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Interview with Mike Dixon 

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Mike Dixon link page


Mike's pen name as an artist is Willard Dixon. He's not only a wonderful artist but gifted musician as well.


This was an interview that's really more of a conversation done sometime around mid 1994 I guess. It was transcribed by Elizabeth Tuomi sometime back then and edited by me 5/31/10 - DC

Mike did the cloud paintings at Greens restaurant and the fly for Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.


MIKE DIXON

In the long run, my own life, meeting Suzuki and following the way he taught me, has colored everything.  It's something that continues.  I feel now that I'm getting older, more the pull into practice.  It's different now.  In many ways it's a lot easier to practice now.  There's so much baggage that's gone.
 
(Tape 1, Side A) –

DC:  What's your most vivid memory of Suzuki? 

MD:  Trying to remember when I first saw him.  Somebody at the Art Institute told me I should go over and see this guy.  I did go over.  That was probably '62 or so.  I went and started wanting to go back.  I had this feeling you have sometimes that somebody's is a lifetime friend.  Or that someone is going to be very important in your life.  It's unexplainable, really.  It's hard to say exactly why.  Some feeling of trust there.  And you trust your own feelings about that person.  He seemed so interesting.  There seemed to be so much attention of some kind there.  It was something you just naturally wanted to continue.  As I was leaving, the first lecture that I went to, I was walking down the stairs at Sokoji, and just as my head got to about floor level I looked through the banister posts as I was almost disappearing from view ‑‑ I looked into the room and he was looking right at me.  I told some stories that I wrote in the Wind Bell anniversary issue – a lot of people were telling stories about Suzuki. I mentioned a couple of interesting things in there.  One that I liked in particular.  Every Saturday we would clean up everything and sit three or four zazens and lecture.  I was sweeping away, and some new guy came in.  Usually I would just keep to myself and not be terribly helpful to new people who were wondering what they should do.  This guy was looking around, wondering what to do.  I gave him my broom.  Just then, I turned, and Suzuki was holding his broom out to me.  It seemed a perfect sort of teaching.

DC:  Maybe because there's such a physical component to it.

MD:  Yeah.  When I first started going I was living down on Pierce Street and going to art school.  I was living with a guy I'd gone to the Brook Museum with.  Trudy used to come over on weekends.  Eventually I took her to see Suzuki, when we were still living over there.  She was very much into studying philosophy, and had studied at Wesleyan and was continuing graduate studies at UC Berkeley.  She'd been studying Heidegger and Wittgenstein.  She was curious about it.  I took her in there, we were staying toward the back, and he talked for a while.  Then he started talking about philosophy.  The study of philosophy, as opposed to the study of Zen, or practice.  He was always holding out the idea of practice to us at that time.  He didn't have so many students then.  As opposed to just thinking and being curious about it.  The idea of actual sitting practice was different.  He told a story about a philosopher he knew in Japan who had killed himself.  Just as he told this story he looked very intently at Trudy, who was studying philosophy.  She went backward a few inches.  It seemed very relevant to her.  Then we moved to a place on Larkin and Pacific.  We continued to go to lecture for awhile.  Then one day we got up and said why don't we just start sitting, start practicing, and see what it would be like.  We did.  And we continued.  That was probably '63.

DC:  What was he teaching?

MD:  It was practice.  Zazen.  To me that was the essence of it.  One time we had dokusan.  He asked me if I had any questions.  I said zazen answers my questions.  He said, yeah, that's right.  If there's a pencil sitting here on this tatami, and all of a sudden it's gone, one person will say, oh, somebody stole my pencil.  Another person will say somebody just borrowed my pencil.  I took that to mean that you can really only answer your own questions.

DC:  You have your own interpretation of things.

MD:  Our mind, after sitting for some sessions, just naturally calmed down.  We would think about enlightenment.  What is it?  Is it something we were going to get?  The idea of it.  It seemed like the more we went on, the more we wondered if there really was any such thing.  Suzuki used to say things like, on my second enlightenment ‑‑

DC:  He didn't say that later on.

MD:  I remember him saying things like that.  Like you might have a small enlightenment here, or a larger one later, or you might have many enlightenments.  That was my feeling.  That is my own experience and I think that's true.

DC:  Ananda said that Suzuki always maintained that he wasn't enlightened.

MD:  Well, if you say you are, you aren't.  But you can't say that you aren't either.  You don't say that you are, and you don't say that you aren't.  Suzuki told me once, he said, "I knew a farmer in Japan who was just like a Zen master.  He was a natural man, a simple man, but he was to all intents and purposes a Zen master.  The only difference was that if you said to him, you are a Zen master, he would say, no I am not."  He had a kind of innocence.  You would have to go through a lot of stuff to come out the other side and say, "Ah, so desuka," (Is that so?) or something like that.  Or not to deny it, not to claim it.

DC:  The subject of enlightenment is what I want to deal with precisely because we never have.  It's something that hasn't been discussed much in Zen Center history.  I don't particularly like to talk or think about it.  It seems sort of sophomoric to do that.  But Ananda brought it up first thing.  "First and most important.  Suzuki Roshi was not enlightened!"

MD:  I don't know what he meant like that.

DC:  I called him up last night and got him to talk about it more.

MD:  I think he was beyond enlightened or not enlightened.  To think about that is to miss the point.  And I think that was Suzuki's teaching.  We don't want some fancy idea about practice, or some excessive experience.  The point is just to see things as they are in the moment and not to attach to things, to let things change as they go, and let them come and go out.  That's more interesting than being enlightened.  As soon as you become attached to any enlightenment you might have had, it will be a barrier to you.  People who talk about it that way are asking for trouble.

DC:  Helen Tworkov wrote an editorial for Tricycle in which she talked about how Zen Buddhism in America is developing and at a crossroads.  Sort of therapeutic, socially responsible, and is forgetting about enlightenment which is the first goal of Buddha.  That's how Buddhism began, with his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.  She said Suzuki Roshi never talked about it.  I mentioned that to Michael Katz and Michael's read all the lectures several times and listened to them all and he said, oh no, he talked about enlightenment a lot.  But subtly, maybe.  He sure didn't emphasize the sort of enlightenment you hear from people who were going to Yasutani.  Or working with Maezumi.  Or with Tai San.  To quote Tai San, there's only two types of people:  those who know and those who don't.  My god, if he's an example of those who know ‑‑ that's so ridiculous.  There's a whole mind field of bullshit.

MD:  Especially when you get into ‑‑ when you get in some position over other people.  His teaching was so focused on not being caught by anything or attached to any particular idea.

DC:  I studied at this Rinzai temple in Japan.  It would have been impossible for me to get into it like that.  They were going after enlightenment and all that.  I like sitting and having sanzen (dokusan) and not doing too much.  I was on a totally different trip from everybody else.  But the teacher was so cool, he didn't care.  If he didn't care, nobody else cared.  It was partially because of who I am before I came to Zen Center, but partially because Shunryu‑san knocked it out of me and Katagiri too in that Soto trip.  It's controversial in a sense in the Zen world.

MD:  As soon as you sit your enlightenment is there, stuff like that, all the time.  You hear that enough you begin to believe, that's right.  Which, on the other hand, doesn't mean ‑‑ and Suzuki said one time ‑‑ that you shouldn't just sit on the steps and play your guitar all day.  Meaning that you don't just give up and do nothing because everything has Buddha nature.

DC:  I think a quote from him is, "Everything you do is right, nothing you do is wrong, yet you must still make constant effort."

MD:  I would have the feeling, in sesshin especially, but it was there all the time with him, that you would think you were putting out this huge effort.  You didn't have much more to give.  But just by looking at him you would feel that you'd just barely started, hadn't even scratched the surface yet.  There just seemed to be this infinite well of intention or effort that was under there somewhere.  I think our whole thing about enlightenment is, in a way, a kind of ‑‑ he used to talk about candy.  He'd say it's OK to give young students some candy, so they would get involved here and get going on something.  But really, you have to be careful about that.  Like selling intoxicating liquor is the same thing.  I think a lot of it has to do with building up the intensity effort.  It's the effort which does lead to a kind of breakthrough.  Enlightenment is not something that you get.  Enlightenment is realizing something that's already there.  It's more like getting rid of, than getting something.  I think that's the big mistake that everybody tends to make.

