- an archival site on the life and world of Shunryu Suzuki and those who knew him.

home        what's new        bibliography         interviews        stories     and more if you look around

Shunryu Suzuki Index

Chronology of Shunryū Suzuki's Life

[This chronology is based on one that was compiled by Bill Redican while working on the verbatim lectures of Shunryu Suzuki. A lot has been added since then. - DC] 

SR = Shunryu Suzuki - many links go to Wind Bell excerpts where of these dates come from - if there's additional info


c. 1858

Shunryū's father, Butsumon Sogaku Suzuki, is born in Kakegawa-shi (city), approximately 7 miles southeast of Mori-machi (town), Shizuoka-ken (prefecture), south-central Japan.


Oka Sōtan is born (teacher of Kishizawa Ian, Gyokujun So-on, Eko Hashimoto, Sawaki Kōdō, Harada Sōgaku, et al.). "Oka Sōtan-rōshi … was the … source of power of all the teachers" [SR-71-06-09].


Kishizawa Ian is born (scholar of Shōbōgenzō and teacher of Shunryū).


January 9: Emperor Kōmei (personal name Osahito) dies. Emperor Meiji (personal name Mutsuhito) ascends the throne. Meiji era begins. Emperor restored over Tokugawa shogunate as supreme executive authority.

c. 1871-


Butsumon leaves home to become a disciple of Gyakushitsu Sojun.

187?– 1891

Butsumon serves at Shogan-ji temple as head priest or abbot. Shogan-ji is located on a hill above the village of Tsuchisawa, on the edge of the city of Hiratsuka-shi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan. Hiratsuka-shi is approximately 20 miles southwest of Yokohama-shi.

c. 1877

Shunryū's master Gyokujun So-on is born.


April: Butsumon becomes abbot of Zoun-in temple.

Butsumon adopts the orphaned boy Gyokujun So-on, ordains him, and gives him the last name of Suzuki as well. So-on becomes his disciple.


Formal declaration that the Sōtō denomination has two head temples (Eihei-ji and Sōji-ji) with alternating head priests.

c. 1901

Butsumon Sogaku Suzuki marries Yone Shima.

Butsumon leaves Zoun-in temple and returns to Shogan-ji temple, where he remains until 1932.


May 18: Shunryū Suzuki is born at Shogan-ji temple to his father Butsumon Suzuki and his mother Yone Shima. He is given the Buddhist name Shunryū (Excellent Emergence) at birth by his father. He was his father's first son and his mother's second. (His older half-brother from Yone's earlier marriage was named Yoshinami Shima.) Shogan-ji is located on a hill above the village of Tsuchisawa, on the edge of the city of Hiratsuka (at that time called Suitachi), Kanagawa-ken, south-central Japan. 1904 was a year of the dragon and the 37th year in the reign of Emperor Meiji.


April: Started school. [Age 5 years 11 months.]


July 30: Emperor Meiji dies in Tōkyō. Emperor Teishō (personal name Yoshihito) ascends the throne.

Hakama incident with Shunryū's father takes place.


March: Graduates from elementary school.

Leaves home to become a disciple of Gyokujun So-on at Zoun-in temple. "I went to my master's temple when I was thirteen years old" [SR-69-09-16 (13 also given in SR-69-10-14) Japanese way of counting age is that a person is 1 at birth - so he was probably 12 but not sure.]. Zoun-in temple is in Otorei (?), Mori-machi (town), Shizuoka-ken (prefecture), central Japan. Mori is approximately 23 miles west of Yaizu-shi (city) and 12 miles north of the Pacific Ocean.


May 18: Tokudo: Shunryū ordained as a monk by Gyokujun So-on and given his second Buddhist name, Shogaku (Auspicious Peak). [Age 13.]


Continuing to serve at Zoun-in, Gyokujun So-on becomes abbot of Rinso-in temple, 1400 Sakamoto, Yaizu-shi. Yaizu-shi is located on the western shore of Suruga-wan (bay), Shizuoka-ken, south-central Japan. Shunryū assists at both Zoun-in and Rinso-in temples as a teenager.


Studies at Kaisei Chugaku school. Skips last year.


Oka Sōtan dies.



Attends junior and senior year, Sōtō prep school, Tōkyō.


November 15: Begins 100-day practice period at Kenko-in temple, Shizuoka-shi, under Dojun Kato-rōshi, to be initiated as head monk. Shunryū continues to go to school during the day.


February 18: Finishes practice period at Kenko-in. Head-monk (shuso) ceremony held on Feb. 18.

August 21: Shiho: Receives dharma transmission from Gyokujun So-on in a private ceremony at Rinso-in temple.

Enters Komazawa University, Tōkyō.

December 25: Emperor Yoshihito dies. Taishō era ends. Emperor Shōwa (personal name Michinomiya Hirohito) ascends the throne. Shōwa era begins.

Tachibana Shundo publishes The Ethics of Buddhism.


Nona Ransom arrives in Japan.

August 1: Shunryū begins as translator for Miss Ransom. Moves into her house and shares accommodations with other students.


