O'Halloran, Maura Eileen (1955–82), Zen master, was born 24 May 1955 in Boston, Mass., USA, eldest among one son and five daughters of Fionan Finbarr O'Halloran, civil engineer from Tralee, Co. Kerry, and Ruth O'Halloran (née Libbey), teacher, from Maine, USA. She was educated at Loreto Convent, Dublin, and the Sacred Heart Schools in Dublin and Boston, and in 1977 graduated from TCD with an honours degree in mathematical economics, statistics, and sociology. While at TCD (May 1975) she was elected a scholar and held foundation scholarships till her graduation.
Her interest in meditation began during her teenage years, and as she grew up she became interested in Buddhism. Then in November 1979, after travelling and working in various places on both American continents, she went to Japan to study Buddhism. She joined Tóshóji, a Zen temple of the Sótó sect, in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, and on 10 December 1979 she had her Tokudo ceremony, a ceremony of entrance to the Buddhist priesthood, and received her Buddhist name, ‘Daigo Soshin Bikuni’.
The following three years were spent in training, mainly at the Kannonji temple in Yahabacho, Shiba-gun, Iwate, in northern Japan, and Tóshóji. Her enrolment at Tóshóji was accidental, but she became involved in Zen rapidly. In less than six months after her enrolment she had kenshó (enlightenment). Her aptitude probably contributed to such an achievement, but it was also a result of her dedication. She was known to her fellow priests for taking the most strict way in her training, and was highly regarded by her master, who began to consider her as one of his successors. Consequently, there was some disagreement between O'Halloran and her master, for she had started to think about opening her own dojo (training centre) back in Ireland, while her master planned repeatedly to make her his successor at Kannonji temple. In June 1982 she underwent the Denbóshiki ceremony which qualified her as oshó, a priest in charge of a temple, and her Hasansai (graduation ceremony) was held on 7 August 1982.
Although O'Halloran had planned to continue her study in Japan, she left Japan on 9 October to return to Maine and Dublin, and on her way to America she travelled in south-east Asia: Hong Kong, Macao, and Thailand. On 22 October 1982 she was killed in a bus accident on her way to Chiang Mai from Bangkok in Thailand. She was given the posthumous name of ‘Great Enlightened Lady, of the same heart and mind as the Great Teacher Buddha’. In February 1983 the ‘Maura Kannon’ statue was built in Kannonji temple. Her letters and journals were published as Pure heart, enlightened mind (New York, 1994), and were translated into several languages.