of Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Center back then, etc.
photo by Lisa Law
a talk he
gave at Tassajara
When I was a graduate student at Berkeley back in the early 70s, studying with Suzuki Roshi, I was looking for a topic to write about for my master’s thesis and Suzuki Roshi said, ‘Why don't you do The Mountains and Waters Sutra?’ He said, "I love this text and I would love to have an English translation of it and then give a series of lectures on it.’ Working with Suzuki Roshi to translate this Mountains and Waters Sutra at Tassajara that last summer he was down here was much nicer than digging the latrines for the hill cabins which I had done the summer before.”
At one point Suzuki Roshi told me - why don't you look at this text - so I started looking at it, and it's very difficult - and so I came to him and I said, "Wait a second, this is way over my head" and he said, "yes this is a very difficult, interesting, text" and I said, "Yeah, the language of it is so hard to understand" and he said, "It's not the language, it's the thought - this isn't just poetry, it's the philosophy that makes it make sense - it's very difficult to understand." So I think he saw it as somehow not philosophy in the abstract or technical sense, but as a text very rich in Buddhist thought. What a shame that he died without giving a commentary to it. He was going to give a regular series of lectures at Tassajara on it. It would have been fantastic.
When I said to him, isn't this a bit stupid for someone like me to be translating something so deep and rich, he said yep - get on with it.