Mary Farkas

1910 - 1992

of the First Zen Institute of America in New York City the oldest Zen organization in the US founded by Sokeian in 1930

First Zen Institute of America, appropriately named, founded in New York City by Sokeian Sasaki in 1930.

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Shunryu Suzuki visited the First Zen Inst. and met Mary Farkas in 1967 and again in 1969. See Wind Bell Excerpts - East Coast

Footsteps in the Invisible world (1969) - by Mark Farkas on page 15 of the Fall 1969 Wind Bell

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi - by Mary Farkas in Zen Notes - an excellent piece on Suzuki and the early Zen Center with comments from an Institute member who practiced at Sokoji before and during Suzuki's early days there.

DC comments on this piece below.

---Suzuki was 67, not 69 when he died.

---Description of the zendo by the person Farkas quotes, who'd been there with Tobase since 1955, sounds right in general but does not conform to any description of the early zendo of the Sokoji that I know of - having three sides with a raised dias. Doesn't sound like he's referring to the way they rearranged the pews to sit in them pushed together. That system was replaced with goza mats on the floor. Later raised tans were built in the balcony outside the zendo for overflow or latecomers - the gaitan. The unnamed writer to Farkas says it's a year and a half after Suzuki arrived, fall of 1960, and the goza mats would be in place then on three sides. I don't think they elevated them because they weren't later and back then they had to put the room back together for the Japanese congreation though at some point they stopped doing that and the Japanese congregation met downstairs in the audiotorium. Later in 1970 raised tans were built at the City Center on Page St. The general impression of what she printed from the letter is that there were at least two people who were there regularly before Suzuki who continued with him. But Suzuki nor anyone else ever mentioned anyone who'd been there before him on any sort of regular basis except for Claude Dalenberg who'd been there earlier but who wasn't with Suzuki for the first few years because he was in Japan.

---Suzuki's zazen students didn't separate from Sokoji temple or the Japanese congregation to establish the Zen Center in 1962.

---Suzuki did not ordain six priests in 1969 but he ordained more than that in other years added up. Richard Baker got transmission on December 8, 1970. - see Chronology of Suzuki's Life

---Farkas' would be pleased to see that the practice of the SFZC, while including modified monastic practice, incorporates fully the more lay oriented Zen practice she thought was in contrast to it.


There was some kind of religious quest in the fifties going on but there weren't any teachers except for Sokeian in NY with Mary Farkas and Ruth Fuller - that was one place you could go though that was so high falutin evidently it put off a lot of the Bohemian type minds that were more naturally drawn to it. That's where Walter Nowick started to sit. - Joanne Kyger

I started sitting in 1958 in New York with the First Zen Institute. There was no roshi there at first. Mary Farkas was my good friend from 1958 until she died a few years ago. Whenever I went to New York I stayed at the Institute. Sometimes for weeks at a time. - Interview with Irene Horowitz


Wikipedia page on Mary Farkas