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Interview with Ken Sawyer

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Sawyer Construction - he actually is a sawyer

Back Porch Zendo


Ken Sawyer
as told to DC at various times.

Ken was ordained by Katagiri Roshi as a priest. Katagiri also married him and his wife Eli*z*abeth - asterisks so Google won't pick up on her name here

Ken is one of the people I've got a jinx with as far as keeping track of what they've told me. I lost a tape with him and Elizabeth and had to re-interview them. Ken and Elizabeth have been best friends since the early seventies. Their son Micah was born at Green Gulch Farm eight days before Daya Goldschlag's and my son Kelly was born there and Kelly and Micah grew up together till Kelly was 13. I have more on Ken back home I know I'll find and am determined to get even more from him, otherwise I'd put this in Brief Memories, but this is what I have here now. - dc


A few times I was Suzuki Roshi's jisha during one summer at Tassajara and it was such a powerful experience for me. I remember following him across the bridge on the way to zazen and the han going and him stopping on the bridge and looking up the creek and I had a total sense that there wasn't any person there, he was totally merged with the creek.

It was the summer of the Sandokai lectures. I remember that Alan Marlowe was his jisha and they spent a lot of time working the rocks around what was going to be the founder's cabin at that time. Okusan and Alan and he and one or two other people would be out there a lot working on rocks. I remember him imitating Okusan jabbering. He'd go jabber, jabber, jabber, jabber, every once and a while.

The big physical impression for me was the transmission ceremony, the mountain seat ceremony. He came in and his body was a brown mustard color. It almost felt like the body wasn't alive anymore, that there was just this incredible spirit carrying him. I'll never forget Katagir Roshi's scream at his funeral.

I came in at the time when he wasn't seeing newer students so much. I only had dokusan with him twice.

A story Ken told is found on page thirty-nine of Zen Is Right Here.

A student told Suzuki about an experience he described as dissolving into amazing spaciousness.

"Yes, you could call that enlightenment," Suzuki said, "but it's best to forget about it. And how's your work coming?"


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