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MEMORIES OF SUZUKI Roshi FROM WIND BELL AND DC FILES
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Dear Michael [Wenger],
It was such a dreary day today (no sun for the longest time) I enlivened my spirits by reading "old old notebooks" about the early days.
Do you have the time to edit this? Or do you want me to work on it myself? I feel the "yous" and "wes" may be confusing ‑‑ and maybe I strung too many lovely sentences together or it may sound like it.
I'd appreciate your thoughts. And is this something like you wanted?
Called you tonight but no answer.
In the summer of '59 we began sitting with Suzuki Roshi at Sokoji. I knew then I wanted to make meditation an important part of my life. I knew that because we are not satisfied we study Buddhism.
Suzuki Roshi taught us how to understand human life. When we calm our mind, we resume to our true nature and we find strength in our Buddha Nature. We straightened our mind by sitting straight. Sitting is the most powerful help. We make the best of every situation by accepting it as Buddha's activity, what we think is a grave matter. To understand the absolute is to limit it. Mindfulness meant being in the present instead of the past or future. The teaching is what you do now.
Zen as a way of life teaches all the things I wanted to be ‑‑ genuine, kind, and grateful. The most wonderful thing is that it puts it up to you. There wasn't a lot of telling you what to do. At first I thought I must not be worthy, but then I knew there is no inferiority or superiority in Buddhism.. The teaching is in what you do.
There was such a simplicity and directness about Suzuki Roshi. You felt at ease around him. I loved to be with him. When I could do personal errands for him, I was grateful for the privilege. We all sensed a very warm feeling of being personally liked by Suzuki Roshi. We all seemed close together and I knew there would be no turning back!
I liked the sesshin lectures. We had our first Lay Ordination after the September 1962 sesshin. Suzuki Roshi told us we were making the vow to keep the Enlightened life. Now we must make our zazen more beautiful. It takes a long time to master meditation and then we don't know when. The more we practice (the more) we will be refined. To me the Zen way is faith, refined naturalness..
I liked my Buddhist name ‑‑ Zen do tei jun dai shi. Zen way, faith, refined naturalness.
I have gratitude for Suzuki Roshi and the teaching and for all of you.
Some Special Memories
One Sunday after an Oban service as I bowed to say goodbye, Suzuki Roshi asked me to wait. He asked me to take him to see the movie, "The Buddha," so I took three robed priests ‑‑ Bishop Yamada, Reverend Katagiri, Suzuki Roshi ‑‑ to the then Stage Door to see "The Buddha." I don't think it entirely pleased them, but how could the life of the Buddha ever be told in a movie!
One Fourth of July evening he asked me to take Okusan and him to see the fireworks at the Marina green. It was so foggy we couldn't see anything. So we didn't stay too long.
I asked Suzuki Roshi what he was going to do on Thanksgiving. He said, "Come to your house." But I was having all my relatives and they never quite approved of my interest in Buddhism. So I had to tell Suzuki Roshi I was having a big family gathering and he couldn't come. I've never felt right, though, about saying that to him.
I met Suzuki Roshi in June 1959 when Dr. Kato brought him to our class in Zen Buddhism at the then Academy of Asian Studies and Alan Watts was the Dean at that time. What I remember especially about that evening is that it ended with everyone getting on the floor around the room facing the wall and Suzuki Roshi teaching us to meditate. Betty Warren and Jean Ross were there. Later we were in the first Lay Ordination Ceremony.
Before Lay Ordination I explained that I'd had a lot of Christian background, having attended Lutheran school, catechism and confirmation. I felt with that background I'd be a "Christian Buddhist." He said that was good enough for him.
In almost every talk Suzuki Roshi encouraged us to have faith and confidence in our Buddha Nature. This teaching still sustains and encourages me. What was wonderful about Suzuki Roshi is that he thought I was wonderful. Everyone had that same feeling. You felt he was there just for you.
He autographed "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" with the character "Harmony." I said that would be an inspiration for me to have harmony in my life. He said, "You don't have to worry." Such confidence! As I left him I always went away feeling special for having been in his presence. "We love the great ones, because they bring out the greatness in us." Suzuki Roshi was a great teacher because he could see the Buddha nature in us.
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