|About the Book
About Suzuki Roshi
Interview of Genichi Amano, Shunryu Suzuki's godfather at Rinsoin after the war. [In the book I had him as the only godfather but there was another before him. I don't know his name and there were so many complicated details that were hard to keep up with that I just simplified it that way and said so in the notes at the end. I only did something like that sort of thing a few times. Anyway, I'll try to get the other guys name and the right dates and all and put them here--later.--DC]
Interviewed by Peter and Jane Schneider, and Carl and Fumiko Bielefeldt with simultaneous translation by the Bielefeldts. (November 9, 1971, in San Francisco) Re-translated on October 28, 1995 by Frederick Harriman
[Shinzanshiki and soudou-shuu are how Amano says shinsanshiki and soutou-shuu [Lots of people do the latter. Also, note that Fred puts the "u" in for the long "o" and "u." Not soto-shu but soutou-shuu. That's how scholars do it. It's the right way. I don't do it but it's better. Somehow, all the references here to Shunryu Suzuki say just that--"Shunryu Suzuki" though of course various names were used, like Suzuki-roshi and Shunryu-san. It was alI Suzuki Roshi but I replaced them with Shunryu Suzuki. I don't know how it got that way but I'm not going to fix it any more than that.--DC].
Amano: [Discusses succession of Houjou at Rinsouin. Shunryu Suzuki was the 36th, Sokou Suzuki, a relative of Soon Shunryu Suzuki was the 37th (from Shingakuji), and HS is the 38th. Various details are given, but it is hard to hear. For example, the Kanji for Sokou Suzuki's name is given. He then says to Fumiko-
Shunryu Suzuki came here in Showa 34 , correct? And until Houichi Houjou's shinzanshiki, during those years, because he took care of the affairs of Rinsouin, he is referred to as the 37th Houjou. And then Houichi Houjou had his shinzan, and he became the 38th. And when Suzuki Houjou (Shunryu Suzuki) had his Shinzan, our house became Gishin(1) for the first time.
Fumiko: And that was in Showa 22 .[Shunryu's shinsanshiki at Rinsoin was in 1936 wasn't it? Please clarify.]
Amano: Yes, Showa 22 .
Fumiko: And do you remember anything about the times before that?
Amano: Well, the 34th Houjou, Gyokujun So'on Roshi [I'll refer to him as So'on Roshi. Amano-san seems to be saying that Shunryu Suzuki used to come to his house with the 34th Houjou.] However, ever since we became Gishin, we didn't associate with him very much. And so this man, the 35th Houjou, I don't know much about him. I think he was just an interim Houjou, like Sokou Suzuki was. I think that is what he was, but they made him the 35th Houjou. And then Shunryu Suzuki became the 36th Houjou. And from Showa 22 on, . And so to get back to your original question, as far as his life goes, I know well about what he did from 1947 on.
[Fumiko translates. Carl wants to hear stories abut Shunryu Suzuki's father--thinking that Shunryu Suzuki had visited Amano's house with his father. But then corrects himself and says it must have been Shunryu Suzuki's master. Fumiko asks about Shunryu Suzuki's father and draws a blank with Amano. Fumiko tries again saying that she is talking about Shunryu Suzuki's "father and master." Amano-san is still confused.]
Amano: [pointing out something] Right here is Shunryu Suzuki, the 36th Houjou, right? There are a few things written here about him. I'll give you this. It is the 500 year history of Rinsouin. And you'll find the history of the last 500 years in it. The nenki (death anniversary) of Rinsou Kaizan was last month, Oct. 23. And every year there is a kaisan celebrated. And this last one fell exactly on the 500th year. So it was the 500th anniversary of the foundation of Rinsou's temple. [pause, Amano-san repeats himself, Amano-san and Fumiko seem to be looking over the history book that he is referring to.] Please take this book with you.
Fumiko: So Shunryu Suzuki's father was from a different temple then.
Amano: Yes. That is correct. He was taught by So'on Roshi, who I mentioned before. In Shouwa 4 (1929) he (Shunryu Suzuki) became the 28th Houjou of a temple called Zou'unin. And then he became the 36th Houjou of Rinsouin. [Here it is finally established the Amano-san knows nothing about Shunryu Suzuki's father. Peter suggests that Fumiko ask about Gyokujun Sou'on Roshi.]
