Elsie Mitchell

On Monday, October 17, 2011, in the early morning hours Elsie Mitchell passed away in her Cambridge, Massachusetts home.  Mrs. Mitchell was one of the founders of the Cambridge Buddhist Association, together with her husband John, D. T. Suzuki, Shinichi Hisamatsu, and a few others. The CBA offered continuous Zen practice from 1957 until the end of July 2011.

Mrs. Mitchell was a pioneer of Zen in America, many may remember her recordings of the chanting at Eiheiji, which came out in 1958 on LP. Recording together with her husband she was helped then by a young Japanese man, who introduced himself as Mr. Katagiri. I remember Mrs. Mitchell telling me this story several times, also noting that he smoked a lot. Dainin Katagiri, Shunryu Suzuki, and a number of other Zen masters knew her well.

In 1979 Mrs. Mitchell donated the funds to purchase 75 Sparks Street in Cambridge, where Maurine Stuart – Myo-on Chiko – taught until her much too early departure in 1990. Mrs. Mitchell was a continual and dedicated supporter of the Buddhist endeavors all over the United States. With her departure we are one step closer to the disappearance of the first generation of American Zen pioneers. Only a few are left.

We express our gratitude to Mr. Mitchell who supported the CBA for so many years, for her kindness, generosity, and her perseverance regarding the presence of Dharma in the American life and culture. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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