PZI Teacher Archives

Dharma Theme: Zen Luminaries, A Series of Conversations with 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: A Series of Conversations
Hosted by Jon Joseph Roshi

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 for their dedication to the Dharma.



NEXT ON SEPTEMBER 18th: Poet Ocean Vuong, author of Time Is a Mother

OCTOBER 30th: Essayist & Novelist Pico Iyer, author of The Half Known Life

NEXT: Author & Poet Ocean Vuong
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
September 18, 2023

Upcoming 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: 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 Earthly 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: