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Shunryu Suzuki Jan. '98 Disciple Meeting - X

Index, Cast of Characters, and Notes

End of part IX:

PW: Well, this is the third eye. In martial arts and aikido, there was a guy called Tohei‑sensei. In a seminar Tohei said, these Buddhists, when they sit ‑‑

Part X

Side B

PW: (continued) ‑‑ a lot of times you just go by and you could just push them over. He said, but I can show you a way where you don't have to think about enlightenment or anything, or being a Buddhist, and they can't push you over. What you do is imagine that there's a line going from your third eye ‑‑ if you go too high it won't work ‑‑ if you go to the top of your head ‑‑ if you go too low it won't work. So you imagine a line going from here straight down to your tanden. So we imagined that. I didn't feel anything. We all sat in lotus position and he came by. At first we did it without the line and most of us went over. He pushed us over. But we did this thing here, we imagined that line there, just like focusing on that line, when they pushed, something ‑‑ it was harder to move us any way. So there's something going on here.

RB: One time Suzuki Roshi in a lecture, near the end, suddenly said ‑‑ and it didn't seem related to anything ‑‑ he said, "No one can push me over." That's a little guy." Anyone want to try?" No one tried.

YR: I remember the first sesshin at Page Street. It was the sesshin when Steve Gaskin was getting ready to leave to go to Tennessee. He and the whole gang came into the back of the zendo for lecture. Every day this crowd would come in the back. I remember that so clearly. During that sesshin ‑‑ maybe the fifth or sixth day ‑‑ I remember this vividly because my knee had suddenly got very swollen and I'd gone to sitting in a chair which I was pretty unhappy about ‑‑ and I was pretty unhappy about this giant throbbing knee. He pointed to his legs and he said, "Do you think my legs don't hurt me?" I was so appalled. "You're wrong. My legs hurt me just like yours do." I was devastated.

DC: But we don't want to do to ourselves what Japanese do to themselves to go along with the group [to the extent of damaging ourselves]. Even if it's coming from Suzuki Roshi I don't think you should destroy your knees.

YR: I didn't actually feel like he was encouraging me to destroy my knees. And I didn't have any sense about what he might be pointing at for a long long time. Finally what I realized, what I saw was that his reaction to his aching legs was different. He was so still.

DC: Don't you think you could have interpreted that like I'm being selfish, I shouldn't be thinking about my knees, he's sitting there with pain in his knees so I should do it too.

YR: No, I just thought I shouldn't sit with some idea of getting good enough to ‑‑

PW: There's more here than meets the eye because he told me to imagine my legs and stand. Imagine myself standing. Now which legs is he talking about? Real ones ‑‑ or ‑‑

JS: At one of our sesshins at Tassajara in the middle of the sesshin he said, "You should try sitting without moving no matter how it hurts. Don't move." Somebody said, "Why?" He said, "Because you'll feel good about yourself afterwards." Something like that.

YR: I heard him say something like that about the benefits of getting up in the morning whether you felt like it or not also.

BW: He would always say that pain is your teacher. Just go with it. Appreciate it.

JS: One time I heard his lectures about pain. One time in the dokusan I started talking to him about how good I felt pain was teaching me. And how much I felt I was growing because of trying to master pain. He stopped me talking and said, "Pain is tedious."

??: I see some pattern here.

BW: Dick, you have a story about the pain in your knees. You told it once, and Suzuki Roshi's response.

RB: I can't remember.

BW: Well maybe this is not correct. As I remember, you had been sitting for about five years and your long legs were very difficult to control and you had to sit with about three zafus and with your knees up high.

RB: We called it the half‑lily. It nearly killed me.

BW: You finally got them down. You asked Suzuki Roshi once, "I've been sitting for about five years and my knees still hurt." He just looked at Dick and raised an eyebrow and said, "Oh."

RA: I heard a story, you were sitting on a bunch of zafus, and he came by you and whispered, "sit in a chair."

RB: Repeatedly he told me to sit in a chair. I had three pillows and my knees were up around my ears.

PW: I thought you complained about the bottom of your rear and the bones being very sore. You or Petchey.

RB: Petchey used to sit without moving.

??: Petchey was an arhat.

RB: Do you know the story where he kept coming in and leaving? He'd go upstairs. In those days at Sokoji they didn't have Xerox machines and they had this onionskin copies he had for schedules. It's a noisy kind of paper. We were sitting ‑‑ five or ten minutes seemed like an eternity in those days ‑‑ and Graham Petchey was sitting. And once he leaned forward during this time. And came back. And Suzuki Roshi went upstairs. Then we hear him come back down. We think, oh thank god. He'd come in, open the door. Then he'd close the door. Then we'd hear him going back upstairs. Then he'd come down. Then he'd come in and go up to the altar and pick up this onionskin piece of paper and look at it. Then he'd go out again. This went on two and a half hours. Twenty minutes he'd let us sit sometimes, but two and a half hours! Graham leaned forward once. And it's the only time I ever sat through that kind of time without moving. But I did feel good afterwards. When he finally rang the bell we all just started laughing.

