Having lived a life full of exuberance, caring and miraculous experiences, Rev. Taihaku Gretchen Priest passed away suddenly and peacefully in the early morning hours on Monday, May 24th, 2021. As the founding abbot of Shao Shan Temple – a small Soto Zen Temple in Woodbury, Vermont - her life influenced and inspired many people to find the still center in meditation. Her way of being in the world so beautifully embodied the Buddhist teachings of compassion and caring, that she connected easily with people from all walks of life. Capable of doing anything she chose – she could design and build a Temple, train at a strict Soto Zen Monastery in Japan, replace a toilet, grow basketball sized rutabagas and create 5 star culinary delights – all while having an immense amount of fun.
Born in Marblehead Massachusetts, her early years were characterized by a love of sailing and art. She often used sailing as a metaphor in her teachings and loved the intimate connection with the wild natural world of wind and water. Her artistic talents continued to manifest as construction projects where she cared for minute details.
Taihaku Gretchen Priest was a loving and playful mother and grandmother and her life continues through her family – in particular, her daughter and family, Leafye Pante, Marcus, Amelia and Sebastian; her son and family, Eben Broadbent, Angelica, Liana and Kai; her sister, Laury Lacy and her brother Robert Bradley Priest. Her life and legacy also continues through her dedicated Zen students, and her Dharma Heir, Kenzan.
A loving visionary, Rev. Taihaku Nishiren Daiosho, often spoke of the “700 year plan” for Shao Shan Temple’s continuation - a continuation well beyond her life and well beyond yours or mine. May we also be inspired by her vision to care for the present in a way that considers generations to come.