Seeing One Thing Through

The Zen Life and Teachings of Sojun Mel Weitsman


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Book Description

A young painter, coming of age in San Francisco’s bohemian 1950s, meets his teacher—Shunryu Suzuki, a pivotal figure in Buddhist America—and dedicates his life to continuing Suzuki Roshi’s teachings

Seeing One Thing Through begins with a series of autobiographical memories and reflections going back to Sojun Mel Weitsman’s boyhood in Southern California, his coming of age as an artist and a seeker in the vibrant San Francisco of the 1950s, and his encounter with Zen in one remarkable teacher, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. From that moment, and for nearly sixty years after, Weitsman’s life took the direct path of Zen—as a student, as a teacher, and as one of the first generations of American Zen masters. The larger portion of the book is a collection of Weitsman’s edited talks, his articulation of “ordinary mind,” and his strong belief that Zen as a way of life is available to all.

About the Authors

Praise For This Book

“An authentic teacher of Buddhist wisdom and a testament to the transformative power of sincere Zen practice.” —Michael Haggiag, The Zen Gateway

“An interesting tribute to a man that shared the essence of Buddhist practice with others for more than five decades. Readers interested in Buddhist practice will find his writings and teachings approachable and inspiring.” —Library Journal

"An illuminating mix of personal writing and lectures . . . This treasure trove of wisdom is a welcome addition to the American zen canon." —Publishers Weekly

"Remarkable wisdom of a humble life of practice. Weitsman’s remembrances are full of charm and told without pretension, and his teachings, too, are without frills, going straight to the point and to the heart." —Joie Szu-Chiao Chen, Buddhadharma

"Gently encouraging and eminently practical . . . A book for every nirvana seeker’s collection." —Kirkus Reviews

"[Sojun Mel Weitsman] is the person, more than any other, who showed me what a Zen life is." —David Guy, author of Hank Heals: A Novel of Miracles

"I hear my old teacher talking as if he’s sitting right in front of me in the zendo. His presence is warm and breathing in these pages, kind and encouraging. In reading all the material gathered here, both the autobiographical section and the dharma talks, I was struck as never before by Sojun’s genuine lack of personal ambition and his selfless dedication to sharing the dharma with his students, or rather, with whoever wanted to practice with him as a student. He didn’t see them as 'his' students, although many people saw him as their teacher. He knew that nothing belonged to him. This book inspires me anew to follow Sojun’s example and 'cooperate with the universal activity,' even in challenging circumstances. He practiced what he taught. His words are helpful to me in my daily life, whether I’m doing what’s simple or what’s difficult." ––Susan Moon, author of Alive Until You're Dead

"Sojun’s is a voice of American Zen, inflected with a ferocious wisdom, unafraid to address our weaknesses, our foolishness, and always with gentleness. Intimate memories of Suzuki Roshi blend with the real everyday problems of today’s Zen practitioners and Zen Centers. His teachings of classic Zen stories are made relevant to our lives today. Do Read It!" —Enkyo Pat O'Hara, author of A Little Bit of Zen

"Mel Weitsman is the pure blood running through the entire artery of Buddhism, from the Buddha to himself. When his teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, founded SF Zen Center, there was little pomp and ceremony other than meditation because Suzuki Roshi wanted to leave room for Americans to reinvigorate the spirit of Zen practice he felt had weakened in modern Japan. Early on, Suzuki Roshi asked Mel Weitsman to open a zendo in Berkeley, California, which he did. For fifty-odd years Mel personified the 'nothing-special,' everyday-clarity and intention of his teacher in a secular Zen practice. I know of no more trustworthy, dependable, and inspiring collection of dharma talks, than Seeing One Thing Through, and recommend it without reservation." ––Hosho Peter Coyote, Zen priest and author of Sleeping Where I Fall

"I began my Zen practice in 1967 in Mel’s living room, and he has been my good friend, mentor and teacher ever since. He was an extraordinary man, but you had to look closely to see it; he didn’t advertise it. What he did do was encourage people, whatever he did and wherever he went. One time in 2001 when I had become angry and discouraged about Zen, I came to his Berkeley Zen Center for meditation, and afterwards watched while Mel made his bows to Buddha. Suddenly something clicked, and tears came to my eyes. He was so completely himself, a no-nonsense just-this American, not trying to be holy or wise, bowing just to bow. His bows brought me back and made me whole again. That morning I saw his inner light. Read this book and I think you will see it too." ––Lewis Richmond, author of Aging as a Spiritual Practice