A Brief History of Archiving Shunryu Suzuki's Legacy


See cuke home page for brief history of cuke and our other sites

Cuke Archives 2020 Presentation

Overview of Cuke Archives written for SFZC Winter 2018 Newsletter

Cuke Archive page - not a page that's been active for years - DC, 3-17
- but the links there lead to descriptions of lots that we were doing through the years.


See Charlie Wilson's history of Shunryu Suzuki lecture archiving below

The earliest lecture in the transcript list is dated December 1961, file name 61-12-00, Title: Teacher and Disciple. This apparently full lecture transcript (1105 words) surely edited and elaborated on with Suzuki from hand written notes by I guess Richard Baker or Trudy Dixon will be followed for some time with brief lecture summaries or teachings edited with Suzuki consultation recorded in Wind Bells.

The first Wind Bell was also December 1961. - All Wind Bells

Suzuki had been in America a year and a half giving talks from the first so likely the Wind Bell arose at least somewhat out of early attempts to write down summaries or main points of some of his talks to share with members and others.

All Suzuki transcripts for the next three years and eight months have as their source the Wind Bells. Then comes transcript 65-07-08. Early in 65 people in the ZC board meetings started talking about taping Suzuki lectures. At Los Altos Marian Derby started doing it, with Suzuki's permission, to tape record his lectures and transcribe them so his students could read them. There was talk about the same at the ZC board meetings from early that year too, but they were slow to start and Marian wasn't.

See 1965 ZC board notes highlights for comments on taping lectures

Before long they were recording lectures in the city too. We don't know how many were recorded and lost. The purpose of the earliest recordings appears to be mainly in order to transcribe, not to have an audio for listening. There's a note on one tape box indicating that it has been transcribed and can now be recorded over.

Tony Artino took hand written notes of some Suzuki lectures at the City Center in 1966 to May of 1967, all of which are the only surviving record of those lectures.

By the time Suzuki was lecturing at Tassajara from spring of 1967, students it appears were recording or intending to record all of his lectures. Around that time the switch was made from reel to reel to cassette recorders. At some point cassette copies started being made. There were cassettes at Tassajara and in the city. Not all lectures were transcribed. That seemed to happen mainly for including in a Wind Bell.

In 1967 Marian Derby shows Suzuki and Baker her manuscript for Beginner's Mind, turns it over to Baker who works with Trudy Dixon to get it finished.

In 1968, 69, and 70 films were made at Tassajara with Suzuki and students. [See SR film/video]

1970 spring - Zen Mind, Beginner's Ming published. The Tassajara Bread Book by Ed Brown published.

During this time, the Wind Bells recorded a good deal of the basic history of what was happening at Zen Center - in the city and Tassajara and some of what was happening beyond with other teachers and lineages. There was a small amount of cultural reporting. Peter Schneider wrote about the early history of Zen Center and Zen in the West interviewed Suzuki and encouraged him to talk about his life to students.. Peter also interviewed some senior students.

Wind Bells and Excerpts

As Suzuki was dying Peter with Jane, Carl and Fumiko Bielefeldt translating interviewed Suzuki's son Hoitsu and temple members, then later in Japan Hakusan Kojun Noiri and Hoitsu again.

Some people started collecting, doing more than needed for book or WB. Students transcribing on their own.

Suzanne Swarez wrote down many Suzuki lectures by hand though careful checks have revealed that none of them contain material not in the transcript archive.

Grahame Petchey brings 16 mm film from Suzuki's English teacher in Japan, Nona Ransom whom Grahame had visited in England, adding film of Suzuki from the mid 1930s. [See SR film/video]

About 310 ??? Suzuki lectures have audio. How much audio was lost is unclear but we tended to record every lecture back then in the city and Tassajara and there are many gaps in the audio archive. Les Kaye handed over all but two reel to reel audio from Los Altos lectures to a woman who did not deliver them to the City Center. I, DC, should have looked into this years ago, like 1995, when I first learned it but I didn't even though I had a couple of leads.

Under Richard Baker, audio archiving beyond cassette copies started in 1976. Rick Levine was first and made beautiful calligraphy then in 1976 Michael Katz came from Lindesfarne Institute on Long Island where he was their AV guy. Got a number archived on reel to reel tape. See details from Michael below.

