Filed in Zen (Chan)

Down East Roshi

For decades, Walter Nowick has been quietly blazing a Zen trail on the northern coast of Maine. His blue jeans disguise a remarkable history. Dana Sawyer

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“He’s the quietest Zen master in America,” said Huston Smith, the famous scholar of world religions, as we sat in a Japanese restaurant near his home in Berkeley, California. “And he was the first American to go to Japan and receive full dharma transmission in the Rinzai lineage.” We were talking about Walter Nowick, who once shepherded Huston around Kyoto for a season in 1957, after Huston’s friend D. T. Suzuki recommended that Huston study with Nowick’s master, Goto Zuigan Roshi.

“Never heard of Nowick,” I replied.

“Few have. Everyone’s heard of Suzuki—and many are familiar with Nyogen Senzaki, another pioneer of American Zen, but Nowick gets left out of most accounts.” Huston looked up from his bowl of Udon noodles, a favorite dish of his. “And what’s interesting about this is that Nowick has some of the best Zen credentials around.”

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