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8-03-05 - Sabbatical Update #3 - Tassajara

Tassajara kitchen - from SFZC website - click thumbnail to enlarge

This year was Clay's first not to be in the kitchen. Last year he'd been volunteering for the evening dinning room bussing a lot and so that's where he went this year. It might have been because of the reputation he gained in '04 for enthusiastic service. An oft repeated story of that time involves an evening when he was going around filling peoples' water glasses most zealously when a woman said that she didn't want any more water, she'd had enough. Clay put down his pitcher, picked up her glass which he'd just filled, and downed it himself.

I was back in the dish shack doing guest dishes, another chore for the dinning room, but they rotate it and that's all I do when I'm there. Each year I fear I'll be told that it's been decided that it would be better for my practice to do something else, but so far the dish shack it's been. I love it in there, my own little demanding world with lots of time off in the middle of the day to go to the creek or pool or a talk.

There were many talks in the afternoon when I was there - and a couple in the evening. We arrived in the evening for a slide show on early Chinese Zen by Andy Ferguson who wrote _Zen's Chinese Heritage_. It's a great book - god I can't find it on this site. How terrible - I've failed Andy and my readers. Listen, there's nothing like it - a zillion new Zen stories from the old days. Maybe someday he'll add commentary. When I have no idea what one of these stories is about I call him up but most people can't do that. He just lives down the hill from me in Petaluma. Check the book out here on the Wisdom Publications site. And come to think of it I don't feel so bad. He could have sent me an email with the info on it long ago - I can't think of everything. But to show there are no hard feelings, here's the cover: Andy also gave a slide show the next afternoon followed by a Chinese poetry class that was repeated the next two days on the lawn in front of the office. Taigen Dan Leighton came and gave a couple of talks in the afternoon on Dogen and Sumser ridiculed Taigen, Andy and me for trying to see what each other thought we and Dogen and Bodhidharma meant by terms like mind, buddha mind, and buddha nature. I think it all just means everything and non-thing. And then former ZC abbot Mel Weitsman came and gave three afternoon talks on Suzuki Roshi's teaching in which he read from _Not Always So_ and commented and answered questions and validated that that book's title is a pretty good example of Suzuki's teaching.

Oh, I want to say here that my old friend Jim Richardson in Fort Worth sent me an email recently suggesting that we stop calling Suzuki Suzuki. To be exact, he said:

lets stop calling him suzuki
and start calling him shunryu

suzuki sounds like a moto cycle.
while shunryu sounds like an adventurious character from the Shogan books.

I think that's a good point. Suzuki brings to mind and Google the cars, cycles, boats, violin teacher, scientist and it's one of the most common Japanese names. Now Shunryu you don't run into much. There is a Shunryu Kempo Karate school in England, but it's still an extremely rare name. Problem is, it's a bitch to pronounce. In fact, that was the subject of Contest Two on this site leading to a whole page on how to pronounce that name which is hard to do if we use an American r. Shogaku, Suzuki's less known Buddhist name is easy for us to pronounce - especially if you swallow the final u the way the Japanese do so it sounds more like Shogak. Or we could name him after a mountain or an area like they do in China after they're dead - Chews Ridge Master or Los Padres Roshi. Or we could leave off the roshi and master which are a bit pompous, especially when referring to your own teacher, and call him something else like Tassajara Shorty. Maybe that should be the next contest.

Back to Tassajara. I did finally get down creek. We no longer say the Narrows, the lovely swimming hole down creek fifteen minutes because it's off-limits to students now. I also spent a bit of time encouraging students to practice Sybille disobedience (a term coined by Dennis Samson who was down there too) and go there as well. Sybille believes the rule against students going there is too narrows-minded.  I asked about it a lot. Some staff said that it wasn't a rule, it was a guideline and others said oh nobody follows that rule anyway. But most do and, sadly, don't want to break rules. I suggested that they follow the rules 80% of the time. Seems some young male students were getting a little too carnal. I suggested to some senior staff that only people who don't need the rule to begin with will follow it. Clay went down creek every day and Sumser, my friend Katrinka and I went a few times and when we inadvertently stumbled upon that notorious swimming hole of depravity and exposed flesh, we all only experienced it as a wholesome swimming spot for the hole family and lots of people including me wear swim suits there. Common practice committee - the fewer rules the better says Sybille.

Oh yes - I took a turn and had an afternoon gathering as well, spending an hour or so in the Yurt one afternoon presenting via boom box the zydeco gospel dharma music and chanting of Richie Domingue, a dearly departed teacher and musical chant-leader of the Pacific Zen Institute - see link on that page to a eulogy on Richie by John Tarrant and a nice photo. Richie had unexpectedly and tragically died a week earlier of a heart attack in his sleep after a seven day sesshin capped by a gig of his band, Gator Beat, at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley. Some of us danced to his heart sutra and chanted with his Kanzeon. The next evening the service was dedicated to Richie. I promised to send some copies of the CD down to Tassajara for students to listen to. I want to talk to the PZI folks about marketing it print-on-demand - though it would need some work. I'd be happy to put it in the still pathetically empty Cuke Basket, or Kyooka Basket, so undeveloped I won't even link to it - but just you wait. And I'll put something on this site so you can hear one cool bluesy dharma bro.

I want to put some Suzuki Roshi [that's Noble Narrows to you] on here too so people can hear his voice. I have received some emails from people wanting that and it wouldn't be so hard to do. But I am supposed to be on sabbatical to get some things done that are moving toward getting done at a snail's trot. Oh well. Time to go to bed. More on Tassajara tomorrow.

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