Welcome To "The Monastery Without Walls"
The Five Mountain Zen Order was founded in 2008 by Ven. Dr. Wonji Dharma following his departure from the Golden Wind Zen Sangha and the Kwan Um School of Zen.
Wonji Dharma wondered if there might be a better way to approach the Dharma in the 21st Century, especially in the West, and he envisioned a practice that would allow Zen practitioners to actually engage the world "with helping hands."
After discovering so many arbitrary requirements in other Zen 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.
That's when the Five Mountain Zen Order was born.
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.
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, he decided that a Student Centric approach to Zen was in order. This means that teachers spend time, at least an hour a week working with each of their students. Of course, Five Mountain will be limited in its growth, because this is a huge commitment for the teacher. But 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 postulants attending and graduating from a formal Buddhist University, that is except in the West where almost every Zen Organization has adopted the "Bodhidharma Syndrome." This developed from a statement that is supposed to attributed to the great Zen Founder 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 this, almost every Zen Organization in the West has abandoned any form of formal education. 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 exceptions 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 Advanced Masters or Doctorate 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 a Zen College and a Graduate School to augment the students 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 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.
Our Dharma successors recognize they are 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.