photo by Lisa Law

Brief Memories
of Shunryu Suzuki,
Zen Center
back then, etc.


James Murphy

I asked Jim Murphy if he could share his memories of Shunryu Suzuki and this is his response. Thanks. - DC

Subject: Suzuki Roshi

Hi David,

Here are some remembrances:

1. Jan 2, 1970. Traveled from Mass. to 300 Page. Walked up to door, was about to knock or ring when the door opened slowly. Roshi came out mischievously with a couple of egg shells and puts them on the soil of the potted plant next to the door. I hand him a note of introduction from Dorathy Schalk which he did not open. He asked me in.

2. I had a Dokusan with Roshi at Tassajara around Spring/Summer 1970.

After I did the three full prostrations and sat down, he told me that my upward palms were not level when I raised them up. He said if they were not level the Buddha may fall off. ( It was my first time away from home at age 19. I was preoccupied by draft board issues.) When I asked him how long I should stay at Tassajara he said he had not been able to observe my practice yet.

3. At Ed and Meg's wedding I prepared a big bowl of dark ripe cherries for the group. I had intentions of making the rounds with cherries and decided to offer them to Roshi first. I walked up to him and offered them to Roshi expecting him to take a few. His face lit up and he took the whole bowl from me! All I could do is gasho and walk away. (you might say I had my Zen cherry broken)

4. I roomed with Tommy Dorsey that summer 1970. Arriving at the cabin one day Tommy told me that Okusan had noticed the teacup on the window sill as being Suzuki Roshi's cup. Apparently she was a little miffed at first till Tommy showed her that I had mended the broken cup (the pieces I had found in the kitchen) and a small piece of the rim was missing in back out of view. Tommy said she settled down after the explanation. The next day Okusan came by to tell me with enthusiasm, that Roshi had told her, that the mending of the cup was very good practice.

5. At one of the talks at Tassajara, Roshi went into a bit of a laughing jag when the talk about his wife..."I can't live with her, and can't live without her"..

6. Back at 300 page, early Jan. 1970, Roshi was ripping mad about the students dragging chairs across the floor in the dining room above the zendo and making a big racket. I was reminded about Half Dipper Bridge. In Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind Roshi relates about the bridge at Eiheiji where one returns a half dipper of water, tilting the dipper toward oneself. I think of it as showing respect for things (and ourselves) as manifested by how we treat things.

That is about it for now. I hope you find this useful as I surely did!


Jim M.