Photo of Ryokan Sensei

Jeremy Ryokan Sensei

Jeremy Ryokan Sensei was given dharma  transmission by Fr Patrick Eastman Kundo Roshi, founder of the Wild Goose Sangha in 2016. In April 2023 Ryokan received Shukke Tokudo from Keizan Roshi and joined Stonewater Zen Sangha.

The inner life and the mystery of life fascinated and spoke to Jeremy from his teenage years. It emerged in his school art work in a shallow blue ceramic dish that featured a baby in the womb replete with it’s sparking DNA reaching out into the universe, suspended in a bubble of cosmic space, which in turn was held in a web with a lotus flower at its centre, around which swirled symbols of world religions. Seeking clarity he studied Theology at Bristol University and there encountered Zen for the first time when their charismatic anthropology lecturer gave them Paul Reps Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and invited them to understand the culture and mind that had produced those profound, confusing and teasingly elegant ideas. And then as if opening up possibilities of what happens in the creative cracks between beliefs that lecturer left to become a rabbi. On a beach holiday in his early 20’s a Buddhist friend who later became a mentor and colleague taught him to mediate in the Burmese Forest Tradition in exchange for Jeremy teaching him to run. Who learned the most there, you might wonder? Imbued with the spirituality of Teilhard de Chardin, drawn by the East, informed by Marxism and drawn to the peace movement and social action, and many years of work with refugees and survivors of political violence. Held back by fear, almost broken at times by personal struggles his journey took him through Anglicanism and eventually in his late 30’s into contemplative Catholicism.

Occasional meditation practice was utterly transformed in India in 1999 when he met Fr Ama Samy, a Jesuit Priest and Roshi, and dharma heir of Yamaha Koun; he was over-awed by his vitality and presence and his generosity. Following that encounter Jeremy sat many sesshins with Ama Samy in Holland, Germany, Belgium and India. Finally, he took a years sabbatical from work as a psychotherapist to live at Bodhi Zendo with his young family in 2006. On the foundation stone of Bodhi Zendo is written, “Abide where there is no abiding”, and Father Ama offered a sense of enlightenment as one of “coming home and gently resting.” Zen deepened and transformed his appreciation of the mystery of the incarnation and the mass which resonated with a timeless non-duality: an eternal unfolding and the intimate present co-existed with piercing suchness.

Back in England he met Fr Patrick Eastman, freshly returned from the USA and joined the newly formed Wild Goose Zen Sangha, part of the White Plum Asanga, which led to his transmission as Sensei in 2016. In the following year God just disappeared, and with that the frameworks of Christianity fell away: the notion of living in a created world gave way to the ceaselessly unfolding mystery of the Tathagata, and somewhere at the centre of it the liberating beat of the Heart Sūtra: “No eye, no ear, no tongue, no body, mind,” and the profound reply to Shariputra, “Form is no other than emptiness,” spilling out into the vastness of the ten directions, and simultaneously the carrot held and sliced to go into the lunchtime soup.

This wasn’t at all a simple process, as he delved into the mythos of Buddhism to lend scope to his experience. The words of Bodhidharma in reply to Emperor Wu’s question uplift and thrill and challenge. “Who therefore is this who stands before me then? And his oh so simple but profoundly challenging reply, “I don’t know.” Work as a psychotherapist allow for a joyful wealth of answers to infiltrate that space; the form and containing rituals of just sitting with others in the quietness of the Zendo; the precepts and koans that invite us to pause in our all too solid venturing forth with our fixed opinions and responses; the profound presence of Bodhisattva’s that open into our lives; the tongue-tied attempts to explain all this. And now friendship with Dave Keizan Scott has led to a wonderful invitation to join Stonewater Zen Sangha and to follow the path of ordination, which fills him with profound joy.