Ven. Ryodo Yamashita, Sudhammacara Bhikku, chief priest of Ippoan-temple and practice leadership of One Dharma Forum, was born in 1956 in Tokyo, Japan. As an adolescent, he developed an interest in philosophy and majored in French philosophy in college. It was around the same time as his encounter with Zen. Having first read the works of Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, one of the foremost Zen masters of the twentieth century, he began to attend lectures by Uchiyama Roshi and Zen retreat at Antaiji-temple, a mostly self-sufficient Zen training center in Tajima, Hyogo. Upon graduating college, he was ordained in 1983 at Antaiji-temple and received Dharma transmission a year later. In 1988 he became a missionary priest and served at the Pioneer Valley Zendo in Massachusetts. He returned to Japan in 1992 and taught Zen at the Kyoto Soto Zen Center.
“I was so happy to become a monk that I danced around when I put on the monk’s robe for the first time for my ordination”Ven. Yamashita, from “Updating Buddhism”
Shortly after his return to Japan, a Buddhist cult group, AUM Shinrikyo, carried out a series of terror attacks that killed more than twenty people and left thousands injured. He was deeply troubled by the fact that Japanese Buddhism, in which he had so much faith, actually could not stop people from being drawn to the cult. He confided his concerns to Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned Vietnamese Zen master, who suggested that only through mindfulness could there can be any possibility for change. He began to interact with teachers of Theravada tradition to learn about mindfulness.
“However, Zen is about letting go of your mind while mindfulness is about looking into it. I did not what to do with this contradistinction.”Ven. Yamashita, from “Mindfulness x Zen”
In 2001, he met Pa-auk Sayadaw. Struck by Sayadaw’s presence and the detailed description of the path leading to Nirvana (Nibbana), he decided to pursue mindfulness further at the Pa-auk Forest Monastery in Myanmar. He became a Theravada monk and went through intensive study and practice of samatha and vipassana meditation under the direct guidance of Pa-auk Sayadaw. He became the first Japanese ever to complete the Pa-auk method meditation training.
In 2006, Ven. Yamashita returned to Japan and further studied the two teachings- mindfulness and Zen. Then he came to the conclusion that we can let go of our minds just as Zen teaches so by looking into our minds with Right Mindfulness. Zen and mindfulness appear to contradict each other in their direction of logic and practice, and yet they complement each other.
“Zen needs mindfulness, and mindfulness needs Zen. “
—Based on this realization, Ven. Yamashita started teaching the “One Dharma Method,” a meditation method that reintegrates mindfulness meditation and Zen into one unified practice.
Currently, he teaches one-day retreats on weekends and leads a 5-day retreat every month. He is recognized for his unique perspective on mindfulness and Zen and gives lectures in Japan as well as abroad. He has led English-taught retreats outside Japan every year since 2007. His English language Dharma talks from these courses are available via the One Dharma International Podcast. Among other activities, he has held teaching sessions in the villages of the Shakya clan, the Buddha’s descendants in the surrounding area of Sankasia, one of the Eight Holy Buddhist sites.
Media appearance (in English)
Research and Conferences (in Japan and abroad)
- Guest lecturer, 30th public seminar of Komazawa University Community Care Centre: From Compassion Meditation to ‘JUST SIT 3.0’, (22th October 2016, Komazawa University, Tokyo, Japan)
- Panelist, Symposium “Mindfulness Meditation and Japanse society”, Institute of Buddhist Culture, Musashino University (5th December 2015, Musashino University, Tokyo, Japan)
- Panelist, Symposium on mindfulness for anxiety (18th April 2015, Nagoya International Center, Nagoya, Japan)
- Speaker at the opening of interreligious retreat at Ajatananda Ashram, ‘Renunciation as an Interreligious Meeting Point Today’ (21st-23th November 2010, Rishkesh, India)
- Chair and Speaker, panel discussion Mahayana meditation: with a focus on Dogen-zenji at 6th bi-annual international conference on Buddhist meditation: texts, tradition, and practice (5th September 2010, K.J. Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies, Mumbai, India)