Isen (Kelley Weaverling) with Koun Franz: Mu Do Zendo, Cordova, Alaska.
Cordova is a remote fishing village that is not connected to the rest of the state by road. One needs to fly or take a boat to get here. Though faded now, over the years there has been a great deal of controversy over the idea of having a road constructed to our community.
My teacher, Koun, was the resident priest for the Anchorage Zen Community for a number of years, and we would occasionally pool our money to fly him over for instruction and dharma talks.
The scroll sign between us on the screen reads “mu do zen do.” When my Zen teacher first visited Cordova, he saw the “NO ROAD” political paraphernalia in my bookstore, and having no knowledge of the whole controversy here, said “No road… That’s very Zen.” Doing a mental head-slap, I realized that it was very Zen!
“How do you say “no road” in Japanese?” I said. “Mu do,” he replied. “So we could call our meditation hall ‘mu do zendo!’” I said. “Yes,” he said, “you could.”
A “zendo” is a meditation place, and the phrase “Mu Do” could have a variety of meanings or nuance; no road, no path, way of emptiness, etc and it had a great deal of resonance with Cordova and Zen.
And that's how our sangha got its name. I still don't know how he chose mine.
With palms together-Isen