John Tarrant

John Tarrant (born 1949) is a Western Zen teacher, currently director of the Pacific Zen Institute in Santa Rosa, California.
Biographical Portrait
Tarrant was raised in rural Tasmania, Australia. This was for all practical purposes a 19th century upbringing, without the use of wired electricity or indoor plumbing. His earliest influences included the Catholic Church and particularly the Latin Mass, Australian Aboriginal culture, and a passion for English literature, especially poetry. Tarrant was awarded a scholarship to attend the Australian National University, where he earned a dual degree in Human Sciences and English Literature.
Before and after college he worked at many jobs, ranging from working as a laborer in an open-pit mine, to commercial fishing the Great Barrier Reef. Eventually he also worked as a lobbyist for the Aboriginal land rights movement.
He was introduced to Buddhism in the Tibetan tradition but quickly found his spiritual home in Zen Buddhism, and moved to Hawaii to study Zen with the social justice activist and Zen master, Robert Baker Aitken. At about this time he moved to California to complete his PhD in Psychology from the Saybrook Institute, and established the California Diamond Sangha, which would eventually become the Pacific Zen Institute.
Dharma career
Tarrant's reputation as a writer and poet grew with contributions to several publications, including among various journals the books Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry and What Book? Buddha Poems From Beat to Hiphop.
His own books include his controversial book The Light Inside the Dark and the widely received Bring Me the Rhinoceros.
After allegations of misconduct against him, several leaders of the Diamond Sangha, including Robert Aitken, addressed an open letter to Tarrant. Partly as a result of differences with Aitken, Tarrant cut formal ties with the Diamond Sangha in 2001.
More recently this controversy was renewed after Tarrant published a tribute to Aitken in Shambala Sun magazine . In an open letter, Nelson Foster complained about the tone of the piece.,
Among Tarrant's Dharma heirs are:
David Weinstein located at Pacific Zen Institute's Oakland Zendo branch site;
Joan Iten Sutherland, founder and head teacher of Awakened Life ;
James Ishmael Ford, founder and senior teacher of the Boundless Way Zen network;
Daniel Terragno, of Rocks and Clouds Zendo
Dharma Teaching
One popular quotation, which signifies Tarrant's contribution to Western Zen is:
"What is the mind like if it’s not occupied with plans and schemes, and fears that the plans and schemes will fail? What if your unexamined beliefs were to fall away and you were to live without them, and also to live without the thought that you had given anything up?"

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