Eko Jeff Kelley, Teacher, Priest and Spiritual Director
Jeff has led the Seattle Soto Zen sangha since 2009. In July of 2013, Jeff received formal Dharma Transmission from his teacher Byakuren Judith Ragir. Jeff continues seeking guidance from senior teachers, including his root teacher, Byakuren Judith Ragir, and Zoketsu Norman Fischer.
In addition to his work with the SSZ sangha, Jeff currently shares the leadership of two groups within the Washington State prison complex in Monroe.
Jeff came to the Seattle area in 2009 from Minnesota where he practiced Zen for fifteen years at Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul, first with Dosho Mike Port and then with Byakuren Judith Ragir. He was ordained as a Soto Zen priest by Byakuren Judith Ragir in May of 2008 in the lineage of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Jeff worked as a licensed architect for over twenty years before retiring in 2008. He has two adult children. His life is also enriched by a life-long passion for literature, poetry and myth. Jeff married Bonnie Drew in 2013.
While at Clouds in Water, Jeff helped found the children's practice program and taught children in that program for many years. He served on the board of directors from 2003 to 2006, as both vice-chair and chair, during the two and a half years that Clouds in Water was without a teacher. He served on the Training Council, a group that was responsible for the spiritual leadership of the community, during that time. He taught a variety of introductory classes on various aspects of Buddhist practice and served as ino from 2007 – 2009.
Elsewhere in Minnesota, Jeff co-led a meditation group at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Rush City from 2006 – 2009. In addition, he continues to serve on the board of the Hokyoji Zen Practice Community, a retreat center started by Katagiri-roshi in southeastern Minnesota.
Lee Nelson, Lay Teacher
Edward Cadman, Senior Practitioner
Mike Gillespie, Senior Practitioner
After a number of years exploring various Buddhist traditions, John began his formal Zen practice 30 years ago at the Zenshuji Soto Mission temple in Los Angeles. At that time his principle teacher was Tozen Akiyama (who subsequently became the head priest at the Milwaukee Zen Center). It was from Akiyama Sensei that John learned the power and ordinary practicality of shikan taza, “just sitting”, that is the core of Soto Zen practice.
Early in that practice, John’s path was strengthened by two key events. The first was participation in the summer ango at Zen Center Los Angeles, led by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi. The second was receiving the precepts at a formal jukai ceremony at Zenshuji, officiated by Rempo Niwa Zenji, abbot of Eiheiji in Japan.
Over the years John has come to realize that Zen has no teaching as such but is a spirit and attitude of being in this world. “Just living.” He has come to this understanding through encounters with some extraordinary teachers (gassho to Dainin Katagiri Roshi, Charlotte Joko Beck, Shohaku Okumura, Issho Fujita, and especially Tozen Akiyama). He has benefitted through the teachings and example of the many priest at Zenshuji, most recently Shumyo Kojima Sensei and Myoshin John Lang Sensei.
After arriving in Seattle many years ago, without a Soto Zen zendo available, John once again wandered through the practice centers of many other Zen traditions. Finally he found One Pine Hall, with its Soto Zen priest, Ryuzen Robby Pellett, and was able to reconnect to the traditions of Dogen Zenji's zen. It was there he met Sandy Taylor, and it was from there they began Seattle Soto Zen.