I am going to write here a summary of my friendship with Tim Buckley
and our intertwining lives in relationship to Buddhist practice.
That's about all I have to tell.
You know, I first met Tim Buckley in 1962 in Cambridge Mass and we
immediately became fast friends - he was a Harvard student and we had
mutual friends in Alpert & Leary's post-graduate lsd program, and all
the edgy types dropped acid and became Seekers. There was a New
York/Cambridge psychedelic circuit that we were on. We explored
all different paths from Gestalt therapy (the Orgone box) to Gurdjieff,
and by 1964 Buddhist became the focus of a lot us. That year Tim
and I shared an abandoned ranger cabin up in Maine. I brought rice
paper and ink and Tim brought his Saxophone and we played Go a lot.
Then in 1965 my girlfriend and I moved to San Francisco and soon after
Tim came out and lived with us for a while. He came home one day
and said he'd found this amazing zen center up on Bush Street, and soon
I went up there to sit with him.
Katagiri took me aside in that little alcove where the shoes went and
showed me how to sit zazen and how to bow. Of course I didn't know
what I was doing - none of us did - and I was sitting there facing the
wall and I could see that this Japanese Guy was walking along behind us.
He stopped behind me and leaned over and whispered in my ear "Greeting"
and then chuckled and walked on. I only found out later that I was
supposed to gassho when he passed behind me. That day I sat
between Silas and Fran Keller. So then I would go sit sometimes and to
the lectures, which were pretty hard to understand - I don't think very
many people did, but it didn't matter - we all knew we were in the
presence of the Real Thing. There was no doubt that Suzuki Roshi
had the goods.
Tim took to it like a duck to water and became really involved right
away, but I was trying to do some other things to straighten my life out
from the drug life I'd been living in NYC, so our lives took us in
different directions and places but we stayed in touch. Two years
later Tim was living at Tassajara as the office Manager, and my wife
Barbara and I went down to see him. He asked us to pick up 2 bags
of Koda Brothers brown rice on the way down and we did.
It was during the guest season and we were eating with the guests and
David Chadwick was one of the servers. It was the first time I had
met him and he was hamming it up with the guests. One of the
female guests had a really low-cut decollage, and David was leaning in
trying to get a good view and meanwhile a soup bowl on his tray was
spilling down onto the table.
I was really attracted to that monastic life but it just didn't seem
possible for me for some reason. Life went on and by 1971 I was
living at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico and I sat a sesshin with Dr
Seung Byung Seo, a Korean Zen Master, who I took Refuge with. I
took it really seriously and felt it was a turning point in my life.
I became friends with Jonathan Altman and through him met Maggie Kress
and Niels. Soon after that Maggie moved to Taos and she and I
became an item. But Fran Keller was there, renting her root cellar
and Fran and I got together and got married. About that time Kobun
Chino came to Taos to ski and got some funding to buy a place just up
the hill from us in Arroyo Seco, and installed Bob Watkins as the
Not long after that the shit hit the fan with Dick Baker, and he showed
up in New Mexico one day looking for Kobun, trying to consolidate some
support for his situation.
Fran and I got into the Peyote religion pretty deep and were putting up
Peyote meetings in a tipi at our house. Tim had gone back to
school in Chicago, but came down to attend a Peyote meeting with us, and
we formally adopted each other as Brothers at that time.
I know that he and I both kept altars and sitting cushions in our homes
even though for several years neither of us had much affiliation with
formal Buddhist sanghas. I sat a sesshin here and there - with
Joshu Sasaki in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, and at the Lama Foundation.
But I was busy putting together a career as a Librarian and being a
householder, and didn't seem to have much time for Buddhist Practice.
But then in 1993 I met Pat Hawk, a Dharma Heir of Robert Aitken, at
Mountain Cloud in Santa Fe, and it clicked into place for me. I took
Jukai with him and four years later went to Hawaii to spend some time
with Aitken and the Honolulu Diamond Sangha. I did a 90 day Ango
with them every winter for 3 years after that, and sat sesshins with Pat
during the rest of the year, becoming a senior student of his, and
functioning as Jisha and Tanto for a good many of his Sesshins.
But Tim was having a hard time. He hated his teaching work at
Boston University and retired as soon as it was possible. And then
his house burned down and he spent several years struggling with
health issues. He'd had it in his mind to start a Zendo and
started studying with Peter Schneider with the ultimate result of
becoming a priest. I went to the ordination as his Jisha, and
about that time, Pat Hawk died. Since then we have been very close
though we haven't seen each other. This Thanksgiving we will be
gathering together with dear friends in North Carolina for a reunion.
I am currently sitting with a small Zendo here in Port Angeles [North
Olympic Sangha], and Tim
is being the priest at Great
River Zendo in Bath, Maine.
From an earlier email:
The last time I saw you was when I had breakfast with
you and your son and Stan White at the Taos Inn and I was managing the
Kit Carson Home and Museum.
Soon after that I became a 32nd Degree Mason, and then dropped out of it
because the thrill was gone, and got back into zen, which has had a way
of sticking with me when everything and everyone else failed me.
So here I am living in Port Angeles, Washington for the past 3 years,
about 50 miles from Port Townsend. We had a 1 year memorial service for
Pat Hawk in
Tucson in May, and they asked me to make the urn for his ashes. I
have been a wood-turner for a few years, so I made an urn out of
You know the Aitken line (Diamond Sangha) comes from Yamada Koun
and the Sanbo Kyodan school in Japan [and before that from
Harada-Yasutani], and they have this blend of Soto and Rinzai ways.
One of them is they have a curriculum of about 500 koans that you do
presentations on to the teacher in Dokusan. I started the
curriculum with Pat Hawk in 1994 and was very close to finishing it by
the time he died in May of 2012, and just recently completed it with one
of his Dharma Heirs, Kristen Larson, who is the teacher at the Diamond
Sangha group here in Port Angeles that I sit with. She and I are old
friends for 20 years, through sitting with Pat Hawk for all that time.
I also spent quite a bit of time at Palolo Zen Center in Honolulu,
and on the Big Island around Aitken Roshi in his last years, during
which I sat several sesshins with the great teacher Nelson Foster.
Interesting how this all curls around itself.
I'm one of those people who, though I didn't study formally with
Suzuki Roshi, I had some contact with him in the 60s but feel that he
permanently changed and influenced my life more than probably any other