Baker asks students to share memories of SR and Wind Bell posts this request in two issues.

Wind Bell publishes student memories and continues to be a source of history and publishing Suzuki lecture transcripts until the last one in 2012.

Student memories from Wind Bells and cuke files - with links to other such collections

ZC makes a few lectures on cassettes available. There was talk of doing this years before. There were two cassettes with two lectures each.

1994 Thank You and OK: an American Zen Failure in Japan published with a good deal about Suzuki and more about Katagiri. Since 1988 I, DC, started the oral and written history work related to Suzuki and those who were around, students and visitors. In 93 started seriously recording interviews for Crooked Cucumber and collecting Suzuki lectures - everything that could be found on paper and disc.

On their own, Brian Fikes, Tom Cabarga, Barry Eisenberg, and others transcribing lectures and making light edits. Brian makes a collection in loose leaf binder.

Michael Katz wrote: In summer 1976 Bill Thompson invited Dick Baker to the annual Lindisfarne conference and bought him an air ticket. Dick couldn't go for some reason and I think Lucy Bennett had the idea of using the ticket to fly me to ZC for a month. I was a guest student and worked on the SR tapes. At Page St a room (next to Mrs. Suzuki's) had been set up with a Teac 1/4" quarter track (I think that's what they call it when it records two tracks in each direction) 7" reel to reel, a cassette player, and a log book. Rick Levine (and possibly someone before him) had been copying the original cassette recordings of SR lectures to reel to reel and logging them in his italic hand. Rick wasn't around to show me the ropes so I just continued what he'd been doing until it was time to fly back. The cassettes were already aging and, during several recordings at Tass, the recorder batteries ran out and SR's voice became Mickey Mouse and beyond. The reel to reel was supposed to be a holding action against further deterioration and it probably was. I didn't hear anything more about the tapes until you DC took up the project years later. - Michael Katz

In 1996 or so Jose Escobar, professor and student of Pat Phelan in Chaple Hill, starts transferring existing transcripts to disc as a volunteer. He gets everything on paper done. I sent him a transcriber and he was just getting ready to start transcribing all the audio.

During this time Michael Wenger was VP of the SFZC and in charge of archiving and he and I were in frequent touch. At a lunch at Greens he got me together with Bill Redican who also had a great interest in archiving. Bill started getting involved with the lecture tape archiving and spent a couple of years volunteering his time to oversee the project. More on Bill and on Suzuki archiving at his page.

Jose heard that there were people at the City Center concerned about his transcribing Suzuki lectures. There had long been an idea at the ZC that only people authorized, and best if they were Suzuki disciples, should work with the lectures. I told him to forget about what he'd heard. But he was upset. Jose wrote to the SFZC asking permission to continue. He received no answer - even after I personally lobbied for it. Jose started working on Katagiri lectures and that was the end of his involvement.

I give floppy disks out of Suzuki lecture transcripts to priests in Suzuki lineage and some ZC officers and board members were concerned.

Since Jose Escobar would not be doing the trancribing of untranscribed tapes for free, and ZC wasn't interested in having outsiders do the work, we had to figure out how to do it with Zen Center. I sent out a letter to 400 people asking them to send donations to the SFZC for the sole purpose of Suzuki lecture archiving. ZC was taken by surprise. The response was enormous. Bill Redican was hired to do the work with volunteers under the direction of Michael Wenger. Bill worked a couple of years on it as I recall and focused on creating verbatim transcripts from tapes. Much more info on this at Bill Redican's cuke page.

Mike Dixon gave me some early reel to reel Suzuki lecture tapes. A few others appeared.

Under Michael Wenger's direction Bill Redican did a sterling job first overseeing the project to make archival reel to reel master tapes of all the original audio tapes of Suzuki lectures done by Mark Watts at his studio in Marin County.

December 1998 I started cuke.com for Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki which came out in early 1999. Little by little interviews, memories, Suzuki lectures, and more started be uploaded.

Back in 1999 soon after cuke.com was launched, early Suzuki student Gordon Geist checked the lectures posted there about the Blue Cliff Records that came from the early Wind Bells and made some corrections.including checking the excerpts from the Shaw version Suzuki used against the book and making corrections. He also did many light edits of the lectures to improve readability. In fact, the whole idea of light edits arose because he just started doing it. His work is all included in the lecture archive on shunryusuzuki.com.

Then with volunteers Bill was project manager in creating the verbatim transcript archive. As a result printed lectures and audio for listening became available in City Center, Tassajara, and Green Gulch Libraries.

Suzuki-roshi Lecture Archving Project of the SFZC with links to two papers he wrote and the fundraising letter I wrote in 1998.

Shinshu Roberts did an index of lectures and added one transcript in 2004. She wrote: "About my participation in the Suzuki Roshi archives photo scanning. Michael Wenger was my boss and he wanted to scan all of the photos. There was some guy in Spokane who had a high powered scanner and perhaps he was giving SFZC a discount? Anyway I hand carried the photos to Spokane. I don't remember going back, so they must have sent them back in the mail."

The 2006 Nothing Special selection of 41 lecture PDFs with 40 audio CDs done by Jean Selkirk and Celeste West . Those were favorite lectures of those who had worked with them. See the list, listen to or read them on shunryusuzuki.com by chosing the Nothing Special Selection in the Recommended drop down menu (it's the only choice so far).

From 1993 when my then wife Elin and I moved a block away from him in San Rafael, Steve Stucky became a confidant and advisor of mine in this work. In 2008 Steve Stucky got hold of me as soon as he became abbot and said he wanted the SFZC to lend more support Cuke Archives work. Lew Richmond was enthusiastic about it. A committee was formed that included Michael Wenger and Ed Sattizahn. The secretary of the project was Valerie Beer. I suggested Shunryu Suzuki Legacy Project (SSLP) so that name was used. It was an abbot's project that did not involve the ZC officers who had opposed the idea. I was to raise money to support the project and write a report every week to receive a stipend. We had ambitious plans - see section on it. This continued for seven months when I called Steve and said I knew that the SFZC was in a money crunch and I didn't want to try to raise any more money. I pointed out that even though we'd gone over the amount that I raised, that donations from others in the past with the stipulation they be used for Suzuki lecture archiving would likely cover the difference. One result of that project was getting all the Suzuki lecture audio and film digitized. Eight sets of CDs and DVDs with Shunryu Suzuki audio and film - 343 audio CDs and 8 film DVDs, one CD for print, and one DVD for photos. These sets went to the SFZC City Center, Green Gulch Farm, Berkeley ZC, Chapel Hill ZC, Dharma Sangha Crestone or Germany, and one for the SFZC archives. ------ See Shunryu Suzuki Digital Archive March, 2009 Guide.

Another result was that about 60 transcripts were entered into the archive Diane from England who ran the bookstore showed me a box in the library closet full of transcripts. They were from Los Altos and as a result we have minimally edited versions of all but two of the lectures that comprise Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind plus others. Gloria Discoe McMillan transcribed them onto disc from her home in the Sierras. She said she'd been one of the original transcribers back in the late sixties for Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and that she was doing it again. She said they didn't use Marian's transcriptions because they were somewhat edited.

I spent a lot of time preparing the digitized files for presentation on hard drives and other digital media. Got a version with lower resolution audio and video on DVD disks with printed cover and distributed to people in SFZC lineage and key participants at Shurnyu Suzuki SFZC/UCB conference.

==Jean Selkirk worked on a data base for the lectures and made a PDF copy of Bill Redican's SR Lecture Master Log, a meticulous notebook with one page per lecture with audio.

Here's a page on the SSLP with something written by me back then with links to tons more on the archives and that project.

Anil Gurnaney in about 2009 first put Suzuki audio from one of the hard drives online on a private website. Did it in his spare time while working at the Tassajara Jamesburg house. He sent a link to ten key people - priests etc in Suzuki lineage. Only I responded which surprised him but not me. He sent me some software to download the site and I did so and that was the basis of the first audio postings of Suzuki lectures from cuke archives when created shunryusuzuki.com as a site for the transcripts, audio, video, and photos in 2009. Pretty soon we had our own way of presenting the lectures and but his work was most helpful and inspiring. Here's an email he sent me in 2018 when I wrote him reminding him of his pivital role:

I was Reb's anja at Tassajara in the fall of 2003 when he received a CD of the talks as Microsoft Word files (from Bill Redican? or maybe you) which he couldn't open on his Apple laptop. I stole a couple study periods and converted them into html using VB on the office computer. I think you are correct that I put them online while working at Jamesburg the following summer (still there! www.gurnaney.com/suzuki, user: buddha, pwd: one). I recall that the most vexing issue was that Unix time zero is 1/1/1970 so I couldn't get the dates to work with wordpress or blogger so I used the script at blosxom.sourceforge.net/.Anil


Everything I do I give to the SFZC and other groups in the Shunryu Suzuki lineage. The SFZC started putting Suzuki lectures on their website around 2009 using the hard drive I'd given to Charlie Pokorny for that purpose.


Here's an article Charlie Pokorny wrote for the 2012 last Wind Bell about the extensive work he and Timothy O'Conner-Fraser did to put Shunryu Suzuki lecture audio and transcripts on the SFZC website. Another important thing they did was to put the whole archive under Creative Commons Copyright allowing others to use and share the material for non commercial use. Referring to this has come in handy at times with yours truly when discussing Cuke Archives' policy of sharing the archive widely at various stages of its growth. This is more than sharing. It's helping to preserve.

I'd put the photo archive on Picasa and Joe Galewsky took them and made a much better site that I linked to and then copied. Peter Ford did the version that is on shunryusuzuki.com. It's been improved from time to time and now people's names and dates are included.

USF film school made five short videos using the Suzuki video footage with some new material and Michael Wenger and Timothy O'Conner Fraser put three source films on a DVD made available called One Particle of Dust with Suzuki's voice synched from the lecture tape with the black and white film with Suzuki talking about the Sandokai. See shunryusuzuki.com video page for more details on all this and the film and all the material available there and on Youtube in whole or parts.

Peter Ford started helping out our 2010 with shunryusuzuki.com, redid it in a much more sophisticated way, and has been managing it for years and doing many time-consuming tasks on cuke.com and the archive in general. Now in 2022 he's the managing driector of Cuke Archives and I'm on special projects - as much as I can - but the day to day demands and inescapable.

A number of volunteers worked on transcribing about twenty lectures that hadn't been transcribed due to sound problems. Some of them are pretty complete and some full of question marks and ... Judy Gilbert did the most. There have been so many helpful volunteers do so many tasks that I can't recall or give them all credit.

Angus Atwell who was living at Genjoji did sound work on a number of the audio. Those are included in shunryusuzuki.com's audio archive.

Peter Ford had gone over all the audio and made a number of fixes - joining audio that had been in two files, Recombining some to have the parts be where they belong. Peter Ford had gone over all the audio and made a number of fixes - joining audio that had been in two files, Recombining some to have the parts be where they belong. I redigitized a dozen or so of the archival cassettes in the City Center where parts where missing in the old audio and the missing parts were added. During this time I also digitized a few other audio tapes I found in the Ino's office.

The reel to reel aarchival tapes of Shunryu Suzuki lectures had been at Mark Watts wooden studio in the woods till 2009 when they were moved by Clay Chadwick to humidity temperature controlled storage in Santa Rosa. In 2012 or so the SFZC decided to keep them in the office building cattycorner from the City Center. In the fall of 2013, before I left for Asia, with SFZC Secretary Connie Cumming's blessing, I moved most of them to Charlie Wilson's studio in Berkeley and paid for him to make superior digital copies. He found more of the reel to reel tapes I'd missed and added them to the project. I also delivered to him over 600 cassette tapes of Richard Baker's lectures found in the Ino's office and Cuke Archives covered the cost of digitizing them. By 2015 he'd gotten all the audio digitized with noise reduction from the reel to reel master archival tapes. He had to bake the tapes which had suffered some deterioration and used state of the art equipment and technique. About 70 of the reel to reell tapes were missing but we have the audio from the original tapes and earlier digitizing.

Cuke Archives paid for this work and the digitizing of all the film at that time but the earlier digital copies were better because the film had deteriorated despite urgings since the turn of the center that it be digitized to preserve it. There were possibly other digital copies made for video work and released done in projects by Michael Wenger and Timothy O'Conner Fraser, and Susan O'Connell, most notable the release of a DVD with the entirity of three films, Zen in America segment from Sunseed,

In 2014 the SFZC turned over their archives to the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. They'll not be so accessible now but they'll be better preserved and I've gotten everything I wanted from them.

SFZC Board Meeting Abbreviated Minutes (3/19/14) - approved an amended Deed of Gift sending the Zen Center archives to Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

Offline Archive 2015 and 2016 - a Cuke Project in which hundreds of thumbdrives were distributed.

Charlie Wilson, with support from Susan O'Connell, succeeded in convincing the SFZC to let his business, Engage Wisdom, archive all SFZC lecture tapes, thousands and thousands of them. Working closely with him was Shundo David Haye, a priest in the SFZC with experience as a recording engineer with the BBC and photographer.

The SFZC turned over to Engage Wisdom boxes and boxes of tapes, all that they could find. In these boxes they found 31 tapes of Shunryu Suzuki lectures, some that were new lectures for the archive, some that were only in the archive as transcripts, and some that had audio missing from a lecture. Peter Ford and Wendy Pirsig of Cuke Archives worked with Shundo David Haye to transcribe and double check those that were totally new and check the transcripts of those that already had complete or partial transcripts.

Engaged Wisdom (EW) now has a complete set of Shunryu Suzuki audio and transcripts. It's engaged because people (not sure who) can edit a la Wikipedia. Whereas Cuke Archives has always focused on Shunryu Suzuki, this site is an archive for all SFZC audio and like shunryusuzuki.com it has a sophisticated search function. The EW Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive presents audio with noise reduction and speed correction with the verbatim and closest to verbatim versions of the trancripts. It's very easy to use and well presented.

Shunryusuzuki.com has every version of audio including links to the EW versions, and all the transcripts, defaulting to the verbatim and closest to verbatim, all the edited versions we could find including all of Suzuki from the Wind Bells, a large number of light edits that's approaching complete, a lot of extraneous matter like the chants from the lecture tapes and fragments of talks, and all the film and video. And all his extant letters and calligraphy and doodles. We do not allow others to edit.


History of the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi Archive Preservation Efforts

by Charlie Wilson


Here's a bit of background on the past efforts and great care for these recordings which have made this present collection possible:

Suzuki Roshi likely gave over 1000 talks in the twelve years between arriving in the US in 1959 and his death in 1971. 

  • For approximately 450 of these talks, audio recordings and/or written notes were made. 
  • Starting in December of 1961, written summaries of the talks were published in Zen Center's Wind Bell magazine, covering a small fraction of what he said.
  • From July 1965 onwards, people started recording some of his talks onto open reel tapes, and subsequently cassettes.  
  • Many of these talks were recorded over at the time, to re-use the tape after they had been transcribed.  

In the LATE 1990s, a project managed by Bill Redican (working under Michael Wenger) created a nearly complete set of 10" master reels, to protect and preserve the recordings on a professional format.  Audio engineering work was done by Mark Watts.

  • A set of low-resolution reference cassette tapes was also made at this time, using thicker, more durable cassette tape. These were frequently listened to by visitors at Zen Center's library locations. COPIES OF THEM LISTENED TO

In 2006, a selection of 41 talks were transferred from the cassettes to CDs by Jean Selkirk and Celeste West

  • The collection was titled "Nothing Special," and copies were shared with several of the Branching Streams zen centers around the country.  
  • The audio quality was not great, but this was the first time most people had a chance to hear the voice of Zen Center's founding teacher.  

In 2008, David Chadwick compiled and digitized all the known audio recordings, with the support of Steve Stucky, Lew Richmond, Ed Sattizahn, and Michael Wenger.  

  • This was called the Shunryu Suzuki Legacy Project.
  • Recordings were gathered from the "Nothing Special" CD set, and the master reference cassettes.
  • Copies of this collection were shared with a handful of organizations that had contributed to support the work.  

