Sōtō Zen Buddhism has a long and rich history stretching back through Japan, China and India. It is a form of Mahayana Buddhism that took shape and was transmitted through the lives and teachings of many dedicated individuals. Zen, as a school, is one of the many rivers of Buddhist teaching which began with Shakyamuni Buddha in India. Buddhism was transmitted to China, through India as early as 100 c.e. by traders and missionaries who traveled the famous Silk Road.
Chinese Beginning: During the Tang Dynasty, Chodong Zen Buddhism was founded by the Zen monk, Dongshan Liangjie (807-969). This was one of five prominent Zen schools founded during that time in China.
Japanese Transmission: The Chodong school was transmitted to Japan by Dōgen Zenji (1200-1253) in the 13th century c.e. In Japanese the name of the school became Sōtō Zen. Dogen founded Eihei-ji, one of the two main Sōtō temples/monasteries in Japan . Keizan Jōkin, (1268-1325) is considered the co-founder of Sōtō Zen because he disseminated the teachings and popularized the school. He founded Sōji-ji temple.
Sōtō Zen in America: Sōtō Zen was brought to the United States by several Japanese teachers. The lineage of Ocean Gate Zen Center was begun by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi who founded the San Francisco Zen Center in 1962. Suzuki Roshi originally came to the United States in 1959 as the temple priest for the Sōtō Zen temple, Sokoji in San Francisco. He soon became teacher to a motley crew of American seekers. From their dedication to the Dharma and Suzuki Roshi’s wise teaching, came the founding of San Francisco Zen Center, Green Gulch Zen Center and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. A wonderful biography of Shunryu Suzuki is Crooked Cucumber, by David Chadwick.
Our Lineage: Both Daijku Kinst and Shinshu Roberts are students of Sojun Mel Weitsman and trained at the San Francisco Zen Center and Tassajara. Sojun Roshi was a student of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi beginning in 1964. In 1969 he was ordain as a priest by Suzuki Roshi. Sojun Roshi received Dharma transmission from Suzuki Roshi’s son and successor, Gyugaku Hoitsu, at Rinsoin temple in Japan in 1984, and was officially installed as Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center in 1985.
Daijaku and Shinshu received Dharma Transmission from Sojun Roshi in 2005 and continue the Sōtō way as it has been taught to them by their Japanese and American teachers.