Reb Anderson

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Reb Anderson
TitleZen Master
Harold Anderson

1943 (age 78–79)
SchoolSoto Zen
LineageShunryu Suzuki
Senior posting
Based inSan Francisco Zen Center
Green Gulch Farm Zen Center
PredecessorZentatsu Richard Baker
SuccessorAnanda Claude Dalenberg, Zengyu Paul Discoe, Sobun Katherine Thanas, Chikudo Jerome Petersen, Jiko Linda Cutts, Jakujo Gary McNabb, Furyu Nancy Schroeder, Myo Lahey, Taigen Dan Leighton, Meiya Wender, Leslie James, Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin, Kiku Christina Lehnherr, Taiyo Lipscomb, Kokyo Henkel, Gentaku Susan O'Connell, Korin Nyuyu Charlie Porkorny

Tenshin Zenki Reb Anderson (born 1943) is an American Buddhist who is a Zen teacher in the Sōtō Zen tradition of Shunryu Suzuki. He is a Senior Dharma teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center and at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County, California, where he lives. According to author James Ishmael Ford, "Reb Anderson is one of the most prominent of contemporary Western Zen teachers."[1]


Reb Anderson was born as Harold Anderson[2] in Mississippi in 1943 and grew up in Minnesota. His father left the family when Anderson was eleven.[3] In his youth, he was a Golden Gloves boxer.[4] Anderson developed an interest in Buddhism while still in his teens.[1] In 1967, he abandoned his graduate studies in psychology and mathematics to study Soto Zen under Shunryu Suzuki at the San Francisco Zen Center.

Anderson was then ordained as a priest in 1970 by Suzuki, who gave Anderson the Buddhist name Tenshin Zenki 天眞全機 (Naturally Real, The Whole Works).[5] In 1983 Anderson received shiho from Zentatsu Richard Baker, becoming Baker's first Dharma heir. However, when Baker was forced to resign amid complaints about his affairs with female Zen Center members and his purchase of expensive luxury goods, Baker claimed Anderson never completed the entire transmission ceremony.[6] The board of the San Francisco Zen Center disagreed, understanding Anderson to be Baker's Dharma heir (Baker has since agreed).[1] After Baker's resignation, Anderson replaced him as abbot.

Tenshin Reb Anderson

In a controversial incident, while jogging in Golden Gate Park in 1983, Anderson found the corpse of a man with a bullet wound to the head and a revolver nearby. Anderson returned to the body over a period of several days to meditate over the corpse, on one visit taking the revolver.[7] In 1987, Anderson was mugged one block away from the San Francisco Zen Center. He retrieved the unloaded revolver and chased the perpetrator to a nearby tenement, where both were quickly arrested.[7]

The Zen Center Board of Directors sent him on a leave of absence for six months.[8] After his return, he served as co-abbot with Mel Weitsman until 1995. Regarding this ordeal, Anderson has written of his remorse and insight garnered from the experience.[9]

In October 1999 Anderson suffered a heart attack while conducting dokusan. He later underwent a successful emergency angioplasty.[10]

Anderson is married to Rusa Chiu, a Jungian analyst in private practice. He has two daughters, Deborah Savran and Thea Anderson, and four grandchildren.

Teaching style[edit]

According to James Ishmael Ford, "...Anderson Roshi is one of the first people to have worked hard to bring Dogen studies West. He has also stretched much of Zen's traditional approach to psychology by drawing upon other ancient Buddhist sources, including Abhidharma and Yogachara teaching, while at the same time being solidly informed regarding Western approaches to the discipline."[1] To some students, "...Reb's practice invites comparison to the legendary Japanese samurai, the warriors who trained in medieval Zen monasteries."[4]

Dharma heirs[edit]

Sobun Katherine Thanas received shiho from Tenshin Roshi in 1988 and later was installed as abbess of the Santa Cruz Zen Center.[11] Zengyu Paul Discoe, Chikudo Jerome Peterson and Ananda Claude Dalenburg also received shiho in 1988 (Ananda was the inspiration for the character Bud Diefendorf in Jack Kerouac's novel The Dharma Bums).[12] Anderson gave shiho to his student Jiko Linda Cutts in 1996, who went on to serve as co-abbess of the San Francisco Zen Center from 2000 until 2007. She has served as Central Abbess of San Francisco Center from 2014 to 2019.[13] Jakujo Gary McNabb received shiho in 1998. Furyu Nancy Schroeder received shiho 1999. She was installed as the abiding abbess of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center and has served from 2014 to the present. Myo Denis Lahey received shiho in 1999 and became head teacher of the Hartford Street Zen Center, Issan-ji, in San Francisco. In 2000 Taigen Dan Leighton received shiho. Leighton has since gone on to establish the Mountain Source Sangha[14] and after moving to Chicago, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate.[15] In 2002 Meiya Wender received shiho. She now conducts japanese tea ceremony classes at Green Gulch.[16] Also in 2002, Anderson gave shiho to Leslie James, his first dharma entrustment to a lay teacher. She is a long-time resident of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the monastic center of San Francisco Zen Center.[17] In 2003 Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin became Tenshin Roshi's Dharma successor and became Houston Zen Center's Abiding Teacher (2003) and abbot of Houston Zen Center in 2012. In 2005, she received the title of 'Kaikyoshi' from the Soto School of Japan.[18] In 2005 Kiku Christina Lehnherr received shiho from Tenshin Roshi and served as San Francisco Zen Center's City Center abbess from 2012 to 2014.[19] Taiyo Lipscomb received shiho in 2009,[20] and in 2010, Kōkyō Henkel received shiho. He is currently Head Teacher at Santa Cruz Zen Center.[21]Gentaku Susan O'Connell received shiho June 2017, Korin Nyuyu Charlie Pokorny received shiho in 2018. He is currently co-leader of the Stone Creek Zendo in Sebastopol California.


  • Anderson, Reb; Moon, Susan Ichi Su (2005) [1995]. Warm Smiles from Cold Mountains: Dharma Talks on Zen Meditation (3rd ed.). Berkeley: Rodmell Press. ISBN 1930485107. OCLC 61332243.
  • Anderson, Reb (2001). Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. Berkeley: Rodmell Press. ISBN 0962713899. OCLC 44414111.
  • Anderson, Reb (2012). The Third Turning of the Wheel: Wisdom of the Samdhinirmocana Sutra. Berkeley: Rodmell Press. ISBN 978-1930485310. OCLC 757477313.
  • Anderson, Reb (2019). Entering the Mind of Buddha: Zen and the Six Heroic Practices of Bodhisattvas. Boulder: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 9781611806533. OCLC 1134538104.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ford, James Ishmael (2006). Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Boston: Wisdom Publications. pp. 127–128. ISBN 0861715098. OCLC 70174891.
  2. ^ Prebish, Charles S.; Baumann, Martin (2002). Westward Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 237. ISBN 0520226259. OCLC 48871649.
  3. ^ Anderson 2005, p. 137
  4. ^ a b Downing, Michael (2001). Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center. Washington, DC: Counterpoint. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1582431132. OCLC 46793103.
  5. ^ Gach, Gary (1998). What Book!?: Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop. Berkeley: Parallax Press. pp. 210. ISBN 0938077929. OCLC 38324499.
  6. ^ Downing 2001, pp. 357–360
  7. ^ a b Anderson 2001, pp. 187–189
  8. ^ "A Buddhist sect's top priest is taking a voluntary..." United Press International. UPI. June 16, 1987. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  9. ^ Anderson 2001, pp. 187–189: "On both a personal and a professional level, I am still dealing with the consequences of this episode. Some people felt that I had committed an irrevocable betrayal of trust, and have discounted me and my teaching ever since. Others were more forgiving, but their trust in me and my integrity was permanently shaken. Even newer students, who come to Zen Center and find out about these incidents, are sometimes confused and question whether I can be their teacher. These events are a helpful reminder—both to me and to others—of my vulnerability to arrogance and inflation. I see how my empowerment to protect and care for the Triple Treasure inflated my sense of personal authority, and thus detracted from and disparaged the Triple Treasure. This ancient twisted karma I now fully avow."
  10. ^ Chadwick, David (October 20, 1999). "Cuke Sangha News through '07". Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  11. ^ "Memorial Page: Karin Sobun Katherine Thomas". Santa Cruz Zen Center. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  12. ^ Chadwick, David (October 7, 1994). "Interviews with Ananda (Claude) Dalenberg". Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  13. ^ Skinner Keller, Rosemary; Radford Ruether, Rosemary; Cantlon, Marie (2006). The Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 643. ISBN 0253346851. OCLC 61711172.
  14. ^ "Taigen Dan Leighton, Founding Dharma Teacher". Mountain Source Sangha. 2007. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  15. ^ "Taigen Dan Leighton Full Biography". Ancient Dragon Zen Gate. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  16. ^ "Meiya Wender". San Francisco Zen Center. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  17. ^ "Leslie James". San Francisco Zen Center. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  18. ^ "Houston Zen Center: About Us". Houston Zen Center. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  19. ^ "Kiku Christina Lehnherr". San Francisco Zen Center. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  20. ^ "Taiyo Lipscomb". San Francisco Zen Center. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  21. ^ "Santa Cruz Zen Center: Current Leaders". Santa Cruz Zen Center. Retrieved February 12, 2013.