The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation lecture: Norma Wong, ordained Zen priest, Buddhism in Social Activism & Self-Determination

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation

On November 4, 2014, the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation presented - in cooperation with the Office of the Dean & Vice-Principal Academic, and the Centre for Critical Development Studies, a lecture and workshop lead by Ryuko (Norma) Wong Roshi, an instructor at the Institute of Zen Studies. She is responsible for the IZS-Applied Zen programs -- workshops and training for people who are interested in the application of Zen principles and spiritual training in their work and life. Since 1997, Ms. Wong was a private consultant specializing in strategic planning, identifying emerging issues and building institutional capacity for crisis management. In 2004, she retired her private practice in favor of teaching.


Ms. Wong's career spanned service as a State legislator, a partner in a policy research and planning firm, eight years in the Hawaii Office of the Governor, and three years as a corporate and government relations director in the Hawaii office of a Washington D.C. based law firm. She had specialties in strategy and native Hawaiian issues.

Ms. Wong is a 1974 graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and attended the University of Hawaii and Wellesley College. In 2000, she was ordained a Zen priest after having been a student of the late Tenshin Tanouye Rotaishi of the Daihonzan Chozen-ji for twenty years. She received her inka shomei (Mind Stamp) in 2005, as an 86th generation Zen Master.

Organizational training work incorporating Zen training principles include the development of a proactive individual and organizational stance; the stance, energy and rhythm of a mission-driven team; transformational practices for movement building; strategic thinking; conflict and chaos; leadership and The Art of War. Seminars and workshops taught by Wong Roshi include developing one’s self for change and transitions, applications of Zen training for everyday living, spirituality and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, cultivating a clear mind for strategic thinking, a Zen perspective on diversity, Zen and kado (the Way of the flower), using life as a koan, sound and Zen, spirituality and leadership, and the yin and yang of power and life. Seminars and training have been held in New York; Washington, D.C.; Madison, Wisconsin; El Paso and Austin, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; Seattle and Olympia, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, California; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and in Hawaii.

Norma’s talk explored her experiences in social activism in such causes as ending gender-based violence, demilitarizing indigenous territory, electoral politics and self-determination for indigenous Hawaiians. Her talk and workshop was built around four famous quotes:

  • You must be the change you see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
  • Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. – Buddha
  • The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands,  to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist...destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful. – Thomas Merton
  • No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. – Buddha