Fumiko: We would like to ask, then, about Shunryu Suzuki's master, Gyokujun Sou'on Roshi.
Amano: Gyokujun Roshi? I have no idea. [It becomes evident that Amano-san does not know any details about Shunryu Suzuki's relatives, etc. Carl says he is not interested in their history, but that since he has met them, he must have impressions about them. The impressions are good enough. He was an administrator. By this I mean that he was a good planner. He looked not at details, but how to run a temple in an overall sense. And as far as finances go, he did things like plant timber on the surrounding hills that the temple possessed. He looked at the long term, 30, 40 years ahead. He was a planner, and administrator, and an economist. That was the approach that he had. I think that in many cases, you find people who are good at planning but poor at administration, or good at financial matters but poor planners. There are few people who can do both. But there were few things said about Gyokujun Sou'on Roshi and his time. There is quite a distance between my house and the temple. And in the summer, a grave was built in another temple. And this temple was of a completely different sect, it was Joudou-shuu. And the land was rented. And that temple was Joudou, so, and this was before I was 30 years old, they performed the nenbutsu sanmai. And that is the house that he entered. And so I would get up early and chant nenbutsu at that temple. And there were 5 or 6 maids. And since they say that their boss was going to the temple for nenbutsu, they followed behind. And they participated in the nenbutsu sanmai. And in Chiba... Where are you from?
Fumiko: I'm from Chiba.
Amano: Well in Chiba there is Zoujou-ji, right? And that person was the teacher at Zoujou-ji. Once a week he came to lecture. I followed that Roshi for 10 years, performing the nenbutsu sanmai. And when my father died, I received his bones from the temple and I built a graveyard at Rinsouin. And I moved them there. And that is how I became close to Rinsouin. That was in 1927. But I don't know much about what happened before that.
Amano: Well you see, our family's grave was originally at Rinsouin. But because it was so far away, we wanted to have our family grave closer so we could pay our respects without having to go so far. And there was another Soudou-shuu temple in town, and I suppose we could have gone there, but we decided to use the closest place, and that was the Joudou-shu temple. And so we rented some land for the grave, That's the only reason.
Fumiko then asks about the Chiba temple and its priest who came to lecture. Amano-san explains that the lady of the house behind his invited him once to go and hear the lecture of this particular priest who was Joudou-shuu. Amano-san says he got interested and kept going. He also started to make posters for it, and helped in promoting it. And he would also play the organ in the streets before it started to get people's attention and bring them to the lecture, although he wasn't very good at it. And there was also a 5 day training in Shinshuu (Nagano-Yamanashi Prefectures) in upper Suwa, at a mountain called kasawa-yama which he also participated in. But originally his family was a Zen-shuu family, so he brought his father's bones back to a Zen-shuu temple, Rinsouin. He said that he liked going to the Joudou lectures, and that in the end, Zen and Joudou are really the same anyway. And he was happy to have studied for 10 - 13 years the Joudou teachings, which he considers very valuable. He thinks that the place in one's soul that is trained by both Zen and Joudou is the same place. So nenbutsu sanmai and zazen try to achieve the same thing. He thinks that this background is one of the reasons that he ended up accepting the role of Gishin for Shunryu Suzuki.
So when the representatives from the Soudai came to me and asked me if I would please be Shunryu Suzuki's Gishin for the Shinzan-shiki. I said that I couldn't possibly accept the job. But they told me that they would guarantee that it wouldn't cost me any money to do so. And they insisted, and so I decided to accept the role. Becaus they guaranteed that I wouldn't have to pay any money to do it [laughter]. I think that it was may fate [karma] coming around to me.
Peter asks if Gishin means that he is the head of the lay congregation. Fumiko asks Amano-san about this.
Amano: According to what I have heard, Suzuki Houjou-sama considers my house as his home,(2) and it is from my house that he enters into the temple.
Well, he was in the temple up until that point. He was under the tutelage of Suzuki Gyokujun Roshi. So the 34th Houjou was Gyokujun Roshi. And next, for some reason there was the 35th Houjou who was entered as an interim administrator. And he (Shunryu Suzuki) was the heir to Gyokujun Sokou, no, Sou'on, becoming the 36th Houjou. So to perform the shinzan-shiki, Shunryu Suzuki started all over again by first entering my household, making it his home, and then leaving it so as to enter the temple. So I became his father(4)(oya). And that's what is done in these cases. It is a kind of ceremony, or formality. So if he is asked where he came from, he will say that he came from my house. So he left my house to enter the temple and become the apprentice of Gyokujun Sou'on-Roshi.
Fumiko: So after the ceremony, what is your relationship?
Amano: Parent and child (oyako).
Fumiko: So if there is some problem, he will come to you any time he needs to, for assistance.
Amano: That's right.
Fumiko: And he considers you his father.
Amano: Yes. That's the relationship that we establish. So that is why it is called "Giri no oya," (parent out of duty), or Gishin. So he asks my advice about anything. And when he decided to get married too. I became the go-between and did other things that had to be done. There were some difficult problems involved. When he decided to marry his present wife.
Fumiko: Here it says that in Showa 22 the Doujou was opened. Does that mean that a new Doujou was built?
Amano: No, it was there already. And we have been holding sanzen-kai from Showa 22 to the present.
Fumiko: So when you say that the Doujou was opened, you mean that it was opened to lay people.
Amano: Yes. There was a Doujou there before.
Fumiko: So there was a Doujou, and before that...
Amano: There were unsui.
Fumiko: But they weren't training much?
Amano: That's right. It wasn't being used for a while. And it was opened as a sanzen doujou. It is a designated (shitei) doujou of the Soudou Sect. But it is not a dedicated (senmon, "specialized") doujou. A dedicated doujou would come under the administration of the Shuumuchou.(3) [Fumiko asks if there is any other difference besides administration] Well, being under the administration of the Shuumuchou means that although the facility itself is on the grounds of the temple, when it comes time to make repairs, or additions, it is done with money from the Shuumuchou. [Fumiko asks again if there is a difference between designated and dedicated doujous] A designated doujou is one that operates on a smaller scale, and with the financial backing of the temple alone. This doujou is not a dedicated doujou, it's a designated doujou. And it is open to anyone who wants to practice there.
Fumiko: And so there were some lay people who practiced there, but I image that there were also some people from Rinsouin too. Weren't there any unsui there?
Amano: Yes unsui would practice there. Well, there used to be unsui at Rinsouin. I am pretty sure that there were unsui there. Yes, there were unsui there, it seems.
Fumiko: When Shunryu Suzuki took over, there were...
Amano: ...no unsui by that time. Well, there might have been a few... maybe one or two. I don't remember well, though. Right Houitsu-san?
Houitsu Suzuki: Yes.
Amano: Before your father's shinzan-shiki... before his shinzan-shiki... well YOU wouldn't know, now, would you... [laughter from all] We,,. I THINK there were some there...
Houitsu Suzuki: There were some unsui there.
Amano: I think so... when you were still little...
Houitsu Suzuki: Yes there were some there when I was little. About 3 of them.
Amano: I thought so.
Houitsu Suzuki: Yes, definitely.
Fumiko: So that means that at the sanzen doujou there would be lay people and unsui practicing together, then.
Houitsu Suzuki: Yes, yes...
Fumiko: So then, before Shunryu Suzuki opened the sanzen doujou in 1947, There were no lay practitioners there. It was just the unsui...?
Houitsu Suzuki: Yes. [Amano-san says "There might have been some lay people who used it too...] At times, even if there was not a formal sanzen gathering, there were people who came for sanzen.
Fumiko: So then it was from 1947 that it was made formal. As a sanzen doujou. Houitsu Suzuki: That's right.
Fumiko: Thank you
[HS seems to leave at this time, pause, translation. Discussion of sanzen-kai being the same as a zazen-kai for lay people].
Carl: Did they sit zazen at all?
Fumiko: Yeah, they...
Carl: Well find out exactly how much. I don't think so... [laughter]
Fumiko: How much zazen was done at the sanzen-kai?
Amano: In terms of time?
Fumiko: Yes. Where the lay people would participate.
