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Shinzen Young

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Shinzen Young Teaching at Harvard, 2012

Shinzen Young (真善, Shinzen) is an American meditation teacher. He leads residential and phone-based meditation retreats for students interested in learning the Vipassana (insight) tradition of Buddhism. He was originally ordained in Japan as a monk in the Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana) tradition.[1] He has studied and practiced extensively in other traditions, including Zen and Native American traditions.

Young's interest in integrating meditation with scientific paradigms has led to collaborations with neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School,[2][3] University of Massachusetts Medical School, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Vermont.[4] He is working on various ways to bring a secular mindfulness practice to a wider audience using revamped terminology and techniques as well as automated expert systems.[5] He published a book summarizing his system of meditation entitled The Science of Enlightenment in 2016.



Young's teachings bring together elements of Buddhist schools such as Theravada, Zen, and Vajrayana, with an emphasis on traditional mindfulness meditation. He has adapted the central Buddhist concept of the five skandhas or aggregates into modern language, grouped them into sensory categories with potential neurological correlates, and developed an extensive system of meditation techniques for working with those categories individually and in combinations.[citation needed] He frequently uses concepts from mathematics as a metaphor to illustrate the abstract concepts of meditation. As a result, his teachings tend to be popular among academics and professionals.[6]

Young developed the Unified Mindfulness program, a system which trains and certifies teachers of meditation in accordance with Young's methods and terminology.

Personal life


Shinzen Young was born Steve Young in Los Angeles, California. His parents were Jewish. An irritable child and poor student, in middle school Young became fascinated with Asian languages and cultures, eventually becoming fluent in Japanese. After graduating from UCLA as an Asian Language major, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin's Ph.D. program in Buddhist Studies. To gather materials for his doctoral dissertation, he spent several years at the Shingon monastery at Mount Kōya in Japan, where he was ordained as a monk in 1970 and received the name Shinzen.[7] During these early years in Japan, and spurred by the tragic death of an academic mentor, he decided to leave the academic path to fully commit to the practice of meditation.[8]


  • Break Through Pain: A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Meditation Program for Transforming Chronic and Acute Pain (2006) ISBN 1-59179-199-5
  • The Beginner's Guide to Meditation (2002) ISBN 1-56455-971-8
  • The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works (2016) ISBN 1-59179-460-9

Audio publications



  1. ^ [1] Fall 2005 By Polly Young-Eisendrath, in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review Archived June 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Understanding Enlightenment Could Change Science - Psychology Tomorrow". Psychology Tomorrow Magazine.
  3. ^ Shinzen (2 April 2012). "Shinzen's Blog: Basic Mindfulness - Basic Science". shinzenyoung.blogspot.com.
  4. ^ University of Vermont. "Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit : University of Vermont". uvm.edu.
  5. ^ "BG 102: Shinzen Young: The Hybrid Teacher" (Podcast). Buddhist Geeks: Seriously Buddhist, Seriously Geeky. 2008-12-28. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2009-02-18.
  6. ^ "Astrobiology Spring 2005 - Ebooks from United States". Archived from the original on 2014-12-13. Retrieved 2014-12-12.
  7. ^ "New Page 1". shinzen.org. Archived from the original on 2013-05-13.
  8. ^ Young, Shinzen (2005). The Science of Enlightenment Audio CD. Sounds True. ISBN 978-1-60407-292-1.

Essays outlining his meditation system