Jokai Sensei – A Very, Very Short History

At the end of September Keizan Sensei went to Yokoji Zen Mountain Centre to attend the Shiho (transmission) ceremony for David Jokai Blackwell (above right).  Here is a piece that Keizan wrote for the Yokoji Newsletter which describes how Jokai began his training in Liverpool.

In 1997 I lived in Liverpool, UK, as I still do.  I was busy as a restaurateur and writer and as well facilitated a Zen meditation sitting group affiliated to the Kanzeon Sangha led by Genpo Roshi, my then primary Zen teacher.  Once a year I also organised a 7 day sesshin for Tenshin Roshi – in those days an impressive young Sensei with a wish to carry the dharma to his home country.

The sitting group was located in my home, a large Victorian house once the residence of a sea captain sailing schooners from Liverpool to New York .  Now Zen monks are the cargo!  One evening, quite unannounced, there was a knock at the front door.  I went to open it and there standing on the step was a handsome young man in his twenties carrying a copy of The Elements of Zen, a book I had written.  He introduced himself and told me he had travelled from North Wales, a long journey on a weekday evening for a working person.  He wanted to study Zen.  He had travelled by public transport and owned neither a car or driving license.  He joined us for zazen.  He left promising he would be back within six months with a car and license.  I took it with a pinch of salt.

Six months later virtually to the day he knocked on the door again.  He began to practice with us on a regular basis and attended his first sesshin with Tenshin Roshi in 1998.  At the time Dave worked as a production supervisor in a factory making fridges, he was engaged and buying a house.  By the year 2000 he had given up his job, ended his relationship, sold his house and moved to Yokoji full time and for the start of a three month training period (the same one that Shinko Sensei met his future wife Claudia, also on her first visit from the UK).  He was serious !

For particular circumstances, Dave, now a new father and with the dharma name Jokai, left Yokoji in 2004 and moved to Hollywood.  Without any experience, he found a job as an agent for an Agency specialising in contracts for the creative people working behind the camera of film production.  At one time I was making a radio programme for the BBC and Jokai even managed to get me an introduction to Leonard Coen’s lawyer.  Not that LC ever gave me the interview I wanted.

Five years later as circumstances changed again Jokai returned to Yokoji and gave his full commitment to training with Tenshin Roshi.  A promise he maintained through times difficult both personally and for Yokoji.  The rest you know, Jokai received Shiho (transmission) on Saturday 27th September 2014.

Congratulations Jokai Sensei, dharma brother and inspiration.

Keizan Sensei

Tenshin Roshi now has four Dharma successors: Kaigen Roshi, Shinko Sensei (in New Zealand), Keizan Sensei and now Jokai Sensei.  Kaigen, Jokai, Tenshin and Keizan are pictured below, left to right.