January 22: Installed by So-on as the 28th abbot of Zoun-in. [Age 24.] His father Sogaku runs it on a daily basis while Shunryū is away at school.

May 30: Finishes as translator for Miss Ransom. Moved into a dorm at Komazawa University.


January 14: Ten'e (zuise, koe): Ceremony held at Zoun-in temple. Public profession by Sōtō-shu: colored robe given to him, name recorded at Sōtō headquarters as someone who can become a chief priest of a temple. Becomes abbot of Eihei-ji for one day ("to meet Eihei Dōgen-zenji") and Sōji-ji for one day ("to meet Keizan Jōkin-zenji"). Authorized to teach thereafter. May be called ōsho or rikisho and may wear colored okesa thereafter. [Current Sōtō rules require ten'e to be completed within six months of shiho.]

April 10: Graduates from Komazawa University second in his class, with a major in Buddhist and Zen Philosophy and a minor in English. [Age 25.]

Submits graduating thesis on the Shōbōgenzō fascicle "Raihai tokuzui": Raihai tokuzui no maki o chusin to seru Dōgen-zenji no shukyo (Dōgen-zenji's Religion as Seen Especially in the "Raihai tokuzui" Chapter of the Shōbōgenzō). His thesis advisor was Nukariya Kaiten, president of the university. Cuke page on this.

Returns to Zoun-in after graduating.

September 17: Arrives at Eihei-ji head temple and sits tangaryō. Practices there for almost one year. Serves as attendant to Kishizawa Ian, who was in residence as seidō (a distinguished visiting priest). Kishizawa works on his Shōbōgenzō commentary called Shōbōgenzō zenko.


June: Receives license as Ethical Teacher for high-school boys.

September 2: Leaves Eihei-ji.

September 17: Arrives at Sōji-ji head temple.

September 18: Enters tangaryō at Shoji-ji.


March 31: Leaves Sōji-ji head temple.

April 1: Moves in with his family at Zoun-in temple.

Made jushoku (head priest) of Rinso-in. [Age 27.]

Kishizawa Ian moves to Gyokuden-in temple, three miles from Rinso-in, and continues work on his Shōbōgenzō commentary.

May 1: Shunryū visits Kishizawa and receives permission to resume studying with Kishizawa Ian.

Builds a new Kannon-dō (Avalokiteshvara shrine), a seppin (a meeting room for guests and practitioners), and possibly a kuri (a kitchen or residence for the family of the resident priest) at Zoun-in.

March: Dedication ceremony for new additions to Zoun-in.

May 7: Starts as Zen teacher (koshi) in Bansho Zenrin, Kasuisai, Kukuroi-shi, Shizuoka-ken. (Part of responsibilities for Rinso-in, where he remains living.)


[Year uncertain.] Marries first wife (name unknown).

November 22: Father Butsumon Sogaku Suzuki dies.

First wife diagnosed with tuberculosis. Marriage annulled.


Late April: Gyokujun So-on arrives at Eihei-ji temple to become assistant director. Three days later he has a serious stroke.

May 3: Gyokujun So-on dies at Rinso-in approximately one week after his stroke. [Age 57.]

December 8: Daiju Hosen Isobe founded Sokoji in San Francisco.


February: Shunryū (age 30) marries Chie Muramatsu (age 22).


April 31: Finishes as Zen teacher (koshi) in Bansho Zenrin, Kasuisai, Kukuroi, Shizuoka-ken.


March: Ordination ceremony for young female Buddhists of Higahi Eki Mashi (Masu?) school, Ten-mura (village), Shita-gun (county), Shizuoka-ken.

c. 1942

Formally becomes rōshi for ceremonial purposes.


March 1: Starts as official director or Zen teacher (shike/daho) of Tokei-in temple: 10th highest monastery of Sōtō sect.


April: Builds new kaisandō (founder's memorial hall) and ihaidō (priests' and laity's memorial hall) at Zoun-in temple.


The bells of Rinso-in are melted down to make ship propellers.


March: Officiates at large lay ordination ceremony with Kishizawa Ian.

March 31: Resigned from Tokei-in because of lack of time.

June 3: Teacher at Zen dōjō for monks and laity, Takakusa, Shizuoka-ken. (Sub-temple of Rinso-in.)


May 5: Begins responsibilities for religious education at Tokiwa nursery school at Shin-ya (?), Yaizu-shi.


June 30: Concludes study with Kishizawa Ian.

Chief director of Sōtō Dokan/Takao-gan/Senmon.

Second wife Chie is murdered.


Establishes branch of Tokiwa nursery school at Nishi-machi, Yaizu-shi.


Kishizawa Ian dies.


Suzuki-rōshi was asked to go to America to assist Hodo Tobase at Sokoji. He declined.


March to April or May: Rebuilds the main structure of Rinso-in temple in original architectural style. Works on several other buildings in similar fashion.

"I made up my mind to come to America in October [1958], and I finished my work of main building April [1959]." —SR-69-12-02

Accepted a three-year position at Sokoji.


May 21: Leaves for San Francisco, via Honolulu, on Flight 610. [Per diary.] Age 55.


