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Angie Runyan

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Took these notes back around 1996 or so. My comments in brackets. - DC

Summer 1967, I came to Tassajara. I knew Mike Dixon, had gone to school with his brother, Bob. One year to the New College of Florida in Sarasota  and one semester at the New School for Social Research in New York. Studied philosophy and arts.

Applied to go to Tassajara through Mike, arrived in June and stayed in the city practicing at Sokoji for a month. Went to Tassajara in July.

I remember bowing to Suzuki Roshi at the end of every zazen after service at Sokoji.

At Tassajara, Suzuki Roshi seemed enigmatic. I didn't know what to do, how to relate, bow or say hi or what. He had an amazing little twinkle of intelligence always cracking and sparkling. I was awed and perplexed at the same time, I thought I was going back but he hooked me so I stayed at Tassajara.

My strongest memories are the dokusans and shosan.

[the private and public question and answer]

Just the way he interacted with people and the way of making ordinary things be a teaching. There was something magic about him.  

I spent four years at Tassajara except for nine months at Mill Valley taking care of Trudy Dixon and the kids. I'd met Trudy at Christmas with Mike's brother Bob. I knew before I came out she'd had one breast removed.  I was at Tassajara and heard she was experiencing difficulty and told Richard Baker I'd like to help so I went.

I was dying to be Suzuki Roshi's disciple but he thought he couldn't ordain women, felt he didn't understand women very well. He asked me if I wanted to be ordained. I wanted to be with him but he wanted to send me to Japan to study with Yoshida Roshi (a woman teacher who'd spent time at Zen Center and taught okesa and rakusu sewing as she'd done with her teacher and Katagiri's, Hasimoto.

[I remember there were two women from Zen Center who went to Yoshida's temple. As I recall, one did well and enjoyed the practice there, and the other didn't, came back, moved to LA and wore a wig till her hair grew back. She said the nuns there were petty and cruel and were encouraged to use pinching as a means of discipline.]

I guess the idea was that I go there and train and come back. I said yes with some trepidation.

I went back to the City Center from Tassajara when Suzuki Roshi left there for the last time in August of 1971. I was in the car with Suzuki Roshi. There was Dan and Louise, Okusan, Yvonne was driving.

DC - On the way they visited with Soen Nakagawa Roshi who was leading  a sesshin at a Catholic center in San Juan Batista.

Soen made tea for us, a moment I'll never forget, an ichigo iche moment [one time, one meeting, thus once in a lifetime]. It was amazing. Soen took off his robes except for kimono and made tea. He used bowls he'd found at a sidewalk sale. He thought one was a mate to a bowl in a museum that Rikyu had used, yellowish clay with a bull's eye, a thick black ring with a spot in the center. Another represented the union of Christ and Buddha and clay and came from a Christian holy site. To me the other bowl was more remarkable. Soen made a bowl of tea to be shared by two. Suzuki Roshi and Okusan shared a bowl of tea.

Soen remarked to Taisan that Suzuki Roshi and Okusan were an interesting couple.

[I hear that stated in different ways by other Japanese priests including Maezumi and Ryuho Yamada]

Okusan said he looked good after having fallen out of that tree.

[Soen had had a serious fall from a tree and incurred a bad head injury that he didn't fully recover from].

He made a bowl of tea for himself and shared it with me. I had a strong feeling about him.

We were in a large meeting room. Quite a number of the students who were in the sesshin shared tea with us.

Soen had a story about a guy who made tea for him with great dignity, a guy who carved a teaspoon.

His spirit was so non-conformist, no bureaucratic baggage there. So much energy and dignity. Then he passed the tea bowl box top for Suzuki Roshi to sign. Suzuki Roshi made his calligraphy itty bitty, said he made it to look like a ball-point pen.

I didn't know Suzuki Roshi was dying but he seemed okay that day.

That's when I left Tassajara to go to the city to sew robes with Yoshida Roshi.

When I heard that Suzuki Roshi was dying I was crying and crying and crying and Okusan came to my door to comfort me.

I don't think that Yvonne should have stepped in in a way to pre-empt Suzuki Roshi and me, She was right though and I'm glad I didn't go.

[Yvonne was vehement with Suzuki that Angie shouldn't go to Yoshida's in Japan, that it would be a torturous experience for her and stressful. There was no one there who spoke English and they don't adjust to new situations well at all - in traditional places in general and at that place according to what I'd heard.]

Everything Suzuki Roshi did he did with a magic touch, every moment a magic moment.

One wonderful thing was to share water from the stream with Trudy. He went to get the water himself.

His insight and empathy went beyond gender. He understood me better than anyone I'd ever hoped to meet. He'd look at you and it felt like he could see back ten lives. He had boundless insight, more than rermarkable.

I was not thrilled with Yoshida. She impressed me a as a battleax. If I had a woman teacher it should be someone I'd want to emulate and that's not her.

Joyce was at her temple. Sally ordained over there. She stayed in Japan and latter went to Arlington, Texas, and Florida.

Suzuki Roshi coming in to the Mountain Seat Ceremony for Richard was... you're not going to see your teacher again.

At the ceremony for his priests and closest students in the dokusan room, I remember Katagiri Roshi breaking down in tears. What they said was in Japanese.

[Katagiri walking on his knees toward Suzuki, cried, "Don't die! don't die!," and Suzuki responded, "Daijobu, daijobu." - it's okay.]

Suzuki Roshi was happy. He'd completed his goal. Katagiri was sobbing in his lap.

I think Trudy (Dixon) was his true successor - in spirit - and his most realized student.


[Angie got ordained by Suzuki before he died - with Ed Brown, Lew Richmond and me. Suzuki was too sick to do it himself so Katagiri acted on his behalf. Angie continued with the Zen Center for some time and after her practice aimed elsewhere, continued living next door to Zen center's City Center, was involved with Hartford Street Zen Center and the hospice there. Later she got involved with Tibetan Buddhism including doing a three year solo retreat in Crestone Colorado.]

She's in the following photos:

SR0014 Lay Ordination City Center

SR0019 Group photo for Lama Anagarika Govinda's visit to Tassajara

SR0090 Day of Mel Weitsman's shuso ceremony at Tassajara

SRC0005 Visiting Diamond Sangha sesshin at San Juan Batista, CA


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