Zen practice at White Cloud Zen Center is a lay-oriented practice dedicated to spreading the dharma in both eastern and western Idaho. It is taught by Rein Konpo Kaales, Zen priest within the White Plum lineage, which embraces both the Rinzai and Soto traditions. This lineage has been passed to Konpo through his teacher, Genpo Merzel Roshi, and through his teacher’s teacher, Maezumi Roshi.
Rein Konpo, who is Dutch, became interested in meditation while living in Amsterdam in the mid-60’s, a time when many Tibetan Buddhist teachers were teaching in Europe. He first practiced with Tibetan master Lama Yeshe, who remained his teacher until he passed away in 1981. The following year Konpo met his current teacher, Genpo Roshi. He began monastic study at Kanzeon Zen Center International in Salt Lake City under Genpo Roshi in 1990.
In 2002 Konpo left Salt Lake City to start a Zen center in Pocatello, Idaho. His wife, Terry Chowan Kerler, joined him a year later. Because of her job in the high tech industry she now lives in Boise where her own practice includes both Zen meditation and Ashtanga yoga. Together they set up a branch of White Cloud Zen Center in Boise.
White Cloud Zen Center now has three locations (Boise, Pocatello and Idaho Falls) and Konpo travels weekly to visit with students in each. Spanning the entire state of Idaho from west to east, Zen practitioners from completely different parts of the state are united as one sangha.
Konpo embraces the fact that western Zen has a cultural flavor very distinct from its Japanese counterpart. “Sometimes what we do here in Idaho is called ‘Cowboy Zen.’ Especially when we practice in the wilderness it very much feels that way. In addition, we conduct more traditional ceremonies at our Zen centers in town. We have the best of both worlds in Idaho.”
The center organizes outdoor retreats in the White Cloud Mountains (Central Idaho), Scout Mountain (southeastern Idaho) and on the North Menan Butte (eastern Idaho). Meditation outdoors is in the style of the original Buddha where trees, animals, wind, sky and stars are a natural backdrop for cultivating both shikantaza and koan practice.
White Cloud also offers retreats in more urban settings such as Lava Hot Springs, Pocatello and Boise. A year-end retreat takes place between Christmas and New Year in Pocatello. Zen weekends are also scheduled throughout the year at all locations.
The sangha at White Cloud reflects the demographics of Idaho. Groups tend to be small, thus providing opportunity for frequent and informal interaction with the teacher. In addition, Konpo emphasizes the importance of working with the body and engaging in physical discipline as an adjunct to traditional Zen practice, such as yoga, tai chi and aikido.
Konpo expresses deep gratitude to his teacher, Genpo Roshi. Without Genpo Roshi, he affirms, none of the above would have manifested.