Zoketsu Norman Fischer (c. 1946)
is an American Soto Zen roshi, poet and Buddhist author practicing in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. He is a Dharma heir of Sojun Mel Weitsman, from whom he received Dharma transmission in 1988. After having served as co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center from 1995–2000, Fischer founded the Everyday Zen Foundation in 2000, a network ofsanghas with chapters in Canada, the United States and Mexico. He has authored several essays on interreligious dialogues, and to that end has attended gatherings such as the 2002 Gethsemani Encounter held at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky(where the Trappist Thomas Merton lived). Fischer has also stayed in touch with his Jewish heritage, occasionally attending services at Beth Sholom synagogue in San Francisco, California and offering instruction in meditation to interested parties there. In addition, he has also served as mentor to teenage boys—all of which is chronicled in his book Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up. Fischer also serves on the faculty of the Metta Institute and on the board of directors for the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, California.
Norman Fischer was born to a Jewish family in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1946. As a child he attended services with his parents at a conservative synagogue—an activity he recalls fondly. After studying poetry at the University of Iowa and then completing further studies at both the University of California, Berkeley and Graduate Theological Union, Fischer and his wife Kathie gave birth to two twin boys—Noah and Aron. He was then ordained as a Zen priest in 1980 in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki. In 1988 he received Dharma transmission from his longtime teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman. He held the position of director at Green Gulch Farm in Marin County, California starting in 1981, and from 1995–2000 he served as co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) with Blanche Hartman(Hartman installed in 1996). Today, as a senior Dharma teacher for them, Fischer continues to teach at SFZC. In 2000 he founded the Everyday Zen Foundation, which today has practice groups in Canada, the United States and Mexico. That same year he was hired as a consultant by now-failed online fashion company ZoZa.com, owned by Mel and Patricia Ziegler. Fischer said of the job, "I have absolutely nothing to offer ZoZa...which is what the Zieglers really love!" As a poet, most of Fischer's work has been published in limited quantity, with nine publications released to date. Fischer is also one of three executors of poet Philip Whalen's work—a former abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center who died in 2002—along with Michael Rothenberg and Leslie Scalapino.