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Interview With Daya (Dianne) Goldschlag



 Mini Bio below from Spokane FAVS of "our Zen writer"

Memories of Mitsu Suzuki

October 17, 1995

Trungpa-rinpoche came to Tassajara, I don't remember when, but he was visiting from Scotland. He arrived late and we served him in the dining room with a bunch of people - five or so. I think it was interim. I didn't know who he was. I served him and at the end of his meal Suzuki-roshi came in with his jisha. At the beginning they smiled and introduced each other and they each said a little bit and slowly more words came and they seemed to be getting along. What I remember was that the room which was pretty dark, it was at night and the kerosene lamps don't put out a lot of light, but light began to fill the room. I had no idea that it would or that anything special was going to happen but it began to feel that way and the room began to glow and all of a sudden I had a smile on my face and they were looking at each other with sparkles in their eyes. I don't think they were together an hour but I don't remember how long. When he left, Suzuki-roshi said that it would be fine for Trungpa-rinpoche to speak in the zendo. I don't know if it was then but at least later in their relationship Suzuki-roshi said to Trungpa-rinpoche you're like a son to me and Trungpa-rinpoche said you're like my father. I think Trungpa talked in the zendo the next night. It was unusual having someone not from Zen talking in the zendo.

I had an operation for an abscess that was on my right fallopian tube and intestine so I was in the hospital after Dr. Wenner had performed the operation. I had gotten real sick and Suzuki-roshi was giving talks in the zendo and I was so sick that I'd sit on a chair by the side door outside the zendo and listen from out there and when I got too sick to sit up I'd go to my room. I was in the hospital for five days and then at Dr. Wenner's house for a week or so more. I was pretty out of it and hadn't eaten for weeks before that and then I was on morphine and Suzuki-roshi came to visit me at the hospital. When he came in the room I had been not in the room - I was on a cliff and there were big birds flying around me and I was feeling them fly and then I saw Suzuki-roshi at the door and he walked in and said hello and I came back to see him. He came over and said he wanted to see my scar and that he'd pay me a dime to see it. So I showed him my scar. I wonder if he was putting a blessing on it. Okusan was with him - she stood by the window a lot of the time. They stayed ten minutes or so and he sort of played with me and then she said we should go and he said to come back soon to Tassajara.

When he had his gall bladder operation Okusan had said no students could come visit him though I assumed his closest disciples did. I was working at an insurance company cafeteria in Chinatown and I got off work at 2:30 and I thought, Suzuki-roshi visited me in the hospital and I'm going to visit him. It was a very strong feeling. So I went to the hospital and there were a bunch of Japanese people there just getting ready to leave and Okusan was there and she was very angry at me. She looked real harsh at me and then Suzuki-roshi told her to let me stay. He said, I want her to come over and you go. So she gave me another terrible look and left and I went over to Suzuki-roshi's bed and reminded him that he'd seen my scar for a dime so I had a dime for him to see his scar. He said okay and let me see his scar. I gave him a poem from Margaret that she'd written and I gave him one of my funny little pictures I'd drawn of funny creatures all different colors and shapes and he was so happy to get it. He was so much like a child. In my interactions with him we often did child-like things together.

Once I had dokusan with him at Tassajara and I didn't know if I'd have anything to ask or say and I made one of those funny creature drawings and we talked a little bit and I took it out of my robe sleeves and showed it to him and we crouched over the picture talking about it - it had three legs and stars for eyes or something - a fantasy creature and he was just like a kid with me looking at it.

In the hospital he said that he didn't take any pain medication and tried not to sleep during the day so he'd be tired enough to sleep at night because it did hurt a lot and it was hard. There was a man next to him beyond a curtain who'd had an operation and was in a lot of pain and he and Suzuki-roshi had been talking a lot and Suzuki-roshi said he thought he'd helped him some - the man was impressed he wasn't taking any medication. I remember massaging his toes. And we joked about Okusan and that she was angry at me and he repeated that he was glad I'd come anyway.

