- an archival site on the life and world of Shunryu Suzuki and those who knew him and anything else DC feels like - originally a site for Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki - not

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 Shunryu Suzuki Index

Dubious Quotes and Stories attributed to Shunryu Suzuki

19-04-01 - As for this quote, in a number of places on the Internet, it's not from any source I have or I'd be using it. It does have a meaning that is something he repeatedly said but it seems too cute for him, though not impossible he said it to someone once. Let me know if you know better than I do. More likely, if it has any authenticity, it's a very liberal paraphrase. He'd use serious as something not to be too much and something as something necessary for practice, just depended on what type. The non emotional, unattached type is the good one. It's really nothing, not adding something extra to ones effortless effort. - thanks Danny Parker [If I'm right then it's an appropriate quote for April Fools day.]

8-23-13 - Fake Buddha quotes from Tricycle - Wow - Synchronicity. I started listing dubious Suzuki quotes just earlier this month (see post below originally 8-05-13 on What's New and DC on SR pages). This has inspired me to make this page for it. Posted this on the Tricycle page today with the observation, "Great minds think dubious thoughts alike." - DC

The cuke policy is to present the legacy of Shunryu Suzuki and those who knew him and to share the record of his talks and what others noted and remember. Of course memories keep changing and the oral/written history will diverge from what really was said and happened - as is true of any history. Most of it seems right or close but sometimes a story or quote appears outside of the circle of probability or way outside of it. When I was working on Crooked Cucumber I read James Hillman's book, the Seed of the Soul [check title] which focused on biography. I liked his attitude in which facts didn't matter as much as holding to the spirit - much like Suzuki's way. Hillman said that the lies people tell about themselves are also part of their story. In the same way, misrepresentations of what transpired back then are also part of the story. Here are a few on the fringe. - dc

Suzuki Was My Drinking Buddy

This is where I got the idea to start this page - DC

8-05-13 - Met a guy in Crestone, CO, at Elephant Cloud the former great tea shop turned produce outlet which will revert to a great tea shop when Benjamin and his mate forget her name get the new place ready. The guy I met had said that he'd finally found people in the government who would listen to him - the NSA. See - they're not all bad. He said it's nothing new, that he'd dated a girl when he was young in the sixties whose father was an FBI agent and he'd gotten this guys dossier and it was thick and thorough. I wondered about mine. That would be fun to get - and maybe a CIA one too. Said I want to make a cap that says NSA Observer on it with a magnifying glass. He found out I was visiting the two Zen places in Crestone - CMZC and Dragon Mt. Temple - both out of the Shunryu Suzuki lineage. He said he used to hang out with Suzuki in San Francisco, that he went by the temple once and met Suzuki who offered him whiskey which they sat up and drank. After that, he said every time he went to that temple, he and Suzuki would sit up drinking whiskey. Made me doubt that he'd dated the daughter of an FBI agent. I made a mental note to start a section on cuke for dubious quotes and stories attributed to Shunryu Suzuki who was no drinker, didn't like whiskey, would fall asleep with the first tiny cup of sake. But I didn't tell the fellow in Crestone any of this, just asked for him to submit his stories about Suzuki to cuke. He said he liked to keep a low profile. - dc

Accident Prone

8-07-13 - Thanks to an alert reader - I forgot who - for alerting cuke to another faux Suzuki quote: Enlightenment is an accident; Practice makes us accident prone. This was printed in the publication of an American Zen group - Upaya. It had been found so attributed on the Internet I learned. I wrote the publication that I thought it was either Kornfield or Aitken. While in Santa Fe, visited with ZC alum and cuke contributor AM who was relaying his long history with Robert Aitken whom he'd met while in high school. Aitken then got a job with the school - teacher or principal - and AM and he had a relationship that lasted until Aitken's death in 2010. AM happened to mention that enlightenment statement of Aitken's and when I told him that it had recently been attributed to Suzuki he said that no, it was definitely Aitken. The next evening I had dinner with Joan Halifax at Upaya and told her I'd nailed the source of that quote down to my satisfaction and she was pleased to see this matter be resolved. However, later AM said he's not completely sure and wrote:

"I confess I’m a little uneasy to see an Issue made of this, as I really have no backup for my “claim” that this charming quip was originally from Aitken Roshi – just a memory that I saw it from him somewhere. And so was surprised to see it credited elsewhere. However, it still does feel more like Aitken than Suzuki, or any other teacher – more like something he, as a native English speaker and American intellectual, would say. Like American rather than Asian humor, in other words. And I feel a kind of loyalty to my dear, old friend (we first met in 1955), that he should get credit where it’s due."

Tim Burkett used this statement in his book "Nothing on My Mind" and later said he guess he got it mixed up, that he'd studied with Aitken for a couple of years as well. It's also online attributed to Suzuki in a few places. I'm pretty sure they're wrong, just repeating what they read or were told.

Suzuki Hangs Up

originally posted in Brief Memories

11-21-12 - There is a story about our founder Shunryu Suzuki Roshi answering the phone in the office at City Center. When asked “What time does meditation begin?” He replied, “It never stops!” and hung up the phone.

Originally DC wrote: Wonder what the source is. Seems dubious, especially not answering the question and hanging up - though the "It never stops" to me would be more believable in another context. Sounds more like Shainberg's teacher, Kyudo. - dc

Hunted down the source of this story and the trail petered out like an urban myth. Shainberg said he hadn't heard that story but it did sound like Kyudo.

DC opinion: Suzuki Roshi would never have done this. He was never rude to strangers like this and always encouraged people to come to zazen.

Check this letter out received by Richard Baker in the seventies.

Two stories Peter DiGesu recalls having heard

Received an email asking if a Suzuki quote on paradox was fake or not due to an exchange on Facebook Soto Zen page.

Read the exchange here.

FACEBOOK again - looking like not a dubious quote, seeking source.

9-22-18 Aaron Erb (great name) posted: Zen friends: if you've heard a version of the following story, I'd like to hear it (maybe it's even in a book?). It may be Katagiri Roshi but I don't know.

The Roshi was at Tassajara (perhaps in the dining room) with some students when he pointed out the window: "See those deer on the hill?" A few deer are nibbling grass nearby. "Your life is just like that."

Elizabeth Burgess Sawyer I knew both Katagiri and Suzuki but I don't remember who said this....David Reich Chadwick might.


David Reich Chadwick I'd like to know where Aaron got that. The statement itself isn't out of the question. The deer on a hill wouldn't be seen from the dining room, possibly from Grasshopper flats looking up across the creek or at the Horse Pasture. It was a query and not an attribution, but I'm going to add it to the dubious quotes page: 


Aaron Erb David, thanks for the reply. My memory is that I heard this story during a practice period at Tassajara. I'll check with the leader of that pp if they told the story...

I'll quibble a bit: I have watched deer on that steep slope across the creek from inside the dining room. But I also have no doubt that my "version" of this story is only in the spirit of whatever story I heard rather than anything like a quote.

David Reich Chadwick - Oh my gosh - you've seen deer over there! I would have thought only mountain goats could be there. Good. Thanks for telling me. Maybe this is not a dubious quote. Now it's becoming a good story.


Kōgen Dito-Keith Aaron Erb I too watched many an intrepid deer on that "hill" side.

Aaron Erb Kōgen they're remarkable!

Kōgen Dito-Keith Aaron Erb even lil babies

David Reich Chadwick
Now I remember seeing them there too, have been awakened by this exchange, was blind and now can see. It would be nice to know the source but it's good no matter who said it..

Generous Offer

8-07-13 - Thanks to John Waggoner for this generous offer relating to the post of 8-05-13: I never met Shunryu Suzuki, so if you need someone to come up with spurious stories about him to archive on Cuke just let me know.

I let him know. See his contributions below. - DC

Once while playing the banjo, Suzuki-roshi leaned over to me and said, "you know, crosspicking is a road to enlightenment."

Once while sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows, someone said, "Roshi, what is the cost of an angry or hateful thought?" His answer was instantaneous: "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

On a flight back from a spiritual advisor’s convention in Las Vegas, I asked roshi if someone was already enlightened, why would they need to keep practicing meditation? He pointed out the window at the jet engines. “You see those? That’s meditation.”


what's new this year

There's a lot of old material that's as good as new if you haven't read it. -DC

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