Soji Zen Center is a contemporary Buddhist center
Soji is a place where people can go to slow down, meditate and learn about the healing qualities of the mind. We all agree that training the body through exercise and diet is beneficial, but rarely in Western society do we focus on awakening the healing energies in our brain.
— Roshi Jules Shuzen Harris
About Soji Zen Center
Soji Zen Center was founded in 2005 by Roshi Jules Shuzen Harris. Shuzen Roshi was committed to bringing ethnic diversity to American Buddhism through the teaching of meditation, liturgy, and the study of Buddhist scriptures. He believed that this task was critical to finding Buddhism’s true home in the West and ending the suffering of all sentient beings. Soji Zen Center is part of the White Plum lineage, which brings together elements of the Japanese Soto and Rinzai tradition of Zen Buddhism.
Sensei John Ango Gruber first encountered Zen Buddhism through the writings of Peter Muryo Mattheissen and a visit to SFZC’s Green Gulch Farm in the 1980s. One of his earliest immersive practice experiences came in 1985 at a retreat held at the Providence Zen Center in Cumberland RI. Sensei Ango received jukai, priest ordination and denkai from Shuzen Roshi and received dharma transmission in March, 2021. He currently serves as Chairman of Soji’s Board of Directors.
As a teacher, Sensei Ango is committed to the healing, growth and flourishing of all beings, both human beings and the many other living beings who share the planet with us. He has led recent workshops on Waking Up to Emptiness, Writing Light and Stillness, Seeing Impermanence, and also on Relationship as Practice, using the paramitas to explore how relationships can serve as powerful opportunities to more fully embody our Zen practice in our lives.
Ango is also a science educator and field and laboratory researcher, serving as founder and leader of the Commonwealth Institute for Ecological Learning.He directs a research program that works to recognize cryptic species while encouraging efforts to promote peaceful conservation and sustainability for all forms of life on Earth. In addition to introducing students to the joys of witnessing natural beauty, Sensei Ango has worked to offer instruction in meditation practice to college and high school students as a support to healthy growth and development.
Sensei Ango is married to Sonja Lindgren and is the parent of two grown children, Hayden and Julien.
Roshi Jules Shuzen Harris, Ed.D. (1939-2023) was a Zen priest, psychotherapist, and the founding teacher and abbot of Soji Zen Center. Throughout his life, Shuzen Roshi promoted the integration of traditional Buddhist teachings and Western psychology, emphasizing the importance of applying Zen wisdom to everyday life. He founded Soji Zen Center in 2005 to support this mission, and his teachings continue to flourish through the many students practicing at Soji today.
A lifelong spiritual seeker, Shuzen began his formal study of Zen Buddhism after meeting the influential Japanese Zen teacher Roshi Taizan Maezumi. He first studied with Maezumi’s successor, Roshi John Daido Loori, at Zen Mountain Monastery before moving to Salt Lake City to practice under the guidance of Roshi Dennis Genpo Merzel. Shuzen eventually moved back to the East Coast, where he studied with and received Dharma transmission from Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, abbot of New York City’s Village Zendo, making him the first African-American man to receive transmission in the Soto Zen tradition.
Throughout his career as a Zen teacher, Shuzen found countless innovative ways to express and transmit his enduring love for the Dharma. His passion for synthesizing contemplative wisdom with Western psychology was most thoroughly articulated in his 2019 publication, Zen Beyond Mindfulness, in which he proposed a powerful combination of traditional Buddhist practices and modern psychotherapeutic techniques. Shuzen also appreciated the relationship between Zen and the martial arts; he attained high ranks in both kendo and iaido, and founded multiple swordsmanship schools throughout his life.
In 2019, Enkyo Roshi gave Shuzen inka transmission, granting him the title of “Roshi” and providing her final, formal acknowledgement of Shuzen’s contributions to the Zen community. Upon his death in 2023, Enkyo Roshi remarked that “the Dharma emerged from his being,” and that Shuzen’s life “expressed the compassion and wisdom of contemporary Zen practice.” These qualities continue their expression today under the guidance of his Dharma heir, Sensei John Ango Gruber, and through the continuing practice of the sangha that Shuzen built at Soji Zen Center.
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara is a former abbot of Soji Zen Center and was a Dharma teacher to our founder, Shuzen Roshi. Enkyo Roshi currently serves as abbot of the Village Zendo and remains a continuing source of guidance and support to the community at Soji. She received priest ordination from Taizan Maezumi Roshi and Dharma transmission and inka from Roshi Bernie Tetsugen Glassman. Enkyo Roshi’s lineage comes through Maezumi Roshi whose teaching was uncommon, bringing together Soto priest training and study of the Rinzai koan system. Moreover, Glassman Roshi’s focus on social engagement and peacemaking underlie much of her vision of Zen practice.
Enkyo Roshi is a founding teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Family, a spiritual and social action association. Roshi’s focus is on the expression of Zen through caring, service, and creative response. Her Five Expressions of Zen form the matrix of study at the Village Zendo: Meditation, Study, Communication, Action, and Caring.