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Shunryu Suzuki Jan. '98 Disciple Meeting - VI

Index, Cast of Characters, and Notes

Part VI

Suzuki meeting 2A

RA: Before the summer board meeting Katagiri Roshi and Kobun Chino and Yoshimura were in the room at a board meeting. There was some discussion about inviting Katagiri Roshi to be abbot. The Japanese said, you people do it. Don't invite us to be your leaders. I don't know if that discussion had happened before or after he told gave us his resignation at that board meeting.

DC: He told us about it at the board meeting.

RA: He told us, and we accepted it.

PW: I wasn't there for that one. . . .

RA: I went up and told Suzuki

DC: This is where?

RA: This is in San Francisco Zen Center Board meeting. Many of the people in this room were there. I went up to tell Suzuki Roshi after the meeting that Katagiri Roshi had submitted his resignation

RB: I was still in Japan.

RA: Yes. And we accepted it. And he said, "You accepted it?! Oh no! We don't accept resignations. This is terrible." Anyway, we accepted it. He wouldn't tell Suzuki Roshi directly, and Suzuki Roshi was expecting him to stay at Zen Center. That was really hard on him to do that. But still the Board meeting in summer happened after all that. And [the result of that meeting were that] he still gets to be at Zen Center and lead the practice period at Tassajara that fall. But he won't lead the practice period, he won't be at the practice period, if Tatsugami Roshi is there. So we say, okay forget it. No Tatsugami Roshi, and he leads the practice period. He stayed at Zen Center through that time. But he knew he wasn't going to be at Zen Center even through the fall if Tatsugami Roshi was going to be there. This is 1971.

DC: That was when they got Katagiri to rescind his resignation was in that Board meeting.

LR: He didn't rescind his resignation. He just stayed through the rest of the year.

DC: He agreed to do the fall practice period.

DW: He actually stayed cause I was the Shuso during spring of '72 after Suzuki Roshi died. And he was the acting abbot. He was the teacher when I was Shuso.

DC note: Not acting abbot, guest teacher at Tassajara.

RA: But he resigned at the board meeting that spring.

YR: Of '71.

DW: But he stayed for a year, a whole 12 months.

RA: He stayed in '72 a little bit. He was around Zen Center in '72, but he moved to Monterey in '72.

DC: He was in Monterey all of '72 [when he wasn't at Tassajara]..

PW: '70 and '71 is getting a little messed up. So there were two operations.

DC: Only one.

PW: That was in '71. '71 March is the operation. Because he dies in December '71.

YR: Not true. The year was 1970.

DC: No, it's not.

RA: It's '71. He got the operation in March and he died in December.

DC: Reb knows very well because he took him to...

RA: I was with him. When he was in Japan in December 1970 he was sick. He already was getting moxibustion and stuff like that. He was already knowing he was sick. He came back. In Portland he had this attack. On March 5 he has the gall bladder operation. Doesn't tell us. [about the cancer]. He's weak but we think he's getting better. Then in summer we realize he's in trouble. Only about 9 months. As he's recovering, Katagiri Roshi resigned. Tatsugami Roshi leaves

DW: Spring practice period of '71 was his [Tatsugami's] last.

DC: He was there through April.

DW: Peter, you were shuso spring of '71?

PS: Yeah. He was there.

RA: So then Katagiri Roshi resigned. We come into the summer. We were still thinking how Tatsugami Roshi's going to come back for another practice period.

DW: He was spring of '71 but he wasn't spring of '72 when I was shuso.

DC: That was after Suzuki Roshi died. Spring of '71 was his [Tatsugami's] last one.

RA: Suzuki Roshi's recovering, we think. Katagiri Roshi had resigned. He's not going to stay at Zen Center long-term. He says, "I want to have my own group. I'm coming in the summer." We have the Board meeting. We're considering having Tatsugami Roshi back. Katagiri Roshi speaks up. And that's pretty much the end of it. Suzuki Roshi is happy to have it that way. We're all comfortable with that. We don't invite him back.