MD:  They think they're getting some experience from outside that they never had.  When you build that kind of intensity of effort that you can experience in a sesshin it tends to strip away stuff more than anything else.  Then you're just left with yourself.  That's enlightenment, I think.

DC:  He also didn't like us to sit too many sesshins.

MD:  He didn't seem to like us to think that that was more important than everyday life.

DC:  He was Apollonian.  (v. Dionysian).  Ruth Benedict.  Dionysian was more like the way I was, more extreme.  Apollonian was more steady‑state.

MD:  I think of Apollonian as coming from ‑‑ emphasizing harmony, rational.  Dionysian is more concerned with the dark side and with passions and working through that.  I've always felt that Suzuki had a tremendous well of humor, too.  He had such a powerful presence that even though he was a good speaker and knew a lot about the history of Zen and Dogen, it didn't seem that was his sole effort to me.  He would often say things to that effect.  Emphasizing the practice.  One time in the early days a bunch of us were sitting in Sokoji.  There were only about 15 or 20 that sat regularly.  We'd been sitting ‑‑ and it was very intense in those days because we were finding our way and we didn't quite know what we were doing.  I don't think Suzuki knew quite what he should do with us either.  One morning we came in and we were sitting ‑‑ like a Saturday and it was the second sitting, and all of a sudden he was talking up at the altar and his voice got low.  All of a sudden he jumped up really quickly and started hitting us all with the stick. He just went around the whole room just one after the other, very fast.  He'd never done that before or anything like that.  It was accompanied by this tone of voice which almost seemed like he was mad at us.  He roared around the room hitting us and boy did that wake us up in some way.  As a group.  Later he said something about that, and about the fact that he felt that something was wrong.  He didn't know quite what it was, something about our attitude.  The way we'd been practicing was not right.  That we were all doing something a little off that he felt needed correcting.

DC:  He did the same thing at Tassajara years later.

MD:  One time I said something to someone else, that I thought in the early days my experience was that there was something about it that seemed particularly intense or difficult at times.  He heard that and he jumped right on it and supported it.  Yes, that was really true.  When we first started sitting there was something going on that was ‑‑ in my own mind it was finding our way ‑‑ something that made it particularly intense at times.

DC:  This included who?

MD:  Betty Warren, Della, Trudy, myself, Dick, Bill Kwong, Phil Wilson, Norm Stiegelmeyer, Graham, Paul Anderson, Fran Keller.  And then Mel (64) and Ed (66) came a little later.  Ed and his brother Dwight.  Mel was living at one point with Dan Moore ‑‑ the visionary ecstatic poet.  Used to smoke a lot of dope.  A lot of people did.  Mel moved into his house.    Mel played recorder.  Mel taught me how to read music.  I got my flute and we used to play music together and I learned how to read with him.  That was before he came to Zen Center. I think Dan Moore brought him to Zen Center.

DC:  I remember Dan Moore coming around later.  What about Daniel Eggink  Remember him?  Very intense.  I heard he was the first guy who shaved his head.  He was sleeping in a car in Big Sur that got hit by a car and almost died from that and came out of it a little weird.  He was involved in drugs.  Super intense.  Ended up having a nudist/guns commune in Montana.  Everybody walked around nude and they had a lot of guns.  He seemed slightly dangerous.  What about this guy Bill McNeil?  Some guy early on, I think he went to Japan and really didn't like it and quit.  Maybe he quit in '62, '63.

MD:  Must have been before my time.  Wasn't Bill the first guy who went & sat with Suzuki?

DC:  I've heard that.  I've also heard Bill say that Paul Anderson was there when he came. Bill is one of the people who really took the Zen thing seriously.  He's still doing it.  It's hard to get in on his schedule.  He's very sweet.  He goes every year to China.  He really believes in it.

MD:  I haven't been up to his place.  I want to do that.  I haven't seen Bill for years.  Phil Wilson really disappeared.  He burned his robes I hear.

DC:  Dan Welch did too.  Reb wrote Dan a letter.  Dan sent him back the ashes.  He's gotten over that.  In fact, he and Dick just went to Japan and Europe together.

MD:  One thing that happened between Suzuki and myself.  I don't think I've ever told anybody.  In his office one time, I was facing away from him and he said, "You know.  You have to be my successor."  My blood went cold.  I pretended that I didn't hear anything.  I left the room.  I thought about that for awhile.  I never mentioned it to him and he never mentioned it to me.  I figure he probably tried that out on a lot of people.

DC:  He said to me once that we'd be starting temples all over and people would be going out and Zen Center would spread.  He said I should go to Texas and start a temple in Texas.  I said no I'm not going to Texas to start a temple.

MD:  I have the feeling now that he was just putting out feelers for possibilities in those days, who was up for it.  And I definitely wasn't.  I was trying to be an artist and the idea of leading a Zen thing, or even having any responsibility beyond a certain point was not what I wanted.

DC:  Maybe he wanted to see which direction you were going to go in.  The lay direction or the priest direction.  I think one of the things that upset Ananda about Zen Center's development when we got Tassajara was the shift from lay community to priest‑led community with hierarchy and more rules and ceremonies.

MD:  Yeah.  I think Ananda always felt it should have remained small ‑‑ kind of like it was in the beginning.  Go on like that forever.  All the stuff that happened because of Dick somehow got off the track.  Somebody used to say ‑‑ I don't know if it was Ananda ‑‑ that Suzuki himself felt that way eventually.  I don't know if that's true or not.

DC:  He'd say things like Zen Center's getting too big.  I don't know what to do with it.  Peter Schneider told me that Suzuki would say let's just you and me go off.

MD:  In my own mind related to that story I told you about, that I'd never realized before.  It must have been about ‑‑ when we lived in Mill Valley ‑‑ must have been '65 or '66 .  He gave all of the old students a rakusu.  They were the kind you order from Japan.  He had this little ceremony and he gave everybody in the original group one except me.  I'd been sitting longer than some of those guys.  Dick got all pissed.  He said, "How come you're not giving Mike one?  What the hell's wrong with him?

DC:  I would have been so hurt.

MD:  I was cool.  And for some reason I wasn't hurt particularly I just thought it interesting.  Trudy went in with everybody else.  I wasn't even there.  They all got their rakusus.  Trudy's was blue, like the ones we make now, but it was bigger.  It looked machine made and had a big circle on it.  I was wondering what was going to happen on this.  Trudy said, "Suzuki asked me, ‘What did Mike say?’"  I knew that was coming up so I was cool.  When she came in with her rakusu, before she said what Suzuki said I just said, "Oh fantastic. Congratulations."  I did feel very nice about it.  I didn't really care, but I was sort of wondering.  Then later she said that Suzuki had asked what Mike had said.  "So I told him, oh he gave me a kiss, and said 'This is great, Trudy.  I'm so happy for you.'"  So that's what he got back from me.

DC:  Were you sitting with the group at the time?

MD:  Yeah, of course.  I did everything.  I was treasurer.

DC:  Typical Zen mind fuck, man.  I would be so jealous if people who came after me got ordained.

MD:  You could say, well, I'm special.  I didn't get one.  I could go on that trip if I wanted to.  So then later when he was getting on in years and I thought well, I want to get a rakusu from Suzuki.  I want to get my name from him.  All the other guys got names.  Trudy was Bai Ho Sesshin ‑‑ Winter Plum blossom.  I just told somebody that I wanted to make a rakusu.  That was when we were at Page Street. 
At some point when I knew an ordination was happening I said I wanted to sew a rakusu.  I was the leader of that group, the head student.  I bowed and said, "Please accept us."  And he said, "Yes, I will."  So he wrote on the back of my rakusu.  My name is Ko Kai.
What would your idea be about what Ko Kai means?

