Street Zen

The Life and Work of Issan DorseyTensho David Schneider

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Issan Tommy Dorsey, born in 1933, grew up on the West Coast, dropped out of college, and joined the Navy. During the Korean War, he was dischargedfor homosexuality. Back home, after trying a few "straight" jobs, Dorsey eventually found work in a nightclub as a waiter, a host, and finally as a performer in the drag revue. He spent years running the streets as a drug-addicted, alcoholic female impersonator and prostitute. Back in San Francisco in the sixties, Dorsey received his first instruction in meditation from Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. After that encounter, Dorsey practiced with such steadiness that his teacher named him" one mountain," Is-san. Two decades later, Dorsey became a Zen master himself, acting as abbot of One Mountain Temple, also known as Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco. Living in the midst of an epidemic, he began to bring homeless people with AIDS into the temple to care for them.

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