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Excerpt from Chogyam Trungpa's Born in Tibet
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
on Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

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Thanks to Paul Maxwell for sending this and to Francie Lyle for typing and inserted brackets.--DC

Born in Tibet, by Chogyam Trungpa, The eleventh Trungpa Tulku, as told to Esme Cramer Roberts, with a Foreword by Marco Pallis. Third Edition. Boston: Shambhala, 1985. [Original copyright, 1966 by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Epilogue copyright 1977 by Chogyam Trungpa.]

Epilogue [chapter title: Planting the Dharma in the West. 
P. 256-260

... In May of 1970, we [Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and wife Diana] obtained our visa and entered the United States.

At Tail of the Tiger we found an undisciplined atmosphere combining the flavours of New York City and hippies. Here too people still seemed to miss the point of Dharma, though not in the same way as in Britain, but in American free-thinking style. Everyone was eager to jump into tantric practices at once.

Traveling to California on a teaching tour set up by Tail of the Tiger and Mr. Bercholz, I encountered many more free-style people indulging themselves in confused spiritual pursuits. The saving grace of this visit was the warm hospitality offered me by Mr. Bercholz and his colleagues in Shambhala Publications, which was located in Berkeley. At the same time, I realized that the energy behind people's fascinations was beginning to lighten and that America held genuine possibilities for receiving the Dharma. Meeting the students of other teachers was especially disappointing. These students seemed to lack any understanding of discipline, and purely to appreciate teachers who went along with their own neurosis. No-one seemed to be presenting a way of cutting through the students' neurosis. One outstanding exception to this situation was Shunryu Suzuki-roshi and his students, whose presence felt like a breath of fresh air. I would have more contact with them later.

[six paragraphs later...] p. 258:

During this period I traveled a great deal. On my second visit to California, I was able to spend more time with Suzuki-roshi, and this proved to be an extraordinary and very special experience. Suzuki-roshi was a Zen master in the Soto Zen tradition who had come to America in 1958 and founded the Zen Center, San Francisco and Zen Mountain Center at Tassajara Springs. He was a man of genuine Buddhism, delightful and profound, full of flashes of Zen wit. In the example of his spiritual power and integrity, I found great encouragement that genuine Buddhism could be established in America. His students were disciplined and dedicated to the practice of meditation, and on the whole presented themselves as precise and tidy. Mrs. Suzuki also I found to be a wonderful woman who was very generous to both myself and Diana.

When Suzuki-roshi died in December of 1971, I was left with a feeling of great lonesomeness. Yet his death had the effect on me of arousing further strength; his genuine effort to plant the Dharma in America must not be allowed to die. I did, however, feel especially keenly the loss of the possibility of exploring further the link beauty. Through Suzuki-roshi's spiritual strength and his accomplishments in the arts of the Zen tradition,

I felt I could have learned much more in these areas. During this period my presentation of the Dharma to students was based on the practice of pure sitting meditation, the traditional shamatha-vipashyana technique presented by the Buddha. Students maintained a daily sitting practice, as well as taking intensive solitary and group meditation retreats. The other major element in my teaching was continual warnings against dilettantism, spiritual shopping and the dangers of spiritual materialism.

The enthusiasm and trust of students all over America continued to accelerate, with the result that local centres for study and practice sprang up in different parts of the United States and Canada. To all of these centres we gave the name Dharmadhatu, meaning 'space of Dharma'. Now, inspired by the strength of my encounter with Suzuki-roshi and by the genuine friendship of my own students, I decided to establish Vajradhatu, a national organization with offices in Boulder to oversee and unify the present and future Dharmadhatus. ...

The mudra approach to theatre has a parallel in the Maitri project, which also got under way at this time. The idea for it arose from a discussion that Suzuki-roshi and I had had concerning the need for a therapeutic facility for disturbed individuals interested in meditation. The Maitri approach to therapy involves working with different styles of neurosis through the tantric principles of the five Buddha families. Rather than being subjected to any form of analysis, individuals are encouraged to encounter their own energies through a meditation practice employing various postures in rooms of corresponding shapes and colours. ... [The Maitri Center, located in New York state, is no longer in existence, but the ideas are still in use at Naropa and people are teaching it in workshops.]


Bibliography   Laura Kwong on Trungpa and Suzuki


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