Taizan Maezumi: Wikis


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Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi
前角 博雄
Taizan Maezumi 1.jpg
School Soto
Lineage Harada-Yasutani
Born February 24, 1931(1931-02-24)
Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Died May 14, 1995 (aged 64)
Tokyo, Japan
Senior posting
Title Roshi
Predecessor Baian Hakujun Kuroda
Koryu Osaka
Haku'un Yasutani

Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi (前角 博雄, February 24, 1931—May 15, 1995) was a Japanese Zen roshi and lineage holder in the Soto, Rinzai and Harada-Yasutani lineages—an unusual background for any Zen teacher. He combined the Rinzai use of koans and the Soto emphasis on shikantaza in his teachings, influenced by his years studying under Haku'un Yasutani in the Harada-Yasutani school. Through his decades of teaching he founded or co-founded several institutions and practice centers, among them being the Zen Center of Los Angeles, White Plum Asanga, Yokoji Zen Mountain Center and the Zen Mountain Monastery.

Taizan Maezumi left behind twelve Dharma Successors, appointed sixty-eight priests and gave Buddhist precepts to more than five hundred practitioners. Along with Zen teachers like Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim, and Venerable Hsuan Hua, Maezumi greatly impacted the landscape of Western Zen practice. Several Dharma Successors of his — for instance Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, Dennis Genpo Merzel, John Daido Loori, Jan Chozen Bays, Charlotte Joko Beck, and William Nyogen Yeo — have each gone on to found Zen communities of their own. After many years spent struggling with his alcoholism, Maezumi died in Japan in 1995 following a night of drinking—drowning in a bath after falling asleep.



Maezumi's father, Baian Hakujun Kuroda

Maezumi was born on February 24, 1931 to Baian Hakujun Kuroda—then a prominent Soto Zen roshi—in in his father's temple in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. In later years he would decide to take the name Maezumi, the last name of his mother. He was ordained as a monk into the Soto lineage at age eleven, and in high school began studying Zen under a lay Rinzai instructor named Koryu Osaka. While studying under Koryu-roshi he attended Komazawa University—receiving degrees in Oriental literature and philosophy. After college he trained at Sojiji, and then received shiho from his father in 1955. In 1956 he was sent to the United States to serve as a priest at the Zenshuji Soto Mission in Little Tokyo—a Japanese-American neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. He worked part time at a factory and then was married, getting a divorce not long after.[1][2][1]

The Zenshuji Soto Mission consisted of a Japanese-American congregation that placed little emphasis on zazen. So, Maezumi began sitting zazen occasionally with Nyogen Senzaki, in nearby Boyle Heights, for the next two years. In 1959 Maezumi took classes in English at San Francisco State College, the year he first met Shunryu Suzuki—visiting Sokoji occasionally for ceremonies. Feeling somewhat of an outsider at Zenshuji, Maezumi wished to be affiliated with the San Francisco Zen Center during its early years—but tension between himself and Zentatsu Richard Baker likely kept this from happening. Early in the 1960s Maezumi began holding zazen at Zenshuji with Western students, which led to the opening of the Zen Center of Los Angeles (or, Buddha Essence temple) in 1967. Maezumi began studying Harada-Yasutani Zen under Haku'un Yasutani that same year, completing koan study under him and receiving Dharma transmission in 1970. He also received transmission from Koryu Osaka in 1973, making him a lineage holder in the Soto, Rinzai and Harada-Yasutani schools.[1][2][3][4]

Koryu Osaka

In 1975 Maezumi married his second wife, Martha Ekyo Maezumi, and later the couple had three children (his daughter Kyrie Maezumi is now an actress).[5] In 1976, Maezumi founded the non-profit Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values—an institution which promoted academic scholarship on Buddhist topics.The White Plum Asanga was also established during this period.[6] His student, Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, opened the Zen Community of New York in 1979 with Maezumi's blessing and encouragement. In 1980 John Daido Loori, a student of Maezumi, acquired land in the Catskill Mountains of New York and established Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM) with Maezumi; Loori was later installed as Abbot at ZMM in 1989. That following year Maezumi founded a summer retreat for the ZCLA called the Yokoji Zen Mountain Center, which today serves as a year-round residential and non-residential Zen training site. In 1984 another student, Dennis Genpo Merzel, left ZCLA to establish the Kanzeon Sangha, an international network practicing in the Harada-Yasutani line.[2][7][8][9]

Maezumi died on May 15, 1995 while back in Japan visiting with his family. He had been out drinking and returned home one evening to take a bath, where he fell asleep and drowned. Not long before dying he had given inka to Tetsugen Bernard Glassman. He did this to emphasize the Harada-Yasutani connection of his past into the Dharma transmission tradition of White Plum Asanga, naming Glassman President of the organization in his will.[10]

Teaching style

On the way to Poland 1992

Due to his training in three Japanese lineages, Maezumi employed both Rinzai koan study and Soto shikantaza (a specific form of zazen) in his teaching curriculum—a practice he learned to fully appreciate from his studies with Haku'un Yasutani. He was known to be especially strict about the posture of his students while sitting zazen—unafraid to use the keisaku to bring alertness back to his sitters. Father Robert Kennedy recalls, "Maezumi Roshi was so adamant in his insistence that we sit well that he advised us not to sit at all if we were not attentive to form." Maezumi used a vast range of koans from the sources such as the Blue Cliff Record, the Gateless Gate, The Transmission of Light, and the Book of Equanimity.[11][12][13] According to author and Dharma Successor Gerry Shishin Wick, Maezumi was also fond of a particular saying he used often—"appreciate your life." This also is the title of a compiled book of teachings by Maezumi, published by Shambhala Publications. In it Maezumi says, "I encourage you. Please enjoy this wonderful life together. Appreciate the world just this! There is nothing extra. Genuinely appreciate your life as the most precious treasure and take good care of it."[14]


Maezumi publicly admitted he was an alcoholic in 1983, the year that he was sent to the Betty Ford Clinic for treatment. This coincided with revelations that he had been having sexual relationships with some of his female followers at the Zen Center of Los Angeles, despite being married to his wife Martha Ekyo Maezumi (Maezumi started drinking alcohol as a teenager, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer with U.S. soldiers during World War II). Through it all he was very forthcoming in admitting his mistakes and made no attempts at justifying his behaviors.[3] These revelations caused much turmoil in his school, and many students left as a result. But the community continued on, and those members who did stay were forced to see Maezumi on a more human level. Some students even saw this event as a breakthrough for them, no longer deluded into thinking a teacher could be beyond imperfection. Jan Chozen Bays said of Maezumi's drinking, "We in subtle ways encouraged his alcoholism. We thought it was enlightened behavior that when he would drink, elements of Roshi would come out we had never seen before. He would become piercingly honest. People would deliberately go—everybody did this—and see what he would say and do when he was drunk, and how he could skewer you against the wall."[15] Both Bays and Tetsugen Bernard Glassman had decided to part ways and found their own sanghas at the time of these revelations.[5][16] When remembering Maezumi, author David Chadwick had this to say, "Remembering the times I've been with him, seen him in ceremonies, and stuff I've heard about him, I'd say he had an interesting mix of humility and arrogance. Mainly to me he'd seem arrogant at a distance, but close up he'd be right there with me not putting on any airs."[3]


Maezumi's ashes

Maezumi roshi left behind a strong legacy, naming twelve Dharma Successors, ordaining sixty-eight priests, and administering the Buddhist precepts to over five hundred individuals. Author James Ishmael Ford says, "His influence on the shape of Western Zen is incalculable." [17] Jan Chozen Bays says, "To me, Maezumi's genius lay in his ability to see the buddhanature and also teaching potential in many different kinds of people. There are some Zen teachers who have no successors or maybe one or two. Maezumi was more the Tibetan style—scatter the seeds widely, some will grow and some will not. We won't know for several generations which of his successors have established lineages that will continue."[5]

Maezumi-roshi gave Dharma transmission to the following individuals:

Tetsugen Bernard Glassman
Dennis Genpo Merzel
Charlotte Joko Beck
Jan Chozen Bays
John Daido Loori
Gerry Shishin Wick
John Tesshin Sanderson
Alfred Jitsudo Ancheta
Charles Tenshin Fletcher
Susan Myoyu Andersen
Nicolee Jikyo McMahon
William Nyogen Yeo


  • 1976 On Zen Practice: Body, Breath, Mind by Maezumi and Tetsugen Bernard Glassman
  • 1978 On Zen Practice II: Body, Breath, Mind (a.k.a. The Hazy Moon of Enlightenment) by Maezumi and Tetsugen Bernard Glassman
  • 1978 Way of Everyday Life
  • 1998 Echoless Valley
  • 2001 Appreciate Your Life: Zen Teachings of Taizan Maezumi Roshi
  • 2001 Teaching of the Great Mountain: Zen Talks by Taizan Maezumi edited by Anton Tenkei Coppens

See also


  1. ^ a b Preston, 31-33
  2. ^ a b Ford,162-166
  3. ^ a b c Chadwick
  4. ^ Maguire, 184
  5. ^ a b c Jones
  6. ^ Seager, 101-102
  7. ^ Oldmeadow, 298
  8. ^ Nay, 31
  9. ^ Ford, 169
  10. ^ Ford, 166
  11. ^ Kennedy, 11
  12. ^ Prebish, 16
  13. ^ Wick, 1-2
  14. ^ Maezumi
  15. ^ Coleman, 178
  16. ^ Cushman
  17. ^ Ford, 164


External links



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