DC: The way I remember is that it was like a chess game between Katagiri and Suzuki. Katagiri saying I won't go there if Tatsugami's there. So Suzuki said, well, then we will uninvite Tatsugami, we will ask you to do the practice period. At that point Katagiri said, I will only do the practice period if you help me do it. So Suzuki Roshi said, okay I'll do that. All of a sudden we had gone from having Tatsugami for a fourth practice period while some of us thought three was enough; looking forward to that, to all of a sudden having Katagiri Roshi and Suzuki Roshi both down there. We were completely elated. I saw it as like this chess game when all of a sudden and I saw it as something that Suzuki Roshi without hardly making any moves, had accomplished, by allowing us..

RA: I never heard him say this but I feel that he was really trying to find some way to keep Katagiri Roshi at Zen Center. Doing his utmost to find some way to make him stay. Everybody else was happy with that too. But it didn't work. I think it was really hard on him.

DC: I think he blew it. He just didn't talk enough. Didn't communicate enough. He never thanked him for anything. And he didn't realize that Katagiri felt hurt and unrecognized. And wanted his own group. He didn't want to be in a group where everybody just Suzuki this, Suzuki that He was well respected but he wanted his own group where he was well respected.

RA: He said at that board meeting where he resigned, he said, "I cannot control Dick Baker." In other words, "I can't be the abbot." Then the Japanese said, "You people, you people should be leading this group." So we accepted his resignation.

??: He said I can't control Dick Baker?

RA: Yeah. He said I'm not strong enough to lead Zen Center under those circumstances so he didn't want to try. He would have led Zen Center if he could have, I thought.

PW:(?) What do you think about that, Dick?

RB: Might be true.

(much laughter)

??: I'm sure he could have controlled you

RB: I didn't feel that way and I don't feel that way now.

?PW: Were relationships sort of sliding by each other? One person would have an expectation about another person and the other person wouldn't even know it, and they'd be like passing through each other, instead of having

RB: I tried to encourage Katagiri to stay. So he may have been using that as an excuse.

RA: I felt like when the Japanese people said that, I think today, too, that they told us the right thing. It's good what they said to us. Two priests said it. Kobun and Yoshimura said You people do it. Basically, grow up. I think that was good advice. Of course we have our history it's difficult. Still it would have been nice if we did it with their help. I think Suzuki Roshi would have appreciated if both Yoshimura and Katagiri had stayed. I think you're right too, David, in that our teacher did not do good communication stuff that was necessary to make those people feel they could stay.

DC: Katagiri definitely told me that.

YR: I don't remember when Suzuki Roshi said this to me, but it was around the time of Katagiri Roshi's resignation he said his idea was that you [Richard Baker] were the one who could create the vehicle teaching and practice. That was what he imagined you doing. His idea was that Katagiri Roshi would be carrying the spiritual practice side of it. He saw that we needed both. I remember at the time feeling a lot of grief that he hadn't for whatever reasons made that more over earlier. Because he also said that because of the way Katagiri Roshi had submitted his resignation he couldn't see any way to change that.

RA: He would have had to say what you said to all of us. He would have had to say that six months or a year earlier. Even before your [Baker's] dharma transmission he would have had to say that. So Katagiri Roshi would get a picture of what his role would be. He wanted that kind of joint leadership.

PW: That's a valid point because at Shasta, when Kennett Roshi died they divided the responsibilities into two parts. Reverend Eko would take Shasta Abbey and Reverend Daizui became the guy on horseback. He went around and hit all the sunlight rectories. They divided the responsibilities into two parts. It was too much for one person. So when you brought this up, it's very interesting. Everyone is talking about the responsibilities, the load of being head of Zen Center. You get tired. So maybe you can divide those responsibilities up. Again, it's a communication thing. It has to be clearly stated and set into the organization so it's a functional thing.

DC note: One important factor we weren't so aware of then was that Katagiri and Suzuki are in different lineages. We didn't realize or weren't putting enough emphasis on the fact that that Katagiri wanted a place to plant hi lineage. Zen Center was Suzuki's lineage. It does happen sometimes that priests from other lineages take over temples but that wasn't going to happen at the Zen Center. Katagiri surely knew that and knew that if he stayed at the ZC that he'd just be an assistant to Richard Baker the way he'd been to Suzuki. He'd paid his dues and was ready to go to a place that was his.

KT: It's interesting that Suzuki Roshi didn't really communicate his appreciation of Katagiri Roshi. Because he depended upon him so much.

DC: And he did express it at times. But not enough.

KT: Tomoe said Katagiri Roshi is always cleaning up the messes. He had to clean up at Sokoji when Suzuki Roshi left.

KT: I think he did stay behind for some period.

DC: No he didn't. The Sokoji board gave Suzuki Roshi an ultimatum. He did not tell them, I want to leave and go to Page Street. They told him. He wanted to keep doing the two things. Or he thought he should, or something had to happen. They gave Suzuki Roshi an ultimatum: us or them. And Suzuki Roshi said them. And Katagiri Roshi said I'll stay and help out, but I need to also be at Page Street helping out. And they said, no. Us or them. 100%. We're through with them. That's when I believe Yoshimura at that point just stayed. Before Moriyama came. They were really through with having priests dividing their attention.

PS: I talked to [Suzuki Roshi] about this. He said there was a man who was outside of the Sokoji family who wanted to become the president of Sokoji but he didn't have any chance at all. So Suzuki Roshi went to him and said, you know you really shouldn't run, you're going to get egg on your face.

DC: He used the word "tomago."

PW: This guy got extremely angry and did a great amount to undercut Suzuki Roshi. So Suzuki Roshi said I was very happy because I could use this as my excuse for leaving Sokoji.

RB: He implied to me at various times that he expected to leave Sokoji.

PS: But he had no way to leave. He didn't have a gentle way to leave. And this guy somehow made a new faction at Sokoji and that faction became strong. And at that point he was able to escape.

??: It was necessary for him to leave.

RB: Although Suzuki Roshi told me he wanted me to be his successor in 1967, I had no idea he was sick or anything. I expected to come back and practice with him for at least ten years. My imagination was ten years or more. No one communicated to me how sick he was until Charlotte Selver was with me in Japan. I got a letter from her, or a call or something. She and Charles were in Japan for several weeks. She said, you'd better get back here soon. Suzuki Roshi's going to die.

DW: You didn't realize at that transmission time with him in Japan how frail he was?

RB: No. He seemed fine.

DC: He was fine then. He'd gotten completely well. He went over and he was sick at first in October.

RB: He always had that little cough.

DC: He'd had that cough for years. But by the time he was with you he'd gotten well.

RA: He was sick in Japan.

DC: I'm just saying what Okusan said. He was very sick when they went. And she begged him to go. And she carried his bags for him. They went on this pottery tour. He stayed in the hotel and she stayed in the hotel with him. Massaging him and giving him the Okyu [acupuncture] stuff. It was like her only vacation of her life and all she could do is stay in the hotel. Afterwards he went to Rinsoin and then she said he got perfectly well and was fine at Rinsoin when he was there with Dick.

RB: He went to Eiheiji with me. I was there for some weeks and I saw him every day. He would then hang out with these folks from Yaizu and they would get a little drunk together and people would shout. Not Suzuki Roshi but there were parties with people. He had to do them. He had energy. We drove all the way to Eiheiji.

DC: Can I remind you of something you told me? You said you'd gone to his temple with him. You were supposed to be doing this transmission thing. You were stuck out there on the far wing. He was meeting with people all the time. At one point you just said, "I just got fed up and I went in and I told him if you're going to spend all your time with all these people and none with me I'm leaving here." And this was very consistent with other things [you've told me]. And that he did start spending more time with you then. He always deferred to your wishes. That's what I've noticed. He liked you.

