The most prominent Sōtō Zen Buddhists around the world
Sōtō Zen or the Sōtō school is the largest of the three traditional sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism.
It is the Japanese line of the Chinese Cáodòng school, which was founded during the Tang dynasty by Dòngshān Liánjiè.
It emphasizes Shikantaza, meditation with no objects, anchors, or content.
The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Sōtō Zen Buddhists around the world
- 1.1 - Alan Senauke
- 1.2 - Edward Espe Brown
- 1.3 - Taigen Dan Leighton
- 1.4 - Shunryū Suzuki
- 1.5 - Sheng-yen
- 1.6 - Reb Anderson
- 1.7 - Mel Weitsman
- 1.8 - Maylie Scott
- 1.9 - Zoketsu Norman Fischer
- 1.10 - Kyoki Roberts
- 1.11 - Jiko Linda Cutts
- 1.12 - Jakusho Kwong
- 1.13 - Seirin Barbara Kohn
- 1.14 - Joan Halifax
- 1.15 - Issan Dorsey
- 1.16 - Shōhaku Okumura
- 1.17 - John Daido Loori
- 1.18 - Josho Pat Phelan
- 1.19 - Kangan Giin
- 1.20 - Kazuaki Tanahashi
- 1.21 - Richard Baker (Zen teacher)
- 1.22 - Angie Boissevain
- 1.23 - Brad Warner
- 1.24 - Peter Schneider (Zen priest)
- 1.25 - William Nyogen Yeo
- 1.26 - Claude AnShin Thomas
- 1.27 - Michael Wenger
- 1.28 - Dongshan Liangjie
- 1.29 - Dainin Katagiri
- 1.30 - Yvonne Rand
- 1.31 - Jan Chozen Bays
- 1.32 - Nonin Chowaney
- 1.33 - Rylend Grant
- 1.34 - Bonnie Myotai Treace
- 1.35 - Ryōkan
- 1.36 - Brian Victoria
- 1.37 - Shoryu Bradley
- 1.38 - Shuichi Thomas Kurai
- 1.39 - Sōyū Matsuoka
- 1.40 - Steve Hagen
- 1.41 - Suzuki Shōsan
- 1.42 - Bernie Glassman
- 1.43 - Taisen Deshimaru
- 1.44 - Taizan Maezumi
- 1.45 - Tettsū Gikai
- 1.46 - Wansong Xingxiu
- 1.47 - Xuyun
- 1.48 - Yōkō Senne
- 1.49 - Merle Kodo Boyd
- 1.50 - Daichi Sokei
- 1.51 - Kōbun Chino Otogawa
- 1.52 - Jakuen
- 1.53 - Dōgen
- 1.54 - Enkyo Pat O’Hara
- 1.55 - Gasan Jōseki
- 1.56 - Geoffrey Shugen Arnold
- 1.57 - Gerry Shishin Wick
- 1.58 - Gyokuko Carlson
- 1.59 - Houn Jiyu-Kennett
- 1.60 - Isshō Fujita
- 1.61 - Hongzhi Zhengjue
- 1.62 - Jishō Warner
- 1.63 - John Tesshin Sanderson
- 1.64 - Keizan
- 1.65 - Charles Tenshin Fletcher
- 1.66 - Koun Ejō
- 1.67 - Kōdō Sawaki
- 1.68 - Kōshū Itabashi
- 1.69 - Dongchu
- 1.70 - Duncan Ryūken Williams
- 1.71 - Gangoku Kankei
- 1.72 - Uchiyama Gudō
- 1.73 - Muhō Noelke
- 1.74 - Gentō Sokuchū
- 1.75 - Gudō Wafu Nishijima
- 1.76 - Kōshō Uchiyama
- 1.77 - Santōka Taneda
- 1.78 - Harada Daiun Sogaku
- 1.79 - Bokusan Nishiari
- 1.80 - Shunmyō Masuno
- 1.81 - Harvey Hilbert
- 1.82 - Menzan Zuihō
- 1.83 - Reirin Yamada
- 1.84 - Shi Yongxin
- 1.85 - Meihō Sotetsu
Sōtō Zen Buddhists around the world
With about 14,000 temples, Sōtō is one of the largest Japanese Buddhist organizations.
Sōtō Zen is now also popular in the West, and in 1996 priests of the Sōtō Zen tradition formed the Soto Zen Buddhist Association based in North America.
This is a list regrouping the most prominent Sōtō Zen Buddhists around the world.
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.
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.
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.
Sheng Yen, born Zhang Baokang, was a Taiwanese Buddhist monk, religious scholar, and writer. He was one of the mainstream teachers of Chan Buddhism. He was a 57th generational dharma heir of Linji Yixuan in the Linji school and a third-generation dharma heir of Hsu Yun. In the Caodong lineage, Sheng Yen was a 52nd-generation Dharma heir of Dongshan Liangjie (807-869), and a direct Dharma heir of Dongchu (1908–1977).
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Joan Jiko Halifax is an American Zen Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, ecologist, civil rights activist, hospice caregiver, and the author of several books on Buddhism and spirituality. She currently serves as abbot and guiding teacher of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Zen Peacemaker community which she founded in 1990. Halifax-roshi has received Dharma transmission from both Bernard Glassman and Thich Nhat Hanh, and previously studied with the Korean master Seung Sahn. In the 1970s she collaborated on LSD research projects with her ex-husband Stanislav Grof, in addition to other collaborative efforts with Joseph Campbell and Alan Lomax. She is founder of the Ojai Foundation in California, which she led from 1979 to 1989. As a socially engaged Buddhist, Halifax has done extensive work with the dying through her Project on Being with Dying. She is on the board of directors of the Mind and Life Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring the relationship of science and Buddhism.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kangan Giin was a disciple of Dōgen and the founder of the Higo school of Sōtō Zen Buddhism. It has been claimed that his father was Emperor Go-Toba or Emperor Juntoku. He did much evangelization work in Kyūshū, where he founded Daiji-ji (大慈寺) in Kumamoto. Before practicing with Dōgen, Giin started his Buddhist path as a Tendai monk. He later abandoned that school and became a member of Daruma School under Kakuzen Ekan. Along with his fellow students Tettsū Gikai and Gien, Giin became a student of Dōgen when Giin’s teacher Ekan himself became a student of Dōgen. Dōgen died without giving dharma transmission to Giin, but he received it later from Dōgen’s primary disciple, Koun Ejō.
Kazuaki Tanahashi is an accomplished Japanese calligrapher, Zen teacher, author and translator of Buddhist texts from Japanese and Chinese to English, most notably works by Dogen. He first met Shunryu Suzuki in 1964, and upon reading Suzuki’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind he stated, “I could see it’s Shobogenzo in a very plain, simple language.” He has helped notable Zen teachers author books on Zen Buddhism, such as John Daido Loori. A fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science—Tanahashi is also an environmentalist and peaceworker.
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.
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.
Brad Warner is an American Sōtō Zen monk, author, blogger, documentarian and punk rock bass guitarist.
He began practicing Zen Buddhism under his first teacher, Tim McCarthy.
Warner later studied with Gyomay Kubose.
While in Japan, he met and trained with Gudo Wafu Nishijima, a student of Rempo Niwa Zenji, who ordained him as a priest and named him as his dharma heir in 2000.
Also in 2007, Gudo Wafu Nishijima named Warner the leader of Dogen Sangha International which Nishijima had founded. Warner dissolved the organization in April 2012.
In 2012, Warner moved to California and started Dogen Sangha Los Angeles.
Peter Schneider (Zen priest)
Peter Schneider is a Sōtō Zen priest, founder of Beginner’s Mind Zen Center, located in Northridge, California.
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.
Claude AnShin Thomas
Claude Anshin Thomas is an American Zen Buddhist monk and Vietnam War veteran. He is an international speaker, teacher and writer, and an advocate of non-violence. Thomas was brought to Buddhism by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, and was ordained in 1995 by Tetsugen Bernard Glassman of the Zen Peacemaker Order. Thomas teaches Buddhist meditation practice and dharma to the public through social projects, talks, and retreats. Since 1994, Thomas has walked 19,000 miles (31,000 km) on peace pilgrimages throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. While walking, Thomas carries no money, and begs for food and shelter in the mendicant monk tradition. He is the author of At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace (2004) and founder of the Zaltho Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence.
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.
Dongshan Liangjie (807–869) was a Chan Buddhist monk of ninth-century China. He founded the Caodong school, which was transmitted to Japan in the thirteenth century by Dōgen and developed into the Sōtō school of Zen. Dongshan is also known for the poetic Five Ranks.
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.
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.
Jan Chozen Bays
Jan Chozen Bays, is a Zen teacher, author, mindful eating educator, and pediatrician specializing in work with abused children.
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.
Rylend Grant is a screenwriter, author, and Ringo Award-winning comic book creator from Detroit, MI. He is an ordained Soto Zen Buddhist monk.
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.
Ryōkan Taigu (良寛大愚) (1758–1831) was a quiet and unconventional Sōtō Zen Buddhist monk who lived much of his life as a hermit. Ryōkan is remembered for his poetry and calligraphy, which present the essence of Zen life. He is also known by the name Ryokwan in English.
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.
Shōryū Bradley is a Sōtō Zen priest and the founder and abbot of Gyobutsuji Zen Monastery located near Kingston, Arkansas.
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.
Dr. Soyu Matsuoka, along with Sokei-an and Nyogen Senzaki, was one of the early Zen teachers to make the United States his home.
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.
Suzuki Shōsan was a Japanese samurai who served under the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Shōsan was born in modern-day Aichi Prefecture of Japan. He participated in the Battle of Sekigahara and the Battle of Osaka before renouncing life as a warrior and becoming a Zen Buddhist monk in 1621.
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.
Taisen Deshimaru was a Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist teacher, who founded the Association Zen Internationale.
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.
Tettsū Gikai (徹通義介) is the third spiritual leader of the Sōtō Zen school of Buddhism in Japan. He began his Buddhist life as a student of the Darumashū’s Ekan, but later both became students of Eihei Dōgen’s newly established Sōtō school. Gikai received dharma transmission from Koun Ejō, Dōgen’s successor, and later became the third abbot of the school’s head temple, Eihei-ji. Shortly thereafter, he became embroiled in a leadership crisis known as the sandai sōron. Other monks contended that other students, namely Jakuen, Gien or Giin, had stronger claims to the abbacy. The controversy remained unresolved at the time of his death. His abbacy was unpopular with some monks because he introduced innovative practices aimed at making Sōtō more palatable with the Japanese laity, which some claimed Dōgen would have frowned upon. However, he also had many followers, and eventually his innovations became the standard form of Sōtō Zen. His leadership marked the first geographical expansion of the Sōtō school when he moved with his followers to Kaga Province. Most notably, his disciple Keizan Jōkin became the second most famous figure in the school’s history after Dōgen by generating mass appeal for Sōtō Zen and ultimately spreading the teachings to all corners of Japan.
Wansong Xingxiu or Wansong Yelao (1166–1246) was a Chinese Buddhist monk who lived under the Jin dynasty and Mongol Empire. He was an influential member of the Caodong school of Chan Buddhism.
Xuyun or Hsu Yun was a renowned Chinese Chan Buddhist master and one of the most influential Buddhist teachers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Yōkō Senne (永興詮慧), more often known simply as Senne (詮慧), was a Japanese Sōtō Zen monk who lived during the Kamakura period and was an important disciple of his sect’s founder, Eihei Dōgen. Initially a monk in the Tendai school, he later joined Dōgen at his first monastery, Kōshōhōrin-ji. He would go on to become Dōgen’s attendant (jisha) there, and he later compiled the first and ninth volumes of Dōgen’s collected works known as Eihei Kōroku. He is one of a small number of students believed to have received dharma transmission from Dōgen, along with Koun Ejō and Sōkai. According to legend, Dōgen even gave Senne the kāṣāya, or dharma robe, of Furong Daokai, a famous 11th century Chinese Zen master, which had in turn been allegedly given to Dōgen by his teacher Tiantong Rujing.
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.
Daichi Sokei (大智祖継) (1290-1366) was a Japanese Sōtō Zen monk famous for his Buddhist poetry who lived during the late Kamakura period and early Muromachi period. According to Steven Heine, a Buddhist studies professor, “Daichi is unique in being considered one of the great medieval Zen poets during an era when Rinzai monks, who were mainly located in Kyoto or Kamakura, clearly dominated the composition of verse.”
Kōbun Otogawa was an American Sōtō Zen priest.
Jìyuán, better known to Buddhist scholars by his Japanese name Jakuen, was a Chinese Zen Buddhist monk and a disciple of Rujing. Most of his life is known to us only through medieval hagiography, legends, and sectarian works. It is generally agreed, though, that during his time at Tiāntóng Mountain he befriended Dōgen who was also studying under Rujing. After Rujing’s death in 1228, Jakuen immigrated to Japan in order to join his friend’s emerging Sōtō school, but did not receive dharma transmission from Dōgen directly, rather his disciple Koun Ejō.
Dōgen Zenji, also known as Dōgen Kigen (道元希玄), Eihei Dōgen (永平道元), Kōso Jōyō Daishi (高祖承陽大師), or Busshō Dentō Kokushi (仏性伝東国師), was a Japanese Buddhist priest, writer, poet, philosopher, and founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan.
Enkyo Pat O’Hara
Enkyō Pat O’Hara is a Soto priest and teacher in the Harada-Yasutani lineage of Zen Buddhism.
