New Abbot at the Zen Center of Los Angeles

June 19, 1999

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 19, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an article about the official ascension of Wendy Egyoku Nakao, an American of Japanese and Portuguese descent who has become the new abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. She has already begun changes that will move the Center from its Japanese roots to a more American influence of "social action, interfaith work, and egalitarian exchange." In the last few years, Nakao has added women's names to the liturgical recitation of the male lineage of her Soto sect, created more gender equality amongst discussion circles, and replaced many Japanese terms with English. She also seeks to move the Center away from a monastic mode and into a more family-oriented Zen, which "accommodates all aspects of a person's life, including family and careers." Japanese officials of the Soto sect want to create American innovations to attract more adherents, but they also want to ensure that the Soto sect's 750-year traditions and teachings are correctly transmitted. That has been difficult, since 83 of the 99 Soto Zen teachers in the United States are American.