There was a picnic after a sesshin upstream and Margaret and I left early and there was a rule that we weren't supposed to swim nude. It was after an August sesshin. We had a couple of them I think. It was terrible - there were lots of mosquitoes and flies and sweat would drip down your face and under your robes. We'd close the guest season for them and then reopen it. We found a rock that we thought would be perfect for Suzuki-roshi's room at the baths. It was sort of cubical shaped. And Margaret and I carried it back downstream and it was very heavy and it was so hot and we came to a pool and took all our clothes off and got into the water to cool of and we were playing and before we knew it Suzuki-roshi and everybody was coming down along the path by the stream and they were close to us before we realized they were there and so we rushed to get our clothes on and we were totally hysterical - we were putting our shorts on our heads and shirts on inside out and trying to get dressed but it was obvious we were naked and he could see us. So he came up to us with his jisha behind him with his incense. At that time they always used to carry incense. And we were saying, oh gosh, we were hot because we were carrying this rock back for you, and he shook his finger at us and laughed and said, you're two fishes, not one. Remember that - that you're two fishes not one. And that was something he'd say to us regularly when he'd see us in camp. He'd pass us by and smile and hold up two fingers and say, no remember you're two fishes." Because you know, we were too interconnected and he was trying to get us to be a little more separate. And we put the rock in his changing room at the baths and it stayed there. He was going back to the city that afternoon and Dan and Peter or whoever were in his cabin talking to him and I knocked on his door and came in and said I really want you to see this rock before you go and they were upset and said he had to get going and he said, I'll meet you up by the gate. I want to go see the rock. We walked to the baths together and he looked at his rock and he really liked it and then I walked him up to the gate and said good-bye.

DC-Margaret and Daya caused so much trouble and commotion being together laughing and playing all the time that they were asked to go to the city for the spring practice period. Bob Halpern and I had been asked the same thing for the spring of 68[?].

But in both cases they should have asked just one of us because we just ran around in the city the whole time. That was the end of the summer and I don't know who told Margaret but Dan Welch took me for a walk and told me and I cried. And we hung out in the city but very soon she went to Maryland to visit her family and I really missed her and hated being in the city and I went to see Suzuki-roshi and he asked me how I was doing and I said I was very unhappy [and wanted to go to Tassajara as I remember it. I also thought this was for the spring not the fall period.] He said I had my choice of staying in the city and waiting and waiting for Margaret to come back from seeing her family or I could go down to Tassajara and do the training period. And me being weak because she wasn't there I said I want to go to Tassajara. He said to me at that time that the best thing is to give an animal lots of room so he'd do the same for me.

DC-When you came into Tassajara you told me that you'd told him you wanted to go back to Tassajara and the problem wasn't you - it was you and Margaret together so why can't you go - she can't since she's on the East Coast. He said why do you want to go to Tassajara?" and you said, because I've never seen the creek in winter and that he said okay.

I don't remember that but I can believe I said that. He came soon after that to Tassajara. When I came, you all had already sat Tangaryo and you kept me up all night making love in his cabin and I had to fast the whole next day to keep myself awake. And after that training period I visited Suzuki-roshi and we were just talking and he asked me if I was missing Margaret and I said I missed her a lot and he said it was too painful to keep us apart. He said, I should keep you apart but it's too painful. A number of times he said that he was not a good teacher for me - that he treated me too much like his granddaughter and not like a student. He called the director at ZC who I think was Silas and told him to have Margaret to come down and he told me to call Margaret and tell her to come down. And she came down for the summer. I think that was the summer when we were in the dining room together.

I found a baby hummingbird on the ground and I was living in the dorm and I put it in the window in a little box and fed it sugar and water and called it Squeaky and it only lasted a few days.

DC-And then it died and you were so upset and cried and I tried to comfort you and you went to Suzuki-roshi and told him and you asked him where did Squeaky go? and he said he didn't know.

