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Pacific Zen Institute

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Pacific Zen Institute

Pacific Zen Institute
Denomination Zen
Founded 1999
Founder(s) John Tarrant
Address 825 Sonoma Ave., Suite B, Santa Rosa, California 95404-4746
Country United States

The Pacific Zen Institute (PZI), is a Zen Buddhist practice center in Santa Rosa, California. Established in 1999, it has several affiliate centers in the lineage of John Tarrant, a dharma heir of Robert Baker Aitken, and formerly of the Sanbo Kyodan school of Zen.[1]

Students and teachers at PZI work with Zen koan as the primary tool for transforming the mind and finding freedom, According to the PZI Web Site,

Zen koans are a key part of what we do in PZI, although there is no requirement that anyone work with koans to practice with PZI. For a long time PZI has been exploring different ways of working with koans to expand the ways that koans can be helpful.[2]

The Pacific Zen Institute offers multi-day retreats in several California Locations including Santa Rosa, California, and Bolinas, California as well as one-day workshops in the San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Oakland and Berkeley areas.[3]


John Tarrant Biography

James Ishmael Ford says of Tarrant,

He is known for pushing the boundaries of Zen institutions, introducing and dropping liturgical experiments—such as allowing Zen sutras to be set to Cajun tunes or passing out grapes during the service—just to see what happens. Today the Pacific Zen Institute is marked by its willingness to innovate and creatively explore the range of Zen disciplines."[1]

John Tarrant[10] (born 1949) is a Western Zen teacher who explores koans as a way to discover freedom and unexpected openings.[2] John is the founder and director of the Pacific Zen Institute (PZI). PZI has large centers in California, Arizona, and Canada as well as "Small Groups" in many states throughout America. John teaches and writes about the transformation of consciousness through the use of the Zen koan and trains koan meditation teachers. John grew up in the City of Launceston on Bass Strait.

Tarrant was born in Australia and came from an old Tasmanian family. John was influenced early in his life by English literature, especially poetry, the Latin Mass, the Tasmanian bush, and Australian Aboriginal culture. Tarrant worked at many jobs, ranging from working as a laborer in an open-pit mine, to commercial fishing the Great Barrier Reef. Eventually he also worked as a lobbyist for the Australian Aboriginal land rights movement. Tarrant attended the University of Tasmania and then the Australian National University,[11] where he earned a degree in Human Sciences and English Literature. He later earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook Institute in San Francisco. He wrote his doctoral thesis on “The Design of Enlightenment in Koan Zen”[12] and for twenty years was a Jungian psychotherapist working on dream analysis at the same time as he developed his teaching of koans.

Tarrant’s first Buddhist studies, in the early 1970s, were with Tibetan Lamas who visited Australia. He discovered koans (stories sometimes given to Zen practitioners to hasten and refine insight and enlightenment) and, lacking any teachers in the southern hemisphere, worked on them by himself for a number of years. Later in the United States he passed his first koans with Korean teacher [10]

PZI was previously known as the California Diamond Sangha, According to writer Michelle Spuler, 1999 a decision was made for his organization, the California Diamond Sangha, and its affiliated groups, to formally separate from the [13]

That transition happened, in part, due to accusations by the Diamond Sangha Teachers Circle. In the March – February 2000 Sydney Zen Centre newsletter, the Diamond Sangha Teachers Circle publicized an open letter to John Tarrant with their concerns regarding “numerous, unsolicited complaints of misconduct” which they say they had received on him in the preceding three years. This break was also in part due to Tarrant's experimental and unorthodox approach to Koan work and differences in the two organization's visions of Western Zen.

