James Myoun Ford Roshi
James Ford was born in 1948, in Oakland, California. His father had an itchy foot and the family moved around the country, although always returning to California and mostly Oakland. A high school dropout, James acknowledges that his first education came through twenty years of working in used and antiquarian bookstores up and down the California coast. Eventually he returned to school and earned a BA in Psychology at Sonoma State University, in Rohnert Park, California as well as an MDiv and an MA in the Philosophy of Religion at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley.
At eighteen he began studying Zen with Mel Sojun Weitsman, then leader and later abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center. When Roshi Jiyu Kennett arrived from Japan he became her student, was ordained unsui in 1969, completed shuso training in 1970 and received Dharma transmission from her in 1971. Dissatisfied with the quality of his understanding, James continued studying various spiritual disciplines. These included among other traditions Gnostic Christianity and the "new age" Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
James married Jan Seymour-Ford in 1982. In the mid-nineteen eighties they decided to return to school. While James pursued his degrees Jan earned her master's in Library Science, and now works as research librarian at Perkins School for the Blind, in Watertown, Massachusetts.
In 1991 James was ordained a Unitarian Universalist minister. He served congregations in Wisconsin and Arizona and currently serves as senior minister of the First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts.
In 1985 James became a student of the Harada-Yasutani Zen teacher Dr John Tarrant, the first Dharma successor of Robert Aitken Roshi. James was authorized to teach by Tarrant Roshi in 1998. In 2005 Dr Tarrant gave James Inka Shomei, acknowledging him as a Dharma heir in the Harada-Yasutani Zen lineage. He is the author of In This Very Moment: A Simple Guide to Zen Buddhism (Skinner House Publications, Boston, 1996 & 2002) and Zen Master Who? A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen (Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006). He is currently working on an anthology of Dharma talks by different Zen teachers on the koan "Mu."
In 2000 Jan and James founded the Henry Thoreau Zen Sangha at the First Unitarian Society in Newton, which quickly merged with Spring Hill Zen, then meeting in Somerville. (Spring Hill now meets at the UU Church of Medford) The combined organization was named the Boston Zen Community. Since then a third group, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Zen Sangha, meeting at First Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Boston was formed. The expanded sangha renamed itself Boundless Way Zen. James was elected its first teacher. In 2006 Boundless Way Zen and the Worcester Zen Community began a process of consolidation by bringing members of the WZC onto the BoWZ Board, and electing David, Melissa and James as its three guiding teachers.
James is a member of the American Zen Teachers Association and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association
His website is found here.