Film with Shunryu Suzuki
Zen Mt. Center film
transcript of parts with Shunryu Suzuki
whole film transcript
To see video go to the ZMC page in the video section of Shunryu Suzuki dot com.
ZEN MOUNTAIN CENTER
Sokoji and Tassajara
[Scenes inside Sokoji zendo with students sitting zazen and also views of Sokoji from the outside. Shunryu Suzuki bows as Dainin Katagiri hits a bell. Shunryu Suzuki walks around the zendo striking a few students’ shoulders with the kyosaku stick. Chanting begins and the mokugyo and bell are struck. City street scenes while chanting continues. Back inside the zendo. Richard Baker hits a bell. Then scene of Shunryu Suzuki with Dainin Katagiri and Richard Baker talking inside an office].
Shunryu Suzuki: You have to buy a very expensive ticket which you cannot afford to buy. [laughs and laughter].
Richard Baker: [laughs]. A poor Zen student can’t afford to go to No play or Kabuki. [laughs]. While I’m in Japan, is there anything special you want me to do?
Shunryu Suzuki: First of all, you have to study, I think, Japanese language. And then you study meditation and...
[Richard Baker’s voice begins to narrate].
Richard Baker: No one wanted to have a group, you know, but Zen center started about a little after Roshi came. Suzuki Roshi came in about 1958 [sic 1959]. So in the Japanese congregation’s building on Bush Street, we meditated every morning and evening with Roshi. He just said to the first people who came “Well I meditate every morning, early. If you want to join me, please do.” And so people start sitting with him and he kept postponing going back to Japan, until finally, he gave up and decided to stay here, apparently.
We had to start trying to support the Roshi and the building and things like that, so we needed a legal front, sort of like umbrella, under which to make contributions and things, so we formed a group. Then, they get a little more organized later, but basically it remained pretty simple, until the time of Tassajara.
[Back to the conversation in the office].
Shunryu Suzuki: Religion -- no maybe 70% of religion looks like culture, a part of culture. And the underlying spirit is through religion, I think.
Richard Baker: To me, religion is the definition of mankind or human possibilities, which is the most broad. But it can’t be something which is difficult to accept. It must be both intelligible and faith, simultaneously, it seems to me, to be dynamic.
Shunryu Suzuki: If you go to Japan, you understand our way from some other angle. That is a point we are making an effort for thousands of years. [laughs].
Richard Baker: Because just to go to learn some special technique or something, I wouldn’t be interested in. But to go to try to understand what human beings are -- to try to understand human beings more deeply, and how people live together, then I’d feel very good. I think the orient has great things to offer us. Just as you come here to learn things from America, now I go to Japan to learn things from Japan. We’ll be leaving about -- in about 10 or 15 minutes and driving to Tassajara. You have your bags ready and all that?
Shunryu Suzuki: Yes.
[Scenes of the car being packed and Shunryu Suzuki carrying a box of small plants].
Richard Baker: The car is nearly packed.
Shunryu Suzuki: I try to be -- I’m trying to be Tassajara more, but right now I think half and half, two weeks here, two weeks there.
Richard Baker: About the same for me, but usually it’s 2 or 3 days there for me, 2 or 3 days here, 2 or 3 days there [laughs], 2 or 3 days here. [laughter]. It’s pretty difficult. Once you get here, so many problems arise I have to be here. And as soon as I get there, so many problems arise I have to stay there. It takes about 4 hours to drive there from here.
[Scene of Shunryu Suzuki’s wife Mitsu saying goodbye to them at Sokoji].
Richard Baker: When people ask “what is Zen?” or something like that -- and traditionally you’re not supposed to be able to answer that question cause it’s impossible to answer -- but since I’m not very traditional, I try to give an answer. And the answer I usually give is that, maybe a very traditional answer, is that Zen doesn’t exist. And I say if I was going to give a short-hand definition of Zen, then I’d say it’s a mental and physical practice, aimed at freeing you from all mental and physical conceptualizations or patterned ways of experiencing feeling/thinking about things. And that Buddhism itself should free you, the mental part of Buddhism -- the intellectual part -- should free you from intellectualization and free you from Buddhism itself.
[Scene of walking out of the diner -- shot of a San Francisco Chronicle newspaper with the headlines “Cleveland Strategy” and “Riot Line Zone Fenced Off”].
Richard Baker: And the physical part should -- the physical practice should open up your mind and body so that they’re one in a full experience. Would Dogen agree with that kind of expression, or would he say I talk too much? [laughs and laughter]. I’d be scared to ask to Dogen. [laughter]. I’m a little scared to ask you. [laughter].
[Scene of the car driving away].
Shunryu Suzuki: I think so. Yeah, very good.
[Scene of the car pulling into a gas station and everyone gets out of the car. Shunryu Suzuki walks around and stretches].
Shunryu Suzuki: Reality or Buddha Nature or essence of mind, whatever you call it -- it is reality and it is mind, and our body.
[Scene of some young men chatting with Shunryu Suzuki at the gas station].
Shunryu Suzuki: It’s ah, so body or reality or mind -- it’s actually the same thing in the -- because when mind and body become one which are surrounded. That is reality. So one covers the other, too. And through make best effort, on each moment forever, it’s our practice. And that is interpretation of Zen. And so I think your explanation is perfect.
[Scene of three people sitting on a deck having tea and talking: Shunryu Suzuki, Richard Baker and Maud Oakes].
Richard Baker: And that if you chose the inner world, not just dreams, but the whole inner experiences, then the outer world would become like the inner world, it would become much more real.