YR: I tell that story sometimes during sesshins. The students all blanch. They think it's a horrible story.

DC note: I don't think she means to imply that she was there. This story is before her time I believe.

LR: Does anybody recall any other occasions where Suzuki Roshi said, oh I'm not enlightened.

DC: Many times.

PW:? Somebody would say, tell us about your enlightenment experience. He'd just pick out anything. He never told the same one twice. There was one about the cucumber ‑‑ anything. Whatever story came to his mind, that was the enlightenment story.

DW: Crooked cucumber ‑‑ about his teacher

PS:? . . . one of the stories from his childhood, concerning the crooked cucumber.

RB: . . . buried pickle stories. First enlightenment story.

LR: Well that isn't an example of his saying he's not enlightened though. Cause there were times when he would ‑‑ depending on the circumstance ‑‑ he'd say ‑‑

RA: I think it was like the third lecture I heard him give, downstairs, he said, I'm not enlightened. And I thought, whoops. Then I thought, well, he's still the best person I ever met. The next week he said, "I am Buddha."

MW: When I heard him say I'm not enlightened, I thought he must be enlightened.

DC: Ananda has ten points he makes about Suzuki Roshi. Number one point is he was not enlightened. "I heard him say many times he was not enlightened." However that's just half the story. There's another half in which he did ‑‑ not only demonstrate enough something wonderful to many people in individual ways. But there are also times in which he said he was enlightened. I feel that Ananda's just being stubborn in sticking with that thought myself. Mike Dixon remembers him saying, on my second satori, or on my third satori ‑‑ early on, but Mike said he found the reaction was too big. People would go nuts hearing that. It was such a big deal because of the DT Suzuki and Alan Watts books and enlightenment and Zen master and all this. In teaching you have to emphasize the side that's coming up, and what's always coming up is enlightenment. That's my interpretation of it.

PW: One time when we were in the office he took a pencil ‑‑ we were doing something, talking ‑‑ he took a pencil and was balancing it. It would go this way and that way ‑‑ with the point down. He got it to stay there for about a second. Then it fell over and he just smiled. I found that very interesting.

SW You mentioned my name earlier, and generally I feel like I actually don't have specific recollections in the way that many of you do. I'm really appreciating this last hour of talk. I saw him a number of times in dokusan. It wasn't down in Tassajara during those last years, and I didn't have a certain kind of closeness with him. Maybe I just have a lousy memory. But what arose for me about ten minutes ago was during the Mountain Seat ceremony. The staff, with the rings ‑‑ just hearing ‑‑ I was in the Buddha Hall with a few hundred other people ‑‑ just hearing the sound of the staff ‑‑

PS: We went upstairs after that. A lot of us crowded into the office there. The first thing he did was to again and again thank Katagiri Roshi.

LR: Is that the time Katagiri Roshi burst into tears?

??: That's the time. A very important story.

DW: He burst into tears in the Buddha Hall?

RA: In the office afterwards. He crawled on his knees over to Suzuki Roshi.

LR: It was not like bursting into tears, he was like wailing.

DW: What was he expressing? Suzuki Roshi dying? or ‑‑

??: It's hard to say. He thanked him

PS: Thanked him very very much.

RA: Katagiri Roshi burst into tears and walked on his knees over to Suzuki Roshi and kind of put his head on his lap. Suzuki Roshi said . . . (inaudible words) . . .

DC: I think Katagiri was saying don't die, or I love you ‑‑ something. Don't die, I think.

PW: I think it was a combination of this because when I saw Reverend Suzuki and he talked about imagining the legs, that guy ‑‑ I would say that the unborn ‑‑ he was relying on the unborn at that point. What I saw was a miraculous thing. Reverend Suzuki was alive through his sincerity and through the unborn. It was the unborn that we saw, and just the skeleton of Reverend Suzuki. And the unborn was doing that ceremony. The feeling was very true. There was great presence there. Probably Reverend Katagiri recognized that the unborn was Reverend Suzuki ‑‑ was most evident at that time. Because that body could not walk. There was no strength there. There was nothing there. His intention ‑‑ I can't say any more.

DW: Jangled the rings?

??: Yeah he jangled the rings, and then he looked to the left, and then he looked to the right ‑‑ and then he ‑‑

RB:? Everybody burst into tears I think. Such a specific looking . . .