DC:  Ko Kai could mean something ocean.  It could mean dark ocean.

MD:  I'll tell you what he told me it was.  When he was dying I went up and talked to him and I asked him, what does Ko Kai mean?  He said it was Out of Kalpa Camellia Tree.

(discussion of calligraphy on Mike's rakusu)

MD:  Dick said the camellia is called the guillotine flower and it's like death because it all of a sudden falls off.  Suzuki said the name was something very old that just comes out.  It seems to be one of those things that's very open to interpretations.

DC:  I'm sure this is the same ordination I was in on.

MD:  Do you remember me leading it?  You were already ordained.  I just waited around until I thought, well, he's going to die soon, I've got to get ordained.  It was an ordination before he was sick.

DC:  It's interesting that he would single you out for that.  It's just a personal thing between you and him.

MD:  But then I thought ‑‑ because I told you that story ‑‑ that he was just giving me what I wanted.  He told me there had to be a successor and I didn't even answer him.  So why should he give me a rakusu?  He figured, he doesn't want a rakusu.  And he was right.

DC:  Oh, god, maybe that's it.

MD:  I just finally figured that out.

DC:  Suzuki talked with Silas and various people.  Dick became his successor because he was the one who had demonstrated the ability to that beforehand.  Plus ‑‑ and I talked to Suzuki about this ‑‑ Does this mean he's enlightened or something?  No no, just means he has good understanding.  Don't make too much of it.  He said also, full commitment.  He saw he had the organizational and fundraising ability so he seemed like the right person.  But people who say that he was given that just because of his administrative ability ‑‑ that's ridiculous.  That's not enough.

MD:  As I told you on the phone, when we had that election, he became president by one vote, I missed it by one vote.  I think I probably voted for him.  I think he took it as kind of a mandate and he just took over.  From that point on he was gangbusters.

DC:  Was this the point where Bill left?

MD:  Bill was still around.

DC:  Bill has told me that story in great detail. How they had an argument over who would hit the bells. Suzuki had gone to Japan, the first time – 64 or so – and asked Bill to hit the bells and so he was hitting them all and Dick said he should share and Bill said no he asked me so Dick called a meeting and Bill said he couldn’t take the conflict and started sitting in Mill Valley except for Saturdays.

MD:  It didn't happen immediately, the changes to ZC when Dick took over, but you just look around, from that point on he changed everybody's consciousness about what we were doing, what could happen, what was going to happen.  Plus we're getting Tassajara next month, then we're going to do this.  He had a whole agenda.

DC:  I heard Dick talk about Timothy Leary once.  He's sort of like Leary.  He said a lot of people had taken psychedelics, not millions, but many people had had psychedelics of different types. Leary thought LSD is going to change civilization as we know it and helped to make that happen.  This entire vision came with it.  Terrence McKenna (mushrooms) said Leary is a completely unspiritual person.

MD:  He just saw it as a chemical aid to living.  He wasn't thinking about spiritual things.

DC:  To me he was somewhat.  I read Leary's stuff before taking LSD, and I considered him to have a very responsible attitude.  Fast, meditate, prepare yourself, have a guide, take it, and go for the clear light.  That's the way I took acid.  I thought that was great advice.  And Richard Alpert, the spiritual one, was telling people to just take it and not be afraid to go romp around and have fun. Anyway, that’s the impression I have.
So Dick got that job.  He realized he had a hot product there.

MD:  He realized there was potential there.  He was a great organizer ‑‑ the poetry conference at UC Berkeley.  That was right down his alley.  If he wasn't doing what he was doing he'd probably be president of GM or something.

DC:  Movie maker.  That's what he told Bob Beck he'd like to do.

MD:  I've spend years defending Dick in various ways.  Especially after the great debacle.  A lot of people think he's some horrible rapacious person, which he's not at all.

DC:  He's got his problems but ‑‑ he's still doing that Zen thing.  Ananda says Dick got exactly what he wanted.  He said Dick always said he didn't want to be head of a large organization like Zen Center.  He just wanted to work with a small group of people.  That's what he's got now.

MD:  Better for him.  I think that's what he needed.  But he thought he wanted a giant ‑‑ Green's and all ‑‑ and he was socializing so much.  It was getting ridiculous.

DC:  I feel that his socializing was part of his vision for world change.  That he basically wasn't that much of a social person.

MD:  And when Brown was in on all that it was hard not to think that if you weren't there you were not at the center of things.  When the Governor was coming around, it was really looking like this is it.

DC:  It really had a strong element of hubris:  pride cometh before a fall.  It got top heavy.

MD:  He got caught by it.  My feeling was that when they called him on it, eventually, he was surprised.  He was rocked by it.  Like he had no idea what he was doing.

DC:  His life style had diverged so sharply from what he was encouraging people to do in his lectures and dokusans.  It was unsupportable.

MD:  It's interesting, knowing him so well, that he had to go through all that.  Very heavy stuff.  And come out where he is now.  I think he had to just cut of everything here.  He just felt that all that was gone or lost.  That everyone in California thought he was horrible.

DC:  He thinks that the only reason for him to come to California is so people can throw tomatoes at him.

MD:  We aren't talking about Suzuki.  But we are in a sense, because everyone sort of wonders, why did he pick Dick?

DC:  That is a frequent question.  Some people will say it was a mistake.

MD:  I feel the same way you do.  I have a feeling that he wanted to do it.  He was there.  He's smart.  He has a good understanding.  Personally, I think he did a lot of great things.

DC:  He was part of a great period of experimentation.

MD:  He made this whole thing happen which is still going on.  If all this hadn't happened, I wouldn't have Green Gulch to go sit at right now.

DC:  I'm looking at Suzuki Roshi's life.  What did he do in Japan?  When he died he left all these places.  But it's not just him.  It was him interacting with America and some particular Americans and what happened there.  Without Dick and Graham and you ‑‑

MD:  I don't think Suzuki was ambitious for all that stuff.  I think he had some feeling about having a monastery.  I think he had a humbler vision.  He seemed so unambitious most of the time.  He seemed ambitious in an inner way.  If you were there as his student ‑‑ and he would accept any student ‑‑ he would be incredibly sincerely open and involved with that person in a real way.  He would be there in every possible way for that person.  That's pretty ambitious ‑‑ spiritually ambitious.  But not in the sense of getting bigger.  More like deeper.

DC:  But the time at which he arrived, '59, giving him until '66 to improve his English and get a good base ‑‑ historically what better possible timing could there have been.  The time was one of enormous curiosity, looking to the east, looking to non‑materialistic practices.  Maybe if Dick hadn't have been there, the nature of the situation, there might not have been a real impetus to achieve that level of activity. 

MD:  Something else would have come along.  I remember we did the Zenefit to raise money.  Big Brother, Gary Snyder ‑‑

Side A, Tape 1 ends.
Side B.

DC: Alan Watts gave a great talk.


MD:  Suzuki walked forward on the stage and just opened up his arms like that.  Do you remember that?  There was a great cheer, a great yell from the assembly.  He just smiled.  Just opened up his arms like that and just radiated to everyone.  It was like the guru ‑‑ people were eating it up.  It went along with the music and the whole consciousness raising thing.  Everything that was going on at that time.  I don't remember him saying much of anything.  He might have said a couple of words.  That was the event.  When he was actually up there in this rock and roll situation doing that.  It was surprising for me to see because usually we would just be alone at Sokoji or something.

DC:  The other time I can think of was the big Be‑in where he sat up on stage with Alan Watts ‑‑ Ginsburg.  I remember going with him, and I think it might have been Loring Palmer who took him.  I think Dick took him on a peace march once.
Do you remember him talking about Japan?  Or telling about important childhood experiences.

MD:  One thing he said about Japan ‑‑ He said in Japan we just accept our role, what we're doing, and we tend to just do that.  But in America everybody thinks they have a choice about everything.  If I don't like this, I can do that.  He was talking about it in relationship to the practice of Zen, that it caused us some problems, because it kept us from committing.  We always thought, well, if this doesn't work out I'll just do something else.

DC:  I've never totally accepted his trip on that ‑‑ or any Japanese person's trip on that because it's so strong.  It's a clash between Japan and America, not just Zen and non‑Zen.  I was talking to Hoitsu about somebody that wanted to get transmission from him.  I was presenting it to him in a non‑prejudicial way.  And he said, "Let them get transmission from Mel or Reb or Les or Bill."  And I said well this person is sort of a peer of those people, and was very close to Suzuki (his father) and that's why they're interested.  And he's not on particularly good terms with those other people.  And he'd say, "God, you Americans are always talking about 'my way,'"  My way is this, my way is that.  I want to do it my way.  In Japan nobody thinks about my way.  There's the stream of practice of Buddhism that we throw ourselves into.  We follow THE way.  It really upset him.

MD:  There's something about the spirit here that induced him to stay here and start practicing with people here.  Something about the openness that he appreciated and wanted in his students.  He said a lot of the Japanese people here in America ‑‑ he was working at Sokoji as their priest ‑‑ are not interested in sitting.  In Japan nobody's interested in sitting anymore.  That's why he was here.  He was interested in practicing, and he wanted to be with people who were interested in practicing.

DC:  He would go back to Japan and tell them that Americans are great and really sincere and want to practice and are interested in Buddhism.  Even now in Japan ‑‑ older guys I was interviewing about Suzuki ‑‑ they would say, "In America you practice Buddhism with your head.  Here we practice with our body."  They come with this superficial dichotomy trip.  The same things we used to think back in the sixties.  East inclusive; west dualistic.  East both/and; west either/or.  They tend to do that.  They have a lot of set ideas about that.  They tend to think that Americans can't study Zen.  There's no way to get ahead in a Japanese system.  People who go from here to there to study anything will study awhile, but ultimately it has to do with being Japanese and almost nobody gets anywhere with anything they do.  He was not unique, but rare in his ability to leave his culture behind and work with westerners.  As far as Ananda is concerned, to transcend Japanese Zen.

MD:  Being willing to change it.  Although he seemed very faithful in many ways.  At the same time it was changing just to fit us.  To make is understandable, workable, practical.

DC:  I think he had to continue to stand in the robes that he'd grown up in and in the Buddhism that he'd been taught.  He couldn't go too far astray.

MD:  He said it was important to have rules.  A lot of Americans' idea of freedom is no rules.  He wanted to disabuse us of that idea.  So he had to emphasize quite a lot in his lectures that rules were important.  The rules in practicing Zen are not just to have for the sake of rules, but are the way that we become free.  You can turn somebody loose on the piano, and they can think they're very free, but if they don't know how to play the piano they're not going to be able to play music.

DC:  Witness your painting.  It's about following rules that you create something beautiful, wonderful to look at.

MD:  The freedom comes within the form.  Americans, especially young Americans at that time, had some problem with understanding those ideas.  Why do we have to sit hour after hour in this rigid position?

DC:  And then later when we got Tassajara, why do we have to go to bed at this hour?  There were a lot more specific things where you were being treated like a child.  To me being treated like a child is a typical thing of Japanese culture.  And then you can have your freedom.  Like in art, they teach you exactly how to do everything, and all you can do it copy everybody and do it the way they've been doing it ‑‑

MD:  That's interesting.  The idea is that if everybody does the same thing then you can see how everyone is different.

DC:  At a certain point you can go off and be free.  There's abstract calligraphers and everything happening in art in Japan.  But the road to getting to that level ‑‑ once you're up there there's no restrictions at all.

MD:  Often those people are doing something that looks very traditional, but if you know the tradition, and know the other artists who are masters, you can see how different they are from one another.  Like playing shakuhachi.  I've been studying that for five or six years now ‑‑ learning how to read the music.  At the beginning you just have to play those notes one after another, and it's rather a difficult instrument so there's nothing else you can do.  You can't even get a note out of it for awhile.  Eventually your breath becomes more and more efficient and you get stronger, and then you can start doing more expressive things.  You just play the music the way it's supposed to be played and you will be playing it in a very personal way whether you're trying to or not.  Everyone has a different way of breathing and a different approach.  It's our nature.

DC:  I used to write a song every day.  At least one.  If I felt like it or not.  One of the ways I'd write a song is I'd hear something I really liked and I'd try to write something just like it.  Invariably I'd come out with something that was to me better than average and different from what I was trying to copy.  I found that to be a really good way to do something.  I was just reading something like that too.  Somebody ‑‑ Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde or somebody ‑‑ saying that if you have the creative urge that it can't be taught or learned, it's just there.  and it can't be suppressed.  The person with the creative urge would create original things ‑‑ all you have to do is let them go.  Tell them to copy other things.  It doesn't matter.  It will come out.  I've always tended to think that everybody has creativity.

MD:  That's more Buddhist idea about it.  As opposed to this idea that we have more or less of the genius, or the gifted ones, the inspired one, who is different from everyone else.

DC:  At least in Japan they have this idea of the national treasure ‑‑ the great Zen Master, the great poet, the great artist ‑‑ I almost feel that we have ideas here of limitation.  Their idea over there is that you're unlimited, it all depends on how much effort you make.  We have the idea that you're born with a certain amount of talent.

MD:  In Japan it's like the genius of effort.  It has the genius for putting out extraordinary effort.  That's why so much is achieved.  I sometimes think about art in general and people who are create ‑‑ it has to do more with sticking to it and going on with it.  Whatever the ability is in a person that allows him to become involved more than some talent for putting the paint on or whatever ‑‑ that that's the most important thing.

DC:  That's the 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

MD:  Well, that's not right either.  In music there's undeniable talent that comes out in people at young ages.  There is something called talent and it's undeniable.  But at the same time there's this other thing where a person who you might not think has a lot of talent has a lot of interest and a lot of something that leads him to produce some very interesting stuff.  And then there's the person who has only the willingness to work and no talent at all and no matter how hard he works never comes up with anything.

DC:  It's hard knowing the laws of art.  How much is nature, how much is nurture, how much is effort.  I can remember, in terms of music, having definite ideas about what I liked and what I didn't like as far back as I can remember.  4 or 5 years old.  Stuff my mother played.  I didn't like the schmaltzy crap.  I didn't like overproduced band music that was too undefined.  I didn't like things that were too silly.  As far back as I can remember just from what I heard I had definite tastes.

MD:  I liked Leadbelly more than Glenn Miller.

DC:  Although I liked Glenn Miller.  I tended to not like big band stuff as much as ensembles.  I'd like a string quartet better than an orchestra.  I had a definite taste.  In movies, songs, rock and roll.  Almost genetic or something.

MD:  Getting back to Suzuki.  Somebody told me that he was always taking millions of naps.  Have you heard that much?  A lot of naps in the afternoons.  In the early days, even before he was sick.  Maybe he needed to.  Not that there's anything wrong with it.  I suppose us Puritans here in America might think you should be working or something.  He seemed to be free from those kinds of petty ideas completely.  Simultaneously, he was very free and relaxed.  At other times he would be somehow evoking this incredible effort ‑‑ from you and from himself.  But he did seem very relaxed most of the time.

DC:  Terribly relaxed.  Terribly at home with himself and the world.  At ease and comfortable to be with you whoever you were. And he did take naps. But he’d get up so early.

