Sozenji Buddhist Temple was founded in March 1971 by Rev. Shuyu Kurai. The kanji (or Chinese characters) for So-zen-ji means Soto sect, Zen temple. Sozenji is the first official independent Soto Zen temple to be established in the United States mainland.
Rev. Shuyu Kurai first came to Zenshuji Soto Mission in Los Angeles as a missionary from Japan in 1952. He received Dharma transmission from his father, Rev. Keishu Kurai, the abbot of Kongo-In Temple in Shima, Mie Prefecture.
Rev. Shuyu Kurai trained at Sojiji Monastery under Rev. Kodo Sawaki. Rev. Kurai was head minister at Sozenji until his passing at the age of 69 in September 1986. Rev. Kurai’s son, Rev. Shuichi Thomas Kurai took over the temple and is now the current head minister.
In December 1971, Sozenji was incorporated as a non-profit religious organization. A building fund was immediately established to collect donations for the temple’s permanent location. For the first two years, services were held at the East Los Angeles College Religious Center on Cesar Chavez Boulevard (formerly Brooklyn Avenue.) In July 1973, two lots were purchased in Boyle Heights (Los Angeles) to serve as a temporary temple.
Finally, in March 1977, a church building was purchased in the city of Montebello on Beverly Boulevard. Renovation of the hondo (main hall) began; on November 2, 1978, the temple officially opened its doors. To commemorate the event, a special opening ceremony was held, and was officiated by the then archbishop of the Soto Sect (Sojiji), Kinei Otogawa.
Since the late 1970’s, Sozenji has not only become a place for Buddhist worship, meditation, and learning, but also serves as a community and cultural center. The temple offers a variety of classes and workshops for Japanese art and crafts and music.
We hope you will join us at our upcoming Sozenji events.
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