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About Suzuki Roshi    

Excerpts cut from Mitsu Suzuki's discussion with the Takakusayamakai (the High Grass Mt. Group) in April of 1994

Go to Mitsu Suzuki Main Page

It was Shunryu, as a college student then, who fervently cheered Daito Suzuki-roshi who went to Los Angeles. He went to see the roshi off at Yokohama port with "burning emotions." And the first funeral he officiated at Sokoji was that of Daito-roshi. Roshi had been working as a sokan in Los Angeles.

People in America understood me because I spoke at a kindergarten level when I talked with them. Although my English vocabulary was very small, I spoke in clear and simple terms and I was able to make myself understood quite well. When I was first asked by Hojo-san to come to join him in the States, he said I didn't need to understand a single word in English. He said I would only need to be able to say "One tofu, please" and "One radish, please" at a grocery store. So, I went. But all the telephone calls that came to the Zen Center were from hippies.

So I needed to study English. The new term started in September so I joined an adult school to learn English. I didn't even understand "sit down." But when a teacher asked if there was anyone who knew an English song, I raised my hand, answered, "Haaaai!" stood up, and proudly sang "A B C D E F G . . ." on the first day of school. Well, you would figure out about my personality.

The teacher said that she knew my husband and that he was an excellent student. In a written test he got full mark 100 points. She accused him of cheating because he had always been quiet in class. But that was her mistake. She said so. Shunryu said, "No I didn't cheat," with a smile.

A little before he died Hojo told me to go back to Japan. It seemed his intention was "saitokudo" (reordination) -- the practice of a Buddhist priest to leave his wife and spend the last moments with his students away from family. I thought it might have been possible if he had a Japanese disciple to look after him, because when you are old and ill, you need someone who is capable of understanding your needs only by your single wink. Also, I was the only one who had been cooking Japanese food for him. I simply couldn't leave him. I could have left him if we were in Japan. But I couldn't leave him in that condition, so I wrote a letter to Ho-chan. He wrote me and Hojo that he wanted me to stay there by all means , otherwise Hoitsu or Yasuko would have to go take care of him. That letter convinced Hojo to give up the idea of saitokudo. He gave up.

Before his death I sarcastically said, "Hojo-san, you were lucky that you had someone who could take care of you till the last moment." He did like this (showing some gesture with her hand).

He wouldn't have been able to ask for intimate care in English and for Japanese food from his American students, would he...

I would have been better off financially, if I hadn't married Hojo-san as I would have been able to receive pensions as a war widow as well as payments for working at the kindergarten. However, I have received great spiritual reward and security, thanks to him and people of Zen Center.

When I came back here after my marriage (to Shunryu), Hoitsu had some uncomfortable feeling toward me. But when time went by he understood how I helped Hojo. I was very glad to know that. Without selfish motivation, I did my best to fulfill Hojo's wishes. It was my firm conviction that I should not do anything which might create any inconveniences to Hojo being Rinsoin's jushoku. I told this to Hoitsu, since then his attitude toward me changed. Yasuko also wrote a long letter to me. So I thought if I was being honest, people would understand eventually without me telling anyone. I didn't dare to put myself in such a difficult place, but when I was asked from Hojo-san I couldn't say "no." I could get pension of my ex-husband and I was soon eligible for my own pension. So financially it was disadvantage for me to get married to Hojo-san. So before he died he told one of the old dankas that he "gave her a hard time." But spiritually I gained so much by marrying him.

I had been getting $300 from Zen Center by teaching tea ceremony. And even after I left for Japan, the president of Zen Center said they would send it every month. I refused his offer, saying when I used up all my savings, and if I was still alive, I would ask you. The president of Zen Center even asked my close friend, [Ueda] a teacher of tea ceremony, if what I told him was true or not. I can even get money from Hojo's book being translated into seven languages.

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