Sometimes he'd call Margaret and me into his cabin and we'd talk and he'd give us candy and one time he said, you don't need candy, you need salt. I should be giving you salt.

During the first practice period that Tatsugami was there he had locks put on the kitchen door and Meg and I were in her room in the dorm which faced the dining room and we put a blanket up over the window so nobody could see we had a light on and we were waiting for everybody to go to sleep and we were going to get a ladder and climb up into the old kitchen from the creek side to get some food. But then just as we were getting ready to leave we looked out the window to make sure and there was a flashlight moving on the other side of the kitchen and we watched it and it was somebody carrying a ladder doing the same thing. So we went down and looked into the kitchen and it was Craig Boyan and was carefully making himself a meal and he put the food he made in serving bowls and then took it into the zendo on the path side and he set out his oryoki. He was jikido [zendo cleaner who sleeps there the night before the day to clean] obviously so he had the run of the place for the evening. And then he started chanting the meal chant and he opened his bowls in the proper way and serving himself - he did the whole ritual. We waited till he was finished eating and cleaned his bowls with his setsu and then one of us [Meg] came in with the teapot [at the proper time for this to happen in the ceremonial meal] and bowed to him. We had to really contain ourselves to keep from laughing and it was really hard to do. For a minute he looked utterly shocked and surprised and horrified and then he went into gasho and bowed when it was enough water and then I came in with the bucket chanting "the water with which we wash these bowls..." and he kept following the form and chanted along and emptied the water from his bowl. I collected his water and he dried his bowls and tied them up and finished the meal chant and fluffed his zafu and left. We waited for him to go to sleep and then we went into the kitchen to get food and I remember dropping a gallon jar of honey which broke and I got honey all over my robes and the floor and I was cleaning up long into the night and it was cold and hard to clean. [That was in the winter.] My memory is that we never said anything to each other about it afterwards. See this in Tassajara Stories

(Changed [Margaret] in brackets to [Meg] above to be consistent with start of story and cause I think I'd added it long ago by mistake. - dc)

I was working in the city. It was after the operation and I'd gone back to stay at the city center - it was when I was working in the cafeteria and I'd come home and I'd cry almost every afternoon because I was very unhappy being there. I was in dokusan telling him about that and he said that when I cleaned the tables I should talk to the tables as if they were a friend and tell them how much I enjoyed cleaning them off and hoped they felt better and if I talked to each table and did that I'd feel better at my job. I still do stuff like that.

DC-I do too.

My room was over his room at the City Center and he didn't used to go to the afternoon zazen and one day I came home and I was crying hard just before zazen and I went to that zazen and he came to that zazen and he got up to walk around with his stick and when he came to me he just rested it gently on my shoulder but didn't hit me. I felt like he'd come just for me. He used to come to the morning and night zazen but not the afternoon. I felt very supported by him that he could feel my pain.

I remember Dick's ceremony when Suzuki-roshi was all brown. I remember how strong he was with his stick with the loops on it and how strongly he walked and hit the stick against the floor and I knew that was the last time I was going to see him. At his funeral I remember Trungpa coming by and putting a white cloth on his coffin. But I remember Dick's ceremony more than the funeral. I remember how shocked I was at how brown he was and yet how strong, knowing he was as sick as he was. He just put it together for that ceremony. I can't remember the funeral hardly at all. When he died I was at sesshin at Tassajara and Kat was giving dokusan and I was in the kitchen and the phone rang and I went to answer it and whoever it was told me please ask Kat to come to the phone and I said he's in dokusan and they said this is really important, please get him now. It was the fourth day of sesshin. So I went and knocked on the door and told Kat that there was a very important phone call and he came out and looked at me and then he went to the phone and then bells started going off pretty soon after that


I'd lived and worked at the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Nyack NY and Jim Forest was a friend. And I had met Thich Nat Hahn who was in hiding in an apartment in Manhattan - Jim's apartment and we visited for a few hours. I was in Los Angeles working at Mary Terita's [?]College in the art department and I was having a very difficult time emotionally and I was extremely confused about how to interact with society and how to communicate and I was kind of losing it. I was having a mental breakdown. Language had gotten very difficult for me. I was beginning not to understand English or speak it because everything was so confusing and so I went for a walk one night and without thinking I went to a phone booth and called Jim in NY and he said you should go to this place in California where Thich Nat Hahn and I have visited and tell them that you're a friend of ours and that you need a place to stay for a while and that you'll work and that you have a sleeping bag.

I was leaving the next morning for Mexico with a friend and so I went home and called Tassajara and Peter Schneider answered [who knows Jim] and I told him all that and Peter asked me if I'd ever sat zazen and I said I didn't know what zazen was and I was having a hard time understanding questions or being able to speak and I just wanted to go somewhere where I could be quiet and I'd work and he said well we have one student bed available and you can come up and get in however you can. So instead of going to Mexico, I hitchhiked north and I spent the night next to a fruit stand in Carmel Valley and the police came during the night and put a flashlight in my face and checked who I was. In the morning I hitchhiked to Jamesburg and hiked a good part of the road and then I got a ride - and you were the first person I met. You knew I was coming and told me it was lunch time and said go take a bath and come back and you can have lunch. I didn't know anything about Zen. I'd heard Paul Reps give a reading in Colorado when I was hitchhiking out West. So I have an inkling of Zen. And it was the silence at Tassajara, that I didn't have to use words, that helped me. That was August of 68.

I stayed a week at Tassajara [and our relationship started right away] and I moved to Berkeley and you came to visit me and you showed me where the Berkeley Zendo was - I hadn't been able to find it. And we went there and sat one morning. I was staying at Arch Street with five or six other people. So we went to Dwight Way and sat and stayed for breakfast and you introduced me to Richard and Cam Berkholz or something. She was heavy and he was slim with dark hair and they started picking me up to go to zazen every morning. Cam's up near here now. So even though I'd stay up all night playing I started going to the Berkeley Zendo regularly morning and night. Suzuki-roshi was giving lectures at Sokoji Sunday mornings I think and I went over with Mel and really loved him right away but it took me a few lectures to understand his accent at all. I went down to Tassajara at the beginning of May of 69.

DC-What did Suzuki-roshi teach?

Just being yourself. And beginner's mind - coming fresh to each situation.

I remember seeing him at Tassajara when he would pass different people and they'd bow and his face would always reflect the other person. If the other person was feeling fearful or doubtful or angry or happy - I'd be working on the grounds and I remember looking up and realizing one time that he reflects the person that he sees.

And I remember him moving a very large rock and I was amazed that he could move it. I would have thought it impossible for him to move. And he talked to the rocks. I don't remember if it was in English or Japanese. It was very clear to him where they should face and how they should be in his garden. I remember standing next to him and being near him in his garden a lot and the rocks.

DC-He'd just have me bring him dirt. I didn't like working with rocks.

I had this big rock moved into my front yard and it's name is Shunryu. Darlene and Elizabeth were here when it was finally brought here. It was brought by a huge backhoe on a huge trailer brought by a huge truck. And the driver we all agreed looked like a mix of Reb Anderson and Jim Mussman. It took three hours to get it and bring it here. He was a wonderful person. He understood the beauty of the rock. He would hardly let me pay him for it. And when he drove off I came back to the rock and all the neighbors had come out. One of them made a video and gave it to me. Darlene came out with a big basin of water with willow branches in it and we washed the rock and chanted over it and lit incense and named it Shunryu. It's over 5500 pounds.

Another guy tried to pick it up with his backhoe, he was sure he could - he got it a foot off the ground and he couldn't move his machine any more than that. He said his machine could lift up to 5500 pounds. He gave me the name of the other guy. It's about four feet high and three feet wide one way and a foot and a half the other. It's a really wonderful rock and the little girl next door likes to climb on it. Makes me feel very powerful. I used to walk the dogs past it. It was at a convent in a pile of big rocks lying by itself. They'd made a road and dug up the rocks and they were lining the driveway but not in any order - they were just kind of plopped there. It was on its side and I kept being drawn to it. I started going over and sitting on it and talking to it and that went on for quite a while - probably a year and one day I just walked into the convent and said can I talk to someone about a rock.

