Pilgrimage to Dogen and Hanshan Sites in China
with Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt

April 18 – May 3, 2017


Please join us for a visit to Tiantong Monastery where the great thirteenth-century Japanese Zen Master Dogen was trained by his teacher Rujing and had an enlightenment experience. We will also visit Putoushan—the island of Avalokiteshvara, Ayuwang Monastery—and other important Chan (Zen) monasteries visited by Dogen, including ones in Hangzhou on West Lake, one of the most beautiful cities in China.

Dogen in Tiantong Monastery

Dogen wrote to Rujing: “Even though I am only a humble person from a remote country, I am asking permission to be a room-entering student, able to come to ask questions freely and informally. Impermanent and swift, birth-and-death is the issue of utmost urgency. Time does not wait for us. Once a moment is gone it will never come back again, and we’re bound to be full of regret. Great compassionate reverend abbot, grant me permission to ask you about the way, about the dharma. Please, I bow to you one hundred times with my forehead humbly touching the floor.”

Rujing wrote back: “Yes, you can come informally to ask questions any time, day or night, from now on. Do not worry about formality; we can be like father and son.” And he signed it, “Old man at Mt. Taibo.”

In addition, we will go to the renowned Tiantai Monastery, the center of the Tiantai School of Buddhism (Japanese Tendai), and the nearby cave where the legendary hermit Hanshan (Cold Mountain, circa eighth to ninth century) lived, using the cave walls to write his poems. 

Hanshan Cave

Hanshan Cave

Hanshan Cave.jpg

The legendary recluse poet, Hanshan (Cold Mountain), is one of Buddhism’s most intriguing and lovable figures. While, from time to time, most of us may wish we could get away from our crazy, busy lives by retreating to a romantic cave in the mountains, Hanshan did exactly this! He lived the dream many only long for. What he found there, deep in the mountains, included both the peace he sought and profound realization, but amongst the quiet beauty of his retreat, he also discovered and expressed a depth of what it means to be a human being that all the noise of city life may well have prevented him from knowing. Hanshan’s poems are a treasure trove of human feeling, knowing, and deep understanding. Always insightful, sometimes he is wise and enlightened, sometimes he is funny, sometimes he rails against those who only pretend, and sometimes he yearns for companions or friends he remembers from decades past. In his heart, the vast capacities of humanity will be found.


I see Tiantai peak
solitary above the entire range. 
Pines sway in the wind, bamboos rustle,
the moon rises, tides flow out and in.  
Scanning the green slopes below,
I discuss the profound principle with the white clouds.
Though the feeling of the wild is in the mountains and waters,
truly, I long for a companion of the way.