- | home| what was new | table of contents | Shunryu Suzuki Index | donate | |DC Writings

Shunryu Suzuki Lecture home on cuke ---   Shunryu Suzuki dot com - the whole archive ---  Suzuki lectures on

Quotes and excerpts from Suzuki Lectures --- Posts pertaining to Shunryu Suzuki lectures

Excerpts from Shunryu Suzuki lectures - 2014-5
[laughs] = Suzuki laughs [laughter] = students laugh

1-05-15 - Shunryu on Shunryu - Suzuki on his own life - Links to Peter Schneider's interviews both close to verbatim  and rearranged and edited to make a lot more sense. Also Suzuki's CV and a talk he gave on his life. Of course there's more he said on his life from other sources and it is planned to gather them together and present them with this material but not yet. It's better going to this page than for these interviews cause there's only the close to verbatim transcripts there.

Excerpt from interview #1 of Suzuki by Peter Schneider On Zen Center History, Personal History, and Nona Ransom, September 1969.

[Suzuki has been talking about his English teacher Nona Ransom with whom he lived for a year and a half as a houseboy while attending Komazawa College where she taught English]

And one more thing, maybe. One more thing. She became-- she was not a Buddhist when I met her. And she had a beautiful Buddha.

[Noise and laughter-- Suzuki takes some food from Peter.]

SR: You are my jisha.

PS: Probably the only jisha who serves you chicken. You want some more? [Both laughing.]

[Can't understand-- joking around.]

SR: She was not Buddhist. But she had a beautiful Buddha about one feet sitting-- and she put in-- on tokonoma-- but she put also her shoes with Buddha, side by side. I am not so concerned about those things, especially when she is not Buddhist, but that was my problem, so I decided to change her way. So I offered everyday a cup of tea to Buddha. And she was very much amused about the offering of tea. So she had many guests-- so she started to tease me or not accuse me but she tease me by putting a toothpick into Buddha's hand or matches.

PS: I didn't know that part before [laughing], putting matches huh?

SR: Yeah. I don't know who did it. Maybe her guests because she told them, he is very naughty boy to put tea before the Buddha. In this way one month-- one more month passed and I didn't stop and she was continuously teasing me but I ignore her what ever they do. I didn't think to take off toothpick or matches. But I thought, there will be some chance for me to explain what is Buddha, what is Buddhism, so I studied hard to explain in English how to do it and learn some vocabulary. And at last she asked me about why we worship Buddha, Buddhahood-- like this explain about it. And she was amazed, you know, and since then she didn't tease me anymore and she started to try to understand what was Buddhism actually what was Buddhism and what is the-- and she turned to be Buddhist, and she became a Buddhist, Buddhism save her. And she asked me to buy some incense for her, incense and some other things too-- small bell, as I told this kind of things is necessary.

And that gives me some confidence in the possibility of understanding Buddhism for the Caucasians people.

Reading now through Peter Schneider's 1969 interviews with Shunryu Suzuki and reflecting on Suzuki's answers, remembering other questions and answers. Suzuki definitely indicated, and it's pretty obvious, that knowing facts about his life is not what he came here to teach, but still, like most of us, he would, from time to time, talk about his past to make a point or to a lesser extent just to reminisce. I thought it was on tape but don't find it - maybe Peter told me - that he said after the interviews something like, "If I'm remembered in this way then all will be lost." I knew that and a lot of other compelling reasons not to get involved with his history, but to me, one good reason to do so was to bring him down from the clouds. He would sometimes express concern about negative stories worried that it would discourage people from practicing. I thought that the times had changed, that was no longer a concern, Zen practice was leaving kindergarten and we were strong enough to be more realistic.

I don't think one should take anything he says as necessarily absolutely true. Aside from the fact that he was vague and unconcerned on historical details, there were surely events or elements from his past that he would not wish to share. His sad mistake not to respond to his English teacher, Ms Ransom, he explained to Grahame Petchey, was because he was worried she wanted to write something about him. I bet there was nothing in their past that would matter much to anyone today. I of course discovered and wrote about things in his life he'd never or hardly mentioned. Japanese, especially those of his generation, didn't share private information with close friends as much as many of us do to strangers. And as Buddha might say, none of that is to the point anyway. The point is in his teaching and I'm really finding it rewarding to read through his lectures again and want to concentrate more and more on that. And that doesn't ultimately mean thinking a lot about what he said, more, taking it to heart and forgetting it. Also - to me and to him, nothing in particular that he said in his teaching should be thought of as complete, final, held on to, or cherished. - DC

See next day's excerpt from the same interview - The "all will be lost" quote

From 69-09-16-IA. Entered onto disk from tape audio by DC -1996 or so and checked against Katherine Thanas' earlier transcription. Revised by Bill Redican 9/01. For more go to this entry on the Suzuki lecture archive found on Shunryu Suzuki dot com. - not Edited by DC for this post of 1-05-15