The most prominent American Zen Buddhists
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.
Though its origins are distant, today there are plenty of prominent American Zen Buddhists.
Table of Contents
- 1 - D. T. Suzuki
- 2 - Zoketsu Norman Fischer
- 3 - Taigen Dan Leighton
- 4 - Shunryū Suzuki
- 5 - Reb Anderson
- 6 - Edward Espe Brown
- 7 - Mel Weitsman
- 8 - John Daido Loori
- 9 - Hsuan Hua
- 10 - Issan Dorsey
- 11 - Jakusho Kwong
- 12 - Jan Chozen Bays
- 13 - Jiko Linda Cutts
- 14 - John Cage
- 15 - Michael Wenger
- 16 - Maylie Scott
- 17 - Peter Schneider (Zen priest)
- 18 - Philip Whalen
- 19 - Richard Baker (Zen teacher)
- 20 - Seirin Barbara Kohn
- 21 - Shōhaku Okumura
- 22 - William Nyogen Yeo
- 23 - Yvonne Rand
- 24 - Gil Fronsdal
- 25 - Alan Senauke
- 26 - Josho Pat Phelan
- 27 - Dainin Katagiri
- 28 - Angie Boissevain
- 29 - Maura O’Halloran
- 30 - Charles Tenshin Fletcher
- 31 - Blanche Hartman
- 32 - Joko Beck
- 33 - Shuichi Thomas Kurai
- 34 - Kurt Kankan Spellmeyer
- 35 - Kyoki Roberts
- 36 - Marian Derby
- 37 - Bonnie Myotai Treace
- 38 - Brian Victoria
- 39 - Jishō Warner
- 40 - Merle Kodo Boyd
- 41 - David Chadwick (writer)
- 42 - Michael Zimmerman (jurist)
- 43 - Nonin Chowaney
- 44 - Nyogen Senzaki
- 45 - Arthur Braverman
- 46 - Bernie Glassman
- 47 - Soenghyang
- 48 - John Tesshin Sanderson
- 49 - Steve Hagen
- 50 - Taizan Maezumi
- 51 - Dennis Merzel
- 52 - Enkyo Pat O’Hara
- 53 - Wu Kwang
- 54 - Geoffrey Shugen Arnold
- 55 - George Bowman (Zen master)
- 56 - Thích Thiên-Ân
- 57 - Gerry Shishin Wick
- 58 - Dae Kwang
- 59 - Gyokuko Carlson
- 60 - Philip Kapleau
- 61 - Claude Dalenberg
- 62 - Heng Sure
- 63 - Isshō Fujita
- 64 - Sherry Chayat
- 65 - Subong
- 66 - Soyen Shaku
- 67 - Andrew Joslyn
- 68 - Richard Machowicz
- 69 - Rob Mounsey
- 70 - Robert Kennedy (Jesuit)
- 71 - Robert Livingston (Zen teacher)
- 72 - Steve Jobs
- 73 - Ruth Ozeki
- 74 - Ruth Fuller Sasaki
- 75 - Wendy Egyoku Nakao
- 76 - Anthony Ervin
- 77 - Walter Nowick
- 78 - Anne Hopkins Aitken
- 79 - Anne Rudloe
- 80 - Stephanie Kaza
- 81 - Anthony Newman (musician)
- 82 - Sevan Ross
- 83 - Scott Shaw
- 84 - Danan Henry
- 85 - Philippe Coupey
- 86 - Chase Twichell
- 87 - Eido Tai Shimano
- 88 - Ezra Bayda
- 89 - Frank Herbert
- 90 - Garry Shandling
- 91 - Gary Snyder
- 92 - Geri Larkin
- 93 - Hakuun Yasutani
- 94 - Dae Gak
- 95 - Chrisann Brennan
- 96 - James H. Austin
- 97 - James Ishmael Ford
- 98 - Chris Kattan
- 99 - Cheri Huber
- 100 - Joseph Jarman
- 101 - Bodhin Kjolhede
- 102 - Albert Saijo
- 103 - Karuna Dharma
- 104 - Konrad Ryushin Marchaj
- 105 - Lee Carlson
- 106 - Lynn Flewelling
- 107 - Mary Farkas
- 108 - Bon Yeon
- 109 - Natalie Goldberg
- 110 - Ocean Vuong
- 111 - Paul Reps
- 112 - Peter Coyote
- 113 - Peter Cunningham (photographer)
- 114 - Peter Matthiessen
- 115 - Michael O’Keefe
D. T. Suzuki
Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki was a Japanese author of books and essays on Buddhism, Zen (Chan) and Shin that were instrumental in spreading interest in both Zen and Shin to the West. Suzuki was also a prolific translator of Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit literature. Suzuki spent several lengthy stretches teaching or lecturing at Western universities, and devoted many years to a professorship at Ōtani University, a Japanese Buddhist school.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Zoketsu Norman Fischer is an American poet, writer, and Soto Zen priest, teaching and practicing in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. He is a Dharma heir of Sojun Mel Weitsman, from whom he received Dharma transmission in 1988. Fischer served as co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center from 1995–2000, after which he founded the Everyday Zen Foundation in 2000, a network of Buddhist practice group and related projects in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Fischer has published more than twenty-five books of poetry and non-fiction, as well as numerous poems, essays and articles in Buddhist magazines and poetry journals.
