Stuart Lachs:

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Buddhist Geeks episode 72: Zen Masters: Dressing the Donkey with Bells and Scarves

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Buddhist Geeks episode 73: The Darker Side of Zen: Institutions Defining Reality

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Stuart Lachs was born in 1940 and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He attended Brooklyn College, part of the NYC college system, where he received a B.A. and M.S., majoring in mathematics. He worked at Bell Labs in the mathematical physics department for a year and afterward, in the ship design industry for a few years.

He started Zen practice in 1967 in NYC. That spring he went to San Francisco because he had heard that the San Francisco Zen Center was opening the first American Zen monastery. With luck and the generosity of the Center, he was accepted and attended the first training period of Tassajara, their new monastery.

He returned to NYC and became a member of the Zen Studies Society. He remained a member for about two and a half years and then went to Maine to study with Walter Nowick and what became Moonspring Hermitage. For many years, he was head monk, head of the Board of Directors, and in charge of new members, instructing them in meditation, zendo protocol, and the ways of the group.

After eleven years he left and returned to NYC. Shortly, he found the Chan Meditation Group under the leadership of Shifu Sheng-yen, a Chinese teacher from Taiwan. He did not become a member of the group at first, though after a few years he was given much responsibility, including giving private interviews during seven day retreats and running classes when Shifu returned to Taiwan, every other three months. He eventually became a member. From 1982–1999, he traveled frequently, spending three months in a Korean Monastery (Songgwang Sa), some time in Japan at both a Rinzai and Soto temple, and two stays at Shifu’s monastery in Taiwan. During one of the stays in Taiwan, he did a solitary thirty day retreat. He also visited the Diamond Sangha in Hawaii twice, spent two months with the London Zen Group, and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Ukiah, Ca. for two few month stays among other places.

Some where in the mid 1990’s he became interested in an academic look at Zen, which included institutional history, myth making, and the interaction of Zen and the state. It was an eye opener, as he had seen much over the years that bothered him and did not make sense, but he could not put it all together. He also became interested in the sociology of religion. His articles are the result of years of practicing with Zen groups combined with his academic and sociological studies.  Since 1999 he has practiced with a few friends or on his own.