RB: I didn't realize that I was going to have to be the abbot or anything. I thought if that ever happened it would be a long time in the future.

MW: I remember Charlie Beery [?] and I one time commiserating with each other and I said, why do you think that Suzuki Roshi asked Dick to be his successor. He said, well, Dick went in and stole his heart.

RB: The very first thing that happened when I came back from Japan I came one time to do that Fidelity thing he was really pissed off at me I accepted a job with Fidelity Mutual Fund. I was going to do that for awhile, trying to make some money for Zen Center. In Boston. I spent awhile, they paid me, then I gave him the money back. He was quite pissed off at me for doing that. But when I came back in '71 just before he died late October I sat down at his bedside. The first thing he said to me was, "I'm very sorry for what I am about to do to you." And he started to cry. I said, it's okay.

I would try to answer your question, Yvonne, about Suzuki Roshi's attitude about Sotoshu at some point if we are in that discussion.

DC: I think we need to be making a list of things to get back to in some way, that we're just not going to have time to talk about. One thing is the Sotoshu which I think is a very important conversation which should be ongoing. I've made a list of a couple of things. I'm very sorry Ananda's not here. Another thing I think is important is what Yvonne said about Suzuki's attitude about what Katagiri's and Dick's role should be. Basically what she said was that Dick's role would be secular and Katagiri's would be spiritual. I don't think that's really fair. And I don't think that the dharma transmission and what I saw indicates that kind of split. I think he wanted Katagiri to be a senior advisor and hoped for a relationship there that I think was clearly impossible.

YR: I didn't understand what he was saying with that kind of..

DC: Well there's that sort of implication that I think has to be dealt with.

YR: That wasn't the tone of it as I remember when he was expressing it.

DC: I think that ought to be clarified. Because that is the assumption of many people. I heard it said from the time I came to Zen Center by people. Well, Dick's a good businessman. Or Dick's a good manager.

PW: You never looked secular to me when you were functioning. Not at all.

RB: It was weird that I was functioning.

PW: I just thought you had different talents and gifts and you could throw it all together.

RB: I thought so too.

PW: And that wasn't separate from your meditation, or the transmission, or anything like that.

RB: You had the same myth I had. I still do.

DC: I'm not saying I'm not mystified by the whole thing, or have any particular opinion, but what I saw was Suzuki Roshi clearly singling out Dick as a unique dharma heir, and singling out no one else in that way. He was working on transmission with Bill. That's an indication there. One reason I say I'm sorry Ananda isn't here is that he called Ananda into his office when he was sick and said I want to give dharma transmission to a number of other people before I die, and I want to bring Noiri Roshi over to do the ceremony. He was thinking he'd live another year. He wanted a three month ceremony and he was talking up to a dozen people to give dharma transmission to. Ananda asked him what is the difference between that dharma transmission that you're giving these other people in terms of enlightenment or understanding Buddhism and what you're giving to Dick. And he said, no difference. Dick is getting responsibility for the temple of Zen Center, but in terms of people being teachers there would be many. There was not a lot of conversation that went on after this. Ananda talked to a few people like Silas, and maybe Peter, and Yvonne I've never been able to quite figure this all out. They all said, Suzuki's too sick. We can't ask him to do this. Let's let Dick take care of it when he gets back. Okusan remembers all this. And she said no way can you bring Noiri over here, and we have two of you to take care of with special diets. And Ananda said to Suzuki, well I talked to some people and we think you're too sick, we should let Dick come back and do it. Nobody would go along with helping him to complete his mission in America. It was a terrible thing. I feel that he wanted to give transmission to a lot of people and we didn't allow him to do it.


DC note: I don't feel so strong about that now. Now I tend to think of all the trouble people would have gotten into being made teachers so quickly with so little to guide them. But I don't know.

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