Taigen Dan Leighton
Taigen Dan Leighton is a Sōtō priest and teacher, academic, and author. He is an authorized lineage holder and Zen teacher in the tradition of Shunryū Suzuki and is the founder and Guiding Teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, Illinois. Leighton is also an authorized teacher in the Japanese Sōtō School (kyōshi).
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.
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.”
Edward Espe Brown
“Kainei” Edward Espé Brown is an American Zen teacher and writer. He is the author of The Tassajara Bread Book, written at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, as well as other cookbooks that are still influential.
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.
John Daido Loori
John Daido Loori was a Zen Buddhist rōshi who served as the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and was the founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order and CEO of Dharma Communications. Daido Loori received shiho from Taizan Maezumi in 1986 and also received a Dendo Kyoshi certificate formally from the Soto school of Japan in 1994. In 1997, he received dharma transmission in the Harada-Yasutani and Inzan lineages of Rinzai Zen as well. In 1996 he gave dharma transmission to his student Bonnie Myotai Treace, in 1997 to Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, and in 2009 to Konrad Ryushin Marchaj. In addition to his role as a Zen Buddhist priest, Loori was an exhibited photographer and author of more than twenty books and was an avid naturalist.
Hsuan Hua, also known as An Tzu, Tu Lun and Master Hua by his Western disciples, was a Chinese monk of Chan Buddhism and a contributing figure in bringing Chinese Buddhism to the United States in the late 20th century.
Issan Dorsey, born Tommy Dorsey, Jr., was a Sōtō Zen monk and teacher, Dharma heir of Zentatsu Richard Baker and onetime abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center (HSZC) located in the Castro district of San Francisco, California. Earlier in his life he had worked as a prostitute and a drag queen, and had struggled at times with drug addiction. He died of complications from AIDS in 1990.
Jakusho Kwong, born William Kwong, is a Chinese-American Zen Buddhist teacher in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. He serves as head abbot of Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, of which he is founder. He received the title Dendo Kyoshi from the Soto School of Japan in 1995.
Jan Chozen Bays
Jan Chozen Bays, is a Zen teacher, author, mindful eating educator, and pediatrician specializing in work with abused children.
Jiko Linda Cutts
Eijun Linda Cutts is a Sōtō Zen priest practicing in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki, a Senior Dharma Teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center. Cutts is a Dharma heir of Tenshin Reb Anderson, having received Dharma transmission from him in 1996. She served as co-abbess of the San Francisco Zen Center from 2000 to 2007, and had first begun practice at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1971; later, she was ordained a priest by Zentatsu Richard Baker in 1975. Currently living at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, as abbess she had been aware of the significance in being a woman in a leadership position in religion that has historically been a patriarchy. In this vein, within her first year as abbess she instituted the ceremony in which female ancestors could be honored. She became Central Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center in 2014.
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer and music theorist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage’s romantic partner for most of their lives.
Dairyu Michael Wenger is a Sōtō Zen priest and current guiding teacher of Dragons Leap Meditation Center in San Francisco. Prior to establishing Dragons Leap in 2012, Wenger served as Dean of Buddhist Studies at the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) in San Francisco, California—where he has been a member since 1972. A Dharma heir of Sojun Mel Weitsman, Wenger is also a former president of the SFZC where he continues to serve on the Elders Council. He received his M.A. from The New School in New York, New York.
Maylie Scott, Buddhist name Kushin Seisho, was a Sōtō roshi who received Dharma transmission from Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1998 at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. She graduated from Harvard University in 1956 and obtained a master’s degree in social work from the University of California, Berkeley. According to the book The Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, “Maylie Scott described her primary teaching objective as empowering the sangha by making sure she is the facilitator, not the ‘star.'” In addition to her occupation as a social worker, she was also on the Board of Directors for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF). In addition to serving for the BPF, Scott was also involved with the Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement and frequently protested the import of weapons at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. A socially engaged Buddhist and teacher at the Berkeley Zen Center, Scott was known for her work in prisons and homeless shelters. Also, during the 1980s she studied under Maurine Stuart and, in April 2000, she founded Rin Shin-ji in Arcata, California. Professor Lloyd Fulton, of Humboldt State University, had once said of Scott that she is, “a strong-willed and organized woman.”
Peter Schneider (Zen priest)
Peter Schneider is a Sōtō Zen priest, founder of Beginner’s Mind Zen Center, located in Northridge, California.
Philip Glenn Whalen was an American poet, Zen Buddhist, and a key figure in the San Francisco Renaissance and close to the Beat generation.
Richard Baker (Zen teacher)
Richard Dudley Baker is an American Soto Zen master, the founder and guiding teacher of Dharma Sangha—which consists of Crestone Mountain Zen Center located in Crestone, Colorado and the Buddhistisches Studienzentrum (Johanneshof) in Germany’s Black Forest. As the American Dharma heir to Shunryu Suzuki, Baker assumed abbotship of the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) shortly before Suzuki’s death in 1971. He remained abbot there until 1984, the year he resigned his position after it was disclosed in the previous year that he and the wife of one of SFZC’s benefactors had been having an ongoing affair. Despite the controversy connected with his resignation, Baker was instrumental in helping the San Francisco Zen Center to become one of the most successful Zen institutions in the United States.