MD:  One time I took him over to some lumber yard ‑‑ some big work yard in San Francisco.  We drove into this place and we went into this little house where they hang out.  There were 3 tough working men in there.  They were talking about football and swearing and carrying on.  Suzuki just swaggered in there and started talking about football.  He had his robes on.  I'd never heard that tone of voice before coming out of his mouth.  At some point they started looking at him, like, who are you?  We somehow got our boards and left.  I remember watching him another time ‑‑ a woman came in and did tea ceremony for us.  She did about 20 or 30 teas.  It took like 3 hours or something.  We were just sitting there watching her.  At the very end he said, "Instant tea."  While the woman was making the tea he was watching her in zazen position, and he was so into watching her.  His hand would be moving a little with hers.  He was totally out there.  Interesting to watch.

I remember him talking about his teacher sometimes, and the tremendous feeling of gratitude he had to his teacher.  Not his father, but his teacher.  He told when he realized ‑‑ a story about when he did something that was unthinking and unconscious.  It was his monkey mind showing.  He was so ashamed of that.  At some point he realized something ‑‑ had a powerful realization ‑‑ and felt this overwhelming feeling of gratitude toward his teacher.  Tears were coming out of his eyes and his nose and his mouth.  He finally realized what his teacher was trying to do.  Why his teacher had been hard on him at times.  What his teacher had given him.

DC:  I don't want to sound too cynical but I really think the Japanese are programmed to have that experience.  I've heard so many Japanese people tell me ‑‑ one of Suzuki's kids will tell me about their experience with him ‑‑ which wasn't much fun.  He was aloof and busy with other people and just barked at them and didn't pay any attention and never touched them and didn't listen to them and left them.  His first wife was murdered by a monk whom he insisted on keeping in the temple.  But they all say, I'm so grateful to him, cause I realize now that blah blah blah.

MD:  Do they have to tell that to themselves to make it alright?

DC:  They rationalize everything bad that happens to them.  Every hardship is rationalized in terms of a kind teaching.  (In looking at Suzuki's teacher) ‑‑ I can't see much there.  Sort of strict disciplinarian.  I don't think he taught much zazen.  Just doing services and being a temple priest.  It's great to be able to squeeze the good out of things.

MD:  I certainly had the feeling that it was more than that the way he described it.  When you look at Suzuki, if you knew him, you had to feel that it was more than all that.  His teacher must have been something special ‑‑ someway.

DC:  I'm not convinced that So-on was so special.  I think Suzuki was special . . . Do you think that for Suzuki to be special he would have had to have a special teacher?

MD:  I don't know.  If you look at it traditionally you'd have to think so wouldn't you?  Otherwise he'd be like that farmer.  That farmer Zen master who doesn't know he's a Zen master, and if you say he is, he would say he was not.  To actually become a teacher in a formal sense and take students, especially as a Japanese, you need certification.

DC:  But you can climb on the shoulders of your teacher.  You can be greater than your teacher.  Dogen said that his master was the first truly enlightened teacher in 500 years.  So he would have to have been more special than who came before.  So-on was a guy that yelled at the neighbors and intimidated people around his temple.  He was a feared person.  He was a fierce landlord.  The temple owned a lot of land and there were a lot of farmers on it that had to give a percentage of what they grew to him.  He looked at it and said they weren't giving enough.  He was like a feudal landowner.  He was taking care of the temple.  But the temples were important institutions that had land, and were supported by people.  The temple priest was a great person, someone you would look up to, somebody above the other people.  This was broken up by the government after the war – and before the war too.  Buddhism was suppressed during the war because Shinto became stronger.  Shinto was more in line with the goals of the militarists.  They were drafting the priests; Buddhism was on a shoestring.  It didn't have the nationalistic possibilities that Shinto did.  After the war they took land away from the shrines and temples both to sell them to the people cheaply.  Buddhism lost out there too.  It seemed to me that So-on's reputation is one of being gruff and aloof.  Suzuki was aloof with his family but friendly with neighbors and members of the temple. Everybody liked him.  He had a strong social conscience and at least after the war talked about peace. And before the war too. He started a kindergarten because he wanted to help revitalize the culture; to get kids into a Buddhist school.

MD:  I see him almost as a kind of adventurer.  Someone who was willing to leave his wife and children and come over here; call them up and say he's not coming home.  He had the ability to go as far as he had to go to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish.  He wasn't restrained by any bourgeois concerns.  In that way he seemed like an artist.  He would say things that art and religion are the deepest expressions of human nature.  Art was right in there.  He had a tremendous respect for art and the people who made art.  So even if I didn't want to become a gung‑ho Zen instigator or organizer, I felt that I was still OK with Suzuki because I was an artist.  I never got any message from him of, "Why don't you stop painting so much and come over here and help run Zen Center?"  I never got that feeling at all. 

DC:  I think he was an adventurer.  It's hard to see that when you look at him in Japan because it's hard for anybody in Japan to do anything but their duty.

MD:  That's why he wanted to come over here too, so he could be somebody different.

DC:  He tried to get out at other times.  He tried to go to China during the war.  He went over there and had to run back.

MD:  So there was something about him that was out of the ordinary as a Japanese, and among Japanese that led him to want to come over here and change himself.

DC:  I think he was out of the ordinary in that he wanted to get out and go somewhere else.  There's so much security in being Japanese ‑‑

MD:  Why did he want to do that?  He wanted to explore different parts of himself.

DC:  I think that's true.  The idea that Suzuki Roshi was a great person in Japan, who had a great enlightenment and great enlightened teachers, and wanted to bring those great enlightened traditions is so romantic or something.

MD:  But when he came over here there was nobody.

DC:  He didn't have any students there.  Ananda said that the only time Suzuki got mad was when he said that to some younger students at Zen Center.  Suzuki called him up and said, "What's this you say about I didn't have any students in Japan?"  Ananda said he was just repeating what Suzuki had said.  But he was sensitive about that.  And his son makes that point so strongly to me.  Politics.

MD:  So he was totally free when he came to America from all that hierarchy.  He would bring Japanese people over.  Or he'd go over and check in with them.  Let them know what was going on.  But then he'd come back here and do his own thing.

DC:  There's another thing that affected his life more than the hierarchy.  He was head of an important temple with 200 sub‑temples.  He had 500‑700 families, and that's what took up his time.  He was pretty free from hierarchy because they have a pretty loose system.  He hadn't chosen to be involved in the big systems of headquarters in Tokyo.  But the amount of time he had to spend taking care of temple obligations with these families was prohibitive.  Non‑stop funeral, memorial services.  That's what he wanted to get away from.  I only heard that from one person in Japan.  I had to make an appointment with a neighbor of the temple through somebody who lived across town because the Suzuki family didn't want me to talk to the neighbors.  I had to talk to the neighbors going around their backs.  I'd tell them I was doing it.  They'd say, don't disturb the neighbors.  They're so nervous.  I love Hoitsu, I love his wife, but if you get out of their stream of things, get out of what's accepted, it starts making them nervous.  This guy who lived below the temple said that Oh yeah, he used to come down here all the time, sweeping the road, he'd come down and tell me, "I've got to get out of here."

MD:  So if you see Suzuki coming from that, coming over here by himself with the excuse of taking on a small Japanese congregation, and then getting involved with all these hippies, and ending up on the stage of the Avalon Ballroom with Janis Joplin ‑‑ that becomes an interesting image.  It makes him look like a wild west cowboy.  I would assume that would be pretty damned radical to a lot of old priests back in Japan.  Unimaginable.  That's how he's an adventurer.  Like these guy who decide they're going to kayak down the entire west coast of the United States.

DC:  Mitsu, Okusan, talks about hippies.  What was the sociological breakdown ‑‑ you say there were 15 key people ‑‑ would there be 5 or 10 coming and going?