Amano: There were about 25 people from the lay congregation. In the beginning, in 1947, when it began, it was mostly men. But, men have to work in the daytime, right? So they held it beginning in the evening and ending at night. And then elderly ladies started to join. Elderly ladies have little to do, you know? And gradually, there were more of them than anyone else. So then the elderly ladies didn't want to come at night, they asked to change the gathering to the daytime. And the men began to disappear one by one. And now there were more women than men. The women would bring other women into the gathering. And now it is all women. And in my case, because I have a special reason for going, I can't stop going even if I don't want to anymore. And so I have been going now for 24 years. And I am sort of in charge of it, and even though I want to stop going... Don't misunderstand me, I mean stop being in charge... But I can't stop going. If I don't take care of it, it will fall apart. And those who come to the gathering, they have money, you see, and if something is held at the temple, it's not like I say anything about it, but for example, last month... there was the 500th death anniversary and this news gets around, and the members of the group start to make donations... or let's say the roof has to be changed, or when the new bell was raised, last year...
So every time there is something to do, the sanzen-kai helps out a great deal. The sanzen-kai built the toilet too, you know. Or when the tatami had to be changed for the sanzen doujou. The group members do those things for us. It is our sanzen-kai, so let's not ask the temple to pay for the tatami, let's do it ourselves. And that's how they do things without any support at all from the temple. And here I am, in charge of this group, and among the members, there are only two that are actually from the congregation of Rinsouin. Everyone else is from other sects. Yes, that's right, they are not from the Rinsouin congregation. So that's the kind of group i is, you see? So they have to be treated like guests. They help out... There are many times... Well they meet only once a month. But they do meet. And whenever there is an event, they pay some of the cost of it. Because it is a group that doesn't cost the temple any money... That's what I think, and so I keep taking care of it... It is a bother, but I take care of them and receive dues, and some of it goes to Roshi, and some of it is rent, I use the dues that way and the group keeps on going.
Fumiko: So it's once a month, that they meet...
Amano: Yes, once a month. And it consists of 1 hour of lecture, and 30 to 40 minutes of zazen. That's the kind of activity it is. And every other month, we eat together. And the meal is made by a group of 4 people from the group, and they take turns. They make something, and when it is cold we get the hibachi burning. And make some tea and get some snacks. And the meal is prepared, and then wash up... And everything is done without any help from the temple, and then we all go home. We take turns doing this.
Amano: [begins with the statement: "...has absolutely no conception (kannnen)." goes on to talk about the representatives of the lay congregation of the temple, I assume that this is about Rinsouin. That there are 6 of them, and one of them, Sakamoto, lives at the base of a mountain (foothill?). They are the ones who pay the most attention to the well-being of the temple.] Those 6 people are the permanent representatives (soudai) to the neighborhood. Their attitude towards Gyokujun Sou'on Roshi was no one of deference, but rather you might say that they felt themselves to be his equal. But one thing that I think could not be helped, was the fact that with the end of the war, the position of the temple... before the temple had funds (juryou ??). It did not have to worry about what the lay congregation said. It had funds with which it could support itself. So it did not have to depend upon the lay congregation to operate. And that... well, after the war temples became corporations. And it was as if a monkey had fallen from a tree.(5) This was the case for the Shinto Shrines as well. They became equal. The feeling of obligation disappeared. And that was one of the issues of the time. And so, people who had a high position became normal people. And at the same time, those with a low position( were raised. And the high people had fallen. And the idea (kannen) of "equality"... Things were ruled by such ideas. And the effects... I think you can say that all the temples dealt with the same issues. And because of the dominance of such ideas... what I mean is the Houjou used to consider himself important. And now he had been lowered to an equal position with the lay congregation. And those who were lower were raised.
[Amano-san continues to describe the situation after the war--that the farmers who had had nothing were given land, and they were as if they had "cut off the head of an ogre," and that the land owners were lowered, and had their land taken away. And that this was the mood of the postwar years. Importan people were seen to have fallen, and unimportant people were seen to have been raised to become more important. So the way people thought about each other changed, and you had people treating the Houjou like one of the boys. The inference is that they ceased to respect the temple and the Houjou. Amano-san describes this as sounding like the Houjou was treated like a friend, instead of as an important person.] It is not that the Houjou's character had become less respectable. It was the change in the ideas of the day. And it was just at that time that Shunryu Suzuki became the Houjou of the temple.
Fumiko: But Shunryu Suzuki himself is... well, of course he is worthy of the title, but, how can I say... He is the kind of person you can easily feel familiar with.
Amano: Yes. There is that aspect of his personality too. Roshi is very much a regular person. He wasn't the type of person to act important in any way. He was the type of person whom anyone could talk to without difficulty. So even if his position had fallen... there is a saying, "sea bream is still sea bream, even when it has gone bad." (kusattemo tai)(6) He was warm, and a real person no matter what. In Sou'on-Roshi's time, the juryou was still there, and the temple was well off. And he had a high position in society. And so, the lay congregation respected him no matter what. One kept one's head down when listening to him, that sort of thing. And I felt anger at this situation. And that was one of the sad things about loosing the war. We lost the war, and that meant that the temple had to change to a corporation. And some things were lost. Some things were gained too. And because it was such a time, Houjou-san had to become a normal person whether he had wanted to be or not. Those were the times, and you might say that for the common people it was easier than before. [What does Hoitsu think of the temple's loss of power after the war and the fact that priests were more equal?]
Fumiko: Were the members of the lay congregation happy that such a change had come? Or, ... how can I say this...
Amano: My opinion is that Shunryu Suzuki did not become that way because he had no choice. Even if the system had remained as before, and the temple had retained its fiscal independence from the lay congregation, I do not think that Shunryu Suzuki would have been the came kind of person as Gyokujun Sou'on Roshi had been. (7)[Amano-san repeats himself, saying that Shunryu Suzuki didn't change, but people did feel more at ease in being able to speak to him as an equal. At worst, there was contempt for the Houjou. An example of this was that when Shunryu Suzuki announced that he would go to the US. for 3 years, someone said that it was too long, and that he should come back in a year and a half. Amano-san did not think that way. He thought that Shunryu Suzuki had said 3 years just to be able to say something at the time. Amano-san thought that he would "become part of the soil of America." But others thought that they wanted him back, so they said he should come back sooner than he announced that he would. But Shunryu Suzuki probably knew that he would not be coming back. He just could not ask everyone to accept it outright.(8)
Fumiko: What do you think was his motive for going to America?
Amano: Well, as far as that goes, when Houjou-sama was going to college, he was a houseboy for an English family. And so he was able to speak English to a certain extent. And that was one of his weapons.(9) And he had a close friend who is not the Shuuou Souchou--a very important position, as you know--of the Soudou Sect. His name was Gidou Yamada. This person was the Kyouka Buchou. The Kyouka Buchou gives permission for activities in foreign countries.
Fumiko: Did Shunryu Suzuki sit zazen every day when he was in Japan?
Amano: When he was at the Temple? Do you mean like at times such as the sanzen-kai?
Fumiko: No, by himself.
Amano: Oh, by himself. When he was at the Temple... [hard to hear, it would seem that the answer is something to the effect that he would go off to Yaizu every morning as soon as he woke up. That there was no time to be quietly at the Temple. Fumiko asks why he would go off.] Oh, it would be for the kindergarten. If he went to Yaizu it was usually for some kindergarten matter.
Fumiko: So, where did the idea of going to America as a missionary come from?
Amano: The prior priest at Soukouji was going to quit. And it was necessary to get a replacement. The priest before was from Kumamoto. Watabe or Watase was his name, I think. And after he returned, Soukouji was without a priest. He came here in May of 1959. And it had to be with his wife, it seems, and 2 years later his wife came. So it was known that he would quit, and from that time the temple was without a priest.(10) And so before he quit, there was the suggestion that he take over for him. And that was the matter that Yamamura-san had come to talk about. [This is so interesting that Sokoji wanted a married priest (why?) so that Shunryu got married so that it was true on paper and then didn't bring her.]
Fumiko: How did the lay congregation react to Roshi's final decision to stay here?
Amano: I think you could say they were surprised. Well, "surprised"... they had said come back after a year and a half. So, when I say surprised, I mean that, well, no one thought that he would return to dust in America. "Three years is too long. Come back in a year and a half." That's what they said, and, well, they meant, "Come back soon, OK?" That's how they thought of it. They had no idea that it would end up like this. There is a river called the Oi River beyond Yaizu... And before you get to the river there is a city called Shimada. And Mr. Kouzou Katou, who is a famous... And Katou-san got angry, and said "Hey, what do you think about that, Rinsouin's gonna turn into dust in America." That's what he was saying. Well, I myself, although he had said 3 years, I thought it might turn into 5 or 10 or so. But after he grew old, I expected that he would find a replacement and come back. But as he actually grew older, I had a faint feeling that he had decided to return to the dust in America. But the lay people kept asking, "when is he coming back?" And I said that he would eventually be coming back, but... I began to think like Katou-san...
After a while a letter comes asking for his wife to be sent over... everyone really loves Houjou-san, as if he were a living Buddha, right? They loved him. The white people who were his pupils thought that way, and he didn't think he wanted to come back. That was written in a letter. And so I thought that was the way it should be. There's no way he will come back. So when I saw that letter, I thought, well, he has made his decision. And so to answer your question, we, of the lay congregation, the way we thought about it... as I said before, the organization had changed, right? The important people had fallen and the unimportant had been raised. [returns to a discussion of the issue, saying that unimportant people had started to feel important, etc. Houjou and congregation dealt with the issue as to friends would.]
Fumiko: So one of the reasons that Gyokujun-Roshi was respected was because of his position, then.
Amano: Yes, that was one reason, and the other reason was because he was a very talented administrator. He was able to achieve projects that others couldn't imagine. He thought 30, 40 years ahead. He made plans for the future, he didn't just act in the present, and others weren't capable of this. That's why he was respected.
Carl: Did any other people consider Shunryu Suzuki to be their teacher, or was he just the head of the kindergarten?
Amano: No, there was no one like that. Well, the opportunity for him was here and it went extremely well. Yamamura-san was the Kyouka Buchou too... And he was able to be the replacement for the priest at Soukouji. It all worked out very well. It was fortunate circumstances. And he came over here, and put his soul into his mission. There he was in a situation with no petty concerns. He was on a mission as a mission should be. And I think that is what moved so many people. So if he had stayed in Japan, he would have had to live in a more complex world, I suppose you could say... well, a temple priest should not have to worry about the world and its ways very much, really... he should just concentrate on spreading the word for the Soudou Sect... but as I said, we had all become equal, and that was the situation we had in Japan. So he had to blend in with society to a certain extent. And so if he had stayed in Japan he would have had to deal with a certain degree of petty concerns.
If he had stayed in Japan he would have had to blend in or he wouldn't have been able accomplish anything (yowatari)(11). And in such a situation, his mission would be left poorly done (orosoka), you know? At any rate it would be reduced in effectiveness. But even if he thought he was better than others, they wouldn't see him as anything special. Because his mission was reduced in effectiveness... But here, he could just order (ippouteki ni)... I mean, well, when you compare the attitude of his pupils here in comparison to that of his pupils in Japan you see a gap, you know? [Houitsu says something is a loud voice, Amano-san repeats what he has just said, emphasizing that the attitude of Shunryu Suzuki's pupils in the US and Japan is very different and that it is only natural to expect that considering the circumstances.] And so I think that we have yet to be able to evaluate what Shunryu Suzuki has been able to achieve here in San Francisco. To what degree... So I will report about his achievements at a meeting (Soudai-kai) assoon as I return. I'll tell them that this is the way he is working... and I'll tell them about Tassajara...
Fumiko: Did you visit it?
Amano: I went there yesterday and the day before yesterday. Out there in the hills... were you there?
Amano: It's really something, I think... A place that's pure and absolutely clear... I really think it would wonderful if someone went there to train, I really do! There simply aren't any places like that, really. And to see how hard everyone works at their jobs... I asked him, "Houjou-san, who chose that place?" And he said, "I did." And I said "No, I mean that there must have been someone who lead you to it." Right? I mean, he had to have someone who lead him to it, right? Well, he said that he decided that it was a good place by himself... So I really think that effect of one's strength really always depends upon the environment that one finds oneself in. When you can concentrate all your efforts in one place, and squeeze out all the strength that you have into it, well, that becomes a great deal of strength, you know? If it is dispersed then it's no good. And now I have come here and seen with my own eyes the work that Houjou-san did, and heard from the Americans themselves about it. So I'll go back and tell everyone about it, and try to get them to understand. That's all that can be done. And I think that the best thing is for me to tell them to come and see it for themselves... "look at this, look at that"... And I plan to go back soon. I myself have things to do... I told you about the Inn that my wife and I have, well it's being run by my oldest son...
