinzai Zen, incorporating Soto meditation and Rinzai koan study.
Under his leadership, the Soji Zen Center has emphasized extensive community outreach and engagement programs. They include leading a Waxing Moon meditation group at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, training Villanova University students in meditation to fit them into their Philadelphia student-run emergency housing unit. (SREHUP), an entirely student-run homeless shelter, and bringing a contemplative caregiving approach to weekly visits with veterans at a local hospice facility.
The center's website details this emphasis on community involvement in the following statement:
Soji Zen Center's outreach includes social engagement and service outside of the center, on and off the cushion. Soji students cater to people who are facing major challenges such as incarceration, drug/alcohol addiction, mental illness, homelessness, hunger and discrimination or who are dying. We engage with veterans, the LGBT community, and those incarcerated, as well as people at key developmental stages, most often young and old.
(Soji Zen Center)
After founding the Soji Zen Center, Shuzen Roshi became the Dharma Holder of Enkyo Roshi, Abbot of Zendo Village, in 2006. He received full ordination in 2007, and in December 2019, Enkyo Roshi gave him the transmission. Dharma, making him his second Dharma heir. .
Enkyo Roshi described Shuzen Roshi's approach to Dharma: “As a lifelong psychotherapist and educator, Shuzen Roshi brought contemporary skills to his many years of Zen study. He dedicated his life to teaching Zen, to serving those who practiced with him, using all the tools he had perfected over his many years of a life that truly expressed the compassion and wisdom of contemporary practice. of Zen. His intelligence and compassion will be missed, as well as his big heart! » (Tricycle)
The Soji Zen Center held a special in-person program on May 14 that allowed attendees to honor the memory of Shuzen Roshi through shared reflections and memories. They also hosted a Zoom circle on May 16 for individuals to participate remotely.