Not properly a religion, Zen is a path which practitioners follow at their own pace – even as the goal is often confused with the starting point.
Suzuki’s thinking is especially fruitful in the modern context of the West as it radically questions consumerist and materialistic lifestyles: “Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom.” Suzuki also places emphasis on the dangers of being trapped in the intellect through selfish and limiting ideas, and on the reevaluation of adolescence as a period for the building of strong foundations: We are too ego-centered.
As a result, he pursued a more philosophical view of life studying at Japanese universities, and later at multiple monasteries.
His presence can be felt in the first English translations of Eastern classics like the (illumination) under the tutelage of the great master, Soyen Shaku.
His ancestors as well as his father, grandfather, and great grandfather were physicians of the samurai class.
Suzuki was expected to follow in their footsteps, but with the death of his father while he was six his family was unable to bear the expense of a medical education.
Suzuki returned to Japan in 1909 as lecturer of English at Imperial University and professor of English at Gakushuin (Peers' School). He remained at Otani University until he began an active retirement in 1940.
In 1921 he left these posts to become professor of English and Buddhist philosophy at Otani University, Kyoto, where he received an honorary D. During World War II he was under suspicion of the Japanese government for his opposition to militarism, but in 1949 he was made a member of the Japanese Academy and decorated by the emperor with the Cultural Medal.
The ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow…
We are, however, given many chances to break through this shell, and the first and greatest of them is when we reach adolescence.