Influential Past Teachers

Birth Place
Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Foundation of Teaching
Zen Buddhism, Presence, Compassion

Example of Teaching
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ”



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Shunryu Suzuki

Shunryu Suzuki (18 May 1904 – 4 December 1971), was an influential Japanese Soto Zen
priest and founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the first Soto Zen training monastery in the United States. Suzuki went to San Francisco in 1959 at the age of fifty-five and was impressed by the seriousness and quality of “beginner’s mind” among Americans he met who were interested in Zen and decided to settle in San Francisco.

As moreand more people joined him in meditation, Zen Center came into being and he was its first abbot. Under his tutelage, independent branch groups were formed in Los Altos, Mill Valley, and Berkeley, and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and the City Center were acquired. Soon after his death his wish for  Zen Center to have a farm was fulfilled when Green Gulch Farm in Marin County was purchased.

Shunryū Suzuki is probably the most well-known of the early Zen pioneers in North America. His two dharma heirs, son Hoitsu Suzuki and the American Zentatsu Richard Baker, have together created a whole new generation of teachers actively passing on his lineage in the modern-day. His was truly a simplistic practice centered around shikantaza (or, just sitting).


    Articles and Posts

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    Suzuki Lecture: May 5, 1970

    by Shunryu Suzuki: Once a time of one thousand or two thousand is not so long time in comparison to our idea of time.  It is just, you know, one thousand or hundred years of time, maybe, one month or [...]

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    Reflections on Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

    by Ken Russell: Certain books are so outstanding that I find it hard to even begin to approach them. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is one of them. This is truly a gem, the only book by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, a [...]

  • views: 2588
    The Waterfall

    by Shunryu Suzuki: If you go to Japan and visit Eiheiji monastery, just before you enter you will see a small bridge called Hanshaku-kyo, which means “half-dipper bridge.” Whenever Dogen-zenji dipped water from the river, he used only half a [...]

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    Practicing Zazen

    Lecture Given by Suzuki Roshi, Fall, 1968, Sokoji This lecture is reprinted from the August and September 2001 Berkeley Zen Center Newsletter. Dogen Zenji said, “Don’t practice your way as if you were a blind man trying to figure out what [...]

  • views: 2521
    From a Lecture by Suzuki Roshi

    This lecture is reprinted from the June 2004 Berkeley Zen Center Newsletter. by Shunryu Suzuki: For many of you, Zen is some special teaching. But for us, Zen is Buddhism and not a special teaching distinct from the other schools of [...]

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  1. “Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
  2. “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ”
  3. “Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.”
  4. “Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see. You are one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true than you can hear.”
  5. “Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality.”
  6. “The most important point is to accept yourself and stand on your two feet.”
  7. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”
  8. “Enjoy your problems.”
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