The great Rinzai master Soyen Shaku (1859-1919) introduced Zen Buddhism to America in 1893 at the same World Parliament of Religions in Chicago at which Swami Vivekananda presented Vedanta. Through the books of Shaku’s student, the eminent Zen author D. T. Suzuki, Zen was the first form of Buddhism to become popular with American spiritual seekers. Besides Suzuki, Zen was spread by American authors like Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Matthiessen. Today a dozen or more American-born Zen masters who are authentic lineage holders run Zen centers or teach. Among them are:
Philip Kapleau Roshi, founder of the Zen Center in Rochester, New York, and author of the extremely influential book The Three Pillars of Zen, now an independent teacher.
Bernard Glassman Roshi, a former aeronautical engineer who worked for McDonnell Douglas plotting space trips to Mars. While he was the abbot of the Zen Center New York in Yonkers, his unorthodox mingling of Zen with a profitable bakery and an ambitious housing project for the homeless added further dimensions to the way Zen is practiced in the West.
Jiyu Kennett Roshi, born in 1924 to Buddhist parents, in 1970 she became the founder of the Zen Mission Society near the foot of Mount Shasta in northern California. Jiyu studied at Soto headquarters in Japan.
Charlotte Joko Beck, a former student of the Japanese master Maezumi Roshi, has become well-known through her books Everyday Zen and Nothing Special.
Toni Packer, a former student of Philip Kapleu who was influenced by Krishnamurti.
Chozen Bays, a student of Maezumi Roshi, who lives and teaches in the Portland, Oregon, area.
Jakusho Bill Kwong, a Chinese-American Soto priest and abbot of the Santa Rosa, California, community’s Soto Zen Buddhist temple, Genjoji, or the Way of Everyday Life Temple. Kwong’s teacher was the eminent Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, author of the classic guide to meditation, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.