Eido T. Shimano Roshi, the founding abbot of the Zen Studies Society who resigned in 2010 after allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, died on February 18 in Japan at the age of 85. The Zen Studies Society consists of the New York Zendo Shobo-Ji in Manhattan and Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji monastery in the Catskill mountains of New York.
Shimano was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1932, and first encountered Buddhist scripture at age nine. He ordained as a novice monk in his youth at a Rinzai temple in Chichibu, later receiving further training in Mishima, Japan with the late Soen Nakagawa Roshi.
In 1960, he traveled to Hawaii to help guide Robert Baker Aitken Roshi’s Diamond Sangha. After a brief return to Japan, he returned to the United States and moved to New York City. There, Shimano built his own sangha by walking the streets of New York City, as he told Mark Oppenheimer in 2013:
All I did was simply walk Manhattan from top to the bottom. And in my Buddhist robe. And many people came. ‘What are you doing? Where are you going?’ So I said, ‘I am from Japan and doing zazen practice… Little by little, every single day, I walked entire Manhattan… And every single day I picked up two or three people who were curious. And that was the beginning of the sangha.
In 1965, Shimano was asked to become president of the Zen Studies Society. He established New York Zendo Shobo-Ji in 1968, and International Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji in 1976.
In July 2010, along with his wife, Shimano resigned from the Board of Directors of the Zen Studies Society after forty years of service due to allegations of his sexual relationships with, and sexual harassment of, female students. In December of that year, he resigned as abbot in a letter sent to the sangha, where he apologized for his “words and deeds.” The controversy was the subject of Mark Oppenheimer’s book, Zen Predator of the Upper East Side.
Shimano was the author of Points of Departure, Golden Wind, and Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy, and translated The Book of Rinzai: the Recorded Sayings of Master Rinzai, as well as several volumes of Eihei Dogen’s Shobogenzo.
Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi, abbot of the Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji, confirmed his death on the Zen Studies Society Facebook page Tuesday, writing a message that reads:
With a heavy heart I must inform you of the sad news of the passing of Ven. Eido T. Shimano Roshi, while he was in Japan. Early this morning I received a telephone call from Fujin-san Formhals. She said that at Shogen-ji Junior College, in Gifu, he had delivered a teisho on Dogen’s Life-Death that she felt was the best teisho she had ever heard him give.
Some time ago, Eido Roshi had asked that Sogen Yamakawa Roshi, abbot of Shogen-ji, conduct his funeral service in Japan. There are still many details to be arranged. We will keep you informed once we know the arrangements for the service there and at Dai Bosatsu Zendo.