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MEMORIES OF SUZUKI Roshi FROM WIND BELL AND DC FILES
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Eric Storlie link page
August 10, 1996
I promised to send you recollections of Suzuki Roshi, which I want to do and am sorry for the delay.
There's not a lot. I squeezed my own memory dry for significant things over my five years of writing, but here are some items ‑‑ mostly things I heard about, which I thought you should tell with input from those with first‑hand memories.
I remember in winter 1971‑72 after Suzuki's death, a meeting in the zendo at Page Street where people shared memories and grief at Roshi's passing ‑‑ a rare event of shared emotion. Peter Schneider, crying, talked about Suzuki Roshi, saying to him how surprised he was to be famous ‑‑ that he always expected to live and die an old, ordinary "temple priest."
And I remember, years earlier, at a priests' dharma combat at Tassajara [shuso ceremony], Peter demanding of Suzuki Roshi an answer to some paradoxical Zen question ‑‑ Peter fierce and stern ‑‑ and Suzuki Roshi laughing and asking, "Peter, why are you always so serious?" at which Peter groaned and dropped his head into his hands.
I remember crooked cucumber and eating pickles quietly ‑‑ stories that I assume you've got lots on. And his images of zazen as being the frog sitting on the lily pad, waiting to eat each bug (each thought!?).
I remember the tales of forgetfulness, especially the $10,000 check from the IBM bigwig (details, right?) that got left in his desk uncashed at Sokoji.
I remember smoking grass with Lor and his brother John and wife Cindy at Buchanan Street before going to evening zazen, and afterwards Suzuki Roshi bowing to each sitter as they left. I was behind John, and as he passed by after bowing to Suzuki Roshi, roshi flashed at him a look of intense concern, suspicion, and doubt ‑‑ no doubt aware of the dealing and trying to size up this character. It struck me in that instant as a break in aplomb ‑‑ a sudden personal reaction.
I remember Lor after being his personal attendant for awhile, saying, "Man, I deeply appreciate the way he does everything, his deep "cool"! And Lor has many stories of his struggle about not becoming a priest, when others were so eager ‑‑ Ed Brown "beating down the door" to enter the priesthood.
I remember Alan Marlowe describing a big party at Tassajara, where everyone let go, Things got wild.
And Lor making hash oil cookies at Tassajara getting (Ken?) so stoned Lor had to baby-sit him for two days and was back under deep suspicion as a loose cannon. Actually, Ken Straus was Lor's roommate and found the cookies and scarfed them down not knowing their potential. He came then to Minnesota for awhile ‑‑ wanted to support himself by begging!? Wife was Gogi?
[Loring never made hash cookies at Tassajara. That was Ed and Karl, Brotherhood of Man (Leary group) dope dealer friends of Alan Marlowe’s that hung out at Dianne di Prima’s. They came in with them.]
And Lor said Joan Baez came to Tassajara to be spiritual, but picked up a cute Zen student (male) for a boy toy ‑‑ wowing the lucky victim.
I remember Barbara Horowitz bringing vegetables to Suzuki Roshi and Okusan and repeating his comment that it was wonderful that the compost she collected from them daily returned as beautiful food.
And her horror that she came to their door one day and heard them arguing loudly and angrily inside. Unthinkable, unimaginable that they did this.
I remember a lecture where he said when he went to the grocery store, he always felt so "sorry" for the wilted and old veggies everyone was passing by, so he'd buy them rather than the fresh, beautiful ones.
And his lecture where he said that as a young man in the monastery he came to a feeling of deep freedom ‑‑ and then had a huge desire to go out and help others ‑‑ he had a sense that it was selfish to stay and enjoy his own peace at the monastery.
And Lor told me how angry he became once at Tassajara at a little boy guest who began fishing in the creek. He said at least Tassajara should be a place where beings were not harmed.
Lor told how angry he became at the big heavy guy ‑‑ an early student, kind of wacko, who went to Hollywood and tried movies (Philip Wilson) ‑‑ who came back and complained about "your" (i.e., roshi's) practice ‑‑ and enraged at this deluded personalization of the way of Zen, Suzuki Roshi struck him repeatedly with his stick, shouting, "Awaken under my anger!"
[Compare with Phillip’s telling and that was Richard Baker to whom Suzuki said, “Awaken under my anger.”]
And during his illness at Tassajara, Suzuki Roshi sneaking into the kitchen to chat, instead of staying in bed, and Okusan, furious, scolding him, and leading him away, back to his sickbed.
Well, David, this is about all that comes back to me now. Oh, yes, I remember his comment about how whatever we did, we sacrificed. When we enjoyed the beauty of Tassajara, we sacrificed San Francisco. And the reverse. Above all, I carry forever a sense of his depth, his simplicity, his joy, his sense of completion and finality, his suchness! We were blessed to walk, for a time, at his side.
I had dinner with Bob Pirsig, who was back in Minneapolis a few days. He commented on how important you were to his son Chris and how helpful.
I'm in the woods for four more weeks, then back to teaching full time. It's an inner city college. I'm 55. I'm really too old to be a bronco buster any longer. I may have to get out of the game soon.
Have you met my old pal David Bromige? Teaches at Sonoma. Lives in Sebastopol. Good guy.
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