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1-26-05 - Thanks to Rick Levine and David Silva for sending the link to the  International Buddhist Film Festival site which is where (the festival's theaters, not the site) the Suzuki movies will be. But listen, don't expect too much. It's just some footage.

Here's what the SFZC's website says in the Sangha News page [link at upper left of home page].

Suzuki Roshi at the Movies

The International Buddhist Film Festival will be showing films of Suzuki Roshi and SFZC at the following locations:

January 30 - The Castro Theater
February 6 - The Wheeler Auditorium, Berkeley
February 13 - Smith San Rafael Film Center (unconfirmed)

Some stuff I remember (without fact-checking around in my files right now) about the films with Shunryu Suzuki in them

There are three different sources: A KQED B&W (I think) movie on Tassajara that was made in '68 or so, a section on Suzuki at Tassajara from a color 35 mm film on gurus called  Sunseed, and some 16 mm footage with no sound of some B&W minutes of Suzuki on the altar giving a lecture on the San Do Kai at Tassajara. This may have been taken by Suzuki student Jack Weller because he had brought a class of some sort to Tassajara (I think). We have the audio tape almost for sure (as I remember we were missing one or more SDK lecture tapes) and I've always thought about putting the two together. Add this to the Cucumber Project to-do list Matilda. Oh gosh, that could have been a special lecture that Suzuki gave to Jack's class - maybe Jack's class and all students. And maybe it WAS on the Sand Do Kai. I'll get it straight someday. [I have since learned that Michael Wenger did exactly this - synched the lecture tape with the film and, since it wasn't so great by itself, cut it up and spliced it in here and there with the other films. I look forward to seeing what he did.]

If it is a SDK lecture, I could figure out which lecture it is because some lines from the poem are written on blackboard that's next to him. They're the Chinese characters. And I can read them. In fact, I wrote them. Wonder why this has never occurred to me before.

Reminiscing tangentially from here

That was the summer of 1970. The previous summer and fall I'd studied Japanese intensively at the Monterrey Institute of Foreign Studies (now of International Studies). I'd done it to get away from Tassajara during the guest season. I'd run the guest dining room for the whole guest season for the prior two years and didn't want to do it the whole time - May 1 to labor day. I wanted a break from Tassajara but not during the practice periods. My, what a serious student. Also, I knew the officers liked it that I got along with the guests, but they tended to come down on me a bit after the guest season was over, sort of suggesting in other words that it was time to buckle down and pay for my sins like drinking late with guests and playing music and such (though nothing corrective ever really happened - just a little fall scolding). So I said I wanted to leave for the summer. My dear friend and dharma bro, Peter Schneider, also the director of Tassajara at the time told me that if I didn't run the dining room that I could never come back. I just laughed. Suzuki was against it. He told me not to go, that I couldn't learn Japanese in America that easily. He tried a few times to talk me out of it till I told him what I'd told Peter, that I'd already signed up and paid for the ten week intensive. So they gave up. But I compromised and stayed the first half of the guest season. Then off I went and was it ever intensive. I loved it and I loved my teacher. I continued on till the holiday break. Though at first when I came back I couldn't say anything right in Japanese when I saw Suzuki, in time I surprised him - and his wife. In December Suzuki said he wanted me to continue. He couldn't believe how much I'd learned. He told me to do it for two years and then go to Japan to study Zen, Japanese culture and language. I told him no way, that I couldn't do it anymore and I wanted to go to the winter-spring practice period at Tassajara with the visiting Zen master who was coming, Tatsugami. After a short tug of war, Suzuki gave in.

At Tassajara I continued my study of Japanese language but this time, the words of Zen, starting with the characters written on the han, the hanging slab that's struck with a mallet to call us to zazen. Then I moved through everything that we chanted, starting with the shortest stuff. Hey, that would all be a neat thing to put on cuke.com - the results of all that work and what the ZC and others now have on it - because in the ensuing years, others have done much more in depth work in this realm. What I did was just at a kindergarten level.

When Suzuki came in the summer, after the practice period was over and Tatsugami had left, I would go to him at times with questions about classical Buddhist Chinese and Japanese stuff. Mainly I'd talk to Yoshimura or Kobun, Japanese priests, when they were there, but sometimes I'd get to Suzuki. I remember that he was very pleased with my interest. Also, he'd surprised me with how much he knew because he'd given me the impression he didn't know so much. Typical modesty. Anyway, when he decided to lecture on the San Do Kai we agreed that I'd study it in the original. Actually there were two originals - the old Japanese which we chanted and the original Chinese which Suzuki had in a book. I think I just wrote the Chinese on the blackboard because it's totally basic without the Japanese endings and connectors. But I made a little character study book on the one we chanted. It just showed what the basic meaning of the characters was and the different translations available at that time (four or so). And there were quotes from Suzuki.

Suzuki Roshi had wanted me to sit next to him while he lectured and write the characters and lines down as he talked about them. I told him he didn't need me. I'd just be in the way, that I didn't need that sort of encouragement, that I'd be happy to write on a blackboard (remember them? aren't whiteboards a zillion times better?) that would be right there next to him so that he could use a stick to point to the characters. He said no, he wanted me up there. I said no. He said yes. I said absolutely not, forget it. I just couldn't stand the idea - I could imagine how self-conscious and in the way I'd feel being up there next to graceful him with all those students and summer guests looking up at him and me trying not to be awkward and distracting. No, I couldn't do it. He gave up.

Don't blame you if you get the impression all I did was disobey Suzuki, but that's not really true. It just happened to come in threes this reminisce. Maybe I came there that way, not predisposed to blindly follow what the teacher says, but I also learned it by watching his undisputed number one student, Richard Baker, relate to Suzuki. I saw that Richard was always, though totally devoted to Suzuki, true to himself and he stuck by what he believed in, not that Suzuki didn't sometimes change Richard's mind, but Richard didn't let it turn to mush either. Later I stood up to him now and then and we're still good friends.

Back to the film stuff

Gee, I've digressed from the film ideas. Eventually they'll be online I would imagine. They could be part of a documentary on him. That would be a neat thing to do. This footage could be better presented. There were some Hollywood guys who wanted to make a film of Crooked Cucumber and they really pressured me but I said I couldn't see it being anything but a disaster. Sounds really pure of me huh? Wonder what I'd do if someone offered me some real money? Be strong. Sounds awful - nobody could do him. A documentary could be done though. Or is that too much? I'm in no hurry.

I'd better shut up. Every once in a while I get an email saying too much Suzuki, that I shouldn't be hagiographing him like I do. I see my method as more scientific and inclusive than that. Scientific in that there's no bias. I'll include anything in this archive. The point's not him though, it's you. He just happened to be for some an important messenger of his time, of our time, and, for what it's worth, I decided to collect as big a data base as I can stand on his life and teaching and that of his students. It just seemed like a good idea, like a good way to spend time. I don't expect others to waste their time like this. They don't need to keep out of trouble as badly as I do. Really though, I don't really think about him much. It's just a job to me or a hobby. I don't think anyone should necessarily concentrate on Suzuki's teaching or especially his life. There are many teachers, teachings, paths, methods, ways, no-ways. His to me was a notable contribution to the struggle of many to wake up. He was another finger pointing to the moon - I love that analogy and often go back to it - don't look at the finger, look at the moon. Cuke.com, the books, the lectures, all of this work does though include a massive painting of a finger and it's background, but it' not important and will fade into a painting of the moon which will end up forgotten on the wall of a second-hand store.


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