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Sokoji section

Sokoji - the Soto Zen temple on Bush St. in San Francisco where the SFZC started.



Rob Lee with some memories of Sokoji (posted 7-12-12)

The closest I came to Suzuki-roshi was living in Sokoji for a year. I slept in the same room he did and at one point removed some plywood that covered a window. A letter had fallen behind the plywood, which he had written to send to officialdom in Japan. In it I believe were comments about his American students. I gave it to Reb, who gave it to Mrs. Suzuki. This was around 1979. (I didn't see the letter itself and couldn't have read it anyway; I believe Reb mentioned the student thing to me after he'd handed the letter over.)

I was the caretaker. They just wanted someone living there to discourage people from breaking in. This was just before they built the new temple. I liked it a lot. Met a number of young Japanese priests of different sects who were here visiting or to study. They were very lively and broadened my view of what a Buddhist person might be like. I walked to the ZC zendo each morning, which was harrowing, although I only had one scare. A fellow named Wayne proceeded me in living there, but I can't remember his last name at the moment. A solidly built guy with a very round face. (Wayne Codling? - dc)

There is one detail about Sokoji that I've not heard mentioned in any of the ZC literature, and you might get a kick out of it. Literally the night before I was moving out and back to ZC I was driving down Bush Street with some friends I used to work with. One of them was into the paranormal. As we passed the wooden hulk of Sokoji I mentioned that I lived there. The fellow immediately exclaimed that it was famously haunted, by a woman. She had been hurt by two men, her death preceding theirs. Both men, at different times, fell to their death from the balcony, one near the organ and one in the back. I used to walk in the dark along a ledge above the balcony railing all the time, because there were karate classes in the main room (the teacher threatened to beat me up for entering the dojo), so it was the only way to get to the kitchen. I never noticed her and am glad she wasn't mad at me. The next day I asked the head priest of Sokoji, Hosokawa, if it was haunted. He looked shocked for a second and then said, haltingly, "Yes!" his demeanor suddenly animated. They even had a group photo they'd taken in the office -- you know how Japanese people are with pictures -- with the vague specter of a woman with long gray hair in the background.