Seirin Barbara Kohn
Seirin Barbara Kohn is a Sōtō Zen teacher and head priest of The Austin Zen Center (AZC) in Austin, Texas, practicing in the lineage of Shunryū Suzuki. She was ordained as a Soto priest by Reb Anderson and received Dharma transmission from Zenkei Blanche Hartman—Kohn being Hartman’s first Dharma heir. The Austin Zen Center’s temple name, Zenkei-ji, is named after Blanche Hartman. Kohn became head priest and resident teacher of AZC on October 13, 2002. Before assuming her leadership of AZC, Kohn served as President of the San Francisco Zen Center. Kohn is a supporter of LGBT rights, having been known to offer “commitment ceremonies” for same-sex couples, stating, “I simply treat them all the same.”
Shōhaku Okumura is a Japanese Sōtō Zen priest and the founder and abbot of the Sanshin Zen Community located in Bloomington, Indiana, where he and his family currently live. From 1997 until 2010, Okumura also served as Director of the Sōtō Zen Buddhism International Center in San Francisco, California, which is an administrative office of the Sōtō school of Japan.
William Nyogen Yeo
William Nyogen Yeo is spiritual director of Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles, California, one of the twelve Dharma Successors of the late Taizan Maezumi. He is a member of the American Zen Teachers Association.
Yvonne Rand was a “lay householder” Soto Zen priest and guiding teacher of Goat-in-the-Road located in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California, a meditation center which practices predominantly Soto Zen but also incorporates elements of Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism.
Gil Fronsdal is a Norwegian-born, American Buddhist teacher, writer and scholar based in Redwood City, California. He has been practicing Buddhism of the Sōtō Zen and Vipassanā sects since 1975, and is currently teaching the practice of Buddhism in the San Francisco Bay Area. Having been taught by the Vipassanā practitioner Jack Kornfield, Fronsdal is part of the Vipassanā teachers’ collective at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He was ordained as a Sōtō Zen priest at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1982, and was a Theravāda monk in Burma in 1985. In 1995, he received Dharma transmission from Mel Weitsman, the abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center.
Hozan Alan Senauke is a Soto Zen priest, folk musician and poet residing at the Berkeley Zen Center (BZC) in Berkeley, California, where he currently serves as Abbot. He is a former Executive Director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), holding that position from 1991 to 2001. Alan also was a founder of Think Sangha, a group of writers and intellectuals that are affiliated with the BPF and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Think Sangha is a group of individuals who meet together to identify some of the most pressing social issues that they feel engaged Buddhists should be addressing. Senauke, who was born to a secular Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, arrived in the San Francisco Bay area in 1968 and soon started sitting at the Berkeley Zen Center. Along with his Dharma sister Maylie Scott, Senauke received Dharma transmission from his teacher Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1998 during a ceremony at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.
Josho Pat Phelan
Josho Pat Phelan, Buddhist name Taitaku Josho, is a Sōtō Zen priest and current abbot of Chapel Hill Zen Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina—she has served as abbot there since 2000. Before coming to Chapel Hill, she practiced for twenty years at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and the San Francisco Zen Center. Phelan began leading the Chapel Hill Zen Center in 1991, when there were just eight members including herself. As of 2001, the center had forty-five members and provides meditation instruction for approximately one-hundred and fifty people every year. Ordained as a priest by Zentatsu Richard Baker in 1977, she began Zen practice in 1969 and has also trained under Sojun Mel Weitsman, Robert Baker Aitken and Tenshin Reb Anderson Additionally, Phelan is a member of the American Zen Teachers Association, and in 1995 she received shiho from Sojun Weitsman at Tassajara.
Jikai Dainin Katagiri , was a Sōtō Zen priest and teacher, and the founding abbot of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he served from 1972 until his death from cancer in 1990. He is also the founder of Hokyoji Zen Practice Community in Eitzen, Minnesota. Before becoming first abbot of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, Katagiri had worked at the Zenshuji Soto Zen Mission in Los Angeles and had also been of great service to Shunryu Suzuki at the San Francisco Zen Center, particularly from 1969 until Suzuki’s death in 1971. Katagiri was important in helping bring Zen Buddhism from Japan to the United States during its formative years. He is also the credited author of several books compiled from his talks.
Angie Boissevain is a Sōtō Zen roshi leading the Floating Zendo in San Jose, California. A Dharma heir of Vanja Palmers, for many years she was director and then teacher of Jikoji in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today (2012) she leads meditation retreats in California.
Maura “Soshin” O’Halloran was an Irish Zen Buddhist monk. She is known for her book Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, which was posthumously published, and for being one of the “first of few Western women allowed to practice in a traditional Japanese Zen monastery”.
Charles Tenshin Fletcher
Charles Tenshin Fletcher is a British-born American rōshi.
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.
Charlotte Joko Beck was an American Zen teacher and the author of the books Everyday Zen: Love and Work and Nothing Special: Living Zen.
Shuichi Thomas Kurai
Shuichi Thomas Kurai was a Japanese-born Soto Zen roshi and head abbot of Sozenji Buddhist Temple in Montebello, California. Raised in a Soto temple in Japan, he moved to California with his parents in 1952, where his father served as priest at the Zenshuji Soto Mission in Little Tokyo. In addition to his role as a Zen teacher, Kurai also instructed others in how to play taiko. Kurai was a member of the American Zen Teachers Association.