Gasan Jōseki was a Japanese Soto Zen monk. He was a disciple of Keizan Jokin, and his disciples included Bassui Tokushō, Taigen Sōshin, Tsūgen Jakurei, Mutan Sokan, Daisetsu Sōrei, and Jippō Ryōshū.
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.
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.
Gyokuko Carlson is a Soto Zen roshi and abbess of Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon, United States.
Hōun Jiyu-Kennett, born Peggy Teresa Nancy Kennett, was a British roshi most famous for having been the first female to be sanctioned by the Sōtō School of Japan to teach in the West.
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.
Hongzhi Zhengjue, also sometimes called Tiantong Zhengjue (1091–1157), was an important Chinese Chan Buddhist monk who authored or compiled several influential texts. Hongzhi’s conception of silent illumination is of particular importance to the Chinese Caodong Chan and Japanese Sōtō Zen schools. Hongzhi was also the author of the Book of Equanimity, an important collection of kōans.
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.
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.
Keizan Jōkin, also known as Taiso Jōsai Daishi, is considered to be the second great founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan. While Dōgen, as founder of Japanese Sōtō, is known as Highest Patriarch , Keizan is often referred to as Great Patriarch .
Charles Tenshin Fletcher
Charles Tenshin Fletcher is a British-born American rōshi.
Koun Ejō (孤雲懐奘) (1198-1280) was the second patriarch of the Japanese Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism who lived during the Kamakura period. He was initially a disciple of the short-lived Darumashū sect of Japanese Zen founded by Nōnin, but later studied and received dharma transmission under the Sōtō schools founder Dōgen. Today Ejō is considered Dōgen’s spiritual successor by all existing branches of the Sōtō school. He is remembered today primarily as the author of the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, a collection of informal talks by Dōgen which Ejō recorded throughout his discipleship. He is also featured prominently in the Denkōroku, the first major piece of scripture produced in the Sōtō school after Dōgen, with his transmission story serving as the final koan. After Dōgen’s death, Ejō struggled to maintain leadership of the new Eihei-ji monastery, due in part to his lack of training in China that prevented him from completing the temple as a Chinese-style meditation hall, as well as unfamiliarity with Chinese-style monastic practices. He gave dharma transmission to Jakuen, Gikai, Gien and Giin, all of whom were originally students of Dōgen, but his failure to designate a clear heir himself led to a power struggle known as the sandai sōron that temporarily split the community.
Kodo Sawaki was a prominent Japanese Sōtō Zen teacher of the 20th century. He is considered to be one of the most significant Zen priests of his time for bringing Zen practice into the lives of laypeople and popularizing the ancient tradition of sewing the kesa. Peter Sloterdijk has called him “one of the most striking Zen masters of recent times.”
Kōshū Itabashi was a Sōtō Zen master who was the 23rd abbot of Sojiji, abbot of Gotanjoji in Takefu, Fukui, and abbot of Daijoji in Kanazawa, Ishikawa all in Japan.
Dongchu was a Chinese Ch’an Master in Mainland China and later in Taiwan, and also the teacher of respected modern-day Ch’an Master Sheng-yen. He is the 51st generation of Zen patriarch from the Caodong School. He also established several monasteries and organizations in Taiwan that continue to exist and expand to this very day, including Chung-hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture and Nung Chan Monastery.
Duncan Ryūken Williams is a scholar, writer, and Soto Zen Buddhist priest who is currently professor of religion and East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Southern California. He also serves as the director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. His research focuses on Zen Buddhism, Buddhism in America, and the mixed-race Japanese (hapa) experience.
Gangoku Kankei was a Sōtō Zen priest of the Edo period. He was the founding abbot of Shinpo-ji temple (新豊寺) in Nagoya Prefecture. The prominent modern Zen teachers Dainin Katagiri and Sawaki Kōdō both trace their lineages back to Gangoku.
Uchiyama Gudō was a Sōtō Zen Buddhist priest and anarcho-socialist activist executed in the High Treason Incident. He was one of few Buddhist leaders who spoke out against the Meiji government in its imperialist projects. Gudō was an outspoken advocate for redistributive land reform, overturning the Meiji emperor system, encouraging conscripts to desert en masse and advancing democratic rights for all. He criticized Zen leaders who claimed that low social position was justified by karma and who sold abbotships to the highest bidder.
Muhō Nölke (ネルケ無方) is a German-born Zen monk who was the abbot of Antai-ji, a Japanese Sōtō Zen temple in Shin’onsen in the Mikata District of Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture from 2002 until 2020. He has translated works of Dōgen and Kōdō Sawaki, and has authored five books in German and sixteen books in Japanese.
