Our teacher: Roshi Robert Kennedy, S.J.

Robert E. Kennedy, S.J., author of Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit and Zen Gifts to Christians, is one of several practicing Catholic men and women who are recognized by the Buddhist community as zen teachers.  He is a licensed psychoanalyst and professor emeritus of theology at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City.  

As a Christian Fr. Kennedy has found meaning and deep reverence in the practice of zen.   He is active in interfaith work, teaching zen to persons of all faiths, conducting retreats in the United States, Mexico, Ireland and England.   

He studied zen in Japan with the Japanese master Yamada Roshi. He continued his study under Maezumi Roshi in Los Angeles and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman Roshi in New York; in 1997 he received inka, the formal seal of approval, from Glassman Roshi and received the title Roshi, or Master. He holds doctorates in Theology from the University of Ottawa and from St. Paul University in Ottawa, a Masters in Theology from Sophia University in Tokyo, and a Doctor of Ministry in Psychology and Clinical Studies from Andover-Newton in Boston. He is a graduate of the Blanton-Peale Institute of Religion and Health in New York.  

Roshi Kennedy has written two books on Zen and Christianity: Zen Gifts to Christians and Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit.

In 2017, Roshi Kennedy received two honorary doctorates, one from St. Peter's University, and one from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Kennedy's Teachers

Yamada Roshi

Kyozo Koun Zenshin Yamada Koun Yamada was born in 1907  in Fukishima Japan. He began his Zen studies under Kono Sokan Roshi in 1943. He also practiced under Rinzai Zen teacher Sogen Asahina Roshi and  under Kanzui Hanamoto Roshi. As a lay practitioner Yamada worked in the business world, serving as president of the Tokyo Kembikyôin Medical Center.

In 1950 Koun Yamada received the Buddhist precepts from Sogaku Harada Roshi, and established ties with Haku’un Yasutani Roshi,  Harada’s student and Dharma successor. In 1953 Yamada  invited Yasutani Roshi to start a zen group in Kamakura, offering monthly zazenkai and he received Dharma transmission from  him.  In 1967 he was appointed  Zen master of the Sanbo Kyodan and in 1970 he became president and head abbot of the lineage.

In 1970 also Yamada Koun and his wife Kazue Yamada built San’un Zendo on their family compound in Kamakura. It was here that he trained many Western (often Christian) and Japanese students.  He died on September 13, 1989.  

Wikipedia Bio

Maezumi Roshi

Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi was ordained as a Soto Zen monk at the age of eleven. He received degrees in Oriental Literature and Philosophy from Komazawa University and studied at Sojiji, one of the two main Soto monasteries in Japan. He received Dharma transmission from Hakujun Kuroda, Roshi in 1955. He also received approval as a teacher (Inka) from both Koryu Osaka Roshi, and Hakuun Yasutani Roshi.

In 1956, he came to America and in 1967, established the Zen Center of Los Angeles.  He established six centers in the United States and Europe that are formally registered with Soto Headquarters in Japan. In addition to ZCLA, these include Zen Mountain Center in California; Zen Community of New York; Kanzeon Zen Centers of Salt Lake City, Utah and Europe; and Zen Mountain Monastery in New York. Affiliated centers also include the Great Mountain Zen Center in Colorado, Zen Community of Oregon; Three Treasures Zen Community in San Diego; Centro Zen de Mexico, Coyoacan, and Centro Zen de la Cuidad deMexico.  He founded the White Plum Asanga, named after his father Baian Hakujun Daiosho.  Morning Star Zendo is a member of the White Plum Asanga

He had published commentaries on major Buddhist works, and his collected works will be published posthumously. He died at age 64 in 1995. 

Wikipedia Bio

Bernie Glassman

Bernie Glassman  was an  Zen Buddhist roshi. His focus was on social enterprise, socially engaged Buddhism and "Bearing Witness Retreats" at Auschwitz and on the streets.  He was one of the original founding members of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. He received Dharma transmission in 1976 from Maezumi Roshi, and he received inka in 1995.

In 1980, he founded the Zen Community of New York. and in 1982 he opened Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York. The bakery provided jobs for inner city residents who lacked education and skills.

Subsequently he founded the Greyston Foundation with his late wife Sandra Jishu Holmes. The Foundation offers HIV/AIDS programs, provides job training and housing, child care services, educational opportunities, and other endeavors. He retired from the Greyston Foundation in 1996 to pursue socially engaged Buddhist projects through the Zen Peacemakers.

He attended  Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and received a  Ph.D. in applied mathematics from UCLA. He died in 2018.

Wikipedia Bio

Roshis Glassman and Kennedy

Kennedy's Dharma Heirs 

These are Kennedy's students who are now senseis or roshis themselves.  

Terminology: In our tradition, sensei means Zen teacher, which is conferred in a ceremony called dharma transmission.  On the other hand, roshi means something like Zen master, which is conferred upon a sensei in a ceremony called inka.  Each of these steps usually indicates many years of training and practice.  Here is an inverview with Roshi Bernie Glassman in which these distinctions are explored.

Roshi Kennedy with some of his dharma heirs