Kobun Chino Otogawa, Chief Priest of Jikoji, came to America in 1967 from Eiheiji Monastery in Japan. After serving as the resident teacher at Tassajara Monastery for two years, Kobun Roshi became the Chief Priest of Haiku Zendo in Los Altos, California.
In 1979, Kobun Roshi and his Bodhi students purchased the old Pacific High School property, which became Jikoji in 1983. Kobun officially registered Jikoji as a temple of the Soto Zen School (Japan) in 1984.
On July 26, 2002, in Switzerland, Kobun Roshi drowned while trying to save his daughter Maya, who also drowned. Jikoji performs an annual service in Kobun and Maya's memory.
- The name Kobun means “to extend the way,” to extend culture, language,
the word, to extend the dharma—fitting for someone bringing Zen to America.
His dharma name was Ho-un Kobun. “Ho” means phoenix, firebird, and
“un” is mystery, mystical, cloud. We could imagine the image: a bird flying in
the clouds, just a wing-tip, a bit of the tail, fleetingly visible for a moment
and then not—it’s so fitting from a student’s perspective. He traveled extensively, teaching
in many places, always coming and going. He carried the forms elegantly and formlessly.
He was often more than inscrutable, certainly not to be captured or contained by any
preconception of what a Zen teacher was. Yet in his presence you felt you encountered
His teachings include Traces of his Flight, as published in a 2012 article in Bodhidharma magazine. Shoho Michael Newhall
Kobun and Maya
At a gathering of some of Kobun’s long-term students in Santa Cruz, CA, shortly before Kobun’s death, a student asked, “Kobun, why do we sit?” He replied:
We sit to make life meaningful. The significance of our life is not experienced in striving to create some perfect thing.
We must simply start with accepting ourselves. Sitting brings us back to actually who and where we are.
This can be very painful. Self-acceptance is the hardest thing to do. If we can’t accept ourselves,
we are living in ignorance, this darkest night. We may still be awake, but we don’t know where we are.
We cannot see. The mind has no light. Practice is this candle in our very darkest room.”