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Reader's Comments 
Crooked Cucumber and whatever. 

November 1999 

Prior Readers' Comments: Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Dec

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11/29/99--from Gregory Johnson in Tucson, an entry to the Contest #1.

Nice web site ,loved the entries.  Those Zen types!!!!   Since I have no enlightened answer grasshopper, I can only conclude he is on a spiritual vacation in India visiting the Taj Mahal. 

From TB--I just finished your marvelous book and just wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed it. You are truly blessed to have worked with such a master. You book was not only informative, but deeply transformational, making me think long after I finished it's pages. I usually read it at night and found myself thinking of the passages throughout the next day, re-living, re-thinking Suzuki's teachings in a new light. Thank you for such a wonderful experience. Gassho.

Thanks a lot. I thought folks might like to enjoy your multifaceted artworks at

From Anil Gurnaney--In 1995 I went to Africa and decided to break my reading habit that trip, and took only a copy of Sekida's _Zen Training_. But cold turkey proved too difficult for me: I soon found myself in a bookstore in Johannesburg absorbed in your _Thank You and OK_. I resisted, put the book down (slowly) and held off reading much of anything for about two months. When I came back to Chicago, I bought and read your memoir (thanks for writing it).

A few months later I moved to Los Altos. I sat with Kannon Do in Mountain View, and then when I moved to San Francisco I spent some time at City Center. Suzuki died before I was born, but he left SFZC. I am grateful to him though I never knew him. _Crooked Cucumber_ was fun and serious. Perhaps that is reminiscent of Suzuki Roshi.

Thank you for your books and your website. I moved back to Chicago a few weeks ago and provides a link to practice for me. Gassho. 

11/24/99--good suggestions from BH:

I'm really glad that you've added the interview with Eido Shimano Roshi that took place so recently. I always felt that old Suzuki Roshi talks and interviews done after the publication of Crooked Cucumber were the best offerings to put on, and this Eido Roshi interview is a perfect example. [I listen to everyone and put down what they've all got to say. Not just teachers or old students. That way we get a bigger picture, not just from the cognoscenti, and not excluding them either.--DC

When you removed the wonderful Roshi talks from the site, leaving only Teacher and Disciple, I assumed that maybe the pendulum was swinging after having given out a new talk almost daily. I also guessed that you might have slightly upset Zen Center by having so many of his talks on your site. In any case, I wish you could go back to posting some of his talks -- maybe a new one each month. [OK. You're right. There were copyright questions about the ones I was putting on but it was suggested that I put on anything from the Wind Bells which are copyrighted--one at a time. That seems fine to me for now. I'll do that too--I mean what you suggested. Maybe even a new lecture every week if I can. I put a new lecture up just now, and will go through these early Wind Bell lectures (really, more like edited notes on his early lectures) in chronological order one at a time. I'm going to try for one a week. And thanks to Jack Van Allen for the Jizo graphic I used with it.][18 years later - ZC stopped worry about all that long ago. All Shunryu Suzuki lecture transcripts and audio have been at for a decade or so and before that there were many on - DC]

And the most super wonderful of all gifts would be to put at least one SR audio talk online. And the absolute, unexcelled, supreme addition would be a short video clip. Along those lines, why not consider putting portions of some more of your recent interviews online as audios? Even though, you intend to include them in your next book, portions of some of your unpublished interviews would greatly wet the appetites of your readership for repeatedly visiting and get them excited about your next book. And I also think that approach would stimulate Crooked Cucumber sales much more than Readers' Comments from folks like me. Many of the entries in Readers' Comments or Sangha News, might fit in better on the Bulletin Board you've talked about starting. [OK. I want to do all this stuff. Study your MS FP2000 and make it happen faster. I put the bit from your message about that on Tech Talk. I won't necessarily indicate new messages in that area on What's New.]