Kurt Kankan Spellmeyer
Kurt Spellmeyer is a Zen teacher and professor in the English Department at Rutgers University.
Rev. Kyōki Roberts (OPW) is a retired American Sōtō Zen priest. The single Dharma heir of Nonin Chowaney-roshi, Roberts received Dharma transmission in June 2001 and was a founding member of an organization of Sōtō priests known as the Order of the Prairie Wind (OPW), which is now defunct. Having studied Zen in Japan at the Zuiō-ji (瑞応寺) and Shōgo-ji (聖護寺) monasteries and in the United States at Minnesota Zen Center, San Francisco Zen Center, and Green Gulch Farm, Roberts was certified by the Sōtō School of Japan.
Marion Derby was an author, artist, and zen student of Shunryū Suzuki.
Bonnie Myotai Treace
Bonnie Myotai Treace is a Zen teacher and priest, the founder of Hermitage Heart, and formerly the abbot of the Zen Center of New York City (ZCNYC). She teaches currently in Black Mountain and Asheville, North Carolina. Myotai Sensei is the first Dharma successor of John Daido Loori, Roshi, in the Mountains and Rivers Order (MRO), having received shiho, dharma transmission, from him in 1996. Serving and training for over two decades in the MRO, she was the establishing teacher and first abbess of the ZCNYC. At the Monastery she was the Vice Abbot, the first director of Dharma Communications, editor of Mountain Record, and coordinator of the affiliates of the MRO. Treace, ordained as a Zen monastic, now lives as a lay teacher, working primarily with her long-term students.
Brian Andre Victoria is an American educator, Doctor of Philosophy, writer and Buddhist priest in the Sōtō Zen sect. He has published numerous works on the relationship of religion to violence, with a focus on the relationship between Buddhism and Japanese militarism around World War II.
Jisho Warner is a Sōtō Zen priest and abiding teacher of Stone Creek Zen Center in Sonoma County, California. Warner is a former president of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, and its first female and first LGBTQ president. Having graduated from Harvard University in 1965, she became an artist and freelance editor. She has edited books by Robert Thurman, Ed Brown, Wendy Johnson, Jane Hirshfield, Dainin Katagiri, and many others. She is a co-editor of the book Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama, whose teachings she first encountered in the 1980s while practicing at the Pioneer Valley Zendo in Massachusetts under Koshi Ichida.
Merle Kodo Boyd
Merle Kodo Boyd was an American Zen Buddhist nun. She was the first African-American woman to receive Dharma transmission in Zen Buddhism, as a Dharma heir of Wendy Egyoku Nakao in the White Plum Asanga. Receiving transmission in March 2006, she led the Lincroft Zen Sangha in New Jersey that is currently part of the Zen Peacemaker Circle established by Tetsugen Bernard Glassman and his wife Sandra Jishu Holmes.
David Chadwick (writer)
David Chadwick grew up in Texas and moved to California to study Zen as a student of Shunryu Suzuki in 1966. Chadwick was ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1971, shortly before Suzuki’s death. He assisted in the operation of the San Francisco Zen Center for a number of years.
Michael Zimmerman (jurist)
Michael D. Zimmerman is a prominent attorney, a former justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and a Zen teacher at Two Arrows Zen (TAZ) located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rev. Nonin Chowaney (OPW) is a retired American Soto Zen priest and brush calligrapher. A Dharma heir of the late Dainin Katagiri-roshi, Chowaney received Dharma transmission in 1989 and was the founder of an organization of Soto priests known as The Order of the Prairie Wind (OPW), which is now defunct. Having studied Zen in Japan as well as at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Chowaney was certified by the Soto School of Japan.
Nyogen Senzaki was a Rinzai Zen monk who was one of the 20th century’s leading proponents of Zen Buddhism in the United States.
Arthur Braverman is an American author and translator, primarily translating from Japanese to English. A Zen Buddhist practitioner, Braverman lived in Japan for seven years and studied at Antai-ji temple in 1969 training under Kosho Uchiyama. In 1978 he returned to the United States and studied classical Japanese at Columbia University. He lives in Ojai, CA with his wife.
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.
Soeng Hyang Soen Sa Nim is a Zen Master and the Guiding Teacher of the international Kwan Um School of Zen, and successor to the late Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim.
John Tesshin Sanderson
John Tesshin Sanderson is a Soto Zen roshi of the White Plum Asanga and spiritual director of the Centro Zen de México in Coyoacán, Mexico City, one of only twelve Dharma Successors of the late Taizan Maezumi. He moved to Mexico in 1987 at the request of Maezumi, and has been teaching there ever since.
Stephen Tokan “Steve” Hagen, Rōshi, is the founder and head teacher of the Dharma Field Zen Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a Dharma heir of Dainin Katagiri-roshi. Additionally, he is the author of several books on Buddhism. Among them as of 2003, Buddhism Plain & Simple was one of the top five bestselling Buddhism books in the United States. In 2012, Hagen updated and revised How the World Can Be the Way It Is and published it as Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense—an Inquiry into Science, Philosophy, and Perception.
Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi was a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher and rōshi, and lineage holder in the Sōtō, Rinzai, and Sanbo Kyodan traditions of Zen. He combined the Rinzai use of kōans and the Sōtō emphasis on shikantaza in his teachings, influenced by his years studying under Hakuun Yasutani in Sanbo Kyodan. He founded or co-founded several institutions and practice centers, including the Zen Center of Los Angeles, White Plum Asanga, Yokoji Zen Mountain Center and the Zen Mountain Monastery.
Dennis Merzel is an American Zen and spirituality teacher, also known as Genpo Merzel.
Enkyo Pat O’Hara
Enkyō Pat O’Hara is a Soto priest and teacher in the Harada-Yasutani lineage of Zen Buddhism.
Wu Kwang Soen Sa Nim (1950–present), born Richard Shrobe, is head Zen teacher at Chogye International Zen Center of New York, a practice center of the Kwan Um School of Zen. Before coming to Zen practice Richard studied Hinduism under Swami Satchidananda. He is a social worker who incorporates Gestalt therapy in his counseling. In 1975 Wu Kwang began his Zen practice and received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn in 1993. He is also a jazz musician.
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold is Rōshi of the Mountains and Rivers Order (MRO) founded by John Daido Loori, from whom Shugen received shiho, or dharma transmission, in July 1997. As a lineage holder in the Sōtō tradition, Shugen currently serves as head of MRO and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York, where he serves as the full-time resident teacher. Trained as a musician, Shugen was introduced to and began practicing Zen meditation in 1975. He began his formal training at Zen Mountain Monastery in 1984, and received tokudo, full monastic ordination, in 1988. Shugen’s teachings have appeared in various Buddhist publications, including Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, The Mountain Record and in The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 and 2009. His dharma talks are available for sale through the Monastery Store and as a free podcast at WZEN.org. He is the author of O, Beautiful End, a collection of Zen memorial poems, published by Dharma Communications in 2012.
George Bowman (Zen master)
George Bowman, or Bo Mun Soen sa Nim, is a Zen master and licensed psychotherapist living at Furnace Mountain in Clay City, Kentucky. He received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim in 1992, and is a former teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen. He was a founding member of the Providence Zen Center in 1972 and also did koan study with Joshu Sasaki from 1977 to 2003. Furnace Mountain is run by Dae Gak Soen Sa Nim—another former Kwan Um line teacher. He was a resident teacher at the Cambridge Buddhist Association from 1991 to 1999, and in 1994 became a guiding teacher of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy. Today he travels to Boston, Massachusetts most months to lead a “floating zendo” named the Single Flower Sangha. Bowman has given inka to his student David Dayan Rynick, who was the first individual to be acknowledged as a teacher outside of the Kwan Um lineage.
Thích Thiên-Ân (釋天恩) was a teacher and Buddhist monk of Vietnamese Thiền (Zen) Buddhism and was active in the United States from 1966 to 1980. He was ordained at Chua Chau Lam in Hue, Vietnam.
Gerry Shishin Wick
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.
Dae Kwang is a Soen Sa Nim and is the current guiding teacher of the Providence Zen Center. He was ordained as a monk in 1987 and received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn in 1996. He also serves as head abbot of the entire lineage, ranking just below Soeng Hyang.
Gyokuko Carlson is a Soto Zen roshi and abbess of Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon, United States.
Philip Kapleau was an American teacher of Zen Buddhism in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition, a blending of Japanese Sōtō and Rinzai schools. He also advocated strongly for Buddhist vegetarianism.
Claude Dalenberg was a Zen priest ordained by Shunryū Suzuki and a dharma successor of Tenshin Reb Anderson.
Heng Sure is an American Chan Buddhist monk. He is a senior disciple of Hsuan Hua, and is currently the director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, a branch monastery of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association. He is probably best known for a pilgrimage he made for two years and six months from 1977–1979. Called a three steps, one bow pilgrimage, Heng Sure and his companion Heng Chau, bowed from South Pasadena to Ukiah, California, a distance of 800 miles, seeking world peace.
Isshō Fujita was born in Niihama, Ehime, Japan and was head teacher at Valley Zendo, a Sōtō Zen practice center in Charlemont, Massachusetts, USA. Fujita had done studies in child psychology at Tokyo University Graduate School, but abandoned them and became a Zen monk. At the age of twenty-nine, on 8 December, Fujita was ordained a Zen priest, along with Ryōdō Yamashita, by Kōhō Watanabe at Antai-ji temple.
Shinge-shitsu Roko Sherry Chayat is the current abbot of the Zen Studies Society, based at the International Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji monastery, outside Livingston Manor, NY, and at the New York Zendo Shobo-Ji on the Upper east Side of Manhattan. She is also the abbot of the Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-ji. Chayat is an advocate for the use of meditation in medical settings, with Hoen-ji running the program Well/Being Contemplative Practices for Healing for healthcare professionals.
