About

Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler is a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and teacher in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, with Dharma Transmission from Sojun Mel Weitsman. He lives and teaches at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, is the head teacher of the Buddhadharma Sangha of San Quentin State Prison, and is mentor and preceptor to the Montaña de Silencio Sangha in Medellín, Colombia.

Jiryu has trained in Zen temples in the U.S. and Japan since 1996. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Asian Studies from UC Berkeley (2014), where he worked under the mentorship of the Group in Buddhist Studies on Buddhist texts in classical Chinese and modern Japanese.  His thesis research focused on Nishiari Bokusan andthe development of Soto Zen in Japan during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). He is the author of the book Two Shores of Zen about his experiences in 2002-2004 as an American-trained monk practicing in Japanese Zen monasteries. Other writing of his has appeared in Buddhadharma, Lions’ Roar, and elsewhere. Along with his brother, Rev. Hondo Dave Rutschman, he maintains the blog No Zen in the West.

Jiryu has lived continuously at Zen temples since the age of twenty. He was ordained a priest in 2002 by Seido Lee deBarros, began teaching as shuso under Myogen Steve Stucky in 2008, and in 2014 received full authorization to teach, completing Dharma Transmission with Sojun Mel Weitsman. Along with these core teachers, he is also indebted to many other teachers associated with the San Francisco Zen Center, including Zoketsu Norman Fischer and Tenshin Reb Anderson. As recounted in Two Shores of Zen, in 2002-2004 he had the opportunity to train in Zen temples in Japan, and spent time at Bukkokuji (Obama, Japan) and Hokyoji (Echizen-Ono, Japan). He is also grateful for the opportunity to have seen and experienced diverse styles of practice in his travels and training as a visitor to practice centers like Shasta Abbey and Mt. Baldy Zen Center under the late Joshu Sasaki Roshi, and to train briefly with teachers like Toni Packer of the Springwater Center and Shohaku Okumura Roshi at Sanshinji, among others.

Jiryu was born in Argentina and raised primarily in Albuquerque and Chicago. He attended the tiny and selective Deep Springs College as an undergraduate in 1994-1995, and after a decade-plus interlude completed his BA in 2010 at the California Institute of Integral Studies before continuing on for his MA at UC Berkeley.

Jiryu is married with two children.

with Sara
with Sojun Weitsman, 2014
with Myogen Steve Stucky, 2008
with Harada Tangen Roshi, 2002
with Seido Lee deBarros

Talks

Medellín, Colombia 2016

Some public talks from Jiryu.

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Two Shores of Zen – The Book

Two Shores of Zen: An American Monk’s Japan

by Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler

Read Two Shores of Zen excerpts here.

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When a young American Buddhist monk can no longer bear the pop-psychology, sexual intrigue, and free-flowing peanut butter that he insists pollute his spiritual community, he sets out for Japan on an archetypal journey to find “True Zen.”

Arriving at an austere Japanese monastery and meeting a fierce old Zen Master, he feels confirmed in his suspicion that the Western Buddhist approach is a spineless imitation of authentic spiritual effort. However, over the course of a year and a half of bitter initiations, relentless meditation and labor, intense cold, brutal discipline, insanity, overwhelming lust, and false breakthroughs, he grows disenchanted with the Asian model as well. Two Shores of Zen weaves together scenes from Japanese and American Zen to offer a timely, compelling contribution to the ongoing conversation about Western Buddhism’s stark departures from Asian traditions.

Soto Zen in Meiji Japan – A Study

Sōtō Zen in Meiji Japan: The Life and Times of Nishiari Bokusan

by Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler

 

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Meiji Japan (1868-1912), a period of radical transformation — and Westernization — of Buddhism, and the era of the birth of what is known today as the Soto Sect.

Nishiari Bokusan (1821-1910) — the most influential commentator on Dogen in the twentieth century, the teacher of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s teacher Kishizawa Ian, and the scholar-priest sometimes called the “father of the modern Soto Sect”— is largely ignored in English language writings on Zen despite his tremendous importance.

In this study, an edition of Jiryu’s 2014 MA thesis written under the guidance of the Group in Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley, Nishiari Bokusan’s life story is presented for the first time in English.  It is told in the context of the persecution and transformation of Buddhism in the Meiji Period, and against the backdrop of the history of the institutional birth of Soto Zen.

This edition includes a preface for the American Sangha.

Ben Gustin’s Dharma Folk Songs

Ben Gustin’s Dharma Folk Songs

Download Full Album – “8 Songs” by Ben Gustin

 

About Ben

I was first introduced to the Chan ancients riding the roads that run around Green Gulch on the way to my father’s house in Bolinas. Pop began to study the Gateless Gate koans when I was around 3. He used to hit me up for answers, thinking I might be be closer to some kind of pure mind than he. So I got to know Joshu, Nanzen, Hotei, etc. through his renderings of those famous stories. My father has a very solitary and devotional Buddhist practice. He never thought to himself, “What can I get out of Buddhism?” Rather, he took refuge in the teaching, offered incense at every full moon, and made altars. We used to drive by Green Gulch and he would tell me “There’s Buddhists down there.” In 1998 after a lot of running around, political activism, social service etc, I was pretty burned out at age 26. I needed a way to keep doing service work and I knew I needed a strong spiritual base just to be a complete human. Remembering my old man’s clues, I went to Green Gulch and heard Lou Hartman deliver a real beauty of a talk, all about communism, being black listed and Suzuki Roshi, worms that lived in the sea, endless vows. It was great. I checked myself in at the City Center. A year later I took the precepts with Paul Haller.

I moved to Green Gulch, worked on the farm, sat,
sat , sat and then took off for Asia and visited many temples in 7 countries. I returned to Tassajara, where most of these songs were written. After two years at Tassajara and a year in back at the SF City Center, I decided to enter the world again. My daughter Ava Lume was born soon there after and we moved to Sebastopol, CA where we live now, at Rocks and Clouds Zendo with Daniel Terragno.

 

Two records really inspired me to record, so I’d like to mention them. The first was Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. Even if you think you don’t like the Boss, this record is amazing. The other was Jolie Holland’s Catalpa. Both were done on a four track at home and had a stark, naked sound I wanted.  Both planted the seed “Hey maybe I could make a record like that.”I also want to mention Rev. Heng Sure’s new record Paramita, (in the American Buddhist Folk Music tradition that is being created). My daughter and I have been enjoying it together as we ride about in my truck. Having the Dharma on the stereo is a good reminder for me as I rush about my worldly life. I hope that my songs can serve the same purpose.