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A brief interview with Grahame Petchey about the initial incorporation of ZC.   This brief interview relates to Comments by DC on description of Shunryu Suzuki on SFZC website.

See interview with Grahame Petchey       


Grahame Petchey interviewed August 6th and 7th, 2005 on the phone at his home in Sebastopol. Mostly done on the 6th but he called me on the 7th with some corrections and additional info.

[Grahame and I agreed to skip the beginning part of the story of the incorporation of Zen Center because we've got that down - it's on cuke.com and in Crooked Cucumber. I think it was Hense who came up with the name Zen Center. But Hense had a breakdown, what might be called a psychotic breakdown, and so Grahame picked up where Hense left off. - DC]

DC: So what do you remember about the initial incorporation of Zen Center?

GP: In 1962, Betty Warren, Jean Ross, and I met with a lawyer from Berkeley with the idea of drawing up an outline of what Zen Center was all about and what sort of governance we should have. The bi-laws were set up in the usual way stating the number of directors [board members] and officers. The officers were three - president, treasurer, and secretary. We came up with suggestions for who would fill these positions.

There was a meeting to which the members of Zen Center were requested to attend. There were thirty or so in attendance. I remember writing the names of nominees - possibly on a blackboard. I remember little pieces of paper and writing down numbers so I suppose we had a secret ballot.

I was elected president, Dick was treasurer, and Connie Luick was secretary. Suzuki was there but he said nothing. There were to be six directors, two elected each year and two stepping down. I don't remember how the initial board was decided on or who was on it.

DC: Was Don Allen on it?

GP: I don't think so. He was not so well known. He came to zazen but not daily.

DC: But he was close with you guys and Suzuki. Dick told me he was the first chairman of the board.

GP: We had no chair.

DC: I put that in Crooked Cucumber - Don was one of the few people I hadn't checked with - it was such a tiny mention - and he wrote me a note saying that Dick had put him on the board without asking him and that he always resented it and please take it out of the book. So I did. You can read about it in the Errata section of www.cuke.com or in the interview with him.

          [And from the interview with Don Allen on cuke:

          DC: You were the first president of the board of the Zen Center.

DA: Yes, but I didn't know about it at the time. Dick just did that without asking me. He used my name when they were arguing about their letterhead.]

DC: And Don also asked me to take out that he said to call Suzuki Suzuki Roshi. He said he didn't know about that word then, that title. Dick got him confused with Alan Watts I guess. I should have checked on that at the time.

GP: We didn't use the word roshi back then.

DC: So on the Zen Center web site it states that Suzuki was the first abbot of Zen Center.

GP: We didn't say abbot.

DC: He was the jushoku of Sokoji, the chief priest of Sokoji - since the spring of that year. It was made official earlier that year. But was he the priest of Zen Center, the chief priest?

GP: He wasn't mentioned in the papers of incorporation.

DC: Oh, so it wasn't a corporation sole?

GP: No, that came later. Dick showed the new papers on incorporation to me in Japan, in Kobe, in 1968. I think it was already done. He said it was done to protect Tassajara and to protect the teaching of Suzuki Roshi I think. Something like that. He may have been thinking about himself in the future too.

DC: So it was just like a regular church with no mention of a priest.

GP: Yes. The idea following Bob Hense's initial draft was to provide an organization for backbone and financial support for the zazen group.

DC: And what was done before you were Zen Center?

GP: We used to jokingly call it "the block" before the board. Dick, Don Allen, Virginia [Baker], Pauline [Petchey], and I would discuss things outside and then vote together.

DC: OK. Very good. Thanks.

GP: My pleasure.

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