D. T. Suzuki



Average: 3.4 (9 votes)
Fast Facts
fl20061116a1a.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Suzuki Daisetsu
Function: 
Writer
Traditions: 
Zen, Buddhism
Main Countries of Activity: 
Japan
Date of Birth: 
October 18, 1870
Place of Birth: 
Tokyo,Tapan
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
July 12, 1966

Biography

Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (Suzuki Daisetsu, October 18, 1870 – July 12, 1966) was a famous Japanese author of books and essays on Buddhism, Zen and Shin that were instrumental in spreading interest in both Zen and Shin (and Far Eastern philosophy in general) to the West. Suzuki was also a prolific translator of Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit literature. Suzuki spent several lengthy stretches teaching or lecturing at Western universities, and devoted many years to a professorship in a Japanese Buddhist university, Otani.

Early life

D. T. Suzuki was born Teitarō Suzuki in Honda-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, the fourth son of physician Ryojun Suzuki. (The Buddhist name "Daisetz", meaning "Great Simplicity", was given to him by his Zen master Soyen Shaku.) Although his birthplace no longer exists, a monument marks its location. The Samurai class into which Suzuki was born declined with the fall of feudalism, which forced Suzuki's mother, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, to raise him in impoverished circumstances after his father died. When he became old enough to reflect on his fate in being born into this situation, he began to look for answers in various forms of religion. His naturally sharp and philosophical intellect found difficulty in accepting some of the cosmologies to which he was exposed.

Suzuki studied at Tokyo University and simultaneously took up Zen practice at Engakuji in Kamakura studying with Soyen Shaku.Under Soyen Shaku, Suzuki's studies were essentially internal and non-verbal, including long periods of sitting meditation (zazen). The task involved what Suzuki described as four years of mental, physical, moral, and intellectual struggle.

During training periods at Engaku-ji, Suzuki lived a monk's life. He described this life and his own experience at Kamakura in his book The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk. Suzuki was invited by Soyen Shaku to visit the United States in the 1890s. Suzuki acted as English-language translator for a book written by him (1906). Though Suzuki had by this point translated some ancient Asian texts into English (e.g. Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana), his role in translating and ghost-writing aspects of this book was more the beginning of Suzuki's career as a writer in English.

Career

While he was young, Suzuki had set about acquiring knowledge of Chinese, Sanskrit, Pali, and several European languages. Soyen Shaku was one of the invited speakers at the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. When a German scholar who had set up residence in LaSalle, Illinois, Dr. Paul Carus, approached Soyen Shaku to request his help in translating and preparing Eastern spiritual literature for publication in the West, the latter instead recommended his disciple Suzuki for the job. Suzuki lived at Dr. Carus’s home, the Hegeler Carus Mansion, and worked with him, initially in translating the classic Tao Te Ching from ancient Chinese. In Illinois, Suzuki began his early work Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism.

Carus himself had written a book offering an insight into, and overview of, Buddhism, titled The Gospel of Buddha. Soyen Shaku wrote an introduction for it, and Suzuki translated the book into Japanese. At this time, around the turn of the century, quite a number of Westerners and Asians (Carus, Soen, and Suzuki included) were involved in the worldwide Buddhist revival that had begun slowly in the 1880s.

Besides living in the United States, Suzuki traveled through Europe before taking up a professorship back in Japan. Suzuki married Beatrice Erskine Lane, a Theosophist, with multiple contacts with the Bahá'í Faith both in America and in Japan, and Radcliffe graduate, in 1911. Later Suzuki himself joined the Theosophical Society Adyar and was an active Theosophist.Dedicating themselves to spreading an understanding of Mahayana Buddhism, they lived in a cottage on the Engaku-ji grounds until 1919, then moved to Kyoto, where Suzuki began professorship at Otani University in 1921. While he was in Kyoto, he visited Dr. Hoseki Shinichi Hisamatsu, a famous Zen Buddhist scholar, and discussed Zen Buddhism together at Shunkoin temple in the Myoshinji temple complex.

In the same year he joined Otani University, he and his wife, Beatrice, founded the Eastern Buddhist Society; the Society is focused on Mahayana Buddhism and offers lectures and seminars, and publishes a scholarly journal, The Eastern Buddhist. Suzuki maintained connections in the West and, for instance, delivered a paper at the World Congress of Faiths in 1936, at the University of London (he was an exchange professor during this year).

Besides teaching about Zen practice and the history of Zen (or Chan) Buddhism, Suzuki was an expert scholar on the related philosophy called, in Japanese, Kegon – which he thought of as the intellectual explication of Zen experience.

Still a professor of Buddhist philosophy in the middle decades of the twentieth century, Suzuki wrote some of the most celebrated introductions and overall examinations of Buddhism, and particularly of its Chinese Chan school (though he usually referred to this sect by the term "Zen," which is the Japanese pronunciation of its name). He went on a lecture tour of American universities in 1951, and taught at Columbia University from 1952 to 1957.

Suzuki was especially interested in the formative centuries of this Buddhist tradition, in China. A lot of Suzuki's writings in English concern themselves with translations and discussions of bits of the Chan texts the Biyan Lu (Blue Cliff Record) and the Wumenguan (Gateless Passage), which record the teaching styles and words of the classical Chinese masters. He was also interested in how this tradition, once imported into Japan, had influenced Japanese character and history, and wrote about it in English in Zen and Japanese Culture. Suzuki's reputation was secured in England prior to the U.S.

In addition to his popularly oriented works, Suzuki wrote a translation of the Lankavatara Sutra and a commentary on its Sanskrit terminology. Later in his life he was a visiting professor at Columbia University. He looked in on the efforts of Saburō Hasegawa, Judith Tyberg, Alan Watts and the others who worked in the California Academy of Asian Studies (now known as the California Institute of Integral Studies), in San Francisco in the 1950s.

Suzuki is often linked to the Kyoto School of philosophy, but he is not considered one of its official members. Suzuki took an interest in other traditions besides Zen. His book Zen and Japanese Buddhism delved into the history and scope of interest of all the major Japanese Buddhist sects.

In his later years, he began to explore the Jodo Shinshu faith of his mother's upbringing, and gave guest lectures on Jodo Shinshu Buddhism at the Buddhist Churches of America. D.T. Suzuki also produced an incomplete English translation of the Kyogyoshinsho, the magnum opus of Shinran, founder of the Jodo Shinshu school. However, Suzuki did not attempt to popularize the Shin doctrine in the West, as he believed Zen was better suited to the Western preference for Eastern mysticism[citation needed], though he is quoted as saying that Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is the "most remarkable development of Mahayana Buddhism ever achieved in East Asia".[8] Suzuki also took an interest in Christian mysticism and in some of the most significant mystics of the West, for example, Meister Eckhart, whom he compared with the Jodo Shinshu followers called Myokonin. Suzuki was among the first to bring research on the Myokonin to audiences outside Japan as well.

D.T. Suzuki's books have been widely read and commented on by many important figures. A notable example is An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, which includes a thirty page commentary by famous analytical psychologist Carl Jung. Other works include Essays in Zen Buddhism (three volumes), Studies in Zen Buddhism, and Manual of Zen Buddhism. Additionally, William Barrett has compiled many of Suzuki's articles and essays concerning Zen into a volume entitled Studies in Zen.

Suzuki's Zen master, Soyen Shaku, who also wrote a book published in the United States (English translation by Suzuki), had emphasized the Mahayana Buddhist outlook of the Zen tradition. Contrasting with this, to a degree, was Suzuki's own view that in its centuries of development in China, Zen (or Chan) had absorbed much from indigenous Chinese Taoism. Suzuki believed that the Far-Eastern peoples had a sensitivity or attunement to nature that was acute, by comparison with either the people of Europe or the people of Northern India, generally speaking.

Suzuki subscribed to the idea that religions are each a sort of organism, an organism that is (through time) subject to "irritation" — hence, showing the capacity to change or evolve.

It was Suzuki's contention that a Zen satori (awakening) was the goal of the tradition's training, but that what distinguished the tradition as it developed through the centuries in China was a way of life radically different from that of Indian Buddhists. In India, the tradition of the mendicant (holy beggar, bhikku in Pali) prevailed, but in China social circumstances led to the development of a temple and training-center system in which the abbot and the monks all performed mundane tasks. These included food gardening or farming, carpentry, architecture, housekeeping, administration (or community direction), and the practice of folk medicine. Consequently, the enlightenment sought in Zen had to stand up well to the demands and potential frustrations of everyday life.

Interestingly, later in life Suzuki was more inclined to Jodo Shin (True Pure Land) practice on a personal level, seeing in the doctrine of Tariki, or other power as opposed to self power, an abandonment of self that is entirely complementary to Zen practice and yet to his mind even less willful than traditional Zen.

D. T. Suzuki received numerous honors, including Japan's national Cultural Medal.

Comments about D. T. Suzuki

Erich Fromm: "In the literature on Zen Buddhism, there are writers such as Suzuki, whose authenticity is beyond doubt--he speaks of what he has experienced. The very fact of this authenticity makes his books often difficult to read, because it is of the essence of Zen not to give answers that are rationally satisfying. There are some other books which seem to portray the thoughts of Zen properly, but whose authors are mere intellectuals whose experience is shallow. Their books are easier to understand, but they do not convey the essential quality of Zen."

Thomas Merton: "Though perhaps less universally known than such figures as Einstein or Gandhi (who became symbols of our time) Daisetz Suzuki was no less remarkable a man than these. And though his work may not have had such resounding and public effect, he contributed no little to the spiritual and intellectual revolution of our time".

Lynn Townsend White, Jr.: "Prophecy is rash, but it may be that the publication of D.T. Suzuki's first Essays in Zen Buddhism in 1927 will seem to future generations as great an intellectual event as William of Moerbeke's Latin translations of Aristotle in the thirteenth century or Marsiglio Ficino's of Plato in the fifteenth".

Carl Jung: "Suzuki's works on Zen Buddhism are among the best contributions to the knowledge of living Buddhism… We cannot be sufficiently grateful to the author, first for the fact of his having brought Zen closer to Western understanding, and secondly for the manner in which he has achieved this task."

Philip Kapleau: "That there are today Zen training centers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and South America is a tribute to the comprehensive and illuminating works of D.T. Suzuki. And that there is scarcely an educated person in the West today that has not heard of Zen or who hasn't some acquaintance with its tenets is also due to the prodigious labors of this man who, at the age of eighty, came to America to explain this arcane philosophy. In this he evokes the spirit of the redoubtable Bodhidharma."

Abe Masao: "It was not merely a sense of mission… or even scholarly drive which provided Suzuki Sensei with his real internal motivation. I believe that behind his activities resided a religious Awakening. As a youth, under the guidance of Zen Master Soyen Shaku, he had become deeply realized through penetrating into the root-source of the universe of life-and-death. His "motivation" derived from no other than this realization… This Awakening functioned within Suzuki Sensei as an overwhelming Buddhist spirit of 'vow', aimed at bringing everyone to awaken to the same Reality. His scholarly study of Buddhism was undertaken in order to further this work, it was not the other way around."Prof. Abe was said to have succeeded to the rôle of Suzuki following his death.

Sources: 
WIKI

Teachings

-- No teachings were entered yet for this guru. Please help by clicking the Edit tab and adding teachings, theories, points of view, techniques and other messages related to the guru. --

Locations

-- No locations were entered yet for this guru. Please help by clicking the Edit tab and adding details about ashrams, centers, temples, satsangs and any other locations and events related to this guru. --