Thank you for joining us celebrating our 40 years (so far) on Tremper Mountain. On the weekend of October 10, we joined together (mostly online) to appreciate what these Mountains and Rivers have offered and to envision what our next years might look like. 

Watch This Thing We Made

On the occasion of Zen Mountain Monastery’s 40th anniversary, Abbot Shugen Arnold reflects on the journey and how far we’ve come from our humble beginnings in 1980. As this is only a brief snapshot of the whole story, rather than a retrospective, some of the very important people who were instrumental in the development of the Mountains and Rivers Order, Zen Mountain Monastery and the Zen Center of NYC do not appear in the film, or appear only briefly. In particular, we want to recognize and express our gratitude for the significant contributions of Bonnie Myotai Treace, Konrad Ryushin Marchaj and Vanessa Zuisei Goddard.

The 40th Anniversary Weekend

Every five years the Monastery hosts an anniversary celebration and a meeting of the Board of Governors. Composed of sangha members who are invested in the community, the BOG generates ideas and envisions the Monastery and its program in the future. Brainstorming groups on different topics present their notes to the entire BOG and to the decision-making bodies of the MRO: the Board of Directors and staff. While not a blueprint or mandate, these ideas help to frame the sangha’s priorities, providing important feedback for the direction and focus of the MRO.

This year over seventy-five people participated in eleven break-out groups and generated dozens of great ideas (you can review the 17-page summary HERE). Thanks to everyone who participated!

In the afternoon we held a memorial service for Daido Roshi who passed away eleven years ago. Although this annual occasion has always brought us in procession up to the cemetery and abbot’s stupa, this year we held the service in the zendo so that others could join us over Livestream.

Addressed a portrait of his teacher, placed before the altar, Shugen Roshi read the following dedicatory poem:

Each day, the great blue heron
comes to stand in the lotus pond—
upright, motionless, alert—
searching  for fish
who yearn to be dragons.

You too were a fisherman
throwing your line and bait
into deep waters,
waiting for the high-spirited ones
to climb onto the hook.

Though you laid down your reel
dragons continue to emerge from the muddy waters,
seeking satisfaction for the sake of today.

And so we bow and make offerings
for your many gifts.
They continue to flow, you know.
Yes, Old Teacher,
they continue to flow.

Following the memorial service, we shared a documentary made in 1990 on the occasion of the Monastery’s 10th anniversary. The film includes lots of wonderful footage from the early days and a full recounting of how ZMM came into being. You can watch it again below!


Next came a special dinner for Monastery residents. Hojin Sensei and a few others joined a number of home practitioners online for a chat and chew. The meal was a true labor of love, with house-made lasagna noodles and just about everything else grown from the garden or Hudson Valley farms.

Wait, Wait…Don’t Approve Me!
In the evening we held an MRO quiz and variety show that included special guests, interactive fun and some stellar performances by sangha members with special talents.

Saturday evening’s performance offerings included (left to right) clyde Fusei forth, Josephine Maya Simple, Paul Stokes, Warren Chikan Bacon, Degna Chikei Levister, and (not pictured) Horace Kaishu Moody.

Contestants on the game show portion featured senior monastics and a number of home practitioners. Many of us had not laughed quite as hard in recent memory. But these new memories will last us a long time.

The following one-hour film was made by the Monastery in 1990 on the occasion of our tenth anniversary. Enjoy! The video will remain on this page. Watch any time.