Zen in the Western World…

Although it is difficult to trace the precise moment when the West first became aware of Zen as a distinct form of Buddhism, the visit of Soyen Shaku, a Japanese Zen monk, to Chicago during the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 is often pointed to as an event that enhanced the profile of Zen in the Western world.

It was during the late 1950s and the early 1960s that the number of Westerners other than the descendants of Asian immigrants who were pursuing a serious interest in Zen began to reach a significant level. Japanese Zen has gained the greatest popularity in the West. The various books on Zen by Reginald Horace Blyth, Alan Watts, Philip Kapleau and D. T. Suzuki published between 1950 and 1975, contributed to this growing interest in Zen in the West, as did the interest on the part of beat poets such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder. In 1958, the literary magazine Chicago Review played a significant role in introducing Zen to the American literary community when it published a special issue on Zen featuring the aforementioned beat poets and works in translation. Erich Fromm quotes D. T. Suzuki in his 1960 book Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism.