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About Suzuki Roshi    


Suzuki-roshi Lecture Archives Project

(written by Bill Redican of SFZC) Fall, 1998

"Zen is something to listen to. 'Listen to' means with empty mind.... The teaching will come ... through your skin."
Shunryu Suzuki, April 19, 1969

The purposes of this project are to complete the archives of the recorded and transcribed works of Shogaku Shunryu Suzuki-roshi and to make them available to students, practitioners, and scholars for the first time. Approximately 300 recorded lectures by him have been preserved, dating from 1965 to 1971. Together with transcriptions for which there is no surviving tape, the total number of lectures by Suzuki-roshi available to posterity are approximately 400 (plus an unknown number of new lectures that might be discovered during the course of this project).

These recorded lectures comprise the teaching legacy of Suzuki-roshi, for he left no formal written treatises. For many years, the only published collection of his teaching was Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (based on a few dozen of his early lectures). It was first published almost thirty years ago and it remains in print to this day, in its 37th printing. With over one million copies in print, it is said to be the most widely read contemporary work on Buddhism in the English language. A second work is now in press, based on his lectures on the great Ch'an poem Sandokai.

Entrusted as it is with the teaching legacy of Suzuki-roshi, Zen Center has begun an extensive project to preserve his audio lectures and to make the complete works of Suzuki-roshi available to the public.

Tasks Accomplished

  1. A systematic catalog of all existing audiotaped lectures by Suzuki-roshi has been completed that records all known information about each tape. A catalog number and copyright was assigned to each tape.
  2. After extensive consultation with preservation librarians and audio archivists throughout the country, a preservation archive copy of the entire set of original tapes was professionally recorded on archival 1/4" open-reel tape stock (with an estimated storage life of 50 years) before any noticeable deterioration took place.
  3. Many existing typed transcripts have now been entered on disk, but in an unedited and unverified form. Almost none of them are verbatim.

Archive Tasks Remaining

    1. Produce a verbatim and fact-checked draft of the complete works of Suzuki-roshi. All lectures are to be transcribed or retranscribed in a consistent and verbatim format.

        167   existing transcripts must be redone (not verbatim, incomplete, etc.);
        129   lectures must be transcribed for the first time;
          78   transcripts with no tape must be re-edited for consistency;
        374   total lectures to date.

    2. Find replacements, if possible, for incomplete, missing, damaged, and distorted tapes. Locate previously unknown lectures on tape, if possible.
      Resolve discrepancies in the lecture catalog: correct errors and omissions
      (e.g., fragments of lectures misidentified as separate lectures).
    3. Remaster a set of lectures to make available to the public. A set of four lectures has already been produced and is available from the San Francisco Zen Center bookstore (415/XXX-XXXX). Another set is being remastered and should be available in Spring 1999.
    4. Distribute a set of core lectures of Suzuki-roshi to each of the three Zen Center libraries, to be made available for free public access. A tape player and headphones would be provided at each library. The same set of lectures would be offered to each of the dharma centers in Suzuki-roshi's lineage throughout the world.

    Establish and maintain permanent storage facilities for the master cassette tapes. (Space has been made available free of charge for the immediate future only.) Permanent facilities for storage as well as public access would be established.


Anyone who has audio recordings of Suzuki-roshi lectures is earnestly asked to notify the Archive Project at San Francisco Zen Center. Many surviving lectures are incomplete or have some sort of audio problem, so we are keenly interested in learning about other existing tapes. Please contact the archivist, Bill Redican, at San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Financial support would be most gratefully received from anyone who wishes to preserve these teachings of Suzuki-roshi and make them more widely available. Although the project is a labor of love, it is also a labor-intensive and expensive one. Tax-deductible contributions of any amount may be sent to Michael Wenger, Archive Project, San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.

The project to date has benefited from the efforts of many individuals. Michael Wenger proposed the project while serving as Zen Center president. He has continued to direct all phases of the project to date. The Zen Center Board of Directors has given its full approval and support to the project. Mark Watts, who has many years experience with his father Alan's audio archive, diligently carried out the transfer of the original tapes to archival reels and master cassettes. David Chadwick helped locate a number of original tapes long thought lost, and he helped devise the overall archiving plan. Jim Wheeler (who once served as an audio consultant concerning Nixon's Watergate tapes) provided invaluable consultation on tape preservation and formats. Bill Redican completed a complete catalog of all known existing tapes and has begun making verbatim transcripts as archivist at San Francisco Zen Center.

Contact Bill Redican at

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