Street Zen, The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39074

    Street Zen, The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey


    I have a book to recommend to folks who are looking for a 'Zen Book' that is beautiful and ugly, rough and sweet and a little different ... about a Zen teacher who was beautiful, ugly, rough, sweet and a little different. An incredible life of ups and downs and ups ... I am only sorry that I did not know more of the story until now ... Highly recommended. Very much connected to the conversation on several threads here about sitting with this beautiful, ugly life of nothing to repair and endless hurt to repair.

    Street Zen, The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey, by David Schneider

    Issan Dorsey once described himself as a "faggot speed-freak cross dresser," a description that only hints at the outrageousness of his life of substance abuse, prostitution, and female impersonation before embracing Zen in late-Sixties San Francisco. ... Not long alderwards, he stopped using drugs and began to sit zazen with Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, the founder of San Frandsco Zen Center. Eventually he became a priest and took the name Issan. In the late 1980s, he rounded a homey and unpretentious hospice for people dying oF AIDS called Maitri, or "friendliness," in the Castro district. He died there of AIDS in 1990. ... Author Schneider, himself a Zen practitioner and friend of Dorsey, presents an evenhanded account of Dorsey's extraordinary life and death.

    ... The Life of Issan Dorsey is nothing short of remarkable. His story includes being a drag queen in San Francisco in the 1950's, to the worst excesses of drug and alcohol addiction, and finally the LSD experiences that set him on the path to Zen. In 1989, after twenty years of Zen practice, he became Abbot of San Francisco's Hartford Street Zen Centre, a place where he also founded the Maitri Hospice for AIDS patients. After caring for those who died from AIDS, the tables were turned and Issan himself passed away from the disease in 1990, surrounded by friends and supported by his Zen community.

    Street Zen is a testament to the transformative power of Buddhist practice, and to a man who committed his later life to service in various forms. In many ways he was a shining example of compassion in action and the term ‘engaged’ Buddhism.
    Here is another review ... _15297800/
  • Taigu
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
    • Aug 2008
    • 2710

    Re: Street Zen, The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey

    Thank you Jundo,

    A magnificent example of a life lived fully. An amazing heart and compassion.
    I wrote this a year or so ago...

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1487&p=21103&hilit=issan+dorse y#p21103




    • Shohei
      • Oct 2007
      • 2854

      Re: Street Zen, The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey

      Wow - From the older post with the pictures...just Wow!
      An amazing story and probably pales in comparison to person, but I would like to check that out! Thanks to you both for the suggestion and the earlier post!