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Buddhadharma Without Credentials

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Jakusho Kwong-roshi describes being with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche


Jakusho Kwong-roshi is a lineage heir of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi and was also close to Trungpa Rinpoche. He is the founder and abbot of the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center outside of Santa Rosa, California, and has been teaching Zen in the United States and Europe for more than thirty years. In 1995, he was given the title of Dendo Kyoshi, Zen Teacher, by the Soto School in Japan. He is one of nine Western Zen teachers to receive this acknowledgment. "Zen," he says, "is the aliveness we bring to each moment." Please visit for more information about Jakusho Kwong-roshi, and the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center.

This interview emerged from a film project that Bill Scheffel began in the summer of 2008, provisionally titled, Lineage: Jakusho Kwong-roshi and Sonoma Mountain Zen Center. About this project, Bill wrote:

What led me to ask Kwong-roshi if I could interview him was the time I spent in Cambodia (2005 to 2007). Life in Cambodia occurs at a far slower and more "elemental" way than in industrialized countries. In Cambodia an uncanny "inner experience" was constantly with me: that being in Cambodia was like being with Trungpa Rinpoche. Life in Phnom Penh, especially, felt very "in my face" — intimate, chaotic, disturbing, loving and inescapably awake.

On returning to the U.S., I began to interview some of my friends—students of The Vidyadhara—and ask them the question, "What was it like to be around the body of Trungpa Rinpoche?" This question seems to evoke something more than our so-called stories of being with Trungpa Rinpoche. Perhaps it is a more difficult question to answer, coming from a deeper memory or less tangible impression. Perhaps the question evokes ways in which Rinpoche is "haunting us along with the dralas" even now. This is the question I asked Kwong Roshi in this interview.

Kwong-roshi has a profound connection with Trungpa Rinpoche—and with the drala principle. Sonoma Mountain Zen Center has hosted Level Drala of Shambhala Training for the Bay Area sangha for many years. Roshi and his wife Shinko have, for three decades, invoked the dralas of Sonoma Mountain—and no doubt many lineages—through their loving sacrifice to create a rural practice center and carry on the Soto lineage of Suzuki-roshi.

Bill Scheffel
Bill Scheffel is a writer, filmmaker, and long-time student of Trungpa Rinpoche. You can learn about Bill's documentary film, Cambodia: Lord Mukpo's Dream Time from his website -—where the film can also be ordered and where Bill has written extensively about his travels and about the drala principle.

Thank you to Bill for making this video available on the Chronicles.