PZI Teacher Archives

Zen Luminaries Archive: A Series of Conversations with Host Jon Joseph Roshi


Modern Zen Luminaries: A series of Zen Buddhist scholars, writers, poets, translators, and practitioners join PZI’s Jon Joseph Roshi for lively discussions online, with a focus on our Chan lineage. Includes all recordings beginning with the series’ launch in September 2021.

Zen Luminaries Archive: A Series of Conversations
with Host Jon Joseph Roshi

WELCOME! This archive contains all guests to date. You may browse it by scrolling.
To search by name, visit our KALPA Library and type in your search criteria.

Jon Joseph Roshi of San Mateo Zen and PZI created this series to support the hardworking innovators and shining voices of modern Zen: scholars, writers, poets, translators, activists, artists, teachers, and more.

All proceeds for each event, including teacher dana, go directly to the guest speaker. Event attendees are encouraged to give as generously as you are able, so we can offer deep thanks to Luminaries guests.

We are especially grateful to these individuals for their generous support:

Dennis Hohman, Timothy Walters


MONDAY, AUGUST 12TH – ROBERT HASS: On His Poetry, Japanese Haiku, and Working with Milosz


COMING SOON: Poet Robert Hass
in Conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
Monday, August 12, 2024

Topic: On His Poetry, Japanese Haiku, and Working with Milosz

Robert Hass was born in San Francisco in 1941 and grew up in San Rafael. In the midst of the 1950s Bay Area poetry scene, Hass entertained the idea of becoming a beatnik. He graduated from Marin Catholic High School in 1958. When the area became influenced by East Asian literary techniques, such as haiku, Hass took many of these influences up in his poetry.

Hass is the author of nine poetry collections, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, winner of the William Carlos Williams Award, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.

He served as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry from 1995 to 1997, and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2002.

Robert Hass is the Distinguished Professor in Poetry and Poetics at the University of California Berkeley.

source: Wikipedia, Library of Congress

Reading a poem by Robert Hass is like stepping into the ocean when the temperature of the water is not much different from that of the air. You scarcely know, until you feel the undertow tug at you, that you have entered into another element.

—Poet Stanley Kunitz



ARCHIVED: Poet & Translator David Hinton
in Conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
Monday, July 1, 2024

Audio coming soon: No-Gate Gateway and The Blue Cliff Record


David Hinton has published numerous books of poetry and essays, and many translations of ancient Chinese poetry and philosophy that create contemporary works of compelling literary power, while also conveying the actual texture and density of the originals. These books are all informed by an abiding interest in deep ecological thinking, in exploring the weave of consciousness and landscape.

This work has earned wide acclaim and many national awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States: the Landon Translation Award (Academy of American Poets) and the PEN American Translation Award. Most recently, Hinton received a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

I’ve been translating classical Chinese poetry for many years, and slowly over those years I’ve come to realize that in translation I’ve stumbled upon a way to think outside the limitations not just of the mainstream Western intellectual tradition, but also of my own identity, a way to speak in the voice of ancient China’s sage-masters, and for them to speak in mine.

—David Hinton, from his book, Hunger Mountain

ARCHIVED: Poet Marie Howe
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
Monday, June 3, 2024

Audio coming soon: New & Selected Poems


Marie Howe is the author of five volumes of poetry, New and Selected Poems; Magdalene: PoemsThe Kingdom of Ordinary Time; The Good Thief; and What the Living Do, and she is the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others.

She has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships, and Stanley Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets. In 2015, she received the Academy of American Poets Poetry Fellowship which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. From 2012-2014, she served as the Poet Laureate of New York State.

Marie Howe’s poetry is luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life. Her long, deep-breathing lines address the mysteries of flesh and spirit, in terms accessible only to a woman who is very much of our time and yet still in touch with the sacred.

—Stanley Kunitz

ARCHIVED: Former Governor Jerry Brown
in conversation with Jon Joseph, John Tarrant
& David Weinstein
Monday, April 29, 2024

Audio: Saving the Earth, Helping the People:
A Spiritual and Political Journey

Edmund G. Brown Jr. was born in San Francisco on April 7, 1938. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1955 and entered Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary. He later attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1961 before earning a J.D. at Yale Law School in 1964.

In 1998, Brown was elected Mayor of Oakland and California Attorney General in 2006. He was elected to a third gubernatorial term in 2010 and to a historic fourth term in 2014. While Brown was Governor, California also established nation-leading targets to protect the environment and fight climate change and by 2045, the state will generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and achieve carbon neutrality.

He currently serves as chair of the California-China Climate Institute housed at UC Berkeley, executive chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and on the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Brown lives in Colusa County with his wife Anne Gust Brown and two dogs.

source: https://www.jerrybrown.org/about

We’re in an increasingly Manichaean thought world. We’re not thinking of different policies, but good and evil. There’s a lot of talk about good and evil. And that makes it very hard to talk to people who are under the rubric of evil. How do you justify talking to them? And yet not talking to them is unthinkable from a global management point of view.

ARCHIVED: Poet Jane Hirshfield
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Audio: The Asking – New and Selected Poems

Jane Hirshfield is an American poet, essayist, and translator. Hirshfield is also a Buddhist who received precepts at San Francisco Zen Center in 1979. Hirshfield’s poetry reflects immersion in a range of poetic traditions. Polish, Scandinavian, and Eastern European poets have been particularly important to her, along with the poetry of Japan and China.

From her interview with Tricycle Magazine in Fall 2023:

“The shift from fixity, assertion, and shouting into a spirit of asking and dialogue is itself the key. Asking turns the heart-gate from closed to open. What a gift, a life’s bi-directional Q&A with the immeasurable What-Is. My advice to young writers is often: ‘Open the window a little wider than you feel comfortable.’ My advice in practice is to ask each thing, event, person you meet, ‘What is your teaching?'”  —Jane Hirshfield

It is arguable that the riddle, the existential joke of being, of meaning, of Dickinson’s ‘prank of the Heart at play on the Heart,’ is as powerful a source as song for the lyric poem. Central to Hirshfield’s vision is a kind of holy delight that is at the heart of riddles and koans.

—Lisa Russ Spaar (American poet)

ARCHIVED: Writer & Psychiatrist Mark Epstein
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Audio: The Zen of Therapy

Dr. Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist in private practice and the author of numerous books about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy. His recent book, The Zen of Therapy, reflects on one year of sessions with his patients, observing how the therapy relationship is a spiritual friendship where a therapist can help patients realize that there is something magical, something wonderful, and something to trust running through their lives, no matter how fraught.

For years, Dr. Epstein kept his beliefs as a Buddhist separate from his work as a psychiatrist. Content to use his training in mindfulness as a private resource, he trusted that the Buddhist influence could, and should, remain invisible. But as he became more forthcoming with his patients about his personal spiritual leanings, he was surprised to learn how many were eager to learn more.

Other books by Mark Epstein: Thoughts without a Thinker, Going to Pieces without Falling Apart, Going on Being, Open to Desire, Psychotherapy without the Self, The Trauma of Everyday Life, and Advice Not Given.

To work something through means to change one’s view; if we try instead to change the emotion, we may achieve some short-term success, but we remain bound by forces of attachment and aversion to the very feelings from which we are struggling to be free.

—Mark Epstein

ARCHIVED: Zen Teacher & Writer Susan Murphy
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
Monday January 22, 2024

Audio: A Fire Runs Through All Things

Susan Murphy Roshi is the founder and for two decades the guiding teacher of Zen Open Circle in Sydney, Australia. She also guides Melbourne Zen Group and (Hobart) Mountains and Rivers Zen. Susan received dharma transmission from John Tarrant in 2001 and has been associated with PZI since the mid-1980s. She works as a writer, freelance radio producer, and film director, and previously served as a university lecturer in film studies.

In addition to several books on film, Susan’s books include Upside-Down Zen, A Direct Path into Reality; Minding the Earth, Mending the World: Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis; and Red Thread Zen: Humanly Tangled in Emptiness.

Her most recent book is A Fire Runs Through All Things: Zen Koans for Facing the Climate Crisis.

