See Shunryu Suzuki on Peace and War

Interview With Masao Yamamura

A NEIGHBOR of Rinsoin temple who, as a young man, knew Shunryu Suzuki. I interviewed him there in the spring of 1994.--DC

[This is what I have on tape, but before I taped him, Yamamura told me that he'd heard I was doing research and that he was eager to tell me about his memories of Shunryu because Shunryu was so important to him when he was younger. He said there was nobody else like him. That Suzuki was the first person he heard mention international cooperation and ideas like that. I put some of what he said to me off tape in CC. He's a politician and the Suzuki family was sort of paranoid about me talking to him because the temple was associated in some way with his rival or something.--DC]

I think danka and shinja (believers) had faith in Shunryu San. I was pretty young and don't remember much but I remember seeing him when he was abbot. I had quite a close relationship with him and had many chances to talk to him. As a young man I was taught a great deal by him. I was in my twenties. Now I'm 60. My impression about him is that he was a pacifist - during the cold war.

He thought hard about how to bring peace to the world and how to end the cold war. There were very few people around here who thought like that at that time. So I think we can think highly of him in this sense. He would say we must think globally and should not be limited by national boundaries in order to achieve world peace. Also he would say he wanted to go abroad to teach Buddhism in order to contribute to the realization of world peace, "and if I could do that my life would be fullfilled." I quite often heard him say this kind of thing. I think he told me that even before he told this kind of thing to his own family or other people. And I thought he shouldn't spend his whole life in Yaizu unnoticed by the rest of the world. He wanted to go beyond the borders of nations - that's what he used to tell me.

As I was fifteen (that's a mistake - he was 11 or 12) when the war ended I don't remember much about then. Shunryu was there at Rinsoin I think. Hoitsu was five then. Buddhist priests couldn't say anything against the war then and even the temple bell had to be given to the army.

After the war young people's groups came to Rinsoin - study groups. Shunryu-san would give lectures to them. My impression is that they mentioned international tension. He was worried about international tension increasing. He said it shouldn't be. There were teenagers and young adults in their early twenties - men and women. They would stay at Rinsoin for two or three days and their meeting was called "new life after the war movement"

[DC - He said he'd go hide behind the shoji screens and listen to what was being said in the meetings]

[Can you get the name of that? - DC]

During these lectures he often said that the war we just had was wrong, a mistake. SR would say passsionately that we should open our eyes to the world. He was also asking himself if it was okay for him to stay on in a village like Yaizu. He told me he was going to leap the border to America. I asked him why. He said he wanted to do more with his life than look after danka. He had about 500 danka. He wanted to teach pacifism and his world view to people in foreign countries. I learned these things from him but I think that most of the danka were skeptical about him going to the states, saying "why would he go there, why doesn’t he look after us, isn't that his responsibility?"

He was a good and peaceful priest. He was especially friendly towards me. He would often come over here. My family was danka of Rinsoin. He didn't like conflict. Trivial things didn't bother him. So he didn't want to say those things to others also.