“Zen” is translated from the Japanese as “meditation.” The roots of Zen Buddhism are traced back to the teachings of Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha. Buddha taught a path to awaken from ignorance, craving, and anger. This awakening manifests our true nature, which is characterized by compassion for all beings and true freedom.
Zen evolved into a distinct school of Buddhism in China during the 6th to 8th centuries. Zen practice emphasizes zazen, or seated meditation, as the primary means to realize the insights of the Buddha. Zen practice includes walking meditation, bowing, chanting, and working closely with a teacher. Practice also extends into everyday activities such as eating, working and relationships. These activities are seen as part of practice because, on one level they support our effort to awaken, and on another level, they intimately express our true nature.
Guiding Teacher – Josho Phelan Sensei
Josho Phelan Sensei, abbess of the Chapel Hill Zen Center, is the guiding teacher of Richmond Zen. She is an ordained priest in the Soto Zen lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. Josho visits us about once a month to offer Dharma talks and private practice instruction. Her heart-centered teaching comes from a strong vow and deep training in the traditional forms of zen practice grounded in zazen, seated meditation. In addition to leading Chapel Hill Zen Center and Richmond Zen, she frequently visits other Zen groups and supports the practice of inmates of several correctional facilities in North Carolina.
Josho began sitting zazen in Oregon in 1969. She moved to San Francisco in 1971 and spent several years at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. Prior to her arrival in Chapel Hill in August, 1991, she was a Practice Leader and Director of Zen Center’s residence facility in San Francisco. In the Fall of 1995, she returned to Tassajara and completed her training by receiving Dharma Transmission from Abbot Sojun Weitsman Roshi. In October, 2000, Josho Sensei was officially installed as Abbess of the Chapel Hill Zen Center. In December, 2008, Josho Sensei traveled to Japan to participate in Zuise ceremonies at Eihei-ji and Soji-ji temples. She is married and has a daughter.
Lay Leader – Kevin Heffernan
Kevin Heffernan has practiced Zen for more than 20 years. In 1997, he received the precepts (formal Buddhist vows) from his teacher, Josho Phelan, abbess of the Chapel Hill Zen Center. Kevin has served as lay leader of Richmond Zen at Ekoji Buddhist Sangha of Richmond since 1999. From 2008, he has served as Buddhist campus minister at University of Richmond. He also taught an upper level undergraduate class on Zen Buddhism at Virginia Commonwealth University from 2007 to 2011. Kevin has also had the opportunity to practice with and learn from many Zen teachers, including Sojun Weitsman, Shohaku Okamura, Michael Wenger, Victoria Austin, Alan Senauke, and Taigen Leighton.
Kevin has offered meditation instruction in diverse settings, from the Richmond City Justice Center, to area college campuses, to yoga studios. He also practices yoga and is a certified yoga instructor (RYT 200). Kevin works as a conservation biologist for the state of Virginia to protect forests, wetlands, and wildlife. He loves walking in wild and urban landscapes. For fun, he plays guitar, reads science fiction, and listens to a variety of music. Kevin and his wife and enjoy watching independent film, practicing yoga, and cooking together.
Richmond Zen receives regular visits from our guiding teacher, Josho Pat Phelan. We are fortunate to receive visits from other Zen teachers. Sojun Weitsman Roshi, abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center, visits us annually. We have also hosted Issho Fujita Sensei, director of the Soto Zen International Center, Alan Senauke, co-abbot of Berkeley Zen Center, and Dairyu Michael Wenger of Dragon’s Leap. From time to time, we also have other teachers visiting from San Francisco Zen Center and Berkeley Zen Center. Richmond Zen has also been honored by visits from Keido Fukushima Roshi, former abbot of the Rinzai Zen temple Tofukuji in Kyoto, Japan, and Kaz Tanahashi, renowned artist, activist, and translator of Dogen Zenji.
Supported by You
We are supported in many ways: from practicing together, to volunteering for duties, to donations from our friends and members. Donations are tax-deductible. You can make a contribution online via our secure PayPal button. Thank you for your practice and generosity.
Richmond Zen is affiliated with Branching Streams, a Soto Zen lineage founded by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.