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Interviews in person and on the phone with  Peter and Jane Schneider
by DC

to interviews

Jane and Peter Schneider link page


Peter Schneider was Zen Center's first historian. Look at Peter's Interviews with Shunryu Suzuki with Shunryu Suzuki in 1969. When Suzuki was dying, Peter conducted interviews with the Suzuki family and godfather of his temple in Japan, Amano with the assistance of Carl and Fumiko Bielefeldt and Jane. Later this same group did more interviews in Japan - go to interviews and look on the right side to those done with Japanese. The ones Peter and Jane are involved are indicated by three asterisks. ***. - DC

Peter and Jane Schneider are now teaching at the Beginner's Mind Zen Center in Northridge, Los Angeles.


4\20\94 - At their home in Otsu, Japan, near Kyoto
followed by notes from phone calls, starting with Peter's history.


Jane: with Suzuki Roshi I worked very hard to keep the doors open because he made me feel very much alive.

Peter: He had no philosophy - it was just reality. He saw the difference between reality and what people saw as reality and then he'd talk about the separation.


PS: Jane was jisha [attendant] and I was jisha after her so we went into the baths with him and we both noticed how small he was.

JS: His head was exactly up to my shoulder and we were both in zori.

DC: Peter was worried that a book on Suzuki Roshi would be too mushy.

JS: For me, Suzuki Roshi wasn't just an incredible person. He could be an ordinary person and at the same time have changes of extraordinary quality that I couldn't explain and which didn't make any sense to me. And I believed because of it that with zazen everybody could be the same - that you didn't have to be great. He was ordinary and extraordinary depending on the circumstances. He was extraordinary during sesshin. There would be flashes of lightning out of nowhere when you were speaking with him about very ordinary things - it forced me to snap out of it at the moment. To everyone he was a different person.

I asked Dick Baker once after Suzuki Roshi had given a lecture, do you ever get the feeling that he's talking to just you personally in his lectures? Dick said, everybody says that. I heard this too. And I think anybody has this ability. He's not just one person extraordinary from birth.

DC: Ryuho said that the statue of Suzuki in the kaisando is alive - he said he went there once to Zen Center and saw it was alive and that no one knew but him and that he fell down weeping in front of it. But he was probably totally stoned on something.

JS: I don't feel like he died. I believe he's everywhere, a living presence and not a dead one.

He was so deceptively simple when I spoke to him but when I left I always felt changed in some way I couldn't explain. Sometimes I'd feel disturbed and turbulent inside and sometimes two or three days later I'd go, oh! that's what he meant! I also felt he was the most honest person I ever met. I never felt these layers of stuff between him and me when we were talking, extra stuff. When that stuff comes up doors shut and I didn't want doors shut to him so I'd drop it. It was impossible to go in and sit and play games with him because he simply wasn't there if your door was shut - if your door was shut, his door would shut. So I had to keep the doors open in order to relate with him at every moment and this made me feel alive. It wasn't a case of going to the great master and hearing wise words - I just always felt so alive with him whether I was angry or anything. I always felt lucky and enriched to be around him. I never felt a sense of loss with him. I felt enriched. Suzuki Roshi isn't the only person I ever felt this with but he's the only one I consistently worked on it with - with Suzuki Roshi I worked very hard to keep the doors open because he made me feel very much alive.

PS: Zen Center students were always after Suzuki Roshi to leave Sokoji and Zen Center was growing and we kind of took over Bush Street. The Japanese didn't really complain about it and they liked him and George Hagiwara liked him, but there was some guy who was not an old danka but he came to the temple and he decided to run for president of the congregation and Suzuki Roshi said to him that you shouldn't do that. Suzuki Roshi told me he was trying to help him because he would make a fool of himself running for president - he couldn't win so he didn't want the guy to embarrass himself. Suzuki Roshi didn't do this for himself but for the other guy. I don't know if you could say he was selfless but you never really could find a place where he was taking care of himself - that's for sure. So he talked to the guy and the guy got very angry and he started a campaign at Sokoji to get rid of Suzuki. And Suzuki Roshi used it as an excuse to resign. Then he moved to Page Street. But there was also a time that {the Japanese congregation of] Sokoji told Zen Center that they'd be moving to a new building and that Zen Center would have to move but they had to put that off because they didn't have the money. They were even thinking of moving to a floor of a new building for a while till they built their new temple.

DC: Got any advice for the book on Suzuki? Dick suggested it have three sections: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

JS: Keep it open. If he's defined as one person people won't know that he was someone different for everybody.

PS: The interesting things are gossipy and are superficial. You've got to say what he was about and he wasn't about those things. I would do it Nirmanakaya, Sambogakaya, Dharmakaya.

JS: I remember sitting in the back seat of the car driving over Chew's Ridge and Suzuki Roshi was in the car and he asked me about astrology and I expounded on it for ten minutes and he didn't say a word. And finally he looked at me and said, "You look so serious when you talk."

