In preserving the legacy of the Matsuoka lineage, we are advancing his mission as well as that of 13th Century Master Dogen, which he fully recognized only upon his return to Japan from China. His mission then was — and ours today is — to transmit the essence of Buddhism. It is to be accomplished through the vital and genuine practice of Zen, primarily promulgating the practice of Zen meditation (J. zazen). Our essential task is to transmit and facilitate the practice of zazen, both for ourselves and for others, along with clarifying the Dharma — without distorting its meaning or demeaning its import — to future generations.
Establishing the Order is a skillful means to accomplish this mission, and to preserve the unbroken Soto Zen lineage from Master Eihei Dogen to the present day. Rev. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi came to the United States in 1939, founding a new, American sect of Soto Zen, dedicated to the propagation of authentic Zen Buddhism to the West for over 70 years as of this writing.
STO, as a lay Order of Disciples of Buddhism, exists to save all beings in order to actualize the Bodhisattva vow. The STO is the broadest organizational level of its community (Skt. sangha), and serves to support Disciples and Priests of the Order and to provide the various affiliated Zen Sanghas with local trained and sanctioned leadership. As such, it is intended to provide overall stewardship for allowing and nurturing the natural growth of the STO Network.
STO functions as an umbrella organization to facilitate communication between Members of the Order wherever they may reside in the world, and to guide and provide training opportunities in each Member’s continuing relationship with Buddhism.
Its primary operating objective is to enhance each individual Member’s service to their affiliate Sangha. By becoming a Member, one takes the first formal step on the Path toward recognition as a Lay Teacher or Transmitted Priest of Soto Zen (the latter authorizing presence hereafter referred to simply as “the Sensei.”).
[Note: Matsuoka-roshi initiated the designation of “Disciple.” STO is the only Soto Zen order to use this term. It is typical of descriptions of the followers of Shakyamuni Buddha and other noted teachers in the history. Most formal Zen practitioners are referred to as “students” of their teacher. In the STO, one is a Disciple of Buddhism, as well as a student of the Sensei].