Puerto Vallarta Zen Group


Photo of Rick with daughter Leah and son Jacob taken after his ordination ceremony in 2004

Resident Priest: Burai Rick Spencer

Rick Spencer first became interested in Zen as a university student in the 1960's. He was fascinated by stories of the old Chinese and Japanese masters, but convinced that they were stories of some mythical time in the past and that zen was something that had since become extinct.

It wasn't until almost 20 years later that he discovered that zen practice was very much alive, and that there were actually groups of practitioners where he lived in Vancouver, Canada. Not only that, there were teachers who were part of a lineage of Japanese Zen and Chinese Ch'an teachers that could be traced back to those distant masters that he had read about.

For several years he practiced with a teacher in the Japanese Rinzai tradition as part of a group of Canadian zen students. Later on he met Zoketsu Norman Fischer, then abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center which had been founded by Soto Zen priest Shunryu Suzuki, and came to be one of Norman's students. Norman gave him the dharma name “Burai Anka” which means “Dancing Thunderbolt, Peaceful Transformation” in a Zeikei Tokudo or lay ordination ceremony in the year 2000. In 2004 he was ordained as a zen priest by Norman in a Shukke Tokudo ceremony, and in 2011 he received Dharma Transmission from Norman..

Rick first came to Mexico in 2000 for a sesshin, or week long zen retreat, with Norman at Mar de Jade, a retreat centre in Chacala, Nayarit a short distance north of Puerto Vallarta. He was impressed with the wholeheartedness of the Mexican zen practitioners that he met there, some of whom had been practicing for decades and others who just showed up for their first zen retreat with no idea of what that might be. Over the next few years, Rick spent more and more time in Mexico, and with each visit felt more and more at home.

He took early retirement from his job with Environment Canada in 2004 and now lives in Puerto Vallarta and supports a meditation group there as resident priest He also guides retreats and practises with meditation groups in other parts of Mexico. Rick is interested in de-mystifying zen practice. This is to say that he would like to share his conviction that wisdom and compassion are not ideals that only exist in some distant and idealized past or in some equally distant and magical future. He feels that Zen teachings are not so much to be understood as they are to be lived, and that this can only happen in the present moment.