LR: I think it's very hard for any of us to understand ‑‑ not being Japanese ‑‑ all of the different things Katagiri Roshi felt. I think there's tremendous complexity of it all. It's hard to understand all the different things that he felt.

MW: I think the whole Japanese/American problem (coming together) in him. All his tensions were . . .

PS: I saw Katagiri Roshi about a year when he was the temporary abbot.[? That was 83-4] We came back and I was in the dokusan room with him. I was talking to him. He said ‑‑ and I don't think I was talking about putting my robes away ‑‑ but he said to me ‑‑ this is a year and a half after he had been away so probably '74 ‑‑ anyway there was some period ‑‑ Katagiri Roshi may not have been abbot then ‑‑ and he said, "Last year I understood for the first time why I'm wearing robes." This was after Suzuki Roshi died and after Dick had become abbot. There's no connection with either of those actually. And I interpreted that as saying that at that point was when he had ‑‑ (?) what ever he had said. But until that point he didn't have . . . That may have had some place in the . . .

The last time I saw Suzuki Roshi was probably in October I guess. We talked a very short time ‑‑ and what he said was, "How's Silas?" I explained that Silas was ‑‑ Suzuki Roshi talked to me, he was sick and in his room. This is after the ceremony. He asked most of . . . I remember Silas . . .the date's probably wrong. The last time I saw him whenever that may have been.

DC: The last thing he said before he went to bed, the night he died, was tell Dick I want to talk to him about Silas tomorrow morning. That's what he told Mitsu. My impression was that he was disturbed that he hadn't taken care of things better and he felt he was leaving Silas in the lurch. He wanted to talk to you [Richard Baker] about Silas. . . .

??: So Silas was invited and he didn't come?

LR: I talked to Silas on the phone. Maybe we should spend a moment since Silas's name has come up.

(tape turned off?)

LR: . . . how it was for Silas. In some subsequent meeting Silas is here. One of the things one of us might do ‑‑ those of you who maybe know him a bit better than I do might call him up after the meeting and fill him in on how it went. Particularly if we decide ‑‑ have some specific decision at the end of the meeting about some future type of thing. There are several people who for one reason or another didn't come. I really do miss Paul Discoe. He would have added a lot to this kind of conversation in all kinds of ways. He's just not here. He's in Austria.

PW: Silas drove a lot of Buddhists to Tassajara in the shuso period in that semi‑pickup truck.

RB: Silas was great. He was one of the mainstays of Zen Center for years.

BK:? I remember going to his house. He bought a new house . . . I'd go over there and have dinner. Very nice man.

YR: David you started to ‑‑ changed your mind?

DC: It's always fortunate when someone stops me from talking.

MW: ? ‑ we haven't heard from you.

(someone, female, speaks quietly)

(the microphone is not near enough to her to hear)

KT: You know I was editor of the Wind Bell a couple of times so I had the opportunity to go in there [to see Suzuki]. I think it was that first issue which was the story of the city center. [The first issue after moving into the City Center] I interviewed a bunch of people and took pictures. It was fun to do. I went in there and I think I read it all to him. There was some hesitation in him about it. I didn't quite understand. I later understood that he really wasn't interested in people's personal feelings about how this felt and how that felt which is what the issue is about. So I think I read it to him twice and then he said, "I think that's enough." He didn't take anything out.

RA: Does "that's enough" mean didn't need to hear it any more? And it was long enough?

KT: He didn't say to take anything out. But it upset him, because it was people's feelings. It was at the level at which he didn't want to get engaged.

DC: What do you think about that?

KT: It was a little confusing for me. I thought it was interesting. It took a long time for me to understand that what we were doing in the early days was practicing in a way that was not American, in a way. We put aside our feelings or reactions and tried to practice some other way. I guess I was able to do that because I hadn't experienced my own feelings enough to be in touch with them and able to talk about them. So it was swell, you go into a situation, you bottle up your experience, and then you just go along with the group or something, and you take what somebody tells you. So in a way those fifteen years or so were kind of funny. Sort of putting myself on hold. This isn't what we're talking about? It was just like, oh. Because after the stuff with Richard Baker and all that, it was all about chaos at that time. It kind of forced me to come to grips with something. But going through it, it was just what we were all doing together. I was able to kind of bottle everything up in some way, or not contact that stuff, because I wasn't in much contact with it anyway. It was easier just to bottle it up, maybe.

BK:? What was it that was bottled up?

KT: Authentic experience. Knowing Katherine. Knowing Katherine's actual responses to things.

MW: And you felt that during Suzuki Roshi's time that was ‑‑

KT: I was trying to be a good girl. I was trying to fit into a situation. I was trying to find out ‑‑ I was pretty outer directed ‑‑ what's expected of me? how do I fit in?

End Side B Tape 2B

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