Timeline of Zen Buddhism in the United States

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Below is a timeline of important events regarding Zen Buddhism in the United States. Dates with "?" are approximate.



Early history


Hsuan Hua, America's first Chinese Chan teacher. HsuanHuaShangRen.jpg
Hsuan Hua, America's first Chinese Chan teacher.






Merle Kodo Boyd became the first African-American woman to receive Dharma transmission in Zen Buddhism in 2006. Merle Kodo Boyd.jpg
Merle Kodo Boyd became the first African-American woman to receive Dharma transmission in Zen Buddhism in 2006.


Taitaku Pat Phelan is a Soto Zen priest and current abbot of Chapel Hill Zen Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Taitaku Pat Phelan.jpg
Taitaku Pat Phelan is a Sōtō Zen priest and current abbot of Chapel Hill Zen Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shunryū Suzuki</span> Japanese Buddhist monk who popularized Zen in the US

Shunryu Suzuki was a Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, and is renowned for founding the first Zen Buddhist monastery outside Asia. Suzuki founded San Francisco Zen Center which, along with its affiliate temples, comprises one of the most influential Zen organizations in the United States. A book of his teachings, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, is one of the most popular books on Zen and Buddhism in the West.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">San Francisco Zen Center</span> Network of affiliated Sōtō Zen practice centers

San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC), is a network of affiliated Sōtō Zen practice and retreat centers in the San Francisco Bay area, comprising City Center or Beginner's Mind Temple, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. The sangha was incorporated by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and a group of his American students in 1962. Today SFZC is the largest Sōtō organization in the West.

Kyozan Joshu Sasaki, Roshi was a Japanese Rinzai Zen teacher who lived in Los Angeles, United States since 1962. He was one of the most influential but also controversial Zen masters in America, "coercing hundreds of [students] into having sexual contact with him" since at least the early 1970s. He sought to tailor his teachings to westerners, opening dozens of centres, and founding serving as head abbot of the Mount Baldy Zen Center, near Mount Baldy in California, and of the Rinzai-Ji order of affiliated Zen centers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taizan Maezumi</span> Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher

Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi was a Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist priest who substantially contributed to development of Zen in the USA.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dennis Merzel</span> American Buddhist writer

Dennis Merzel is an American Zen and spirituality teacher, also known as Genpo Merzel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Japanese Zen</span> Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism

Japanese Zen refers to the Japanese forms of Zen Buddhism, an originally Chinese Mahāyāna school of Buddhism that strongly emphasizes dhyāna, the meditative training of awareness and equanimity. This practice, according to Zen proponents, gives insight into one's true nature, or the emptiness of inherent existence, which opens the way to a liberated way of living.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernie Glassman</span> American Buddhist teacher

Bernie Glassman was an American Zen Buddhist roshi and founder of the Zen Peacemakers, an organization established in 1980. In 1996, he co-founded the Zen Peacemaker Order with his late wife Sandra Jishu Holmes. Glassman was a Dharma successor of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi, and gave inka and Dharma transmission to several people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mel Weitsman</span> American Zen Buddhist monk (1929–2021)

Hakuryu Sojun Mel Weitsman, born Mel Weitsman, was an American Buddhist who was the founder, abbot and guiding teacher of Berkeley Zen Center located in Berkeley, California. Weitsman was a Soto Zen roshi practicing in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki, having received Dharma transmission in 1984 from Suzuki's son Hoitsu. He was also a co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, where he served from 1988 to 1997. Weitsman was also editor of the book Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai, based on talks given by Suzuki on the Sandokai.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hakuun Yasutani</span> Japanese Buddhist monk

Hakuun Yasutani was a Sōtō priest and the founder of the Sanbo Kyodan, a lay Japanese Zen group. Through his students Philip Kapleau and Taizan Maezumi, Yasutani has been one of the principal forces in founding western (lay) Zen-practice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Berkeley Zen Center</span>

Berkeley Zen Center (BZC), temple name Shogakuji, is an Sōtō Zen Buddhist practice centre located in Berkeley, California currently led by Hozan Alan Senauke. An informal affiliate to the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC), BZC was founded in 1967 by Sojun Mel Weitsman and Shunryu Suzuki as a satellite group for the SFZC. Despite founding the centre, Weitsman was not installed as an abbot there until 1985, one year after receiving Dharma transmission from Hoitsu Suzuki. Weitsman's Dharma heir, Alan Senauke, lives on-site with his wife Laurie Senauke and also works for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Another former teacher at BZC was Maylie Scott, who died in 2001. In 1969 Zenkei Blanche Hartman began sitting zazen at BZC, receiving Dharma transmission from Weitsman in 1988. In 1979 the centre relocated to its current location on Russell Street—and today houses a small group of residents who live on site. BZC has an active community and a full schedule of zen service, student talks, dharma talks, and zazen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blanche Hartman</span> Zen Buddhist leader (1926–2016)

