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|Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi
|Lineage||Baian Hakujun Dai-osho|
February 24, 1931|
Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
|Died||May 14, 1995
|Predecessor||Baian Hakujun Kuroda
|Part of a series on|
Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi (前角 博雄, February 24, 1931—May 15, 1995) was a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher and rōshi, and lineage holder in the Sōtō, Rinzai and Harada-Yasutani traditions of Zen. He combined the Rinzai use of koans and the Sōtō emphasis on shikantaza in his teachings, influenced by his years studying under Hakuun Yasutani in the Harada-Yasutani school. He founded or co-founded several institutions and practice centers, including the Zen Center of Los Angeles, White Plum Asanga, Yokoji Zen Mountain Center and the Zen Mountain Monastery.
Taizan Maezumi left behind twelve Dharma successors, appointed sixty-eight priests and gave Buddhist precepts to more than five hundred practitioners. Along with Zen teachers like Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim, and Venerable Hsuan Hua, Maezumi greatly influenced the American Zen landscape. Several Dharma Successors of his — including Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, Dennis Merzel, John Daido Loori, Jan Chozen Bays, Gerry Shishin Wick, Charlotte Joko Beck, and William Nyogen Yeo — have gone on to found Zen communities of their own. Maezumi died unexpectedly while visiting Japan in 1995.
Maezumi was born on February 24, 1931 to Yoshiko Kuroda-Maezumi and Baian Hakujun Kuroda, a prominent Sōtō Zen priest, in his father's temple in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. In later years he took the name Maezumi, his mother's maiden name. He was ordained as a monk into the Sōtō lineage at age eleven, and in high school began studying Zen under a lay Rinzai instructor named Koryu Osaka. While studying under Koryu he attended Komazawa University—receiving degrees in Asian literature|Oriental literature and philosophy. After college he trained at Sojiji, and then received shiho from his father in 1955. In 1956 he was sent to the United States to serve as a priest at the Zenshuji Soto Mission in Little Tokyo—a Japanese-American neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. He worked part time at a factory.
The Zenshuji Soto Mission consisted of a Japanese-American congregation that placed little emphasis on zazen. Maezumi began sitting zazen occasionally with Nyogen Senzaki, in nearby Boyle Heights for the next two years. In 1959 Maezumi took classes in English at San Francisco State College, the year he first met Shunryu Suzuki, occasionally visiting Suzuki's temple, Sokoji, for ceremonies. Early in the 1960s, Maezumi began holding zazen at Zenshuji for Western students, which eventually led to the opening of the Zen Center of Los Angeles in 1967. That same year he married his first wife, Charlene (they divorced in 1971.) Also in 1967, Maezumi began studying with Hakuun Yasutani, completing koan study under him and receiving Inka in 1970. He also received Inka from Koryu Osaka in 1973, making him a lineage holder in the Sōtō, Rinzai and Harada-Yasutani schools.
In 1975 Maezumi married his second wife, Martha Ekyo Maezumi, and later the couple had three children (his daughter Kyrie Maezumi is an actress). In 1976, Maezumi founded the non-profit Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values, promoting academic scholarship on Buddhist topics. The White Plum Asanga was also established during this period. His senior student Tetsugen Bernard Glassman opened the Zen Community of New York in 1979 with Maezumi's blessing and encouragement. Another student, John Daido Loori, acquired land in the Catskill Mountains of New York and in 1980 established Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM) with Maezumi; Loori was installed as Abbot at ZMM in 1989. That following year Maezumi founded a summer retreat for the ZCLA called the Yokoji Zen Mountain Center, which today serves as a year-round residential and non-residential Zen training center. In 1984 another student, Dennis Genpo Merzel, left ZCLA to establish the Kanzeon Sangha, an international network practicing in the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
Maezumi died on May 14, 1995 while in Japan visiting his family. He had been out drinking; returning home he took a bath, where he fell asleep and drowned. Not long before dying he had given inka to Tetsugen Bernard Glassman. He did this to emphasize the Harada-Yasutani connection of his past into the Dharma transmission tradition of White Plum Asanga, naming Glassman President of the organization in his will.
Due to his training in three Japanese lineages, Maezumi employed both Rinzai koan study and Sōtō shikantaza ('just sitting') in his teaching curriculum—an approach developed by his teacher Hakuun Yasutani. He was known to be especially strict about the posture of his students while sitting zazen. Father Robert Kennedy recalls, "Maezumi Roshi was so adamant in his insistence that we sit well that he advised us not to sit at all if we were not attentive to form." Maezumi used a range of koans from different Zen traditions, including the Blue Cliff Record, the Gateless Gate, The Transmission of Light, and the Book of Equanimity. According to author and Dharma Successor Gerry Shishin Wick, Maezumi was also fond of a particular saying—"appreciate your life." This also is the title of a compiled book of teachings by Maezumi, published by Shambhala Publications. In it Maezumi says, "I encourage you. Please enjoy this wonderful life together. Appreciate the world just this! There is nothing extra. Genuinely appreciate your life as the most precious treasure and take good care of it."
Maezumi publicly admitted he was an alcoholic in 1983, and sought treatment at the Betty Ford Clinic. This coincided with revelations that he had been having sexual relationships with some of his female followers at the Zen Center of Los Angeles, despite being married to his wife Martha Ekyo Maezumi, "including one of the recipients of his dharma transmission". According to Kirsten Mitsuyo Maezumi, this "caused the separation of my parents and was the reason my mother left the Zen Center of Los Angeles with my brother and I in 1983".
Maezumi was forthcoming in admitting his mistakes and did not justify his behaviors. These events caused much turmoil in his school, and many students left as a result. Some members who stayed described themselves as forced to see Maezumi on a more human level, even seeing this period as a breakthrough for them, no longer deluded into thinking a teacher could be beyond imperfection. Both Bays and Tetsugen Bernard Glassman founded their own sanghas at this time. When remembering Maezumi, author David Chadwick had this to say: "I'd say he had an interesting mix of humility and arrogance. Mainly to me he'd seem arrogant at a distance, but close up he'd be right there with me not putting on any airs."
His influence on the shape of Western Zen is incalculable." 
Jan Chozen Bays says,
To me, Maezumi's genius lay in his ability to see the buddhanature and also teaching potential in many different kinds of people. There are some Zen teachers who have no successors or maybe one or two. Maezumi was more the Tibetan style—scatter the seeds widely, some will grow and some will not. We won't know for several generations which of his successors have established lineages that will continue."
His daughter Kirsten Mitsuyo Maezumi writes:
He was not a good father, or a good husband to my mother, but he was an outstanding teacher with a love for the dharma and a vision of liberation that took precedence in all he did.
As an adult, in my travels and own seeking, I hear testimonials to his awakened Buddha nature and hear and see the proof of it in the difference it has made for so many other gifted beings to step into their place as teachers and facilitators of peace and consciousness.It is a lineage spanning continents and decades and I am very proud of him. It is the best consolation I can have; seeing and hearing his students teach.
Maezumi-roshi gave Dharma transmission to the following individuals: