About Lineage Identifications on the List of Soto Zen Centers in the U.S.


Lineage is a very important aspect of Soto Zen. The appropriate and authentic transmission of the Soto Zen tradition from teacher to student occurs when a fully authorized teacher formally recognizes one of their students as ready to carry and teach the Soto Zen tradition. Transmission is marked by ceremony and is publicly communicated as a way to help establish the authority of a Zen teacher. The chain of transmission over time and multiple generations is called a “lineage.”

Some lineages are simply traced back from student to teacher through time and are very individual. This is the case with the Zen teachers listed as having “Trained in Japan.” Many teachers in the U.S. trace their lineages back to a handful of teachers who were pivotal in establishing Soto Zen practice in the West in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Some of the teachers who trace lineage back to these common root teachers have formed affiliations, which are listed below. Most of these affiliations are fairly informal and collegial in nature, and most Zen centers in the U.S. are functionally independent when it comes to finances, administration, liturgy, and teaching.

A web search using a search engine for any of these affiliations or names should give you more information. If you still have questions, contact the SZBA coordinator here.

NOTE: Although Zen Centers and teachers in the Sanbo Kyodan and Diamond Sangha lineages have some Soto Zen roots, they are not included in our list of Soto Zen Centers because they have established their own lineage organizations and do not maintain the same Soto Zen traditions of Dharma Transmission.

Affiliations (May be organized or fairly informal)

Boundless Way Zen – Organization established by James Ford (Jiyu Kennett lineage)
Branching Streams – Affiliation of teachers through Shunryu or Hoitsu Suzuki
Dharma Cloud – Affiliation of teachers through Kyogen and Gyokuko Carlson (Jiyu Kennett lineage)
Everyday Zen Foundation – Organization established by Norman Fischer (Shunryu Suzuki lineage)
Mountains and Rivers Order – Order established by Daido Loori (Taizan Maezumi lineage)
Order of Buddhist Contemplatives – Order established by Houn Jiyu Kennett of Shasta Abbey
Ordinary Mind Zen School – Informal affiliation of teachers through Charlotte Joko Beck
Silent Thunder Order – Organization established by Taiun Elliston (Soyu Matusoka/Shohaku Okumura lineage)
White Plum – Affiliation of teachers through Taizan Maezumi

(Some of the) Major Soto Zen teachers through whom many authorized teachers in the U.S. trace their lineage:

Tozen Akiyama
Kobun Chino
Dainin Katagiri
Jiyu Kennett
Taizan Maezumi
Soyu Matsuoka
Gudo Nishijima
Shunryu Suzuki
Kosho Uchiyama