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Letters on Suzuki Index - with more on these letters

Durand Kiefer

Much more from Durand in interviews (but it's really from another letter or letters)


Dear Dick:

Please excuse all the last‑minute corrections, and edit it as you will. If you use any of it I hope you can correct Roshi's sayings for better conformity to his style. My recollection of his vocabulary is not very confident ‑‑ only of his sense.

Yours, in your teisho, is so much like his that in the one sermon of yours that I heard one weekend at Zen Center, I could close my eyes and hear Roshi still talking.

Thank you, congratulations, and gassho,


Once Roshi went to Carmel, California, to speak to a small group there: only ten or twelve strangers.

"I have been told that my subject is the history of Zen Buddhism," he began, "but I can see that none of you would be interested in such a dull subject. So I will just talk, and we'll see what comes out."

He stood talking for about an hour in his usual leisurely teisho style, very slowly and deliberately circling the ineffable void at the center of his subject. All the while he passed the beads of ojuzu between thumb and fingers of his right hand held in front of him. At last, without ever really finishing, he fell silent and sat down at the side of the room, while the program chairman asked for questions.

There were none‑ the sophisticated audience was completely entranced; that is, confused beyond words. But after the chairman dismissed the meeting, an elderly retired naval officer approached Roshi, alone, and noticing the ojuzu still rotating in Roshi's hand, he pointed and asked, "What is that for?"

Roshi held up ojuzu. "This?" he asked lightly, "Oh, this is to give my hand something to do."

At another time, Roshi said, "American Zen students are just like smoke," and again he said, "Americans are very strange; so many have no shadows." He meant not only that they were transparent, but that they were intentionally so, a behavior unheard of in an Oriental.

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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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