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Shunryu Suzuki Stories - Suzuki Stories Index


Letters on Suzuki Index - with more on these letters

Art Atkinson - interview with Art Atkinson

Art & Bart, a chapter cut from Crooked Cucumber.

It was Fall, 1960. Suzuki Roshi had been at the Zenshu Soto Mission perhaps a year, maybe two, and a zazen group of some I5 to 20 regulars and irregulars had formed. People called him Sensei, and almost certainly no one then sitting zazen knew the man was a roshi.

Lectures were given Sunday mornings, preceded by zazen, I think. Once after lecture a few of the relative old timers of his group began cleaning the combination zendo‑lecture room. Being an outsider who'd had only several weeks earlier begun attending meditation, I knew nothing of the rituals in infancy there, the importance of shared work coequal with zazen and study. And not knowing how to join the others and awkwardly timid, frightened actually, I hid outside in the alcove where coats and shoes were left, sitting on a bench feigning deep thought.

Soon Sensei appeared. Appeared a chosen verb, because I can't recall having heard him open and come through the doors, bent closely over my left shoulder, pointing into the zendo as he said quite softly, You help please, that is Zen too.

Embarrassed, I did as instructed.

Later, work done, Barton Stone, pacifist and son of a Southern Methodist preacher, sat at an old upright untuned piano to the right of the altar and thumped out Christian hymns, singing as we sang with him. I hovered on the edge, thankful at being made part of a group.

Sensei sat slightly reclined in a straight‑backed wooden chair further off to the side, watching, a quiet and, it appeared, most interested presence.

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

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