Contemporary Lineage of the Engaged Dharma Tradition
Given here is the Engaged Dharma Insight Group’s contemporary American lineage as reflected in our Dharma Scroll. That same scroll also pays honor to our ancient Chinese Ch’an and Japanese Zen masters. While valuing the historical progression of Buddhist thought as represented in the various Indian, Chinese, and Japanese school’s traditional teachings, EDIG considers it’s own teaching platform to be Nikayan Buddhism.
Tai-Ts’ang Hsin-Jan & Jo-Shun Wei-Te
Grand Meditation Master Tai-Ts’ang was a member of the 46th generation of the traditional Lin-Chi sect. He served as Abbot of Jinshan Monastery (Chin Shan) from 1945 until 1949 when he was forced to flee to Hong Kong following the Communist takeover. He eventually settled in Taiwan. At the age of 70, he transmitted the Ch’an dharma to the West, leading to the historical path down to the Order of Pragmatic Buddhists, and the establishment of the Engaged Dharma Insight Group. Tai-Ts’ang was the root dharma teacher to Holmes Welch, who he determined was an excellent vehicle to accomplish this transmission. Tai-Ts’ang, and his dharma brother Jo-Shun Wei-Te were the 44th and 45th generation of Ch’an masters from the Ch’I-hsia Ssu monastery in China. These Chinese Ch’an masters were Abbots in succession of their monastery where they moved to establish a more contemporary practice early in the past century.
Venerable Holmes Hinkley Welch (Shi Mo Hua)
Holmes Welch (1924 – 1981) was the dharma heir of Tai-Ts’ang Hsin-Jan, a Chinese Ch’an Master. He was the root teacher to Ryugen Fisher (Shi Shen Long) whose relationship established the second American Ch’an patriarchic in our lineage, Ven. Welch being the first.
Ven. Welch was a professor in Far Eastern Studies at Harvard University. He traveled extensively throughout China studying the culture and Ch’an Buddhism. His influence in early American introduction to Buddhism was important as it counter balanced the transformation of Zen from Japan with the unique philosophical and pragmatic study the Chinese placed on Buddhist practice. Holmes Welch conducted extensive research in China during the early part of the 20th century, learning intimately the details of Chinese Ch’an thought and practice. While living in China at the Chin Shan Monastery, Ven. Welch received dharma transmission from the then abbot, Tai-Ts’ang Hsin-Jan. He wrote extensively on the importance language plays in the transformation of ideas between cultures. Among his many works, The Parting Of The Way, was the first convincing interpretation of the Tao te ching and the first coherent account of the Taoist movement. Ven. Welch’s scholarly works, The Practice of Chinese Buddhism and Buddhism Under Mao are still referenced works for Buddhist scholars today.
Reverend Soyu Matsuoka Roshi
The Reverend Soyu Matsuoka Roshi was a Japanese Soto Zen Master who studied at Sojiji Monastery in Japan before being assigned to temples in America. Roshi was born in 1912 in Yamnaguchi Prefecture near Hiroshima. His family has a history of Zen Buddhist priests dating back over six hundred years. Matsuoka Roshi came to America in the 1930’s and spent time in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. He founded the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago in 1949. At the time, Roshi was a gondaikyoshi (equivalent of a bishop) in Soto Zen Buddhism, responsible for Soto Zen activities across all of North America. Ven. Ryughen Fisher Sensei was appointed his Dharma successor. Although Matsuoka Roshi was an important Zen pioneer in the West, his legacy has been largely overshadowed by some of the other early Soto Zen pioneers, including Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Matsuoka Roshi passed away in 1997.
