John Tarrant, Roshi, PhD, is director of the Pacific Zen Institute, which has centers in California, Arizona, and Canada, and senior teacher for Desert Lotus Zen Sangha in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a doctorate degree in psychology and is author of Bring Me The Rhinoceros & Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life and The Light Inside the Dark.
One of the foremost koan teachers in the United States, Tarrant focuses his work on the transformation of consciousness. “I’m interested in Zen as a way that transforms the mind,” he says. “This means that innovation is essential to me. I studied and taught Zen in a classical manner for about 15 years before developing new ways of introducing koans that even people with no experience in meditation can find useful.”
Tarrant helped design the pioneering mind-body curriculum in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona at Tucson to develop a culture for change in medical education. He also helped design the curriculum at Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University Medical School.
A native of Australia, Tarrant first studied Buddhism in the early 1970s with visiting Tibetan lamas. He then discovered koans, stories sometimes given to Zen practitioners to hasten and refine insight and enlightenment. Later in the United States, he studied koans with Korean teacher Seung Sahn. He also studied with Robert Aitken in Hawaii for nine years and was Aitken’s first dharma heir.
John Tarrant began teaching in 1983. In 1987, he founded the organization that evolved into the Pacific Zen Institute.