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Shunryu Suzuki Jan. '98 Disciple Meeting - VIII

Index, Cast of Characters, and Notes


DC note: Coming out of a break. Phillip here is continuing an ongoing discussion of transmission.

PW: . . . I think what was invented just for passing on temples that was the actual function. So lay Zen Buddhists in Japan very specifically do not get into transmission, ever. That's for priests. Priests need that, priests do that. Let them do it. It won't hurt anybody. But finally it has nothing to do with the real reality. So I agree with you. We're just having fun talking about things in the past.

LK: I've always been a little on the outskirts and many of these things that took place in San Francisco. A lot of these things are a real surprise to me. I've never heard about them before. And the discussion did go in a direction I was a little surprised at. I thought we were just going to go over some personal stories. I was a little surprised at the direction. But in listening to them I thought there were a lot of useful things going on around here. A lot of it's politics, etc., but I think we can learn from it. Especially the relationship between big bureaucracy like Sotoshu. How can we avoid the same mistakes and all that. So this hasn't been bad. They're not quite personal, very political, but I think there's a lot we can take away from here even though it hasn't been very uplifting in some points.

MW: Everything should be processed in this discussion. There shouldn't be anything judgmental or held back. If there's judgment coming into it then we start editing. I think we need to just have a free form. Let is all just come out.

ED?: I'm going to be leaving early this afternoon. One of the things that's been really helpful to me here is to hear your stories about how Suzuki Roshi did express his anger. I have this vision of him being this absolutely total gentle angel all the time. Except once in a while I heard that he hit people for not practicing but the stories that you've told he really expressed anger because he really needed to make a point. That's been very opening for me. It gives validity you can express yourself. You don't have to be this pure being all the time. I had never witnessed that with him, so this is already been very helpful to me just to hear your stories.

PW: On that point, I realize that maybe him beating me in the cabin, he was really beating Ed over the bread.

Ed?: That was his raw potato

DC: I think we should go a little longer in the direction that Ed wanted to go in because I feel bad about being part of a meeting where a couple of us who are interested in lower realms steamrolled it. I really respect Ed and I love his stories, and when I read what he has to say about Suzuki Roshi and I read it over and over I admire him and think how uninvolved he is with trivia. Your stories about Suzuki Roshi tend to be full of light or teaching or something fundamental.

DC note: After the break Ed had emotionally expressed his disapproval with the direction of the discussion. He wanted more dharma stories, not so much mundane stuff.

SW: The interesting thing that I pick up from all this is that Suzuki Roshi struggled with some things. And I don't remember him struggling at all. To me he was very wise and all seeing. That's the experience I have of him because I didn't see him day to day like many of you have. He struggled with things. He was sometimes disappointed by things. And he couldn't always pull off the things he wanted to do. Just like everybody else. I was really pleased to hear all these stories.

MW: He also made mistakes.

KT: What I think is important. This is the first time this group has gotten together and shared memories and recollections. We're creating a common history. I think that's terribly important. I've heard all these stories slightly different faceted, and we're correcting each other, adjusting each other, bringing forth our different perceptions and understandings. We'll end up with multiple realities.

PW: The one and the many. What I get is like a base of a unified feeling. And then all of our expressions are coming out of that. One big pot with a lot of little...

KT: There have been a lot of rumors going around over the years about what Suzuki Roshi said and what he meant. I think it's helpful all of us sitting together in the same room. So we all share the same understanding.

MW: We'll all share a different understanding.

RA: Even if we have different understandings if we say our different understandings in front of each other rather than say our different understandings when some other people aren't around it's better.

LR: . . . accepted a long time ago, made it clear that he had made these plans. (comments all around) . . . I'm really glad that you came in. I know it's more than a bit of a sacrifice giving the plans that you made. I think it's fine that you feel the way that you did. I certainly respect that. I also respect the fact that the meeting goes the way it goes. I don't feel badly that it didn't go some other way. It's the way it went. Be nice if you could stay, but I don't want to put any pressure on you to change your plans.

DC note: I wonder who he's talking to an about. Ed left then so maybe Ed.

(talk about his staying for lunch. Then another break. Tape resumes).

MW: . . . name address and telephone number and fax number and any other number or name that's relevant. Do it in a manner that's neat so we can Xerox it for everybody. It would be nice to hear from people who haven't spoken.

(decision to talk more about transmission)

MW: What was your feeling that prompted you to say what you said?

DC: Because I talked to a lot of people and there are things it seems to me that this group should have an ongoing discussion of. Maybe we can't talk about everything right now. We might have gone as far with what we've talked about now as we can in a day and a half. I wanted to bring those things up because people mention them to me over and over. They're things that we keep in our bodies or something. Make us sick if we don't talk about them, come to some resolution. I agree with Ed that maybe this isn't our brightest light, but still it's something that we think about and talk about, and I think we're capable of being civilized with each other in discussing these things.

MW: What's happened in a certain period of time pick some period of time from now

(break in tape. Resumes )

JS: When I first met him I came down on a peace walk in San Francisco because I'd been reading also books about Zen. I heard there was such a person, so I came down. I walked into Bush Street. He was in there. I just sat down and started to talk to him, tell him about why I was interested. I had this whole long thing. I hadn't gotten more than four whole sentences out. He stopped and said, "Let's sit." So we went into the room and sat down. I guess it was about five minutes, but it really felt like and that was it. We got up and he said, when you go back, continue. I said goodbye. That was it. I was impressed that he didn't want to hear a lot of this or that. He just stopped it all and said let's sit.

