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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 18, 2003

Hawai'i Zen master Tanouye dies

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tanouye Tenshin Rotaishi, a Zen master to some of Hawai'i's most prominent leaders died Monday. He was 64.

Members of Chozen-ji temple in Kalihi Valley, where Tanouye Tenshin Rotaishi was archbishop, pursue both physical and spiritual training.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Tanouye attracted a wide following, from political movers and shakers to convicts. At Chozen-ji temple in Kalihi Valley, all learned to integrate martial and cultural arts with spiritual training.

"Many local leaders sought his advice, relying on his insight into strategy and human nature," said Dwight Yoshimura, general manager of Ala Moana Center and president of the Chozen-ji board of directors. "He repeatedly taught that Zen training must work at any place, any time. His kiai (vital spiritual energy) touched many lives."

His spiritual appeal cut across divisions, said House Speaker Calvin Say, a Chozen-ji member for almost 20 years.

"It wasn't just the powerful," he said. "He could help the down-and-out turn themselves around, and he could help people who were ill with his spiritual mana. He taught you to look at things in different ways: not just what's in front of you, but what's behind you and what's inside, too."

Tanouye often was called on to mediate community disputes.

"As a Zen master, he was a bringer of harmony," said Ken Yokoyama, bishop at the temple. "He could bring people together and make them look at something correctly instead of 'I, I, I' or 'my, my, my' point of view."

Born Stanley Y. Tanouye in Mo'ili'ili, he graduated from Kaimuki High School, received a degree in education from the University of Hawai'i, and taught orchestra and band in several local schools, including Kalakaua Intermediate and Farrington High schools. He was an accomplished clarinetist.

After studying kendo, judo, karate and other martial arts in Japan for more than 10 years, Tanouye met his own spiritual master, Omori Sogen Rotaishi, and soon realized there was nothing in the Western world comparable to Omori's deepest spiritual training, known as shugyo.

"This training leads to far more than freedom from external distraction," he later wrote.

In 1979, Omori established Chozen-ji as a daihonzan, a main temple and headquarters of a new lineage of Zen. It was there that Tanouye later became archbishop and helped thousands of others integrate traditional Rinzai Zen practices with martial arts training.

It was not unusual for visitors, including students from around the world, to rise from their predawn meditation to engage in such martial arts as kendo, the "way of the sword," which became a path to transcendence.

"In any pursuit, besides the prospect of developing skill, apart from any specific achievement, there is a chance to broaden one's outlook and attain a greater degree of maturity," Tanouye wrote in explaining the temple's blend of physical and spiritual pursuits.

Tanouye helped establish subtemples and dojos on the Mainland, in Israel and Japan. He also helped create a women's temple and the Institute of Zen Studies, which increased the public's access to Zen teaching and application in everyday life.

Tanouye is survived by his wife, Mieko Ogura; daughter Judith; brothers Robert and Edwin; and sisters Harriet Yamaguchi and Ethel.

Zen Buddhist services are planned for 9 a.m. Jan. 30 at Hosoi Mortuary.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5460.