DC: Once he nudged me on the road at Tassajara just above the zendo and said, "See that woman over there? She's too serious." He would point out quite a bit when we were too serious but when he met Ryuho he proudly said that Americans are very serious about practice.

PS: Suzuki Roshi said when he was young he was interested in fortune telling but when he became older he lost interest in it.

DC: I remember he said once that when he was young he was interested in Chinese astrology but finally decided it wasn't necessary to know so much about yourself.

PS: Art must entertain and must be educational. But you have to do that and become something that you're not. It's very difficult - I couldn't do it - the whole thing.

DC: Dick said the writing will write the book.

PS: What are your shortcomings? How do you write the book so that the wrong part of you doesn't appear?

DC: I get a lot of advice. There won't be any shortage of people pointing out my weaknesses. There could be a Rashamonesque quality to it. AT Gaia Books in Berkeley, Rick Fields told me to keep it short, showing me his latest book which he said was about as short as a book could be.

JS: Have a lot of short chapters and segments.

PS: Take everything of interest in Suzuki Roshi's words and italicize it.

I think you can pass the buck on saying what his teaching was. He had no philosophy - it was just reality. He saw the difference between reality and what people saw as reality and then he'd talk about the separation. He always studied for his lectures but he'd usually speak off the top of his head. If he had to have Buddhist philosophy, he'd kick off with a koan or Dogen and then improvise. But he didn't say he had a Buddhist philosophy. He had a Buddhist reality.

JS: When I was jisha once he gave a lecture one night and for some reason he was very serious and talked about the possibility of his own death and I remember him saying in the lecture, "I'm only 65 but I'll die some day so we need to work harder because I won't always be here." And afterwards when we were walking back to his cabin, he said, "maybe I was too hard on everybody tonight."

PS: We were at one of our rare parties. You and I were in the Unburnables. Afterwards Suzuki Roshi said, "I didn't know you could do that."

DC: That was a drunken spur of the moment band at Ed Brown’s wedding – the biggest bash ever at Tassajara – way over the top.

JS: I was at a party when I was still jisha and I was sitting at the table with Suzuki Roshi and I can remember it was exciting and I kept drinking sake and Suzuki Roshi kept filling my glass and I kept drinking because I thought I should and at one point Dick came over and told me I didn't have to drink so much. I got really sick. The next morning I stumbled into Suzuki Roshi's cabin and he said, "You don't look so good," and I said, "I'm really sick from last night," and he said, "I guess you shouldn't have drunk all that sake."

DC: Well, you know how Japanese keep filling the glasses and you’ve just got to leave it full to stop.

[Jane started laughing and giggling so hard I couldn't understand all of what she was saying. – DC transcribing]

JS: We were driving over Chew's Ridge and we got out to look at something and we were getting into the car and Suzuki Roshi said to me, "Do I remind you of your father?" and I said, "No, not in the least little bit," and he said, "Really?" and I said, "no, my father's real tall - he's 6'4,"" and he said, "Oh you mean that difference."

PS: The book should be as egoless as possible. Not just obvious ego. How do you de-ego it? Kano [an older scholar and artist who lives near them] says writing poetry - it's better not to send something out right after you write it because you'll be embarrassed by a certain percentage of it. A year later you'll be able to see the 15% of your best. I doubt you'll have a small book but the principal is important. The ego of the book should be Suzuki Roshi's and his was never self-focused. And if you listen to others, where is their ego going to take you? He'd say, "don’t go on any trips." So don't do that. If you build on direct quotes that's good.

PS: I have the luxury of not having the presumption of telling you what his teaching was. You can portray it but not say what it is. Give them something real on each page.

JS: He didn't have a teaching. He had a way and for everyone it was different. All he tried to do was wake us up and if you were this way he was that way and if you were that way he was this way. If you came to him resentful he was this way if you came to him giddy he was that way.

DC: That sounds like the sixth patriarch’s admonition to his disciples before he died on how to teach.

PS: Dick could write a book about the psychology and philosophy of Suzuki Roshi.

DC: We agreed there wouldn't be any overlap between us.

PS: But Suzuki Roshi didn't vary what he said about what Zen was to each person. He was consistent with that.

JS: I miss him and even though I feel he's still alive I wish I could see him.

He was teaching every moment. He was relating every moment with complete openness and he'd relate to our big part, not the part that was asleep. He was awake front and back. He saw the part that was asleep and the part that was awake.

DC I said something to Hoitsu once putting into Japanese our phrase "part of me thinks so and so," and he looked at me like I was stupid and said, "Oh, you think you have parts?

But how do you know if you’re asleep – in that way?

JS: Because I'd go see him and when I'd come out, I'd understand more than I could account for. I'd often listen to his lectures and while I sat there I thought I understood everything he was saying and when I came out I couldn't remember a word he said.

