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Letters on Suzuki Index - with more on these letters

Alan Klein

Dear Friend ‑‑

Have been thinking of you, reading the latest Wind Bell which Jerome kindly sent me. Many things have come to mind, and then are blown away before ever being written. Just as well. What I would really like is to have a cup of tea with you. And so I put the kettle on the stove and after a while it whistled and then I poured the water through a mint‑filled strainer into two tea cups. Here we are ‑‑ almost.

Today is the day in Holland when St. Nicholas and gift‑bearing are celebrated and I am waiting here for Santa Claus to arrive (he is late, probably reindeer trouble) so I can let him in and show him where the cache of presents is for the two children upstairs. It is now 10:30 P.M. and their father is concerned; perhaps the bearded gent has got behind in his schedule.

I am cooking for and sort of looking after a monk from Indonesia, who is also upstairs at the moment. He only eats twice a day, but I seem to keep pretty busy anyway. He's a good talker, likes to talk, but he speaks Dutch so our conversations are pretty limited. However, like the blue mountain and white cloud we get on . . . . Well, they arrived, "they" meaning St. Nick and black Peter. His "saintedness" (?) wears what looks like a bishop's cape and high hat with a cross on it, and this fellow is modeled after a 14th century (?) Spanish priest who was rather wealthy and went around distributing gifts to children on his birthday, assisted by a black helper named Peter ‑‑ or so I have been told. Anyway, this is a jolly pair; they are given beer by the welcoming parents (not their first libations this evening, no doubt) and they laugh and joke and distribute the packages to kinder and adults, each of whom must sing a song as his "number" comes up. After a spell they leave and we sit around for a while and then it is getting on toward 12:00 and the monk and I return downstairs where he opens his several packages ‑‑ incense, a cup and saucer, a Japanese bamboo painting, and some candy, and decides, except for the candy, to keep the others for Indonesia (he may return there in May).

Yesterday we had a memorial service for Suzuki Roshi. Simple but satisfying. Just the two (or perhaps three) of us, which is all there ever is in the morning. (Get up at 6:00. Actually I'm always up earlier, then ring a little bell to wake Bhanti. About 6:15 he comes into the Uhara, then offering of incense, chanting and sitting.) Occasionally someone joins for the evening sitting at 8:00 P.M. Sometimes we spend half the time doing a slow Vipassana walking meditation.

In the summer of'71 at Tassajara I had an interview with Suzuki Roshi and asked to be his disciple. He asked me to tell him about myself, so I outlined my life as best I could. When I finished he said, "Okay." "Okay what?" I asked. "You can be my disciple," he replied. "I can?" I asked with the incredulity of a small boy who has just somehow been given the world on a string. He nodded, smiling, and the interview was over and I began making the prostrations. I was in the habit of raising my hands quite high off the floor. After I had completed the bows, Roshi looked at me with a little smile and a twinkle, holding out his hands, palms upward. "Just raise Buddha's feet a little bit," he suggested, "otherwise he's liable to lose his balance and fall over." Perhaps he made some motion with his body, indicating a toppling Buddha‑ I don't recall. I have begun to realize that he was talking about everything, about a modesty of being moment after moment . . . When I left his cabin, feeling quite ecstatic over having a wonderful master, it occurred to me that I hadn't the foggiest notion of what it entailed to be a disciple. Later I understood that the disciple within was ordained by the completeness and sincerity of the desire.

There are many ducks in the park across the street; it is good weather here for ducks. Am enclosing a note for Jerome.

Warm regards for Ginny and Sally.


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