Zen Community of Oregon began when Jim Jordan moved to Portland in 1976 after training in Maine for seven years with Walter Nowick Roshi. He moved into the second floor of a house belonging to Brian Heald, taught him Zazen, and they meditated every morning.
A local student of Robert Aitken, Roshi, Steve Nemirow, a poet, artist, and labor lawyer in Portland, soon began to host weekly group sitting at his house. The core group there, Jim, Steve, Brian, Richard Schweid, and Deborah Einbender (Brian’s soon-to-be-wife) furnished the seed which grew over the next two years into Zen Community of Oregon.
After hosting meditation sessions for over a year, Jim left Portland. Shortly before leaving, John Tesshin Sanderson, a monk from Zen Center Los Angeles, made his first appearance at a Sunday sitting. Tesshin returned a few times, then conveyed plans to stay on in the Portland area and a willingness to lead the group.
Soon the group began to attract people from various sangha backgrounds, including occasionally Hogen Bays, who was in Portland attending Naturopathic school. Tesshin, leading by quiet suggestion and a seasoned and unwavering practice, initiated monthly all-day sittings in 1980. It was during one such retreat that Mt. St. Helens erupted.
The pool of participants gradually grew, along with a larger variety of practice options, including attending retreats at ZCLA. The Sunday sitting moved, and Michael Gies formed a Zen House, complete with an organization bank account.
Chozen and Hogen Bays
In 1984 Chozen and Hogen Bays moved to Portland from ZCLA and Tesshin moved to Mexico City, where he still teaches today. Living in Lake Oswego, Chozen was setting up her medical practice while Hogen was working and going to school for a Master’s degree in psychology.
Chozen started to hold sittings at their house and began offering sesshin after a year. Around 1990 they went to Japan for Chozen’s Zuisei ceremony, the conferring of official teaching status within the international Soto Organization.
In 1990 Dharma Rain Zen Center bought the Portland Dharma Center, and ZCO began to hold sittings there. That same year Chozen and Hogen bought property on Larch Mountain in Corbett, Oregon, to be used as a country retreat facility. During the next twelve years they opened their doors to residents and held ceremonies and retreats. Chozen and Hogen lived on Larch Mountain until moving into Great Vow Zen Monastery in 2002.