PS: Just this past week I understood the iconography of the 10th oxherding picture. Hotei has his bag on his shoulder and is talking to some kids. That's called going back into the village. I realized that those kids are us.

DC: Kids are us – I like it.

PS: Kano said to me, it's hard to understand, but from the dharmic point of view, you see every being as being kawai (cute). But cute isn't it. He saw us as parents see their children. More like that. The affection that someone older feels for someone younger. So I think Suzuki Roshi had that feeling. When he was doing the rocks he wasn't just doing it in the Zen sense but he wasn't aware he was teaching. He was just with us working on the rocks.

DC: He of course felt affectionate toward his students but he loved feeling their affection too. I could see that.

JS: He had a true warmth that you could feel. I think he may have been enjoying the fact that we were all united like that.

DC: Especially when we'd come and go. That was a high point - we'd all come out to the road and bow when he arrived or departed.

PS: I wouldn't say it like you did that he was appreciating us loving him with an ego awareness - that's an extra component that he didn't have.

DC: What do you mean he didn't have it?

JS: He wasn't indulging his ego.

DC: How do you know what he was doing and not doing?

JS: Because we knew him. We were a part of him.

DC: How do you even know what the words mean?

JS: I mean he wasn't thinking of himself when he was noting the affection we gave him as a group. I don't think he reflected that back on himself. I think he just received it. He was open and giving and letting us give.

PS: At a board meeting he said, he hated it when we argued, and we argued a lot.

JS: I remember he'd go to sleep in the middle of them.

PS: Not when we argued.

I remember him saying, "I used to be upset by the way you argue and I thought, you shouldn’t argue like this, but now I've come to appreciate your arguing and I think that it's a good thing."

PS: That was it. I can't get a handle on it but that was it. Anyway, he could get angry but he wouldn't go on a trip when he said goodbye like you made it sound. We can know that.

PS: Some place in the Zen Center stuff Trungpa Rimpoche came to Zen Center and gave a lecture about Suzuki Roshi - probably within a month of when Suzuki Roshi died. It was in the dinning room in the daytime. He said something about, he always accepted you. And then he burst into a huge crying jag out of nowhere. And then he stopped and went on talking again.

JS: Hoichi…

DC: He makes a point that his name is Hoitsu.

JS: Hoichi is Hoitsu's nickname like Bobby for Robert. And at Suzuki Roshi's funeral I was crying and so were a lot of people and he came up and said to me, "I'm truly moved by how many people are moved by my father's death."

PS: I remember going to Daley City for the cremation but I don't remember anything about it.

DC: No one told me about it and I was pissed off. I heard everyone cried very hard.

PS: I don't remember anything special about it.

JS: All the qualities that made him Shunryu were the qualities that made him Suzuki Roshi.

When we were making a big deal of using the oryoki and were being extremely careful in how we put food in the bowls and how we used our hashi and how to fill the bowl only three fourths, one of the servers came out of the kitchen and said [in the kitchen to the servers] she was going to put in little fluffy bits of salad so as not to make the small third bowl too full and she got to Suzuki Roshi and put some salad in and he took his hand and mashed the salad down to the bottom so she could put more in.

He was just real and unaffected. He wasn't trying to be perfect or do it just right. He was adjusting to the situation, whereas we were all trying to follow the rules we'd heard about how to eat oryoki.

DC: Once at Greens we had what Deborah said were three of the greatest chefs in the world and their salads were being served last which was usual for Greens and the busser didn't know and took their forks away and their salads got served and so without making anything out of it they started to eat with their fingers and kept on talking.

I can just hear Niels saying, oh! he pushed the salad down with his fingers! And therefore people say he's so enlightened! What's the big fucking deal? I might push the salad down with my fingers. Does that make me enlightened?

JS: My point is he was very unaffected. And like I said, for everybody there was a whole different Suzuki Roshi.

PS: Suzuki Roshi said to Jane: A man can have an affair in the blink of an eye, but he shouldn't.

JS: I first heard about Avlokiteshvara when Suzuki Roshi gave lectures about it in Tassajara. He talked about Kannon Bodhisattva and I was very impressed - that he was a very compassionate Bodhisattva and I liked that idea - that he was a good role model type - I came from Catholicism and Saints were considered as role models. You'd look at one that you hoped to have the same qualities of. Kannon was always there for other people. My life is terribly changed and I keep going through the same things over and over.

Somebody came to Zen Center and Suzuki Roshi enjoyed his question after the lecture very much. It had to do with, Is the water going under the bridge the same or not? I don't remember what Suzuki Roshi said, but after we came out of the zendo, he said as he was walking back, "He tried to trick me." He liked life in the questions. I think he liked a good challenge.

I look back to Tassajara as paradise when we were all practicing together when we were all a community like one big family all pulling together. Here I'm pulling but the community has space between us. I feel very much alone in my practice here in Japan.

