Chronology of  Shunryu Suzuki's Life

Shunryu Suzuki Index - Bio - Suzuki in Wind Bells

[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, 2002, especially in December of 2017. Went through Wind Bells, Crooked Cucumber, notes. - DC] 

SR = Shunryu Suzuki. Shungo = Shungo Suzuki, Shunryu grandson - see notes from him with more details.

shi = city, ken = prefecture, machi = town, mura = village, gun = county

Learn what more there is on cuke about those named herein by doing a site search from the home page or any page with the site search box.


Founding of Rinsoin which was to become Shunryu Suzuki's temple.

c. 1858

Shunryu's father, Butsumon Sogaku Suzuki, is born in Kakegawa-shi, approximately 7 miles southeast of Mori-machi, Shizuoka-ken.


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 born (scholar of Shōbōgenzō and teacher of  Shunryu).


January 9: Emperor Kōmei (Osahito) dies. Emperor Meiji (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 Hiratsuka-shi, Kanagawa-ken near Yokohama.

c. 1877

Shunryu'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:  Shunryu Suzuki is born at Shogan-ji temple to his father Butsumon Suzuki and his mother Yone Shima. He is given the Buddhist name  Shunryu (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 Hiratsuka, Kanagawa-ken. 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.]


April 29: Gyokujun So-on becomes abbot of Zounin

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

Leaves home, Shoganji, and family to move to Zounin and study with Gyokujun So-on Suzuki, a disciple of and adopted son of Sogaku.


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 Mori-machi, Shizuoka-ken.


May 18: Tokudo:  Shunryu ordained as a monk by Gyokujun So-on and given his second Buddhist name, Shogaku (Auspicious Peak). [on his 13th birthday Western counting, 14th traditional Japanese method where you're one at birth.]

Summer - So-on has shinsanshiki, mt. seat ceremony,with kessei ango and shuso hossenshiki (practice period and head monk ceremony) at Zoun-in


June 11: Continuing to serve at Zoun-in, Gyokujun So-on becomes abbot of Rinso-in.  Shunryu assists at both Zoun-in and Rinso-in temples as a teenager.


Studies at Kaisei Chugaku school. Skips last year. Middle school.


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, to be initiated as head monk.  Shunryu 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 (Michinomiya Hirohito) ascends the throne. Shōwa era begins.

Tachibana Shundo publishes The Ethics of Buddhism.


Nona Ransom arrives in Japan.

August 1:  Shunryu 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  Shunryu is away at school.

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

c.1929 - Shunryu and friends see Daito Suzuki off at Yokohama harbor - on his way to LA to help Hosen Isobe who in 1922 had founded Zenshuji, a Soto Zen temple, though there was no actual structure till 1927.


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.

Japanese army invades Chinese province of Manchuria, installs puppet regime.


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:  Shunryu 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.)


c. 1933 - Marries first wife (name unknown).  She contracts tuberculosis. Marriage annulled.

November 22: Father Butsumon Sogaku Suzuki dies.


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:  Shunryu (age 30) marries Chie Muramatsu (age 22).

November 11: Daughter Yasuko born


April 23: Ceremony recognizing Gen'ichi Amano as his gishin, godfather, entering his home.

Followed by Shogaku Shunryu's Shinshanshiki, Mt. Seat Ceremony, establishing him as the abbot, cheif priest of Rinsoin.

"Shinsanshiki with kesseiango (with shuso hossenshiki)" - Shungo

Continues as kenmu-jushoku, concurrent abbot, of Zounin until Kendo Okamoto assumes the position - no date yet for the latter.

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

July 7 - Japan goes to war with China, capturing Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing.


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


Shunryu's mother Yone dies.

December 8 (7 Hawaii time), Buddha's enlightenment day in Japan: Japanese airplanes bomb Pearl Harbor and Japan is at war with the US and allies.

c. 1942

Formally becomes "rōshi" for ceremonial purposes. [That's Peter Schneider's note. They wouldn't use the word roshi like that - but some new priest status.- dc]


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.

Shunryu and Taro Kato go to Manchuria

August 15 - Japan surrenders to US. War is over.


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: Establishes Tokiwa nursery school in Yaizu. Hires Mitsu Matsuno as director.


March 27 - Second wife Chie is murdered by mentally unstable monk at Rinsoin along with family dog.

June 30: Concludes study with Kishizawa Ian.

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

Kazemitsu Kato arrives in the US to assist at Zenshuji in LA


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

March 1: Daigo Fukuryu Maru, Lucky Dragon 5, a Japanese fishing boat crew contaminated with nuclear fallout from US hydrogen bomb testing in Pacific. Massive demonstrations in Japan, Shunryu joins in on an anti-nuclear march.


Kishizawa Ian dies.


Suzuki 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.

"He had kesseiango with shuso hossenshiki again on summer 1958." - Shungo

"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, a Soto Zen temple in San Francisco.

December - Marries with Mitsu Matsuno


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



May 23: Arrives in San Francisco. The first Wind Bell, Dec. 1961 mistakenly says the afternoon of June 22, 1959. Kazemitsu Kato meets him and not only assists with temple duties but introduces SR to people and places in the Bay Area.

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

May 24: First lecture to Japanese congregation.

Meets Kazumitsu Kato, first students, Allen Watts, Taizen Maezumi, Joanne Kyger and others in the artist poet Asia-file Beat community.

July: Shunryu performs funeral ceremony for Daito Suzuki, abbot of LA Soto temple, Zenshuji. Shunryu and friends had seen Daito off at the docks in Yokohama when he went to America

Fall: Soen Nakagawa visits Sokoji and Shunryu.

