Saturday, October 20, 2012

A long time in coming . . .

Photo by Gansho Lenny Reed

Many of you know (or know of) Kobai Scott Whitney, a long-time Buddhist teacher, author, and extended OBW sangha member.  For those of you who don’t know him, Kobai is the guiding teacher of Plum Mountain Buddhist Community in Aberdeen, Washington, just an hour west of Open Gate Zendo in Olympia, Washington.  That sangha works “especially with the marginalized and the recovering–from trauma, homelessness, divorce, domestic violence and losses of various sorts.”  Plum Mountain members are active in the community, working to “partner with the 12-Step communities, jails, prisons and services for the hungry and the mentally ill.” Kobai is especially well-known for his Prison Dharma work, having spent many years teaching Buddhism to incarcerated men and women.  He has even written a book, “Sitting Inside: Buddhist Practice in America’s Prisons”, which is a very interesting and informative guide for those interested in and involved with Prison Dharma work.

Kobai’s Buddhist path has been a long and fruitful one. He practiced Zen for many years with Issan Dorsey at San Francisco Zen Center and Robert Aitken Roshi at Honolulu Diamond Sangha (it was Aitken who gave him the Dharma name “Kobai”, or “Old Plum Tree”).  Since moving to Washington State, he has practiced with the Olympia Zen Center and Cloud Mountain Retreat Center, and has in recent years been exploring Buddhism’s roots by practicing and studying in the Theravadin tradition.  In the years since he came to Aberdeen, he and Plum Mountain have become a good friend and brother Sangha to the Open Gate community. Kobai attends all of the OBW’s ordination ceremonies, and several members of the Order of the Boundless Way, namely Jisen Seido Jean-Luc Devis, Gansho Lenny Reed, and Hadashi Jeff Miles, have also studied and ordained under Kobai.

Moving further along his well-traveled path, Kobai recently began working with Kozen Sampson (Thich Minh Tinh), a monk and teacher in the Vietnamese Zen tradition.  Last Monday, October 15th, Kobai underwent ordination to join this newfound Buddhist family. He was ordained as a novice monk in the Linchi (Rinzai) line of Vietnamese Zen, or Thien.  Due to his extensive life experience as a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, he will spend only a year as a novice before being ordained a full monk.  In the meantime, he’ll be run through a crash course of koan study, instruction in ceremony, services, and forms, and possibly an occasional beating with a Zen stick. :-)

The ceremony was performed at Chua Lien Hoa, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Olympia, Washington.  Presiding over the ceremony were Thich Minh Tinh Kozen Sampson of Mt. Adams Zen Center in Trout Lake, Washington, Master Nguyen Kim of Co Lam Pagoda in Seattle, Washington, Phra Ratsamee Chutintharo and his associate, both of Buddhangkura Thai Buddhist temple in Lacey, Washington, as well as the abbot of Chua Lien Hoa, a visiting grandmaster from Vietnam. Also present were Kobai’s son, Stanley, and a half dozen or so of Kobai’s peers and associates from the Christian ministry.  There as well were our own Gansho Lenny Reed, Hadashi Jeff Miles, and Koro Kaisan Miles, on hand to witness Kobai’s initiation into his newest family.

Please join us in congratulating Kobai!

Photo by Gansho Lenny Reed

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all of this important information. I met Kobai briefly when he came to my ordination in Washington last year and have since spent some time researching his activities. I've now had a chance to read a substantial amount, including links and books in associated areas. I've also listened to some of his online Dharma talks in the wee hours, all of which is embellished with fruitfulness. It was great news to hear that his health had improved after quite a health battle and this latest set of events is just another tenacious example of his tireless work. A hearty congratulations to Kobai and may you well enjoy your study in your new chosen order. Well done also to those participated in this extraordinary event. In kindness and gratitude Hoka Matt Lawther