So they have a role in society... and another son is a judge, and another is an official who works for the protection of human rights under the law (jinken yougoin), and one is working for the Chamber of Commerce, they all are working for the public benefit (houshi). [I am not sure who is doing these things, whether it is Amano-san's sons or Amano-san himself] And when I came here I had some obligations, but I had to tell them that I was going to take a little trip, and I found someone to take my place, and that's how I came here. But I had planned to return on the 18th. But then Houjou-san says "Stay for the shinzan-shiki on the 21st." So what am I going t do? Say no? I can't do that. So I decided to take the jumbo on the 23th. And at 3:05 at night on the 24th I think it is? When we arrive at Haneda... And then my third son is in Yokohama, so I'll stay with him. And I'll go back on the 25th. [A woman comes in to suggest that if there are many questions to be asked still, that Amano-san answer in less detail, and that they should continue after having lunch. There is laughter. Fumiko begins to translate. After translation, all decide that it would be better not to ask any more questions that day.]
These are notes on words in the text by Fred Harriman:
(1) Gishin. Later on this is referred to as "Father-in-law," but a better translation is "Step-parent," or "adopting parent."
(2) "Zaisho," meaning the house where one was born. It is a formal way of saying home.
(3) "Yama e hairu," "going into the mountains." I am assuming that "yama" means a holy place, or a religious practice or duty.
(4) Oya, means father in this case not only because Amano is a man, but because when the term is used in a ceremonial sense as it is here, it also means "boss," or "the person who gives you orders and advises you." So here, father is used in the sense that Amano takes on a degree of authority over Shunryu Suzuki.
(5) This is from a saying, "Sometimes even monkeys fall from trees." A monkey is at home in a tree, and it is an extremely rare, almost inconceivable thing that a monkey would fall from a tree, but it does happen.
(6) The idea of this saying is that sea bream, or "tai," is considered the best of all fishes. It is so good, that even when it has gone bad, it is still better than others. This is applied to Shunryu Suzuki, in that his character was so fundamentally good, that it made little difference that the general respect for the temples had been lost.
(7) There is a slight feeling of relief in Amano-san's speech, after having made a difficult point. He seems to have been trying hard not to leave the impression that he himself has drawn the conclusion that things were better before the war when the Houjou had respect regardless of his character. For him, the change was difficult, and he may even have fought it. But it would seem that he is now able to reflect more objectively on it, and although he still may not feel that the change was an improvement, he is trying hard to keep an open mind about it.
(8) I would say that Amano-san's evaluation of Shunryu Suzuki's intentions at this time is probably accurate. It is common for Japanese to approach a difficult situation in such a way, rather than come clean and state one's intention's honestly.
(9) Note that Amano is not answering the question directly. But think that one can deduce that the reason Amano-san began his answer with Shunryu Suzuki's experience with foreigners at an early age, that what he is trying to say is that Shunryu Suzuki had maintained a desire to go abroad ever since his time with the English family. In talking about Shunryu Suzuki's influential friend, I also think that he means to say that Shunryu Suzuki had always planned to go aborad if the chance ever came, and that he probably made this clear to those in the Sect's organization who might help him to do so. His reference to his English ability as a "weapon" makes more sense if such is the context.
(10) "Kuuseki" or "open seat" may not mean that the priest was not actually there, but that his successor wad not been chosen yet.
(11) Amano-san uses the words "seken" and "yo" to describe society, and these have a Buddhist nuance to them. They are not words that are used by sociologists, but rather have a more general use, and their meanings are based on Buddhist, religious concepts of the world being a place where attachment is easy and relationships often lead to the compromise of ideals.
Home | What Was New | Contest | Digressions | Links | Jacket Notes | Book Reviews | Reader's Comments
Author's Notes | Bibliography | Author Events | About the Author | Errata |
Interviews | Suzuki Stories | Photos | Suzuki Lectures | Archives Project | Sangha News | Contact Me
This site designed by
The Empty Wig
Original site designed by Sheryl B.