The interview with Eido Roshi is a wonderful, couldn't-be-better addition to And now that I've made myself clear about that, I suggest you call him ER instead of just E and also be sure to change Edo to Eido. I appreciate the way you often refer to Suzuki Roshi as Suzuki, which obviously is less intimidating to your larger audience. On the other hand, seeing as how Eido Roshi is sort of a guest appearance on your site, might not the more formal style be more suitable? I suggest you refer to him the first time has Eido Roshi and after that as ER just like you often refer to Suzuki Roshi as SR. Another way of looking at it would be how the British press often shorten Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the Queen or to HRM but they never say just Elizabeth. People are so easily distracted and confused sometimes if there favorite people aren't referred to in a sufficiently polite form, so I highly recommend playing it safe, which I think rarely distracts or confuses anybody. Another aspect is that the readers aren't exactly the same crew as the Crooked Cucumber readers and therefore I think a book about Elizabeth might switch to HRM or "the Queen" for the corresponding web site. Pardon me if I've gone on too much about this.

[OK. It's done.--DC]

11/21/1999 - From my dear friend and helper Liz Tuomi: Got "Crooked Cucumber" back from the person I'd loaned it to and, inspired by Rick Levine's comments, went back to it. I had read it in a slipshod way. Now I absorbed it more fully, especially the final parts, and I add my congratulations to Rick's. Your robes are thoroughly soaked: sweat, tears, mist, fog, rain. Thank you for producing this wonderful book. It's an honor to be in such company.

[And it's an honor to be in your company Liz. Thanks for all your help transcribing and typing things on disk for me. - DC]

11/21/99--Check this out from two days ago:

From Jeff Elliot, the owner of my ISP, 

Subject: What an odd day

Today, 11/19/1999, is the last Odd day (all digits odd) for a *long* time.

After that, we won't see an Odd day until 1/1/3111. But don't despair; the next Even day is pretty soon.

The next Even day will be 2/2/2000, the first since 8/28/888.

From Dan Kaplan: As is my habit of late, I read your page fairly frequently. I enjoyed reading Rick Levine's e-mail. I didn't know Rick real well, but we knew each other at Zen Center. He was always very kind to me. I also read Frank Anderton's letters today. I knew Frank at ZC and liked him well. His take on Zen and Psychology is a good one, I think. His Katagiri stories had me laughing out loud. I did hear Katagiri say he didn't want"special food", so wouldn't eat outside the zendo! I can't remember if I told this to Frank or not, but it could be.

Thanks for your continued efforts, David. The page is wonderful way to stay in contact and touch with Suzuki roshi's lineage. Just reading letters like Rick's and Frank's gives me a warm feeling inside.

From Chris Guzik: I just finished reading Crooked Cucumber last week and must say not only did I enjoy the reading very much but also received a new appreciation for Suzuki Roshi's teachings. 

I was looking at your website and encountered the letters from Frank Anderton, which inspired me to write this. I recently moved back to Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is my "home town", from the Bay Area, where I was practicing with Les Kaye. I've been looking for regional interest in Zen practice and so far had found none. Is Mr. Anderton back in Oklahoma now? If so, I might be interested in finding out if he is anywhere close to Tulsa. I would be very pleased to find other practitioners nearby. 

My intention is to someday return to California and intensify my practice, but due to current family obligations I am limited to daily morning sitting and continuing to search for a local sangha. I would be quite pleased to hear from you. Meanwhile, I'll be picking up a copy of Thank You and Okay as soon as I finish Branching Streams! 

11/19/99--Amida Buddha thumbnail below sent to us by Jack Van Allen. Tell us more about it Jack. 

11/18/99--From Jamie Avera: "Katagiri once said that people expect a Zen master to be like a perfect piece of ripe fruit hanging from a tree: firm, full, bright with color, ready to eat and looking delicious. But that's not what it is, he said. The fruit gets overripe and squishy and falls to the ground, scattering its meat and seeds. That is a Zen master: splattered fruit." (Thank You and OK! p.398)

David, I think this is one of the best sentences I've ever read.

