In our practice, gratitude for having encountered, and being able to practice, the Buddha’s teaching is deeply important: for many of us it is like the gratitude a person with blurry vision might have when they receive a pair of glasses which enables them to see clearly.
As is common in Soto Zen temples in Japan, in the daily liturgy of our temples we recite the ancestral lineage from the founding teacher of the temple in which we are practicing, all the way back to Shakyamuni Buddha and beyond to the seven Buddhas before him. We do this as an expression of gratitude for and a reminder of the practice and willingness of all the women and men who have kept the teaching alive through their effort and faith through the centuries since the time of the Buddha.
It is also our practice to commemorate and express gratitude for the lives of specific teachers who were instrumental, at pivotal times, in passing on our practice and whose example continues to be an inspiration to us. These teachers include Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett, who brought our practice from Malaysia and Japan and who worked tirelessly to help us establish our own practice here; Keido Chisan Koho Zenji, Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett’s Japanese teacher who transmitted the Dharma and our practice to her and encouraged her to pass on the teaching to those of us in the West who came seeking the Dharma; Seck Kim Seng, the Chinese Buddhist Master who ordained Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett in Malaysia; Keizan Jokin, who was instrumental in making Soto Zen accessible to the people of Japan; Eihei Dogen, who brought the practice of Soto Zen from China to Japan; Bodhidharma, who brought the teachings of the Zen tradition from India to China; and, of course, it also includes the Buddha himself.
Here are some links to biographical sketches of some of these important teachers:
An annotated chart of our lineage ancestors. (It is big and begins in the upper left hand corner; follow the line!)