PS: What does if I told you the truth I'd just be sitting here by myself listening to the sounds of your cars driving up the road - what does it mean?

[I’d told Peter a story earlier

DC: If I could really tell you have much you have to give up in order to know who you are, you wouldn't be willing to give that up and you'd leave. It was the day we had Buddha's enlightenment ceremony and a picnic at the Horse Pasture and I sang, "I Want to Be a Bodhisattva Baby" and we had a wonderful time and Suzuki Roshi danced while I sang. And as I remember it Dan Gurley asked Suzuki Roshi why we shouldn't move when our legs hurt and why do we have to be so austere and not be comfortable and Suzuki Roshi answered him and started getting more intense and said, "You don't want a bitter pill. All you want is a sweet pill," and then he started saying, "You're spineless and he jumped off his cushion and started whacking him over all his sweaters which was futile and he might have hit others and he said that thing about how if he told us the truth he’d be left sitting there by himself listening to the sound of our cars driving up the road. And the next day he apologized for getting angry and he was so sweet saying, "Oh, last night I got very angry. I was too angry. I shouldn't get so angry." and the like.

JS: Most of us thought we could change what we were and still be what we are at the same time. We all wanted our cake and to eat it and to have it afterwards and we didn't know we'd loose it. But the shock comes when we've eaten half of it and we see it's half gone.

DC: I thought he picked a weird day - when we'd all had such a good time - to get angry. I wasn't completely impressed. I thought he couldn't handle a pleasant outing and he had to turn it into a serious teaching. What was he trying to do? Was he trying to guilt trip everybody? I'm a little leery of the no pain no gain part of Japanese culture.

JS: I don't like it much either.

DC: But so often he'd be appreciative and tolerant saying, everybody is trying as hard as they can, everyone is making their best effort. Always telling us not to criticize each other. And then I'd be with him and he'd tell me some little criticism of someone. He'd tell me about Bob. He said Bob's so up and down and so I'm worried about ordaining you that he'll get jealous. And I said, don't worry about Bob getting jealous of me. Anyway, you already blew it with Bob when you ordained Reb - that's who Bob will be jealous of - they grew up together. Bob and I aren't competitive. And he acted surprised and went "oh," like he'd done something terrible. And then Bob went to him and told him he didn’t want to be ordained – that he’d just strut around in his robes for a few months and then go off somewhere – something like that. Suzuki loved Bob. And Trungpa did too and Suzuki liked it that Bob went to Trungpa cause he couldn’t control Bob. Of course he couldn’t control me either.

PS: I was talking with Reb last month and he said when he was in grad school in Wisconsin that all his fellow grad students and teachers called him the

Swami. He has the swami personality.

Please do not use the phrase, "American Zen," in your book.

When you come right down to it there isn't any Zen. He said that but none of us believed that there was nothing there. And there is no Buddhist teaching from a certain point of view.

DC: I hope you're right cause I like that.

PS: When you talk about it it's a white lie.

JS: Then why do you listen to Suzuki Roshi talk?

DC: It's part of the schedule.

[Lost words that were something like: You said that Suzuki tried to teach something written or said by the great 20th century Soto master] …Kodo Sawaki. You said, that was only for a short time. What about that?

PS: Katagiri gave Suzuki Roshi a book and Suzuki Roshi was impressed and for a short time he tried to apply the teaching of the book to us. I'm not going to get specific here but it didn't work too well. He didn't know much about him at all. After that short period he had his first operation. Sawaki was very strict and he's well-known and he was pure minded and idealistic and a true Zen master but probably Kishizawa was a better Zen master than he was.

[This might be a book by Hashimoto, Katagiri's teacher, that is referred to later. - DC]


Peter Schneider on the phone at another time:

It was my first sesshin in the winter of 62 and we shifted to a building over for the teeny sesshins because Sokoji had to have their services on Sunday or something like that or the movies on Saturday. It was a building in back with a park behind it for the kids to play basketball and stuff like that. It wasn't in Sokoji proper. At that time Dr. Kazemitsu Kato gave us a lecture and it was on "Why I stopped being a Buddhist."

DC: I think you once told me it was, "Why I stopped being a priest."

PS: I don't remember anything but that but he was very sincere and not justifying - he was just telling facts like they were. It was shocking to everyone. He was still a priest and hadn't moved to LA or written a cook book or anything like that yet. I was moved by it. It was a very strange kind of Zen lecture. Maybe Suzuki-roshi was with parishioners at the time. I don't remember. But he was an early teacher there. He helped with sesshin and he was in charge of Sokoji while Tobase was gone to Japan before Suzuki-roshi arrived. He was pretty young then, in his early thirties. I was twenty-three. He came over as a Soto priest I believe and functioned at Sokoji as a priest. He was teaching at Stanford or something like that at that time.

DC: Maybe that's where Suzuki Roshi got his ideas for starting a zendo near Stanford. But Kato was teaching at UC Berkeley.