Zenkei Blanche Hartman was a Soto Zen teacher practicing in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. From 1996 to 2002 she served two terms as co-abbess of the San Francisco Zen Center. She was the first woman to assume such a leadership position at the center. A member of the American Zen Teachers Association, Blanche was especially known for her expertise in the ancient ritual of sewing a kesa. Hartman became known for her attention to issues women face; she and her late husband Lou Hartman had four children, eight grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">White Plum Asanga</span>

White Plum Asanga, sometimes termed White Plum Sangha, is a Zen school in the Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi lineage, created by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi. It consists of Maezumi's Dharma heirs and subsequent successors and students. A diverse organization spread across the United States and with a small presence in Europe, the White Plum Asanga

[I]ncludes teachers who represent the spectrum of styles to be found to American Zen—socially engaged Buddhism, family practice, Zen and the arts, secularized Zen, and progressive traditionalism."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Tenshin Fletcher</span> British-born American Zen-teacher

Charles Tenshin Fletcher is a British-born American Zen teacher.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yokoji Zen Mountain Center</span>

Yokoji Zen Mountain Center is a year-round Zen Buddhist training and retreat center located in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California. It is a 160 acres of sacred Native American land and wilderness.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Enkyo Pat O'Hara</span>

Enkyō Pat O'Hara is a Soto Zen priest and teacher in the Harada-Yasutani lineage of Zen Buddhism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerry Shishin Wick</span>

Gerry Shishin Wick is a Soto Zen roshi, author, oceanographer and abbot of Great Mountain Zen Center in Berthoud, Colorado, which he founded in 1996. He is one of the twelve Dharma Successors of the late Taizan Maezumi, receiving Dharma transmission and a Denkai from him in 1990. Prior to it, for 24 years he underwent Zen training with Maezumi, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and Sochu Suzuki Roshi. He remained the president of White Plum Asanga, a Zen school in the Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi lineage, from 2007 to 2014.

Zen master is a somewhat vague English term that arose in the first half of the 20th century, sometimes used to refer to an individual who teaches Zen Buddhist meditation and practices, usually implying longtime study and subsequent authorization to teach and transmit the tradition themselves.

Peter Schneider is a Sōtō Zen priest, founder of Beginner's Mind Zen Center, located in Northridge, California.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reb Anderson</span>

Tenshin Zenki Reb Anderson is an American Buddhist who is a Zen teacher in the Sōtō Zen tradition of Shunryu Suzuki. He is a Senior Dharma teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center and at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County, California, where he lives. According to author James Ishmael Ford, "Reb Anderson is one of the most prominent of contemporary Western Zen teachers."

Zen was introduced in the United States at the end of the 19th century by Japanese teachers who went to America to serve groups of Japanese immigrants and become acquainted with the American culture. After World War II, interest from non-Asian Americans grew rapidly. This resulted in the commencement of an indigenous American Zen tradition which also influences the larger western (Zen) world.


  1. Lawson, Dawn (2001). Suzuki, D. T. (1870–1966), the foremost exponent of Zen Buddhism in the West. American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.0801898. ISBN   978-0-19-860669-7.
  2. Kernan, Michael (March 19, 1974). "When East Meets West". The Washington Post.
  3. Berkley, Jack (June 26, 1975). "A Priest in Pursuit of Zen". The Montgomery Journal.
  4. von Sturmer, Richard (2000). "Mind to Mind". ZenBow. Numbers 2 & 3. XXII (Summer 2000): 25–27.
  5. Zen master who?: a guide to the people and stories of Zen By James Ishmael Ford
  6. "Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, Public Statement from the General Meeting of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives ".
  7. "Women ancestors document approved « Empty Nest Zendo". Archived from the original on 2013-11-11. Retrieved 2016-02-04.
  8. "Genpo Merzel Disrobes".
  9. Staff, Lion's Roar (15 February 2015). "Joshin Brian Byrnes appointed as Upaya vice-abbot – Lion's Roar" . Retrieved 2020-10-14.
  10. Enns, G. S. (2016-07-09). "Zen Fellowship of Bakersfield: Here and Now Newsletter – Summer 2016". Zen Fellowship of Bakersfield. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  11. Rebecca Li receives Dharma Transmission
  12. "Ron Hogen Green Receives Dharma Transmission in MRO". December 23, 2016.
  13. "Practice Leaders – Zen Mountain Monastery".
  14. "About". Vanessa Zuisei Goddard.
  15. "Linkedin page for Joshin Brian Brynes". Linked-in page for Joshin Brian Byrnes. 13 October 2020.