Tim Burkett

Cuke Podcast with Tim  🔊

Q and A about the podcast (below)


Tim was an early student of Shunryu Suzuki and is a dharma heir of Dainin Katagiri and the abbot of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. (still as of 2020)

Teacher's Page on website of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center

dharma talk at Jikoji - video


Zen in the Age of Anxiety:
Wisdom for Navigating Our Modern Lives



4-15-15 - Nothing Holy About It: the Zen of Being Just Who You Are - Tim Burkett's book on his Zen journey with plenty on Shunryu Suzuki and the early SFZC before he went with Dainin Katagiri to Minnesota where he's now the abbot.

Nothing Holy about It dot com

Shambhala Publications page on the book

Amazon Link

Huff Post Review

book on cuke blog


A Few vignettes along Tim's path

20-04-09 - Tim sent the following about his time with Suzuki, Katagiri, and ZC

1.  He asked me to start a group in Palo Alto which I did in the fall of 1964 at some graduates students house—After morning zazen, he wanted us to do cleaning in the downstairs of the house—We balked and I said “we have to go to classes”   
He said “of course you do.  We can just start earlier (than 5:50) so you wont miss class.

2. In about 1966 one morning he asked me to take him to Mrs. so and sos house in Hillsborough, who he wanted to visit.  We got to the front gate of a mansion and he said “ you stay in the car”   but he came back in 5 minutes, grinning from ear to ear.  He said, as he got into the car with his black traveling clothes “ wrong Mrs. so and so….She thought I was there to wash her windows…too bad I didn't bring my squeejie.”  He laughed uprroariously……….

All the Japanese I knew when I was a kid in Palo Alto did manual labor for a living…we had a Japanese cleaning woman ourselves———because they had all lost their business and their jobs during the war when they were sent to internment camps—Suzuki was the ifrst “professional’ Japanese I met.

3. I asked the Palo Alto group to make a contribution to him one morning——When I gave it to him, he tried to get me to keep it for all my work.

4. Once I ran into him on the sidewalk in San Francisco——He opened his shopping bag and said, “Look at all the good vegatables I got free, only one day old” and he beamed

5.  One day I had an enlightenment experience at Tassajara—That night in a dream he came to me and said, “better not to talk to people about this—The next day in a one to one he said the same thing, adding, 'Some people are too clever to have an experience like this.'”

6. A day or two later I came to see him and he said “You have attained so-called enlightenment.  Now it is time to take care of those” pointing to my sandals by the door which were covered in mud.

7.  Once he called me into his room and said my mother had called him and he wanted to visit her (he never did).  He said “I think that she is surprised that her ugly ducking has turned into a swan.  I beamed and he said, “Or maybe she is surprised that the swan has turned into an ugly duckling."

8. At the end of the summer of 67 Maezumi approached me—He said, “You had a great awakening——I have had many of those awakenings.   If you come to practice with me, you will have many, many more”.   A few days later Suzuki took me aside after zazen and said “You have a great treasure within you.  Someone may try to take it from you.  Dont let anyone take it from you”

9. When I was planning on going to Japan to practice, he told me I should go to Eiheiji.  But I kept  checking out lots of different options, trying to find what I thought was the ideal one for me, not wanting to go to Eheijii because I wanted more sitting and less ritual.  I was having breakfast with him one morning at Sokoji and he pointed to a line of raku pottery cups on the wall.  He said “If you try to find the best one, you will not appreciate any of them”.  So, I decided to stay in the US and practice with him.

10. My Catholic grandmother was interested in meeting him, so we had them both over to dinner.  Linda cooked and we had a little kitten.   The kitten was fascinated by his black travelling robes and kept batting at them.  He batted back at the kitten and they went back and forth for a few minutes, playing together.  The next morning my grandmother and I talked on the phone—She said, "Thank you and Linda for inviting me to meet your teacher———my, did he play with that kitten! You did say he was a priest, didnt you dear?” I guess Catholic priests didnt do that kind of thing.

11. Not too long after his death, I had just finished a retreat that Katagiri led in Minneapolis and was staying by myself in the zendo—I looked over to the wall and saw Suzuki Roshi's picture on the cover of Zen Mind Beginners Mind———He stepped out of his picture into the room which all of a sudden filled with a brilliant light—Without acutally saying anything he beckoned me to move to Minneapolis and practice with Katagiri.  After that I was in a bliss state for several days and when I went back to our home in far northern Minnesota I told Linda about my experience and she agreed that we could move with our two young children to Minneapolis.   

12.  I asked him to write a letter to my draft board to support my C.O. request in 1965.  He said “you write the letter and give it to me”    I did and he copied what i wrote in longhand, adding only one word to my version—He added “strict” to the following senence  “Tim is a strict Buddhist practitioner”.  I had given him my birth certificate along with my draft of the letter——but he lost my birth certificate.
13. He joked about his absentmindedness.  Once he told me that the reading glasses he was using he got at Woolworth’s because he kept losing his prescription glasses.  Another time I couldnt find my glasses and I asked them if he had seen them around Sokoji.  He went up to his third floor living quarters and I heard rummaging around.  then he came down with my glasses——saying in kind of a jolly manner “I thought they were mine”.


Q and A that arose from listening to the Cuke podcast with him.

Tim -

I got this email from Michael Katz, close friend, SFZC alumni, literary agent retired to the Zen etc stars.

"While listening to Tim B’s podcast I wondered what exactly he experienced during his enlightenment experience — leading to dancing around or whatever he or you said."

I experienced a total dissolution of Tim, including all his thoughts, beliefs, and expectations as well a feeling of great joy and love for everything and everyone I saw heard, and touched  This was my second experience like this, but unlike the first one, instead of fading into my memory, that sense of deep calmness, love and intimacy with the world around me is still with me—and thats what I teach from—I dont want to idealize myself, however.  I still get mad, feel sad, do stupid, thoughtless things, but ever since then I have “known” that I am supported by the groundless/ground of being and can tap into it whenever I want.

I also wondered what the rest of his sesshin was like.

During the rest of the sesshin I sat quietly and joyfully.

Later on he mentions some training as a shaman. What was that and did he bring it to zen teaching?

After I had been practicing for about 20 years, I began doing shamanic journeying, developed relationships with several power animals—I have let most of this go the last decade or so and just appreciated living from the groundless ground.  I have brought this into my zen teaching a little at times, but I dont want Zen students to get too “woo woo” about it so that they get caught by a new set of beliefs.

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