Peter Schneider - 11\06\96 – phone

I first met Suzuki Roshi in late 1961. I was a poet and sort of hippie. I came to San Francisco in 61 after finishing my MA. A friend named David McCain who’d been a room mate of mine briefly in college came ahead of us. My brother Gig came out in June. Paul Shippee came out too. Paul, I think, Buvee [sp?] was another member of our group. We knew each other from the U of Conn. We lived on Castro. David had been a boyfriend of Kathy Cook. He worked at a warehouse for books or something called Bookbinders I think. Dick worked there too and they became friends so we became friends. They all left but me. [not sure who you mean here]

I got a job as a tech writer in Palo Alto. I was very unhappy. An old bay guy named Michael Hughes told me to stop smoking and that helped. Then he told me to try zazen and I started sitting by myself. Dick had dropped out of Harvard his last semester and got a job doing some science newspaper for UCB and I helped him with that. Dick was sitting at Zen Center then and he told me I should come try it out so I did and I liked it. I came up on Saturday mornings for the half-day Sokoji thing and then I’d stay that evening with Dick and we’d have sushi and I’d go back to Palo Alto on Saturday.

I liked Suzuki Roshi very much and sat a sesshin between Grahame and Dick. Grahame didn’t move, Dick moved some and I hardly moved at all. I was around Zen Center for six to ten months. I had a friend there named Bob Brown who was a photographer who’d come out to study with Ansel Adams and felt Adams had nothing to teach him. He became friends with Bob Boni.

I got a job as an English teacher at West Michigan U in ‘62. I got involved with a student trip to India which I got in on by signing up for a course as a student. What I was really interested in was Japan and so I went to Japan for a couple of weeks on the way and in Tokyo had someone call Rinsoin for me and what do you know Suzuki Roshi was there. [63?] So I took the train from Tokyo and visited. Jean was there. I took a bath in a circular cast iron tub and soaped myself down in it. I didn’t know how they bathed. In honor of me they made that type of horrible overcooked fried egg with ham they do over there and I got it down and Suzuki Roshi asked if I wanted more and I said no thank you but he insisted I have another. Do you want another? No. Oh yes you do. So I ate another. The trip to India was a big deal. We met with Nehru and famous writers. I loved it. After the India trip all the students went to Europe for three weeks before school started again but I went back to Japan and spent three weeks at Eiheiji which Suzuki Roshi arranged for me. He even came there to visit me. He gave me his boyhood toothpick box. Hoitsu was there. He was a very quiet monk. It was before the hotel was built. The roof to the main building had collapsed and they built the hotel to pay for the repair. At that time Japan was poor. Kyoto had dirt streets. After Eiheiji I went back to San Francisco and was met at the airport by Dick, Ginny, young Sally, Trudy and Pauline Petchey. They were all there to see Grahame off. I stayed in the city a night or so and saw Suzuki Roshi and gave him a Buddha.

Six weeks after Suzuki Roshi died, Tim Buckley gave me a sacred piece of some sort of chaparral wood, I think, which Harry Roberts had given him and I decided to carve a statue of Suzuki Roshi with it. I got all the pictures I had and Alan Marlowe’s and carved and carved. I took two days to carve the eyes. It felt like Flaubert when he wrote Madam Bovary’s death - he got sick to his stomach. I felt such emotion when the statue came to life. I showed it to Okusan and she said this is not just some carving - it’s great. I put it away and kept it and then once in Japan when some people were visiting I gave it to Reb and it’s on the altar at Tassajara now. I’ve not carved anything since.

DC: Did you ever meet Brian Victoria?

PS: Brian Victoria was a student of Tatsugami-roshi’s in Japan in the late seventies. Dick knew him. He was involved in the student riots. When I got to Japan in 73 he was gone.

DC: Jean Ross was a shuso at Tassajara which is the second ordination. But did Suzuki ordain her as a priest? Did someone else in Japan?

PS: I think Jean was ordained but Suzuki Roshi didn’t do it. He didn’t believe in that so much.

DC: What about Suzuki’s choosing Dick to be his successor?

PS: When Jane showed our [psychic Shingon] teacher, Chiba-sensei, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, she opened to 3 places - ask Jane. Chiba-sensei says that Suzuki Roshi had to choose between two people and choose the better manager.

DC: Tell me what you know about Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

In the summer of 67 I think, Dick gave me the transcripts of [the lectures that went on to comprise] Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind that Marian Derby had given to him. I was Dick’s number one cohort at Tassajara and had been a tech writer. I read part of them and praised them but said I don’t have time for this. Dick didn’t either - he was president of Zen Center, fundraiser, doing the Wind Bell. So he gave them to Trudy who had plenty of writing experience in school. At that time she knew she had cancer, it had maybe even spread. Her mother and maybe grandmother had died of it after having children. Trudy did it. She did all the work. He had no time. He met with her and Suzuki Roshi and he was her editor. It’s not clear how much - some - but she did the hard work day after day. He did some design work and found the publisher, asked Mike for the art [the drawing of a fly is what Mike came up with]. Trudy listened to the tapes - not Dick. I think Dick did considerable editing of Trudy’s work and talked to Suzuki Roshi about it.