I talked to the Mother Superior though I didn't know it at the time - she was in her late seventies and has been in a convent since she was twelve. I explained to her that I'd lived in a Buddhist community and my Zen teacher really loved rocks and I had a special feeling for this rock and would it be possible for me to have it and she said, oh no, we're going to do landscaping with it and some people came up to talk to her and normally I'd have left but I just stayed and I said it's not just any rock out there, it's one particular rock and if you find you don't use it and would like me to take it away I'd really like to and she looked at my card and said what's this and I said it's a kind of body work that I do and she said, oh I've been thinking about getting body work. She asked me to tell her something about it and I did and said I thought it would help her and she asked me what I charged and she was surprised and I said I could do it for less.

And I tapped her and said, you know, we could trade for the rock and she got this little sparkle in her eye and said, oh, that's an interesting idea. Let me think about that. Maybe that's possible. She said she would call me but she didn't call for a long time so I finally called her and said, do you remember me and she said yes but I have to talk to the groundskeeper and see if this is okay and a few days later I got a message on my machine that said, you can have the rock, but we don't deliver. Every conversation I had with her after left smiling in my heart. She's a wonderful person. I had to come show her the exact rock and she really got into it and said well you know it really needs to be bathed and she said how many sessions for this rock and I said, I don't know, three? And she said five. Since then I've found out it's worth a lot more than that. It's gray brown with some white marks on one flat side of it but it's mostly one color.

Suzuki-roshi stays in my heart and my mind - kind of like a grandfather, not as a harsh strict Zen teacher, and I continue to feel his love. I had a dream about him a while back that he was very sick and I that I came down to SF to listen to a lecture and finally they said he was too sick to give the lecture and I went to his room anyway and a Japanese woman tried to keep me out and he was in the room and motioned to let me in and I went over to him and he asked me how my husband was - which I took to be you. And he said, Are you wise now? And I said, oh no, I'm kinda dumb. And he said, no you're not, and I said, you're right, I'm wise now. I was afraid to hug him because I knew how sick he was but we just did and we held each other for a little while and I followed his breathing. My breath was slightly different from his but we breathed together for a while. And I let go and as I was walking out, one of the women there looked up at me and said, touch me. Because I had his blessing she wanted me to bless her so I touched her and I left the room. And when I woke up I started crying and crying and crying and I felt like Suzuki-roshi had been there and given me his support and his blessing and his inner strength. I stayed in bed an hour. I just felt his presence. It was a very wonderful dream. This was recent.

DC-I just dreamed about him two nights ago. It was in a big public hall and I was looking for Clay and he walked by, very old and in robes, and I just stepped aside and bowed to him as he passed.

Whenever I go to Tassajara I go to see Suzuki-roshi's rock. Okusan had said this is what she did, so this is what I do now. I always take water or tea and cookies, some treat, and flowers, and I go up there and I pour the water over the rock and listen cause it makes all the incredible sounds when you pour water over that rock. It's like a talking rock. Then I give him a treat and put out the mat and do nine bows and then I talk to him for a while and tell him how things are going and how Okusan and Margaret and you are doing. I just feel his love a lot.

DC-What about your working as a masseuse and Suzuki-roshi being concerned and saying you should stop that and go to Tassajara.

