Interview With Della Goertz (below)

Della Goertz link page

1-12-10 - Della has had some strokes and she and her granddaughter are not so eager for visitors anymore. - dc

7-06-09 - Della Goertz is turning 97!

Please join us in celebration on Saturday, July 11, 2009 from 11:00-2:00 for a tasty brunch and birthday cake! at the home of her grand-daughter in law, Helen Busby

To friends of Della: Just saw her. She's living with her granddaughter now in a big wonderful home with kids running around. She was as sweet as ever. Della's birthday is coming up. Some might have time to drop by but she'd appreciate a call - on that day or any day. She can still remember you. Barely. - dc

11-20-08 - Della Goertz's notebook PDF [this pdf is not working - will come back later and deal with this] Am working on this now - dc 5-18-11

(mostly Suzuki)(nead to go to View and rotate clockwise) p35 upside down) Will fix when know how. I'm not used to working with PDFs. Assistance welcome. Got these notes from Richard Baker at Crestone Mountain Zen Center. Most are for dates we don't have transcripts. She's in Zen Aluminati. I just did a Google site search for Della [della] and found a bunch of mentions but not some longer interviews I know I have - Barbara Lubanski did one. Need an intern to get to all this. Or maybe just time. - dc

October 26, 1994

[81 years old.  A short chat.  Other interviews exist. -DC]

I'm like all of them. When you met him you wanted to study with him. I wanted to be with him. The first time I met him was over at the Academy of Asian Studies. That was the first time any of us say him. I was taking a class and Kaz was teaching a class. He was the interim priest at Sokoji waiting for Suzuki to come.

Tobase had left and there was a vacancy for a year until Suzuki got there. I used to go to the Academy to study calligraphy with Tobase. I didn't go to Sokoji till Suzuki Roshi invited us but Ananda had been there before. There were some other people who started sitting with him too. I forget their names. They didn't stick around very long so Betty and Jean and I were the nucleus. Soon Baker Roshi, Grahame, Bill Kwong, Phil Wilson and you.

D: You started in 59 and I started in 66.

Gee we had a long time of growth. Bill came soon. Bob Hense was our first president. And there was Paul Alexander.

The first night we met Suzuki we wanted to be his students. We liked his gentle manner and we liked that he was willing to be so practical with us. We got down on the floor and faced the wall that night doing meditation. He talked a little bit about zazen but before the night was over we meditated and we all wanted to join him at Sokoji. He said that he sat at six in the morning and that we were welcome to join him. We lost a lot of people. I thought it was so nice of you to say that we owe Baker Roshi credit for all he did.

We sat upstairs. The Japanese used benches and during the morning zazen we turned the benches which were in rows to the wall so that we had to climb over and sit down and had just any old pillows, no zafus at all - round and square funny pillows. And it got so crowded after a while and then they started putting mats on the floor and finally the new people had to sit out on the balcony. The Japanese were very accommodating. They just sort of moved downstairs to make room for our zendo. One of the nice things about those early days was that we had celebrations together and we had wonderful dinners that the women prepared. I liked the way the Japanese ladies used to sing. I still feel close to Sokoji and go to some of their events and I send them little contributions.

Baker Roshi gave the best talks ever. I've heard everyone so much some times I don't go on Saturdays.

Betty came from Sausalito and I was on Lake Street and she came by and picked me up at 5:30. One of the nice things was that afterwards he would go in the office and serve us tea and talk to us. He had this little yellow book called "Glimpses of Buddhism," or something. Sometimes we'd meet in the kitchen or around the little low table in his office. That was a treat. We did that after we'd chanted the Heart Sutra at service. He didn't introduce the service at first. It would have been too much to introduce us to everything all at once. Later on Tatsugami taught us more rituals.

D: When I came in 66 we just did the Heart Sutra. I think that the Dai Hi Shin Dharani was the first one that was added later at Tassajara. And then the San Do Kai.

A lot of people said at first that they couldn't understand Suzuki but I could and when they got used to him they could understand him.

He showed faith in us. I liked him because I knew he liked us a lot and he was so friendly. He'd call me up to take him to the Japanese newspaper after I got home from school and I went to the airport to pick up Japanese priests that visited. He depended on some of us to do things for him. Jean Ross looked forward to going to Japan. We had lunches with him but when Okusan came we didn't have them so much. And more and more people came and we had to share him.

One American woman started to look after him and people thought Mrs. Suzuki better come because she was hanging around a little too much and it was causing gossip, especially with the Japanese congregation. She did his laundry and cooked for him. But I think that some Japanese ladies did that too. Sometimes I'd cook food and bring it to him too. I remember she went and bought him some long underwear cause it was cold. She did personal things like that for him and they said that Mrs. Suzuki ought to come because somebody else was trying to take care of him too well. I don't know her name anymore. She was a little weird, sort of pushy. She was over twenty - I don't know. She wanted to help him a lot, mother him and take care of him. She was more interested in that than in the teaching cause we didn't see her so much studying with us. She just hung around as sort of a social thing. There was some jealousy.

We liked to be there to with him. He'd cook for us some. He used to make this wonderful simple dish with fried tofu with grated ginger and soy on it. I make it still and I always think of him doing it when I do. He was my dearest friend.

We didn't have afternoon zazen then. We had four and nine days off [days whose number had a four or a nine in them - a traditional monastic practice - DC]. And there were days he wasn't feeling well and the place would be locked and he'd stick out his head and say "go home."

It took me a while to get used to the rituals but I liked the meditation. It reminded me of prayer work. I was raised as a Lutheran and it was kind of hard for me to be a Buddhist at first and I told him that and he said that was alright with him. When we were going to get our rakusus [a small cloth garment signifying ordination - DC] I said well I guess I'm a Christian Buddhist and he said that's alright.

DC - Well he married a Christian. Tell me something about your past.

I came from around Stockton and came to the Bay Area around the thirties and went to college here and I taught second and third grade. I like that age a lot. They want to learn. I kept taking classes and got higher degrees to get higher grades and took a semantics class with Hayakawa at SF State and I got interested in Buddhism through some of the things I learned from him like about non-verbal communication and then when I had a chance to take the classes on Buddhism at the American Academy of Asian Studies I thought I'd like to study there. That's what got me started. And I studied flower arranging from a Japanese lady in Japan Town. Alan Watts was around the AAAS and Ananda [Claude Dalenberg back then-DC] was the caretaker and Dr. Speigelberg [founder of AAAS] and Dr. Chowdry who started the SF Ashram and the Fung brothers who taught the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra.

Jean Ross doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with us any more and I'm sorry because we were so close and we wrote even after she went away but that all stopped. I'd heard that she felt her group was being taken away from her in Carmel. Different priests like Suzuki and Katagiri would help her but then Katagiri started a group in Monterey and she left though maybe it's because her mother wasn't so well and was getting too old to live alone. That's what she told us. She was our great one who went to Eiheiji and got it from the heart, all those monks, and she got Katagiri to come. He was already helping the foreign students at Eiheiji and he got close with her.

Everybody wanted to go to Japan right away but Suzuki tried to discourage us from doing that. He said we could study here. I think we're lucky to have had him and I'm very happy about it. He taught that we have it already and we can't get it from anywhere but ourselves and have to have faith in ourselves. I've got to go to my foreign affairs class now.