Suzuki Roshi said it wasn’t his book. It’s interesting for me to look at Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind to see how students understood him.


PS: [With Grahame Petchey on the phone with us] Every Sunday night Grahame and Dick went to the samurai movies at Sokoji and while I was there in the early sixties I joined them. And I took pictures of them at Muir Beach or Muir Woods enacting a samurai sword duel one of them playing Mishima - dressed up. [how dressed up?] Grahame was the boss and Dick was my friend.

[Grahame agrees.]


PS: Suzuki Roshi didn’t want the service that Tatsugami had set up for us at Tassajara - he liked the simple Heart Sutra three times that we did at Sokoji with the nine bows. But Tatsugami’s longer service and the rituals he taught us became the way. Suzuki Roshi didn’t care about that stuff.

Suzuki Roshi had told me I should get ordained and I’d said no.

DC: Yes, I remember you telling me you weren’t good enough.

PS: Tatsugami told me that I was being rude and ungrateful to my teacher so I did it. I was supposed to be ordained with Silas but I got ordained with Dan.

Suzuki Roshi liked Reb a lot.


Suzuki Disciples

Peter and I try to figure out the Suzuki disciple Shusos [head monks] for Tassajara practice periods while he was alive. Sparing the reader what our mistakes were, I, DC, present this:

Dick Baker – summer of 67
Philip Wilson – spring of 68
Claude Dalenberg (Ananda) – fall of 68
Jean Ross – fall of 69
Mel Weitsman – spring of 70
Silas Hoadley – fall of 70,
Peter Schneider – spring of 71
Bill Kwong – fall of 71

And then after Suzuki died,

Dan Welch – spring of 72
Reb Anderson - fall72
Les Kaye – spring of 73

Ed Brown – fall of 73
David Chadwick - spring of 74
Lew Richmond – Fall of 74

When was Paul Disco? I think he waited because he was busy or something. Will call and ask him.

Angie Runyon didn’t do it – seemed to loose interest after Suzuki died.

Ron and Joyce Browning he’d ordained before they went to Japan and they didn’t really come back to Zen Center except to visit as far as I can remember.

As for Japan, I'm not sure about Suzuki's son Hoitsu who took over Rinsoin. I have to ask him. He got transmission from his father and was probably ordained by him originally. Also, he gave transmission to Kendo Okamoto and passed on the abbotship of Zoun-in to him but I don't know if he ordained him originally. Actually, I may know and just have forgotten. It might be in Crooked Cucumber. I don't know of any other Japanese whom he might have ordained.

Grahame Petchey, the first American whom Suzuki personally ordained, also was living in Japan and didn’t continue with the priest trip.

Suzuki had also sent two of his strongest earliest students to Japan to study or gave in to their requests to go there – Bill McNeil, his first student, and Bob Hense who were both ordained at a temple related to Rinsoin and who were kicked out for one reason or another – gay sex is high on the list of possible reasons. Bill rejected Zen upon his return and Bob continued for a while, had what seems to be a psychotic break, and moved to Chicago. If Suzuki counted Jean Ross, we might as well count them. He said she was ordained "by my friend" for him. That’s what he’d had done with McNeil and Hense. And he definitely counted Jean Ross since he made us have a practice period without a head monk waiting for her to have time to come.

If we count all them, that’s twenty-one.

Here’s the order they were ordained in and the dates.

Bill McNeil – late 60 -
Bob Hense – late 60
Jean Ross – spring 62
Grahame Petchey – Aug. 63
Philip Wilson – spring 65 (maybe 64)
Claude Dalenberg (Ananda) – August 66
Dick Baker – July 67
Ron Browning – 68
Joyce Browning – 68
Mel Weitsman – May 69
Bill Kwong – Jan. 70
Silas Hoadley – Jan. 70
Peter Schneider – May 70
Dan Welch – May 70
Paul Disco – Aug 70
Reb Anderson – Aug 70
Les Kaye – Jan. 71
Ed Brown – Sept. 71
David Chadwick - Sept. 71
Lew Richmond - Sept. 71
Angie Runyon - Sept. 71

And then there's Trudy Dixon who wasn't ordained as a priest therefore is not included in Suzuki's definition of disciple at least at one time. But at her funeral he wailed out, "Oh my disciple!" and said he'd never hoped to have a student that great. So keep this in mind - this stuff only matters so much. - dc

*********

DC: Before Suzuki died he wanted to give a bunch of his disciples which is what he called those of us who were ordained as priests, wanted to give them transmission. But there wasn’t time. There wasn’t even time for Bill Kwong whose transmission he was working on. He definitely wanted to give transmission to Silas who was the only student giving lectures till Dick came back. And I’m sure you and Dan and Reb and who knows. Ananda said up to a dozen.

