The Priory, our Founder and Sōtō Zen

The Priory

Rev. Mugō White

Telford Buddhist Priory is under the spiritual direction of the Prior, Rev. Mugō White. She is a disciple of the late Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, Founder of The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and the Priory.

The purpose of spiritual practice is to realize our true nature, which is also the true nature of all of existence, and to express this with our body, speech and mind. Meditation and daily training enable us to see and let go of the clinging which causes suffering, thus allowing the compassion and wisdom within our hearts to enrich our lives.

Sōtō Zen

Buddhism was founded over 2,500 years ago in northern India by the Buddha Shakyamuni. As Buddhism spread many different forms emerged due to the character of different teachers and the cultures through which the teaching passed. The form of Mahayana Buddhism that is known as Zen emerged as a distinct school in China in about the 8th century.

Our school of Sōtō Zen was introduced to Japan in the 13th century by great master Dōgen.  Within the Sōtō Zen school there are many teaching lines and each has its own particular flavour. Zen literally means meditation and zazen or seated meditation is the heart of our practice.

All beings already have the same enlightened nature as the Buddha but we obscure it by believing that we are separate, isolated beings. This makes us very needy and we spend our lives trying to get what we believe we lack, through acquiring possessions, power or relationships. It is as though we are trying to fill a void inside but however much we get, the void always seems to remain. From the Buddhist viewpoint this happens because we misunderstand our own nature.

To practice zazen is to learn how to see beyond one’s thoughts and feelings and realize this true nature. There is a deep sufficiency in all of us and we all have a great capacity to give. These virtues and all the fruits of enlightenment are already within us but they can only be manifested when we see through our mistaken perceptions. This is a matter of discovering what we already possess; rather than seeking what we believe we lack. This approach is both affirming and challenging, requiring us to look intently at the reality of the present moment – excluding nothing and grasping nothing. We need the willingness to see ourselves as we are; rather than judging what we find, we can develop the capacity to neither indulge nor suppress emotions, thereby freeing ourselves from the forces that drive us to act unwisely. Compassion, both for oneself and all beings, is at the heart of this process.

Our Founder and the Order

Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett

The founder of the Priory, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, was an English woman who was ordained in Malaysia in the Chinese Buddhist tradition and then went on to study in Japan where she eventually became a rōshi, or master, and was authorised to teach and to ordain men and women as monastics.

Those of us in the West who follow Sōtō Zen as passed on by Rev. Master Jiyu describe ourselves as the Serene Reflection Meditation tradition, and our monastic Sangha and lay ministers together comprise the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. (The OBC has its own web site if you would like to know more about the OBC.)

The style of teaching used at the Priory has its roots firmly in the Zen tradition and yet has a form that, over the last forty-plus years, has been adapted to the needs of Western people. In the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives men and women train together and have equal status and recognition. All ranks and both sexes are addressed as ‘Reverend’ and are referred to as monks and priests. The monastic order is celibate.