Shunryu Suzuki: Actually, there is no inside or outside.
Richard Baker: Yeah, that’s how I feel about it.
[View of Maud Oakes].
Shunryu Suzuki: So if you think you know outside, is it.
Voice of Richard Baker narrates over: From about May through September, we have guests coming down. And there are a number of them, the kind of people who are interested in the Buddhist life and what we’re doing and one of them is Maud Oakes, who is an anthropologist and lived with the Indians in Peru or Guatemala.
Maud Oakes: But now when you meditate, you go inside, don’t you?
Shunryu Suzuki: Not the inside, no outside. Just open.
Maud: Yes, I see. This book that I’m reading that I told you, the man says that on his path in life he’s searching for love. And if he finds love, why, he’s found everything. I don’t know if that’s a Zen point of view. Is it?
Richard Baker: My motivation is not so much, really at the deepest level, is not religion or something like that. But is love for certain friends or my wife or Suzuki Roshi.
Maud Oakes: Well, I think he means it.
Richard Baker: If he asks me to do something, I could do it out of, because of, affection not because of religion. I have no choice.
Maud Oakes: Yes. Well I think. Yes. [laughter].
Richard Baker: I don’t know about Buddhism. I know about affection more than Buddhism.
Maud Oakes: Well, so whatever you do, for instance, if you’re fixing a bridge or something like that, and the Roshi has asked you to do it, you do it for the Roshi. Not for the bridge. [laughter].
Richard Baker: Yeah, I don’t know if there’s any difference. He’s a bridge sometimes. [laughter].
Maud Oakes: I’m sure you’re a bridge between two worlds. Will you have some more tea?
Shunryu Suzuki: Oh, thank you very much.
Maud Oakes: Well, the first time I came as an invited guest last year, I was amazed at what you had accomplished already, because I’d been here before, before you’d moved in. But now, when I see the kitchen being built and that I’m a guest again, I want to tell you what pleasure it gives me.
Shunryu Suzuki: Oh, thank you very much. They are working very hard.
[Scene of Dan Welch working on building the kitchen].
Maud Oakes: Oh, yes. I watched this morning. They’re fitting the rock.
Shunryu Suzuki: Yes.
Maud Oakes: And then taking it down and then putting the cement, and then putting it back again. It was very interesting.
Shunryu Suzuki: Yes.
Maud Oakes: Then I noticed that girl chipping the rock.
Shunryu Suzuki: Oh, yes. She’s very good. [Audrey Robinson].
Maud Oakes: That’s a lot of work for a girl.
Shunryu Suzuki: Yes, excellent.
Richard Baker: What is she making? Is she just shaping the rock for the stone masons?
Shunryu Suzuki: For the cornerstone.
Maud Oakes: For the cornerstone.
Richard Baker: Oh, for the cornerstone. I didn’t know what she was doing myself.
Maud Oakes: I didn’t know either. She’s doing a good job. I’ve loved rocks ever since I was little.
[Scene of students working on rocks].
Maud Oakes: And wherever I’d go, I’d pick up rocks and bring them home. And finally the closet in my bedroom was just filled, and my mother told me that this had to stop.
Richard Baker: I left college and went to the Merchant Marines to Africa and places. I came back and all of my stuff had been thrown away, except one big box of rocks that all my roommates had kept for me, knowing that that was the most precious. [laughs].
Maud Oakes: Yes.
Richard Baker: I said this morning, you’re the only person it can be said of positively that you have rocks in your head. [laughter].
[Scene of Shunryu Suzuki laughing and then of him drawing in the dirt. Dan Welch and Bill Shurtleff talk with him about stones, and someone asks “So, you still need many more stones for the garden and things, Roshi?”].
Shunryu Suzuki: Oh, it is good. That’s all.
[Someone asked “you’re going to come back and use this or not? And someone said “yeah.” Scene of Shunryu Suzuki moving a small rock around in the dirt and talking more with the two students. One student says “How about this?” and the other says “Too big for the wall, I think.” Then scene of Shunryu Suzuki folding part of his robe up around his head. Bill asks “Dan, can you give me a hand in setting this?” Then a scene showing the 2 students moving a big stone and Shunryu Suzuki moving some, too. Also, students shoveling smaller rocks and carrying tools. Bell sounds and chanting of the Heart Sutra. Scenes of students working, cooking and watering].
[Scene of zendo and Shunryu Suzuki striking students’ shoulders with the kyosaku. Bell rings. Then scene where he is asleep in the zendo while sitting zazen].
Shunryu Suzuki: Ah, Buddha said you should not sleep, you know [laughs]. [laughter]. You should not sleep. It mean, and he said, but if you become very sleepy you should sleep. But before you are -- when you are not sleepy physically, you know, if you sleep you should be ashamed of yourself. [laughs]. It is very difficult thing to overcome sleepiness. You know, hunger is not so bad. You know, even though you don’t eat two, three days, it’s alright. [laughs]. But if you do not sleep even for one night, you know you feel terrible. And I think this is more deeper and original essential instinct for us. So to confront with it means to confront with your true nature. How you feel when you are sleeping, you know, and how you feel when you are hungry. How you feel when you are thirsty. This kind of experience is very important.
Richard Baker: Near the end of a sesshin, Suzuki Roshi at a lecture announced -- it was late evening and rather dark -- and said that a student in the sesshin had just become enlightened and didn’t know it but he would eventually find out.
transcribed by Clare Holland January
Shunryu Suzuki film page