Born in Brooklyn NY, Dennis Merzel grew up in Southern California where he was both a high school and college champion swimmer and All-American water polo player. He earned a Bachelors Degree in Economics from California State University at Long Beach and a Masters degree in Education from the University of Southern California and was a teacher and lifeguard before ordaining as a Zen monk under Zen Master Taizan Maezumi in 1973. Completing formal Koan study in 1979 he became Maezumi Roshi’s second Dharma Successor in 1980, the first being Zen Master Bernie Glassman. He received Inka (final seal of approval as Zen Master) from Zen Master Glassman in 1996, thereby becoming one of a small group of Westerners recognized as lineage holders in both the Soto and Rinzai Zen traditions.
In 1982 Genpo Sensei began teaching throughout Europe and founded the international group he named the Kanzeon (Love and Compassion) Sangha, now centered in Salt Lake City, Utah, with affiliates in France, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Germany, England, and Malta. He has fourteen Dharma Successors, and has given Inka to eight Zen teachers making them Zen Masters. For eleven years, until 2007, he was the President of the White Plum Asanga, the worldwide community comprising all the Dharma heirs of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, their successors, and the many groups they lead.
Genpo Roshi is currently conducting workshops throughout the world. His publications include The Eye Never Sleeps, Beyond Sanity and Madness, 24/7 Dharma, and The Path of The Human Being, and many DVD's. His latest book, Big Mind/Big Heart: Finding Your Way, published in 2007, is also being published in translation in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Russia, Poland, France, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria.