John Daido Loori is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM) in Mt. Tremper, New York. He is a Dharma heir of Hakyu Taizan Maesumi Roshi, founder of the White Plum Asanga, and has received transmission in both the Rinzai and Soto lines of Zen. Daido Loori is also founder and director of the Mountain and Rivers Order, an organization of Zen Buddhist temples, practice centers, and sitting groups in the United States and abroad. In addition, he is president of Dharma Communications, which promotes Buddhist teachings through videos, audiotapes, meditation supplies, Mountain Record quarterly, and Internet activities. Under his guidance, ZMM has established a Zen Environmental Studies Center and engages in an array of social action programs for, among others, prisoners, the homeless, and people with AIDS. This interview was conducted in Daido Loori’s office at ZMM, photographs by Stuart Soshin Gray. Interview by Jeff Zaleski.
In December, you’re giving a course at Zen Mountain Monastery on the “Vows for the New Millennium.” This year, you’ve offered “Zen Teachings for a New Millennium” at the Smithsonian Institute and throughout the country. What does the millennium mean to you?
In a sense, it’s a millennium because by agreement we make it a millennium within our particular calendar. But because it seems important to people all over the world, it becomes an opportunity to teach. As a teacher, one aspect of my job is to seize opportunities like this and use them to bring focus and awareness to our vows, morality, and ways in which we can improve the lot of people who are suffering all over the world.
Are your teachings for a new millennium different than your teachings for the old millennium?
Of course not. The teachings are basically a moment-to-moment nonstop flow; each breath follows the previous one. Yesterday it was like that; today is like that; tomorrow will be like that.
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