PW: At least you got four sentences out. I couldn't say anything

JS: I had a lot of stuff all lined up. I remember he sat there listening, and then he just said, let's go sit. I was very struck that he didn't want to hear... There are lots of other ones, but they're so personal in a way. One of them that's always been funny to me, is at New Year's, that time we had our first thing down at Tassajara after all this very strict stuff. We were sitting around. I was jisha at the time. They had the sake sitting there at the table. Suzuki Roshi kept filling my cup. I kept thinking like he's filling it, I should drink it. I was drinking so many of these cups. But as fast as I would drink them he would refill them. I got really awfully sick. That's when you [Peter] led me to my room.

DC note: That's how Japanese drink - they keep pouring the other person's cup. To stop, you have to leave a full cup.

RB: I was watching you as you left. You almost fell with no railings at the bridge at that time you almost fell in. That's when I came up and walked with you.

JS: The next day I could scarcely get up. I went to his room and said, I don't feel very well. He said, oh, maybe you shouldn't drink. That's always remained in my head. That's what finally ended up, I just stopped altogether. Haven't really had any drinking lately. I stopped in Japan. Not without thinking about it, it just happened to me.

I have a funny story about you too. I was jisha, so I was in the room and you [Phillip] came in. We were sitting there talking and you said something, and I cannot remember what it was. To my great shock I had never seen this he picked up the stick and started I couldn't believe it. started hitting him quite seriously. He hit you while you were sitting there. Phil said something, or something had already happened between them. Suzuki Roshi picked up his thing and started hitting Phil. This happened in his room at Tassajara.

PW: See I was telling the truth. He was accusing me of having an argument with Dick.

RB: He told me quite a few times that he had a special love for you.

JS Well that's not the end of the story. When he stopped I didn't know what was going to happen. These two very sweet men, I thought at the time. And Philip who is really big so I was sitting there waiting. Suzuki Roshi was standing, because you were so tall even when you were sitting. Suzuki Roshi got up like this and started swinging. Then you reached over and you threw your arms around his legs. And you looked at me and you said, "I love this little man." I wasn't sure what was happening.

PW: There was no illicit love affair there. Strictly teacher and disciple.

JS I knew it was some kind of very wonderful teaching thing going on. I was really surprised.

RB: Aren't you the person who also told Suzuki Roshi to sleep with his head toward the north?

JS: Yes I did, and that's awful because the one time he did it he got up in the middle of the night and he walked into the wall and knocked over the lamp and it splattered all over the floor. My room was next door and I heard this crash. And I said, I wonder what that is and went right back to sleep. Now I think, how could I do that. Anyway when I went in there was this awful mess and I had to clean it up. I felt so bad about telling him to do that that I never ever again said stuff like that.

RB: Did he continue sleeping like that?

JS: No, he went right back. I thought that was a really nice thing with you, Phil. When I saw that you weren't angry when he was hitting you.

PW: I just couldn't understand. But inside this thing was getting bigger, stronger. That was the first time it ever happened when someone hit me I played football at Stanford and usually when you get hit you just sort of now I know the word for it, it's chi. When he struck there was chi that I didn't know I had. I didn't have very much energy at Tassajara. It was only near the end with the shuso that I felt releases in my body, other than him hitting me. So the closer we got to the shuso ceremony, the more light and energy and more natural I felt. There was a ceremony before when several of the students asked Reverend Suzuki a whole series of questions without interruption, and then he would take all of those questions and answer each one from memory. I never did understand that.  A lot of them. So I thought dear god, there's gonna be a shuso the next day, my mind it feels like a pea. How in the world is it possible? I was scared, you know. I was glad Dick went first, to get an idea what was going on. Because, good lord, I could never stand up to that. I'm gonna be a complete failure in this thing. But it all worked out very well. I told him I was ready to do shuso. You had gone first. No objection. Wonderful.

DC note: The ceremony Phillip is talking about is the Shosan at the end of the practice period in which ALL students ask the abbot a question but he answers each question right away.

DC note: Richard Baker was the first shuso or head monk and Phillip was the second even though Phillip was more senior by a few years.

PW: They had a kind of bamboo staff. Beautiful thing worn.

RB: Roshi found it from a piece of bamboo by the swimming pool. It was made...

PW: I thought it was ancient. But when I held it, I got this jolt of energy. The energy went whooooooo I thought dear god. Three times. I thought, well I can answer just about anything now. There was such a charge in that. Probably because I was so drained I was on the negative side and didn't have much energy. Apparently I was very sensitive to this other field of energy. It kind of overwhelmed me so any question was secondary to how I'd been set up. I looked over at Reverend Suzuki like what did you put in this stick? How did you do that? That was part of the energy story: him beating me, and these other things. I guess he couldn't get through with the mind, the enlightenment, so it was through the body.

DG or BW: I know you all know these stories about how we first met Suzuki Roshi at the Academy of Asian Studies in '59. Dr. Kato was our teacher we called him Kaz. He was the . . [to be continued]

End Side B

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