One of the progenitor
s of Zen Buddhism
, and author of the very accessible book "Zen Mind
's Mind". He was not well regarded in his early life
, and got the nickname
Cucumber." His first master thought he was too dumb
to be a priest
, and when he became one said he would have few disciple
s. This may have been true if he stayed in Japan, but like many others looking to start a new life, he came to America - and did so at a quite advantageous time, in 1959.
He founded the San Francisco Zen Center in 1961, which still exists today, and has added two more locations. Unlike many others spreading eastern religion in the west, Suzuki did not stress the more fantastical aspects of Buddhism. Instead, he stressed the actual practice of meditation, done for no purpose other than itself - "Our way is to practice one step at a time, one breath at a time, with no gaining idea."
He also recognized the need to adapt his teachings to his audience, recognizing that to insist on rigidity would doom his effort to failure - "Don't kill is a dead precept. Excuse me is an actual working precept." Suzuki was trained in and practiced a form of Zen Buddhism originated in the 13th century by a monk called Dogen, and sometimes named after him - one of the stricter schools. He is still considered to be of the Dogen school, also called the Soto school, but by bringing it to such a large western audience he probably introduced radical changes to it. Just like Buddhism changed an uncountable number of times as it travelled from India east to Japan, and new styles and schools turned up constantly, it is possible that the late 20th century marked the beginning of yet another sea change. It is possible that in 3 centuries or so, we will refer to the Suzuki school, evolved from Dogen, as one of the major schools of western Buddhism.