Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen Paperback – October 20, 2006
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Taxonomists rejoice: for all who have wondered about the difference between a roshi and a sensei, this book sorts these two kinds of Zen Buddhist teachers and offers lots more information about Zen schools and influences. A longtime Zen student and Unitarian minister, Ford is a sympathetic insider who knows much of his history firsthand, yet sees clearly enough to acknowledge the distortions and even abuses in the history of Zen as it came to this country. His delineations form a road map to persons and places in Zen in America. His eye is especially keen in appreciating the early teachers who brought Zen from Japan and adapted it to an audience growing in numbers and receptivity to Asian religious wisdom. End matter, including a guide to finding a teacher, is helpful; missing, however, is some graphic representation—a family tree, perhaps?—that could have summarized paragraphs of prose about lineages and who taught whom. The very existence of the book is evidence of the growth and maturation of a small but culturally significant group of what Ford rightly characterizes as religious believers. Beyond the obvious niche audience, this book holds interest for all curious about American Zen Buddhism and contemporary expressions of American spirituality. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Ford, a Soto Zen priest and Unitarian Universalist minister, has put together a rich and eminently readable resource on Zen in the West. He begins with an overview of the history of Zen, then thoroughly covers the teachers who first came West, the traditions and practices they brought with them, the schools they founded, and their many successors. Ford's engaging portraits of the many personalities that make up Wester Zen today are especially interesting and can be read straight through or dipped into here and there for a satisfying taste of any one of the diverse forms the tradition is taking today." (Tricycle: The Buddhist Review)
"For all who have wondered about the difference between a roshi and a sensei, this book sorts these two kinds of Zen Buddhist teachers and offers lots more information about Zen schools and influences. [...] Ford is a sympathetic insider who knows much of his history firsthand, yet sees clearly enough to acknowledge the distortions and even abuses in the history of Zen as it came to this country. His delineations form a road map to persons and places in Zen in America. His eye is especially keen in appreciating the early teachers who brought Zen from Japan and adapted it to an audience growing in numbers and receptivity to Asian religious wisdom. End matter, including a guide to finding a teacher, is helpful [...] The very existence of the book is evidence of the growth and maturation of a small but culturally significant group of what Ford rightly characterizes as religious believers. Beyond the obvious niche audience, this book holds interest for all curious about American Zen Buddhism and contemporary expressions of American spirituality." (Publishers Weekly)
"James Ford is a charming and thoughtful guide to the who, how and why of Zen coming to the West. That's because he is a Zen master himself, with an unparalleled knowledge of the people, the big trends and the interesting details. James is a major figure in adapting Zen to America and this book will give you the inside picture." (John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (and Other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy))
"In his forty-year study of the tradition, Zen teacher and Unitarian Universalist minister James Ishmael Ford has digested the 'whos and whats' of Zen, presenting a personable and readable introduction to its major players and teachings, both in the East and West. Zen Master WHO? is a friendly orientation to Zen for the new student of Buddhism, and the book's final section, in which Ford considers the future of Zen in the West, will prompt discussion among its older students." (Shambhala Sun)
"Provides a thorough orientation for the prospective student of North American Zen... in a balanced, straightforward style, peppered with enough original anecdotes to make it enjoyable, even to Zen students already familiar with the basic material." (Buddhadharma)
"At last, a book that helps those beginning Zen practice figure out who's who and how they became a Who. Zen Master Who? is a greatly useful guide, bringing together the legendary, the historical, and the contemporary in one compact, engaging read. You'll feel like an insider after reading this book." (Sumi Loundon, editor of Blue Jean Buddha and The Buddha's Apprentices)
