|About the Book
About Suzuki Roshi
N o t e s f r o m t h e J a c k e t
Crooked Cucumber main page
Suzuki is known to countless readers as the author of the modern spiritual
classic, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. This most influential teacher
comes vividly to life in Crooked
Cucumber, the first
full biography of any Zen master to be published in the West. To make up
his intimate and engrossing narrative, David Chadwick draws on Suzuki's
own words and the memories of his students, friends and family.
As a young man in Japan, Shunryu Suzuki wanted to bring Zen practice to America but was blocked by his first teacher (who had nicknamed him "crooked cucumber" for his quirky forgetfulness). Remaining in Japan, Suzuki had to deal with the profound paradox of being a temple priest in a world war and later with the painful tempering of family tragedy.
Set free to turn westward at the age of fifty-five, Suzuki found himself in the midst of the counter-cultural ferment of San Francisco in the 1960s. Poets and painters, scholars and schoolteachers, all forerunners of a generation of American seekers, discovered in Suzuki a surefooted, compassionate Zen master delighted to begin anew. He found in them the "beginners mind" that makes Zen practice possible. The small meditation group that gathered around Suzuki grew into the San Francisco Zen Center which, soon afterward, established Tassajara, the first Zen monastery in the West.
During these twelve short years more and more people came to study with Suzuki until, in 1971, he offered his last teaching: the acceptance of his own illness and death with extraordinary equanimity and grace.
Interspersed with previously unpublished passages from Suzuki's talks and correspondence, Crooked Cucumber evokes a down-to-earth life of the spirit that goes beyond religion to reveal what it means to be fully human. Retracing this man's journey, readers will find more of the warm-hearted guidance that so many have already found in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Along with Suzuki we can find a way to "practice with mountains, trees, and stones...and to find ourselves in this big world."
David Chadwick began practicing with Shunryu Suzuki in 1966 at the age of twenty-one and was ordained by him in 1971. He is the author of Thank You and O.K! : An American Zen Failure in Japan, which chronicled his years in Japan. He lives with his wife and son in Sonoma County, California.
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