Taigen Dan Leighton is a Soto Zen priest and Dharma successor in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Taigen first studied Buddhist art and culture in Japan in 1970, and began formal everyday zazen and Soto practice in 1975 at the New York Zen Center with Kando Nakajima Roshi. This led to his returning to graduate in East Asian Studies and study Japanese language at Columbia College. Through the 70s Taigen was also an award-winning documentary film editor in New York and San Francisco, including work for NBC News and Bill Moyers Journal. While editing TV news, it was necessary for Taigen to learn about the one who is not busy. Taigen left his filmmaking career in 1979 to work full time for the San Francisco Zen Center at the Tassajara Bakery, and he was ordained in 1986 by Reb Anderson Roshi.
Taigen practiced and resided for years at San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara monastery, and Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. He also practiced for two years in Kyoto, Japan, 1990-92, translating Dogen with Rev. Shohaku Okumura, and practicing with several Japanese Soto Zen teachers, including one monastic practice period. Taigen founded the Mountain Source Sangha meditation groups in Bolinas in 1994, then added branches in San Rafael and San Francisco. He received Dharma Transmission in 2000 from Reb Anderson.
Taigen is author of Zen Questions: Zazen, Dogen, and the Spirit of Creative Inquiry, Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression, Just This Is It: Dongshan and the Practice of Suchness, and Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra. He is co-translator and editor of several Zen texts including: Dogen's Extensive Record; Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi; The Wholehearted Way: A Translation of Dogen's "Bendowa" with Commentary; and Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of "Eihei Shingi". He has also contributed articles to many other books and journals.
Taigen teaches online at the Berkeley Graduate Theological Union, from where he has a Ph.D., and he has taught at Saint Mary's College, the California Institute of Integral Studies, University of San Francisco, University of Creation Spirituality, and in Chicago at Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary and most recently for four years at Loyola University Chicago. Taigen was an elected member of the Board of San Francisco Zen Center, which he Chaired for three years. He has been active in many interfaith dialogue programs, including conducting Buddhist-Christian dialogue workshops, and he also has studied Native American spiritual practice. Taigen has long been active in various Engaged Buddhist programs for social justice, including work against the Death Penalty and sustained Peace and Environmental activism.
At the beginning of 2007 Taigen relocated to Chicago, and now is Guiding Dharma Teacher for Ancient Dragon Zen Gate. He lives with his wife in the north side of Chicago, and enjoys the lively cosmopolitan qualities of Chicago. Through our sangha, Taigen works to develop accessible practice and training programs in the Chicago area.