Gentō Sokuchū was a Sōtō Zen priest and the 50th abbot of Eihei-ji, the school’s head temple. He was part of a 17th and 18th century movement within the Sōtō school that sought to bring the school’s teachings back in line with those of the 13th century founding teacher, Dōgen. To this end, he edited major editions of works by Dōgen and succeeded in disseminating them widely. He is best remembered for compiling the Eihei Rules of Purity, a collection of writings by Dōgen laying out a strict code of conduct for monks. These rules had been largely unheeded in the school in the preceding several centuries, and Gentō used his high position as abbot of Eihei-ji to reintroduce and enforce them. His work on the Eihei Rules of Purity was completed in 1794 while he was serving as the eleventh abbot of Entsū-ji. The following year he became the 50th abbot of Eihei-ji. He was also involved in editing Dōgen’s master work, the Shōbōgenzō.
Gudo Wafu Nishijima was a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest and teacher.
Kosho Uchiyama was a Sōtō priest, origami master, and abbot of Antai-ji near Kyoto, Japan.
Taneda Santōka was the pen-name of a Japanese author and haiku poet. He is known for his free verse haiku — a style which does not conform to the formal rules of traditional haiku.
Harada Daiun Sogaku
Daiun Sogaku Harada was a Sōtō Zen monk who trained under both Sōtō and Rinzai teachers and became known for his teaching combining methods from both schools.
Bokusan Nishiari, was a prominent Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist monk during the Meiji Era. He is considered one of the most influential Sōtō priests of the modern era due to his elevation of the status of the school’s founder Eihei Dōgen, the many prominent positions he held during his lifetime, and his almost equally prolific disciples Sōtan Oka and Ian Kishizawa. Nishiari’s positions included abbot of Sōtō’s head temple Sōji-ji, professor at what would become Komazawa University, and chief priest, or kanchō, of the entire Sōtō school. His student Sōtan Oka was the first abbot of Antai-ji and a teacher to both Kōdō Sawaki and Hashimoto Ekō, each of whom are the source of Zen lineages in the United States. His student Ian Kishizawa taught Shunryū Suzuki, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. Though critical of Nishiari later in his life, the founder of the Sanbō Kyōdan sect Hakuun Yasutani also studied extensively with him and Kishizawa. The Buddhist studies scholar William Bodiford writes of Nishiari:Today, when someone remembers Dōgen or thinks of Sōtō Zen, most often that person automatically thinks of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō. This kind of automatic association of Dōgen with this work is very much a modern development. By the end of the fifteenth century most of Dōgen’s writings had been hidden from view in temple vaults where they became secret treasures … In earlier generations only one Zen teacher, Nishiari Bokusan (1821–1910), is known to have ever lectured on how the Shōbōgenzō should be read and understood.
Shunmyō Masuno is a Japanese monk and garden designer. He is chief priest of the Sōtō Zen temple Kenkō-ji, professor at Tama Art University, and president of a design firm that has completed numerous projects in Japan and overseas. He has been called “Japan’s leading garden designer”.
Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi is a psychotherapist and an expert on post-Vietnam stress syndrome. He is an ordained Soto Zen priest and the founding abbot of the Order of Clear Mind Zen and a leader of the Zen community in southern New Mexico. He was featured in a documentary on Vietnam Veterans that aired on both National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and PBS station KRWG-TV. During combat in the Vietnam War Hilbert was shot in the head, leaving him paralyzed on the left side of his body. Despite his injuries, Hilbert went on to college.
Menzan Zuihō was a Japanese Sōtō Zen scholar and abbot of the Zenjo-ji and Kuin-ji temples active during the Tokugawa period.
Dr. Reirin Yamada was a Sōtō Zen master who held many positions in his lifetime, including 75th Abbot of Eiheiji in Japan, Abbot of Zenshuji in Los Angeles, California, and President of Komazawa University.
Shi Yongxin is the current abbot of the Shaolin Temple. He is the thirteenth successor after Shi Xingzheng. He is the Chairman of the Henan Province Buddhists Association, a representative of the Ninth National People’s Congress and also one of the first Chinese monks ever to get an MBA degree.
Meihō Sotetsu (明峰素哲) (1277-1350) was a Japanese Sōtō Zen monk who lived during the late Kamakura period and early Muromachi period. He practiced with Keizan Jōkin, often considered the second most important figure in Sōtō Zen after Eihei Dōgen, for twenty-nine years and ultimately became his primary successor.