Suzuki, S.

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Shunryu Suzuki(1904 - 1971)

Shunryu Suzuki (鈴木 俊隆 Suzuki Shunryū, dharma name Shōgaku Shunryū 祥岳俊隆) (May 18, 1904–December 4, 1971) was a Sōtō Zen roshi (priest) who popularized Zen Buddhism in the United States, particularly around San Francisco. Born in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, Suzuki was occasionally mistaken for the Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki, to which Suzuki would reply, "No, he's the big Suzuki, I'm the little Suzuki."

In 1924 Shunryu enrolled in a Soto preparatory school in Tokyo not far from Shogan-ji, where he lived on the school grounds in the dorm. From 1925 to 1926 Suzuki did Zen training with Dojun Kato in Shizuoka at Kenko-in. He continued his schooling during this period. Here Shunryu became head monk for a 100 day retreat, after which he was no longer merely considered a novice. He had completed his training as a head monk.

In April 1926 Shunryu graduated from preparatory school and entered Komazawa Daigakurin, a university which also taught Soto Zen. During this period he continued his connections with So-on in Zoun-in, going back and forth whenever possible.

Some of his teachers here were discussing how Soto Zen might reach a bigger audience with students and, while Shunryu couldn't comprehend how Western cultures could ever understand Zen, he was intrigued.

On August 26, 1926, at age 22, So-on gave Dharma transmission to Suzuki. Shunryu's father also retired as abbot at Shogan-ji this same year, and moved the family onto the grounds of Zoun-in where he served as inkyo (retired abbot).

Later that year Suzuki spent a short time in the hospital with tuberculosis, but soon recovered. In 1927 an important chapter in Suzuki's life was turned. He went to visit a professor in English he had at Komazawa named Miss Nona Ransom, a woman who had taught English to such people as Jiro Kano and the children of Chinese president Li Yuanhong. She hired him that day to be a translator with others and to help with errands. Through this period he realized she was very ignorant of Japanese culture and the religion of Buddhism. She respected it very little and saw it as idol worship. But one day, when there were no chores to be done, the two had a conversation on Buddhism that changed her mind. She even let Suzuki teach her zazen meditation. This experience is significant in that Suzuki realized that Western ignorance of Buddhism could be transformed if they were educated on exactly what it is.

On January 22, 1929, So-on retired as abbot of Zoun-in and installed Shunryu as its 28th abbot. Sogaku would run the temple for Shunryu. In January 1930 a ceremony called ten'e was held at Zoun-in for Shunryu acknowledging So-on's Dharma transmission to him. A way for the Soto heads to grant him permission to teach as a priest. On April 10, 1930, at age 25, Suzuki graduated from Komazawa Daigakurin with a major in Zen and Buddhist philosophy, and a minor in English.

Suzuki mentioned to So-on during this period that he might be interested in going to America to teach Zen Buddhism. So-on was adamantly opposed to the idea. Suzuki realized that his teacher felt very close to him and that he would take such a departure as an insult. He did not mention it to him again. (Source Accessed Nov 18 2019)

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