Dennis Merzel

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Dennis Merzel
Genpo Roshi Merzel Profile Picture
Born 3 June 1944
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Education University of Southern California
Occupation Author
Religion Zen
Taizan Maezumi and Merzel

Dennis Merzel is an American Zen and spirituality teacher, also known as Genpo Merzel Roshi.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Dennis Paul Merzel, known as Genpo Roshi, was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 3, 1944. He was a champion swimmer and an all-American water polo player. He was a lifeguard and began teaching public school while obtaining a Master's degree in educational administration from the University of Southern California.[web 1][news 1]

Zen Buddhism[edit]

While on a trip in 1971 to the Mojave Desert in California with two friends, Merzel had what he described as an "awakening experience".[web 2][web 3] Following this, he left his career as a school teacher for a year to live in the mountains alone in a cabin near San Luis Obispo. In 1972[web 2] he met the Japanese-born Zen teacher Taizan Maezumi, and moved to Los Angeles to study under him.[web 1][news 2][news 3] Merzel was ordained as an unsui, or novice priest, in 1973.[1] In 1980, a year after completing formal Kōan study, Merzel received dharma transmission, becoming Maezumi's second Dharma successor.[1][web 2] In 1981 Merzel underwent zuise[note 1] in Japan,[1] and in 1988 he was officially installed as abbot of Hosshinji Zen temple in Bar Harbor, Maine.[web 4][note 2] In 1995 Merzel received the title of Dendō-kyōshi Kenshuso, a now defunct category officially recognizing Western Zen priests by the Sōtō School Headquarters in Japan (Sōtō-shū) .[web 5] In 1996 Merzel received Inka from Bernie Glassman,[1][web 2] after Maezumi's death in 1995.[web 4][note 3] This made Merzel Bernie Glassman's first Inka successor and made him the second in Maezumi Roshi's lineage to be recognized as a Zen Master.[web 2]

Merzel is the founder[news 4] and former Abbot of Kanzeon Zen Center. [news 5] After studying voice dialogue with Hal and Sidra Stone he developed the Big Mind Process™,[web 4] which combines "Eastern, Buddhist insights with Western psychoanalytical ideas."[news 6][note 4][note 5] Merzel has organized Big Mind™ retreats and events nationally and internationally, such as an annual event in the Netherlands that has attracted hundreds of participants.[news 6] A randomized clinical trial of Merzel's Big Mind method showed statistically significant differences between the treatment and control groups for all parameters measured,[4] though Johnson notes that the reported effects may also result from factors such as group effect, suggestibility, and/or simple expectation,[5] and that the study may have limited generalizability due to the high level of education of the participants.[5][note 6]

Resignation from White Plum[edit]

In 1988 Merzel was installed as abbot at Hosshinji, a Zen temple in Bar Harbor, Maine.[web 2][web 5][6] He was alleged to have had a romantic relationship with a student, leading to the dissolution of the temple.[web 5]

In August 1992, a group of 12 American Zen teachers sent a letter to Taizan Maezumi, expressing concern about Merzel's relationships with a number of female students, his lack of remorse, and his lack of responsibility. They asked Maezumi to withdraw Merzel's sanction to teach.[web 9]

In February 2011, after admitting to three extra-marital affairs, Merzel said he would disrobe as a Buddhist priest, resign as an elder of the White Plum Asanga, step down as Abbot of Kanzeon, and stop teaching for an indefinite period to seek counseling.[news 7][news 8][web 10][news 9]

Forty-four American Buddhist teachers wrote a letter[news 10] suggesting that Merzel take a minimum one-year break from teaching and seek therapy.[letters 1][letters 2]

By April, Merzel had reversed his position, saying that too many students and his organizations depended on him financially and spiritually.[news 11]

Sixty-six American Buddhist teachers responded with a public letter to Merzel requesting that he follow through with his stated intention to stop teaching for some time.[news 11][letters 3][letters 4] Merzel continued to lead retreats.[news 11][letters 5] It was reported that he and his wife were divorcing.[news 11]

He continues to serve as president and abbot of Kanzeon Zen Center, now called Big Heart Zen Sangha.[web 2]

Heirs[edit]

Dennis Merzel has given Dharma transmission to 15 heirs, and authorized 9 to teach as Zen Masters. He has given Jukai to 518 students and ordained 137 Priests.[web 2]

Dharma successors[edit]

Inka transmission[edit]

Inka transmission conferring the title of Zen Master on nine Zen teachers:

Publications[edit]

Books[edit]

