Recently I enjoyed a retreat at the Black Scorpion Temple in Tepotzlan, Mexico - about an hour or so outside of Mexico City. It’s a Zen temple. Beautiful - and in an extraordinary setting.
I arrived a day early. There’s a lot of work to hosting a retreat or sesshin. Here oryoki sets are being prepared for retreatants. Oryoki is a formal Japanese style of eating using nested eating bowls. Meals are eaten on your meditation cushion in the meditation hall (zendo)-everything done in a particular time and rhythm. It’s a form of mindfulness practice.
This is the zendo or meditation hall. It was formerly a painter’s studio. One source of beauty and inspiration into another.
The woman at the center in brown robe is Claudia Hosso Politi, Sensei, the resident teacher of the Black Scorpion. She is in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi and Nyogen Yeo Roshi. The group is in the entrance foyer to the zendo where shoes are removed, and cushions, liturgies, etc., are stored.
Students “facing the wall” in meditation. Not easy, but worth the effort.
Every thirty minutes or so there is a brisk formal walking meditation practice called “kinhin.” It’s an expansion of the sitting practice. It lasts about ten minutes and then it’s back to the cushion, and the wall, and your own mind.
Students are preparing to open their oryoki bowls. A priest is dedicating the service by making a food offering at the altar.
When I went to Oxaca, Mexico several years ago to study with the photographer Ernesto Bazan, I met another student of his, Carlos Figueroa, who is a photographer for one of Mexico City’s newspapers. I suggested that he contact Hosso Sensei to photograph the Black Scorpion. He didn’t do just that. He became a zen practitioner as well. At this retreat he made his formal vows as a Buddhist. This is called “Jukai.” I was very happy for him.
There’s a lot of warmth and fun in the students at the Black Scorpion - in addition to the seriousness with which they take their zen practice. I enjoyed their company enormously. Here they are joking around while a photographer tries to take a photo of them from the second story.
I’m including this last photo because it gives some idea of the natural environment around the temple. It is one of only three places on the planet where these particular rock formations exist - the other two being China and Thailand. The gigantic cliff like rocks were thrown out from an enormous volcano countless ages ago.
If you’d like to find out more about the Black Scorpion, you can go to blackscorpiontemple.com or hazymoon.com.
All Photographs Copyright John Fritzlen