The Venerable Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles and of Zen Mountain Center, and founder of the White Plum Sangha, died suddenly on May 15 while visiting Japan. A seminal influence in the growth of Zen Buddhism in the West, Maezumi Roshi was sixty-four at the time of his death.
Born into a Soto Zen family in Japan, Maezumi Roshi was ordained as a Soto Zen monk at the age of eleven. He received degrees in Oriental Literature and Philosophy from Kamazawa University and studied at Soji-ji, one of the two main monasteries in Japan. In 1955, he received dharma transmission from his father, Hakujun Kuroda Roshi. He received inka—approval as a teacher—from the Rinzai lay teacher, Koryu Osaka Roshim and from Haku’un Yasutani Roshi, who inherited from his own master a style of practice that combined the Soto emphasis on sitting meditation with Rinzai koan practice. Thus, Maezumi Roshi’s succession in three lineages of Zen included both major schools of Zen.
In 1956, at the age of twenty-six, Maezumi Roshi came to Los Angeles as a priest at Zenshuji Temple, the Soto headquarters of the United States. In 1967 he established the Zen Center of Los Angeles (ZCLA).
In 1976, Maezumi Roshi established the Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values, a nonprofit educational organization formed to promote Buddhist scholarship.
The White Plum Sangha is comprised of the twelve disciples to whom Maezumi Roshi formally transmitted the dharma, and to their “second-generation” successors. In addition, Maezumi Roshi ordained dozens of priests and gave the lay precepts to more than five hundred people. He established six temples in the United States and Europe that are formally registered with Soto headquarters in Japan, and generated over fifty groups in the Americas and Europe that are affiliated with ZCLA.
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