  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen (1991, Shambhala Publications)
  • Beyond Sanity and Madness the Way of Zen Master Dogen (1994, Tuttle Publishing)
  • 24/7 Dharma: Impermanence, No-Self, Nirvana (2001, Journey Editions)
  • The Path of the Human Being: Zen Teachings on the Bodhisattva Way (2005, Shambhala Publications)
  • Big Mind, Big Heart: Finding Your Way (2007, Big Mind Publishing)[news 12]
  • The Fool Who Thought He Was God (2013, Big Mind Publishing)

DVDs[edit]

  • Big Mind Big Heart Revealed
  • The Path of the Human Being
  • Awakened by the 10,000 Dharmas
  • From Student to Master
  • Masculine and Feminine Energies
  • The Teachings of Bodhidharma

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ceremonial "abbot-for-one-night" rituals at the head temples of the Soto school
  2. ^ A traditional ceremony of "entering the temple" which marks the end of the monastic training period and becoming part of the clergy.[2]
  3. ^ IntegralNaked: "Roshi Bernie had received Inka from Maezumi Roshi shortly before the latter's death in May of 1995."[web 4] SweepingZen: "In the Japanese Rinzai schools, inka is the equivalent of Sōtō Zen dharma transmission (shiho ceremony), and is the final level of empowerment as a teacher. In the Harada-Yasutani lineage, inka is one level of empowerment beyond dharma transmission."[web 6] Great Plains Zen Center: "This Inka ceremony grants final approval in our Rinzai lineage through Musa Koryu Roshi, another one of Maezumi Roshi's teachers."[web 7]
  4. ^ From the Big Mind website: "In 1999 he created the Big Mind Process™, also known as Big Mind/Big Heart, which philosopher Ken Wilber has called “arguably the most important and original discovery in the last two centuries of Buddhism.” It has broadened and enriched not only the teaching of Zen but spiritual practices in other traditions as well, enabling thousands of people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds to have an awakening with little or no prior consciousness study. It is being used in many fields, including psychotherapy, law, medicine, education, mediation, business, athletics, social work, family therapy, and work with prison inmates, hospital patients and the dying. Roshi continues to train people to bring the Big Mind process and Big Heart Zen out into the world, and remains deeply committed to their ongoing evolution."[web 2]
  5. ^ Japanese Soto Zen founder Dōgen Zenji uses the phrase in his Tenzo Kyōkun (Instructions to the Chief Cook);[3] as does 20th-century Zen master Shunryu Suzuki in talks collected in the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.[web 8]
  6. ^ See also Linda Heuman, Meditation Nation, Tricycle April 25, 2014.

References[edit]

Book references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Ford 2006, p. 166.
  2. ^ Borup 2008, p. 180.
  3. ^ Dōgen Zenji.
  4. ^ Johnson 2011.
  5. ^ a b Johnson 2011, p. 207.
  6. ^ Buffhist Society 1988, p. 252.

Web references[edit]

Newspapers and magazines references[edit]

  1. ^ Jarvik, Elaine (26 August 2005). "The Zen of Sitting". Desert Morning News. Retrieved 3 January 2008. 
  2. ^ "Sitting judge: Retired Utah chief justice finds his way as a Buddhist monk". Deseret News. 24 April 2004. 
  3. ^ "Sensei Coppens: het grootste geschenk is de onbevreesdheid". Trouw. 11 January 1997. Retrieved 12 February 2011. [dead link]
  4. ^ Bloom, Anna (1 May 2007). "How to bring Zen to the grocery store". Park Record. 
  5. ^ Warburton, Nicole (3 January 2009). "New year, New mind – Zen master helps others find enlightenment". Deseret News. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Limpt, Cokky van (22 January 2010). "Verlichting voor westerse geesten". Trouw. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  7. ^ Ryan, Philip (7 February 2011). "Genpo Merzel disrobes". Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Limpt, Cokky van (23 March 2011). "Pleegde de zenmeester overspel of was het misbruik?". Trouw. 
  9. ^ Peggy Fletches Stack, february 25, 2011, Utah Zen master admits affair, leaves center, The Salt Lake Tribune
  10. ^ Tricycle (February 20, 2011 ), Sex in the Sangha: Apparently, we still haven't had enough
  11. ^ a b c d The Salt Lake Tribune, Zen teachers are livid Utah colleague in sex scandal stiil teaching
  12. ^ Hamill, Dennis (1 September 2008). "Peace of mind in Zen master Gerpo Merzel's 'Big Mind'". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 12 February 2011. 

Letters from Zen teachers[edit]

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]