Born in 1951 in Louisville, Kentucky, David Schneider was the first child of Marc, a Jew and engineer and Georgia, his southern Baptist sociologist mother. David rapidly acquired three sisters, the rudiments of a standard boomer education, and a bi-religious, Southern upbringing, involving. Saturday School and Sunday School. He grew up in Pittsburgh, PA .
He began to practice Zen meditation with a local group at Reed College, in Portland, OR and attended sesshins with Joshu Sasaki Roshi in 1970 and 71. In January, 1971, he met Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and he says, that did it. In April of the same year, he saw Suzuki Roshi and Trungpa Rinpoche together at the San Francisco Zen Center, and that really did it
David dropped out of Reed College to move into Zen Center. He took up studies under Richard Baker Roshi, and in 1977, he received ordination as unsui or "cloud-water person." He did many academic and practical jobs as part of community life there, which ran from 1972-85. The 1983 scandal at SF Zen Center led to the departure of Baker Roshi. In 1984, in the formal shuso ceremony, David was ordained as a head monk at the Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco.
In 1985 David was formally accepted by Trungpa Rinpoche as a student. He attended Vajradhatu Seminary in 1986 and staffed Seminary again in 1988.
David wrote Street Zen, a biography of Issan Dorsey, published in 1993 by Shambhala Publications, and again in 2000 by Marlowe. Street Zen won several prizes, included "Best Buddhist Book of the Year" in 1993. In 1994 he co-edited with Kazuaki Tanahashi a collection of zen stories, titled Essential Zen.
In 1995, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche appointed David Director of Shambhala Europe, a position he held until 2003. David now works for Vajradhatu Publications Europe; he continues as well to pursue writing projects - currently, a biography of Beat poet and Zen master Zenshin Philip Whalen - as well as calligraphy exhibitions. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche appointed David to the post of acharya in 1996.