Su Bong was a Soen Sa Nim in the Kwan Um School of Zen, the designated heir of Seung Sahn’s lineage. Of both Korean and Chinese heritage, he was born in Kona, Hawaii. Su Bong began his practice with Seung Sahn in 1974, helping to establish many Zen groups and temples for the lineage in the years that followed. In 1981 he received inka from Seung Sahn, making him a Ji Do Poep Sa Nim (JDPSN) in the lineage and, in 1983, he was ordained a sunim and given the Buddhist name Mu Deung. He received Dharma transmission on October 11, 1992. On July 17, 1994, Su Bong died of unknown causes at a retreat while conducting kong-an interviews in Hong Kong. Today the Kwan Um School of Zen has a practice center in his name located in Hong Kong and named Su Bong Zen Monastery.
Soyen Shaku was the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States. He was a rōshi of the Rinzai school and was abbot of both Kenchō-ji and Engaku-ji temples in Kamakura, Japan. Soyen was a disciple of Imakita Kosen.
Andrew Joslyn is an American composer, orchestrator, film scorer, and violinist in various genres.
Richard John “Mack” Machowicz was a Navy SEAL and the host of the Discovery Channel and Military Channel show Future Weapons. He was the newest member on Spike’s show Deadliest Warrior.
Rob Mounsey is an American musician, composer, and arranger.
Robert Kennedy (Jesuit)
Robert Edward Kennedy is an American Jesuit priest, professor of theology, psychoanalyst and Zen rōshi in the White Plum lineage.
Robert Livingston (Zen teacher)
Robert Livingston was an American Zen teacher.
Steven Paul Jobs was an American entrepreneur, inventor, business magnate, media proprietor, and investor. He was the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple; the chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar; a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. He is widely recognized as a pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, along with his early business partner and fellow Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Ruth Ozeki is an American-Canadian author, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. Her books and films, including the novels My Year of Meats (1998), All Over Creation (2003), and A Tale for the Time Being (2013), seek to integrate personal narrative and social issues, and deal with themes relating to science, technology, environmental politics, race, religion, war and global popular culture. Her novels have been translated into more than thirty languages. She teaches creative writing at Smith College where she is the Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities in the Department of English Language and Literature.
Ruth Fuller Sasaki
Ruth Fuller Sasaki, born Ruth Fuller, was an American writer and Buddhist teacher. She was important figure in the development of Buddhism in the United States. As Ruth Fuller Everett, she met and studied with Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki in Japan in 1930. In 1938, she became a principal supporter of the Buddhist Society of America, in New York. She married Sokei-an, the Zen priest in residence there, in 1944, but he died within a year. In 1949, she went to Kyoto to find another roshi to live and teach in New York, to complete translations of key Zen texts, and to pursue her own Zen training, receiving sanzen from Gotō Zuigan.
Wendy Egyoku Nakao
Wendy Egyoku Nakao Roshi is the abbot emeritus and head teacher of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. She moved into the center in 1978 and later received Dharma transmission and inka from Bernard Glassman. She assumed her abbotship in 1999. According to James Ishmael Ford, “Under her leadership, the center expanded its mission to be family-friendly and socially active, creating an important experiment in the development of Western Zen.” Nakao also conferred Dharma transmission to the first ever African-American woman, Merle Kodo Boyd. Nakao is a member of the American Zen Teachers Association. In May 2019 Egyoku Nakao stepped down as abbot, but remains its head teacher, to devote herself to further developing ZCLA’s teaching curriculum. She at that time installed Deborah Faith-Mind Thoresen as the ZCLA’s fourth abbot. Her book of modern koans, co-written with rōshi Eve Marko, was published in 2020.
Anthony Lee Ervin is an American competition swimmer who has won four Olympic medals and two World Championship golds. At the 2000 Summer Olympics, he won a gold medal in the men’s 50-meter freestyle, and earned a silver medal as a member of the second-place United States relay team in the 4×100-meter freestyle event. He was the second swimmer of African descent after Anthony Nesty of Suriname to win an individual gold medal in Olympic swimming. He is the first United States citizen of African descent to medal gold in an individual Olympic swimming event. In 2017 he knelt for the National Anthem prior to the start of a competition in Brazil.
Walter Nowick was an American teacher of Rinzai Zen. He was a Juilliard-trained pianist and a veteran of World War II. He studied Zen in Japan for 16 years while teaching university-level piano and voice, then returned to the United States to teach music and Zen in Surry, Maine, where he founded Moonspring Hermitage. He later founded the Surry Opera Company in the mid-1980s and retired from formal Zen teaching in 1985.
Anne Hopkins Aitken
Anne Arundel Hopkins Aitken was an American Zen Buddhist, in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. She co-founded the Honolulu Diamond Sangha in 1959 together with her husband, Robert Baker Aitken. She purchased both of its properties: the Koko An Zendo and Maui Zendo. Honolulu Diamond Sangha has been considered “one of several pivotal Buddhist organizations critical to the development of Zen” in western countries. Anne Aitken was also one of the original founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
Anne Rudloe was an American marine biologist. She was the co-founder of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Panacea, Florida.
Stephanie Kaza is Professor Emeritus in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont (UVM). She is a writer, a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist, and an active proponent of religious dialogue. She taught religion and ecology. She combines an academic background in science, education, and theology in her writing, which is often categorized under the term spiritual ecology. After 24 years at UVM, she retired in 2015.
Anthony Newman (musician)
Anthony Newman is an American classical musician. While mostly known as an organist, Newman is also a harpsichordist, pedal harpsichordist, pianist, fortepianist, composer, conductor, writer, and teacher. A specialist in music of the Baroque period, particularly the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Newman considers himself to have played an important role in the movement towards historically informed performance. He has collaborated with noted musicians such as Kathleen Battle, Julius Baker, Itzhak Perlman, Eugenia Zukerman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Leonard Bernstein, Michala Petri and Wynton Marsalis for whom he arranged and conducted In Gabriel’s Garden, the most popular classical record of 1996.
Sevan Ross is a Zen Buddhist priest with training backgrounds in both the Sōtō and Rinzai traditions in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. He is the former spiritual director of the Chicago Zen Center in Evanston, IL.
Scott Shaw is an American author, martial artist, and filmmaker.
Michael Danan Henry is an American Roshi in the Harada-Yasutani lineage, a Zen sect derived from both the Rinzai and Sōtō traditions of Japanese Zen, practicing in the Diamond Sangha lineage of Robert Baker Aitken. The founding teacher of the Zen Center of Denver, Henry received Dharma transmission from Philip Kapleau Roshi in 1989 and was subsequently recognized as a Diamond Sangha teacher and Diamond Sangha master by Robert Baker Aitken. Danan Henry Roshi created and implemented the Monastery Without Walls training program; the Lotus in the Flame Lay Order; and the “Every Minute Zen” mindfulness practice as abbot and spiritual director of the Zen Center of Denver.
Philippe Rei Ryu Coupey, born in New York City, is a Zen monk in the Sōtō line of Taisen Deshimaru.
Chase Twichell is an American poet, professor, publisher, and, in 1999, the founder of Ausable Press. Her most recent poetry collection is Things as It Is. Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been earned her Claremont Graduate University’s prestigious $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. She is the winner of several awards in writing from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and The Artists Foundation. Additionally, she has received fellowships from both the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, Field, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Nation, and The Yale Review.
Eido Tai Shimano
Eido Tai Shimano was a Rinzai Zen Buddhist roshi. He was the founding abbot of the New York Zendo Shobo-Ji in Manhattan and Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji monastery in the Catskill mountains of New York; he was forced to resign from that position of 40 years after revelations of a series of sexual relationships with and alleged sexual harassment of female students. This case was never brought to court and Shimano never admitted any wrong doing.
Ezra Bayda is an American author and Zen teacher. He was the teacher at the Zen Center of San Diego, a sangha in Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, and with the Santa Rosa Zen Group in Santa Rosa, California, from 1998 to 2019. He is a member of the Ordinary Mind Zen School. He is also the author of several books, best known for his teachings on working with difficulties and fear in everyday life.
Franklin Patrick Herbert Jr. was an American science fiction author best known for the 1965 novel Dune and its five sequels. Though he became famous for his novels, he also wrote short stories and worked as a newspaper journalist, photographer, book reviewer, ecological consultant, and lecturer.
Garry Emmanuel Shandling was an American actor, comedian, writer, director, and producer.
Gary Snyder is an American man of letters. Perhaps best known as a poet, he is also an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist with anarchoprimitivist leanings. He has been described as the “poet laureate of Deep Ecology”. Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Book Award. His work, in his various roles, reflects an immersion in both Buddhist spirituality and nature. He has translated literature into English from ancient Chinese and modern Japanese. For many years, Snyder was an academic at the University of California, Davis and for a time served as a member of the California Arts Council.
P’arang Geri Larkin, born Geraldine Kapp Willis, is founder and former head teacher of Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple, a Korean Chogye center in Detroit, Michigan. The name Geri Larkin is a pen name. She graduated from Barnard College in 1973. Larkin, daughter of a wealthy IBM executive, left her successful business life as a management consultant to enter a Buddhist seminary for three years, where she was ordained. When she left she sold her material possessions and bought a brick duplex in downtown Detroit which, with the help of local residents she cleaned up and turned into Still Point. Larkin’s articulation of the concept of “right livelihood” was highly influential on Ann Perrault and Jackie Victor, two of her students who founded Avalon International Breads in Detroit in 1997. She has been a longtime columnist for Spirituality & Health magazine.
Hakuun Yasutani was a Sōtō rōshi, the founder of the Sanbo Kyodan organization of Japanese Zen.
Dae Gak, born Robert Genthner, is a Zen master and the guiding teacher of Furnace Mountain in Clay City, Kentucky, a Korean Buddhist temple and retreat center co-founded in 1986 with Seung Sahn. He received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn in 1994, and now teaches independently of Seung Sahn’s Kwan Um School of Zen. In addition to Furnace Mountain he serves as guiding teacher for other Zen groups in North America, Germany and England. He also holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is currently a licensed psychologist in the state of Kentucky.
Chrisann Brennan is an American painter and memoirist. She is the author of The Bite in the Apple, an autobiography about her relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. They had one child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
James H. Austin
James H. Austin is an American neurologist and author. He is the author of the book Zen and the Brain. It establishes links between the neurophysiology of the human brain and the practice of meditation, and won the Scientific and Medical Network Book Prize for 1998. He has written five sequels: Zen-Brain Reflections (2006), Selfless Insight (2009), Meditating Selflessly (2011), Zen-Brain Horizons (2014) and Living Zen Remindfully (2016).
James Ishmael Ford
James Ishmael Ford is an American Zen Buddhist priest and a retired Unitarian Universalist minister. He was born in Oakland, California on July 17, 1948. He earned a BA in psychology from Sonoma State University, as well as an M.Div. and an MA in the Philosophy of Religion, both from the Pacific School of Religion.
Christopher Lee Kattan is an American actor, comedian, and author. He is best known for his work as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, for playing Doug Butabi in A Night at the Roxbury, and his roles as Bob on the first four seasons of The Middle and Bunnicula in Bunnicula.
Cheri Huber is an American meditation teacher in the Sōtō School of Zen Buddhism tradition.
Joseph Jarman was an American jazz musician, composer, poet, and Shinshu Buddhist priest. He was one of the first members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Bodhin Kjolhede is a Sōtō/Rinzai Zen roshi and Abbot of the Rochester Zen Center (RZC), a position he assumed when Philip Kapleau retired from teaching in 1986. He was ordained as a priest in 1976 and received Dharma transmission in 1986. He has authorized six of his disciples as teachers in their own right: Sante Poromaa, Kanja Odland, Sevan Ross, Gerardo Gally, Amala Wrightson, and Robert Goldmann. Additionally, Kjolhede has been offered transmission in a Sōtō lineage, but has thus far chosen to decline.
Albert Fairchild Saijo was a Japanese-American poet associated with the Beat Generation. He and his family were imprisoned as part of the United States government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, during which time he wrote editorials on his experiences of internment for his high school newspaper. Saijo went on to serve in the U.S. Army and study at the University of Southern California. Later he became associated with Beat Generation figures including Jack Kerouac, with whom he wrote, traveled and became friends.
Karuna Dharma was an American Buddhist scholar and nun. She was the first American-born woman to become a fully ordained Buddhist nun in the Vietnamese tradition. She was the abbess of the International Buddhist Meditation Center of Los Angeles.
Konrad Ryushin Marchaj
Konrad Ryushin Marchaj was from October 2009 to January 2015 abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, the main house of the Mountains and Rivers Order (MRO) of Zen Buddhism, founded by John Daido Loori, Roshi, from whom Marchaj received shiho in June 2009. Ryushin entered into full-time residence at the Monastery in 1992 and became abbot there following Daido Roshi’s death in 2009.
Lee Carlson is an American writer best known for his memoir, Passage to Nirvana, about surviving traumatic brain injury. Prior to publishing Passage to Nirvana he was a magazine and newspaper journalist specializing in writing about outdoor adventure sports such as skiing and scuba diving. He was senior travel editor for Skiing magazine, and has worked for media outlets such as Outside magazine, Newsday, NBC Sports, ESPN and many others.
Lynn Flewelling is an American fantasy fiction author.
Mary Farkas was the director of the First Zen Institute of America (FZIA), running the center’s administrative functions for many years following the death of her teacher (Sokei-an) in 1945. Though she was not a teacher of Zen Buddhism in any traditional sense of the word, she did help to carry on the lineage of Sokei-an and also was editor of the FZIA’s journal, Zen Notes, starting with Volume 1 in 1954. Additionally, she also edited books about Sokei-an, i.e. “The Zen Eye” and “Zen Pivots.” Through her transcriptions of his talks, the institute was able to continue on the lineage without having a formal teacher.
Soensanim Bon Yeon is the dharma name and title of Jane McLaughlin-Dobisz. She is the guiding teacher of the Cambridge Zen Center of the Kwan Um School of Zen in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She received dharma transmission in 2000, and is also a published author and editor of the book The Whole World is a Single Flower by Seungsahn.
Natalie Goldberg is an American popular author and speaker. She is best known for a series of books which explore writing as Zen practice.
Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese American poet, essayist and novelist. Vuong is a recipient of the 2014 Ruth Lilly/Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2016 Whiting Award, and the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for his poetry. His debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, was published in 2019. He received a MacArthur Grant the same year.
Paul Reps was an American artist, poet, and author. He is best known for his unorthodox haiku-inspired poetry that was published from 1939 onwards. He is considered one of America’s first haiku poets.
Peter Coyote is an American actor, director, screenwriter, author and narrator of films, theatre, television, and audiobooks. He is perhaps best known for his work in various films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Cross Creek (1983), Jagged Edge (1985), Bitter Moon (1992), Kika (1993), Patch Adams (1998), Erin Brockovich (2000), A Walk to Remember (2002), and Femme Fatale (2002). He was also known as the “Voice of Oscar” for the 72nd Academy Awards ceremony, the first Oscars announcer to be seen on-camera.
Peter Cunningham (photographer)
Peter Cunningham is an American photographer who is best known for his concert and theatre photographs made in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s.
Peter Matthiessen was an American novelist, naturalist, wilderness writer, and zen teacher. A co-founder of the literary magazine The Paris Review, he was the only writer to have won the National Book Award in both nonfiction and fiction. He was also a prominent environmental activist.
Michael O’Keefe is an American actor, known for his roles as Danny Noonan in Caddyshack, Ben Meechum in The Great Santini, for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and Darryl Palmer in the Neil Simon movie The Slugger’s Wife. He also appeared as Fred on the television sitcom Roseanne from 1993 to 1995.