Ven. Ryugen Fisher (Shi Shen Long)
Our lineage stems from both Chinese and Japanese roots (Ch’an & Soto Zen) through Ven. Ryugen Fisher (1947 – 2006). The Reverend Soyu Matsuoka Roshi was Ven. Ryugen Fisher’s root teacher who first gave him the precepts. Ryugen next became Holmes Welch’s personal student, providing him with rare opportunities to study classical Chinese Ch’an texts and their practice. As a result of these two experiences in training our tradition can claim lineage in both Ch’an and Soto Zen. During his lifetime Ryugen referred to his “pragmatic” approach to Buddhism as “American Ch’an”. He served as the Abbot of the Dragon Flower Ch’an Temple, which had begun in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and subsequently relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, until his death in 2006. Ven. Fisher was the founder of Building for Maitreya, Ltd., an organization dedicated to translating important Buddhist texts, teaching Buddhism and providing a role model for Buddhist and non-Buddhist Businesses. A practicing Buddhist monk since 1972, Ven. Fisher was originally ordained in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition by Rev. Soyu Matsuoka Roshi. He received Dharma Transmission from Dharma Master Holmes Welch in 1980. Viewing Buddhism from a pragmatic perspective has emerged to more effectively describe the continued transformation of Buddhist practice and teachings to the Western mind. Ryugen’s life was devoted to helping others see the value in the practice of rigorous self-honesty, the first step towards positive self-transformation.
Ven. Dr. Jim Eubanks Sensei (Shi Yong Xiang), Abbot and Director of Buddhist Studies of OPB, and Organizational Adviser to CPB
Ven. Eubanks Sensei was the final fully ordained monastic formal student and dharma holder of the late Ven. Ryugen Fisher and is the Organizational Adviser to the Center For Pragmatic Buddhism and Abbot of OPB, it’s monastic community. He is the third American generation of our linage. He studied Hinduism, Early Buddhism, Daoism, and Ch’an/Zen Buddhism formally with his root teacher prior to Ryugen’s untimely passing, learning the practical skills necessary to continue his teacher’s pragmatic approach to American Ch’an Buddhism (the precursor to Pragmatic Buddhism). Sensei’s undergraduate studies specialized in Philosophy and Comparative & Asian Studies at Furman University. Ven. Eubanks also teaches American Shaolin gongfu (Kung fu), gigong, yoga and meditation at various locations in his community.
In addition to his Buddhist practice he is the current Spiritual Director of the Order of Pragmatic Buddhists (OPB), and is pursuing an expanded medical degree.
Chiang-t’ien Ssu (Chin Shan) monastery, our ancestral home
One of the two most exemplary of all Chinese Buddhist monasteries is the Chiang-t’ien Ssu, usually know as Chin Shan, at Chen-Chiang on the Yangtze between Nanking and Shanghai. Chin Shan is the word that most hear when monks from any part of China are takling about the way things ought to be done. It was the home to Ven. Holmes Welch for many years where he studied and practiced with the Ch’an Master T’ai-Ts’ang. In 1949 after the communist takeover it found a new home in Taiwan, where it remains an active monastic community. However, the original structure still remains today as a magnificent example of Ch’an Buddhist temple architecture. The story of our modern Ch’an lineage begins at this illustrious monastery located in Jiangsu Province, People’s Republic of China. It was one of the leading centers of Ch’an practice and training and one of the largest monasteries in China. In the words of Ven. Ryugen Fisher, “To be a full graduate of Jinshan was the Chinese Buddhist equivalent of being called to service as a clerk at law to a member of the Supreme Court.” We would like to think that this focus of training and social engagement’s causal-chain continues today in EDIG’s commitment to engaging the dharma in our communities. Located on Golden Hill overlooking the Yangtze River, Chin Shan was built over 1600 years ago. The tall octagonal structure which is Jinshan’s signature building is the Tower of Benevolence and Longevity. In its heyday, Chin Shan was home to over 3,000 monks.
Sojiji Monastery, Japan
Sōji-ji Temple (the Dharma Hall where Rev. Matsuoka Roshi was trained pictured here) is one of the two main temples of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple was originally founded in 740 CE in Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture. During the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) through the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Shogunate gave support to the Temple and designated it as their prayer hall. At one time of its peak, the Temple had as many as 70-odd structures in its temple grounds in Noto. The Temple, and Eiheiji in Fukui Prefecture which was established in 1244 by Priest Dogen (1200-1253) – the founder of Soto Zen, have been the two leading monasteries in Japan. It was totally destroyed by fire in 1898, and rebuilt over a period of several years and reopened in its present location at Tsurumi, Yokohama in 1911.