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Kyoun Sokuzan

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Kyoun Sokuzan, founding abbot and teacher of SokukoJi Buddhist Monastery in Battle Creek, MI, has been studying and creating art since high school. After serving four years in the United States Marine Corps he studied at The Art Institute of Chicago and the School of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. During his study at the Art Institute in 1963, Sokuzan encountered Picasso’s “Sylvette David” and spent hours sitting in front of the portrait determined to understand why it was considered a masterpiece. 

Through this self-training of his visual awareness, Sokuzan began developing a technique he called Opening The Eye Mind™ while simultaneously beginning a serious study of meditation practice and Buddhism. 

 

In 1973, Sokuzan’s Buddhist studies led him to meeting Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and immediately became a devoted student. Over the next fourteen years, while working in a local factory and starting a business as a sign painter, he attended Naropa Institute, became an authorized meditation instructor, and attended Vajradhatu Seminary at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. 

 

Three years after Trungpa’s death in 1987, Sokuzan met Japanese Zen meditation master, Kobun Chino Otogawa, and was surprised to realize that he needed teachings from this soft-spoken Zen master. Kobun’s passing in 2002 compelled Sokuzan to receive lay ordination in the Soto Zen tradition from Kobun’s brother in Japan. Sokuzan later ordained as a novice priest and subsequently received dharma transmission from Kuzan Shoho Michael Newhall, one of Kobun’s dharma heirs.

 

Throughout his lifelong interest and participation in art commingled with his Buddhist path, Sokuzan has used Opening The Eye Mind™ personally and as a training centerpiece when teaching visual awareness. Since 2015, Sokuzan has taught OTEM™ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Art, and many galleries to groups of aspiring artists, Buddhist practitioners, art enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in seeing more clearly with the mind’s eye. 

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