From a knowledgeable reader: Dear David, I just noticed the letters from Frank Anderton [in Interviews]. One of your comments was as follows: [Trungpa's group started Tail of the Tiger in Vermont for people with such troubles [mental and emotional problems]. I think they may still have something going there, but we'd have to ask someone in their group.] You're right, but you've got your details a little mixed up. It wasn't Tail of the Tiger (later called, Karmê Chöling). The project was called Maitri. So I think, instead, you might want to say something like: [In 1971, Suzuki Roshi and Trungpa Rinpoche discussed at length the need for a Buddhist-based approach to therapy for such people. Shortly after Roshi's death, Rinpoche instituted the first of the Maitri Therapeutic Communities. Later that work was furthered at the Naropa Institute's psychology department and today continues in various forms by Naropa-trained therapists in the Americas and in Europe.] [It's done.--DC

And here's an old e-postcard I received from Perre in Belgium which I just ran across. I hadn't put it on because I just hadn't worked with any graphics myself. But I'm just starting to do that.--DC

11/12/99--From John Bailes:
When you said you were going to post my BT Challenge thing [see Sangha News of yesterday], I though cool!! Not having been to your site in a while the significance didn't strike. Wow!! Great Job at creating an online contact with the vigor of the living chain of enlightenment thoughts that have passed, are passing through and will be passing through the Beginners Mind Temple!! The warmth and sustenance it brings to my heart is as they say immeasurable! 

I was Lew's benji at Tassajara.There was a poem we shared with Dick Baker or vice versa that training period that stays with me to this day. It is C.P. Cavafy's

Che Fece...Il Gran Rifiuto 

To certain people there comes a day
when they must say the great Yes or the great No. 
He who has the Yes ready within him 
reveals himself at once, and saying it he crosses over 
to the path of honor and his own conviction. 
He who refuses does not repent. Should he be asked again, 
he would say No again. And yet that No-- 
the right No--crushes him for the rest of his life.

Now you can just imagine three Harvard dopes sitting around in the mountains checking out poetry. The only one of the three accurately categorized as a dope here is me of course. Much of the practice was about poetry to me.

Can you toss my e-mail address in to that posting? I'd love to hear from anyone who might remember that guy John Bailes. Cheers [Write to John at:]

11/11/99--A few comments about diddly little details, my favorite topic. No comment is too small for or for me. Seriously, this site is full of misspellings and various types of inaccuracies which need to be corrected. Thanks to all.--DC:

From Robert Halpern: [referring to Charlie Musselwhite's question of 11/06] Do you suppose the pronunciation key for Shunryu might be something like SHOEndYOU or SHOEn-re-YOU or SHOONre-YOU. I suggest those possibilities because I think the first syllable (especially outside of Asian-pronunciation-aware-California) is likely to be incorrectly pronounced as the English word, "shun". [Boy is that true. I do that a lot. Good suggestions.--DC]

From Jamie Avera: I read the blurb you wrote in Sangha News about the Dogen symposium:

"I see Suzuki as an emissary for Dogen's teaching and spirit. And we all tried to do it as well as he did. But we did used to say "nine clay ball" at Tassajara [Get page number where this discussion is in Thank You and OK]. Nine clay balls referred to Dogen's toilet paper, his teaching on how monks should use the tosu (obscure Soto word), the john."

I just read over that section. Its page 119-120

And what is gomashio? [from Rick Levine's letter of 11/09]

Gomashio is Japanese sesame salt, literally. Some weirdoes in the US like me use it a lot. The Macrobiotic diet folks introduced the type I use and which Zen Center has used since 1967 which is roasted unhulled brown sesame seeds and salt (I make a sesame heavy mix of 16 to 1). In Japan, the gomashio I've had is made of roasted black sesame seeds with lots of salt and it's not used much.

Hey, thanks Jamie for the TY&OK page numbers. And thanks for the new cleaned up photo of Suzuki Roshi on the banner and the clearer scan of the book cover on the index page and for the photo of me on the About the Author page. More photos, we need more photos. I'll put it on the wish list.--DC]

From Andrew Main (A noble example of true reader dedication): Well, that was quick. You're a busy fellow. See you've posted my note already. I hope all my corrections [to the Joanne Kyger interview] are correct. More corrections could be made, I'm sure; I just noted the ones that stood out and that I knew about. (For instance, Eba Borigard/Boragard I've never heard of, but suspect his name may be Beauregard; also I suspect it may be Everett rather than Everet Fuller; etc.) Like I said, if you want to use them, here's a copy below of Joanne's interview with all my corrections entered, so you won't have to go thru and find them, if this is any help to you. [OK. That's all done.--DC]

 BTW, in the Charley Musselwhite note it's "extraordinaire" (French for extraordinary, i.e. extra- [outside, beyond] ordinary), not "extradinaire." [Did that.--DC]

Also, in the "shoshaku jushaku" note: quotes within quotes (like the Dogen quote within the quote from ZMBM) should be in "single-quotes" i.e. apostrophes, to avoid confusion:

"When we reflect on what we are doing in our everyday life, we are always ashamed of ourselves. ... Dogen-zenji said, 'Shoshaku jushaku.' Shaku generally means 'mistake' or 'wrong.' Shoshaku jushaku means 'to succeed wrong with wrong,' or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master's life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku. This means so many years of one single-minded effort." [Did that.--DC

(The British practice is just the opposite, as you may note in fiction books printed there: 'He said, "Go away," but nobody left.' [American version: "He said, 'Go away,' but nobody left."] The Brits also sometimes place periods and commas outside quote marks [British: This is a "zendo". American: This is a "zendo."], which is logical but looks weird to an American eye.)

[I really should have a separate section for site comments and corrections like this. I'll put it on my list of things to do. And, I've been thinking of keeping a list on the site of changes to make on the site. What would it be called? Site comments?--DC]

11/09/99--A letter from Suzuki student Rick Levine with comments on Crooked Cucumber and a few memories of those times from his journal.

11/06/99--a few comments:

From Charlie Musselwhite [blues singer extraordinaire--see  www.charlie-musselwhite.comOn this site I especially recommend Charlie's Words of Wisdom to Live By--DC] Since Henri [his wife] finished reading Crooked Cucumber, I have been reading it and enjoying it TREMENDOUSLY!!! I'm only on about chapter 7 I think. The war has ended and Japan is now occupied. It's hard to put down. I read it every night until I just can't keep my eyes open anymore. I don't take it on the road with me because I don't want it to get all beat up with the traveling that I do. So, it stays on my nightstand and patiently waits for me to return. Is Crooked Cucumber available in large print or on tape? My mother is 87 and can't see as well as she used to and I know she'd enjoy Shunryu. (Is that pronounced like: Shun-ur-you ?).

I wrote him back that there is no big print Crooked Cucumber available that I know of. I wonder how that happens? Probably with books that have larger sales. If anyone has any ideas please tell me. ---As for the pronunciation of Shunryu, that is a FAQ, especially when I'm being introduced and the introducer has to say the name of the book. Anyone else who has a better way to say it tell me, but what I say is that the Japanese "r" is not made in the throat and back of the mouth like our r but in the front of the mouth with the tongue on the roof of the mouth as we do in the letter "d." One Japanese friend of mine says that their r has got some of our r, d, and l in it. Since the ryu combination is so tough, I suggest to either drop the r and say "Shunyu" or put a bit of "d" in place of the r as in Shundyu while nudging the r sound in there.--DC


From Andrew Main: The "shoshaku jushaku" note [in his letter of 10/16] is on page 39 of ZMBM; I found it, by golly! "When we reflect on what we are doing in our everyday life, we are always ashamed of ourselves. ... Dogen-zenji said, 'Shoshaku jushaku.' Shaku generally means 'mistake' or 'wrong.' Shoshaku jushaku  means 'to succeed wrong with wrong,' or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master's life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku. This means so many years of one single-minded effort."

Also, a letter from Andrew with comments on the Joanne Kyger interview, memories of her and others back then, and an impressive list of errata from that interview.


From Gordon Geist in Norway: I ordered CC last March from Amazon and had it sent by air at added expense because I couldn't wait to get it. No sooner did I have it in my hands than I happened by the bookstore in Oslo which is most up to date on alternative literature. Lo and behold, there was a big pile of CC at a much lower price that I had paid! I have been seeing to them having ZMBM on the shelves for many years, and it moves. Just shows that the buyer is awake!

Going through older Reader's Comments, and came across this: 

6/7/99-- Hi, David. Do you remember where SR said, "I am waiting for the island they tell me is moving slowly from Los Angeles to San Francisco?" I thought it was ZMBM but at first glance I don't see it. Thanks! Lew Richmond.