More about Susan Murphy Roshi

As in a fairy tale, we have the impossible task of saving the earth. We know that there are sensible things that are good to do but we must also do what we haven’t thought of—seeing our lives and the earth with fresh eyes.

Susan Murphy is steeped in Zen and the indigenous understanding of the Australian bush. She is an artist who can turn toward the dark forces and find a golden path. This alchemical skill makes her the right guide for the impossible tasks and inconceivable problems we face. She’s a true and terrific guide. The Red Queen said to Alice, “It’s jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but never jam today.” Susan’s book is jam today. May you read it with joy.

John Tarrant

ARCHIVED: Author Kim Stanley Robinson
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
November 15, 2023

Audio: The High Sierra – A Love Story

Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the international bestselling Mars trilogy, and more recently, New York 2140, Aurora, Shaman, Green Earth, and 2312, a NYT bestseller nominated for all seven of the major science fiction awards.

Robinson works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and UC San Diego’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. His writing has been translated into twenty-five languages and has won a dozen awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. In 2008, he was named a “hero of the environment” by Time magazine.

His most recent book, The High Sierra: A Love Story, is a non-fiction exploration of Robinson’s years spent hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains, one of the most compelling places on Earth.

And because we are alive, the universe must be said to be alive. We are its consciousness as well as our own. We rise out of the cosmos and we see its mesh of patterns, and it strikes us as beautiful. And that feeling is the most important thing in all the universe—its culmination, like the color of the flower at first bloom on a wet morning.

Kim Stanley Robinson, from his book, Green Mars

ARCHIVED: Essayist & Novelist Pico Iyer
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
October 30, 2023

Audio: The Half Known Life

Pico Iyer was born in Oxford, England in 1957. Since 1982 he has been a full-time writer, publishing fifteen  books, translated into twenty-three languages, on subjects ranging from the Dalai Lama to globalism, from the Cuban Revolution to Islamic mysticism.

His books include such long-running sellers as Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, The Global Soul, The Open Road and The Art of Stillness. He has been a constant contributor for more than thirty years to Time, The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and more than 250 other periodicals worldwide. His four recent talks for TED have received more than eleven million views.

Since 1992 Iyer has spent much of his time at a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur, California, and most of the rest in suburban Japan.

Read more about Pico Iyer

We lead our lives in the outer world, we understand them through the inner. So here are a set of journeys through inner and outer and the places in between. . .

—Pico Iyer

ARCHIVED: Author & Poet Ocean Vuong
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
September 11, 2023

Audio: Time Is a Mother

Ocean Vuong is author of the best-selling poetry collection, Time is a Mother, and best-selling novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, which has been translated into thirty-seven languages. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Genius Grant, he is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, and has received numerous accolades and awards.

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, and raised in Hartford, Connecticut in a working class family of nail salon and factory laborers, he was educated at nearby Manchester Community College before transferring to Pace University to study International Marketing. He soon left business school to enroll in Brooklyn College, where he graduated with a BA in nineteenth-century American literature. He subsequently received his MFA in poetry from NYU.

Vuong currently serves as a tenured professor in the Creative Writing MFA program at NYU.

Read more about Ocean Vuong

How else do we return to ourselves but to fold
The page so it points to the good part

—Ocean Vuong

ARCHIVED: Translator, Author & Historian David Hinton
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
Hosted by Point Reyes Books
August 9, 2023

(Audio not available) The Way of Chan

David Hinton’s The Way of Chan: Essential Texts of Original Chan

This sweeping collection of new translations paints a brilliant picture of the development of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, China’s most radical philosophical and meditative tradition.

In this landmark anthology of some two dozen translations, celebrated translator David Hinton shows how Chan—too long considered a perplexing school of Chinese Buddhism—was in truth a Buddhist-inflected form of Daoism, China’s native system of spiritual philosophy. The texts in The Way of Ch’an build from seminal Daoism through the “Dark-Enigma Learning” literature and on to the most important pieces from all stages of the classical Chan tradition.

A national treasure . . . Hinton cracks open the cosmos
and takes you into the depths of the mind.  
—Lion’s Roar Magazine

David Hinton has published numerous books of poetry and essays, and many translations of ancient Chinese poetry and philosophy—all informed by an abiding interest in deep ecological thinking.

