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 Rev. Taihaku Priest/ Tanaka Shinkai Roshi
by Taigen Dan Leighton

DC note: Taihaku Priest passed away on May 24, 2021. The announcement of her death is below.

I spent less time with Taihaku Gretchen Priest than some of you, and never visited her Vermont temple, but I much appreciated her presence and our conversations at a number of SZBA and ASZB conferences. 
In the context of her sad, early passing, I am sharing information about Taihaku's background. 
I lived in Kyoto 1990 through 1992, translating Dogen with Shohaku Okumura, among other activities.  
I did a handful of sesshins with Tanaka Shinkai Roshi, Taihaku’s teacher later at Hokyoji, the training temple founded by Dogen’s Chinese disciple Jakuen near Eiheiji. Earlier as a young priest, Shinkai Roshi had been invited by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi to come to SFZC to help, as he invited Katagiri Roshi and Kobun Chino Roshi. At that time Shinkai Roshi had to decline the invitation as he was leading the Tokyo branch of Eiheiji. 
I did sesshin with Shinkai Roshi at his temple then, Saikoji, a small temple in a little rice village outside Kameoka west of Kyoto. He had built this temple with a twelve seat sodo, monk’s hall, where practitioners, including his several resident monks, slept, ate oryoki, as well as did zazen. 
I also once rode the train with Shinkai Roshi from Kyoto to a sesshin he led in an old temple in Shizuoka, closer to Tokyo, attended by a number of his students from Tokyo. 
Shinkai Roshi was kind but also strict, very dignified. I liked his sesshins (and dokusan) very much. One feature was that between breakfast and lunch, and between lunch and dinner there were no bells, no formal kinhin periods. Whenever one wanted you could get up and do kinhin in the hallway around the sodo, or use the toilets behind the sodo, but you could also just sit zazen for hours. He called this “Buddha’s schedule.” I believe he had travelled previously in South Asia. 
I think he received the important position of Abbot of Hokyoji shortly after I returned to California from Kyoto.  Later he once visited Green Gulch with a couple of his moks and I had the pleasure of showing him around. 
In Taihaku Gretchen Priest's kind, dignified presence and clarity I could definitely see her training with Shinkai Roshi. 

For more background on Taihaku, here is a very interesting interview on David Chadwick’s with her ex-husband, Jeff Broadbent, who was an early practitioner at Tassajara, and a student of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. I recall Shinkai Roshi mentioning Jeff Broadbent, who had visited him. At the time I did not know Jeff’s name. Jeff mentions Suzuki Roshi encouraging Taihaku to return to meditate in Vermont, when she returned from Japan where they were about to go.

May Taihaku Priest’s students and temple flourish.

with bows,
Taigen Leighton
Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, Chicago 
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage

Dear Sangha and Friends,
It is with great sadness that I report that our dearly beloved teacher and abbot, Rev. Taihaku, passed away early this morning, May 24th, unexpectedly in the night of a heart attack.
She often said that death is like “jumping into a ginger ale pool” – her joyful effervescence extending even beyond this life. 
Final arrangements are being determined in conjunction with her family and the Soto Zen Order.
May we together support her vision for Shao Shan Temple to be a flowering of the Dharma for the next 700 years.
With immense gratitude for her life, teachings, and founding of Shao Shan Temple,
In the Dharma,

Reverend Taihaku Seiren Priest trained at Hokyoji in Japan, and received Dharma Transmission from Tanaka-Shinkai

Shao Shan Temple

125 Cranberry Meadow Rd.
East CalaisVT  05650

Josho Pat Phelan wrote: Taihaku was Jeff Broadbent's first wife. The day I moved into the SFZC, Suzuki Roshi was performing their wedding.