The New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care’s Zen practice is in the Soto Zen Lineage of the White Plum Asanga. Our Founders, Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison and Sensei Robert Chodo Campbell are recognized Soto Zen Teachers by the Soto Zen Teachers Association, The White Plum Asanga, Zen Peacemakers and American Zen Teachers’ Association.
Eihei Dogen Zenji (January 26, 1200—1253), is the founder of Soto Zen School as well as of Daihonzan Eiheij. It is said that he became a monk at thirteen because he felt the impermanence of the world after experiencing his mother’s death when he was eight years old. However, Mt. Hiei at that time, as reflected in the eyes of Dogen Zenji, he could not find the right teacher who could work with his burning questions, “If we are all perfect and complete lacking nothing, why practice?” He visited and studied at many temples in many different districts. In Shobogenzo, Dogen Zenji is quoted as saying, “I was unable to meet a true teacher or any good friends of the Way and consequently confused and separating thoughts arose. So, I changed my way of thinking, realizing that I should think of my eminent predecessors, the great monks of China and India.” He traveled by boat to China at the age of 24 in search of the true way of Buddha.
Nevertheless, he had difficulty finding teachers in China who were able to fulfill the pure ideals of Dogen Zenji. Just as he was about to return to Japan, however, he met Rujing Zenji on Mt. Tendo where there was true practice focused on zazen. “I sat zazen day and night. When it was extremely hot or cold, many of the monks stopped sitting for a while because they were afraid.” It was to this extent that Dogen Zenji devoted himself to zazen. Many Japanese monks who went to study and practice in China brought back a mound of Buddhist sutras as souvenirs when they returned to Japan, and Dogen Zenji came back only with the entrustment of the teachings by his teacher Rujing.
In order to encourage as many people as possible to practice zazen, Dogen Zenji wrote “A Universal Recommendation of Zazen” (Fukan Zazengi) in which he carefully explained the significance of zazen and how everyone can practice it. In 1243, at the invitation of his patron, Dogen Zenji left Kyoto and moved to the mountains because of his teacher’s advice to “live in the deep mountains and secluded valleys, protecting the teaching of Buddha and ancestors.” This is the present-day Daihonzan Eiheiji. It was here that Dogen Zenji continued to practice diligently while training and nourishing his disciples until, in 1253, he died at the age of 53.
Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi Roshi (February 24, 1931—May 15, 1995), was a Japanese-born Soto Zen priest with dharma transmission in both the Rinzai Zen school and the Harada-Yasutani lineage. His parents Yoshiko Kuroda-Maezumi and Baian Hakujun Kuroda (a respected Soto Zen priest), named him Hirotaka Kuroda. He was third eldest of eight brothers, four of whom went on to be Soto Zen priests. Ordained as a Soto Zen monk at age eleven on March 25, 1942 and given the ordination name Taizan (meaning, Great Mountain), Maezumi received degrees in Oriental Literature and Philosophy from Komazawa University; he also did Zen training at one of the two main training monasteries for the Soto-shu in Japan, Sojiji. He took on his mother’s family name Maezumi when the last of the males in her family passed away and used the Sino-Japanese pronunciation of his first name, changing it from Hirotaka to Hakuyū. Along with other seminal figures like Shunryu Suzuki and Dainin Katagiri, Maezumi Roshi played a seminal role in helping to establish Soto Zen practice in the United States. James Ishmael Ford, a Zen priest and an American Zen historian of sorts, writes, “Taizan Maezumi is probably the most important koan master to come West—the first Zen teacher in the West to receive formal Dharma transmission in the Soto, Rinzai, and Harada-Yasutani lines.”
Tetsugen Bernard Glassman Roshi (born January 18, 1939), is a Sōtō Zen teacher and member of the White Plum Asanga—comprised of various teachers in the lineage of the late teacher Taizan Maezumi-Roshi, to whom he is a Dharma heir. Bernie was born on January 18, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York. In 1963 he married his 1st wife Helen Silverberg, who he had met in Israel—the couple settling in Santa Monica, CA. Philip Kapleau’s 1965 classic The Three Pillars of Zen had a profound impact on Glassman, and by 1966 he and some friends began to visit Zenshuji Soto Zen Mission in Little Tokyo of Los Angeles (where Bishop Togen Sumi and Taizan Maezumi-Roshi resided). In 1968 he began practicing at the Zen Center of Los Angeles (ZCLA) with Taizan Maezumi Roshi while also working for McDonnell-Douglas designing shuttle systems. In 1970 Glassman became a novice Sōtō Zen priest and received his Dharma name Tetsugen (“To Penetrate Mysteries”). In 1971 he moved in to ZCLA with Helen and their two children, spending the next five years in residence there training. He continued his work with McDonnell-Douglas and also became chief administrator of ZCLA during this period. In 1976 he finished koan studies with Maezumi Roshi and was authorized as a teacher in the lineage; he quit his job at McDonnell-Douglas so that he could devote himself fulltime to ZCLA. He became executive director of ZCLA and, through his efforts, the Zen center acquired many properties in their neighborhood, started a publishing company, and developed a medical clinic for residents of the Mexican-American neighborhood in which the center resides. Glassman Roshi co-founded the Zen Peacemaker Order in 1996 with his late wife, Sandra Jishu Holmes. In 1982 he established Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, NY, a successful business staffed by his students and homeless people of the area. Glassman Roshi is well-known for his engaged Buddhist practice.