This widely acclaimed work has earned Hinton a Guggenheim Fellowship, numerous fellowships from NEA and NEH, and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States: the Landon Translation Award (Academy of American Poets) and the PEN American Translation Award. Most recently, Hinton received a lifetime achievement award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

ARCHIVED: Author & Zen Priest Ruth Ozeki
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
May 29, 2023

Audio: Books & Tales with Ruth Ozeki

Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest, whose books have garnered international acclaim for their ability to integrate issues of science, technology, religion, environmental politics, and global pop culture into unique, hybrid, narrative forms. Her novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, tells the story of a young boy who, after the death of his father, starts to hear voices and finds solace in the companionship of his very own book.

A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She currently teaches creative writing at Smith College.

A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me,
and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.

—Ruth Ozeki

ARCHIVED: Hospice Pioneer Frank Ostaseski
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
April 24, 2023

Audio: The Five Invitations

An internationally respected Buddhist teacher, Frank Ostaseski is the visionary cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, and Metta Institute. He has sat on the precipice of death with more than a thousand people. He has trained countless clinicians and caregivers in the art of mindful and compassionate care.

In The Five Invitations, he distills lessons gleaned from death and his life of service. This book is an evocative and relevant guide that points to a radical path for transforming the way we live.


My primary work and teaching will continue to focus on issues related to death and dying, to grief and loss, and on supporting mindful and compassionate care. Through these activities I will share the precious gifts offered by my teachers, most especially the hundreds who have allowed me to accompany them in the vulnerable and sacred time of their dying.

—Frank Ostaseski

ARCHIVED: Author Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
March 27, 2023

Audio: Shamanic Bones, Dark Gates

Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, poet, author, ordained Zen priest, and medicine woman of the drum, was born in Los Angeles, California, the middle daughter of Lawrence Manuel Jr. and Alvesta Pierre Manuel, who both migrated from rural Louisiana. She is a dharma heir of Zenkei Blanche Hartman of the Shunryu Suzuki lineage at San Francisco Zen Center.

Raised in the Church of Christ, Zenju’s practice is also influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions. She participated in ceremony with Ifá diviners from Dahomey, Africa, and studied briefly in Yoruba.

Osho Zenju has written multiple books on Buddhism, including The Shamanic Bones of Zen, and her most recent book, Opening to Darkness: Eight Ways for Being with the Absence of Light in Unsettling Times. 

I have gone through many gateways. But I am neither monk, nor nun, nor priest. I am neither Zen or Buddhist. I am neither teacher nor guide, nor author. I am a dark seed of a lineage that has resisted annihilation for thousands of years. I am a voice from the great darkness of transformation, grace, and constant birth and death. I am a collective voice that weeps and protests. I am the ever-abundant blackness and darkness that has given birth to everything. I am life from the first source of life. I am because we are.

—Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

ARCHIVED: Poet & Essayist Lewis Hyde
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
February 20, 2023

Audio: A Primer for Forgetting – Getting Past the Past

Lewis Hyde is a poet, essayist, translator, and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination.

Hyde’s most recent book, A Primer for Forgetting, explores the many situations in which forgetfulness is more useful than memory—in myth, personal psychology, politics, art & spiritual life.

His 1983 book, The Gift, illuminates and defends the non-commercial portion of artistic practice. Trickster Makes This World  uses a group of ancient myths to argue for the disruptive intelligence that all cultures need if they are to remain lively and open to change. Common as Air is a spirited defense of our “cultural commons,” that vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past and continue to enrich in the present.

A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde taught writing and American literature for many years at Kenyon College. Now retired, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife, the writer Patricia Vigderman.

Lewis Hyde, in his A Primer for Forgetting; Getting Past the Past, sees Dogen’s Genjokoan as a key point of departure for his book: “Where is your practice? Is it just sitting on the cushion, or is it your whole life?” Forgetting, Hyde believes, is fundamental to healing—of the self, the culture, and the nation.

Lewis Hyde is a national treasure, one of the true superstars of nonfiction. —David Foster Wallace

ARCHIVED: Zen Teacher Ruben Habito
& David Weinstein Roshi
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
January 30, 2023

Audio: A Flower Twirled – The Legacy of Koun Yamada

Ruben Habito began Zen practice under Koun Yamada in Kamakura, Japan in 1971 when he was a Jesuit seminarian in Japan. Yamada was a Zen roshi who taught Christian students, which was unusual for the time.

Habito received dharma transmission from Yamada in 1988, left the Jesuit order in 1989, and in 1991 founded the Maria Kannon Zen Center, a lay organization in Dallas, Texas. He is a faculty member at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology where he teaches World Religions and Spirituality, and directs the Spiritual Formation Program. He is married, and has two sons.


“A healing spirituality can save us from a sense of powerlessness, and instead, enable us to discover a source of empowerment for transforming society.”

—Ruben Habito, from his book, Healing Breath

ARCHIVED: Poet & Translator David Hinton
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
December 12, 2022

Audio: Wild Mind,Wild Earth

David Hinton’s work explores how the wisdom, poetry, and practice of Chinese Buddhism invite us to recognize the kinship of mind and nature—a relationship that must be re-animated if we are to address the intersecting ecological crises of our time.

How Chan/Zen and contemporary environmental thought flow together, at this critical juncture in human history, is at the heart of Hinton’s new book, Wild Mind, Wild Earth: Our Place in the Sixth Extinction.

Hinton has published many books of original poetry, nonfiction, and translations of ancient Chinese poetry and philosophy. All are informed by his abiding interest in deep ecological thinking, and in exploring the weave of consciousness and landscape. Hinton’s work has earned wide acclaim and many awards.

We are unborn through and through, wild mind wholly integral to the generative existence-tissue of wild earth—and accepting this engenders a new understanding of our unfolding eco-catastrophe.

—David Hinton, from his book, Wild Mind, Wild Earth

 Learn more at davidhinton.net.

ARCHIVED: Chan Teacher Master GuoGu
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
November 28, 2022

Audio: Silent Illumination

Jimmy Yu (born 1968), also known as Guo Gu (果谷), is a Chan teacher and a scholar of Buddhism. 

Master Guo Gu

He was the bassist for the American 1980s hardcore bands (the original) Death Before Dishonor and Judge. After his youthful days in hardcore , he returned to Buddhism and became a monk under Chan Master Sheng Yen.

In 2000, he left monasticism to pursue academia. He received an MA in Chinese Buddhist studies in 2002, and a PhD from Princeton University’s Department of Religion in 2008. 

Master Guo Gu is currently an Associate Professor of Religion at Florida State University, teaching courses in East Asian religious traditions, with a focus on Chinese Buddhism and late imperial cultural history. 

Guo Gu was Sheng Yen’s translator, attendant, and assistant in leading intense Chan retreats. He first received inka, a seal of approval for his experience of Chan, in 1995 by Sheng Yen, and subsequently received several inkas from him, the last one being in 2007.

He is the founder and Dharma teacher of the Tallahassee Chan Center in Tallahassee, Florida, and founder of the Dharma Relief project.

Additionally, Jimmy Yu is also the author of academic books, such as Sanctity and Self-Inflicted Violence in Chinese Religions (2012) and Reimagining Chan Buddhism: Sheng Yen and the Creation of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan (2022).

ARCHIVED: Poet and Zen Buddhist Jane Hirschfield
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
October 24, 2022

Audio: Through Gates and Windows

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield is an American poet, essayist, and translator. Hirshfield is also a Buddhist who received precepts at San Francisco Zen Center in 1979. Hirshfield’s poetry reflects immersion in a range of poetic traditions. Polish, Scandinavian, and Eastern European poets have been particularly important to her, along with the poetry of Japan and China.

American poet Lisa Russ Spaar has said of Hirshfield:

It is arguable that the riddle, the existential joke of being, of meaning, of Dickinson’s ‘prank of the Heart at play on the Heart,’ is as powerful a source as song for the lyric poem. Central to Hirshfield’s vision is a kind of holy delight that is at the heart of riddles and koans.

