After high school he attended Macalester College in St.
Paul Minnesota, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a Liberal
He then went on to Columbia University, where he received
his Master’s Degree in Journalism.
It was during his college years that Sudo developed a passion
for the guitar. This was during the Punk Rock era with it’s
do-it-yourself ethic and raw, untamed sensibility. He definitely
could relate. Though he had studied music as a child, he
now picked up the guitar with a renewed commitment, forming
of alternative rock bands including Half a Chicken and Tokyo
In 1992, Phillip Toshio Sudo married Tracy Buell. It was during
their honeymoon in Japan and Maui that he reacquainted himself
with the work of Miyamoto Musashi in a book titled The Book
of Five Rings. This particular work became the catalyst for
what became a life-long study of eastern philosophy. Finding
his center in marriage, inspired by his reading, and energized
by his music, the stage was set for a creative outburst that
would affect so many people so profoundly.
While living in New York City, Sudo worked in publishing– including
a stint at Scholastic Inc., the publisher of educational
materials for young people. There he was an editor on a current
magazine aimed at high school age youth. In retrospect, one
could see where his translucent style of writing might have
been formed by his years writing for young people. He had
the rare ability to illustrate the most profound concepts
a vitality and economy of language few writers who dabble
in such lofty territory could evoke.
During this period he formed a band, Avant Garbage, with
some of his colleagues in the publishing world. They performed
music based on recurring themes he composed. They performed
in clubs, galleries, subways, and on the streets of New York
City–anywhere that sympathetic persons of a certain receptive
disposition might happen by. The band particularly relished
performing for the annual New York City Marathon where they
would run a two and half hour non-stop musical marathon. Their
musical laboratory, though, was a basement rehearsal studio
on New York’s Lower East Side. It was there that Sudo
began to articulate and document his unique approach to philosophy
and art. Thus “Zen Guitar” was born.
Shortly after the birth of their first child, Naomi, in
1995, the Sudo family packed up and moved to Maui, Hawaii.
period was the happiest and most productive of his life.
During the six idyllic years spent there, the couple had
two more children, sons Keith and Jonathan. Sudo published
four books explaining his understanding of Zen philosophy
and how to practically apply it in life: Zen
Zen Computer (Simon & Schuster), Zen
Sex and Zen 24/7 (Harper San Francisco). He also recorded a critically acclaimed
of instrumental music, One Sound One Song.
In January 2001, the family moved back to New York City.
Shortly thereafter Sudo was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
In Zen 24/7,
he wrote a year before his own diagnosis, "We take life
for granted, sleepwalking until a shattering event knocks us
awake. Zen says, don't wait until the car accident, the cancer
diagnosis, or the death of a loved one to get your priorities
straight. Do it now." During the next 14 months, Sudo
made a heroic effort to apply the lessons of living he himself
taught. He was fighting to heal a battered body while continuing
to do his work and be there for his family. He had “found
his bliss” before the onset of illness and was dedicated
to retaining its life-affirming benefits while facing life-threatening
challenges. Much of this struggle was documented in a cancer
journal he kept and posted on the Zen Guitar website.