Responding to a call from inmates interested in starting a Zen group, Seido Eishu Lee founded the Buddhadharma Sangha inside San Quentin State Prison in 1999. He went on to serve as the Sangha’s Head Teacher until his retirement in 2015.
Seido Eishu Lee Lüssen de Barros passed away peacefully on March 6 surrounded by family, friends and Sangha. He is survived by his wife, son, three stepchildren and six grandsons.
Since the day Lee founded it, the San Quentin Sang- ha has met nearly every week, bringing the lineage of Dogen Zenji and Suzuki Roshi behind the prison walls and touching the lives of hundreds of inmates and volunteers.
Lee conferred the Bodhisattva precepts on many Zen students, including more than 30 inmates and several non-inmates lay-ordained inside San Quentin over the course of four Jukai ceremonies between 2002 and 2015.
Lee Lüssen de Barros was ordained a Soto Zen priest in 1989 at Green Gulch Farm by Sojun Mel Weitsman, receiving the Dharma name Seido Eishu, “Clear Path, Constant/Endless Effort.” He received Dharma Transmission at Tassajara in 1998` from Norman Fischer.
Along with his wife, lay Zen teacher Martha de Barros, he lived for more than 10 years at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara. He filled senior staff roles at Green Gulch and served as Tanto at Tassajara.
Lee was deeply involved in and much beloved by the Marin County Interfaith community. He was active in the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, serving as street people see who inmates are turning into and that they’re not the same people they were years ago.
As Norman Fischer de- scribed him, “Lee was a true priest and a good one. He liked to keep things light and modest but underneath that was a fierce and deep spirituality.”
A memorial for Seido Lee de Barros will be held at Green Gulch Farm at 4 p.m. on April 27.