"Zen Master Who? is a comprehensive survey of the Asian masters who first brought Zen to America and of their American students who have been empowered to carry on their legacy. It tells the story of American Zen clearly - and honestly. By telling the story of real people, with real problems and real accomplishments, Ford makes us ponder just what it is we expec from practice, from teachers and from ourselves. This is a great book." (Barry Magid, author of Ordinary Mind)
"What happened when the Bodhidharma came to the West? From an insider's perspective, James Ishmael Ford tells us stories and gives colorful portrayals of the major figures linked to the ongoing transmission of Zen in the North American continent. A respected Zen Master himself, he describes his spiritual ancestors and Dharma sisters and brothers in candid and also endearing terms." (Ruben Habito, author of Living Zen, Loving God and Healing Breath)
"Ford brings to all his work a keen mind grounded in a thorough understanding of Zen practice and the nuances which pervade its development in the Western world. His insights are clear, unbiased and aim at presenting an honest picture of the development of Zen." (Diane Eshin Rizzetto, author of Waking Up to What You Do)
"Apart from Rick Fields' classic How the Swans Came to the Lake, reportage on the history of Zen in the West has tended to center on one or at most two traditions, e.g., Japanese Soto and Rinzai schools. James Ishmael Ford has instead taken a broad perspective, covering not only the Japanese and Chinese pioneers and influences but also extending his coverage to Korean, Vietnamese, and the syncretic Harada/Yasutani lineages. I found his clear account of the Korean Kwan Um school's Dharma transmission model to be especially interesting. Informal in tone and extensive in coverage, Zen Master Who? should prove both informative and absorbing reading for a new generation of Zen students and teachers alike." (John Daishin Buksbazen, author of Zen Meditation in Plain English)
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Dharma Master Matsuoka-roshi, a Gondaikyshi (Bishop) of the Soto Zen school, served as superintendent and abbot of the Long Beach Zen Buddhist Temple and Zen Center. The temple was headquarters to Zen centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Everett, Washington.
Rev. Dr. Soyu Zengaku Matsuoka, Roshi
25 November 1912 - 20 November 1997
Matsuoka Roshi was born in Japan into a family who had been Zen priests for over six hundred years. He attended Komazawa University in Tokyo, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree, then I believe that he attended the University of Tokyo, earning a Ph.D. in political science. I think he also did advanced graduate study at Columbia University in New York under his friend and mentor, Dr. D. T. Suzuki.
Matsuoka Sensei was a black belt in the martial arts of Jujitsu and Karate. He studied Zen in several temples including Sojiji Monastery.
In Japan, Rev. Matsuoka served at several local temples as well as establishing a temple in Northern Japan. Soto Zen Headquarters assigned Matsuoka Roshi to travel to America as an assistant priest of the Los Angeles Zen Center. His next assignment was as the supervisor of the San Francisco Zen Buddhist Temple (which later developed into the San Francisco Zen Center). He eventually went on to found the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago and, in 1971, the Long Beach Zen Buddhist Temple. His early translations of sutras and ceremonies were literary works of spirit that allowed him to explain the treasures of Dharma to students who were unable to read Japanese. There is a story that while in San Francisco, Matsuoka Sensei requested help dealing with the great influx of individuals who were overwhelming the Zen resources. Reportedly, Soto Shu sent Rev. Shineru Suzuki, who later wrote a wonderful book, Zen Mind, Beginner's mind.
The Rev. Dr. Matsuoka lectured to many schools and organizations in the U.S. He also toured Japan fairly regularly, lecturing about Zen and the U.S. He was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy for tours of Japan promoting cultural understanding of the "Unknown American."
Sensei's (respected teacher) Zen was direct, fierce, and his life was passionate. Matsuoka Roshi taught that all life, everything, is training, that everything is Zen. "Zen is daily life and Zen is action!" and "Every day is a happy day," he would say. When asked about dealing with life, he once said, "Be kind, respectful, honest and continue seeing everything and everyone as Buddha -- if you can't manage all that right now, sit some more and keep training." He would tell his students, "Stop foolish actions, train, sit!"
