Tuesday, May 09, 2006

LaSalle-Peru's Most Famous Resident?

by Todd Kuzma

LASALLE - Who is LaSalle-Peru’s most famous former resident? Is it violinist Maud Powell or zinc magnates FW Matthiessen and Edward Hegeler? Perhaps. However, an argument can be made for Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki. While this might not be a household name in the Illinois Valley, DT Suzuki is famous around the world as an author of works about Zen and Buddhism. His work is widely regarded as having been instrumental in spreading Mahayana Buddhism to the West.

Suzuki was born in Kanazawa, Japan in 1870. After graduating from Waseda University, he began his study of Buddhism under Zen monk Soyen Shaku. As Suzuki had earlier learned several modern and ancient languages, Soyen asked Suzuki to translate one of his books into English. This served as Suzuki’s introduction to the world of publishing.

In 1893, Soyen Shaku spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. It was here that he met Dr. Paul Carus. Carus asked for Soyen’s help in translating several Oriental religious texts into English. Soyen instead recommended Suzuki for the task.

From 1897 to 1908, Suzuki lived at 959 Marquette Street in LaSalle and worked with Dr. Paul Carus translating a number of texts for publication in the United States. He also wrote his first book, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, which was published by the Open Court Publishing Company in 1908.

The Ramsey House at 959 Marquette Street as it appears today.

The house at 959 Marquette Street was owned by John Ramsey, an employee of Edward Hegeler. One story that has circulated about the house is that it was a gift from Hegeler to Ramsey in return for Ramsey’s agreement to serve in the Civil War in Hegeler’s place. However, Ramsey’s enlistment form shows that he enlisted on August 12, 1862 while draftees were not permitted to hire substitutes until the Enrollment Act of 1863. Therefore, it was legally impossible for Ramsey to have served in Hegeler’s place. Additionally, Ramsey’s great-grandson, Donald H. Ramsey, wrote in 2002 that Ramsey purchased the 959 Marquette home himself in 1891.

After the Civil War, Ramsey worked at M&H Zinc and later in the Hegeler home, where he was responsible for tending the house’s many fireplaces. Suzuki lived upstairs in Ramsey’s home yet spent much time with Paul Carus and his family in the Hegeler home. In addition to translating and writing, Suzuki did various jobs for Carus including work in Open Court’s editorial department.

After leaving LaSalle in 1908, Suzuki traveled for a year in Europe and then returned to Japan to teach. It was during this time that Suzuki wrote many of the books for which he later became famous. In 1921, he and his wife founded the Eastern Buddhist Society and its journal, The Eastern Buddhist, both of which survive to this day.

Suzuki continued to write and travel. His works became definitive introductions to Buddhism and Zen both at home in Japan and abroad. Famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote that, “Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki’s works on Zen Buddhism are among the best contributions to the knowledge of living Buddhism that recent decades have produced.”

In 1957 Suzuki returned to the Illinois Valley to attend the Paul Carus Memorial Symposium. Suzuki died in Tokyo on July 12, 1966 at the age of 95. He had remained quite active in his older years even, reassuming the editorship of The Eastern Buddhist in 1965.

That Suzuki has remained an important figure in the study of Zen Buddhism is a testimony to his work. Scholars still travel to LaSalle to see the Ramsey home on Marquette Street and study Suzuki’s writings at the Hegeler-Carus Mansion. The eleven years that Suzuki spent here were an essential part of his scholarly development and have cemented LaSalle’s place in the history of one of the world’s most important religions.

A memorial marker at the Ramsey House.

Selected Bibliography of Suzuki’s English Language Texts:

Essays in Zen Buddhism: First Series
Essays in Zen Buddhism: Second Series

Essays in Zen Buddhism: Third Series

An Introduction to Zen Buddhism

Japanese Spirituality

Living by Zen

Manual of Zen Buddhism

Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist: The Eastern and Western Way

Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism

Shin Buddhism

The Studies in Zen Buddhism

Swedenborg: Buddha of the North

The Training of the Buddhist Monk

Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture

Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D.T. Suzuki

The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind


Blogger condensed said...

great article

6:49 AM  

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