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DC Comments on Schaeffer & Bercholz memories of Roshi and Rinpoche

including relevant excerpt from the lecture Schaeffer refers to

For whole lecture (71-07-06V) go to

Henry Schaeffer cuke page

A few tiny unimportant points -

The ashes site where Suzuki took Trungpa was not downstream. It was on a hill we call the Hogback which is upstream but not by much - the stream goes around it and to get there you go away from the road by the stream to a trail up the hill. There was never any other place considered that I know of.

Henry says that in the blessing ceremony that Suzuki clapped his hands twice. If so, I'd say that's from Shinto. In Japan people take their babies to the Shinto shrines to be blessed, not to Buddhist temples - or not much to Buddhist temple.

Richard Baker was not there at any time when Trungpa spoke while Suzuki was alive. Baker was in Japan and returned while Suzuki was dying and not going out.

Not many people at the ZC smoked or drank much. I did from time to time, some of us did. It wasn't forbidden - you couldn't drink in the building though unless it was a special event or you were Trungpa. That did shock people. Some could not accept it.

There were no sesshin over seven days at the ZC.


As I remember it Suzuki was fine with people going to study with Trungpa. He didn't have the energy or time for them anymore. He'd been sick a lot. He was happy for Bob Halpern to go and he'd almost ordained Bob as a priest until Bob decided he shouldn't. Maybe some people didn't like it but I don't remember people being negative about SFZC students going to study with Trungpa. The way I saw it, there were people who Suzuki felt he couldn't handle or who might do better with Trungpa. I don't remember anyone saying Trungpa was a charlatan and I don't remember any heavy controversy - and I was there when Trungpa spoke a couple of times and at Tassajara when he was there. But there are always people there who grumble and complain and the ZC has a lot of freedom of speech and expression and people don't have to be respectful or reverential so I can see some people saying stuff like that and I might have heard some of it and forgotten it, not paid attention. Most people felt very positive about Trungpa. He's the only non Zen teacher who Suzuki asked to speak there like he did that I can remember. Things chilled when Baker became abbot but there was no open criticism that I remember. There was a lot of criticism of Baker in Boulder though. And I think I'll take this opportunity to tell a story about that.


I visited my friends in Boulder every few years. I stayed either with Bob and Abby  Halpern or with Jack Elias. Alan Marlowe threw a party for me once and there were so many old friends from the ZC. In about 1980 or so I was visiting and one evening a group of us, ten or so, were drinking and sitting outside the Boulderado Hotel, Loring Palmer inside at the desk. Duncan Campbell (?) and I got into an exchange.

As I remember it, Duncan asked, "Why don't you come here and study with Trungpa Rinpoche? He's Suzuki Roshi's real successor. Everybody knows that Richard Baker isn't enlightened."

To that I replied that Dostoyevsky has a story about a monk in a monastery, an elder who was revered by the other monks, a pious, humble exemplar of their practice, considered by all the be a saint. When the monk died they lay his body in state with the intention of keeping it there for some time as the body of saints does not decompose. However, a foul odor began to rise from the corpse which was quickly buried. It was a dreadful disappointment that no one spoke of afterwards.

"You see," I concluded, "The problem isn't that Baker Roshi isn't enlightened. The problem is that Suzuki Roshi wasn't enlightened and Baker Roshi is the smell of Suzuki's body rotting."

Duncan broke the stunned silence with, "Oh you're just being a contrarian like Bob Halpern."

Here's the question and answer from Suzuki that Henry refers to. This is a literal translation of the lecture from July 6th, 1971.

Student I:  Why have all this weakness, and desire, and struggle?  What is the sense in it? 

Suzuki Roshi:  Struggle?

Student I:  Yeah, why is it--what is the sense in all of this--these--having small mind, having weaknesses and desires?  Why?

Suzuki Roshi:  Reason why is, you know, not to--actually, we do not have small mind, so-called-it "small mind" to suffer, but to support ourselves we have small mind--to know what actually we are doing, inch by inch.  That is small mind.  If you call it small mind, but if it doesn't cease to act, you know, going on and on, that is actually big mind.  So if you lose the background of the small mind which is big mind, then small mind end up in small mind for you.  It is actually going, but you don't feel so, and you are always afraid of something will happen to you.  That is fear, you know.  That is why we suffer.

Student I:  I know; but my question is why was all this created in the first place?

Suzuki Roshi:  Which practice?

Student I:  Why was all this created, all this--

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah, that is--

Student I:  --you're given that, kind of, climb out [?] of small mind.  The whole process.  Why?  What's the sense of this?

Suzuki Roshi:  Oh.  Why we have that--why this kind--why we are created in that way? 

Student I:  Yeah.

Suzuki Roshi:  Uh-huh.  It is something which is difficult to answer [laughs, laughter].  But actually it is, you know--we are--the purpose of Buddhism is not to answer that kind of question, like Christianity.  Who created, you know?  Your question is something like, "Who is responsible for?"  [Laughs, laughter.]  What if?  But no one is responsible for that.  If you say someone should be responsible for that, you should be responsible for that because you change your mind little bit, you know.  If you have little bit right understanding, you will be free from that kind of problem and you can and even enjoy the problem.  So, actually, you are creating and you are responsible, but we are not talking about whose responsibility it is.  But actually things is going in that way.  That is nature of Buddhism; that is the nature of Buddha's teaching.  He didn't, you know, say anything definitely, and he did not pick up any special cause.

It is impossible to answer when this earth or when this universe started, you know, when we are going, you know, and what is the limit of the universe.  Is that possible?  Not possible.  This is important point also.  If there is some limit, you know, or if we think there is some limit, it is not absolute anymore.  Because we--there is no limit in universe, and things started [from] beginningless beginning and going to endless end.  That is why, you know, we can believe in our destiny.  If there is, you know, beginning and end, like Christian teaching, you can believe in God, but you cannot believe in our--each--each one of us.  We can believe in our destiny.  That is very important point.

And if Buddha have answer to that question, he is not Buddha anymore.  He is not Buddha.  Because he didn't--he was great because he didn't answer that kind of question.  That we don't know anything about it is very important point.  That we cannot answer for this is very important [laughs].  When you say "this is very important," it is not important anymore.  You can compare, you know, to some other thing, and you can say which is important, then this is not absolutely important.  You cannot depend on that kind of thing, which has some limit, which has some beginning and which has some end, because, you know, emptiness, which has no limit and no start--beginning, we can believe in it.  Isn't that so? 

This is very important.  I am not fooling you.  [Laughs, laughter.]  [Sighs.]  Okay?  If you really, you know, understand this, tear will come out.  [Makes sound like crying.]  You will really, you know, feel happy to be a Buddhist.  Just now, we are--this is question and answer, so you don't have this kind of feeling.  But if you struggle bad enough [laughs], you will, you know, feel how important point this is.  Why--how you can struggle with this struggle is you--you are supported, you know, by something, something you don't know.  But as we are human being, there must be that kind of a feeling, you know.  You must live in such city or village or community.  That is, I think, very important.  So whatever community it may be, it is necessary to have community to--which have this kind of spiritual support.

That is why I respect Trungpa Rinpoche.  That is a point, you know.  He is supporting us.  You may criticize him because he drinks like I drink water [laughs, laughter].  That is minor problem.  He trust you completely.  He knows if he is always supporting you, in its true sense, you will not criticize him, whatever he does.  And he doesn't mind whatever you say [laughs].  It's not point, you know.  This kind of spirit is necessary for--for human being, without clinging to some special, you know, religion or form of practice.  [Sighs.]

For whole lecture (71-07-06V) go to

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