Welcome To "A Monastery Without Walls"
The Five Mountain Zen Order was founded in 2008 by Archbishop Wonji Dharma, D.Dh. in an attempt to bridge the void of location and accessibility by utilizing modern technology to reach potential seekers in all corners of the globe. He chose the tag line, "A Monastery Without Walls," because this new organization would not be constrained by traditional limitations found with fixed locations.
Father Wonji, as he is affectionately known by his students, decided there was a more efficient way to approach the Dharma in the 21st Century. In the West teachers and practice locations are still scarce, and he envisioned a methodology that would allow Zen Teachers and Practitioners to actually engage the world "with helping hands." Calling on his 30 year experience as a Programmer and Information Technology Executive, he left his high paying lifestyle to pursue his primary love of spreading the Buddhadharma.
After years of diligent practice and discovering the many arbitrary requirements in other Buddhist Orders regarding orthodoxy, orthopraxy and compliance, he felt that a revived direction, informed by the great Zen Masters of the Sung and Tang Dynasties might be in order.
The mission of this unique religious organization of decentralized peers is to establish and maintain public practice and teachings in accordance with the principles of Zen Buddhism as transmitted through a lineage of masters too many to list here, but primarily based upon, but not limited to, the teachings of The Venerable Dr. Thich Thien-An and Seung Sahn Dae Jong Sa.
The direction, however, involves a commitment, first and foremost, to the student, as well as a commitment to the teaching and education of that student that will enable he or she to carry on the tradition in an open and diverse manner yet staying true to the teaching that has been handed down for centuries. Zen teachers, as a genre, spend far too little "face time" with their students. Many students are limited to between 5 and 20 minutes a month, and it seems that a majority get to see a teacher maybe once a month at best, hardly time to engage in the matters of life and death.
After much study and examination of the way the ancients taught their students, Abp. Wonji Dharma decided that a student-centric approach to Zen Training was required. This means that teachers spend time, at least an hour each week working with their respective students. Of course, Five Mountain will be limited in its growth, because this is a huge commitment for the teacher. But Fr. Wonji feels this is a most effective way to transmit the Dharma and today we need more quality and less quantity.
Secondly, there is not a Buddhist organization in the world that ordains individuals without their attending and graduating from a formal Buddhist university -- that is, except in the West where almost every Zen organization suffers from the "Bodhidharma Syndrome." This short sightedness has been misconstrued from a statement that is supposed to be attributed to the great founder of Zen, Bodhidharma:
If you pass through this gate,
do not give rise to thinking
not dependent on words and speech,
a special transmission outside the scriptures.
Because of an almost legalistic following of the above verse, many Zen organizations in the West have abandoned the inclusion of an extensive formal education of their future Buddhist leaders. There are a few recent exceptions, the T'aego Order, the Fo Guang Order and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas being a few of them. It should be noted that each of these are Asian Orders with large centers in the US. The others that have curricula are focused on single paths like Chaplaincy or Hospice Care. The fact is that every one of these Asian teachers who came to the West had at least a Bachelors Degree if not an Masters or Doctoral degree in Buddhist Dharma. It was expected of them, and it should be expected of Western practitioners as well. This is why the Five Mountain Zen Order has Buddha Dharma University to augment the student's studies with their individual teacher. Ultimately, the age-old principles of Zen will be carried on through the formal education and intuitive realization of the Order’s members as they seek to save all beings from suffering, through developing charity, love, compassion and awareness.
Our Order maintains no affiliations with other Zen organizations or religious denominations; however, membership in the Five Mountain Zen Order community does not preclude individual affiliation with any other groups. Within Five Mountain Zen there is no hierarchy amongst Dharma successors. Zen Buddhism is universal; the medium and methods used to facilitate realization vary according to each individual’s circumstances. Dharma successors within the Five Mountain Zen Order may apply varied practice approaches and resolve on the structure of any construct that she or he may develop to facilitate practice with their students or groups.
Our Dharma successors recognize they are also ongoing students and that the value of their teaching derives from the quality of their practice. As continuing students, our teachers are dedicated to the openness and flexibility of practice, wherein the wisdom of the unconditional may be manifest in life.
A vital component of the Five Mountain Zen Order community is the continuing examination and expansion of efficacious instruction approaches to ensure all-inclusive observation in every aspect of life.