See Shunryu Suzuki Wind Bell excerpts for more


May 23: Arrives in San Francisco. The first Wind Bell, Dec. 1961 says the afternoon of June 22, 1959 but I think the May date is right but right now I can't remember the source of that. - dc 3-17

See the datebook he came with and don't expect anything useful.

1960 February 21-22 - First sesshin of Sokoji

August 22 - 28 - 2nd sesshin

Bill McNeil, Bob Hense go to Japan and get ordained at Rinsoin's head temple SR says "by my friend."


June 14 - Mitsu, Otohiro Suzuki arrive

December 2: First issue of Wind Bell released. Wind Bells

McNeil and Hense return disillusioned


 March 16 - Jean Ross goes to Japan to study Zen begins at Eiheiji

May 20: Mountain Seat ceremony for SR at Sokoji. Bishop Yamada Reirin officiates. Shinsanshiki

August: Articles of incorporation were filed for "The Zen Center of San Francisco" with the State of California.

September 2 - first lay ordination of fifteen people


April 10 - SR 1st return to Japan - for three months

In Japan - Gives dharma transmission to Hoitsu Suzuki.

July 3 - returns to US with Jean Ross who's been in Japan for a year.

August: Ordained Grahame Petchey as a priest. Grahame goes to Japan, first to Eiheiji.

Nov. 24 - memorial for president John F. Kennedy


September: Visited Cambridge, Boston, and Cape Cod. Met with Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell of the Cambridge Buddhist Association. - Elsie Mitchell

Goes to Palo Alto every Thursday for morning zazen from 6:30 to 7:30 am at 1005 Bryant Street.

March: Ordained Phillip Wilson as a priest.


SR makes another spring visit to New England to meet with Elsie Mitchell and Dorothy Schalk - Zen in Vermont?

July - taping of SR lectures begins in Los Altos. The ZC in SF soon follows.


SR returns in the spring to New England

Satellite zendos in Los Altos, Berkeley, Mill Valley

Richard Baker takes SR to see Tassajara and surroundings

August 18: Bishop Sumi Togen returned to Los Angeles after visiting Sokoji

August 25: SR left for Japan

 In Japan ordains Claude Dalenberg as a priest.

October 23, 1966: Stepping Down ceremony for SR at Rinso-in. Mountain Seat ceremony for Hoitsu Suzuki at Rinso-in.

November 6 - returns to the US

Students began renting housing ("Zen Housing") across the street from Sokoji.

November 8 - SR returns from Japan

November 13: Zenefit at Avalon Ballroom.

December late - SFZC makes first payment on Tassajara


March 28: Zen Bones benefit lecture with Alan Watts at the Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco.

May 27-28: Zen Mountain Center Benefit.

July 2: Ordained Richard Baker as a priest at Tassajara.

July 3: Opening ceremony for Tassajara as Zenshin-ji, Zen Mountain Center. First practice period.


Winter: Came down with a serious flu.

Three additional flats rented near Sokoji.

Ordained Joyce and Ron Browning as priests before they left for Japan.


March 27 - Ryogen Yoshimura arrives from Japan to be a asst priest

May 10: "Physically, you know, I feel much better this year [laughs]." [SR-69-05-10]

May 19: Ordained Mel Weitsman as a priest.

Visited Vermont, Rochester, and NYC.

July - SR resigns from position of head priest at Sokoji. Katagiri does so too at a later date that year.

November 15: Zen Center moved from Sokoji to 300 Page St.


January: Ordained Silas Hoadley and Bill Kwong as priests.

May: Ordained Peter Schneider and Dan Welch as priests.

ZMBM first published in the spring.

August 9: Ordained Reb Anderson and Paul Discoe as priests.

August 25: Conducted lay ordination.

August: Traveled to Japan.

December 8: Gave dharma transmission to Richard Baker.



January: Ordained Les Kaye as a priest.

March 12 - Lectures at Reed college. Gets ill. Returns to have gall bladder removed which was cancerous.

c. July 19: Returned from east coast of USA. [SR-71-07-20]

September: Ordained Ed Brown, David Chadwick, Lewis Richmond, and Angie Runyon as priests.

August 10: Met with Rinzai master Sōen Nakagawa-rōshi (first meeting at Sokoji in 1959).

August - lay ordination of 55 students.

November 21: Mountain seat ceremony for Richard Baker.

December 4: Shunryu Suzuki dies c. 5:00 am.

December 12: Funeral ceremony conducted by Niwa-rōshi, Katagiri-rōshi, and Moriyama-sensei.



April 29, 2:00 pm: Ashes ceremony for Suzuki held at Tassajara

  PDF of early chronology - some errors

Note: SR told Mel that he was being ordained early so he could function as a priest for the Berkely Zendo but that Bill Kwong who will be ordained later is still going to be senior. I'd say that holds true for the Brownings who were on their way to Japan to enter monasteries. Mainly I think he didn't want us to have think about seniority too much or at least not to have a rigid idea about it. - dc

                      Basic info on Shunryu Suzuki         Go to What's New