PS: Yes I know Suzuki Roshi wanted to give me transmission. Okusan gave some of us who Suzuki Roshi had intended to give transmission Suzuki Roshi calligraphies sort of signifying our transmission but Dick said they weren’t signed - scrolls. Okusan had them made up in Japan within six months of his death.


I was on the East Coast with Jane in the summer of ‘71 after I was shuso at Tassajara and we came back in the fall after we learned he had cancer.

Jane and I were living in Chappaquiddick right over the bridge that Ted Kennedy went over - and at the same time - when we got a call from Zen Center about Mrs. Bragdon’s suicide. Suzuki went to do the funeral and we took the ferry to Massachusetts and hitchhiked to Woodstock, Vermont, where she had died. She died [cut her throat as I remember - DC] clutching Suzuki Roshi's book. She had been living in one of June McKnight’s houses on June’s estate.

DC: And her daughter Emily was a student of Suzuki’s and married Tim Buckley [not the folksinger] who came close to getting ordained as I remember.

PS: Mrs. Bragdon’s son Jay had the other house. June was part of the family that owned Haines underwear. June showed Suzuki Roshi the blood-stained copy of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and he insisted she give it to him. June asked for us to stay on with her and we did - in Jay’s house and then in his departed mother’s house. June was from North Carolina. Later Baker-roshi married Jane and me there. Jay gave Zen Center the Green Van and Jane and I drove it across the US to San Francisco and visited Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and other sites. Jay also gave us a Brownie camera which we used on the trip.

DC: What do you know about the San Do Kai lectures and the long struggle to make a book out of them?

PS: When Jane and I went East, Zen Center had given me $400 to edit the San Do Kai lectures. Katherine I think had transcribed them. Lew and Dick also did some work on them. I smoothed the English and Dick unsmoothed it. I did it again in 91 or 92 for Michael Wenger and Mel while they were working on it - nothing much - minor English teacher stuff. They’re not zappy lectures. Like with the Lotus Sutra lectures.

DC: Those were the worst.

PS: He’d say, "I’m sorry I have to lecture on this. This is boring but I have to do it."

DC: I enjoyed the San Do Kai lectures because I worked with him on them while he gave them – studied them in the Chinese and Japanese.

DC: You called me Tassajara’s newspaper once.

PS: You were.

DC: What about Bill Kwong? Why was he so late being shuso? I remember there was a financial reason cause he had to work and had a big family.

PS: Suzuki Roshi didn’t like Bill Kwong starting his own zendo.

DC - Bill Kwong’s story of how he left Zen Center which he told me while he was shuso. He said Suzuki Roshi went to Japan and left him in charge of the bells and services and that Dick wanted him to share it and he wouldn’t so Dick called a general meeting and Bill couldn’t handle the conflict and left.

PS: Suzuki Roshi decided when he was sick in 69 that he’d go to Japan and give Dick transmission.

DC: He told Bob Halpern and me in the spring of 70 and Bob said that everybody’d think Suzuki Roshi was crazy if he did that and he said no no no and I asked does this mean that Dick’s got a complete understanding and he said no no no just a good understanding - and a complete commitment. I told Kobun in the office late when I got back from the city and his reaction was no no no almost panic - maybe Phillip.

PS: Suzuki Roshi got us together at Tassajara in the dining room - older students - not everyone - 6 to 10 of us - and told us what he was going to do and we objected but he made it clear it was a done deal.

My view on transmission is that everyone gets it in their eighth or ninth year. Shuso’s for kiddies - the second step. In transmission you get a new color robe - the dye is cast.

DC: I was asking Ryogen Yoshimura about transmission when he was at Tassajara and he told me that there were ten steps of the yellow robe and that one usually skipped up them. He skipped them all he said and started off right at the top with a brown robe - there are three or so steps there - you have to have it to do practice period, have shusos and give dokusan. He showed me his brown okesa taking it from a drawer at Tassajara and said he doesn’t wear it because it doesn’t mean anything - it was just a formality given to him by the abbot of Eiheiji who was a friend of his father’s.

PS: Transmission allows temples to be passed on to whom you want.

As for Suzuki Roshi not going to his daughter Omi’s funeral - he didn’t believe in stuff like that - formalities. He’d had a lifetime as a funeral priest at Rinsoin and Sokoji and was glad to get out of it.

DC: He told us not to get into the funeral business - just do them for ourselves. He said he spent a lot of his young monk years carrying gifts of big melons back to the temple from funerals and memorial services.

He also said not to have non practicing people on the board. We should control our own board.

PS: When Suzuki Roshi was sick, Katagiri gave him a book by his teacher, Hashimoto. It was written in the thirties and it said priests should be celibate and shouldn’t get married and Suzuki Roshi was influenced by it and told me.

