of Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Center back then, etc.
photo by Lisa Law
Interview with Gary Snyder
Matt: Could you talk a little about your personal experience with Zen Center? When you first came into contact with Suzuki Roshi, for example? Some of your first impressions of him?
Gary: Well I went to Japan in 1956, May of 1956. I was studying at Daitokuji. First I was studying at Shokokuji and then Daitokuji. I had many friends in San Francisco who wrote me and I remember sometime during that year, probably, oh spring of '57 maybe, I think that's what it was, I got a letter saying that a new Zen priest has arrived at the Pine [sic: Bush] Street Soto Buddhist Church, who is opening it up to Caucasians. There had been a Zen church there before and they were going to go over and sit with him. Some of my friends were the very first people to ever sit with Suzuki Roshi ‑ Joanne Kyger and Bob Breckenridge were two of them. And Claude Dalenberg. So I got news of this, and I kept hearing about it. I got news from this evolving Zen practice center up in San Francisco as it was happening, and it was very lovely to hear about. I didn't actually get to meet Suzuki Roshi until I came back from Japan to live in California in 1969. Actually it was the winter of '68 but in the spring of '69 I had an apartment over near the old Bush Street Zen Center. I was on Pine Street after that, I had an apartment on Pine Street, and we had Suzuki Roshi over for lunch several times and chatted away in Japanese and in English. I used to go over and sit in the morning when I was living there with Suzuki and that group. And I knew Dick Baker already at that time, and I knew some of the other people who were around the Zen Center at that time as friends from before, as well as some new friends. So I was not right up on top of it, but, I was aware of it in talking to people who were involved with in it from the very beginning. And step by step, , I heard the news about each of the monks, all of the monks, as I still keep in touch with it, via Norman Fischer and David Schneider.