In 2012, Charlie Wilson founded an audio archival company called Engage Wisdom, with the aim of preserving and sharing the audio archive of his teacher, Tenshin Reb Anderson, and eventually offering this technology to Zen Centers and audio archives around the world.  

  • Shundo David Haye joined Engage Wisdom in 2017, bringing his audio engineering experience from the BBC, plus his Zen Center background as an ordained Priest and former City Center Director.  

In 2014, through the support of Cuke Archives (David Chadwick), Engage Wisdom digitized 271 Suzuki Roshi reel-to-reel masters that had been created by Mark Watts. 

  • These second-generation master tapes represented the best surviving audio quality available, as the original tapes from the 60's were degrading rapidly.
  • This work added eight new talks to the audio archive.
  • We improved audibility for all the talks through our audio remastering software, and enabled previously inaudible talks to be listened to and transcribed through noise-reduction and speed corrections.
  • This amounted to 280 talks digitized at archival quality

In 2016, Engage Wisdom gathered all known tapes from the various Zen Center libraries and offices, moved these to climate-controlled storage to stabilize and gradually reduce the humidity levels of the magnetic tapes which were aging heavily in the Bay Area's foggy climate.  

  • The total count was approximately 11,000 tapes at that point, and many boxes of tapes continue to come out of the woodwork each year, as they are discovered in offices, or retrieved from homes where they had been stashed for safe keeping. 
  • Through the support of several individual teachers and communities, several hundreds of these tapes have already been successfully digitized by Engage Wisdom, including the collections of Reb Anderson, Mel Weitsman, Edward Brown, Shohaku Okumura, Katagiri Roshi, Richard Baker, and others.  

In 2018, Engage Wisdom photographed the complete Zen Center archive of cassettes and reels in preparation for digitization.

  • Of these, we examined 206 reels and 867 cassettes attributed to Suzuki Roshi (some including the voices of other teachers in that time period, including Kobun Chino, Tatsugami Roshi and Katagiri Roshi). 
  • These reels and cassettes are a mixture of original recordings made at Sokoji, City Center and Tassajara, as well as different generations of duplication masters and copies made over subsequent decades.  
  • We examined the photographs to identify which recordings might yield new audio talks, because they referred to new dates, and all examples where the dates were unclear.

In 2019, Engage Wisdom digitized all potentially uncaptured recordings identified from these photographs, in an effort to recover any and all possible "lost" recordings of Suzuki Roshi.

  • 56 of these were cassettes
  • 64 of these were reels.
  • This work yielded 27 new audio tracks - an increase of close to 10% on the existing archive

In 2020, the best versions of every existing recording were gathered and processed through Engage Wisdom's latest noise-reduction tools, to compile the complete, definitive Suzuki Roshi collection. 

  • These 315 clarified recordings will be shared with the Zen Center community worldwide this year, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.
  • Approximately 7000 cassettes of Zen Center's other Abbots, teachers and visiting scholars remain in the archive, awaiting funding for digitization and processing.  


According to a 2020 newsletter announcement from Cuke Archives:

The new Shunryu Suzuki lecture site that Charlie had been creating is Engage Wisdom. It's "engaged" because select people can edit. Whereas Cuke Archives has always focused on Shunryu Suzuki, this site is an archive for all SFZC audio and like shunryusuzuki.com it has a sophisticated search function. The EW Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive presents Charlie Wilson's enhanced audio, the best, with the verbatim and closest to verbatim versions of the transcripts. It's very easy to use and well presented. Shunryusuzuki.com has every version of audio and transcript we could find including a lot of extraneous matter like the chants from the lecture tapes and fragments of talks and quotes from Suzuki from the Wind Bells. And all his extant letters and calligraphy and doodles.


This history of SR archiving edited again by DC December 2022. Go to Engaged Wisdom, SFZC SR audio archive


Read John Clarke Mason's 2004 cuke interview where he wishes he could listen to more Suzuki lectures than the two available for sale at the SFZC office. He talks about that at the end of the interview.


Links to stuff that shows what we've been doing in back in 2012


What we were doing

Archive main page