Sensei Tom Baiten Dharma-Joy Reichert
Sensei Tom Baiten Dharma-Joy Reichert received the Temple Seal and was installed as ZCLA’s Fifth Abbot on May 21, 2023. He is also currently the Head Priest/Preceptor of ZCLA.
Dharma-Joy grew up in New Rochelle, New York to a Roman Catholic family. During college at Georgetown, he spent a year in the Middle East and, after college, he received a Master’s Degree in Middle East Studies from Harvard University. After some time in Washington, D.C., he went to law school at the University of Virginia, during which he first became interested in comparative religions and mythology through the writings of Joseph Campbell.
After moving to Los Angeles for work, someone gave him a copy of Joko Beck’s Everyday Zen, which had a profound influence on him. At the same time, he was reading Bernie Glassman’s Instructions to the Cook. Because both books said their authors had studied at Zen Center of Los Angeles – which was in the very city in which he was living – he came to ZCLA to check it out in October 1999; in a sense, he hasn’t left since then. Thus began his life of practice and training.
Dharma-Joy received jukai from Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao in August 2001; received tokudo in August 2010; served as shuso for the year 2012-13; completed his priest study and received Denkai in August 2019; was named a Dharma-Holder in 2020 and received teacher transmission (Denbo) in December 2022, during which Roshi Egyoku bestowed upon him the additional name Baiten (bai – plum; ten – unfold, expand).
Over the last two decades, he has held various positions at Zen Center; most importantly, he baked the cookies for the Thursday night tea and cookies for over ten years.
Dharma-Joy lives on grounds at ZCLA with his husband, Don, and their dog and cat.