Roshi Peter Muryo Matthiessen (May 22, 1927 – April 5, 2014) is an Soto Zen Teacher, American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer. A co-founder of the literary magazine The Paris Review and a three-time National Book Award-winner, he has also been a prominent environmental activist. His nonfiction has featured nature and travel—notably The Snow Leopard (1978)—or American Indian issues and history—notably a detailed and controversial study of the Leonard Peltier case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983). His fiction has occasionally been adapted for film: the early story “Travelin’ Man” was made into The Young One (1960) by Luis Bunuel and the novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965) into the 1991 film of the same name. In 2008, at age 81, Matthiessen received the National Book Award for Fiction for Shadow Country, a one-volume, 890-page revision of his three novels set in frontier Florida that had been published in the 1990s. According to critic Michael Dirda, “No one writes more lyrically about animals or describes more movingly the spiritual experience of mountaintops, savannas, and the sea.” He is the Founder of the Ocean Zendo, in Sagaponek, NY.
Sensei Dorothy Dai En Friedman (November 16, 1928—), Dai-en’s spiritual journey began in the 1960s when she was forced to seek help for a back injury which ended her career as a professional dancer. This event proved to be a wonderful preparation for her eventual immersion 20 years later in Buddhist Vipassana practice at Insight Meditation Society. After she established her Vipassana practice, she then began her journey into Zen practice. Her core teachers include her transmitting teacher Peter Muryo Mathiessen Roshi, as well as Joseph Goldstein, Matt Flickstein, and Maureen Stuart Roshi. Dai-en is now a Sensei at Ocean Zendo, located on Eastern Long Island. She is honored to teach with Koshin and Chodo, her first dharma heirs, in the wonderful healing work of New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, for the benefit of all beings, as we live and die.
Sensei Robert Chodo Campbell co-founded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. The organization delivers contemplative approaches to care through education, direct service and meditation practice. In order to bring the work to a broader audience, he co-developed the Foundations in Contemplative Care Training Program. Chodo is part of the core faculty for the Buddhist Track in the Master in Pastoral Care and Counseling at NYZCCC’s education partner, New York Theological Seminary. He teaches in the University of Arizona Medical School’s Center for Integrative Medicine’s Integrative Medicine Fellowship. Chodo is a dynamic, earthy, and visionary leader and teacher, Chodo has travelled extensively in the U.S teaching in various institutions as well as bearing witness to the suffering of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe and South Africa. His public programs have introduced thousands to the practices of mindful and compassionate care of the living and dying. 30,000 people listen to his podcasts each year. His passion lies in bereavement counseling and advocating for change in the way our healthcare institutions work with the dying. He is a Senior Soto Zen priest and Soto Zen Teacher.
Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison, MFA, LMSW, DMIN, cofounded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, the first Zen-based organization to offer fully accredited ACPE clinical chaplaincy training in America, which delivers contemplative approaches to care through education, direct service, and meditation practice. Paley Ellison is the academic advisor for the Buddhist students in the Master in Pastoral Care and Counseling program at NYZCCC’s education partner, New York Theological Seminary. He has served as the co-director of Contemplative Care Services for the Department of Integrative Medicine and as the chaplaincy supervisor for the Pain and Palliative Care Department at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, where he also served on the Medical Ethics Committee. He is currently on the faculty of the University of Arizona Medical School’s Center for Integrative Medicine’s Integrative Medicine Fellowship, and he is a visiting professor at the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, of the University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston Medical School.
Paley Ellison is a dynamic, original, and visionary leader and teacher. He is the co-editor of Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life Care (Wisdom Publications, 2016). He received his clinical training at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center and the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association. Koshin began his formal Zen training in 1987, and delightfully continues to study with Dorothy Dai En Friedman, Zen teacher in the White Plum Soto Zen Lineage. He is a senior Zen monk, Soto Zen teacher, ACPE supervisor, and Jungian psychotherapist.