Taigen Dan Leighton

Taigen Dan Leighton (born 1950, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA) is a Sōtō priest and teacher, academic,[1] and author. He is an authorized lineage holder and Zen teacher in the tradition of Shunryū Suzuki and is the founder and Guiding Teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, Illinois. Leighton is also an authorized teacher in the Japanese Sōtō School (kyōshi).[2]

Taigen Dan Leighton
Taigen Dan Leighton 2.JPG
EducationColumbia University, B.A.
California Institute of Integral Studies, M.A.
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Ph.D.
Senior posting
TeacherKando Nakajima
Reb Anderson
Blanche Hartman
Based inAncient Dragon Zen Gate
Loyola University Chicago
Institute of Buddhist Studies
PredecessorReb Anderson
SuccessorNyozan Eric Shutt, Eishin Nancy Easton


Leighton's father was a medical school professor and cancer researcher, his mother a high school French teacher and librarian. Leighton began his Zen practice in 1975 at the New York Zen Center, training under Kando Nakajima rōshi. He studied at Columbia University, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in East Asian studies. Leighton worked as a television and film editor in New York City, and then San Francisco.[2]

In 1978, he moved to California and eventually became a resident at San Francisco Zen Center, where he worked at Tassajara Bakery and other of Zen Center's businesses. In subsequent years, Leighton practiced in residence at all of the San Francisco Zen Center facilities, including Green Gulch Farm Zen Center and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. In 1986, Leighton was ordained as a priest by Reb Anderson in the latter's first ordination ceremony. In 1990 Leighton served as shuso (head monk) for the Spring practice period at Tassajara monastery under Zenkei Blanche Hartman as her first shuso.[2]

Leighton lived in Japan from 1990–1992, translating Dōgen texts with Shōhaku Okumura and training under various masters. In 1994, Leighton founded the Mountain Source Sangha in Bolinas, San Rafael, and San Francisco, California (of which Ancient Dragon Zen Gate is a sister temple).[3]

In 2000, Leighton received shihō, or Dharma transmission, from Reb Anderson.[2]

He taught for four years at Loyola University Chicago and has taught since 1994 at the Institute of Buddhist Studies,[4] part of the Berkeley Graduate Theological Union, from which Leighton has a Ph.D. degree.[2]

Leighton has been involved in many interfaith dialogue programs, including conducting Buddhist–Christian dialogue workshops. He has long been active in various Engaged Buddhist programs for social justice, including Environmental and Peace activism. Leighton's peace activism goes back to dedicated anti-Vietnam War work in high school, and he was then as a College freshman arrested as part of the 1968 week-long building occupation at Columbia University protesting the War and racism.[2]

In 2007 Leighton relocated to Chicago to serve full-time as Guiding Dharma Teacher for Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, which he had founded with students there a few years before. In 2008 Leighton performed Zuisse ceremonies at Eiheiji and Sōjiji temples in Japan to be recognized as a Dharma teacher by the Japanese Sōtō School. In 2019 Leighton completed Dharma transmission ceremonies at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate for his Dharma heirs Nyozan Eric Shutt and Eishin Nancy Easton.[2]


Over the years, Leighton has taught at various universities around the world. The following is a complete list:[2][4]



  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2015). Just This Is It: Dongshan and the Practice of Suchness. Boston: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 978-1-61180-228-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2012). "Dogen's Approach to Training in Eihei Koroku". In Heine, Steven (ed.). Dogen: Textual And Historical Studies. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 122–138. ISBN 0199754462. OCLC 731191960.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2012) [2003]. Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression—an Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism (Revised ed.). Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 1614290148. OCLC 757476824.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2011). Zen Questions: Zazen, Dogen, and the Spirit of Creative Inquiry. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0861716450. OCLC 713188144.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2010). "Dongshan and the Teaching of Suchness". In Heine, Steven; Wright, Dale Stuart (eds.). Zen Masters. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 33–58. ISBN 0195367642. OCLC 426391158.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2009). "Now the Whole Planet Has Its Head on Fire". In Stanley, John; Loy, David; Dorje, Gyurme (eds.). A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. Boston: Wisdom Publications. pp. 187–194. ISBN 0861716051. OCLC 298781881.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2008). "Zazen as an Enactment Ritual". In Heine, Steven; Wright, Dale Stuart (eds.). Zen Ritual: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 167–184. ISBN 0195304675. OCLC 77573898.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2007). Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019532093X. OCLC 71350616.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2007). Songs for the True Dharma Eye: Verse Comments on Dogen's Shobogenzo. San Francisco, CA: Browser Books Publishing. ISBN 9780977221271.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Payne, Richard Karl; Leighton, Taigen Dan, eds. (2006). Discourse and Ideology in Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism. London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415359171. OCLC 59817941.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dōgen; Leighton, Taigen Dan; Shōhaku Okumura (2004). Dogen's Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Koroku [永平広録]. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0861713052. OCLC 55286286.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Kim, Hee-Jin (2004) [1975]. Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist (3rd ed.). Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0861713761. OCLC 53138715.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Loori, John Daido (2004) [2002]. The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza (2nd ed.). Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 086171394X. OCLC 54392536.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Warner, Jishō; Shōhaku Okumura; Leighton, Taigen Dan; McRae, John (2001). Nothing Is Hidden: Essays on Zen Master Dogen's Instructions for the Cook. New York: Weatherhill. ISBN 0834804786. OCLC 45488199.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (2001). "Sacred Fools and Monastic Rules: Zen Rule-Bending and the Training for Pure Hearts". In Barnhart, Bruno; Huang, Yuese (eds.). Purity of Heart and Contemplation: A Monastic Dialogue Between Christian and Asian Traditions. New York: Continuum. pp. 151–164. ISBN 082641348X. OCLC 47136534.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan; Hongzhi Zhengjue (2000) [1991]. Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi (Revised ed.). Boston: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0804832404. OCLC 43978646.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leighton, Taigen Dan (1998). Bodhisattva Archetypes: Classic Buddhist Guides to Awakening and Their Modern Expression. New York: Penguin Arkana. ISBN 0140195564. OCLC 37211178.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dōgen; Kōshō Uchiyama; Leighton, Taigen Dan; Shōhaku Okumura (1997). The Wholehearted Way: A Translation of Eihei Dogen's Bendowa [弁道話]. Boston: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 080483105X. OCLC 38190728.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dōgen; Leighton, Taigen Dan; Shōhaku Okumura (1996). 永平清規 [Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community: a Translation of the Eihei Shingi]. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0791427102. OCLC 32859858.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ford, James Ishmael (2006). Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Wisdom Publications. pp. 130. ISBN 0861715098. OCLC 70174891.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Leighton, Taigen Dan (2005–2013). "Taigen Dan Leighton Full Biography". Ancient Dragon Zen Gate. Retrieved 12 February 2013.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  3. ^ Leighton, Taigen Dan (2007). "Taigen Dan Leighton, Founding Dharma Teacher". Mountain Source Sangha. Retrieved 12 February 2013.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  4. ^ a b Faculty & Staff: The Institute of Buddhist Studies, Institute of Buddhist Studies, retrieved 12 February 2013CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit