Sokoji section

Sokoji - the Soto Zen temple on Bush St. in San Francisco where the SFZC started.

3-09-12 - Two emails about Kokoro, the former Sokoji

I just returned from a weekend trip to San Francisco. I had read your book Crooked Cucumber], and thought I would visit the temple where Shunryu Suzuki first established. Zen in SF. I got to tour the temple area; which now serves as the dining area for the Kokoro Assisted Living Facility that has taken over the bldg. I was a little disappointed that no one there knew of Shunryu Suzuki. Not even a picture on the wall. I'd like them to at least have a copy of your book in the Library of the Assisted Living; if not a photo on the wall. I loved the book. It has changed my life. I should have runaway to CA in the 60's and found Zen then. Namesta - david miller

Second email after dc responded

Here's my take on the situation. I managed recreation centers for the City of Dallas 31 yrs. At three of the 5 centers I managed - once I learned the local history I would put together a permanent framed photo display that depicted the culture and soul of that community (usually about 10-15 framed images).

As for my current situation - I now work in an assisted living home here in Texas. If I knew someone of Roshi's stature had lived there I would definitely have a wall dedicated to the man. You know the hallway that leads from what was once the front entrance into the temple? Well, there are a couple of historical images of the Jewish Synagogue. I said to the person who had just given me the tour: "You see this spot right here? This would be a fitting place for a image of Shunryu Suzuki." Then I showed him the photo of Roshi that I carry on my iphone.

It amazes me that any Japanese wouldn't bow at the sound of his name. Your book certainly installed such veneration in my thought.

I plan to purchase a copy of your book and send it to Kokoro with instructions to have it placed in the library. I know the Zen Center has located around the corner from there. Perhaps they should put together a framed image for their wall leading into the temple (which is now the dining area).

dave miller

DC responds

Indeed. It would be good to have a section not just for Shunryu Suzuki but for Sokoji's entire history with a photo of each of the abbots there and something about it being the birthplace of the SF Zen Center. Maybe I'll drop by and suggest it. I like to go there. I did keep up with those in charge as it was being remodeled and went through it at several stages of construction. I remember that all but one of the wonderful old stained glass windows had been broken when they were boarded over. That one is still there. I also copied all the historical materials on Sokoji at the SF Public Library and plan to include them in the Crooked Cucumber Archives. Thanks to Dave Miller for bringing this back to our attention.

3-14-12 - Jerry Bolick who's with the Buddhist Churches of America and appears numerous times on cuke (use search feature on home page) writes on Kokoro in response to David MIller's email (I asked him for a copy of the photo of the bell he mentions. - dc)

Reading your exchange with David Miller about Kokoro, with mixed reactions. I can see his point; in fact the building has a rich history and it'd be nice if it were recognized in some public way; the fact that Miller ran into blank stares from the Japanese folks he met, does not surprise me. It's not about that, but about the history of non ethnic Zen in SF and beyond.

Seems to me though that the Zen Center might rightfully take this on in some way. Photos, an alter, a yearly memorial, all might be very beneficial to Kokoro in a variety of ways, and a very fruitful practice for ZC; after all, if it weren't for the Japanese community in that part of town, Suzuki may not have ever made it to SF??

I go to Kokoro once a month, do a Shin service and read some poems; another of the lay assistants goes once a month for the same purpose. A handful of Shin/Japanese folks there, but others attend too.

I've got a lovely photo of a bell that used to hang at the top of the stairs there...

Anyway, just my thoughts...