Matsuoka Roshi spoke of the great transitions of Zen, starting with Shakyamuni Buddha in India and then to China, Japan, and now the U.S. and other Western countries. "American Zen will carry the same flavor and essence as Shakyamuni's original teachings," he said, "as well as the Chinese and Japanese flavors, yet will become its own special form of Zen." In support of this vision, he did not register his ordained or transmitted priests with Soto Zen Headquarters in Japan. Rather, he gave his instructions to each one and sent them out to spread the Dharma.
As of 2008 there are at least 13 temples in the U.S. led by direct disciples of Matsuoka Roshi as well as several priests who have active lives teaching Dharma without being attached to a temple. Many of Matsuoka Roshi's lectures and sermons have been collected and organized into The Kyosaku, a book compiled by the good efforts of the Rev. Taiun Elliston, Abbot of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center. The second book, Moku-Rai is newly available also through from the Atlanta Soto Zen Center. I encourage everyone to read these wonderful books. My thanks to Rev. Taiun Elliston for his efforts in bringing these works to the public.
While there are many stories that can be shared about the Rev. Matsuoka, the common themes among them are his great compassion, his lack of interest in titles or exalted positions, his love of the Dharma, and his joy in teaching Zen. Those of us fortunate to have studied with him count it a great blessing. If you did not get a chance to meet or study with him, perhaps you can find a reflection of his spirit and heart through his writings and his disciples." - By Rev. Kozen Sampson. Submitted by Rev. Daito Zenei Thompson sensei, spiritual director Sarasota Zen Center of Sarasota, Fl.
James Ishmael Ford's fine book "Zen Master Who?" is worth reading if you want a bit of information about who's who in the Western Zen Buddhist world, how it got the way it is and where it might be heading.
It's written in three parts. The first restates what he calls the Buddhist founding "myths". The second tries to to give us a feel for the story of the people who brought Zen to the West from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, concentrating a bit more on Japan, as to-date the Japanese have had the most visible impact on establishing Zen in the West. The third and shortest part discusses the directions in which Zen in the West may be headed.
My most serious criticism? I felt that Ford's description of the last few generations of Zen Masters was not even-handed. I didn't appreciate how the serious character failings (e.g., inappropriate sexual relationships, substance abuse, financial misdeeds) of some Zen Masters were described in some depth while others were only mentioned in passing and those of many others (including his teachers) were omitted completely.
In the same vein, he glosses over the critical discussion of what "enlightenment" means in the context of unethical behavior by simply saying that Zen Masters are not perfect masters, not "gurus" and are subject to the same desires and temptations that all of us face. We would have been better served if he'd spent a few more pages (or a chapter) discussing how one can be an fully awakened master and still be an alcoholic, an adulterer, a supporter of national violence on an international scale, or financially irresponsible to friends, family and sangha. In the recent history of Zen, some of the best known Masters suffered these serious failings. There are lots of very odd people in the Zen world, and to choose a teacher one must know and understand this.
In his discussion of Christianity and Judaism in Zen, he misses an obvious disparity. We find Christian clergy from many different backgrounds (spanning the range from Jesuit Catholics to Unitarian Universalists and everything in between) becoming Zen lay-people, teachers and masters. In severe contrast, though many notable teachers and lay-folk in Western Zen come from Jewish backgrounds, they almost invariably are secular or non-religious Jews. There are essentially no traditionally religious Jews associated with (much less teaching) Zen in the West, and certainly no traditionally observant rabbis. Isn't this disparity worth some discussion?
I enjoyed his concise formulation of the Second Truth, of how suffering as the result of clinging is related to the co-arising of all things.
His very short (three page) appendix on "What to Look For When Looking for a Zen Teacher" can be boiled down to three suggestions: get into it slowly to see how you like it, ask other people about the teacher and try to evaluate the teacher by the quality of their students and the community as a whole. All of this is obvious but worth the time and space he devotes to it.
If you're interested in this book, you might also read "Zen in America" by Helen Tworkov (Kodansha Globe, 1994). Tworkov discusses five Zen masters (four of whom are mentioned by Ford), but in much more depth and detail.