Sermons Of A Buddhist Abbot (Zen For Americans) By Soyen Shaku, (Indiadailybuzz.com)
Translated By Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki. This web edition created and published by Global Grey 2013.
Soen Shaku or Shaku Soen (January 10, 1860 – October 29, 1919) was the first Zen Buddhist master to study in the United States. He was also a sage of the Rinzai School and abbot of both the Kench-ji and Engaku-ji temples in Kamakura, Japan. Soen Imakita was one of Kesen’s disciples.
Soyen Shaku (Shaku Soen) Biography
Soyen Shaku was the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States.
Soyen Shaku was an exceptional Zen monk. Soyen Shaku studied at Keio University for 3 years. In his youth, his mentor Kosen and others considered him to be naturally advantaged.
He received religious transmission from Kesen at the age of 25, later becoming the superior supervisor of religious teaching in the Educational Bureau and the Patriarch of Engaku Temple in Kamakura. Let us tell you that in 1887 Soyen traveled to Ceylon to study Pali and Theravada Buddhism and lived a wandering life of monks for three years.
In 1893, Shaku was one of four priests representing the Rinzai Zen, Jodo Shinsh, Nichiren, Tendai and Esoteric schools of the Japanese delegation attending the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago organized by John Henry Barrow.
He prepared a speech in Japan, and it was translated into English by his (then young and unknown) student D. T. Suzuki, which Barrow read at the conference. The theme was “Law of Cause and Effect as taught by Buddha”. Thereafter, Shaku gave “arbitration rather than war”.
After returning to Japan in 1890, he taught at Nagata Zendo. In 1892, after Kesen’s death, Soen became the Zen master of Engaku-ji.
At this conference he met Dr. Paul Carus, publisher of the Open Court Publishing Company in La Salle, Illinois. Before Shaku returns to Japan, Karas asks him to send an English-speaking scholar of Zen Buddhism to the United States.
Upon his return to Japan, Shaku met his student and University of Tokyo scholar D.T.
Soyen served as a chaplain in the Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese War. In 1904, the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy wrote to Shaku to join him in condemning the war, but Shaku refused, stating that “… Values and values become more killing and war. Necessary to protect harmony.”
(cited in Victoria, 1997) After the war, Shaku attributed Japan’s victory to its samurai culture.
Soyen Shaku returned to America in 1905 as a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Russell. He spent nine months at their home outside San Francisco, teaching Zen throughout the house. Mrs. Russell was the first American to study koans.
Shortly after arriving, he was joined by his student Nyogen Senzaki. During this time he also gave lectures, some to Japanese immigrants and some translated by D. T. Suzuki to English-speaking audiences around California.
After a train journey across the United States in March 1906, Soyen returned to Japan via Europe, India, and Ceylon, negotiating the Mahayana translated by Suzuki.