Zengaku Soyu Matsuoka-roshi is an important historical figure in the propagation of Soto Zen in the United States. Matsuoka-roshi was born in Japan, in Yamaguchi Prefecture hear Hiroshima on November 25, 1912, into a family which had a history of Zen priests dating back six centuries. He attended Komazawa University in Tokyo, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree. From there, he studied and practiced Zen a Sojiji Zen Monastery. After several years at Sojiji, he was given an assignment to establish a Zen Temple in northern Japan, on Karafuto (Sakhalin) Island. Prior to his coming to America, Matsuoka-roshi earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, from Political Science University in Tokyo.
In 1939, Soto Zen Headquarters asked him to travel to the United States, where he first became an assistant minister at the Los Angeles Zen Buddhist Temple, and later the Superintendent of the San Francisco Zen Buddhist Temple, which became the San Francisco Zen Center. After serving as a Zen Priest on the West Coast of the U.S., he attended Columbia University in New York, where he undertook further graduate study under the guidance of Dr. Daisetsu Suzuki.
Immediately following these studies, he moved to Chicago, where he founded the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago. In addition to teaching meditation (zazen), Matsuoka-roshi extended his activities beyond the temple. He lectured extensively to local high schools and colleges, and served as an instructor of zazen for the Chicago Judo-Karate School, and later as a special instructor at the Colorado State University and Chicago Central YMCA College. Beginning in 1968, he made a yearly tour of Japan. His initial tour was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to Japan, during which he lectured on the topic of “Unknown America” in order to promote cultural understanding. In 1971, he established the Long Beach Zen Buddhist Temple. His life was dedicated to establishing Soto Zen in America.
He frequently quoted a saying: 'Moku-rai.' It means 'silence is thunder.' Much of what one learned from Sensei ('teacher'), as his disciples called him, was not from preaching, but from his manner, the way he expressed himself through his attitude and actions. His Zen dharma was transferred silently, naturally, through his presence. The core of his teachings is the practice of zazen, Zen meditation, and the realization of its power in daily life. His disciples lead temples around the USA and Canada, under the Silent Thunder Order. Matsuoka-roshi died on November 20, 1997.