Psychotherapist and Soto Zen priest Roshi Jules Shuzen Harris passed away at his home in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania on Monday, May 8 after a prolonged period of complicated health issues.
Shuzen Roshi was the founder and abbot of Soji Zen Center in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. In an announcement of his death shared by the center, Sensei John Ango Gruber writes:
Yesterday, after a prolonged period of complicated health issues, our beloved teacher and Soji founder Roshi Jules Shuzen Harris passed away at home in Lansdowne. I have been incredibly moved by Roshi’s conviction to keep showing up, week after week, to sit with us, chant with us, see students in interviews, and offer the teachings of the Dharma in both his words and his example. It was not easy in these recent months, but he would not be deterred!
For years, we have been united by a shared love for our teacher and a connection forged by the ways that he has been so influential to so many of us. I have listened to many of you speak in council circle often about a way that Shuzen Roshi guided you, challenged you, offered you support or compassion, saw something in you that you may not have seen in yourself, and encouraged you to go deeper in your Zen practice and commitment.
I can also say with absolute clarity that all of you have meant so much to Shuzen Roshi, that he has profoundly appreciated your support for Soji, your dedication to practice, and your willingness to come back again and again to a place of grateful acceptance alongside consistent effort. Roshi said many times, “You all are my practice,” and indeed we have been.
As shared by Village Zendo, Shuzen Roshi practiced Buddhism for nearly 40 years, receiving denkai (transmission of the precepts) in May 2002 from Genpo Roshi, Abbot of Kanzeon Zen Center. He received hoshi, shiho, and inka from Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara. He was a member of the Zen Peacemakers Sangha, The Soto Zen Buddhist Association, as well as the American Zen Teachers Association, and held an Ed.D. with a concentration in applied human development.
“As a psychotherapist,” Village Zendo writes, “Shuzen found creative ways to synthesize Western psychology and Zen to achieve dramatic results with his patients and students. He also focused on the relationship between Zen and the martial arts. He held black belts in Iaido (the art of drawing and cutting with a samurai sword) and in Kendo (Japanese fencing). Shuzen founded two Japanese swordsmanship schools in Albany, NY and Salt Lake City, UT.”
Soji Zen Center will modify their regular program on Sunday, May 14th to include a circle for sharing reflections, memories and personal messages to honor Shuzen Harris’ life, and a Zoom circle on Tuesday, May 16. Visit their website for more information.