Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett
The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives was founded in 1978 by Rev. Master P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett, a Buddhist Master in the Serene Reflection Meditation (Soto Zen) tradition. Born in England in 1924, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett became a Buddhist in the Theravada tradition. She was later introduced to Rinzai Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki in London where she held membership in, and lectured at, the London Buddhist Society. She studied at Trinity College of Music, London, where she was awarded a Fellowship and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Music from Durham University.
Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett began her priest training in 1962, having been ordained into the Chinese Buddhist Sangha in Malaysia by the Very Reverend Seck Kim Seng, Archbishop of Malacca. She then went to Japan at the invitation of the Very Reverend Keido Chisan Koho Zenji, Chief Abbot of Dai Hon Zan Soji-ji, one of the two chief training monasteries of Soto Zen, in order to train there in that tradition. In 1963 she received the Dharma Transmission from Koho Zenji and later was certified by him as Roshi (Zen Master). She also received a First-Kyoshi and a Sei Degree, roughly equivalent to a Master and a Doctor of Divinity in Buddhism. She held several positions during her years in Japan including that of Foreign Guestmaster of Soji-ji and Abbess of her own temple in Mie Prefecture.
It had always been Koho Zenji’s sincere wish that Soto Zen Buddhism be successfully transmitted to the West by a Westerner. He worked very hard to make it possible for Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett to train in Japan and, after his death, she left Japan in order to carry out his wish. In November 1969, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett came to San Francisco on a lecture tour. The Zen Mission Society was founded the following year and moved to Mount Shasta for the founding of Shasta Abbey in November of 1970. In 1978 the name “Zen Mission Society” was changed to “The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives.”
In addition to being the First Abbess of Shasta Abbey, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett was an instructor at the University of California and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and a lecturer at universities throughout the world. She founded numerous Buddhist temples and meditation groups in Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her books include Zen is Eternal Life, a manual of Zen Buddhist training; The Wild, White Goose, Volumes I and II, the diaries of her years in Japan; How to Grow a Lotus Blossom or How a Zen Buddhist Prepares for Death; The Book of Life, a treatise on karma and health, coauthored by Rev. Daizui MacPhillamy, and The Liturgy of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives for the Laity. In recent years, she edited three new translations of Serene Reflection writings and ceremonies: The Denkoroku or The Record of the Transmission of the Light, Buddhist Writings on Meditation and Daily Practice: The Serene Reflection Meditation Tradition, and The Monastic Office. A collection of her oral teachings, edited by Rev. Daizui MacPhillamy, has been published as Roar of the Tigress, Volumes I and II.
Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett died in November of 1996. This site is dedicated to her memory, out of gratitude for her great compassion.
To read more of Reverend Master Jiyu’s writings see the links below:
Zen Is Eternal Life (her more thorough introduction to Soto Zen practice)
The Wild White Goose (her autobiographical account of her training in Japan)
Roar Of The Tigress (a book of her oral teachings)
To listen to recording of her lectures, go here.