Green Gulch Visit

R and I just got back from spending most of the weekend up at Green Gulch Farm. It is also known as “Soryu-ji” or “Green Dragon Temple.” Green Gulch is a Zen center operated by the San Francisco Zen Center, which also has a retreat property called Tassajara further south. Green Gulch is over in Sausalito, not far from the Muir Woods and near Muir Beach. It is a wooded gulch (hence the name) that starts out fairly narrow near the high, inland, portion, and gradually widens out a bit into gardens and fields. Green Gulch is known for its work in organic agriculture and teaches classes in that as well as more “normal” Zen activities.

R and I had been wanting to go there for a while but hadn’t really gotten around to it. R’s mother wound up suggesting that we all go out there and made reservations for us. We all went out yesterday morning and R and I spent the night in the guesthouse there. While there, we ate meals with the residents (which was wonderful organic vegetarian food, much of it grown there). We spent Saturday wandering around the grounds, visiting the zendo, the gardens, and R and I wandered down to Muir Beach for a bit. (I managed to turn myself into a redneck with my sunburn from this…) This morning, after breakfast, R and I attended a class with R’s parents that was an introduction to meditation. R’s mother had never meditated before. We then did the morning session with the residents and all of the others that come on Sundays and then listened to a teaching by the roshi there. After lunch, we headed on back to town.

This is my first time visiting a large Zen site in America. I went to plenty in Japan but had never gone to a place where the property was dedicated to the group before now. People have been living at Green Gulch for around 36 years, so it has quite a bit of history at this point. There is a beautiful bell there dating from the founding of the temple:

Bell Name - Closeup

The buildings were clustered pretty close in a hilly area, connected by paths and stairs up and down hills and a few walkways between buildings. The architecture was a mix of Japanese influences (in the covered walkways, for example) and a kind of rural American style.

Wheelwright Center - 2

The zendo was surrounded by a typical wooden walkway but, unlike in Japan, this wasn’t raised above the ground for the most part (making the transition to shoeless walking a bit arbitrary in places).

Zendo Door with Tree
Zendo with Tree

Attached to one end of the zendo was “Cloud Mountain Hall,” which was a boxy building where most of the monastics live. Like the guesthouse, it had a large open area in the center of the building with rooms and walkways facing inwards towards it.

Great Cloud Hall - Interior

The zendo was large and obviously well loved. In many ways, the gardens of the place were the most amazing thing. They are beautifully maintained and clearly well loved, with bright flowers woven into trestles and sitting areas around small outdoor shrines.

flowers in one of four gates

Small Jizo Shrine
Jizo Shrine

I’ve put a photoset up on Flickr of the pictures I took this weekend. I expect that there will be more in a couple of weeks as I’ve been invited to a friend’s wedding event out there on the 28th, which happened coincidentally to all of this.

Update: I just realized that the roshi that taught today was Tenshin Zenki Reb Anderson. He is the former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center and is the first, apparently, to receive Dharma Transmission from Richard Baker, who was the one who founded Green Gulch Farm (Baker is also famous for being the first American Zen Master ousted by his own temple…). I had caught the teacher’s Dharma name today but not his full name but I realized who he was once I saw his full name on wikipedia as I actually bought a book of his today at the Green Gulch bookstore.