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Shunryu Suzuki Jan. '98 Disciple Meeting - V

Index, Cast of Characters, and Notes


Part V

YR: I'm just trying to get more detail about what was it about Sotoshu that Suzuki Roshi was not thrilled about.

??: Do we know?

PW: Actually we do know. The beautiful thing about Reverend Suzuki is that he gave us he filtered through all that stuff and gave us what he thought was best for us at Zen Center. So what is left is what he really thought. He never mentioned any of these things and he probably did it with good insight hindsight foresight. He gave us meditation.

??: Obviously we all know he always used to say, don't be Japanese. He didn't want us to be Japanese. He wanted us to say the Heart Sutra three times and that was it. And bow and that was it. And Tatsugami brought over the formal Japanese

PW: Not only that. I said to Reverend Suzuki one time, why don't we incorporate some of Eiheiji's things. He said no. I said, but they're beautiful. The ceremonies, and the gong, and I went through the whole thing. And he said no.

LR: One time during a sesshin at Page Street I was doing something with the gomashio. It was different than we'd done in the past. I can't remember what it was. It was some thing and he asked me about that. In some respects this sort of goes in the opposite direction of what you said because we the original form that he taught us was that when you pass the gomashio you bow before you receive the gomashio and then you bow after you receive the gomashio. Very elaborate, quite formal, in that sense. And Tatsugami changed it so there was a much faster and he was asking me about that. I said, oh that's something we learned at Tassajara from Tatsugami. And he said something like, "I never said for you to do that." Clearly he did not approve. I think what it really was that he didn't approve of Tatsugami.

??: He wanted us to show respect at each moment like that obviously.

LR: And the notion of some kind of streamlined monastic, whatever they did now, that didn't matter to him.

??: We were quite happy not to have to bow. We were bowing forever getting out of the zendo. That was crazy.

MW: I think it's just a matter of styles. But he did bring Tatsugami Roshi to complete the monastic

RB: No he didn't. He was quite angry with me for having Tatsugami Roshi come.

??: What was the motivation to invite him?

RB: When I went to Japan Suzuki Roshi said to look for a good priest to come and help. But I think he meant somebody more like Kobun or Katagiri Roshi or something. By chance, because there weren't many foreigners in Japan at the time, and Brian Victoria was quite famous and there was no reason not to meet him, we met in Tokyo. I spent some time with him. We walked around and did things. He asked me if I would - he invited me to Tatsugami Roshi's temple. I now feel that Tatsugami Roshi may have wanted him to do this because he wanted to come to America. I was fairly innocent about it. Tatsugami Roshi was just about to retire from Eiheiji or had retired. I said, sure, I would meet him. So a visit was arranged and I went to his temple. His son was there. His son was at Eiheiji when I was there. And after Tatsugami Roshi left Eiheiji his son wouldn't speak to me when I went back to visit. Because he blamed me for ousting Tatsugami Roshi from Tassajara when I came back. And I did. I didn't invite him back. Because what he did in Eiheiji [Tassajara?] I found totally shocking. His behavior.

PW: I was very careful about my relationships with him. I always had someone in the room.

PS: You were still in Japan when Suzuki Roshi came to us and said we will not invite Tatsugami back. And we liked Tatsugami. We had fun with him. We liked the rituals. And he [Suzuki] said, no. We had heard stories from Dion(?) who had heard some terrible things that Tatsugami had said about Suzuki Roshi. Even so we liked Tatsugami. He [Suzuki] said no, if you invite a Japanese priest back a third time

(message on machine from Ananda) . . . meeting today. I can't make it today so that message should be relayed to Mel

DC note: Tatsugami had been uninvited to Tassajara before Richard Baker came back. We decided that at a board meeting in the late spring of 71 with Suzuki Roshi there and Suzuki wrote him a letter uninviting him to the fall practice period. That was while Richard Baker was still in Japan.

YR: Before we go back to not inviting him back, let's stay with your story about...

RB: I went to the temple and I stayed one night or two. I really don't remember if I said would you like to come to America. Or they hinted that he wanted to come to America. I don't remember at this point. But I did clearly invite him to come to America out of that visit. I couldn't imagine that he wouldn't respect Suzuki Roshi and get out of hand the way he did. So I said would you like to come to America. And he said yes. So the arrangements were made. I wrote to Yvonne, probably. You [Yvonne] were the main person I had contact with in Japan. Anyway he came. And I was in Japan. After that I went to Eiheiji. While there he came as a visiting priest to talk to us. He gave a talk in which he spent forty-five minutes bragging about his temple in America. He walked back and forth and said, "My temple. I am now the abbot. I'm going to stay there the rest of my life," or something. I'm sitting there thinking how could he be saying this in front of me. He said, I'm the new bishop of America. It was like that.

PW: He would do that even when he was talking to the cook, though. It was always this flamboyant style.

RB: But he very specifically talked about Zen Center as his temple.

??:(female) . . . Japanese to understand it directly?

RB: Oh yes.

DW:? But you didn't contact Suzuki Roshi at that point?

RB: Yes.

DC: There's more to your story. After he'd done this you stood up, or at some point you said, thank you very much for coming to America to be our guest teacher.