John Tarrant's reputation as a writer and poet grew with contributions to many publications including The Paris Review, Threepenny Review and the books, Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry and What Book? Buddha Poems From Beat to Hiphop. Tarrant's own books include The Light Inside the Dark: Zen Soul & The Spiritual Life (HarperCollins)—a map of the spiritual journey including the dark bits—and Bring Me the Rhinoceros—& Other Zen Koans To Bring You Joy (Harmony), which is a sampler of koans and a western approach to them.[10]

Although his training was originally in what was essentially still the medieval koan system, Tarrant has spent many years exploring how koans are pertinent to people living in the modern world. He holds koan seminars where people of all levels of experience are welcomed and a collaborative culture is encouraged. Pacific Zen Institute’s program of Koan small groups and salons allow people to study koans together in an ongoing way. He teaches koans as doorways available to anyone, not only for advanced practitioners.[10]

PZI’s projects include creating new English translations of some of the elements of the sutra collection as well the evolution of musical settings of many parts of the chanted liturgy. Working with the Zen teacher and translator, Joan Sutherland, and Richie Domingue, then leader of the Zydeco Band “Gator Beat”, Tarrant collaborated in developing what is probably the first sung Zen liturgy in an American idiom.

Among Tarrant’s successors and collaborators through Pacific Zen Institute include the Zen master Joan Sutherland, head of the "Open Source" Zen network, Susan Murphy, a film maker and Zen master based in Sydney, Australia, David Weinstein in Northern California, and James Ishmael Ford, founder and senior teacher of the "Boundless Way Zen" network.[1]

As part of his interest in meditation in action Tarrant has taught in alternative energy corporations and medical and health care organizations. He worked with the startup of Dr. Andrew Weil’s Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Tarrant designed and taught the part of the curriculum in which the art of medicine was approached as being based in the arts of attention including working with the executive team at Duke Integrative Medicine with Dr. Tracy Gaudet.

John Tarrant lineage

John Tarrant has appointed several teachers, some of whom have also appointed teachers:[14]

  1. Atwill, Allison, Roshi[15]
  2. Barzaghi, Subhana Gyo Shin, Myo-Un-An Roshi (b. 1954). Also received Transmission from Robert Aitken.
  3. Burke, Sexton Roshi (b. 1944-)
  4. Coote, Gillian Jitsu Mu Roshi (b. 1944)
  5. Davison, Ellen. Assistant teacher
  6. Gluek, Maggie Seiryu. Assistant teacher.
  7. Maloney, Paul Roshi (b. 1939-)
  8. Marett, Allan. Apprentice Teacher
  9. Bolleter, Ross Roshi (b. 1946-). Also appointed by Robert Aitken.
  10. Boughton, Rachel, Roshi.[15]
  11. James Ishmael Ford (b. 1948). Also a Soto teacher appointed by Jiyu Kennett Roshi.
  12. Joseph, Jon, Roshi.[15]
  13. Grant, Steven, Roshi.[15] (b. 1962- )
  14. Gaudry, Guy, Roshi[15]
  15. Blacker, Melissa Keido Myozen Sensei (b. 1954).
  16. Ross, Lanny Sevan Keido Sei'an Sensei (b. 1951). Also holds the Dharma Transmission in the Philip Kapleau lineage
  17. Mansfield-Howlett, Rachel. Head teacher at Santa Rosa City Zen, US.
  18. Murphy, Susan Myo Sei Ryu'un An Roshi (b. 1950-). Also received Transmission from Ross Bolleter.
  19. Saint, Deborah,[15] Sensei.
  20. Sutherland, Joan Roshi (b. 1954).[15]
  21. Bender, Sarah Masland Sensei (b. 1948).
  22. Palmer, Andrew Sensei (b. 1971).
  23. Nathanson, Tenney Sensei (b. 1946)
  24. Terragno, Danièl Ki-Nay (b. 1947-) Roshi.
  25. Parekh, Antoinette Kenjo Shin (b. 1959) Apprentice teacher.
  26. Twentyman, Craig. Independent teacher
  27. Weinstein, David Onryu Ko'un, (b. 1949-) Roshi.[15]
  28. See also


    1. ^ a b c Ford, 178-179
    2. ^ a b
    3. ^
    4. ^
    5. ^
    6. ^
    7. ^
    8. ^
    9. ^
    10. ^ a b c d
    11. ^ *
    12. ^ *
    13. ^ Spuler, xiv; 6
    14. ^ Sanbo Kyodan: Harada-Yasutani School of Zen Buddhism and its Teachers
    15. ^ a b c d e f g h


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