You should get his toseki - family record. [I never did - DC]

DC: Your teacher Kano was a student of DT Suzuki. Does he say anything about DT Suzuki and the war?

PS: DT Suzuki was outspoken against the war. He had been One of the Emperor’s tutors and was married to a Westerner. He was well known. DT told his student Kano that the Emperor had no real religious spirit. He had tried to advise against the war - he had lived in the West and knew how big we were.

[Brian Victoria begs to differ. He’s translated writings of DT Suzuki’s encouraging soldiers to give their lives for Japan – this is a controversial subject. - DC]

PS: Suzuki went to Manchuria to help the farmers, the poor people, who didn’t have priests.

DC: Suzuki Roshi’s trip back to Japan from China was just as dangerous as Dogen’s boats trips to China and back.


Jane 5\14\97 -

We couldn’t see Suzuki Roshi for a while when we came back. He was very weak. When we did we didn’t talk much. He mainly talked to Peter and asked him what he was doing and why he hadn’t come to see him earlier. Then in a last private visit we didn’t talk at all which I deeply regret - that I didn’t tell him how much he meant to me. I couldn’t believe he was going to die and didn’t till his funeral even though he was obviously dying. I wanted to see him in the zendo.


Peter 5\15\97

In my last meeting with Suzuki Roshi he was quite ill and we didn’t talk long but he asked me about some of his students, mainly Silas. How is Silas? Dick was back and Dick wanted Silas out. Silas knew it. Dick dissed Silas in ‘68 before he went to Japan. He’d chosen Silas to be president before he left for Japan but then decided it was a bad choice because they disagreed on a lot and Suzuki Roshi got mad at Dick for changing his mind saying, "But you said he’d be president and I’ve already told him," or something like that. So when Dick came back, Silas was not around.

DC: He wasn’t? I saw him when I came up from Tassajara.

PS: The last thing Suzuki Roshi asked me was what do I think about Silas. I’d wasted the first part of our talk on something personal.

Sitting the sesshin downstairs I saw Okusan come get Dick and Reb was his jisha so he followed him upstairs. I went up too but stayed out of sight. Dick went in and Suzuki Roshi was already dead I think.

DC: I don’t think so.

PS: Dick arranged his robes and got him ready for people to see him laying him out on the futon in the large room. Reb waited outside and I stayed around the corner waiting.


Peter Schneider - April 5, 1998 on the phone

DC: There was a little grumbling when Suzuki Roshi had the meeting at Tassajara to announce that Dick would be getting transmission?

PS: There was a large grumble. He said you’ll just have to trust me on this. Dick has had some change.

The first year we chanted in English was when Tatsugami was there. He was redoing the service and I had an English version of the Heart Sutra worked up and I showed it to him and said why not do it in English and he said okay. I’d been working on it since 68. I took your analysis [of the Chinese Characters (69)] and the chant card with the meanings below it and worked with Yoshimura and Conze’s translation. He liked it. He said it’s different but that’s cause it’s from the Chinese. Suzuki Roshi wanted gyate to be translated differently, using the meaning of a ship because of the meaning of the Japanese kanji but I thought it should be more like the Sanskrit translations. Gary Snyder didn’t like it so much he said till he heard it chanted. I did the gathas in English too - for the bath, toilet etc. Don’t remember when. I adopted Gary’s translation for taking refuge and the four vows. At Tassajara we did the Heart Sutra three times in the morning and for lunch and evening service. Tatsugami introduced all the rest. Suzuki Roshi didn’t want so much priestcraft.

DC: Are you sure? I thought we chanted the Dai hi shin dharani in the evening before Tatsugami came.

PS: Yes I’m sure.

DC: I forgot. I loved just chanting the Heart Sutra the way we used to. It was so dynamic.

PS: One time riding in a car with Suzuki Roshi and some other people someone was talking about racial prejudice or something, I don’t remember, and Suzuki Roshi turned to us and said, "You have no idea the way I’ve been treated in this country." He was contradicting what the person had said. I took him at face value that he’d experience racial prejudice in America. The inference was you have nothing to complain about.

DC: Did you ever see him get really mad?

PS: I never saw Suzuki Roshi’s temper. He never got angry at me ever.

DC: What about Suzuki Roshi’s use of English.

PS: Sometimes in looking at his lectures I can see him translating from Japanese and especially his use of the word "should" I see as being misunderstood. As in "you should suffer more." He didn’t mean it’s best according to a higher power for you necessarily, maybe more like you will have to suffer more in order to grow and learn.

Peter then went over a few different ways to say "should" in Japanese:

suru ho ga ii - it might be better if you
shikereba naranai – ought to - still not so strong
suru beki or suru beshi – stronger

DC: When did you meet Hoitsu again?

PS: In 63 at Eiheiji. The abbot had told him to send off his father’s students. He was a beautiful looking monk, almost ethereal. polite, cool and pure.


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