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Zen Buddhism according to Central Abbott Myogen

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During my first visit to Tassajara Zen Mountain center I attended a Zen and Yoga workshop. During this retreat, I had the pleasure of recording a conversation that I had with the late Abbott Myogen. At the time of this interview, Myogen-San was the central abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, Green Gulch Farm, and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

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A picture of myself with Abbott Myogen on the right and Priestess Shokugchi on the left

Myogen-San was raised as a Mennonite, learning a respect for hard work, discipline, and self-reliance. He became a lay practitioner of Buddhism for a number of years, during which time he worked as a landscape architect and raised a family. Eventually, Myogen-San was chosen by his peers to become Central Abbott.

Abbott Myogen is also known for being one of the famed “Fire Monks”. In 2009, the Ventana Wilderness has overcome by raging wild fires. A small battalion of monks prepared the monastery for defense against the wildfires in the event that they burn through Tassajara. Despite their efforts and their desire to stay, the Monks were eventually evacuated by CALFIRE and the Sherriffs department, for they had deemed the monastery indefensible against the out of control wildfires. But four monks defied the statistics and science that said the monastery could not be saved, and they stayed behind despite the explicit instructions to evacuate from authorities. As a result, these four monks, Abbott Myogen one of them, saved Tassajara Zen Mountain Center from burning to the ground.