The Diamond Sutra at Tassajara by DC
That's not the Diamond Sutra at Tassajara but an old Diamond Sutra scroll image that was posted on cuke long ago in 2007 for no particular reason. I know that it's said that the Diamond Sutra is the earliest printed text we know of. Maybe this is that though it looks hand-written.
Winding up this series with this image and a few insignificant words down at the very bottom.
11-18-14 - After the first practice period which was July and August of 1967, we had another couple of months of guest season. I was running the dining room which had moved to the same location as now in the old old stone building with hand-hewn logs spanning the ceiling and holding up the dorm rooms above. The first couple of months of guest season in May and June we'd continued to use the old dining room which became the zendo almost overnight for the practice period and beyond.
Baker and Suzuki had breakfast with an elderly couple that had driven all the way in on that perilous dirt road in a big black Cadillac. I think they might have been sent by Elsie Mitchell of the Cambridge Buddhist Association. I assumed they were considered as possible donors and I could feel that managed, somewhat nervous vibe that comes with such hopes - wanting everything to go smoothly - that not coming from Suzuki but from his disciple who worked tirelessly to see the bills paid and payments met. I was bringing food and drinks over from the kitchen across the courtyard. The room was quiet. All the other guests had left as this was the very end of that guest season and of October.
At one point the woman told Suzuki she had a question she was most eager to ask him. She had been looking at a copy of the Conze book that she found in the reading area. Suzuki of course was most gracious and ready to answer whatever question she had as well as he could. "Now, I've read a great deal about religion," she said. "I consider that I know quite a bit about the different spiritual paths. But I have never heard or read anything like what I read in that book. It said in the Diamond Sutra that there is no self, no being, no person, no soul. What is that all about?" I stood nearby listening to her heartfelt question about the dharma which was, to my mind, more to the point than most questions we students had asked him all summer.
"That is fundamental teaching of Buddhism," Suzuki began, and he was about to continue when Baker, interrupted with, "And how are the colors of the leaves in Massachusetts this fall? I do miss that here on the West Coast," and he successfully diverted the conversation to a more comfortable area. Suzuki kept quiet.
11-17-14 - I don't know how those photocopies of Conze's book came to be made. Maybe no one thought about the ethical and legal implications. I don't think Suzuki would have approved if he'd known but like most or maybe all of us it probably didn't occur to him. I'll ask Richard Baker someday. I remember Baker told him we could get Buddhist books cheaper ordering from England, and Suzuki said that rather than try to save money, we should buy books from local bookstores. Sometime back then writer Herb Gold drove in with some foreign car - a Jaguar maybe - and gave it to us. Maybe he had car trouble and left it. I'll ask him next time I see him. Anyway, the reason his name came to mind is he told me that he was invited to Synanon's place on Highway 1 in Marshall north of Green Gulch to speak on a book he wrote that a class there was going to study. He was told that each student would get a copy. He offered to bring them but they said they already had them. He arrived for the class to find a bound photocopy of his book on each desk. Maybe they got the idea from the SFZC.
11-16-14 - That's the early edition of the Conze translation of the Diamond and Heart Sutras studied during the first practice period at Tassajara. It was July 1967. As I recall, the study period was in the morning in the zendo. Later it would be in the dining room but at least not at the beginning of that first practice period. We'd sit on our zafus and read. I don't remember if Suzuki Roshi joined us but that's the sort of thing he'd do. I recall the subject matter being interesting, profound. Emptiness. Wow. it being hard to stay awake, a lot of us would be nodding off as the days heat crept in. Later the practice period study would be before breakfast but this might have been after. I'll have to ask some people. As a person who has published books and who was eager for people to buy them, however, one fact sticks in mind beyond all the details I'm not clear on. We each had a photocopied book, pirated and stapled. - More tomorrow
11-15-14 - Diamond Sutra's short Chapter seventeen - all the chapters are short. My kind of sutra. This is a recent translation in ordinary English by Alex Johnson. I'm not qualified to grade it but I like it. It's like Buddha writing something on a blackboard and then erasing it before he goes on to the next point to make before erasing. The Diamond and Heart sutras were what we read in the morning study period at the first practice period at Tassajara. People ask, "What did Suzuki Roshi teach?" One answer would be, He taught us to read and study he Diamond Sutra. He emphasized zazen and practice in daily life and he didn't set up any curriculum. That wasn't his way. But he did teach that book reading study was an important ingredient. That includes the early sutras and wide ranging Buddhist study. He lectured on certain texts and suggested some to study, but mainly it was left up to us. As far as I'm concerned, he didn't see his own lectures and efforts as anything more than an encouragement to get people on paths which would take their own coarse. And his confidence in us (that includes you) encouraged him to do what he did in America.
And one way he hinted was to get us to study the Diamond Sutra. - DC
* Quote from a sesshin lecture, July 1965 [65-07-29-C)
Sunday April 16, 1967
Old Bush Street Zendo
Lecture Notes by Tony Artino
emphasizes the simplest way of practice
Tony Artino notes
Sutra, Lecture No. 6
Sutra, Lecture No. 8
Within Light There Is Utter Darkness
There was another lecture where a student mentioned the Diamond Sutra in the question, but the exchange doesn't really relate. - DC
shunryusuzuki.com - to read the lectures these excerpts came from
11-22-14 - continued - It's said the Sixth Patriarch got enlightened hearing a monk recite the Diamond Sutra passage that said "no abode." I dearly loved my new abode Tassajara, but sometimes I was dying to get out.
Those wealthy East Coast folks mentioned in the post of 11-18 wanted someone to drive their big black Cadillac out of Tassajara because the road was so treacherous and it was much much worse back in 1967. And this is at the end of October months after it had been worked on by the county road crew. That narrow, windy dirt road goes from about 1500 feet at Jamesburg to 5000 at Chew's Ridge back to 1500 at Tassajara - give or take. It was built by Chinese laborers a hundred years or so before. That's why there's China Camp up top. I drove the guests out and continued with them to Big Sur where they dropped me off at Nepenthe Restaurant. I ended up getting stoned with friends I'd met at Tassajara in the summer - and staying overnight. And who knows what else. There was a wild scene in Big Sur back then. Hitchhiked back through Carmel, Carmel Valley, Jamesburg to Tassajara. Went to Suzuki Roshi's cabin to say hi. He was in his garden working. He said hi and after a moment I said I wished he'd been able to complete his answer to that woman who asked about the Diamond Sutra saying no self, no person, no soul, no being. He just nodded and then remembered something and changed tone, scolding me for leaving and staying away without getting permission, saying that monks don't leave monasteries on their own. I wasn't a monk but I knew what he meant. I snapped back at him that I had told someone and blurted some other excuses. I bet I'd just muttered something to someone quickly and gotten out before they realized I'd said I was leaving. What I remember about the exchange with Suzuki though is that as soon as I rudely barked back at him, he backed off and said, Oh okay. I see - and he apologized. There was something about the exchange, the way he just politely dropped out of it when I resisted. For a second I didn't know where I was. I'd expected a counter-attack. He'd made his point and clearly had no interest in arguing, instead sort of tripping me with kindness. But what he'd said sunk in and I was less sneaky after that - a little less. And I thought of that when he'd say he'd only be strict or hard on someone if they were a good student. He was never strict with or hard on me. But still he left me with a feeling of not being so sure about where I stood.