In many interviews, Hirshfield expresses frustration at being labeled a Buddhist poet: “I always feel a slight dismay if I’m called a ‘Zen’ poet. I am not. I am a human poet, that’s all.”

ARCHIVED: Writer and Zen Teacher Joan Sutherland Roshi
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
September 26, 2022

Audio: Through Forests of Every Color

Joan Sutherland Roshi


After practicing in the Soto Zen and Tibetan traditions, Joan Sutherland returned to her early love—koan study. She  studied with John Tarrant and was made Roshi in his lineage in 1998. Together they co-founded the Pacific Zen School.

Her books include: Through Forests of Every Color, Vimalakirti & The Awakened Heart, and Acequias & Gates: Miscellaneous Koans and Miscellaneous Writings on Koans. Her work is the subject of a short film, The Radiance of the Dark, evoking her vision of an awakening that embraces endarkenment as well as enlightenment.

Over the decades, Joan Sutherland’s teaching and writing has explored how koans enliven, subvert, and sanctify us.

Sutherland is currently working on a long-term project to translate the major koan collections from the classical Chinese.

More at The Joan Sutherland Dharma Works: joansutherlanddharmaworks.org

ARCHIVED: Poet Naomi Shihab Nye
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
& Co-host Allison Atwill Roshi
June 27, 2022

Audio: Finding Refuge in Poetry

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye is an American poet, editor, songwriter, and novelist, born to a Palestinian father and an American mother.

Nye has been affiliated with the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas and poetry editor for the Texas Observer for over 20 years. She is a professor of creative writing at Texas State University.

Her works include poetry, novels, young adult fiction, and illustrated books. She has published or contributed to over 30 volumes of poetry.Her most recent collections include Everything Comes Next; Collected and New Poems, and Dear Vaccine; Global Voices Speak to the Pandemic.

Naomi Shihab Nye is one of the few poets whose work can stand up to being read aloud during a Zen retreat. Her writing has a special and generous quality, a feel for our joys and troubles. Great poetry has always been part of the Dharma path, and to be immersed in Naomi’s work is a spiritual event—refuge and sanctuary in the times we have.  —John Tarrant

I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime… Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.

—Naomi Shihab Nye

ARCHIVED: Chan Scholar Morton Schlütter
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
May 23, 2022

Video: How Zen Became Zen
—The Origins of Our Modern Practice

Dr. Morten Schlütter

Morten Schlütter, a professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa and a tremendous storyteller, is the foremost authority on the development of Zen in the Song Dynasty. His deeply researched book, How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute Over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China, is a must-read for every serious student of Zen Buddhism today.

How Zen Became Zen examines the dispute that erupted within the Chan school in the 12th century, when Chan master Dahui Zonggao railed against “heretical silent illumination Chan” and strongly advocated koan meditation as an antidote.

Schlütter’s work focusses on the most monumental event in the history of Chan, a rift that highlighted an ongoing conundrum:

How to go about becoming enlightened when the most fundamental teaching of Chan is that we are already originally enlightened.

He examines the teachings of two Chan luminaries: Hongzi Zhengjue, who revitalized the Caodong (Soto) School with his poetry and practice of “silent illumination” meditation, and Dahui Zonggao of the Linji (Rinzai) School, who strengthened Chan kanhua (Zen koan) study with his development of huatou, or meditating on the word-head—a pithy piece of a koan—a practice crafted in part for laypeople.

ARCHIVED: Writer & Roshi Susan Murphy
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
April 25, 2022

Audio: Minding the Earth, Mending the World

Susan Murphy Roshi

Susan Murphy Roshi is the founder and guiding teacher of Zen Open Circle sangha in Australia. She was made Roshi in 2001 through Ross Bolleter Roshi and John Tarrant Roshi. Susan is also a writer, freelance radio producer and film director. She was a film studies university lecturer for many years before leaving to devote herself to teaching Zen and writing.

Her most recent book is Red thread Zen: Humanly Entangled in Emptiness isan argument against the bloodless and socially disengaged form of Buddhism that is generally being gestated in the West, one that shades too readily into the blandest of bland self-help.”

