Mel Weitsman

Mel Weitsman

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 Southern California in 1929. He started practicing at the San Francisco Zen Center under Shunryu Suzuki in 1964, and then co-founded the Berkeley Zen Center with his teacher in 1967. Suzuki ordained Weitsman as a priest in 1969, and in 1984 Weitsman received Dharma transmission from Suzuki's son Hoitsu. Installed as abbot of Berkeley Zen Center in 1985, he then assumed co-abbotship of San Francisco Zen Center from 1988 to 1997. Weitsman has given Dharma transmission to several individuals, including Zenkei Blanche Hartman (1988). In 1994 Mel came under fire from the community at San Francisco Zen Center for homophobic comments allegedly made by him. A meeting was held shortly after, where he was asked to explain his comments.

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