At the beginning of April my family and I went to the midwest to visit family in Michigan and Minneapolis, with a stop in Wisconsin. We flew into Detroit, rented a minivan, and made our way to my hometown in Michigan where I had lived until I was sixteen. After a few days there visiting my dad and family, we drove to Madison, Wisconsin for an evening at a hotel, meeting up with Meido Moore Roshi that night. The next day we visited Korinji, the monastery Meido started in 2018, near Reedsburg, Wisconsin, about an hour out of Madison the next day.
Korinji is out there a bit, it’s quite rural. Although it was the beginning of April and back home here in the Pacific Northwest Spring was in full effect, Korinji, nestled in the Driftless area of Wisconsin, still was lightly blanketed in snow. Driving through the Driftless area, I felt kind of sorry for the roads. Roads like Highway K or Highway F. They don’t even have names. They’ve suffered in that harsh climate. That never ending winter. The topography was carved out by advancing glacial advances in the Pleistocene. Rolling hills, steep ravines, dramatic landscape not normally associated with the Midwest…
We arrived after an hour drive from Madison. Meido had us just creep into the top of the driveway off the road so as not to drive down too far and get stuck in the snow. Korinji is nestled in a ravine. You walk a winding well-kept path down the ravine, passing a shrine here, a statue there. It’s quiet, still, and alive. We walked and skipped down the path, all five of us, there is no possibility of quiet with three daughters running down a winter path. And there at the zendo were a few people dressed in dark hakama and samugi, the traditional zendo attire for lay people. We were not sure if we could talk to them or not, as they were in Osesshin, a several day silent meditation retreat.
A tall young guy helped us out and directed us to the main building. We climbed back up the ravine to the main building. As we walked, we see a few people scattered on the trails, sitting quietly. It was clear they were on break. Suiza, or free sitting time in between structured formal zazen in the zendo.
We arrived to the main building and stepped in. Teresa and I are accustomed to a training environment, as we spent much of our twenties in a monastery in Japan. It’s a little wild to go into a monastery with the kids, who don’t have that inner training gear which immediately turns on when we enter that environment. I wasn’t sure how it would all go. But everyone was gracious to us, and welcomed us in all of our bright colors and rambunctious energy.
Meido immediately seemed sincerely glad to have us there. Very warm, very generous to us. We felt very welcome. The place feels fresh, spartan, clean, well cared for. Everything is compact, smartly built, well thought out. It looks bigger in the photos, but it is all there in its place.
Although Korinji was in the sharp buzz of the Osesshin, Meido took us on a tour. He moves fast. He’s sharp. Direct in his movements. Meido told us we were exactly how he imagined us to be! Ha! We went down to the Zendo. It’s kind of floating on the hill. Painted white inside with continual skylights, it feels light and fresh. Unpretentious. Real. Hardy. Elegant. Utilitarian. There is also a Shugendo altar inside with animal skins and a fire ceremony altar. It’s a wild combo. Earthy, and airy.
Then we went back up to the main building. It holds the kitchen, the dining hall, the sleeping quarters, the hondo or great hall with the Butsudan, or main altar, where all of the main ceremonies take place, including the morning chanting. It also holds the sanzen room where people do private interview with the Meido Roshi. The bathrooms have little slippers like in Japan. There is nice simple woodwork everywhere. Nice natural trim. It’s not a three hundred year old temple, but something new. Something emerging out of that hardwood environment. What a gift it is for people to live and train there. To have it rise out of those surroundings. For people to have the good karma to encounter the Dharma.
It was April 8th, the Buddha’s birthday, so we had a special ceremony where we poured tea over the baby buddha while everyone chanted. Then Teresa and I gave a short talk to the participants in the Osesshin. I was a little under the weather but held it together. I tried to be inspiring. To give some encouragement about training, which most certainly saved my life and has inspired the direction of my life. We felt the eager shining eyes of training people on us. April eighth was also the day I was ordained, seventeen years ago. It was great to have Teresa talk a bit so that people there could get a sense of her and how the training opened her up.
Sitting with them, the group felt crisp and bright. A young genki group. Very good energy. Very sincere. Very hopeful feeling. Meido was both sharp and warm with them. Especially warm. It felt like a place with a great future. A place for people to grow and develop. Where authentic practice will manifest. Seeds are being planted. Lots of that eagerness of young shugyoshas (people of training) going for it, giving their all. It was great to be among my people. The people of training. People maybe looking for an older brother of the path to emulate or tag along with, soaking up some of that spaciousness people of training have. I think in a couple of years Korinji will have a few more advanced students, powerful sempai, bursting with the training, every step they take is a celebration of the Way. I think that’s the future for Korinji. A few more advanced sempai there to lead the way. It will be quite formidable. Korinji is already a well oiled machine, and it will only become more deep.
Meido has done so much to get that place going. I’m sure he has had lots of support. But the path power it takes to create such a place does not just happen. It should be noted that his determination and efforts have made that place come to fruition. I’m sure it has worn on him.
Meeting Meido and feeling the environment of Korinji was very special to our whole family. It was a highlight of our trip. Teresa and I felt especially good there, inspired to see it, to feel the dojo life again. It felt much like home to us. Very familiar. The high frequency of monastic life. My oldest daughter, Rose, not easily impressed, really enjoyed her time there. My youngest, Momo, turned her t-shirt around backwards so that she looked more like the people in the ceremony, all in simple dark colors. They all enjoyed the chanting. We all know how strange and powerful the chanting can be to encounter. So exotic and powerful!
Meido gave us homemade umeboshi (pickled plum) and strawberry jam from their garden. We are also still talking about the brownies they gave us! We felt very well cared for. Meeting Meido in person felt like meeting a true brother, very auspicious karma. He carries a very familiar energy and power. We were very blessed to be there and meet them all and see Korinji. Korinji reminded me of the hopes we had for Tahoma One Drop back in the early days with Doyu, my first head monk. We hoped to create a new culture of training and healing. We are so happy to be connected with the people at Korinji and hope to see them all again soon. May their continued training and Korinji be a light for the world.