Lately I’ve been thinking that Katagiri happened to arrive at an extraordinary moment in our country’s history. He landed in Los Angeles just six weeks after Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech” at the civil rights march on Washington, and six weeks before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It was a tumultuous time. Our local Minneapolis paper recently ran a series of articles looking at all the ways that 1963 marked the start of a new era of history and culture, including Beatle mania, the rise of feminism, and a profound reassessment of traditional respect for power and authority. You can read the series at www.startribune.com/1963.
1963 was also the year that Soto Zen Bishop Reirin Yamada launched the Zen Buddhist Study Institute in Los Angeles and brought 35-year-old Katagiri from Japan to be part of his program. Tomoe has said that after a couple of years in LA and San Francisco, Katagiri began to doubt that he belonged in America and considered returning to Japan. Fortunately she was confident that they should stay. So he continued his effort to look beyond any particular human culture to find and teach the best way of human life.