03 September 2012

Buddha on the Rio Grande

Buddha on the Rio Grande (Tricycle, Summer 1997)

The people of Jemez Pueblo have recognized the transformational qualities since time immemorial. Twelve miles up the winding red-rock canyon from the present-day village, their ancestors bathed in geothermal hot springs and built a sprawling mesa-top settlement. On the mesa ledge above, an extensive complex of dirt and stone ruins once occupied by the Anasazi lies abandoned except for the ritual visits of their modern-day descendants, the Jemez.

Later, Spanish priests, tempered by the fires of a 750-year struggle to evict the Moors from their homeland, brought their austere Catholicism to this holy place. Now the adobe ruin of their mission church lies crumbling on one side of the winding mountain highway; a modern convent sits on the other. Spreading across the narrow canyon neck is Bodhi Mandala Zen Center.

In 1973 the first Buddhist practice center was established in the region when students of Rinzai Zen teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi bought a Catholic retreat house in the village of Jemez Springs. Bodhi Manda had a zendo building, dormitories, and a dining hall set along the icy Jemez River. Best of all, the land had a natural hot spring, the same geothermal warming waters used by the early Pueblo people. When this was reported back to Sasaki Roshi, he supposedly said, “If you find hot spring, I come.”

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