MD:  When we were pretty filled up there was about 10 and 4 or 5 in the back ‑‑ usually anywhere from 2 to 10 other people would be coming and going ‑‑ or more ‑‑ and more who would just come to lectures. There might be 40 or more at lectures.  We started taping the lectures at some point.  I remember going through that routine.  I don't remember what year.  Before '66, I think.  Dick could tell you.  [July 1965]

DC:  Dick and I are on good terms.  He's really into this.  He's already outlining my book – suggesting things.  We're closer now than we ever have been.  He appreciated the support ‑‑ Dan Welsh and me going there during the first practice period.  I just sent him the definitive pictures of Suzuki's father and the guy before that.  That was a painting.  The others were photographs.  Reproduced for the book, for Zen Center.  I also got their photo albums from Japan to America and had the best pictures all photographed.

MD:  I always did have the feeling that there was a hidden part to Suzuki.  Something mysterious.  Where it was all coming from seemed mysterious.  He had so much commitment and drive of a certain kind.  Unusual.  So you couldn't help but think where does he get it?

DC:  He was always there.  If he wasn't sick he'd be at zazen.

MD:  He seemed constant, but not in a negative sense.  In a sense of faithful to something.  He would often talk about the inmost request.  Remember that?  That we had to listen to and respond to our inmost request.  It seemed he did that in some way. My experience, during sesshin, of people, of layers, was getting down to something like that, where the sincerity of that the meaning of it, became uppermost in your mind or your feelings.  The depth and the levels of that that seemed possible in his presence seemed almost limitless.  I sometimes I wonder how much we project our own best nature into all this though.  That's part of the game, I guess.

DC:  I'm not a firm believer in there being some truth, like one truth and one story, to Suzuki, that I can look at. 

MD:  I think you should be doing the Rashomon approach here.

DC:  That's exactly what I see.  What type of book do you think would be best about him?

MD:  I think just that would be fascinating:  to have everyone's point of view, and just put them all out there and let the reader draw his own conclusions.  What else is there?

DC:  Dick could do a book that was his point of view.  And I think he should.  And he can have a say in this book.  I'm going to do it the way Japanese bring things into their culture:  they don't homogenize them.  They don't stir things up.  Everything's separate. So you can see Dick as Dick, Mike as Mike, etc. 

MD:  And not try to cross‑reference all this stuff and correct everything for them.   Even if there's actual mistakes in there, you could just let them stand I suppose. 

DC:  I could throw in a correction right after in parenthesis.

MD:  It's appropriate for a book about Suzuki, or anyone like that, to have all these different points of view.  It's so Zen that way, so appropriate.

DC:  I pretty much have to because I don't have opinions about a lot of things.  I don't want to have to be sensitive and profound about a lot of things that I don't feel that way about.

MD:  I think that'll be fascinating, to hear everyone's feelings and thoughts about it.

DC:  Michael Katz, my agent, and I are talking about this a lot.  There is a strong contingent that wants a straight biography where the process is invisible.  I'm willing to try that.  And I don't mind trying it as part of the process of doing it, but I think it would be pretty boring.

MD:  I think if you work the biography into this thing, then you could have both.  That would be the best.  If you try to be as objective as possible about laying the facts out about his life, then we can all draw certain conclusions from that that are different from opinions.  If you know these are facts and you put them out there without editorializing too much about it, then we can draw a lot of conclusions about him just from those things.  That he had all these commitments in Japan and then he came over here.  Those are facts.  There are conclusions that most of us would draw from these various facts.

DC:  There were commitments to the Japanese congregation at Sokoji that it didn't bother him at all to drop. [I don’t see it that way later] He and Katagiri both resigned and went over to Page Street.

MD:  It wasn't a huge group there.  They could easily get somebody else.  He didn't have any problem with that.

DC:  Did he ever disappoint you in any way?  Were there ways that he didn't come up to expectations?

MD:  Sometimes I would think he was rather buffoonish.  He'd act clumsy sometimes.  Not in a bad way.  Nothing that worried me.  One time when I told him that Trudy had died (in the hospital) ‑‑ I think perhaps I should have called him before she died, or at the time she was dying, if that would have been possible.  I didn't know when she was going to die.  I think he might have liked to have been there.  When I told him that she had died he was very emotional on the phone.  It almost worried me.  But when he came to the hospital he was completely in control and more his usual self. 

DC:  How was he very emotional?

MD:  His voice was cracking with emotion.  He was making a very obvious effort to control himself.  I'd never seen that side of him before.  It disturbed me, because I didn't know he was like that.  A picture that goes with that, is a picture of him later, sitting on the altar, and separating her ashes with chopsticks, one by one.  Part of her ashes went to Wyoming and part stayed here.  He looked at each one and would say, "Beautiful ashes." 

DC:  Is there anything else you could say about Trudy?

MD:  Her working on Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind was a very satisfying thing for her to have been able to do, the kind of thing she always wanted to do.  Her philosophy had been leading up to it, and her interest in writing and everything else.  It all came together with her intense interest in Suzuki and Zen.  She had a chance here to accomplish this book which has grown on to be a very significant thing for a lot of people.  She did it right at the end of her life.  She and Suzuki became quite close.  That's probably why he was so emotional when she died.

DC:  He said at her funeral he'd never hoped to have that good a disciple.

MD:  She had a real way‑seeking mind.  Even before she met him she had that very strongly.  When she was young she had . . . quotations from thinkers and writers ‑‑ trying to distil everything down to some truth.  Then her study of philosophers.  It all went to Suzuki.  I encouraged her a lot toward Zen and awakened philosophy.  . . .

DC:  The idea of philosophy for me is so boring and tedious.

MD:  I used to know some of these guys in Berkeley.  They were pretty  . . .weird.  There was one of those guys that Suzuki told us about, he was going to commit suicide over there ‑‑ I don't know if he did ‑‑ mad philosophers getting so overwrought ‑‑ trying to figure everything out would put you over the edge.

DC:  In my particular case, I tried to read philosophy in high school, college,  I just couldn't follow it.  I'm just not constitutionally capable ‑‑ something about attention span ‑‑ but when I read Zen stuff...

MD: Dick used to be interested in some of that and he would talk to us about Heidegger.  Dick would get a Heidegger book and skim it or get a summary, and then that was Heidegger.  Trudy would consider that very half‑baked understanding. 

DC:  I admire somebody that can skim it or read a synopsis and come up with a little world‑view ‑‑ I couldn't even do that.  I'd forget it.  Way‑seeking mind ‑‑ he used to talk about way‑seeking mind.  It would be interesting to make a list of key things he would bring up like way‑seeking mind, grandmother mind . . .

[Tape 2 Side A]

DC:  Grandmother mind was his interpretation of kind mind, one of Dogen's 3 minds in his Tenzo Kyokun, instructions to the cook.  I felt like I had complete permission not to get involved with the complexity of things.  Not to have to figure out what all the philosophers said.  Not to have to even figure out what Dogen was saying. 

MD:  You'd just get hung up on it.  Why bother?

DC:  I really wasn't interested.  I did, however, study Dogen and Sandokai in Japanese and I studied it with Suzuki and other Japanese priests.  But I was just doing it for something to do.

MD:  Remember when he would be expounding on the Blue Cliff Records?  Bru Criff Records?  That could get a bit tedious, I must say.

DC:  They're thinking of publishing the Sandokai lectures.  There are disagreements if it should be done or not.  Peter Schneider pointed out that his lectures on particular texts were not as interesting as the general lectures.

MD:  He'd get sort of technical.  You'd have to interpret everything.  It seemed so obscure to us.  He'd have to go to great lengths just to make it barely understandable.  Then he'd start talking about what it all meant.  Seemed kind of tedious.  But he always ended up making it kind of interesting ‑‑ at the end.  He seemed very interested in it all. He had a side of him that was kind scholarly.

DC:  Definitely.  He studied with Kishizawa.  But the more I look into it in Japan, I can see our tendency to exaggerate and idealize things.  Some of that comes from Dick.  Dick is Zen Center's primordial exaggerator.

MD:  He's a mythmaker.

