The Mountains and Rivers Order (MRO) is a Western Zen Buddhist lineage established by the late John Daido Loori Roshi and dedicated to sharing the dharma as it has been passed down, generation to generation, since the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. Although the MRO is distinctly American, much of the training, liturgy, and practice forms used in the Order come from the tradition of Zen as it evolved in ancient China and Japan. Daido Roshi trained with Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi at the Zen Center of Los Angeles and received dharma transmission from him. Because Maezumi Roshi was a lineage holder within the Soto school of Zen, and had received Inka (seal of approval) from two Rinzai teachers, training and practice in the MRO draws from both these traditions.
The MRO takes its name from Zen Master Eihei Dogen’s “Mountains and Rivers Sutra,” a favorite teaching of Daido Roshi’s–one that he returned to again and again. With Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM), the seat of the Order, based at the foot of a mountain and the junction of two rivers, the name Mountains and Rivers Order takes on added significance.
Daido Roshi’s passion for the arts (he was an avid photographer for most of his life) led him to initially establish ZMM as the Zen Arts Center in 1980. However, within a few years it became apparent that the community gathering at the Arts Center had a deep interest in traditional Zen training, so the Zen Arts Center became Zen Mountain Monastery, offering practitioners a comprehensive practice and training structure. The focus on the Zen arts remained, however, and the training in the MRO places special emphasis on creative expression as a vital element of spiritual practice.