Her other books include Minding the Earth, Mending the World, and Upside-Down Zen.

More about Susan Murphy Roshi

Susan Murphy is a gifted leader in the new generation of Zen Masters…. She is anchored in the old Asian tradition but she is also helpful if you have the courage to want more than that. She shows how Zen and Western, along with older, native traditions, illuminate each other. She locates spiritual work where it has always really belonged – bang in the middle of whatever is happening.

— John Tarrant

ARCHIVED: Hosho Peter Coyote
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
March 28, 2022

Audio: Following the Red Thread

KOAN: Why can’t the clear-eyed person cut the red thread?

—Songyuan Chongyue’s Three Turning Words, Entangling Vines, Case 142

Hosho Peter Coyote

Hosho Peter Coyote was ordained in 2011 and in 2015 became Chikudo Lewis Richmond’s dharma heir. He is working on a book entitled “Vernacular Zen,”which draws on the teachings of Shunryu Suzuki, his grandfather in the Dharma.

In it, he explores loosening the Japanese Zen “wrapping” around the Buddha’s gift, discovering the Buddha’s teaching in “vernacular practice” —everyday American life—which he believes Suzuki Roshi would have encouraged had he lived longer.

Peter followed the red thread his whole life and felt he had “mastered the worlds of love and power to the degree I maintained interest in them,” but was still restless and vaguely dissatisfied. At age 68, “Sickness, old age and death had become tangible to me in ways that had only been romantic posturing in my twenties.” He decided to enter a sesshin at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

On the first day of sesshin, a question spontaneously arose in his mind:

“What is it I am missing or searching for?” which shortened to just “What is it?”

On the sixth day a group passed outside in walking meditation, and a scrub-jay screamed, ‘Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! Eeek!’—obliterating all thought. “Suddenly, its cries were understood as ‘It! It! It! It! It!’ —the indisputable answer to my question. I took one more step, and the world as I had always experienced it ended.”

—Hosho Peter Coyote

ARCHIVED: Zen Priest & Writer David Chadwick
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
February 28, 2022

Audio: The Suzuki Roshi Legacy

David Chadwick

David Chadwick studied intensively with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and received Zen priest ordination from him just before his death in 1971. After his teacher’s passing, Chadwick became a practice leader at Tassajara and eventually studied with other Japanese teachers in both the Soto and Rinzai traditions.

Since the mid-1990s, he has dedicated himself to establishing an archive and historical record of Shunryu Suzuki’s talks and calligraphy, which can be found at:

www.cuke.com, www.shunryusuzuki.com, and the San Francisco Zen Center audio archives.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi is one of the foundational teachers in establishing Zen in the West. As Taizan Maezumi Roshi of Zen Center of Los Angeles shared with Chadwick in 1995, there had been a number of Japanese Zen teachers visiting and establishing sanghas in America since the turn of the previous century. But none had borne fruit.

What was it about this teacher that his dharma appealed to Zen students from many schools across both space and time?

I could see Suzuki in his office, surrounded by a crowd of people on their way out. Still my mind was bubbling. He turned, caught my eye, and smiled, and for the tiniest increment of time, everything stopped, and I saw him…I still hold a snapshot of memory of that first moment of direct contact with the man who had just become my teacher.

—David Chadwick, from his book, Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Legacy of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

ARCHIVED: Poet & Chan Poetry Translator David Hinton
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
January 24, 2022

Audio: Return to Hunger Mountain

KOAN: (translated by David Hinton)

Birds have vanished into deep skies.
A last cloud drifts away, all idleness.
Inexhaustible this mountain and I
gaze at each other, it alone remaining.

—Li Po (Reverence Pavilion Mountain, Sitting Alone)

David Hinton

David Hinton is a poet and translator who specializes in Chan literature and poetry. His many books include The Selected Poems of Tu Fu (Du Fu), The Selected Poems of Li Po, and a translation of the I Ching. Hinton’s translations of the great Chan poets have earned acclaim for conveying “the actual texture and density of the originals.”

Unlike modern phonetic languages, Hinton believes the ancient graphical language of China allowed the culture to express a remarkably modern worldview: one that is empirical but also deeply religious—“profoundly gynocentric”—with a cosmology oriented around “earth’s mysterious generative force,” a “female dark enigma.” It envisions a “deep ecology, wherein human consciousness is woven into the natural world at a most fundamental level.”

Through translation I’ve come to realize that I stumbled upon a way to think outside the limitations not just of the mainstream Western intellectual tradition, but also of my own identity; a way to speak in the voice of ancient China’s sage-masters and for them to speak in mine.

—David Hinton

ARCHIVED: Buddhist & Daoist Translator Red Pine (Bill Porter)
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
December 20, 2021

Audio: The Heart Sutra

KOAN: (translated by Red Pine)

Here, Shariputra, 
form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness;
whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form.

—Excerpt from the Heart Sutra

Red Pine Bill Porter

Red Pine (Bill Porter) is recognized as one of the world’s great translators of Chinese poetry and religious texts.He was the first to translate the entirety of 9th-century Chan poet Hanshan’s works into English, published as The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. He has also translated several of the major Buddhist sutras, including the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, and Platform Sutra.

Audio Excerpt: Red Pine answers a question from Allison Atwill on translating poetry.

The Heart Sutra is a great torch that lights the darkest road, a swift boat that ferries us across the sea of suffering.

—Fazang, founder of the Flower Garland (Huayan) school

The Heart Sutra is a work of art as much as of religion…distinguishing these two callings is both artificial and unfortunate.

—Red Pine

ARCHIVED: Zen Scholar & Philosopher Peter Hershock
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
November 1, 2021

Audio: The Value of Ancient Chan Teachings in Our Modern Context

KOAN: No North or South in Buddha Nature

On meeting Huineng, the teacher Hongren asked him where he was from. Huineng said he was a peasant from the South. Hongren then asked him, “If you came from the South, then you are a barbarian. How can you become a Buddha?” Huineng replied, ”Though people differ, north and south, there is no north or south in Buddha Nature.”

—from The Platform Sutra of 6th Ancestor Huineng

Peter Hershock

Peter Hershock, an East-West Center scholar in Honolulu and a long-time practitioner of Son (Korean Zen) Buddhism, is well known for his book, Chan Buddhism (2004), a modern review of Chan’s golden era in China during the Tang and Song dynasties.

In his historical narrative, Hershock finds relevant parallels between the social currents of medieval China and those in the West today. Many of Chan’s distinctive practices emerged during a period of warfare and privation that resulted in the dislocation or death of vast numbers of Chinese.

In this context, Chan can be viewed as a counter-cultural movement. Chan had an increasing focus on “home-grown Buddhas,” native Chan masters who had wide support among Chinese monastics and laypeople, including women.

Chan’s mission is to induce each and every one of us to demonstrate our readiness for truly liberating intimacy. To a Buddhist practitioner, it is clear that the contemporary relevance of Chan does not lie in what it tells us about our current situation, but in how it helps us transform it.

Practicing Chan means moment by moment opening and extending our own capacities for appreciative and contributory virtuosity, and skillfully offering them for the benefit of all beings in the midst of our own unique stories.

—Peter Hershock

You can read a summary of Peter’s book here:

ARCHIVED: Zen Scholar & Translator Thomas Kirchner
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
September 27, 2021

Audio: My Life in Zen

KOAN:  A coin lost in the river is found in the river.  —PZI Miscellaneous Koans, Case 64

Thomas Kirchner

Thomas Kirchner has translated, annotated, and edited great works in our Chan lineage, including Entangling Vines: Zen Koans of the Shumon Kattoshu, The Record of Linji, and more. His translation of Linji’s Record builds on the work of Ruth Fuller Sasaki’s team, and adds extensive and valuable footnotes as well as a historical introduction.

Kirchner is a longtime Zen practitioner, was born in the US, and has lived most of his life in Japan. He joined Jon Joseph on September 27th for a wide-ranging conversation about his life in Zen.

I have a deep sense that this is a really, really meaningful experience. It has given me a compass for my life. With time, I will be able to face death with peace of mind.

—Thomas Kirchner

You can read about Thomas Kirchner and get links to his books here: