The Mountains and Rivers Order (MRO) is a Western Zen Buddhist lineage established by the late John Daido Loori Roshi and dedicated to sharing the dharma as it has been passed down, generation to generation, since the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. Although the MRO is distinctly American, much of the training, liturgy, and practice forms used in the Order come from the tradition of Zen as it evolved in ancient China and Japan. Daido Roshi trained with Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi at the Zen Center of Los Angeles and received dharma transmission from him. Because Maezumi Roshi was a lineage holder within the Soto school of Zen, and had received Inka (seal of approval) from two Rinzai teachers, training and practice in the MRO draws from both these traditions.The MRO takes its name from Zen Master Eihei Dogen’s “Mountains and Rivers Sutra,” a favorite teaching of Daido Roshi’s–one that he returned to again and again. With Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM), the seat of the Order, based at the foot of a mountain and the junction of two rivers, the name Mountains and Rivers Order takes on added significance.
Daido Roshi’s passion for the arts (he was an avid photographer for most of his life) led him to initially establish ZMM as the Zen Arts Center in 1980. However, within a few years it became apparent that the community gathering at the Arts Center had a deep interest in traditional Zen training, so the Zen Arts Center became Zen Mountain Monastery, offering practitioners a comprehensive practice and training structure. The focus on the Zen arts remained, however, and the training in the MRO places special emphasis on creative expression as a vital element of spiritual practice.
Daido Roshi established the Eight Gates of Zen, a unique approach that aims to offer a comprehensive Zen program of training to Western students, detailed in his book, The Eight Gates of Zen. The MRO training program is grounded within a dedication to the realization of enlightenment and its functioning in the world. The Monastery offers spiritual practitioners innovative ways to engage Buddhist teachings through retreats that take place within the context of full-time Zen monastic training. But more than just a retreat center, the Monastery offers seekers a rare blend of authentic, yet distinctly Western, Zen training within a vibrant community of male and female monastic and lay practitioners.
This is a video made twenty years ago about the beginnings of the Mountains and Rivers Order and Zen Mountain Monastery. In the video, Daido Roshi discusses many of the aspects of training and practice that take place within the order and also outlines a vision for the “Dragon Hall”—a vision that was later realized as the Sangha House.