About Windhorse

Windhorse Zen Community first came into being in the late 1990’s, after Lawson and Sunya left the Rochester Zen Center to begin teaching on their own. A sitting group formed and, in 2003, they and some members of their group packed up and headed south, eventually relocating to a beautiful spot just outside of Asheville, NC.

The Windhorse property includes 16 acres of wooded and open land. The original house serves as our main center, and we also have a fine retreat lodge, used to house sesshin participants, guests and Airbnb visitors. But the real jewel of the property is the sweeping back-deck view of the ancient mountains of the Pisgah National Forest.

The mountains in this region—the oldest in the world—have a deep, quiet power conducive to strong practice. With wooded trails and gardens, we cultivate an engaged form of practice grounded in both Soto and Rinzai Zen traditions, while exploring creative possibilities attuned to an emerging Zen in the West.

Over the years, Windhorse seems to have become well rooted in these misty mountains. We’ve held many dozens of sesshins and introductions to practice, a wide range of ceremonies and celebrations, and have also been involved in supporting community change in ecological awareness, and gender and racial equality.

Many have joined us for longer or shorter periods of training, working to sustain their practice on the mat and in the activities and relationships of everyday life. We remain committed to join with others to plumb the depths of our own buddha-nature, to bring the spirit of the Great Way of Buddha into our daily lives, and to do whatever we can to keep this transformative dharma teaching and practice alive and accessible for generations to come.

The Windhorse Teachers

Sunya Kjolhede and Lawson Sachter

The founders and spiritual directors of Windhorse, Sunya Kjolhede and Lawson Sachter, were ordained and sanctioned to teach by Roshi Philip Kapleau. The teaching and practice at Windhorse blend the strengths of both the Rinzai and Soto schools of Zen, using breath, open awareness and koan inquiry. Both Lawson and Sunya have been practicing Zen for many decades, and have conducted sesshins (silent Zen meditation intensives) and workshops in the United States, Mexico, and abroad.

Sunya-roshi, along with her other teaching activities, has traveled regularly for over two decades to Poland, where she serves as spiritual director of the Bodhidharma Zen Center, a Polish Zen community founded by Roshi Kapleau in 1975. She has trained in Clinical Pastoral Education, working for a period of time as a hospital chaplain, and has also worked as a storyteller in schools.

Lawson-roshi is spiritual director of the Clear Water Zen Center, and is also a licensed psychotherapist with years of specialized training. Many of his clients have been engaged in dharma practice, and he leads Zentensives — unique retreats accredited by The Washington School of Psychiatry for a range of mental health professionals. 

Sunya and Lawson are married and have four grown children and five grandchildren.

Our Teachers’ Teacher

Roshi Philip Kapleau

Born in 1912, Roshi Philip Kapleau was one of the primary figures of American Zen Buddhism as it flourished in the second half of the 20th Century. He was the author of The Three Pillars of Zen, the first book in English to focus on the actual practice of zazen, with clear instructions and inspiring teachings that made authentic Zen much more widely accessible to seekers in the West.  Philip Kapleau’s literary legacy also includes other widely read books like Zen Merging East and West, To Cherish All Life, The Zen of Living and Dying: A Practical Guide, and Awakening to Zen.

As a young man, Philip Kapleau served as court reporter in state and federal courts. After the war he was appointed chief Allied court reporter for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, and later was sent to cover the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo.

In 1953, Kapleau abandoned his life as a businessman in America to seek the Dharma in Japan. During his thirteen years there he studied initially with Nakagawa Soen-roshi (1907-1984), then extensively with Harada Daiun-roshi (1870-1961), and finally with Harada’s Dharma heir Yasutani Hakuun-roshi (1885-1973).

While on pilgrimage in Asia, Philip Kapleau met a Canadian woman, Delancey, another spiritual seeker who would later practice Zen with him in Japan. The two married and had a daughter, Ramana.

Eventually Kapleau was given lay-ordination by Yasutani-roshi, and received permission to teach Zen Buddhism in the West. He then returned to the United States in 1966 and established the Rochester Zen Center in Rochester, NY. There he served as abbot for the next 20 years, retiring in 1986.

After many years of dealing with Parkinson’s, Philip Kapleau died peacefully in the spring sunshine on May 6, 2004, surrounded by dharma students chanting the Heart Sutra.  He was 91 years old.

Support Windhorse

Windhorse Zen Community is a non-profit religious corporation (501 (c) 3) and we rely on the generosity of our members and others to maintain our programs and activities.

Windhorse Membership

All events and activities at Windhorse are funded solely by contributions from members and by others, local and distant, who support our dharma work. All donations go directly to supporting our programs — no one at Windhorse is paid for their work. Without an endowment fund, we depend on this support to keep going: if you participate in Windhorse activities, and/or value the spirit of what we’re doing, please consider becoming a member.

Regular membership contributions of any amount (all are tax-deductible) help to build a strong foundation for the work here, making it far easier for us to budget and to plan our calendar of activities. At the same time, committing to becoming a member can strengthen not only your own practice, but also the practice of others. Click here to fill out our online membership application.

As a regular member of Windhorse, you may pay reduced rates for special sangha events, sesshin, and residential training. The suggested donation for members is $120-$160 per quarter ($40-$50 a month). We’re well aware that some may not be able to give this much, while others may be able and willing to give more. For those who sincerely wish to practice with this sangha, we will never let money be a barrier. If you have questions or concerns, please talk with us.

Pledges and donations can be made using checks or money orders (made payable to Windhorse Zen Community) and may be left at the Center or sent to our mailing address. Alternatively, you can make either a single, one-time donation or set up an automatically recurring payment by clicking here.

If you’re interested in discussing alternative, longer-term types of donations like stock transfers, wills, and bequests, please speak with one of the teachers about this.

Donation Offerings

For those who may not know, for the past nine years the teachers at Windhorse have received no direct financial support. All pledges and donations go directly to supporting Windhorse programs, and the building project. If you wish to offer tax-deductible support directly to the teachers, please click on the button below.

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