John Daido Loori
June 14, 1931 - October 9, 2009
Letter to the Sangha
On October 9th, thirty-five days ago at the time of this writing, Daido Roshi passed away peacefully in the Abbacy here on Tremper Mountain, the mountain he loved so deeply. Roshi was the abbot of the Mountains and Rivers Order and Zen Mountain Monastery, teacher to over three hundred active students, a guide and inspiration to countless other people, and my teacher since 1985.
As I sit and consider how to speak of him, I am filled with the profound effect he has had on my life, as well as the many lives of this sangha and the larger community. I think of his equal commitment to both monastic and lay practice; of his advocacy for this earth and all its creatures, sentient and insentient; of his love for the arts and his devotion to the creative process as a path of self-inquiry. As I reflect on this, words tumble out on the page and are so small—I sweep them off again looking for something more, something that burns brightly, and captures his deep respect for, devotion to, and complete immersion in the Buddhadharma.
My years of training, in which I lived and practiced with my teacher every day, comprised a journey that I could never have imagined. It was—and continues to be—more real, more demanding, more fulfilling than I would have permitted myself to dream about, or even hope for, in those early years. I recall one occasion in 1985 before I moved into full-time training at the Monastery, a friend asked me if I would regret not being able to travel once I entered into training. Without understanding half the truth in my reply, I told her that I had a feeling I would be traveling plenty.
I feel immense, immeasurable gratitude at my great fortune and privilege in having been able to study with Daido Roshi over these many years. How could I ever repay him for all he has given me? His response—one that always pierced my heart—now echoes in my ears: "Bow and serve, just bow and serve."
As we, his students, carry on his legacy, may the fire within us burn brightly, and may our efforts be a ceaseless tribute to his life and teachings.
Mount Tremper, New York
November 13, 2009