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Hoag Holmgren is a Zen teacher, writer, and founder of the Mountain Path Sangha, a Zen practice community that gathers online and also in-person at the Rollinsville Zen Center in Rollinsville, CO. Hoag is an educator, ICF-trained coach, and author of the books No Better Place: a New Zen Primer; Meaningful Grading: a Guide for Faculty in the Arts; and the poetry collection paleos.

 

Hoag's teacher, Danan Michael Henry Roshi, is a Dharma heir of Philip Kapleau Roshi in addition to being a Diamond Sangha teacher as appointed by Robert Aitken Roshi. Danan Henry founded the Zen Center of Denver in 1989. Hoag began studying with Danan Henry in 1993, received permission to teach as an associate teacher in 2018, completed the Diamond Sangha koan curriculum in 2019, and received full Dharma transmission in June 2023. Hoag continues to practice with Danan Roshi who is currently living at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, NM. 

 

photo: Danan Henry Roshi, left; Hoag, right

Mountain Path Sangha | Practice and Realization in the 21st Century

the mountain path climbs and climbs in the chill sunset

through a forest full of maple leaves like crows

about to take flight

       —Keijo Shurin (1440-1518)

 

Each of us is both author and actor in an unprecedented experiment in the long history of Ch'an/Zen Buddhism. For the first time, a significant number of practitioners in the West are practicing mostly, if not exclusively, at home due to necessity and preference. But this is not the solitary zazen of the mountain hermit. Dokusan (1:1 meetings with the teacher), teisho (Zen talks), sitting in silence with others, group discussions, and retreats can now be experienced in the context of a home practice, bolstered by the presence of others online.

 

Much of the initial skepticism about Zoom and other online platforms serving as a viable adjunct to traditional face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder practice has vanished. The Covid pandemic changed this as many practice centers and temples were only able to function online. It is now a rare Zen temple or center that does not offer at least some opportunities for online practice.

Over the past several decades, a central question about Zen in the West (North America, South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand) has been: is an authentic non-monastic practice possible? I think it’s clear now that the answer is yes. The majority of teachers and practitioners in the West are householders. This is true even in monasteries: most monastery members do not live at the monastery; they work in the world, raise families, have intimate relationships, and live in secular communities. And at least half of all practitioners and teachers are now women—one of the great successes of Zen’s migration out of Asia. Thirty years ago, there were a handful of Zen centers in North America. Now there are over a hundred with more dotting the landscape each year, many of them also functioning as centers of learning and the arts.

 

Zen practice is a homecoming to the vastness, creativity, and mystery of this life—right here in the midst of difficulties, messes, and our many hopes and plans. Is an authentic practice possible where a significant portion of contact with the sangha and teacher is experienced online? The question remains open and it will likely be a while before the strengths and pitfalls of such a model become clear. So here we are.

 

The Mountain Path Sangha is a lay (non-monastic) Zen community with opportunities to practice together online and in person. Online, we offer daily zazen, weekly discussions, periodic events, talks, retreats, and weekly dokusan (private meetings with a teacher to investigate koans, breath practices, mindfulness, and the nonseparation of Zen practice and daily life).

 

In person, we offer a Sunday sitting, 5-6PM, at the Rollinsville Zen Center (RZC) in Rollinsville, CO, with more events, sittings, and in-person dokusan as announced. 

 

We are affiliated with the Diamond Sangha, an international network of practice centers scattered throughout North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Diamond Sangha teachers meet in-person, regionally and periodically, but there is no central authority, and each center is independent. The Diamond Sangha has its roots in the Harada-Yasutani lineage of Zen Buddhism. Daiun Sogaku Harada (1870-1961) and Hakuun Ryoko Yasutani (1885-1973), both highly respected teachers in Japan, established a new school of Zen Buddhism, originally called Sanbo Kyodan (Three Treasures), that combines what they believed were the strongest features of the Soto and Rinzai sects, the two main schools of Zen in Japan.

 

The Diamond Sangha was founded by Robert Aitken and his wife, Anne Aitken, in 1959, in Hawaii. In addition to being a Zen teacher, scholar, translator, and writer, Robert Aitken was a tireless advocate for gay rights and for social justice for women and Native Hawaiians, and was one of the original founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. After training for many years, he received Dharma transmission from Yamada Koun Roshi, a Dharma heir of Yasutani Roshi. More on Robert Aitken’s life and legacy can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Baker_Aitken.

 

Hoag is a member of the Diamond Sangha Teachers Circle. The Diamond Sangha Teachers Circle Ethics Agreement is available here.

 

To see a partial list of Diamond Sangha practice centers, please visit:

https://diamondsangha.org/resources-2/links/.

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