It is in the next to last paragraph in ZMBM.

Hey--thanks for that. I forwarded it to Lew.--DC


Found by Bob Halpern: 

_Finally, in 1989, Bulls management got themselves a new coach: Phil Jackson. A '60s child who selects books for his players and once huddled his team for a moment of silence when Timothy Leary died, Jackson played for the great New York clubs of the early '70s. His philosophy of management is influenced in equal parts by his former Knicks coach, Red Holzman, and the Zen philosophy of Shunryu Suzuki. From Holzman he learned that teams win, not individuals. From Zen principles he gleaned more of the same: Jackson, who authored a book entitled Sacred Hoops, applies to basketball what he calls a "Zen Christian" attitude of selfless awareness._

from "Better than anybody, anywhere, ever." [an article on Michael Jordan] By Shouler, Kenneth in, Magazine: Biography; January 01, 1998, Section: SPORTS

More info on Phil Jackson and Suzuki Roshi greatly appreciated.--DC


11/05/99--from Taigen Dan Leighton:

I have just recently started enjoying your website and all its wonderful resources, including the sangha news. Thank you again for all your hard work.

I wanted to share a note I received. As you may recall, in my Bodhisattva Archetypes book (Penguin Arkana, 1998), the first exemplar I mentioned for the archetypal bodhisattvas was in the chapter on Shakyamuni Buddha's path as bodhisattva, giving up worldly status for spiritual beliefs. My first exemplar was Muhammad Ali, who courageously abandoned his world title for the sake of his Muslim beliefs and to oppose the Vietnam War, and has continued to do many "good works."

The father of a student at CIIS in San Francisco where I teach had become friendly with Muhammad Ali, and the student sent him a copy of the book. He left me a copy of a letter from Muhammad Ali in response. The letter from Ali is humble, gracious, and charming.

Here are the relevant passages:

"Thank you for sending me the book written by your teacher, Taigen Leighton.

I was very humbled to think that Mr. Leighton and others may very well consider me as having ways similar to that of The Buddha. I have always tried to live my life in a just and fair manner, hopefully engaging the blessing of a higher power as I transgressed through life.

I believe that God places many prophets on this earth, some who are sent directly to a certain group of people. I believe Buddha to have been one of these prophets as well as Jesus.

I only dream that my life has been an example to others. I am in no way perfect, however I struggle like everyone else to continue loving my fellow human beings without reservation or judgment."

11/04/99--from Susan Edwards :

I have had a tangential relationship with SFZC since the early 70's. During that time I had a family day care home that cared for Ivan Richmond, Nevada Lane and Kelly and Ethan a few times. I also provided childcare for staff at Tassajara in '88, took classes at ZC with Philip Whalen, Diane Di Prima and others.

Your biography has had a profound affect on me. I've never been able to commit to studying Zen as a daily practice, but it has certainly informed my life. I don't understand the significance of Suzuki Roshi, or all the permutations of ZC, Green Gulch, Tassajara. I do know that it is a powerful and compassionate force in my universe and that of many others. Thanks for your clear, engaging biography. I won't become a Zen student per se, but I am going to tea with Meiya at Green Gulch soon, and I visited the book store.

Two years ago I started my own business. I came across a book in a local bookstore written by a ZC priest I'd known and very much want to take a workshop with him. When I went to the ZC bookstore they told me about his illness and that I could find out more by going to your web site. What a gift! Thanks for keeping every one, even those of us on the fringe, informed.


Greetings. Just discovered your site -- a wonderful use of technology - thanks! I particularly like the Sangha news. With Love, Marc Lesser


From Dan Kaplan: Have been reading the Joanne Kyger interview and really loving it. I had read some things about that time in Zen, but to get a firsthand account, kind of like Van der Wetering, was special. Thanks for the great interview. Actually, thanks Joanne for waxing on so wonderfully.

11/02/99--Here's an interesting letter from Gordon Geist, an old Suzuki Roshi student. It's got some parts bound for the Suzuki Stories section later (one of the many sections herein I'm behind on). Some more Readers' Comments and stuff going up later today when I return from the beach. We're not going to have many more nice days like this, this year.--DC

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