Brief Interview and emails with Jeff Broadbent
6-28-14 - From a recent email to the SFZC, Cc'd DC
I am a long time member (Tassajara 1967 for 15 months) and will be coming to SF for a conference August 14-20. The last time I visited SFZC was in 1998, when Blanche invited me to give my own version of a dharma talk about Buddhism and ecology in Japan. I first started Zen in 1956 when I was 12--I met Sohaku Ogata from Kyoto through the Quakers and then from 1964-67 practiced at Zen Studies Society in NYC. In 1971, I went to study in Japan with Suzuki Roshi's blessings and became a lay or householder disciple (Following Vimilakirti) of his "brother monk" Hakusan Noiri Roshi (now deceased). At that time, I brought along my wife Gretchen Priest. After that in the early 70s I sought truth with Zen and meditation teachers in Korea, Thailand and India. Gretchen after our divorce, became a Zen monk under our mutual teacher Tanaka Shinkai and founded her own Zen temple in Vermont. I however have continued with householder practice following the "way-seeking mind" since then and remarried. During these decades, I probed deeply into Japan social and cultural studies both to understand Zen better but also to pursue an academic career which has blossomed relatively nicely. Currently I am leading a global research project on climate change which I see as flowing from my Zen experiences. now at 70 I still ponder and experiment with the nature of liberation through Zen and other paths.
I am glad to hear Suzuki Roshi's wife is still alive and well. When we where there, long ago, I remember her taking us to the top of a hill and describing how the US fire bombed the town and the burning people came fleeing up the hill. Whew! Later I almost died from malaria or something in a crumbling monastery outside of Bangkok, lying on the altar beneath a golden buddha smiling down on me. but Gretchen brought me antibiotic and I lived. Watch out for raw fruit juice!
Jeff Broadbent (Jomyo Bendo)
Department of Sociology
Institute for Global Studies
University of Minnesota
His email signature includes: “The world is much more interesting than any one discipline.” – Edward Tufte
12-06-07 - Hi Zennies,
I wish I could join the reunion (Early Tassajara Alumni Reunion), but the "big mind" has led me from Tassajara in 1967-69 to now wrestling with global climate change (an international research project I am running). So, I am currently in Japan studying the politics of reducing greenhouse gasses, and have secured the cooperation of other researchers to do the same in Taiwan, Korea, China, New Zealand, Canada, US, Brazil, England, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Greece, Russia and India. then we will do some comparative analysis looking for best responses. "Saving all sentient beings" includes keeping our little blue marble fit for all kinds of life -- at least to my deluded mind! ) Hugs Jeff
12-19-07 - I read the info on Niels. He and I had a lot of rollicking adventures together -- to get some dough hitchhiking out to Salinas Valley and standing in the day labor line with illegal wetbacks, picked up by a Mexican labor boss who pointed out the karate decal on his windshield to say, don't mess with me, then the tall white farm owner telling him with disgust, you offering those guys 4 bucks an hour again? He told us the real wage was 8 -- yay! All day out slinging onion sacks in the beating sun, hungover Mexicans passing out in the heat and finally one tall black guy hopped a freight from Georgia, saw us, jumped off and walked over and started heaving sacks too, and we had our team. All day long. "There will be no breaks!" The joy of sweat. Sleeping in an onion shed and the black guy buying a transistor radio with his first bucks. Niels eating a hamburger to my vegetarian dismay, grinning at me. How could he die?
October 13, 1994 - on the telephone with DC
DC: What do you remember most vividly about Suzuki Roshi?
JB: I remember a lot about him. His example just helps me make my way through life. I remember his maxims and things he said at different times like Old Ladies Mind and Crooked Cucumber and the story about him at the corner grocery store [choosing the oldest vegetables because he felt sorry for them].
DC: What's the most vivid memory you have?
JB: There are lots of them. Just before he died, sitting at his feet and, well no one knew he was going to die then, but he said that it was time for somebody else to take over. But it wasn't what he said, it was the look in his eyes that impressed me so much. Gretchen and I were married by him - I guess it was the last marriage he performed. I have pictures from that wedding.
DC: Anything else?
JB: After we got married and were going to Japan in 71, we went up to see Roshi and was very kind and we talked to him for a long time and he said something about us or Gretchen going back to Vermont and meditating in the mountains there and then he brought out a scroll that he had done that had 'praise to Shakyamuni Buddha down the middle, praise to Bodhidharma on one side and praise to Dogen Zenji on the other side of the scroll and he gave it to us and a bell and an incense burner full of incense stuff and we put his scroll in our tokonoma.
[I've asked Jeff for more memories and copies of his photos and the scroll] - DC - 12-29-07]