Suzuki Roshi at Richard Baker's Mountain Seat Ceremony

Suzuki Stories

So many people have vivid memories of that moment. It was, without a doubt, the emotional high point of Zen Center history.

A new student, Dennis Lehey wrote:

There was on his face an expression at once fierce and sad. It was as though some physical shock had passed through the hall.

His disciple Mel Weitsman:

That sound with the staff was the most final thing I ever heard ‑ like a knife cutting through everything ‑ amazing.

Ken Berman:

Death was on his face, a very intense, strong image. Just before he left he looked at us all and hit his staff. It was one of the most incredible feelings I've ever had.

Barbara Young remembers him “banging the shakujo,” and it brought to her the vivid memory of Suzuki the year before just out the window before her, “chasing young Yasuhiko Katagiri around in the courtyard so playful, just like a child with total enjoyment at the moment.”

Bill Lane:

Mel showed me a picture of Suzuki‑roshi and some students walking in a procession in Japantown in the early sixties and Suzuki‑roshi looked very young and wore that fancy red outfit, and the way he was holding that staff was the way he held it going into the mountain seat ceremony. I may be sick but bonk! with his arm extended straight and those rings at the top jingling, the dharma was burning like fire.

Blanche Hartman:

He was clearly dying and it was obvious and overpowering. He was there participating in the ceremony just on strength of will. I feel that he held on to complete that act.

Peg Anderson (Suzuki’s age):

I remember the staff. I'll never forget the strength he put into that. He couldn't hold himself up but he managed to bang that staff.

Molly Jones:

When he got up and walked out to leave, he planted that staff and shook the rings on it ‑ looking at everyone on both sides. It was an enormously powerful last gesture which I have never forgotten. I still hold him in such high regard.