DC:  Right.  The idea that Suzuki was a close disciple of Kishizawa Roshi‑ not quite.  So-on Roshi was his first teacher and Kishizawa was his second and he worked closely with him and studied with him for thirty years but he wasn’t a disciple.  He'd go once a month and hear a lecture.  I think Suzuki was important to Kishizawa.  They did big ordinations together ‑‑ 400 people at a time.  They were revitalizing Buddhism.  He was inspired by Kishizawa.  He was more than a scholar.  He was a Shobogenzo scholar.  But also he was into zazen and practice with an emphasis on Sandokai.  He's got 300 pages of lectures on Sandokai.  Sandokai is the meaning of unity and multiplicity.  We chant the text at Zen Center.  It came in in 1969 with Tatsugami's arrival.  I think there's stuff in there of interest.  But I think it would be a great disappointment to bring it out the way it is edited at this point.

MD:  Regarding Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind:  I was busy making my paintings.  I was not so involved.  When we moved to Mill Valley we stopped going to zazen every day like we had been in the city for years.  I was getting more into art and less into Zen at that point.  She and Dick would meet and talk about it.  She would work on it.  She went over the original tapes to some degree.  She would talk to Suzuki a lot about it.  She talked to him about particular points in the lectures she wanted to clarify.  She went non‑stop on it with a real intense interest and involvement.

I'm pretty sure that was when were when we were in Mill Valley.  She already had cancer and didn't know what would happen next.  Hoping it would go away, but it was slowly getting worse.  She had breast cancer.  She was going through intense stuff ‑‑ my trying to help her by fasting and being very thin.  Diets.  Eventually the hospital.  I tried to keep her out as much as possible as she preferred to be out and could do more things.  But it got more and more painful.  I don't think she was into all that when she was working on this.  She had a respite.  The book came out in '70 and she died in '69.

So she was working on it in '68 and '69 probably.  My memory for dates is real bad.  I don't remember her talking to me a lot about it though I'm sure she did talk to me about it.  I don't remember things like that very well.  It was very satisfying for her to do the book and it brought her closer to Suzuki.  I remember being at Tassajara when she was quite sick.  She had trouble moving around.  We were all in Suzuki's cabin.  She was lying there.  She seemed very happy to be there, with him.  He seemed happy to have her there.  That was just at the end.  I on the other hand was getting kind of weird dealing with it.  I was getting fed up and impatient.  Emotionally confused about a lot of things that were going on.  Difficult time.  She seemed quite calm.  The whole experience was rather intense and quite inspiring.  Interesting.

DC:  Did Angie come here?

MD:  She was in Mill Valley.  She helped take care of the kids.  I sent the kids back to my parents at one point because it got impossible and they were willing to take them on for awhile.  Then Angie and I just took care of Trudy together.  Eventually just me.  It took quite a lot of doing ‑‑ cooking and carrying her around a lot to various events.  Carrying her out to the car and carrying her into a restaurant and stuff like that.  She got lighter and lighter.  But her spirit was great.  She became a lightning rod for a lot of people.  People would come around and get whatever they got out of the experience.  It would happen that people would bring a lot to it.  She could just be herself, and they would take something away from it.  She wrote quite a lot of poetry toward the end of her life which was quite good.  I've got it someplace.  Maybe you can look at it.

DC:  One thing I've got in mind is archiving, so that has no limits to it.  Something like that would be good.

MD:  That would be good to get out there in some way.  Some of it's really good.

DC:  Zen Mind Beginner's Mind is the magnum opus of Suzuki from one point of view.  Everything he said that's recorded can be divided into Zen Mind Beginner's Mind and everything else.  That's a lot because of Trudy's work.  She did a great job.  Everybody wants to come up with a book that other people love.  There's hardly anything like it.

MD:  I've met people from time to time who have told me that the book has saved (seized?) their life.  And twice my son Will had been trying to get into college, or something, and Zen Mind Beginner's Mind will come up and he's had the opportunity to say well my mother edited that book.  We can't help but think it helped Suzuki to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish.

DC:  Definitely in this book I should tell the story of how Zen Mind Beginners Mind came about, so any details that could make that story more interesting.

MD:  I think Dick could give you the best information on that.

DC:  Here's a Dick story:  Why did Tassajara come about?  Well, Suzuki's original idea was that everybody would just have their jobs and come sit at Zen Center and practice in the city.  But he was disappointed because nobody but me got it.  That's Dick's explanation:  nobody but he could practice in the city.  And because nobody could practice Suzuki wanted to find a place to practice in the country.  Not only does he say this now, he said this back then.  I almost think I remember him saying it in front of Suzuki.  Dick did a lot of outrageous things that people didn't like him for, but he tended to do them in front of Suzuki.

MD:  To test things.

DC:  He got a tremendous amount of support from Suzuki.

MD:  But was it Dick's or Suzuki's idea to get Tassajara.

DC:  Dick says it was Suzuki's, that he needed the place to work with people closer because it wasn't working in the city.

MD:  I remember hearing something to that effect.  That Suzuki did want something like Tassajara where he could get away and work with people.  I don't know much about that.  I was always trying to get away from having to take a lot of responsibility at Zen Center.  So I was just happy to go mail out the goddamn mailers.  Graham and I were down there doing that.  And I designed a couple of posters for benefits. 

DC:  I have the impression of Graham having been somebody that Dick modeled himself after.

MD:  They were quite close.  The story I heard from Dick was that Graham was a hopeless alcoholic.

DC:  I know Graham very well.  I see Graham these days and he is a hopeless alcoholic.

MD:  At some earlier point in his life, before he got into Zen, Dick said the doctor looked at him and just said, you're through, you're dead, he was so bad.  Then he became like the drill sergeant.  Graham was the toughest guy who never moved and always sat in full lotus, back straight as a ramrod.  He was Mr. Tough Guy.  That went along with being an alcoholic.  If you have that tendency, perhaps you have to be extra strict so you won't start drinking.  He was a very inspiring figure.  He seemed able to tough out any sesshin without complaining.

DC:  I talked to Graham recently.  He lives in Healdsburg now.  I used to see him in Japan.  He and Dick were very close, but their relationship fell apart when Graham went to Santa Fe to help him with the restaurant.

MD:  I was there and saw them both there while he was working on the restaurant.  I saw them working together.  I didn't see any fights or anything.

DC:  Dick would say that Graham was drinking too much to be effective.  Graham will say Dick was too crazy.  Graham would be happy to speak with Dick again, but there was a definite falling out. 

MD:  Some people just change, like that, when they drink.  I've never been around Graham.

DC:  He's not a person who has a radical change, but he tends to drink a lot.  It's amazing he's still drinking.  He was talking to me about dying.  He felt like his life was over about 6 years ago, he was so dissipated.

MD:  That's so funny.  You see a guy who seems so strong in Zen, and then he's like that.  He was making such a big point about being tough.  Too much.  Interesting to look at people and how they turn out.  Suzuki told an interesting story about ‑‑ there's a group of people walking along a stream.  Everyone's looking for the best pebble.  Some people are up in front and they're searching very intensely, running forward.  But there are a couple of guy in the back who are just enjoying the day, laughing, talking.  One says, "Oh, what's that?"  And pick up a pebble.  He didn't want people to get caught by that and try too hard.  He looked the cucumber.  His teacher always called him the third cucumber ‑‑ the one that's all bent up.

DC:  Crooked cucumber.

MD:  Sometimes they also refer to it as third cucumber. 

DC:  I plan to call the book Crooked Cucumber.

MD:  And the horses.  That's a great story.  The one that runs when he just sees the shadow of the whip.  The one that runs when he feels the whip on his skin.  The one that runs when the whip strikes him and the pain really sinks in.  The last horse only runs when the whip sinks into the marrow of his bones.  He would say that doesn't mean that the first horse is better than the second horse or that the second horse is better than the fourth horse.  It's all the same, really.

DC:  I look forward to finding what lecture that's in.  In your life as an artist, is there anything you can say about what you learned from him that you've applied?  And what you didn't learn?  And what other things you've learned since then?  How does he fit into your life?

