'Shoes Outside the Door' by Michael Downing

Duncan Kyuken Williams

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© Michael DowningShoes Outside the Door:
Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center
Michael Downing
Counterpoint: Washington, DC, 2001
448 pp.; $26.00 (cloth)

Michael Downing’s Shoes Outside the Door is an account of San Francisco Zen Center’s growth from a small circle of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s students into one of the largest and most culturally significant centers of Zen Buddhism in America. While Downing seeks not to make the much-publicized scandals of 1983 the primary focus of the book, his lengthy narrative returns to them repeatedly in the telling of the history of Zen Center—and the rise and fall of Suzuki’s charismatic heir, Richard Baker Roshi.

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