RB: At Eiheiji I said that? I could have, yeah. Do you remember my getting off the platform to support you [who? Dan? Yvonne?], cause you weren't on the platform downstairs? I came back from Japan and there was a ceremony. Suzuki Roshi only had ordained people on it and I considered you one of the senior people, ordained or not. I had said to him before, I don't think only ordained people I think senior people should be on the platform. It was a ceremony downstairs in the zendo. When it was not yet a zendo at that time? I was back for a short period from Japan. He had me sitting on the altar. When I sat there and saw you sitting in the front seat I got up in the middle of the ceremony and went down and sat down beside you in the front seat. Because I was quite annoyed that only priests were being recognized. I thought that was a mistake.

DW:? Peter, for the record, you said that we enjoyed Tatsugami. I had that funny role, sometimes being the only translator. I respected him but I won't go to the extreme of joy. Because it was a real struggle. I could see what he was doing that he wanted to take over. That he had this proprietary sense that it's mine. I could respect him. I could joke and play with him and work with him. But I really sensed the trouble that was...

PW: He was a conqueror. He took me on some of his sake parties in Japan. And this was with monks. And he was god.

RB: He was famous. Eiheiji and Tatsugami were synonymous the way Tassajara and David Chadwick were synonymous at one time.

??: The word isn't famous. [Sounds like something Yvonne would say. - dc]

RA: My memory of the board meeting where we did not invite him was at Tassajara. I'm pretty sure Dan was there. And I think Yvonne was there. I don't remember who else in this room was there. My feeling was not so much that we did or did not like Tatsugami, things were going okay from the students' point of view to some extent, though we did have some problems. If Suzuki Roshi had said he wanted him to come back, and if Katagiri Roshi had said he wanted him to come back, I think we would have said okay But Katagiri Roshi said, I will not be at Tassajara for another practice period if Tatsugami Roshi is there. The reason was that Tatsugami Roshi was using Katagiri Roshi and you for translators, but he wasn't treating Katagiri Roshi appropriately. Were you ever there when Katagiri Roshi was translating? He kind of treated him well, not any way remotely related to being a peer, with respect. But Katagiri Roshi did the job of translating for him.

PW: Katagiri Roshi told me he was totally bored and frustrated trying to translate his talks.

RA: So he said, if you invite him back I'm not going to be here.

PW: We got drunk together.

RA: That was too much. And then Suzuki Roshi didn't have to say anything so strong as I don't want you to invite him back. I don't think he wanted to take the rap for not inviting him back.

PW: I don't know what it was but in my feeling at some point or other

RA: Here's the way I would say it. If you people want to invite him back, okay

PW: Not for me.

RA: The nuance is, if I'm not your teacher and he is, invite him.

PW: My nuance was this guy's not coming back.

DC note: I wonder if the PWs here are really Phillip Wilson. He wasn't at Tassajara for any of Tatsugami's three practice periods and so why would he be saying these things - on the other hand Phillip was whacky and could have been mouthing off like this. I remember that at one point in these meetings, he was asked to back off a bit.

RA: Between Suzuki Roshi and Katagiri Roshi I thought Suzuki Roshi was more like I'm not sure you people really want me to be the abbot any more, if that's really the case and you really like him. But of course we said, what are you talking about, of course you're our teacher. But he was a little bit putting it like that. I was surprised. Do you think we would choose him over you? No, no, no. But he was soft about it. But Katagiri Roshi was like, I'm not going to be here. So it was very easy for us not to invite him back. But we kind of liked him too.

RB: He did seem to do some good things for Tassajara.

RA: We kind of liked him. We saw what he was doing, but we still liked him.

DC: This board meeting you're talking about. This happened after Katagiri Roshi had resigned from Zen Center, I believe. Suzuki Roshi got that resignation from Katagiri while he was in the hospital recovering from his gall bladder operation. They discovered cancer. They said they'd gotten it all. They were sure they had so they didn't tell anybody. He wanted Dick to come back. But Katagiri had resigned. Okusan says this is what killed Suzuki Roshi, that Katagiri resigned. Suzuki Roshi was always trying to get Katagiri to talk to him and Katagiri was avoiding Suzuki Roshi because he didn't want to talk to him because it was hard for him to say no to him. And Suzuki Roshi spent awhile in the hospital, then he went back to the city and was recuperating. But then he went out and drove to the Memorial service at Colma where all the Japanese go from all denominations including Christian. He caught Katagiri there. And said, I hear you want to leave. Where do you plan to go? And didn't get any further than that. Then at Tassajara Katagiri Roshi was back at Tassajara so Suzuki Roshi called and talked to Dan and said I'm coming down. Hold Katagiri there. Dan told that to Niels and Niels, who was Katagiri's assistant

End Tape 1B Side B

DC note: I'll finish that story. Niels, who was Katagiri's assistant, played his hand from that point to keep Katagiri there for Suzuki. He said that Katagiri would occasionally ask him when was Suzuki coming and Niels said not for a long time or he hasn't even left yet so that Katagiri was there when Suzuki arrived and Niels said he could see that Katagiri realized that Niels had betrayed him. Niels said he stayed with them and watched as they greeted which he said was unlike anything that he'd ever seen. He said they bowed down to each other saying what sounded like formalities in Japanese and that at that point Suzuki asked Katagiri to stay longer in a way that Katagiri couldn't refuse.

End of the first day or at least the first tapes, 1A and 1B

*****



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