Shodo Harada Roshi Interview
Posted by: Sweeping Zen November 26, 2010
Interviewed by Hozan Alan Senauke
November 2003 Sogenji, Okayama, Japan
September 2005 Tahoma, Washington
Translated By Yuho Tom Kirchner and Daichi Priscilla Storandt
A friend said that meeting the Shodo Harada Roshi for the first time in sanzen, a private interview between student and Zen teacher, was like “sitting in front of a nuclear reactor.” I know the feeling, and it is not much different the next time either…or the time after that.
Shodo Harada is a teacher of extraordinary energy and depth. He is a Japanese Rinzai Zen priest with the unusual calling of teaching Westerners. Harada Roshi is abbot of Sogenji in Okayama, Japan, and Tahoma Monastery on Whidbey Island in Washington. He also supports zendos and sitting groups in Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, India, and elsewhere in the United States.
At Sogenji, Tahoma, and in his various travels Harada Roshi works closely with Priscilla Daichi Storandt. Chis-san, as she is familiarly known, is his dharma sister and fellow student of Yamada Mumon Roshi. She followed Harada to Sogenji and serves as translator for talks and in the intimate surrounds of sanzen. Her warm, joyful, no-nonsense presence perfectly complements Harada Roshi’s drive. They are quite a team.
Sogenji was built in the 17th as a retreat for the Ikeda clan, then warlords or daimyo in the Bizen region. Harada Roshi, Chi-san and I met over two days in what had been the daimyo’s scriptorium, overlooking Sogenji’s garden and pond. We had a second interview at Tahoma, during sesshijn. To each question, Roshi responded in Japanese with his deep and raspy voice, turning inward at times to search for words which then emerged in bursts of urgent expression.
I am deeply grateful to Chi-san for her on-the-spot translations, and to Tom Yuho Kirchner who later meticulously transcribed and translated the earlier interviews, checking with Chi-san to get the flavor of the moment.
—Hozan Alan SenaukeTHE INTERVIEW