MD:  I continue to sit.  I've been doing that since I started 30 years ago.  I mostly sit by myself.  I combine it with shakuhachi playing, quite often.

Occasionally I go and sit with a group and recently I've been sitting with Ed at Green Gulch, one‑day sittings.  I like the way Ed has changed over the years, and I feel kinship with him.  He's very relaxed about everything.  He gets more out of people that way.  I enjoy sitting with Ed and the group that he has.  A lot of beginners like to go there.  I mentioned earlier, before Trudy and I went to start sitting, and just were going to lectures, in my own mind I felt the words were ‑‑ that I was going to blow over in the first windstorm. That's the way I felt.  I felt vulnerable.  I wanted to do something about that.  I wanted to feel less vulnerable and more solid, more grounded.  I wanted to feel less vulnerable to the winds.  My study with Suzuki and practice with him has made me feel more rooted, more stable.  I have quite a few mental problems in my family.  That might be part of my desire ‑‑  You read about people who got deeply involved in spiritual communities, then wake up one day and realize they have no life, no children, no wife.  I'm glad that I didn't (get so involved), because at a certain point I was really torn.  I couldn't figure out if I should be a full‑time Zen monk or an artist.  I was having a terrible time figuring that out.  The life style seemed so different.  One seemed so strict, the other not.  I was going back and forth trying to sit on two chairs at the same time.  Finally I decided I should be an artist.  As soon as I decided that, everything got cleared up, and I didn't feel tense any more.  I was more relaxed about it.  I could do art first, and then I could sit.  I could still sit.  The other way around would have been hard.

DC:  There's something perverted about the idea of full‑time Zen.  It's such a strong idea, such a strong feeling that people have to grapple with. 

MD:  Or just helping in a community.  There's a lot of work to be done.  Older people have to have all this work to do for others.

DC:  Is it for others, or is it for an institution that has a life of its own?  You have to spend all your time updating the mailing list in the back room.

MD:  But I'm glad that Zen Center's still around.  That I can participate with the group if I want to.

DC:  It's a matter of balance.

MD:  In the long run, my own life, meeting Suzuki and following the way he taught me, has colored everything.  It's something that continues.  I feel now that I'm getting older, more the pull into practice.  It's different now.  In many ways it's a lot easier to practice now.  There's so much baggage that's gone.

DC:  I find that I have less frenetic energy.

MD:  Yeah.  Impatience, distractions.  Much easier to just sit there and have a little peace and quiet.

DC:  What other things have you brought into your life besides art and Zen?  Have you been influenced by any other teachers, teachings, readings?

MD:  Other teachers would be art teachers.  Fred Martin was an important teacher for me, at one time the director of the Art Institute.  I haven't sought out other religious teachers.  I occasionally think about it.  Sometimes I used to sit with Mel, too.  Sometimes I sit with Ed.  That seems what I'm looking for there.  I don't feel the need to search for other groups.

DC:  Or there's the search for the great teacher.  Many people are doing that.  There's a guy named John Tarrant, a Zen teacher in Santa Rosa who's a really neat guy.  He's an Aitken student.  He writes good stuff.  He's very clear.  Andrew Cohen is interesting. I’ve suggested they invite him to speak at Green Gulch.

MD:  Michael Wenger was thinking about asking me.  I can't talk to a bunch of people.

DC:  The reason I'm doing it, even though I don't want that kind of role, is that I think it's good for it to be spread around.

MD:  You can do it too. You could always just read part of your book.

DC:  I don't want to do that.

******************************

Mike Dixon on the phone October 10, 1994

DC:  (I told Mike of Ananda's point about Zen Center moving from a loose lay community to a priest trip and Mike said that that might have been Dick Baker's making as much as anyone.) 

 

MD:  "Without Dick, it might have stayed very much the way it was and Zen Center might not even exist now. The year he became president, probably 63 or 4 or something, I lost by one vote.  And he just started doing everything.  He had all these ideas and eventually I found myself (in 66) down in the basement sending out 15,000 fund raising brochures to raise money for Tassajara. Dick stated talking about how we could be priests and we could be masters.  He was the first guy to have that idea as a possibility and we all thought he was nuts.

DC:  "Did you see SR as having an unattainable status?"

MD:  "Kind of.  I don't think that most of us ever thought beyond the fact that here he is and we're studying with him.  It's not like he was a God, but we didn't have the idea that we could be like that, or something."

DC:  "That's exactly the difference between Reb Anderson and me.  From the moment he arrived at Zen Center he was on a crash program to get enlightened, be a priest, be abbot, become a Zen master and all.  I was there for a good time.  But Reb and Dick also had an element of devotion, they were strongly devoted to Suzuki.  Anyway, before I was ordained, Reb brought me to his room at Page Street and lectured me on taking ordination seriously, realizing that I was embarking on a new course, leaving behind the lay world, becoming a role model, an example for others.  We were worlds apart.  I understood what he was saying but I had no interest in it.  Now I think maybe he was right.  I had no business being ordained as a priest.  I was just doing it to be closer to Suzuki, and there was that to it at least at the first.  But when I was ordained he was clearly dying, Katagiri suggested we postpone the ordination, and I strongly insisted we go through with it - I think that made a difference as my fellow ordainees were less assertive than me.  I did not trust the future and I wanted the status of priest, disciple of Suzuki sealed.  So I was ordained partly out of ambition and I think there is an element of that to ordination.  But the ones with greater ambition went farther, and maybe so it should be.  Silas once said that Zen masters are people who, among other attributes, wanted to be Zen masters.  So the point I'm getting at I guess is that Zen Center must have been shaped not only by the vision, plan, ambition and intention of Suzuki but by the same of his disciples and students - especially Dick Baker whose vision was fairly clear.

MD:  "Well I was thinking about being an artist, thinking seriously about that and going to art school and was terrified about taking responsibility in the Zen thing even though I was really interested in sitting and being with Suzuki.  I didn't want to be running things and was really glad that I lost that vote and didn't have to do so much - though I did become treasurer and I think I was vice-president - I didn't have to do much and I really didn't want to.  I just wanted to sit and be there with him.  But Dick had big plans right from the beginning - well he'd been around for a while so he'd probably been working up on it.  I always had the feeling that Suzuki just went along with it.  Like, oh okay, let's do that but if it hadn't of been for Dick I don't think those things would of happened."

DC:  "Do you remember Suzuki wanting to get a place in the country or anything like that - where did that idea come from?"

MD:  "Well I don't know.  I don't remember him talking to the group about it but maybe he talked to Dick or some other guys about it - I don't know.  Hmm - as a matter of fact I guess I do have some vague memory of him wanting some kind of a retreat, some kind of place where he could get away and do that kind of practice.  So I wouldn't be surprised if he did have some idea like that and maybe that is what lead to Tassajara."

DC:  "Who wanted it more, Suzuki or Dick?"

MD:  "I don't know, I just remember events and feelings that relate to me.

Trudy had studied Philosophy at Wellesley - Heidegger and Wittgenstein.  I took her to see Suzuki and it didn't take her long to latch on to that.  Heidegger had supposedly read D.T. Suzuki at one point and had said that if he understood correctly what he'd just read it was what he'd been trying to say for the last fifty years.  I'd heard about Suzuki through an art student who said this is a really interesting guy who you should go check him out and so I went over and heard a lecture and thought he was really interesting thought at that point it was hard to figure out just what he was talking about because he didn't speak very good English.  And the whole idea of Zen was pretty far out to us in those days - not too many people were talking about things like that."

DC:  "When was that?"

MD:  "That was in '62."

DC:  "And his English still wasn't that good."

MD:  "You could understand him but it certainly wasn't as good as it got later."

DC:  "It sure got good later in the late sixties and till he died."

MD:  "More than the English it was just some of the concepts - the whole thing seemed very impressive and exotic but to me personally it was more his presence than anything he was actually saying that made me want to be around him and know him."


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