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

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Brief Memories

photo by Lisa Law


Excerpts from cuke Interview with Loring Palmer

Loring Palmer's link page - for more from Loring

I remember him at various sesshins being right there for us. There was some situation where somebody had spilled something in the zendo during a work period. Suzuki Roshi would say, "I'm coming, I'm coming." He was as much part of the work periods as he was of every other part of the sesshin.


What Suzuki Roshi did for me, what I learned from him, was that he presented me with a much bigger picture, and was able to get me out of my morbid self preoccupation. Being able to see a much bigger picture.


When I met Suzuki Roshi there was like some kind of focus in my life. Something bigger than this kind of random confusion. I was still shopping around. I didn't stop at Zen Center, there were some other things I was checking out Swamis and various other masters. It was like I was growing up. Suzuki Roshi and Okusan provided me, on one level, a placebo father and mother, who were actually knowledgeable and seemed to be happy in their relationship.


He was extremely patient. I've always had a problem with cynicism and negativity. The poverty mentality about oneself. Which is just the flip side of pride, that I'm much better than all of this. And I need to remain separate because I am superior in some way or another. Suzuki Roshi would continually work on getting me to say "hai." Getting me to say yes rather than this spontaneous no, shirking responsibility, etc.

DC: How would he do that?

L: He would tell me in dokusan. When he'd ring the bell you'd have to say, "Hai." before you went in. At least that's what we were doing. He would say, "Very good, Loring, very good 'hai.'" Encouraging that response.


D: When you say what you learned from him is to expand your world, in what way?

To see a much bigger picture. It opened up all the Buddha realms. The fact that you see that you're not the only person who is suffering, but that everyone is suffering. The interconnectedness. It's just not me who has problems. Suffering is a noble truths and he went over the noble truths with us so many times. This is just the way of life. There's nothing wrong with you. Everybody suffers. That was a breakthrough for me.


Suzuki had a willingness to meet us at our level. It seemed like a mutual fascination between him and the counterculture that we represented. It was his willingness to be fascinated.


from Loring's note to DC after reading his cuke Interview in 2011:

Also, I didn't talk about the deep impression that Suzuki Roshi made on me by his authentic presence: sincerity and integrity. He was a package of beauty, truth, and goodness: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. His speech, movements, and decorum were magnetizing: lightness-of-being. The ordinary as extraordinary. I "turned Japanese" after being around him---from the outside in. Remember the haramaki [waist sweater] and devotion to the zori? We're the luckiest people in the world to have met SR and the wabi/sabi aesthetics of Nippon: enjoyed practicing Cha-no-Yu for 10 years while in Boulder. Life is good!

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