Elsie Mitchell

‘In America and Europe, a Taoistically-inclined Zen has aroused considerable interest, and has been interpreted in a rather humanistic light. Popular Western Zen has something for everyone, makes no demands of its enthusiasts and offers a religion without religion, as well as an admirable effort to appreciate life ” just as it is.” This non-Buddhist Zen fits easily and gently into a busy and prosperous culture, which attributes little value to anything that does not produce visible and immediate utility, with the least possible effort. It cannot be denied that it offers something to Puritans who are weary of misdirected crusades and utopian moralizing, and who cannot find any meaning or pleasure in the traditional liturgy or dogma of Judaic or Christian orthodoxy.’ (from the introduction to the Way of Zazen)

Elsie Mitchell, while probably not as well-known as Jiyu Kennett (who will be featured later this week) or Ruth Fuller Sasaki, had an important role to play in helping Zen cross from Japan to the west. While we might look on these words from sixty years ago as having dated somewhat, I think they are still true.


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