4-11-14 - So glad that you got to visit with Okusan and that she is doing well.  I sent her a birthday card - is that what she showed you or another letter?  Ahh, wish i could exchange hugs with her.  Last time I saw her in person was at Katherine Thanas' mountain seat ceremony.  Still remember doing shiatsu/trager bodywork on her thru kimono and Japanese long underwear for so many years.  I studied tea with her for quite awhile but one day she really yelled at me for not remembering the Japanese exchanges (I was all right on the physical forms like folding the napkin just so and turning the tea bowl).  I think I stopped attending tea class after that.  And remember, she did not speak to me for 1 1/2 years because I refused to mend the hem of your robe saying i thought you should mend your own robe.  Once we were separated, she began to talk to me again as I was no longer a priest's wife.  See DC posts on Mitsu Suzuki that prompted this note.

6-28-14 note from Daya: Raining hard right now out in Tum Tum.  A young male moose just ran by on the road and into our woods!  Dug new garden beds this year as old one was on top of septic field which needed to be dug up.  We have a wonderful abundance of lettuce, spinach, arugala, kale, collards, chard and tatsoi growing.  Peas just starting to come in.  I'm playing 2nd base on softball team - i'm the rookie and am learning lots from new coach Curley.  It's a very intense practice really of putting mind and body together.  Actually, of practicing over and over so one can let the mind go and the body knows what to do and jumps into immediate action.

11-04-14 - A week ago or so Daya Goldschlag sent an email about Elizabeth Sawyer's recent shuso ceremony in Sonoma County at the Back Porch Zendo.

I have been appreciative and respectful of Elizabeth's very serious dedication to everyday practice and am so glad this is has been acknowledged formally. Elizabeth did well and she felt very supported.


They'd set up altar and sitting area outside in the midst of a redwood circle.  Quite lovely.  Steve Weintraub took care great care with details and officiated with warmth, humor and a solid presence. I was Elizabeth's benji and anja.  My introductory poetic statement went like:


Here we are amongst the old redwoods

Massive ancient twisted karma

They stand erect

Patient, powerful and vulnerable

Neither male nor female

Not judging or comparing

Just standing

And we, just sitting, perhaps with gratitude.


Tony asked your (DC) question of Elizabeth: "If I'm not here, how can you answer me?"


Her reply:  "Email would do." 


I asked "How do you teach the dharma with few words?" 


Her reply "Like this!"


Ted and I stayed overnight and the next day Ken and E and we went off to sunny beaches and had a picnic.  Attended their weekly Monday evening sitting and study.  Next morning we took Tony (of Russian River Zen) out to breakfast and for a walk in Armstrong woods.  He's doing well, continuing to teach and has two sitting groups.  Darlene missed by all of us.


Elizabeth Sawyer


Meet Daya Goldschlag, our Zen writer


Daya Goldschlag was born and raised in the Bronx in a Russian-Hungarian-Italian Jewish family. When she was 19 years old she spent almost a year hitchhiking around Europe and the Middle East including Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Israel.

“It opened my culturally-sheltered eyes to see how differently people’s lives were lived and what beliefs they held.  I realized international borders were basically artificial and that we were really all one people,” she said.

Shortly after returning, Goldschlag went to live and train at the San Francisco Zen Buddhist Center and its monastery, Tassajara.  The abbot and head teacher at that time was Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (of “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind”). Goldschlag was lay ordained by him in 1971 and he has remained a powerful influence on how she tries to live her life, she said.

“Suzuki Roshi always emphasized Zen practice (even enlightenment) was ‘nothing special’ and is essentially to ‘just be yourself.’ I have taken this to mean that one must make every effort to be present without making much ado about it.  Through that effort arises a sense of humor about the joys and suffering in life, compassion toward yourself and others, and the understanding of the interdependence of all sentient beings,” Goldschlag said.

She was trained by Dr. Milton Trager  in therapeutic bodywork. Goldschlag maintains a private practice in integrative bodywork in Spokane.  Once a week she leads a Zen meditation and study group and has helped lead retreats at Tassajara. She currently offers half-day meditation retreats three or four times a year in Spokane. Goldschlag lives in Tum Tum with her husband Ted. They have four grown children.

Goldschlag writes about everyday activities, responses, questions and observations from a Zen perspective.

“I hope to grow from this dialogue with you,” she said.

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