James Ishmael Ford has recently written an interesting book called "Zen Master Who?" about American Zen teachers and their lineage. Ford, according to the author's biography, is a Unitarian Universalist minister, currently serving as senior minister of the First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts.

According to Zen Master Who?, the late Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka was a Japanese Soto Zen teacher who spent the last half of his life in America. Of all the Zen lineages in North America, Ford notes, his is perhaps the most difficult to interpret. "Soyu Matsuoka ranks with Nyogen Senzaki and Sokei-an as one of the first teachers to make his home and life work in North America," Ford writes. "He also seems to be the first teacher to clearly and unambiguously give Dharma transmission to Western students."

Matsuoka-roshi was born near Hiroshima in 1912 and was one of the Zen priests who came to serve Japanese immigrants in the United States. He was interned during the Second World War, but in 1949 founded the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago. In 1970, he moved to Long Beach. At some point of his life, Ford notes, he became estranged from the Japanese organization. Click here to learn more about Matsuoka-roshi at our O-Sensei tribute page in his honor.