From his first awakening in 1971, Genpo Merzel’s life has been about waking up to our essential nature, our True Self. For the past forty years since then his purpose and his passion have remained the same: to deepen his own clarity and to assist others to awaken and realize their true nature.
A champion swimmer and All-American water polo player in his youth, Merzel received a Master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Southern California in 1968. He left his careers as a school teacher and lifeguard after his awakening, and lived alone for a year in a rustic cabin deep in the mountains near San Luis Obispo, chopping wood and carrying water and spending four to five hours a day in meditation. In March of 1972 he met Zen Master Taizan Maezumi Roshi, and subsequently moved to Los Angeles to study closely with him. He lived there for the next twelve years. In 1980, a year after completing formal koan study, he became Maezumi Roshi’s second Dharma heir.
He founded the Kanzeon International Sangha in 1982, bringing together individuals and groups studying with him throughout Europe and America. He continued studying with Maezumi Roshi until the latter’s death in 1995, and received Inka, final seal of approval, from Zen Master Bernie Glassman in 1996, becoming Glassman’s first Inka successor. Genpo Roshi has fifteen Dharma heirs and has conferred the title of Zen Master on nine Zen teachers.
In 1999 he created what he named the Big Mind Process, also known as Big Mind/Big Heart. Acclaimed by philosopher Ken Wilber as “arguably the most important and original discovery in the last two centuries of Buddhism,” it is revolutionizing not only the teaching of Zen but also spiritual practices within and outside both Eastern and Western traditions. It has now spread to every continent and has helped thousands of people from all walks of life have a genuine and sustainable awakening with little or no prior consciousness study, including persons of all faiths and religious backgrounds as well as non-believers. It is being used in the practice of psychotherapy, law, medicine, mediation, the arts, physical therapy, chaplaincy, yoga, business, athletics, social work, family therapy, education and spiritual practices with prison inmates, hospital patients and the dying. Roshi continues to train people to bring this teaching out into the world, and remains deeply committed to its ongoing evolution.
He continues to explore new insights and skillful means to transmit the essence of Zen, which is waking up to our essential nature free from all dogma, suddenly and immediately. This includes, but is not limited to such traditional forms of Zen Buddhism as chanting, devotional practices, and koan study, which he still uses as beautiful expressions of the teachings; only not as the sole means for waking up or actualizing and living with profound wisdom and compassion, the cornerstone of Buddha Dharma taught by the great Sixth Patriarch, the founder of Zen as we know it today. Many of his successors or Dharma heirs are carrying on the more traditional Zen practices worldwide, leaving him free to continue to deepen his own practice and to awaken others to their fullest potential.
Genpo Roshi’s Dharma heirs are: Catherine Genno Pagès (1992), John Shodo Flatt (1994), Anton Tenkei Coppens (1996), Malgosia Jiho Braunek (2003), Daniel Doen Silberberg (2003), Nico Sojun Tydeman (2004), Nancy Genshin Gabrysch (2006), Diane Musho Hamilton (2006), Michael Mugaku Zimmerman (2006), Rich Taido Christofferson (2007), Michel Genko Dubois (2007), Tamara Myoho Gabrysch (2008), Maurice Shonen Knegtel (2009), KC Kyozen Sato (2009) and Judi Kanchi Warren (2010). He has given Inka Transmission conferring the title of Zen Master on nine Zen teachers: the late John Daido Loori, Catherine Genno Pages, Anton Tenkei Coppens, Jan Chozen Bays, Charles Tenshin Fletcher, Nicolee Jikyo McMahon, Susan Myoyu Anderson, Sydney Musai Walters, and Malgosia Jiho Braunek.
His publications include The Eye Never Sleeps, Beyond Sanity and Madness, 24/7 Dharma, and The Path of The Human Being, and many DVDs. His latest book, Big Mind/Big Heart: Finding Your Way, is also available as an e-Book and has been published in twelve other languages: Dutch Spanish, German, Russian, Polish, French, Italian, Hungarian, Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Danish.
For further information about registering for or organizing an event, contact his personal assistant Mary Ellen Sloan at Maryellen@bigmind.org, or 801-503-5656.
You can listen to or download several live internet radio broadcasts of interviews with Genpo Roshi. For links, see the listings here.