Prof. Phillip M. Skornia,9th Dan

Shorinji Zendo-ryu Karate

Page 4

   By 1962, I was back in the United States and studying a four-year program of Kriya Yoga at the Yogada Satsanga Society Headquarters in Mt. Washington area of Los Angeles.  In the United States, this is known as the Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Paramihansa Yoganandaji.  I first read his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.  I own all of his books  and recommend them highly.  One of the Yogis and teachers was Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters).  He is a direct disciple of the master and author of The Path, which I also recommend.  At the same time, I attended Sunday services and study groups at the Vedanta Center in the hills above Hollywood.  This is a beautiful place, and I purchased many of my books there.

Upon completion of the Self-Realization course, people gather together for graduation and initiation.  I decided to forgo the U.S. convocation and instead (a little later on) went to Ranchi, India for my personal initiation as a Yogi.  While there, I also went to Pondicherry, India.  This is the Yoga ashram of the famous Sri Aurobindo.  I was presented with his Tome I and Tome II, covering the complete knowledge of the Vedanta philosophy of Yoga.  These tomes are 1,000 pages each, and were printed in India.  I treat these masterpieces like gold because they are - Spiritual Gold.  Later, I was introduced to Raja Yoga by Yogi Ramachrarka.  He wrote an entire series of books, dating back to the early 1900's.  I own them all.  I also studied and recommend, How to Know God, which are the Yoga aphorisms of Patanjali, translated by Swami Prabhavanda and Christopher I. Sherwood.  

You might, by now, be wondering that if I was so interested in Zen, why was I so deeply involved in Yoga.  Yoga philosophy came from the Bhagavad Gita and the Hindu Bible, the Vedanta.  The Buddha became a Yogi, and studied the 4000 year-old books carefully.  After his Enlightenment, Ananda, his disciple, and other students studied the same passages.  After Buddha's death, his words were called the Sutras of Buddhism.  The founder of Chan (Zen) was the 28th Patriarch of Buddha.  And there it is, student of Truth, the Absolute, studying all that was available in order to find the spiritual Way (Do).  

For ten years,I also studied at the Philosophical Research Society in the Los Feliz area by the huge Griffith Park.  This is a very old and respected educational institution, founded by philosophers Manly Hall and William Drake, whom I knew personally.  Manly Hall was very inspiring and well versed in many different philosophies.  He was an incredibly prolific writer, publishing dozens of philosophical books.  Some real treasures are the Journey in Truth, 1945, Pathways of Philosphy, 1947, and Collected Writing, Volume 1, 1957.  He traveled all over India and then to Asia to fully discover Truth.  How could I do any less?  In my future book, I will discuss flying to Benares, India, to meet and study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  He is the founder of Transcendental Meditation through his Science of Creative Intelligence.  Not only did I meet him, but  he invited me to travel with him,  while he was producing a film across India.  I did travel with him, which was about the same time as the Beatles were involved in their spiritual quest in India, whom I met.  

When Taizan Maezumi Roshi ventured to Los Angeles in the early 1960's, I sought him out.  He had founded the Los Angeles Zen Center, and I was right there with him.  Most of his new students knew little of Zen, since it was just beginning to reach some level of popularity through the writings of D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts.  He was surprised at my knowledge of Zen history and concenpts from my Zen-based Karate.  After completing four years of personalized training and much meditation on my own, I was ready for advanced experiences.  Maezumi Roshi arranged for my further development at his home monastery
, the Sojiji in Japan.  (This is the world head temple of Soto Zen).  His brother, also a Zen priest, met me at the train station, and personally enrolled me.  I was so enthralled and overcome with humility to enter the esteemed and mysterious temple.  Experiences and tribulations will be detailed in my future book.  

In 1968, when back in the states, I read about another branch of Zen called Rinzai.  Rinzai Zen, besides mediation and purposeful work, uses Koans for training.  Through a spiritual expereince, I was introduced to the highest ranking Rinzai Zen master in America, Bishop Nanshin Okamoto.  I entered his Victoria Avenue temple immediately.  Many students came and went, but I perservered for four more years.  Again, after making a pilgrimage to the main Rinzai temple in Kyoto, Japan, the Myoshinji, I was ordained as a Zen priest.  Upon ordination, I received, as is customary, a spiritually evolved name.  Of course, this name is personal and private, and it is indicative of my Zen and martial arts training. 

     In the 1970's, I was still taking classes at the Philosophical Research Society.  I took many of their philosophy and psychology classes,  that deepened my spiritual understandings.  While there, I met a Vietnamese Zen master named Thich Thien-an.  He invited me to go with him to learn yet another form of Zen from Vietnam.  I did and we became fast friends.  He was starting a fully accreditated graduate school of Oriental philosophy.  He designed a 10-year study program for me, leading to a doctorate degree, as well as a Roshi (high level Zen master).  I completed all programs, and he later asked me to join the faculty.  It's kind of fun to look back through the old college brochures to see our school (dojo) with my name listed.  I taught traditional martial arts and Oriental philosophy,  so people could train at our dojo and receive college credit.  This was the first time in history that this kind of program was offered in the United States at a graduate degree level.  

At the same time, I was also teaching Zen, History, and Philosophy at the Minister's Seminary for the Science of Mind Church. At that time, Dr. William Hornaday, who is a very famous speaker,  was  President of the Science of Mind Church.  I used to listen to him for years on the radio.  He was a very dynamic and inspiring mentor to me.  He is a direct  descendant of the founder, Ernest Holmes.  His book, Science of Mind, by Ernest Holmes, stays on my nightstand to this day.  


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