Meet Genpo Roshi
Zen Master Genpo Merzel's teaching is rooted in his deep appreciation of traditional Zen and his continuous exploration of ways to integrate the wisdom and insights of both East and West. Big Mind Zen is the fruit of five decades of practice and teaching, his way of helping people realize and actualize the Buddha's teachings in our everyday lives.
Genpo Roshi, born Dennis Paul Merzel, is a Zen Master, the founder of Kanzeon International Community and the creator of Big Mind Zen. In 1980 he became the second Dharma successor of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, one of the leading pioneers of Zen in the U.S., along with Nyogen Senzaki Sensei, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Dainin Katagiri Roshi and Kobun Chino Roshi.
From his initial awakening in early 1971, Merzel’s purpose and his passion have remained the same: deepening his own practice as well as assisting others in awakening to their true nature.
In his youth he earned honors as an All-American water polo player and champion swimmer in high school and university, and received a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1968. After his awakening at the age of 26, he left his careers as a schoolteacher and lifeguard, and then lived alone for a year in a rustic cabin deep in the Santa Margarita Mountains. In 1972 he met his Zen teacher, Taizan Maezumi Roshi, and studied closely with him until his teacher’s death in 1995.
Genpo Roshi was one of the pioneers in spreading Zen throughout Europe in the early 1980s, including Great Britain, France, Poland, Germany and The Netherlands. He received final seal of approval as a Zen Master from his Dharma brother Bernie Glassman Roshi in 1996, becoming Glassman’s first Inka successor, the second to receive Inka in the Maezumi Roshi lineage. In the same year he became President of the White Plum Community, composed of successors of Maezumi Roshi, after Roshi Bernie Glassman stepped down. Merzel served in that position until 2007. Today he serves as the head of Big Mind Zen and as Abbot of Kanzeon Inc.
In 1999 he created the Big Mind Process, which philosopher Ken Wilber has called “arguably the most important and original discovery in the last two centuries of Buddhism.” It has been acclaimed by many spiritual teachers and leaders as one of the most profound tools for awakening that has been discovered in the modern era. It has broadened and enriched not only the teaching of Zen but spiritual practices in other traditions as well, enabling thousands of people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds to have an awakening with little or no prior consciousness study. It is being used in many fields, including psychotherapy, meditation, law, medicine, education, mediation, business, athletics, social work, family therapy, and work with prison inmates, hospital patients and the dying. Roshi continues to teach and train people to bring the Big Mind Zen practice out into the world and is committed to their ongoing evolution.
He also continues to explore new insights and skillful means to transmit the essence of Zen as well as working with shadows clearing the way for deeper spiritual and consciousness evolutionary work. He sees zazen, koans and Big Mind as three complementary practices for actualizing the Way, along with other traditional forms of Zen Buddhism such as chanting and devotional practices, expressions of the teachings for waking up and living with profound wisdom and compassion.
His publications include The Eye Never Sleeps, Beyond Sanity and Madness, 24/7 Dharma, and The Path of The Human Being, a novel entitled The Fool Who Thought He Was God, and many DVDs. His book Big Mind/Big Heart: Finding Your Way, has been published in fourteen other languages: Dutch Spanish, German, Russian, Polish, French, Italian, Hungarian, Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Danish, Korean, and Chinese. His latest book, Spitting Out the Bones, A Zen Master’s 45 Year Journey, was published in 2016.