1. Suzuki Roshi
Shunryu Suzuki roshi (1904-1971) was the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and one of the most beloved teachers in modern Buddhism. Known for his gentle and open approach based on Dōgen’s (Japanese, 1200-1253, see Study Topic 10) radical non-dual reading of Zen, Suzuki roshi emphasized simple daily zazen practice and ordinary everyday living.
One of his watchwords was “beginner’s mind,” an open, humble, curious mind, always ready to be surprised and to learn something new. This, he taught, was the true zen spirit, the goal and the process of our practice.
Son of a Soto Zen priest, and himself ordained a Zen priest in his youth, Suzuki roshi trained in small Zen temples, and, briefly, at Eiheiji, the large Soto monastery. He was abbot of Rinso-In, a 500 year old Zen temple in Yaizu, a fishing town on the Japan Sea. Unusual among Japanese Zen priests, Suzuki roshi was always interested in the West. He studied English and nurtured from boyhood a dream of practicing in America.
Though vocal and public opposition was impossible, Suzuki roshi was among the very few Zen people who did not support the Japanese militarism of the 1930’s or the war that followed. In 1959, he took a leave of absence from Rinso-In to accept a position as priest of Sokoji, the Soto Zen Mission in San Francisco’s Japantown. His small zazen group there eventually grew into the San Francisco Zen Center, the oldest and largest Western Zen center, which now has three locations, City Center in San Francisco, Green Gulch Farm in Marin County, and Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery in the Los Padres National Forest, near Carmel Valley, California.
Translated into many languages, edited selections from Suzuki-roshi’s lectures, especially the two books “Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind” and “Not Always So,” are among the most widely read Zen books in the world.
The practice of the Everyday Zen Foundation is entirely based on Suzuki roshi’s way. Our founder, Zoketsu Fischer, trained at the San Francisco Zen Center temples for over twenty-five years, retiring as co-Abbot there in 2000.
See also: San Francisco Zen Center