February 21-22 - First sesshin of Sokoji

August 22 - 28 - 2nd sesshin

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


March: McNeil and Hense return disillusioned

June 14 - Mitsu, Otohiro Suzuki arrive

August: - 2nd sesshin for one week

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


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 - WB

May 24: First known visit to look for land for practice center - in Jenner. WB

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

Third annual sesshin

September 2 - first lay ordination of fifteen people - WB


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

In Japan - Gives dharma transmission to Hoitsu Suzuki

Either at this time or in his 1966 visit gave dharma transmission to Shoko Okamoto, son of Kendo Okamoto, abbot of Zounin, so that Shoko could inherit his father's temple as his father had another lineage.

"He had kesseiango with  shuso hossenshiki again in 1963." - Shungo


Bill Kwong has disagreement with Richard Baker and starts sitting in Mill Valley, returns to Sokoji for Saturday schedule.

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

July 28 - Memorial for Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who burned himself to death to protest the escalating war.

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

Oct.3 - Dainin Katagiri arrives in the US, goes to Zenshuji in LA.

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.

Shunryu's daughter Omi hangs herself in a mental institution in Japan where she had been living for nine years.


c. April - Dainin Katagiri come to the ZC to assist Suzuki

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.


Spring: SR returns to New England

Satellite zendo in Berkeley

Richard Baker takes SR to see Tassajara and surroundings

August 18: Togen Sumi, new Bishop of Soto Zen in America for Japanese congregations and priest at Zenshuji in La, 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

Allen Watt's letter saying Reverend is not right for Suzuki and that roshi is. Suzuki Roshi becomes his accepted title and Sensei for Dainin Katagiri.

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


January 12: Suzuki speaks at Awalt HS, Los Altos

February 14: Speaks at Stanford University

March - Marian Derby gives Richard Baker the completed manuscript for Beginner's Mind which she'd compiled from SR lectures in Los Altos. Before long Trudy Dixon is working with that material and other lectures to create a book of Suzuki lectures.

March 8: Speaks at the Community Church in NYC where he also visited Eido Shimano at Zen Studies and Mary Farkas at the First Zen Inst. Also visited and sat with Philip Kapleau's Zen goup in Rochester, Boston and other places with Richard Baker.

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

May 27-28: Zen Mountain Center Benefit.

June: Kobun Chino arrives to be the priest at the Los Altos zendo but is needed at Tassajara first.

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.

July 14: Suzuki attends the Human Be-in in Golden Gate Park sitting by Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder.

October: Shunryu and Mitsu visit Mike and Trudy Dixon at Trudy's family ranch in Wyoming, ride horses.


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.

June - Gives talk at Grace Cathedral

July 9: Visit to Tassajara by a group of Zen teachers including Hakuun Yasutani, Soen Nakagawa, Eido Shimano, Robert Aitken. Some of Nyogen Senzaki's ashes are spread from the first peak up the road.

Teachers visit from Crooked Cucumber

October 12: Joins Richard Baker and other students on a peace march.

October 23 - Richard Baker and family sail for Japan.

Late fall - Anagarika Govinda visits Tassajara and meets with Suzuki


March 27 - Ryogen Yoshimura arrives from Japan to be an assistant priest

April - SR almost drowns in the deep pool at the narrows with students who don't notice he's walked in from the shallow end. He says this experience has a profound and humbling effect on him and his practice.

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 9 - Trudy Dixon dies.

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 the newly bought building at 300 Page St. Shunryu and Mitsu move in. Katagiri, his wife Tomoe, and sons move into building next door. Students move in and nearby.


January 3: Mahabodhisattva Zendo, 300 Page St., SF, formally opened. The building is named Beginner's Mind Temple.

Sotan Tatsugami arrives to lead practice period at Tassajara.

Ordained Silas Hoadley and Bill Kwong as priests.

Early 1970 - Ed Brown's Tassajara Bread Book published

May: Ordained Peter Schneider and Dan Welch as priests.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind published.

June - Grahame Petchey visits Tassajara, is exasperated with Suzuki for not personally answering Nona Ransom's letters. Grahame had gotten to know her in England. Suzuki regrets he didn't before she died that year.

Chogyam Trungpa visits Tassajara with his wife, Diana, Sam Bercholz, and a few other students. He and Shunryu Suzuki get along. Trungpa gives a talk in the zendo.

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

August 25: Conducted lay ordination for 36 students, the first since 1962.

August: Goes to Japan with Mitsu. Visits Antaiji and meets Kosho Uchiyama.

December 8: Gave dharma transmission to Richard Baker.


January: Ordained Les Kaye as a priest.

February 27 - Gives a talk in the city comparing the teacher to a driver and how the driver will someday not be there, admonishing students not to waste their time. People note his occasional mentions of impending illness and death.

March 12 - Lecture at Reed college. Gets ill. Returns to have gall bladder removed which was cancerous and that was kept secret.

May - Chogyam Trungpa brings his newborn son to be blessed by Suzuki.

Early July: Suzuki goes to Vermont to perform a funeral for Marjorie Bragdon who committed suicide while holding Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.

July 17 - returns to Tassajara with Mitsu, works hard in garden, gives lectures almost nightly.

August 18: Suzuki leaves Tassajara for the last time. Met with Sōen Nakagawa on the way to the city.

August late - lay ordination of 55 students.

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

October 9 or 10 - Announces to disciples in the city that he has terminal cancer. [SR 71-10-09]

November 21: Mountain seat ceremony for Richard Baker.

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

December 12: Funeral ceremony conducted by Rempo Niwa who came from Japan, Dainin Katagiri, and Daigo Moriyama, the priest at Sokoji.


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

See Shunryu Suzuki Wind Bell excerpts for more

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

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