On Zen Practice and a little more about who we are: 

‘It is the enlightened mind which arouses the thought of enlightenment.’

‘The mind of the ancient Buddhas should not be understood as something irrelevant to your experience, as some mind which exists from the beginningless past, for it is the mind which eats rice gruel or tastes other food in your ordinary everyday life, it is the mind which is grass, the mind which is water. Within this life just as it is, is the act of sitting like a Buddha which is called “arousing the thought of enlightenment.”

The conditions for arousing the thought of enlightenment do not come from anywhere else. It is the enlightened mind which arouses the thought of enlightenment…One honors the Buddha with a grain of sand, one honors the Buddha with the water in which rice has been soaked. One offers a handful of food to living creatures.’

– 13th Century Zen master Ehei Dogen: Fukan Zazengi – Universal Recommendation for Zazen (Zen Meditation)

Smiling Buddha Zen Center is affiliated with the Order of Clear Mind Zen West in the lineage of Soyu Matsuoka Roshi – who was a Gondaikyshi (Bishop) of Soto Zen and the resident teacher at Sokoji Zen temple in San Francisco. Matsuoka Roshi also founded the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago and, in 1971, the Long Beach Zen Buddhist Temple. The honorary Abbot and guiding teacher of SBZC is Shoji Sorensen Roshi, Abbot of Gyōa-ji Zen temple, Hanashobu-an. Formal practice is primarily in Soto Zen style. 

Some approaches and individual meditation and mindfulness teachers encourage us to seek more – to be more productive, to be ‘better,’ to achieve more, to, by implication at least, reject those parts of ourselves that we label as being bad or negative. Ultimately such approaches just do not work. They end up making us even more unhappy and unfulfilled. Indeed, such a constant search for more, for different, for better, is part of the problem, rather than a solution, and ultimately fails to answer our real questions, or satisfy our deepest needs.

The Zen approach is radically different. In Zen practice, we are encouraged to see and to realize in our bones that we are not fundamentally broken. We do not need to be fixed. We are not a problem. In fact the very nature of how we often think of ourselves tends to be incomplete. More helpful is to be willing to work with what is already in front of us, to be with things as they are, which does not preclude seeing where things also need to be changed.

Through ethical daily life practice and meditative approaches, developed, tested and found to work over two thousand years, all across the world, we can learn to start letting go of the grinding search for something else, somewhere else. We can come to see the present – what is in front of each of us right now – as being whole and complete in itself, with nothing fundamentally lacking.

We can also begin to work with not rejecting how we feel, with not trying to cut off parts of ourselves, because of some warped idea of how we are supposed to be. We can learn to both accept ourselves, and to see clearly that what we seek can be realized, seen and above all, be put into practice in our ordinary daily lives, in a simple, direct way that works.

Out of this practical realization, ease with who we are, including our emotions, becomes part of a natural process, which comes with and complements practice in daily life, both on and off the meditation cushion. We can begin to stop fighting ourselves, to stop splitting ourselves off from the world around us and from others. Zen practice and genuine meditation are concerned then, not with theories, not with trying to force ourselves to be other than we are, not with belief, but with practical, direct seeing and realization, and their application in the world.

This very much includes social justice and addressing inequality, discrimination and the marginalization of communities and individuals. There is no ‘other.’ We are all in this together (though admittedly some far more than others at times).

Donations are welcome but SBZC is not a business and we do not charge. The true Dharma cannot be bought and sold and is our birthright if we would but see it. The Dharma is offered freely then, as it should be. It is for all those who would freely accept and are willing to work with what is already in front of them. Nobody is ever turned away, or discouraged, because of their financial situation.

May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings encounter the Dharma, be awake and at ease. 

“When Shakyamuni saw, sees and will see the morning star and was, is and will be enlightened, he said, says and will say, “I was, am and will be enlightened together with all beings and the whole universe.”

– From the Denkoroku – Record of The Transmission of The Light – Keizan Zenji (1300 C.E)

Who we Are

Kijo Sensei began Buddhist study and practice in the early 80’s in Europe, including with groups such as the Triratna Buddhist Community and at the Buddhist Society in London, England, as well as with exposure to the Theravadin Thai Forest tradition, through Amaravati Buddhist monastery in Hertfordshire.

Kijo began formal Zen training, around 1981, with the Buddhist Society Zen group, under the direction of Ven. Myokyo-ni, the founder of the  London Zen Center – Shobo-An, and a Rinzai Zen teacher, ordained and authorized to teach by Soko Morinaga Roshi.

Since the early 1990’s, he has taught meditation one to one, with interfaith and general meditation groups, in Zen sitting groups and with a holistic substance abuse center in the UK. He is also a member of Zen Peacemakers International and has guest lectured at the American University in London and at Heythrop College, the then theological college of London University. 

Kijo Sensei has practiced primarily in Zen for over thirty years, being first ordained as a Zen priest in the Maezumi Roshi White Plum Soto Zen tradition in 1991 and then was ordained in the Order of Clear Mind Zen by Shoji Roshi in 2017. Kijo Sensei was Transmitted as a Zen teacher and a full priest, by Shoji Roshi in early 2021.


Maria Shinzai, is the assistant temple priest at Smiling Buddha Zen Center and was ordained as a Zen priest by Shoji Roshi. Shinzai is a long time Zen student and is also unlucky enough to be married to Kijo Sensei, whom she keeps in line with a chancla whenever he takes himself too seriously, which is often. Shinzai has written for Out Front Magazine in Colorado and is particularly interested in offering Zen practice to the Hispanic community.

‘if you practice ‘Suchness’ continuously, you will be Suchness. The treasure house will open of itself, and you will be able to use it freely.’ 

‘Devote yourself to the Way which indicates Reality directly. Respect those who realize their Self and no longer seek anything outside. Be in accord with the realization of those who have awakened. Succeed to the sages’ Samadhi. If you practice ‘Suchness’ continuously, you will be Suchness. The treasure house will open of itself, and you will be able to use it freely.’ 

– Ehei Dogen  

Smiling Buddha Zen Center is about just such realization that we point to on this page and the practical steps that help encourage such realization in our ordinary daily lives. We work with groups, companies, first responders, individuals, those of all faiths and those of none. The Dharma is offered freely and without exception to all who sincerely wish to have their own direct understanding and to thus benefit themselves and others.

SBZC Honorary Founding Teachers And Direct Dharma Ancestors

Our honorary founding teachers and direct ancestors in the lineage are:

The head of The Order of Clear Mind Zen – Daiho Roshi – who came to spiritual practice partly as a result of being shot in the head in Vietnam as a young marine (you can’t make this stuff up). Daiho Roshi’s website, which we encourage you to visit, is here:

Shoji Roshi – Kijo and Shinzai’s teacher – a Dharma heir of Daiho Roshi. Shoji is a Karateka, scientist, all around Renaissance guy, who came initially to Science through his search for truth and then Zen practice as a continuation of that, and through his background in martial arts and getting his ass kicked in the Dojo on a regular basis. Shoji Roshi and Kathi Sorensen run Gyōa-ji Zen temple, Hanashobu-an in Sacramento

(Apart from the background image used on this site, all other images are original and belong to SBZC, or their individual creators at SBZC)