Born on a farm outside the small town of Centralia, Illinois in 1941, where he grew up, Michael Elliston completed high school with honors. He attended the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago from which he received a B.S. in 1964 and an M.S. in 1970. From 1966 to 1970 he taught art and design at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sensei’s involvement with Zen began in 1966 when he met Matsuoka-Roshi, founder and head teacher of the Chicago Zen Buddhist Temple. After two years of training under Matsuoka-Roshi’s supervision, and at his suggestion, Sensei underwent a combined initiation and discipleship ceremony, during which he was given the dharma name Taiun, translating as “Great Cloud”.
Taiun Michael Elliston was registered with the Soto Shu in Japan July 13, 1969 and ordained as a Zen Priest March 22, 1970. He continued his duties at the Chicago Zen Center until 1970, when he moved to Atlanta, where he soon began offering Zen meditation and teaching. In 1977 he founded the Atlanta Soto Zen Center (ASZC), and in 1983 Matsuoka-roshi presented him the title of “roshi”, which he called “the Ph.D. of Zen”, in Atlanta.
Sensei continues to offer his ordinary-everyday style of Zen practice and training as the head teacher of ASZC, where he oversees the training of disciples and priests and encourages the growing membership to lead a Zen life and maintain a harmonious balance with the demands of family and livelihood.
In 2006 Sensei underwent "Shuso” training and a precepts ceremony with Seirin Barbara Kohn of Austin Zen Center (Suzuki lineage), and sesshin with Shohaku Okumura in Bloomington, Indiana, and completed transmission with them in early 2007 in a ceremony that recognized the authenticity of Matsuoka-Roshi's transmission and lineage.
Taiun M. Elliston, Abbot of the Silent Thunder Order is a member of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA).