Rev. Keiryū Liên Shutt gets personal with the Lion’s Roar readership.
In 1964, I was born in Saigon to a Buddhist family. At age eight, I was adopted by an American family. My parents worked for the State Department, so besides living in the United States, I also lived in Thailand and Egypt. These beginnings gave me a good sense of multiculturalism.
I began my meditation practice in the Insight tradition. Then I went on to do Zen training at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California and to practice monastically in Japan and Vietnam. Now, as a dharma heir in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, I place my trust in Soto Zen. That said, I continue to enjoy the deep silence of Insight practices and have completed Insight retreats in the U.S. and Thailand.
My primary teachers are Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Shosan Victoria Austin, and Gil Fronsdal. I’m also influenced by Sekkei Harada Roshi of the Zen monastery Hosshinji in Obama, Japan, and Ni Sư Thích Nữ Thuần Tuệ of the Zen monastery Trúc Lâm in Vietnam.
I’m a founding member of the Buddhists of Color, which was one of the few POC meditation groups in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s. I am always exploring ways to present teachings and practices to be more inclusive of systemic and social justice framing. I am dedicated to connecting people to our individual and collective agency.
What dharma books do you recommend?
Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck; The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki; The Six Perfections by Dale S. Wright.
Your favorite virtue?
Kindness is both my guide and often—in off-the-cuff interactions with strangers—my challenge.
Your chief characteristic?
Your principal poison?
Your idea of happiness?
Waves lapping at my feet and eating directly from nature.
Your idea of misery?
Feeling hopeless and having a lack of agency.
If not yourself, who would you be?
The ocean or a dolphin.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Swing-shift cookie and muffin baker. It was the swing-shift part that I didn’t like!
Name three of your heroes.
Mahatma Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Charlotte Joko Beck.
The natural talent you’d most like to have?
Your favorite authors?
Gail Tsukiyama, bell hooks, and Ocean Vuong.
Your favorite musician or group?
Laura Mvula and 10,000 Maniacs.
Your favorite current TV show?
What’s for dinner?
Vegan bún bò huế or Beyond Burger.
Ice cream! (Vegan, of course.)