Mel Weitsman

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Sojun Mel Weitsman (born 1929), born Mel Weitsman, is the founder, abbot and guiding teacher of Berkeley Zen Center located in Berkeley, California. Weitsman is a Soto Zen roshi practicing in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki, having received Dharma transmission in 1984 from Suzuki's son Hoitsu. He is also a former co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, where he served from 1988 to 1997. Weitsman is also editor of the book "Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai," which is said to be a sequel of sorts to Suzuki's bestselling "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind."

Mel Weitsman was born in Long Beach in Southern California in 1929, to Edward Weitsman and Leah Rosenberg Weitsman. Interested in religion from an early age, he started practicing at the San Francisco Zen Center under Shunryu Suzuki in 1964. He co-founded the Berkeley Zen Center with his teacher in 1967. Suzuki ordained Weitsman as a priest in 1969, and arranged for him to be Shuso (Head Monk) in 1970 under Tatsugami Roshi at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. His other teachers included Dainin Katagiri Roshi, Kobun Chino Roshi, Ryogen Yoshimura and Kazuaki Tanahashi, with whom he has often worked on translations of Zen texts. In 1984, Weitsman received Dharma transmission from Suzuki Roshi's son and Dharma Heir, Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi, Abbot of Rinso-In Temple in Yaizu, Japan. Installed as Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center in 1985, he later was invited to lead San Francisco Zen Center as co-abbot with Tenshin Reb Anderson from 1988 to 1997, following the eviction Zen Center's previous abbot, Richard Baker, because of sexual scandal and allegations of financial wrong-doing. He co-founded the American Zen Teachers Association (AZTA) with senior American Dharma teachers Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, Dennis Genpo Merzel and Les Kaye in 1995. Weitsman has entrusted the Dharma to over twenty individuals, including Zenkei Blanche Hartman (1988) and Zoketsu Norman Fischer (1988).