Interviews with Ananda (Claude) Dalenberg
(photo by Diane Dalenberg)
Ananda Claude Dalenberg Page - for much more on Ananda
A brief (mainly Zen) history of Ananda Claude Dalenberg
Claude Dalenberg says he first started to study Zen when he met Alan Watts in Chicago in 1949. He followed Watts to the San Francisco area and when Watts became the director of the American Academy of Asian Studies, Claude studied with him there and for a time became the janitor. He was instrumental in establishing the East West House near Japantown in San Francisco where Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, and others interested in Asian thought and culture lived - it still continues.
He was portrayed as character Bud Diefendorf in jack Keroac's, The Dharma Bums (thanks to Andrew Main for correcting this name's spelling. I had Duchendorf which has been cited elsewhere). Gary Snyder wrote ďParting with Claude DalenbergĒ. He studied with Hodo Tobase at Sokoji temple before Shunryu Suzuki arrived to take over. Suzuki ordained Claude as a Soto Zen priest at Suzuki's Japan temple, Rinsoin, in August of 1966. I think he was given the name Tokuzan at that time [had Kokuzan previously-don't remember where I got it].
Claude set up the first communal housing for the San Francisco Zen Center in the houses across from Sokoji on Bush Street. He was the third shuso, head monk, at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the fall of 1968. When Shunryu Suzuki asked Claude to look for a new home in San Francisco for the Zen Center, Claude found the building on Page Street now called the City Center. He, Bob Halpern, and Jack Weller lived there for some months before the SFZC made the big move in November of 1969. Claude's grandfather clock still sits in the entryway.
Claude organized the first library for the Zen Center and started the Study Center [in 1973?]. When Suzuki announced that he was dying he made a point to ask Claude if he would stay after Suzuki was gone. Suzuki had the tape played back to him somewhat to make sure that Claude's agreement was on it. Not long after Suzuki died he took the name Ananda. Claude continued his relationship with the SFZC for some years, giving occasional lectures, being a board member, and giving advice. He introduced the recitation of the Pali refuges. He received transmission from Reb Anderson.
He married Vera Haile. On November 1, 1973 their twin daughters Diane and Laura were born. Claude has often attended services at the Buddhist Churches of America, the Jodo Shinshu Temple in San Francisco, and helped found the Buddhist Council of Northern California. He had a good deal of contact with the Quakers and was involved with the Quaker prison project. He edited a long running newsletter called Cloud-Hidden Friends. One day he put his Zen robes in the trash.
Three and a half years ago he had a severe stroke. On that day, from his bed, he was interviewed briefly by Michael Goldberg for Goldberg's documentary on DT Suzuki, A Zen Life [not included in film-will include here later]. Then, after some persuasion [tell later] Michael and I helped him to the car where Vera waited to drive him to the hospital. Since then he has been either in a nursing home or a hospital. His family has always visited him frequently. This bio quickly written in the wee hours 2-12-08 and edited 2-21-08. - dc
See Biographical Notes handed out at his funeral
10/7/94 [I put little comments and updates in [brackets] but I pass up a lot of stuff. This is an early interview]
Ananda Dalenberg dropped by my house in San Rafael today at two PM after one of his thrice weekly visits to the chiropractor in Mill Valley. Id' called him and asked if he'd come by to talk about old times. He looked well and hadn't aged visibly in the six or so years since I'd last seen him. He had a paunch as always but his clothes were more informal than before. He wore faded blue jeans, a yellow turtle neck and had a marvelous Amish-type gray beard. He brought me issue #43 and #44 of Free Thinking Zen (formerly Cloud Hidden Friends) which I accepted with delight and remorse that I was not up on his publishing and had not contributed (the cost of subscription being to send something in to be published). I was reading a short story by Janwillem van de Wetering and Ananda remarked that he used to know him back in Kyoto in the mid sixties. Jack Kerouac included Ananda in the Dharma Bums as the character, Bud Diefendorf (not Duchendorf as I'd said before). We walked to Muffin Mania and were discussing this and that. He's the chair of the Northern Cal Buddhist something or other and on the board of the Hartford Street Zen Center, is involved with a Quaker organization in, among other issues, prison reform, and maybe he's still investing in the stock market as I remember he used to. After we had settled into our chairs with our coffee and milk, I asked him if he was aware that I was working on a biography of Suzuki Roshi.
"I am," he said as he pulled out some papers, a thick stack of which were typed with notes in the margins. He came with notes, I thought, but he only pulled out a folded blank sheet. I don't know what is important to you but there are some points about Shunryu that are important to me and you may use them if you wish.
"Certainly, anything that is important to you is important to me," I said.
No. 1 - Neglecting the ball point pen in his pocket, he produced a stubby dull pencil which he held low to the paper, writing almost sideways, and he wrote 1. and said, "First and most important is..." and he said the following as slow as he was writing it, "Suzuki Roshi wasn't enlightened." He dotted the sentence. "I know that's true and I've heard him say it on several occasions. Once I remember a large insistent woman at Zen Center cornered him on it. She asked him, 'Are you enlightened?' and he would brush it off in one way or another but she kept insisting with 'well, are you enlightened or not?' and finally he said, 'No, I'm not.' And that wasn't the only time."
I told him about Graham Petchey saying he wanted to study more deeply and Suzuki saying that he was not such a good teacher, if you want more, you should go to see one of these five teachers and he gave Grahame a list. [It's in Crooked Cucumber. Intend to put Grahame's interview on soon.] Also mentioned Mike Dixon saying that Suzuki used to specifically refer to enlightenment experiences in the early days but stopped doing so as it seemed to create a problem because people had too many ideas about it.
Later Ananda said that here he had this wonderful teacher who he wanted to be like but he couldn't be like him because he wasn't enlightened and that filled him with a sense of failure and then he realized that Suzuki wasn't enlightened and he felt great because he realized that he wasn't such a failure after all.
AD: No. 2 - He did not want to be called Roshi. That's something that we thrust on him, that I in particular thrust on him.
DC: Was that in response to Alan Watts's letter?
AD: Yes, and we met with him and said that he should be called Roshi and he said oh no and we said please let us call you Roshi and he finally said okay. It wasn't something that he wanted - it's something that we wanted. They don't use that word so much in Japan for all Soto priests - just for very old venerated ones.
DC: [I mention my chapter from TY&OK! on such titles and the overuse of the title roshi in America. I also went into this in Crooked Cucumber.]
AD: No. 3 - the shift in Zen Center from being a loose lay community to a more structured organization with a defined priesthood took place from the time we started using Tassajara. It was going to be a quiet new age community with a broad approach - but all that was soon forgotten as it became a Zen Monastery.
No. 4 - Suzuki called me to his room when he was quite ill and said that he wanted to give transmission to six to ten students before he died. You Probably wouldn't want to put that in a book about him, but it should be in your archives as a part of Zen Center history. Bill Kwong was first. He made that very clear. I specifically asked him if Bill's transmission was the same as Dick's and he said 'Yes, it is the same as Dick's, no difference. He wanted some priest to come over and do the ceremony for him, Noiri I think it was, and he asked me to help him. I met with a group of older students and we talked about it and I said that it would probably be best not to do it, that it wouldn't be best for Suzuki's health and even for Noiri's health, that it is probably best that we take care of it after he's gone. When Dick came back he showed some interest in taking care of Bill and no one else, but even that didn't last long.
DC: Well, SR should have known from what had happened in the past - Dick and Bill were hardly on speaking terms since they'd had the blowout when Suzuki went to Japan in 63.
AD: We should have been able to rise above all that. You'd think we could have done at least that. After Bill came everyone else.
DC: Silas, Peter, Mel?
AD: You'd think so. Not me. He knew I didn't want that.
DC: He once told me that there would be lots of Zen Centers opening up - in Oregon and Washington and more in California. You can go to Texas and open your own center, he said (some day was implied). I told him I didn't want to go to Texas or open a Zen Center. I'd only been with him a few years then. I didn't like this talk which to me only meant that I'd be leaving him and I didn't want to think about that.
From what I saw I'd say that the people he would have given that sort of responsibility at that time or soon, maybe after some further practice at Zen Center after he was gone, included, after the guys I've mentioned, Jean Ross and Paul Disco. He had a special feeling for Ed and Reb was definitely an Eagle Scout. So was Dan. Suzuki had wanted Angie to go to a nunnery in Japan but that was called off at the last minute with the strong urging of Yvonne which I believe was influenced somewhat by some of the experience of Joyce Browning and Sally Block in Japan. Phillip was too far gone, too out of control at the time, but who knows? He loved him. Lew Richmond and Les Kaye were mature and dependable. Les especially because he was taking care of Los Altos and was a little bit older. Not Ron Browning who'd flipped out or Joyce who like Ron wasn't around anyway. This is just considering whom he'd ordained.
That's all I can think of. except for me. As for me I can think of two indications of his attitude - the first was when the wonderful madman Alan Marlow asked him in the summer of 70 as they worked on Shunryu's rock garden at Tassajara, 'What on earth are we going to do about David?' and Suzuki said, Don't worry, he'll just take longer. Second, once at Zen Center when EL was freaking out, I said to you, Ananda, 'What are we going to do about EL?' You said, 'That's what Suzuki Roshi says about you. What are we going to do with David?'
And bring Noiri over? He'd turned Shunryu down once already to come do a practice period or to teach us for a while. He might not have done it. [Okusan, it turns out, had vetoed that and pretty much the whole idea.] Suzuki had an idea at one point to send Reb to Japan for a couple of years and it may have been to study with Noiri. He wanted me to go to Japan too, but I said I wasn't interested. He tried harder but I was adamant. He didn't want me to study with Noiri. He would have let me figure out something more free I'm sure. Reb though was to go to study with Noiri because Reb was a concentrated sincere student who could do it. Noiri is mister true pure Zen way, not the mold that Suzuki said that Zen had become, but from what I gather, certainly not the broad soft way that Suzuki taught. I don't think he'd ever give a Westerner transmission. Nobody else will.
AD: Of course not. How could they understand? They're not Japanese! It's ridiculous. It's impossible.
DC: There's a German guy named Edgar who studied at Zen Center for years and he's with a Japanese teacher in Germany now who says that Edgar shouldn't wear his robes because he didn't get them in Japan. Ah... To what extent do you think that Suzuki was caught between the 'true way,' the way that he was taught, and the wide way that he was inclined to practice at Zen Center?
AD: He moved from the wide way more after Tassajara.
DC: He said that Buddhism's not like a football that I can pass to you. You've got to practice it as I know it and slowly, naturally make your own Buddhism. That's something you have to do. And it seems to me that all the forms we learned, all of the monastic rules and ceremonies we took on - which came from priests other than him - helped us to get his way in our bones. Do you think that it became something we couldn't shake? Is it a problem?
AD: Once Zen Center became a larger monastic institution and left the idea of being a lay community and it started taking on all these forms, it got a life of its own and couldn't be controlled. Zen Center hasn't continued everything that was instituted but it hasn't brought in much that's really new. We did have a period there when there were businesses - the grocery store and the work company, the bakery, the Neighborhood Foundation. But all those experiments have passed [not Greens, not Green Gulch]. But we didn't seem to be able to intelligently try something for ten years and see if it worked and then continue it or not based on a group decision.
AD: Number 5, (and then with slow emphasis as he scribbled it) He never told me what to do. He'd listen to me or answer questions, but he never on his own told me to do something. I don't know about other people but that's the way it was with me.
DC: Well, you were one of the most senior Buddhists in America. I can understand that. Hmm... now what about others? A lot of people would go to him and ask What should I do about this? or Should I do that? or What should I do now? I'd think he'd tell people what to do if they asked him to, but not always. I didn't do that so much and I guess he never told me what to do either. Hmm...
AD: No. 6 is that he wanted to make a Buddhist Seminary on the top floor of Sokoji. The redevelopment agency wanted to give Sokoji money to tear down the building and build a new one and he wanted to save it and he came up with the idea of the Buddhist Seminary. He wanted Zen Center to have a strong program of study. And he was thinking, what should we study first? And do you know what he came up with? 'The Central Conception of Buddhism,' by Scherbatsky. The most opposite of what we all thought Zen was, the most cerebral, organized, formal approach, with lists of the dharmas and all.
DC: Yeah. He wrote that under Stalin and wasn't persecuted because it was so scientific I hear. Why didn't you do it, at least study that book, or did you?
AD: We did have a study group.
DC: Who was in it?
AD: I don't remember. But one book we were discussing was Filmore Northrop's Meeting of East and West and it had a East is spiritual and West is materialistic, West is dualistic and East is inclusive, etc., and we were all talking about how superior the East is to the West in so many ways - that's what we were into, and Suzuki, who would usually sit there and say nothing, got very worked up and pointed to each of us and said, 'If you wanna be a good Buddhist, you're gonna have to first learn how to be a good Christian,' and he got up and walked out. Now I'd taught a lot of English as a second language and I was very impressed with his usage. If you wanna be... you're gonna have to...
DC: And what did you think he meant by that?
AD: What do you think?
DC: Appreciate our own wisdom, don't compare, don't be dualistic - this isn't what Buddhism is, something better than Christianity?
AD: Yeah, something like that.
DC: I've heard people in Japan and America talk like that - the West is this way, the East is that way.
DC: Too simplistic. To me we all seem in the same boat.
DC: Hoitsu's not like that. He accepted, took on wholeheartedly, the Japanese temple life that his father left behind. He's not interested in zazen or in speaking English. [this has changed] But he has the humanitarian side of his father (and the bad memory), he's strongly anti-right wing and he's loose and informal - people like him. The members and neighbors liked Shunryu too. They didn't like the guy before him - they feared him. Suzuki's first teacher. That's the impression I've gotten. Hoitsu didn't think he was such a nice guy though he respects him, but Shunryu neglected him as a father and was aloof and strict - but Hoitsu says he was good to the members and neighbors and that he must have mellowed out a lot in America.
AD: Once when Shunryu was in Japan Hoitsu said to his father - it was before he took over Rinsoin - that he wouldn't be able to get a wife if he couldn't get a more modern kitchen without the wood burning hibachi. The traditional kitchen was too labor intensive. And so Shunryu went about finding donors to remodel the kitchen and Hoitsu found a wife. He did that for him.
DC: Hoitsu and others including other priests makes the point that Shunryu wasn't so special in Japan. "He was just another priest." I heard that a lot.
AD: He wasn't even special in Yaizu - in terms of being a Zen teacher. There are, I don't know, ten thousand or more Soto priests with transmission, it's nothing special. There are ten stations (or something like that) that a priest can have after transmission and Shunryu needed to say he'd done a practice period at Rinsoin in order to get to some level and all he needed to fulfill that was to have one student who just spent a week with him or something like that [actually, 90 days - but they'd fudge it] and in all of Yaizu there wasn't one person who had done that so he had to get a nephew or somebody to fill out the form saying he'd done it in order for Shunryu to get his certificate.
DC: Do you know of any disciples he had in Japan?
AD: No, I've heard he had some but I never saw any indication of it. When we went to visit it seemed like he'd just see old friends, like colleagues, supporters, members of the temple. No disciples.
DC: I heard once there was an old man who stayed with him for a while. [This came from Bill Kwong and I never found any confirmation of it in Japan]
AD: Don't know.
DC: I asked him once when I was driving him in 1970 or so, if anyone had ever understood his teaching, and he said, 'Yes,' and I said were they Japanese or American and he said Japanese and I asked where are they now and Shunryu said, 'He's dead.' I didn't ask any more. Do you know anything about that?
AD: No. But the one time he got mad at me was when I said that he didn't have any students in Japan. Some people at Zen Center had asked me if he did and I said that I didn't think so and he called me in and asked me angrily if I'd said that he didn't have any students in Japan and I said that that's what I thought he'd told me and it didn't go any farther than that.
DC: He was involved in trying to revitalize Buddhism in Japan after the war - he helped a lot of people take lay precepts and there were students who sat with him daily during the war. And even soldiers I've heard. He was interested in that kind of relationship when he could get it but it doesn't appear to have happened much. His daughter said that a lot of high school students would come to join their friends who lived at Rinsoin and sit at Rinsoin on the weekends but she thinks they came for the food which was scarce during the war. He's only got two dharma heirs in Japan. His son Hoitsu and Kendo San at the first temple he was abbot of, Zounin. And Kendo was not his student but his father had agreed to let Suzuki give him transmission so that the lineage of the temple would be his - there could be other reasons like his friend died, but that's what Hoitsu told me. He did that in '66. He couldn't get away from that but I guess it was just a Japanese thing.
AD: Maybe so.
DC: Do you remember him saying anything about working for peace during the war?
AD: No. But I remember reading claims written by others, that shocked me.
DC: Like what?
AD: Oh, I don't know.
DC: I've heard he was in a peace march and that he was the leader of a pacifist movement.
AD: Yes, like that.
DC: I mentioned it to Japanese and they didn't seem to think it's possible. They laughed at me - when I was doing interviews in Japan. They said there were no marches and that no one could say a word about peace. But I do remember Shunryu himself saying in talks or something that he handed out leaflets or something on Sundays maybe after services - leaflets that opposed the war. And he said something like that after the war when priests were forbidden to teach in schools because of their support of the military that he went to GHQ [General Headquarters - which was American - he probably went to Japanese authorities] and showed them his leaflets and that they said okay you're cool, you can teach. But when I mention that to Hoitsu and other older priests and neighbors they don't know what I'm talking about. It's something I'm trying to get to the bottom of. I even asked him about it - how he managed not to get in trouble and he said that he was very careful not to oppose the government but to say that Japan would be stronger if it wasn't into war. I don't understand - they couldn't even make leaflets then, could they?
AD: Yeah, I don't suppose they could have. I don't know.
DC: But considering the Japanese priests I've met, he seems different to me. Do you think he was? Bill Shurtleff says that he heard a lot of roshi give teisho [Zen talks] and that they all had a similar style with bravado and that Shunryu was distinctly different - direct, soft, sincere, warm. Vital.
AD: He was not the usual product of Zen training. Was he who he was in spite of it? I think that maybe it would be better to say he rose above his Japanese Zen training and practice. I don't want to discount the good that is in it for them or even us.
DC: I've thought the same about Katagiri, but then Shunryu once said that Katagiri was too Japanese - though he sure wanted him around and depended on him and to me he clearly respected him.
AD: Look at his book. [Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind] The reason that his book is so great is that he could rise above what he had learned.
DC: "To climb on the shoulders of your teacher" is an old Zen adage. But then he might say that that was a Chinese perspective. He often indicated that we had to look to Chinese Zen to get the real flavor of Zen. Maybe Kishizawa taught that. Maybe he got some of the seeds to "rise above" from his Japanese teachers or maybe just from Kishizawa.
AD: Maybe so. Zen Mind Beginner's Mind is such an important book to so many people, and not only Zen people, non Zen ones as well.
DC: But how much of that is in the editing?
AD: Talk to Mike Dixon or Marian.
DC: Yes, I plan to. And to Dick.
AD: I remember one time at a meeting in Yaizu, a meeting of town elders and they were talking about wild kids, what to do about youth and everyone was so serious and when it came Shunryu's time to say something, they all looked to him and he said he had no idea what to do and everyone laughed and the meeting lightened up.
The mystery of ordinariness which goes along with the everyday mind is the mind of the Buddha and all that sort of thing. Like so many people commented on that in Japan he was an ordinary priest, nothing unusual, and there was that about him as a human being priest rather than a guy who goes around parading with titles and all that sort of stuff.
DC: Bill Shurtleff heard a number of Roshi give teisho in Japan and he said that Suzuki was unique in that he didn't follow the prescribed dramatic style, that he was natural, spoke naturally.
AD: Often a Japanese priest's wife is pretty much deserted especially by the guys who like go to Eiheiji - they have a family and a wife in the hinterland and they may go back now and then. So Suzuki leaving the new wife in Japan and the kids. And the wife then has to hold down the home temple.
DC: In this particular case it was his eldest daughter who held it down. Mitsu never lived there.
AD: Nonetheless, the way Japanese do things, Suzuki's getting married before he went to America could have been seen as a fulfilling of obligations rather than the opposite. [It actually was just something he did to fulfill the requirement of the San Francisco Sokoji congregation.]
DC: Now, about Suzuki saying he wasn't enlightened, the questioner might have some narrow idea of what enlightenment is that might make Suzuki feel obligated to say no and his answer of no might not mean no in the widest sense.
AD: Yeah. There is the theme in Soto of the satori of no satori. I think we can presume that enlightenment is so misunderstood as to what it might be and it can be more of an obstacle than any help so would it be better to have a teaching of no enlightenment? Of course there's the Heart Sutra with no attainment of any kind, no holy knowledge, etc. The gain-seeking mind, one of Suzuki Roshi's striking phrases. And then we say, okay, I'll practice no gain-seeking mind and maybe that'll get me there. The mind is very subtle about that. And Dogen says shikantaza is sitting just for sitting's sake with no external goal of any kind and as long as some sort of enlightenment or satori or anything is lurking in the background there psychologically it's very very difficult to avoid having these goals creep in. So yes it's quite possible that he would say he isn't enlightened for these sorts of reasons and he might even say them to a senior student because these sorts of misunderstandings are not limited to ordinary Joes but also to very sophisticated people who've studied sutras for years and years and years.
You might have noticed over the years that the number of people having great satori experiences as far as we know are extraordinarily few whereas in Rinzai and Yasutani's type of Zen they go popping off regularly. What's with Zen Center then? How come no satori?
DC: But even with people who have supposedly have had big experiences or who have been made successors, there's no guarantee in the slightest that there will be any positive visible signs of it in their life. They might fall apart or get into the most ridiculous pettiness. To me, enlightenment is like flying saucers: I believe in it but I'm not gonna spend much time thinking about it cause I haven't seen 'em.
AD: Let me put it another way. I've heard him answer that question in the simplest possible sense. We can talk about the Heart Sutra angles and all but it can get down to are you enlightened or aren't you? and I've heard him when it got down to that and his answer was no.
DC: It's so easy to idolize someone like him and to have an unbalanced view. To me he was of course a terribly sophisticated, profound and beautiful person but I think he was just another being on the path. But certainly almost everybody realized that he had something. Like you said, we wanted to be like him, to know what he knew. But people take him out of the whole horse race and see it as all us struggling deluded beings down here and him all perfect up there - I don't see any indication from him of that. I've seen that from other Zen teachers. Michael Katz, my editor, has studied Suzuki's lectures pretty closely. He says he's hardly come across anything that he's read in his whole life that he thinks is as subtle and profound as Suzuki's lectures, at least in places here and there. And specifically Michael thinks that some of the things that he said about Big Mind and enlightenment were inspiring.
AD: Well, Suzuki Roshi could say he was enlightened or half enlightened or not enlightened or whatever, and still the question remains alright now me, what do I think - I read these things and they're very inspiring and they changed my life and everything. Do I think he's enlightened? There's still that question. But I think that's a separate question from what he said. Also I think it's a separate question in the sense that his teaching and amongst his students too in contrast to quite a few other Zen teaching traditions, where kensho, satori, etc. figures very prominently not only in the teaching but in the sesshins, koan, experiences and the advancing up in the student rank and so on whereas it's almost, at least in my time at Zen Center, it was incredibly absent.
DC: Do you remember hearing of anyone getting enlightened? Personally I can't... maybe... well I don't actually recall any example of it personally but I wasn't there all the time either. It certainly didn't enter the gossip mill or the information mill.
AD: How is that possible? Was he such an utter failure? Here he was, our enlightened teacher and he was such a dumb teacher that not one of us got it. Or maybe something else is going on.
DC: I don't know of any enlightenment story of him. Did he ever tell one? Dogen told about the guy next to him getting hit with the stick and then all body and mind dropping away. Actually the way he talked about these things was so subtle that me forcing this question is a sort of an insult.
DC: Just giving it the good old college try. It's not something I walk around thinking about all day.
DC: Here's another one: you know that Dick says the reason that we got Tassajara is that only he could practice in the city. Suzuki didn't really want to get a country place and Dick didn't need a country place. Suzuki had an idea of teaching people in the city and they'd just have their jobs and sit at Zen Center and have a lay practice but only Dick got it so that's why it was necessary for Dick to go find a place in the country. It would be a place for everybody else to practice. And even though Dick has said that recently to me and it may be in Helen Tworkov's book, I remember it being his attitude when we started Tassajara. I paid really close attention to Dick. What d'ya think about that?
AD: As far as the senior students were concerned, Dick was nothing special. He wasn't inferior or behind anybody and obviously Suzuki Roshi had a soft spot in his heart for Dick but he said some things in that period regarding Dick that I don't care to repeat which would not reflect very positively on Richard.
DC: I asked Suzuki if giving Dick transmission meant he was enlightened and he said, No no no, it just means he has a good understanding, and then he paused and said , "and a full commitment."
AD: Well I asked him similar such questions and he volunteered a few comments besides those.
DC: Don't say anything to me off the record.
AD: I'm not. I don't care to be quoted on it.
So what would Katagiri say if he was asked about enlightenment.
DC: He'd say no, he wasn't.
AD: Well what's goin on here?
DC: Well they're just a couple of priests.
January 27, 1995
DC: What do you think about the Tokubetsu Sesshin being held at Green Gulch with the guys from the Soto Shu [the Soto Zen organization in Japan] coming?
AD: The only way now to be authenticated Soto Zen students in Suzuki's lineage is for us to get transmission from Hoitsu and then do Zuise at Eiheiji.
DC: Is Tassajara recognized as a Soto Zen practice temple? Isn't it?
AD: Tassajara is recognized to some extent but not all the way.
DC: Bill, Les, and Mel did a training period at Rinsoin and got transmission from Hoitsu because they couldn't get it from Dick but they wanted Suzuki's transmission so they got it from his son.
AD: Reb's transmission is through Baker.
Suzuki tried to register me with the Soto Shu in Japan a half dozen times and others too and always unsuccessfully. With the entrenchment and conservatism over there, I don't think they'll bend enough for us. To them it may seem like bending way over and to us like almost not at all.
DC: I bet Hoitsu knew what to do. And times have changed. It doesn't matter. Well, what do you think we should do?
AD: We should try an affiliate relationship. We could agree to the first two pages of the Soto constitution: shikantaza, everyday mind is Buddha Mind, non-duality of practice and enlightenment, one suchness, precepts and the way, our heart founder is Shakyamuni Buddha and Bodhidharma, Dogen and Keizan as founders. [Get a copy of the constitution - Ananda said he'll send - there's all sorts of minutia and regulations - never did get it. It doesn't matter.]
I thought SR's strategy was to set ourselves up as independent and then keeping the door open to see what can happen with Japan. It's not possible for us to be full fledged members of the Soto Shu. They think Soto Shu is for Japanese.
DC - Like Dogen knew the Chinese monks wouldn't accept him when offered the head monk position so he went back to Japan. Nyojo agreed.
AD: Suzuki wanted us to cooperate with the Soto Shu but we shouldn't use the name - it's their name and we can't use it. It's like their legal name and what it means to be Soto Shu is defined by them.
DC - Dogen didn't want his way to be called Soto or even Zen and Suzuki said the same - we are just Buddhists.
AD: Zenji is an imperial title and we shouldn't use it either. We should call Dogen, Dogen X-ji or no-ji but not Dogen Zenji.
After Dick went, Suzuki Roshi changed his idea of Eiheiji. He wouldn't want us to take money from the Soto Shu. A drum would be okay.
We've done these Tokubetsu Sesshin with them before both at Tassajara and in Japan.
Ananda mentioned his interest in Pure Land or Amida Buddhism and Suzuki Roshi on Pure Land, and said to see last Berkeley ZC newsletter. I mentioned Peter Schneider's teacher Kano and his rap on Pure Land and Zen combined as he learned it from D.T. Suzuki and Ananda was most interested. Now in 2004 I wonder if the fellow doing the documentary on D.T. got this Kano rap on Jodo Shin Shu, which is what I'd call it now, down.
AD: While still at Sokoji, Suzuki Roshi had specific plans to tear down the old building and build a new one with a Buddhist seminary on the top. The idea was to use redevelopment money. That was in 1962 or 1963. I had a familiarity with property and carpentry. Suzuki Roshi asked me to look into it. Suzuki Roshi was looking into the possibility of live-together solution. We were crowding the Japanese out of the building. We weren't upper-middleclass sober people who could get along well with them. So one solution was a bigger building with space we could use better. Maybe this idea collapsed because Suzuki Roshi was asked to leave [in 1969] once we had Tassajara and were an independent corporation. The momentum was that we were on the way out. The momentum was for the zazen group to leave Sokoji. Suzuki Roshi said at times he was there as long as they wanted him (the Japanese congregation).
DC: Again, who were the people Suzuki Roshi wanted to give transmission to? I mean when he was dying and wanted Noiri Roshi to come over from Japan and help with transmission to a group of people.
AD: I can't really remember who they all are. Number one was Bill Kwong. And Silas, Dan, Reb, maybe Lew Richmond, maybe Yvonne, Mel. Peter. That's about half of them. There should be six or so more.
DC: I pointed out to Ananda that Yvonne wasn't ordained as a priest though she had lay ordination.
AD: Oh, well, maybe not Yvonne. And maybe not Lew.
[He didn't really know. But we did talk about this. He said he only talked to 5 or 6 of the people Suzuki mentioned.]
We could have done the short ordination for 6 to 12 people but Suzuki Roshi was talking about a long-process ordination: 1 to 3 months. I talked to some of these people and we agreed to wait, because Suzuki Roshi was sick, and Baker Roshi could do it when he got back. I didn't talk to him much toward the end. Reb did, I think. I went back to him and said, We think Baker should do it. And he agreed.
I talked to Baker Roshi about this regularly, saying it was a dying request of our teacher. Baker Roshi didn't respond. He wasn't going to do it with Bill Kwong, so he wasn't going to do it with others. If Zen Center were to grow, there should be fully qualified teachers. And I thought that their years of practice were worthy of respect. There was all this suppressed energy. Baker Roshi was high up and Dan was waiting on tables for Baker Roshi and his rich friends. It wasn't natural or wholesome. Lots of talented people. Look at Neil Rubenking. His natural development was arrested while he was at Zen Center, but as soon as he left he became a nationally famous computer authority. It's hard to get away from Zen Center economically. Also with families. Tassajara and Page Street. If you weren't living in one or the other, then you were an outsider, especially if you had a family. Insiders didn't consider family an excuse from participating 100 percent. I used to say in lectures that Zen Center extends to 753 Sixth Avenue. [I think that may be where he lived] They have to be surrounded.
I was in Japan when Suzuki Roshi was about to leave in 1966, and he came up to me at Rinso-in and said, I think you ought to get ordained. How about it? I gathered it was unusual to be asked, so I said, "Let's do it." So he said, "At 10 am tomorrow." And we had an informal ceremony at his office. He chanted some things in Japanese for about a minute and said, "That's it." I said, "What about shaving my head?" He said, "I don't think that's such a good idea, cause winter is coming. You might get sick. Let's wait." He sent in the papers but they weren't accepted. He thought it would work because it was at his temple [Ananda was at his temple. Then he was Claude Dalenberg, he didn't name himself Ananda until after Suzuki died.] But it didn't work. He tried again several times to register people he had ordained with the Soto sect, but they would never accept it. He wanted me to stay in Japan at Rinso-in to be an adviser to foreigners coming to Japan. Hoichi was there for my ordination. And Kobun. That was before coming back to America.
I have the Soto-shu Constitution -- an administrative solution to so many problems. It's a work of genius. It defines a path through all the difficult Soto realities.
I asked Kobun and Hoitsu, are there two transmissions? Is there one transmission that's more important than another? Like was Baker Roshi's transmission at a higher level than the transmission he wanted to give all these other people? They said, no, they're all the same. Hoitsu said, "I can give dharma transmission to anyone who has received tokudo from a licensed priest. The transmission I give is the same as the transmission Suzuki Roshi gave." And that's according to the Soto Zen by-laws. When Hoitsu gave transmission to Mel and Les and Bill in Japan after Suzuki Roshi died, he got permission from headquarters to have a training period.
DC: Tell me about being with Hodo Tobase at Sokoji before Suzuki Roshi came.
AD: The first group that I was in were mostly gaijin [sic - Caucasians] and met once a week, and maybe there was 10 minutes of zazen. Someone maybe read some Masunaga, Soto Approach to Zen. There would be a discussion for one hour and Tobase had calligraphy. This started about the time I started. It would have been when I was about 26 -- 42 years ago in 1954. As for the ten minutes of zazen, it felt like we were making a heroic effort. Climbing a great big mountain in a wide frontier. No one knew what was happening next. Ten minutes of zazen. It was a monumental step. Now it's like falling off a log. It's encouraging. It makes it easier for those who come next. Bob Hense, and Bill McNeill were there then. [That's interesting. They were Suzuki's first students] They were special. Tobase said he wanted them to go to Japan. They did. I met Hense in Japan when he was going to a Rinso-in associated temple. Bill McNeill was to join him there. Hense eventually moved to Chicago but while still in San Francisco he had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. He had lots of problems.
DC: Was he an architect?
DC: I think Bob Hense and Bill McNeill both went to Japan after Suzuki came, and Suzuki sent them.
AD: I met Hense when he was 30. Thirty-eight years ago. I was studying at Daitokuji at the time -- 1958. [That's before Suzuki came to America. I think Ananda's memory is wrong here and this is all a bit confusing but no matter.] Tobase had a separate house on Divisidero and California, and there was a resident student, Bob Hense. And maybe McNeill, too. A close friend of McNeil's said that Bill said he got dharma transmission.
DC: No. That's wrong.
AD: Neville Warwick also understood that he had dharma transmission from Suzuki Roshi. In the early days he was coming infrequently to Zen Center. It was a possible claim. He had known and visited Suzuki Roshi in Japan. That was common knowledge. It wouldn't have been recorded. We can't look in the Soto Registry.
DC: I feel it's ridiculous to say that Bill McNeill or Ajari (Neville Warwick) got dharma transmission. They were just new students, guys interested in Zen. [To me Ananda's just giving a benefit of a doubt to things that he's heard. That's his way -- to give a benefit of a doubt, and my way to think it's ridiculous.]
AD: At a board meeting at Tassajara while Suzuki Roshi was sick, he asked us to split Tassajara and Zen Center into two separate boards and budgets. He'd retire and be at both. We refused. We who would almost always do whatever he'd say, but not in that case. I mention that in relation to multiple abbots [which is what had happened in Zen Center since 1988 when I was on the board and was heavily involved in creating this].
DC: I was at that board meeting at Tassajara. That was 1971 in the spring. I'll look for the notes. I don't remember that, but there was so much happening at that board meeting at Tassajara before Suzuki Roshi died. [Board notes are useless or anyway, they bored me so I can't say for sure but I don't remember seeing anything like that on them. Probably Yvonne's own notes would be best but they'd probably take a zillion years to dig up and she wouldn't have the time to do that.]
AD: He often mentioned how he'd worked hard to control his anger. In the Northrop conversation [ when they were talking about Northrop's philosophy about east and west; dividing up east, good, west, bad; east both/and, west either/or. They were in some group discussion.] Suddenly Suzuki Roshi got up and pointed a finger and shouted, "If you want to be a good Buddhist, first you're going to have to be good Christian!" And he walked out of the room. I never saw Suzuki Roshi get angrier than that, or hardly ever. I don't know if that's the anger Suzuki Roshi wanted to control. I think that was control.
There's a difference between Rinzai and Soto dharma transmission. There are 300 roshis in Rinzai [?]. It's more elitist. There are 3000 in Soto. But in Soto it's no bigger deal than getting a teacher's certificate from San Francisco State College. Whereas in Rinzai it's more like getting a PhD.
Warwick stopped coming to Zen Center because he expected others to bow to him. Because of his relationship to Suzuki Roshi. He studied all sorts of stuff. We didn't give Ajari the deference he wanted. He'd probably already had his Shugendo practice behind him. [Shugendo, if that's the correct word, is the Shingon walking monks' practice, or something like that.]
When I was in Japan before, we'd go to Daitokuji sessions. We did that for about a year. We sat at night, not in the morning. I remember Walter Nowak. Was the senior gaijin. Irmgard Schloegl was later. [This is when he thinks he saw McNeil and Hense, but they were there in 61, not 58 as he said earlier that it was]
DC: Joanne Kyger told me that Schlegel made her clean the ceilings of the bathroom every day, that she was incredibly Germanic in her Zen.
AD: It didn't work out for me there. But I did visit Nakagawa, Soen Nakagawa, and he urged me to go to Yasutani Roshi's session. Which I did. Hit it off famously with Yasutani. He was great. Phillip Kapleau was my translator. I didn't speak much Japanese but Phillip was a pretty good translator. Yasutani was in Kamakura then. He traveled. But the place he was most of the time was Kamakura. He was on the road a lot. I went to 3 or 4 sessions there.
DC: In what way did it not work out for you at Daitokuji with Ruth Fuller Sasaki?
AD: It was the roshi. I wanted to find a real Zen teacher. I met the guy. The electricity didn't seem to be there.
DC: Goto Roshi?
AD: Yeah, I guess it was.
DC: My understanding is that Walter Nowack studied with Goto, but Gary studied with Goto's dharma heir, Oda.
AD: Maybe so, but I think Gary started with Goto.
DC: How did you come to leave Kamakura?
AD: Yasutani Roshi would also come to the United States. My visa was about up. Also the number of extensions. I was getting tired of Japan. I felt so isolated there. I had enough of it.
DC: Did you get along with Ruth Fuller Sasaki?
DC: Did she ever sit at Zen Center?
AD: At Sokoji? Not that I know of. I don't know that she ever met Suzuki Roshi.
DC: You came back to America --
AD: I was 31 years old. Would have made it about 1958. There was Suzuki Roshi. In 1959. As I remember he came to Sokoji about the same month I left for Japan. I stayed in Japan about a year. Would have meant he would have been at Sokoji about a year.
DC: He came in May of 1959. You must have come in '60. Did you start sitting with him at that time?
DC: Your practice started in '60 and you were there all the time? [Now, in 2004, I think that it was more like late '61 or '62. But it's trivial.]
AD: Yeah. Also I considered Sokoji as my spiritual home. I'd been there with Tobase with the zazen group. We would sit in pews once a week for 20 minutes. Somebody would read something. Masunaga's Soto Approach to Zen or something like that. We considered ourselves real pioneers. We were as a matter of fact. Seemed like a monumental effort at the time. Although twenty minutes sitting in a pew these days is nothing at all.
DC: I still find twenty-minute periods to be excellent.
I'd like to go back and find out when you met Nyogen Senzaki and how your whole spiritual path got going.
AD: I don't mind but I'm secondary as far as your current project is concerned.
DC: As far as the archive goes it's very important.
AD: Maybe. I don't mind talking about anything at all.
DC: Where were you born?
AD: I was born in South Holland, Illinois. A Dutch community. In 1927. July 2. I met Alan Watts at Northwestern University. I attended school there. I met him when I was about 20. He was in the Episcopalian Church at the time. A priest and teaching at Episcopalian Seminary which is right across the street from Northwestern. He was also chaplain for the university and Canterbury House which is a campus house for Episcopalians is right across the street from the Northwestern campus. He was my introduction to Asian thought. And Alan was friends with Ogata. I think he wrote a book Zen for America. He was studying graduate studies at the University of Chicago. Alan would invite him occasionally to Canterbury House to give a talk on Zen. Alan had written his first book on Zen when he was eighteen years old [21?]. So his interest had been already long-standing. As long as you follow certain protocol in the Episcopal Church as far as ritual is concerned your interpretation, your own theology about it all, is completely open. You can think pretty wild things about it as long as you stick to certain standard regimen, particularly as far as ritual is concerned. So Alan had kind of an easygoing mixture of things. As you can see in his early books as you can see in his Introduction to Zen [Way of Zen?]. He freely and harmoniously quotes Christian sources and Zen sources and they all fit together. That's the way it seemed when being with him. He'd give a talk at Canterbury House and it all seemed to fit together. He was also a good friend of D.T. Suzuki. I didn't meet D.T. Suzuki until later in San Francisco. Alan went to San Francisco shortly after I met him, about three years later. Then I came out here too.
I graduated from Northwestern. Philosophy. Alan was teaching out here and here I met D.T. Suzuki. Alan had been D.T. Suzuki's personal secretary in England. So I got to meet Zen people through Alan. Also Sohaku Ogata. And got to know them fairly well. And eventually Nyogen Senzaki.
DC: Do you remember, going back to Ogata and Alan Watts in Chicago, do you remember the most important things you learned from them?
AD: An adventuresome spirit. This is fun. Ogata had that spirit too. He was Rinzai. Also kind of infectious in the sense that Alan conveyed and Ogata conveyed, and D.T. Suzuki, and Senzaki all conveyed the kind of spirit: You can do it. You don't have to be Japanese. It's fun. It's easy. Why not. Let's do it. Which was not the gloomy scenario you might get if you went to Japan with people betting that you can't do it.
DC: Japan is more tied up with levels of getting titles and things and being Japanese and doing things in the Japanese way.
AD: D.T. Suzuki was trying to find a spot for Mrs. Sasaki in Japan, who wanted to come and study after her husband died, and no place would take her. D.T. Suzuki who had some influence, though not as much as we think, finally persuaded some Roshi in Kyoto, Danzenji [?], the first roshi to accept her as a student. The whole Zen world in Japan were convinced that you can't do it if you were a gaijin. Which is totally different from Ogata, Nyogen Senzaki, D.T. Suzuki. Alan Watts, not a licensed teacher, D.T. Suzuki, not a licensed teacher, Nyogen Senzaki, not a licensed teacher. People in Japan say D.T. Suzuki's books on Zen ought to be burned.
DC: That's normal sectarianism. Narrowness. Philistines.
AD: Maybe so. But what is not normal is people like D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, and Nyogen Senzaki. Like the Jodo Shinshu scene here you might say is normal because they don't have and never did have people like that.
DC: They had Ogui. He's pretty neat.
Where did you live in San Francisco?
AD: East-West House. I started it. When I first came I just had a room somewhere.. Studied at the American Academy of Asian Studies which was the precursor to the California Institute of Integral Studies. Alan was the dean there. First we had a residential place. We had a big house on Broadway, American Academy did, we had six or seven students in residence there. I was the house manager. Communal meals. Eventually the Academy kind of owned it. Several of the students and several of our friends wanted to continue that kind of communal style. And we wanted to continue an ideal of East meeting West. So we decided to start another place. I led the way in that. We got a big old place for about eight or nine people and called it East-West House.
DC: I've heard about it from a lot of people: Joanne, Dave Hazelwood come to mind.
AD: Lou Welch, Len Orkendau [?]. I don't think Kerouac was actually ever in residence. Hyphen House? Did you hear about Hyphen House?
DC: Yeah. it was founded second. And the Hyphen was the hyphen between East and West. It was the overflow. Who started it?
AD: I don't remember. That was while I was in Japan, I guess. Probably Albert Saijo.
DC: And Gary and Joanne lived at the East-West House.
AD: Gary didn't live there. Joanne did.
DC: What about Philip Whalen?
AD: As I remember he had a brief sojourn at Hyphen House.
DC: What was it like?
AD: Those were beatnik [pre] hippie days. At first we started with a very ambitious thing. We were going to have classes and stuff. One of the residents was a Chinese professor who was very well educated. He had studied Taoist Yoga in the Caves with Taoist hermits in China. I don't remember his name at the moment. We did start something like that but got very little response from it. My premise was that if we could not all agree and put our hearts behind some program like that, it was going to be next to impossible. We began going in different directions. People were not so much interested in Zen, and more interested in Yoga, or none of it. Eventually we, or I, decided that if we really wanted to live with each other, then we would have to give up all the ideals about East meeting West, and also about macrobiotic food, or vegetarian food, or keeping the house clean, or sexual barriers between members of the house. And any standards of anything. We would have to give up all of that if we wanted to live with each other. That then emerged as the standard for the house.
DC: In other words, no special rules.
AD: No special rules, no special ideals, other than that we were going to live with each other. So the requirements for new members was simply that, do you really want to live with us? Are you really willing to give up that the place was dirty, or not up to your standards; the food isn't up to your standards. Are you willing to give up that? And give up ideas that we should meditate and like what we should do and seem to be. It was superficial and all that sort of thing. Are you willing to give up all of that to live with each other? As they are willing to do that, then they are candidates for membership.
DC: It became the opposite of what you had in mind at first.
What year did you come to San Francisco?
AD: I was about 24 years old then. Around '51, '52. I went to the University of Chicago for two quarters after I graduated from Northwestern. Then one semester at the University of Hawaii. Then to San Francisco where Alan was. In Hawaii I ran into Reverend Hunt. One of the real pioneers of early Soto days. Ernest Shinkaku Hunt. He was an ordained Soto Zen priest. He was ordained in Hawaii. He sat. Did some translations, published some things which might possibly be in our library. I didn't sit with him but went to some of his lectures.
I met Nyogen Senzaki through Alan. He was a friend of Nyogen's. He wanted some of his students to meet Nyogen so he arranged that through the American Academy [of Asian Studies - AAAS]. That was probably when I was 26 or 27 years old. Then I met Tobase Roshi who was also a friend of Alan's. He arranged to have him teach calligraphy at the Academy. We were standing in the hallway there and Tobase Roshi and I started talking. His English wasn't too good. There was a calendar on the wall with a pretty girl. Tobase Roshi pointed at the pretty girl and said, "You start doing zazen and pretty soon you completely forget about pretty girls. Ho ho ho!" Big belly laugh. That was a good start. Compared to the cold, official Soto types that come through -- they really are pretty cold. Forbidding.
DC: Often there's a feeling of arrogance and haughtiness. Priests can become what they call in Japan "erai hito" -- great, or important people.
AD: Right. One of the ways I read that on the basis of what I experienced before, was there was none of the spirit of you can do it.
DC: More like I can do it. You can look up to me.
AD: Tobase was not like that.
DC: There was a nice article on Tobase and Gordon Onslow Ford in the Wind Bell.
AD: I was talking to Nyogen Senzaki one day in LA I was thinking about a topic for my master's thesis. I was particularly interested in David Hume and the philosophy of empiricism, or maybe a radical empiricism, and I was thinking of writing a thesis on the subject of radical empiricism and Buddhism. He didn't seem to be impressed by that. He encouraged me to go on about what I really wanted to do. I said I had decided to devote my life to bringing the spirit of Zen to America. Pretty impressive, huh? His response to that was "Bring what?" I repeated. He probably didn't understand how impressive a statement it was. Same thing. He responded "Bring What?" Suddenly I realized I didn't have the slightest idea what it was that I was trying to bring to America. If anything. I much appreciated that. Partly because I knew I could have spent quite a few years under the illusion that I was devoting my life to bringing the spirit of Zen to America. I realized that without a teacher, like Nyogen Senzaki, I never would have been jolted into realizing that something was radically askew in my view. He had done that for me. That was very important. Also I had great doubts about my ability to sit in full lotus ever. I had kind of a half-assed half lotus. He not only encouraged sitting in chairs, but actually felt that seiza and full lotus was a foreign imposition upon American culture, and we shouldn't do it. I appreciated that. I doubted, correctly I think, that I would ever be able to get into a wholesome zazen half lotus posture which would be helpful for my practice, rather than just something required by practice. So far I haven't been able to do it.
DC: Did Senzaki have a sitting group in LA?
AD: Yeah. He would have brief sessions. You could just come on down. I don't remember any daily sitting group, but he might have. I didn't participate in that. I'd go down and visit. He also lived in the Bay Area for a number of years before the War. He used to wander in Golden Gate Park quite a bit. I say the floating zendo. That's a Nyogen Senzaki idea. That his zendo was wherever he was. Also of course he was for awhile what you would call a floater. He'd get jobs here and there. Bus boys, and stuff, in different places in San Francisco. I was also impressed because I thought he was remaining really true to the spirit of the early days of the farm/monastery here in the Bay Area The one that D.T. Suzuki and Nyogen Senzaki and Goto Roshi and several others -- somewhere in the Bay Area they had a strawberry farm.
DC: Rick Fields wrote about that in How the Swans Came to the Lake. That was before the War?
AD: Yeah. Quite some time before the war. Eventually Sasaki Roshi was also part of that strawberry farm. But they all, except Nyogen Senzaki and D.T. Suzuki, sold out, so to speak. And went back to Japan. And got the official credentials. The original idea was that they were going to be something new. As Yasutani Roshi put it, the priest/temple system of Buddhism is the millstone around the neck of Japanese Buddhism. And they sort of felt that way. So they were going to be something new, apart from being Roshis and all that shit. So what happens, Sasaki Roshi goes back to Japan, gets all the credentials. Comes back with the title and the robes and sets himself up in New York. Except Nyogen Senzaki and D.T. Suzuki. So who are the honored models for the Zen freethinker? D.T. Suzuki and Nyogen Senzaki. [Ananda is referring to his publication here.]
DC: You continued seeing Senzaki until he died.
AD: Yeah. I hadn't made a full commitment to him. I mentioned that that's what I had been considering. I didn't realize how important he was to me until years later.
DC: What were you doing all this time?
AD: I was teaching English as a foreign language at the time in the school system here. Was I? I don't remember. I don't recall if I did that before I went to Japan. Maybe not.
Went to Japan. I knew Gary very well. We were real buddies. I had him as a help in introducing me to the scene there. I joined into the Daitokuji scene, Sasaki's [Ruth Fuller] scene. Got a job teaching English. Then taught English as a second language in San Francisco when I returned. Went to San Francisco State, got an MA in English, specialty in English as a foreign language. Taught there for awhile.
DC: Most people when they're telling me about their lives they'll tell me about jobs they had. You didn't have to have jobs or what?
AD: I had a little inheritance money. Not much. At the Academy I had a small salary for being house manager. Janitor. Like in Rick Fields? Yeah.
DC: Could you describe what Nyogen Senzaki looked like? How old was he when you met him?
AD: Getting along in years. Maybe about 60, maybe older. I don't recall how he dressed. Medium height for a Japanese. Stocky. I have some pictures. Bill McNeill was about my height but kind of lanky. Maybe brown hair and eyes. Bob Hense was short, roly-poly, round face.
DC: When Hense came back from Japan -- about the time you did -- he became the first president of Zen Center. Then he had some sort of nervous breakdown. Do you know anything about that?
AD: No I don't. I think he came back before I did. [Yes - so Ananda came back in '62 or around then.]
DC: Did you go to Rinso-in at all in your first stay in Japan?
AD: No. I've been more than once, but the only important time was when Suzuki Roshi was there along with Phil Wilson and Graham Petchey. And his resignation thing. Which would have been --
DC: October 1966. That's when I came to Zen Center. I've been making time lines. Did you go with him there?
AD: No. We were there before he came. I talked to him about it (going to Rinso-in) before he left. My plan was that I would be there, and we both seemed to think that was a good idea. There was no particular reason for us to arrive together, and it was convenient for me to leave earlier, so I did. He asked me to stay there, in Japan. Not necessarily at Rinso-in. He felt that someone like me -- it would be great if someone like me was there. For gaijin newcomers who didn't know anything about anything and needed some elder brother or helper of some sort. Newcomers who needed the counsel of someone who was a relatively old hand. Someone that apparently he trusted, like myself. If he sent people to study in Japan, I could help them. I presumed at the time, although I didn't talk to him about it, that Rinso-in was not necessarily the ideal location for that. I didn't want to stay.
DC: You came back. I remember meeting you at some point then. I know he continued thinking about the possibility of Rinso-in being a practice place for Americans. At least toying with the idea as late as '69. He asked Bill Shurtleff what he thought about that. Bill reported to him that there were other places developing in Japan that he thought were doing what Suzuki wanted. Bill studied with Noiri at that temple that was associated with Rinso-in. And Jeff Broadbent was really close to Noiri, got a lay ordination and rakusu from him. But nothing ever really developed.
Do you remember Suzuki talking about an incident in which he stuck himself in the eye?
DC: Do you remember his mother-in-law at the temple?
AD: Obaasan? We were great friends. In some ways the head person of the temple was Obaasan. If you came, you checked in with her. If you had some sort of appointment she was the one who arranged it. If Suzuki Roshi couldn't find his robes, he'd come running to Obaasan, saying, Obaasan where are my robes? She would always know. She was bent over about 90 degrees. Grey hair. When Suzuki Roshi was there a lot of people came to the temple. Otherwise, not so many at all. There were no monks there. [but of course some priest would come there for weekly services and other special occasions - they take care of each other and of temples where the priests are gone.]
DC: Was Hoitsu there? He had his own place. He came to the ceremony, I know. That's when Suzuki gave him his high seat ceremony. I guess he was still finishing up college then. Or Eiheiji
AD: I don't remember him being around too much, but he was partly around.
I also went to Rinso-in afterwards. When Reb went to Japan about 5, 6 years ago. Katherine and I went along. We stopped in for a couple of days.
AD: Regarding Jiyu Kennett who wrote Selling Water by the River. [Later called the, to me, greatly inferior Zen Is Eternal Life] In my opinion she put in more hard years of practice in Japan than anyone I know. Also, she got a lot of shit from all kinds of directions. In terms of stress and some psychological consequences of having to go through all that which wouldn't be wholesome for anyone. Survival would be a criteria. She survived, in some sense spiritually intact and more mature. I respect her for that. Maybe there's somebody who's put in more hard years than she has, but I don't know.
DC: She's put in a lot. She's pretty ill now.
AD: Yeah. She has a lot of nitty-gritty everyday knowledge of what's going on in Soto that probably nobody else did. There may be quite a few students with that special zendo experience, but this is main mind Soto that I'm talking about. She's got that experience. I don't think anyone else comes close. She tells a little about that in the book, but not so much. I don't think it would be particularly worth your while, but if there were some way you could be informed of what she does know about all of that, that would be very good.
DC: Do you think it would be possible to talk to her?
AD: No. You've got to be in the family. She's not well enough to handle something as new as that.
DC: Any other book you think would be good background reading about San Francisco at the time. What Japanese Zen was like? I just read a history of modern Japan.
AD: You know yourself as much as anybody.
DC: I have some ideas. I'm not planning to read a great deal more. Just if there was something in particular you could recommend.
AD: By the way, because of the East-West House experience, when I came back to San Francisco, Sokoji and all, there was one house across the street from Sokoji which was sort of an East-West house. Ron Browning and Joyce. I felt that it was a great idea. There should be more of us doing that. I talked to Suzuki Roshi about it. He was all in favor of more of it. He asked me to be manager of that. We soon had six houses across the street. Mini East-West houses. All renting. We had free meals and free first night for anybody who wanted to come sit with us. That was for everybody. There was one house which was a guest house. Zen Center was really poor in those days. But it's interesting that when we were very poor we gave free meals and free first night to anybody who wants to come and sit.
DC: That's the way things work. If you need hospitality when travelling you get it from poor people. Generally.
AD: When I was in the Navy, when you're hitchhiking, trying to get home for Thanksgiving, you see a fancy car coming down the road, you just put down your hand. They aren't going to pick you up. Some jalopy comes, they stop, they'll buy you lunch, take you out of their way to drop you off. I was in the Navy when I was 18 for a year and two months. I got out when the war ended. I was stationed in the Great Lakes and San Francisco. And on an LST here in the bay.
One of the things I had in mind, and Suzuki Roshi had in mind, was that eventually we would have a kind of residential practice. I told you about rebuilding Sokoji. He was thinking about things like that. I saw the opportunity to get a head start on it by getting a residential community of 20, 30 people across the street. It turned out to be very handy when we decided to get Page Street. We had already a residential community. All we had to do was pick them up lock stock and barrel, along with some of their friends, and had them move in with us. Within one weekend we could change scenes from there to Page Street. The first month we broke even financially.
DC: You had an official position. Housing manager?
AD: Yeah. At Sokoji. Both before and after Tassajara. Tassajara changed my ideas about staying in Japan. Anyway the East-West experience was valuable for me in trying to help with the city scene.
I was the initial manager of East-West house. The instigator. We always had a group of us making decisions, but to find the building and get a phone in, and some agreements, I took the lead.
DC: You've brought up something new about moving to Page Street. How did the Caucasian group, how did Zen Center decide to get Page Street? What role did Sokoji play in that decision?
AD: Suzuki Roshi was going on the presupposition that there would be Sokoji, both Japanese/Americans and us.
DC: So Suzuki Roshi in his talks with you had been talking about keeping both congregations together and his solution was a bigger building.
AD: Right. Then somewhere along the line he understood that his gaijin contingent -- we -- were too much trouble and were no longer welcome. If he wanted to continue with that he was no longer welcome either. Something like that.
DC: Actually very few people have much to say about that.
AD: I don't have much to say about it either. But I do know that in all my talks with him he had presupposed, and I think really wanted, to do the groups all together. And at some point, a rather abrupt point, that all changed.
DC: That's the indication. I had a two-hour talk with Tomoe-san recently. She was at a board meeting of the Japanese-American congregation of Sokoji where Suzuki was given an ultimatum: You've got to choose between us and them. He and Katagiri both. She said he didn't say anything but he had to have said something because she said he chose to stay with the people that were sitting zazen. He had to stay with his students. So he said he would resign. Katagiri said he would help in the transition. They said no. We don't want you to help. Either be with us or them. If you're going to be with them then they're going to be here with you in the transition. We want somebody who is our priest. There's some other little side stories. Some man who wanted to be president who was rather new and Suzuki told him he didn't think he should run. And that man called for his resignation. I've gotten very little about these stories from anybody. Do you know any more?
AD: No. You know more than I do. He must have talked to me about it. But I don't remember. I certainly did understand that something like that had happened at the board meeting. He decided we should be separate and he would be with us.
DC: At what point was there a decision to look for another place? You found it didn't you?
AD: Silas and I were told by Suzuki to start looking. I don't know when that was. Probably '69. Almost immediately when he decided there would be two separate groups. I went looking and Silas went looking. Eventually found Page Street. I saw an ad in the newspaper. George Hagiwara did not find it.
DC: Okusan, who's frequently wrong with her details, told me that George Hagiwara found it. I had remembered you were the one who found it.
AD: It was my reading -- ads, real estate magazines. I saw this ad in the Sunday paper and immediately got in my car and looked at it from the outside. Looked good. Had Suzuki Roshi over there several days later. Walked in the door. Stood in the lobby. He said, "Let's take it." I was in the building when he came over. He was in the middle of the lobby where you can get a good first impression of what the building is like. You can see the Buddha Hall, the office, the dining room through the windows. So we decided to take it. Silas and I were active in that. Suzuki Roshi asked us to be. Silas was good at financing. I had a good sense of that too. One of the keys was financing for a second through the Bank of Tokyo. We arranged the conference with one of the heads there. They were sympathetic. That did work out. Silas said that we should meet the asking price but with the qualification that they would offer a generous first. I thought that was a pretty good idea. We had some seed money from the Carlsons, about $30,000. Where the rest of it was coming from would have to be mostly financing and maybe some fundraising. Mostly the fundraising for Page Street was done in the form of non-interest loans which we promised unofficially that any time --these were mostly members of Zen Center. John Steiner was one. Any time they needed their money back -- if they needed it more quickly than our original arrangement with them -- that we would do our best, and we thought we probably could give them back their money at any time.
DC: I gave Yvonne a $2500 check for that. A year later I found it in her sewing basket. So I gave it then.
AD: So we had a first from the seller. Maybe a second. The first from the Bank. The Carlson money and the non-interest loans from members was sufficient to swing the deal. We broke even the first month.
DC: In terms of making payments and paying the rent. [Marion Derby also sold her house in Los Altos and gave the money to Zen Center for the purchase of the Page Street building I thought.]
AD: Very important in that decision was that Suzuki Roshi's health was not so good. We could see that at the time. And the added burden of trying to remodel an old building or build a new one in the city in addition to all this Tassajara stuff would be a great stress that I didn't think, and most everybody would have agreed, would have been good at all for Suzuki Roshi. Here was this building sitting here. It was all there. Didn't have to do anything. Except throw out a lot of furniture.
DC: Mattresses that we went out and bought later. And which I remember you pointing out.
AD: In one weekend, instead of all those years of planning and remodeling, and plans and permits -- instead all in one weekend, bam, everything was all done.
DC: I was at Tassajara at the time but I remember hearing that there wasn't a zazen missed in the transition. That people went to zazen in the morning at Sokoji, then walked tot he building, I guess moving their stuff at other times, and sat zazen at Page Street, I guess at 5:30 in the evening.
AD: That's possible. Pretty close to that. Pretty good management.
DC: There was another important aspect of it. Dick had convinced people that we couldn't live without him. To paraphrase him, nothing gets done unless I do it. Nobody can do it but me anyway. It was so obvious. He articulated that. He also articulated that he was the only person that understood what Suzuki Roshi was teaching.
AD: The only one who really understood what Suzuki Roshi really wanted was Richard Baker - so he said.
DC: I believe I heard him say things like this in front of Suzuki without Suzuki contradicting him. I remember that because it amazed me.
AD: He would say things like that too in front of Silas. That kind of scenario was particularly directed at Silas.
DC: And Silas is still dealing with it. I've seen him in Port Townsend. And I've been in touch with Kathy some. And with Niels. I was just with Niels -- Silas and Niels sit together in Port Townsend. Niels just picked us up at the airport in Seattle and spent the evening with us. He always says that Dick Baker is Silas Hoadley's koan. Though it's not as strong as it used to be. It's been hard on him.
AD: Dick Baker comes back and we're all in this building and Suzuki Roshi is there, happily established. He can't deny it. That must have been sort of difficult for Richard.
DC: I think he said he wouldn't have bought it. He did deny it in that way.
AD: Say we were remodeling, or bought an old place, or bought some land and were going to build on or something, he could have thrown all kinds of monkey wrenches into it and self doubts. There would be financing and he was the only one who could do that financing. Silas and I and this community had pulled it off without Richard Baker.
DC: This is not something that you and I are just talking about now. This is something that was very clear to me at the time.
AD: It was all done before he had a chance to do anything about it. And there's Suzuki Roshi right in the middle of it. What could he do?
DC: I'm sure he's said some positive things since then. Although some of these things he still says. That he's the only one who understood. He's not only said it to me recently. He said it to Helen Tworkov in that book she wrote, Zen in America. She interviewed him and Bill Kwong. His line was that around '65 he was the only one who had really gotten it. Suzuki Roshi had wanted to have -- and this speaks directly to -- this is like turning a corkscrew inside you -- a loose lay community in the city but it wasn't working. Nobody got it but Dick. So Dick went off to find Tassajara. Bob Halpern came in '65 after sitting a sesshin with Yasutani Roshi. He dropped by Page Street with some friend of his who said, we ought to look up this guy Suzuki. So they met him. He thought, well this guy can't really be a Zen master he's too relaxed. He was used to a different spirit from Yasutani. He didn't think Suzuki was masculine enough. He said that Suzuki said to him at the time that people can come here and sit zazen, there's people in the neighborhood and doing lay practice. He thought it was all working out just fine. But some people want to get a place in the mountains to practice, and that's fine too. Especially Dick Baker is looking for something like that. If that's what they want I'll do that. That struck Bob. The difference between what he heard then and what he would hear later. Although Dick sort of acknowledges now that he was -- I think he's pretty accurate in talking about what sort of emphasis he had in getting it. But you ought to hear the different stories about how he found it. He tells different ones and other people tell different ones. It's funny. This whole Rashamon trip.
What do you remember about Dick's relationship with Suzuki?
AD: What I was most impressed with was -- Suzuki Roshi would be giving a lecture. Richard Baker would be falling asleep. I knew he was supposed to be one of our best students. How come he was falling asleep during the lecture? I don't know if Suzuki Roshi liked that much. When question period would come, or he would question us, he would frequently direct a question to Richard Baker. There's no way Richard Baker could have answered the question unless on some level he had heard the lecture. And almost invariably he would give an intelligent response to the question. That's interesting. So I figured they must be pretty close in some sense. Some subconscious communication going on.
DC: Obviously there was something going on. Suzuki had what appeared to me to be enormous affection and respect for him. And approved and supported Dick's doing what he did. He had to have approved of Dick doing what he did, it seemed.
AD: However, I might add that with the original community there, with Graham Petchey and Philip Wilson and a couple of others, Dick was only one of them. He didn't stand out as being separate or more important to us. We didn't think Suzuki Roshi considered him to be more important than a half-dozen other senior members.
DC: Would you think Dick's elevation to being number one son was because of the prominence he gained through the purchase of Tassajara? Or did he start getting closer to Suzuki prior to that?
AD: I never wanted to puzzle my mind much about that. One time Suzuki Roshi gave a Buddha's Birthday lecture in Golden Gate Park at the Tea Garden by the Buddha. This was a Buddhist community of the Bay Area --
DC: The one that Irene worked on.
AD: Yeah. Not more than about 20 people came. Kind of a desultory crowd. Suzuki Roshi was supposed to give this lecture. I thought he looked mortified, insulted. I was surprised at that. I thought he was beyond such needs -- social good looks or something. The way he seemed to be there, it seemed it was somehow very important to him. I'd never before then thought that maybe establishment circles were important to him. I had a hard time being convinced that they were. Then when Richard Baker comes along, University of California [where he worked setting up conferences], etc., and seeing that Suzuki Roshi would light up when such things were mentioned -- like establishment connections that Richard Baker had. What bothered me in that was that Suzuki Roshi would light up. These things were important to him.
DC: Do you think that it's possible -- let's look at it this way -- if you see a priest as being vertical in society, being willing to interact with any level of society, he showed interest in all sorts of things. It might be that you had -- like so many of us have -- some negative values placed on the higher levels of society. So that if he accepted it, it might make us disappointed. Do you think something like that might have been going on?
AD: That's why I mentioned the thing in Golden Gate Park. There was this desultory crowd of 20 people. I thought he was mortified. That's not being vertical. He was very uncomfortable.
DC: You're right. When you say desultory, do you mean that the group of people were sort of ragged?
AD: Unorganized. Maybe about 12 of them coming by intent, the others just walking by who just stopped to see what was going on.
DC: Weren't you somewhat involved in that event?
AD: I guess I was. At least in the sense of urging people in Zen Center to come. I identified with that sort of thing.
DC: Irene was involved. Not the principal person. She said she was involved in getting it going.
AD: In those days we tried to have something like that every year. The lead in that was pretty spontaneous, whether it happened or not. Usually something would pop up. A temple like Gold Mountain would take charge and send out invites. I think Irene was involved in some important way.
DC: She didn't mention to me about the event. She mentioned that Suzuki was sold on the idea to begin with, the idea of an event with various Buddhist groups involved. It was one of the places where he wasn't interested in doing anything ecumenical or cooperative with other Buddhist groups. He wasn't particularly friendly with them. She said that he sent her to Katagiri and Katagiri wasn't interested. She finally shamed him into it. He said okay. Suzuki said he would be involved if Yamada over at Buddhist Churches of America would be involved. So he sent Irene over there. She talked to him and he was sold on the idea. Then she talked to him some more and he got enthusiastic and he called Suzuki up. So Suzuki got involved.
How did you pick up that he was mortified?
AD: The look on his face. Intuitive on my part.
DC: Do you remember him talking about Zen Center maybe getting too big?
AD: I remember him saying that he must be a very poor teacher because really good teachers don't have so many students. I think he said it several times.
DC: Do you remember him talking about starting another place that was smaller for him to work closer with a small group of people maybe just men?
AD: Richard Baker's idea was that Zen Center should be somewhat small and contained without branches all over the place. Richard was pretty strong on that. Like should the Berkeley Zendo be a part of Zen Center? The question arises at some point. Should Haiku Zendo, Berkeley Zendo? What kind of a place is Zen Center? Is it an organization which will have different branches in the Bay Area or all over the country? And Dick Baker comes on very strong, it's not that big kind of thing.
DC: Are you talking about pre-Tassajara?
AD: Probably pre-Tassajara. As long as I can remember Dick Baker was always very consistent in that, to my surprise. I never heard that coming from Suzuki Roshi. Maybe that is the way Suzuki Roshi felt about it. Maybe Dick and Suzuki Roshi were in agreement. I never had any sense of that myself.
DC: Don't you think in Japan temples are pretty independent?
AD: Yeah. I remember too, I mentioned the board meeting at Tassajara when Suzuki Roshi asked that we separate Tassajara from City Center. That's an indication that in some sense I certainly would agree he felt Zen Center was too big. He wanted a separate board for Tassajara, separate for City Center. Separate teachers. Separate budget. He asked that we do that. That's a real indication he thought Zen Center was too big. I didn't realize he was dying when he asked that. He knew he was.
DC: Yeah. He didn't know he had cancer. [Well, that's not necessarily true. He may have had some cancer then that they got. But he had an idea that he didn't have long to go.]
AD: If I knew that I certainly would have put my shoulder behind that wheel and tried to make that happen. As it was I thought we weren't secure enough either in the city or Tassajara to take that big a step. It was hasty. We should wait and go slow. Maybe in the next 5 years or something. But he wanted to do it.
DC: Do you think that Dick's idea that Haiku Zendo and Berkeley Zendo and Mill Valley Zendo should all be independent - do you think this was a healthy point of view?
AD: No. I didn't understand it. I thought it strange. Unfriendly. I knew our ideal in those old days was that when we had enough zazen under our belt and had an idea what it was all about then we'd go start a little group.
DC: He told me I should go to Texas and start a group. I said I don't want to go to Texas.
AD: There would be all kinds of Zen centers.
DC: He definitely had that idea. Did you ever hear of a guy named McCloud in Seattle? There was a woman named Grace McCloud.
AD: Yes I knew her.
DC: One thing Irene talked about was Dr. Seo. Remember him, the Korean teacher. Do you remember him coming to Zen Center?
AD: Yup. I don't know if he's still alive. He has a couple of dharma heirs in the Bay Area. He's a Korean Zen master. Had a big center in Korea someplace, probably in Seoul. Was somewhat modern I guess. I've heard say he was not traditional enough by some critics' standards. He was active in the Theosophical Society. In the early days of the Theosophical Society here there was a strong Zen contingent. They published and translated a couple of things on Zen. The Soto Way, or something. Dr. Seo's work. He was always very outgoing and believed in contacting other Buddhist groups and other religious groups. He felt somewhat in sympathy with the ideals of the Theosophical Society which is supposed to include everything. A little like Bahai. Annie Besant and Colonel Olcott, that kind of thing.
DC: I went to a meeting of the Theosophical Society in Chicago in 1964. Rick Fields has a pretty good history of them in his book. Quite interesting.
AD: At least one of the dharma heirs has written a book. Dr. Seo came at least twice, maybe more, to Zen Center. He was received politely. He often would do a calligraphy demonstration of some sort. Maybe a half-dozen of us would meet with him and one or two of his students would also be there. I remember it being at Page Street. Maybe also at Sokoji. Before Suzuki Roshi died. I don't remember Suzuki Roshi being there. I doubt that he was. He may have met with Dr. Seo privately. I don't know.
DC: Irene's memory of him coming is that he did a slide show at Sokoji of Korean temples. She said that Suzuki wasn't interested in it. Katagiri wasn't interested in it. Finally she kept talking to him about it and he said alright. She said maybe it's her subjective impression, but she felt that Suzuki and Katagiri weren't friendly with him.
AD: I'd put it differently. They weren't particularly friendly with anybody from Korea. They were more friendly -- which was not very friendly -- to Rev. Seo than they were to others.
DC: Irene had written a letter to Peter Schneider that I happened upon. It was interesting. When she had submitted some stories about Suzuki Roshi she said I want to tell you a few memories that I don't want you to include. One was in Dr. Seo's reception. She felt Suzuki and Katagiri were not friendly and she was embarrassed about it. Later when she heard about Japanese discrimination against Koreans she felt it might have been connected with that. Or possibly with Suzuki's not wanting other teachers around.
AD: Both. We weren't very friendly to anybody. Even to Japanese teachers. Not to Rinzai teachers. Not very friendly to other Soto teachers either. Having been in Japan, kind of a private plan kind of thing.
DC: You were used to it. You'd seen that sort of thing. I talked to Suzuki about that some once when I asked him to have somebody speak at Tassajara who was there - Herman Aihara, the West Coast Zen Macrobiotic guru. He sighed, and said, "in Japan we just don't do things like that. A priest is jealous of his temple. He doesn't have other people speak at his temple. In America you're different. I suppose it'll be alright." He wanted me to know that it wasn't the way he'd been raised. He let us do it and he went too and, according to Brit Pyland, after the lecture gave Suzuki Roshi a little pat on the back and, laughing, told him not to worry so much. Later he was so friendly and encouraging with Trungpa. Somebody asked him what American Zen would be like and he said, very colorful. I think he adjusted somewhat to our more eclectic interests.
AD: I don't think it's very colorful at all.
DC: I'd agree. At that time, looking at people's varied interests he thought there might be a mix coming. Do you remember anything about Trungpa's coming?
AD: That story about, at last, my friend. Trungpa saying he felt so lonely coming to this country. That he had no friends. Particularly dharma friends. Until at last -- And then at last I met Suzuki Roshi. My friend. Someone who wasn't trying to shove his trip down my throat. That last line I particularly like.
DC: Did you think Suzuki was more open to Trungpa because he felt Trungpa was a more authentic teacher?
AD: No. A natural resonance between them. Not explainable. A lot of friendships are like that. They hit it off famously with each other.
DC: Trungpa used to come talk at various levels of sobriety. It was a koan for a lot of the students.
AD: Then there was one of the more striking visits by other teachers when Yasutani Roshi and Soen Nakagawa and Taisan visited Tassajara. That was when I was shuso. That was a memorable event. And then Senzaki Roshi's ashes being distributed. I don't remember Suzuki Roshi being friendly or unfriendly, but the whole event went remarkably smoothly.
DC: Suzuki visited with Soon in San Juan Baptista where he was doing a sesshin on his way from Tassajara to the city when he was ill before he died. He pretty much went to bed then and stayed in bed. Yvonne drove him and Mrs. Suzuki there. They sat with him some in the sesshin and had tea. I think if he had lived he would have had more and more relations. Some friendly relations with other teachers. You and Irene and a few other people went to other groups to sit and hear talks. Yvonne was interested in American Indian things. But most people at Zen Center were pretty much focussed on Suzuki.
AD: They felt they weren't supposed to. They were apprehensive about what might happen. I tried to reassure them. I talked to Suzuki Roshi about it. I talked to him partly because it was obvious from talking to the students that they were apprehensive and fearful that it would be disapproved of by Suzuki Roshi. He didn't feel that way, like they would feel in Japan. As long as it was reasonable, not merely shopping around for another teacher. I told that to various students, but they were still apprehensive.
DC: Irene says that he asked her to resign as secretary of Zen Center because she was sitting with Dr. Seo.
AD: She was quite serious about Dr. Seo. My guess is that she was maybe looking for another teacher, like Reverent Seo and that Suzuki Roshi picked up on it, and wanted her to go one way or the other. I had somewhat a different relationship with him than most students did. I wouldn't be surprised that he would tell students things like that. He never would tell me things like that. He never once told me what to do. But other students he would tell them. That's what they were looking for. Maybe that's what they needed.
DC: The teacher I studied with in Japan, Shodo Harada, treated me totally differently from his other students because of the relationship I established with him very clearly when I arrived. He knew what to expect and where I stood. We had no problem at all. Whereas if any other student acted as independently as I did he'd tell them to go home.
What year were you ordained in Japan by Suzuki?
AD: Guesstimate: '66. I was involved in the cleanup from the typhoon. There wasn't so much damage at the temple. Graham came. Phil Wilson was there.
DC: I notice that Suzuki said that he was asked that he ordain Bob Hense or Bill McNeill. He says, well, my friend ordained them in Japan. I don't know who that would have been. I don't think they went to Eiheiji.
AD: No. They went to that monastery connected with Rinso-in.
DC: In Kishizawa's temple? [No]
AD: I don't know. There's a monastery in the Rinso-in temple system. That's where they went. They sat there. They got thrown out.
DC: If it was Noiri he would have thrown them out for sure. He's really straight and narrow. He's still alive.
AD: Both Bob Hense and Bill McNeill were students of Tobase Roshi before. The predecessor to Suzuki Roshi. I don't remember them being there but I knew Bill McNeill and I met Bob Hense in Japan. Years later Bill claimed that he had dharma succession from Suzuki Roshi. [Baloney]
DC: You told me that about Warwick too.
AD: Did you ask Irene about that?
DC: Yes. She never heard that from Warwick. Warwick's such a colorful character I'm always happy to hear about him. So Bill McNeill said that?
AD: I've mentioned that to various people who might know more about it and their general conclusion is that he probably was ordained and misinterpreted it as dharma succession.
DC: Suzuki explained so little about what was happening. Like you and your ordination. I think that's what happened to MacDonough too. You're sure it was Tobase who ordained MacDonough?
AD: Yeah. I was around then. Back then none of us knew what the difference was -- particularly in Soto, we knew about Rinzai from the books, we knew Soto as different. What being ordained as a priest -- whatever a priest is. We still don't know what a priest is. And getting dharma succession was obscure. We didn't know what it meant. I would guess that MacDonough thought he got dharma transmission from Tobase. I don't really think that.
DC: Bill McNeil was studying with Tobase? He went to Japan in '61. Suzuki sent him there.
AD: I met Bob Hense when I was in Japan. That would have been '66 or '56. Probably around '56. [No way, donít' believe it.]
DC: We were talking yesterday, and this threw me for a loop, that you've talked about Bill McNeill. I'm sure nobody else realized this.
AD: What do you mean?
DC: I don't think Suzuki Roshi knew it either, that Bill McNeill and Bob Hense had been with Tobase. And that Tobase had sent them to Japan. Everybody else talks about Bill McNeill going to Japan in 1961. You're saying Bill McNeill and Bob Hense were in Japan when you were there in '58.
AD: Trying to recall. I met Bob Hense in Japan on my first trip when I was about 30 years old, about 1958. Yes, he was there.
DC: What I've heard is that Suzuki Roshi made a point in his interview with Peter Schneider on tape that Bill McNeill was his first student, that his wife, Lou, had come to him and said her husband wanted to go to Japan and study Zen. Suzuki said he should come sit here first. Bill McNeill started coming and sitting. One day Lou came, or maybe Lou was coming with him. Lou and Suzuki talked as if they knew each other. That surprised Bill McNeill. Suzuki thought she had gotten him to come there without letting him know that they'd talked first. He mentioned that Bill McNeill and Bob Hense went to Japan. He even mentioned that he had ordained them. But he said it wasn't really me, it was my friend who ordained them - a priest in Japan at that temple that's connected with Rinsoin. If they were there earlier, like '58, before they went to Sokoji -- he said he met them at Sokoji. Maybe they'd gone before, no reason why they couldn't have. You're talking about seeing them there earlier than Suzuki Roshi
AD: I think so. I'd have to double check that via my passport. Is that an important point?
DC: No. It's a tiny bit important.
AD: They were. They were kicked out of the monastery. And Bill McNeill did claim that he got dharma transmission from Suzuki Roshi.
DC: So they went together to Noiri's temple and got kicked out. [No - it wasn't Noiri's temple. I haven't figured a lot of stuff out yet at this early date of research]
AD: I don't know if they got kicked out at the same time. It was something sexual. I don't know if it was homosexual, between each other, monks, outsiders, I don't know.
DC: Joanne Kyger said that Bill McNeill discovered his homosexuality in Japan and proclaimed it. He was one of the early gay liberation people. I've heard Bob Hense was gay back then at least too. What else do you know about Bill McNeill?
AD: Not much. He was respected, liked, here in the city by his associates, most of whom are dead now.
DC: You were in Japan when he came back. He ended up at Ruth Fuller Sasaki's place in Kyoto. What I hear from people who were there, mainly from Joanne, is that he didn't like that scene either. He got disillusioned with Zen in general.
When were you at Rinso-in?
AD: About 1957. I was at Rinso-in before Suzuki Roshi came to America. I wanted to study Zen. People mentioned that a new priest had come to Sokoji just about the time I left. I had been going to Sokoji. I knew Tobase Roshi, and Kato. I was with that early group. I would hear gossip. Tobase Roshi had got kicked out because of a sexual affair with a nun there. At Sokoji. That usually involves a reshuffling. Somewhere where there are no nuns. I don't remember the name of the nun. I had the impression she had been around for some time. I don't know if Tobase was married. He didn't have a wife at Sokoji, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had a wife in Japan.
DC: People have told me there was a woman at Sokoji. Maezumi, maybe, assumed it was Tobase's wife. I told Maezumi I didn't think so because I knew that Sokoji had asked for a married priest because they'd had a problem not having a married priest or because of Tobase's affair with the nun..
AD: Did anybody mention that Tobase Roshi had a residential house with several students in residence as a training practice? I don't know too much about it. My guess is that MacDonough and Bob Hense and Bill McNeill were at one time part of that program.
DC: You said before that you thought Bob Hense was like his assistant living in the house.
AD: I don't remember him being an assistant. It would be interesting to know what happened to that early group that were with Tobase and living in the house.
DC: I should call MacDonough.
AD: I don't know who said it, but several did, that Suzuki Roshi gave dharma transmission to a gaijin in Japan. Way back when. I never heard the name of the person. I don't remember who mentioned it. I was told about it in Japan. It wasn't quoted as a rumor.
DC: I asked Suzuki Roshi after he had told me he was going to give Dick transmission -- I was driving him and I asked him if he'd ever had a student that totally understood his teaching. He said yes. He said one. I asked if they were they Japanese or American. He said they were Japanese. I said where are they now. He said he died. I don't know what to make of that.
AD: He might not have even given dharma transmission to that person.
DC: I think it's easy for people to mistake -- especially in those early days when nobody was getting ordained -- ordination for dharma transmission. Nowadays people wouldn't make that mistake so easily. Though even these days there's a little of that.
AD: One would hope that you could go to the Soto-shu registry as you ordinarily could, to see if the Japanese person had gotten dharma transmission. Partly because there's government regulations that makes it illegal not to register.
DC: We've both spent time in Japan. You've dealt with this a lot. It's like Philip Whalen said when Ann Overton mentioned to him that she was going to a calligraphy workshop in Gifu for westerners. He said, to the people in Japan a westerner doing calligraphy is like a giraffe doing calligraphy.
AD: You're familiar with the capabilities of the Japanese to pretend totally that something doesn't exist. Especially when it comes to gaijin in relationship to things Japanese. Especially if it involves some recognition of a gaijin in regard to things Japanese. Total as if it never -- what are you talking about? -- kind of thing. So what actually happened in the Soto Zen scene regarding gaijin in Japan is just about unknowable.
DC: I haven't even gotten into any of the records on Suzuki. I probably will try to do it after I finish this book. For the purposes of the book it's not important. For Zen Center archives I'd like to try. It's expensive and time-consuming. [never did it and I bet there's nothing or next to nothing and it doesn't matter]
I have heard about gaijin being at Rinso-in. He might have ordained somebody. But he made a point of not mentioning it. I've spent many hours with his interviews with Peter Schneider, re-transcribed them, listened carefully to the tapes. The fact that he didn't mention it when Peter's asking him all sorts of questions around that, means either he didn't do it, or he wanted to forget about it. I think some of his early experiences with ordination or having other people ordain students of his and what happened to them, including some of the early lay ordinations, was very discouraging to him. Did he ever talk about that? He told Peter the reason he hadn't done a lay ordination since the first one in '62 (the second one was in '70) was because some of the people had given him their rakusus back.
AD: Also you may remember there was a completely different value system back then. The idea of official ordination -- lay, priest, -- was totally against that value system. As we understood it, Suzuki Roshi was going along with that revolutionary new value system where you didn't have priests or roshis or this or that. We were all going to be pure without all that crap. But Suzuki Roshi, I don't know when it was, probably not long after or with the acquisition of Tassajara, did a complete about face, and decided to do all of what we thought was a bunch of shit. A lot of people left.
DC: But he continued talking on both sides of it.
AD: Not with any conviction that was felt by the people he was talking to. We all felt that we were supposed to do this ordination, etc.
DC: He and Katagiri both had a lot of conflicts on all this I think.
AD: That's what I'm saying in reference to his being disappointed about the results, etc. That makes sense in terms of his later decision to go that route. Being disappointed or not disappointed. But at the time that was happening -- Sumi Roshi coming down and giving people rakusus. This was at Sokoji. Suzuki Roshi wasn't doing it. It was almost like a foreign invasion.
DC: Yamada was the one that brought the rakusus in '62. He had sixteen of them. He was Bishop at the time. Sumi didn't come till '65. Yamada had 16 rakusus. That's how many people were ordained.
AD: We felt it was almost a foreign invasion. Our sense of it was that Suzuki Roshi -- my intuition and I assumed it was similar to other people's -- was being polite as he had to be with the Bishop. But if left to his own ways he would not have done that. That wasn't the kind of spirit we were pursuing.
DC: I think maybe Yamada said you should ordain your older students. They should be wearing rakusus. Later when Yoshida Roshi was here, she told him the same thing. Some people were talking to him about having another lay ordination. Peter Schneider talked to him about it in '69. Yoshida talked to him about it when Tomoe-san was there. Katagiri said in our tradition we sew our own robes. Yoshida was in that Hashimoto tradition. They decided to do it. I think he was getting some requests.
AD: Of course he was. He wasn't so dumb that he didn't know that that was what he was supposed to do according to the Soto tradition. They didn't need to tell him that. He had decided not to do it. He didn't want to go that route.
DC: He was being pulled from two directions.
AD: As it eventually turned out -- but we didn't feel he was being cool. We felt he had given up all that. That's why we were new. That's why he went to the Grateful Dead concert in the park. We were something else.
DC: We still are something else.
AD: No we aren't. We sold out.
DC: You and I and each person can decide for themselves what they are every minute. We can look back on that and say, well, you can take the priest out of Japan but you can't take the Japan out of the priest. I see that so much in both Suzuki's and Katagiri's stories. In 1970 Suzuki went back to Japan. He said a lot of negative things about Zen in Japan and Eiheiji and practice there, and how it's better to practice here. He went around looking for a place to send people. He went to Narazaki's place, unannounced in Shizuoka [Zuiyoji]. Talked to some monks there. Narazaki wasn't there. He could see it was inappropriate. They were all spending their time eating food that laymen were giving and doing all sorts of ceremonies for them which is one thing he said over and over that he didn't want us to do.
I want to make sure. There was a nun living at Sokoji.
AD: I don't know -- she probably was living in that house across the street. I don't know how long she was there. She wore robes. What I thought were robes at the time. At the time I didn't know what were really robes, but some garb that looked like what a nun would wear.
DC: Could she have been a laywomen wearing sitting clothes?
AD: Yes, she could have been. I would suspect it was an ordinary temple situation transplanted to the U.S. My guess is an ordinary temple situation is that she would have been a nun. [I think she was]
DC: It's just so unusual for a woman to go somewhere and have some responsibility in a foreign country, and be with a male priest. It's like sending them out to the hinterland or going into the army or something.
AD: Jido [?] Roshi said there was a kind of black market in gaijin jisha [personal attendents] in Japan among the Japanese Soto priests. They would pay good money for an especially interesting, attractive gaijin woman.
DC: I think that's why Moriyama's in Brazil right now. He had a very attractive French woman student who he was having an affair with. Does that sound like how he might have ended up as head of Soto Zen in Brazil? I love Moriyama. I think he's great.
AD: Anyway, a woman assistant, lay or ordained, I don't know, was not uncommon. I don't think it's important at the moment, but my guess then was that this was not an unusual relationship. If it were translated back to Japan it would have been a very usual relationship.
DC: I'll keep that in mind. How did you know about this affair and all that?
AD: It was gossip. He got removed.
DC: Suzuki had been asked around '56.
AD: Kazumitsu Kato, maybe that's who told me.
DC: He told you that? I've interviewed Dr. Kato. I should ask him.
AD: He took over. He'd know a lot of that stuff.
DC: Suzuki alluded to it. He was asked to go in '56 and said he had to finish up his job at Rinso-in. Then he was asked again in '58 and jumped at it and surprised his friend Yamada from the Soto Shu (not to be confused with the LA Yamada). One of the criteria was that they wanted a married priest. He was not married. He filled out his visa saying he was married. Then he went to his mother-in-law and said he had just filled out his visa. This is the story that both he and Mitsu have told. He said he needed to get married. Who should he marry? She said, you can't marry anybody but Mitsu. He said okay. She talked to Mitsu who said okay. I asked Mitsu if she wanted to get married to him. She said it had nothing to do with what she wanted. She was so close to the temple and the family that when the mother-in-law said it she said yes. I think they liked each other. I don't think they slept together. [maybe they were lovers] She told me they slept in separate beds. [Now I know she said that he didn't take her to his be for six months - because he was recovering from having had so many women after him when she wasn't there.] I've often wondered if Suzuki had a sex life after his wife died. And if he had any sex life with Mitsu. I think it would be possible he didn't. I've never asked her. I wouldn't do that. I'd never write anything about it. We'll never know. It's nobody's business. I'm just curious. It's just so hard to think of him as a sexual being.
AD: That's always true of children with their parents.
DC: I can think of my mother as a sexual being. She's got a boyfriend now and she's 82. He's not even 70. [They're still together in 2004] There is one person in the neighborhood of Rinsoin who said that before he came to America, Suzuki was running around spending time at bars and having affairs. Doesn't sound like him to me. But nobody else said that and people even warned me about him.
AD: It doesn't to me either, but it would have been normal behavior.
DC: I know the family doesn't want me to talk to that person.
AD: When I went to Japan, Hoitsu took me to a couple of bars in town. I felt that he was trying to find a good place for me, particularly in a sexual context, like make some connections. My second home. It's basically normal for someone who considered themselves a Soto priest. I was ordained at the time. I stayed on after Suzuki Roshi left. '66, I guess.
DC: I'm sorry to keep asking you this but I don't have a clear picture. You were there several times.
AD: At Rinso-in, yeah. During Suzuki Roshi's visit resigning, that's probably when it happened. The point is the drinking and having sexual escapades on the side is normal behavior. Not only normal, they try to set you up so you can do that sort of thing.
DC: It's widespread in Japan. I taught housewives and men but the housewives talked to me a lot more. I went out on the town with men. There's an enormous night life for men with young women a lot of whom are making their way through college. There's a lot of massage hanky panky-level stuff. Frankly I think it's good.
AD: I think it's one of the most sophisticated, marvelous drinking traditions in the world.
DC: The married couples I knew were very different from here. We couldn't do what they did. But they're very stable. They're much more separate than we are.
AD: It's also much closer to the traditions throughout history in different civilizations. Relationships between men and women and families and outside. It's not the romantic love thing we have thing. It also isn't the war between the sexes thing that we have here.
DC: Again, try to clarify, when did you first go to Japan?
AD: When I was thirty. 1958. I went because Senzaki Roshi died. I was debating if he should be my teacher or not. I knew him pretty well and I would go in for dokusan with him. I was about to decide if I should be a real Zen student or not and take a teacher. I wanted to do that. He died. My only option was to go to Japan. I was in SF at the East-West House at the time. Senzaki would come to SF or I would go down to LA. I had gathered that you could get a job teaching English pretty easily. My buddy Gary Snyder had gone to Japan and was writing marvelous things. That I could come to Rinso-in and study with a roshi there and live with him. So I went and stayed with Gary. I don't mean Rinso-in, I mean Daitokuji. Ruth Fuller Sasaki's temple.
AD: In the group that Suzuki-roshi talked to me about transmission, he mentioned five or six people then said there would be ten or twelve. I went to about four of them and said he wanted to do this and suggested he was too weak to do and that we should tell him to let Dick take care of it and they all agreed. At the time it wasnít such a big deal-it was assumed Dick would do it.
DC: Maybe itís better he didnít - were we really prepared? I donít blame him for not thinking so - Katagiri gave transmission to twelve or so disciples and they havenít been able to get along so well.
AD: Yeah, they got to work it out right away whereas weíve had it festering for decades. getting transmission is no more prestigious than getting a teaching certificate from San Francisco State. And you can argue with your teacher - you donít need the power thing where he can cram something down your throat.
|To interviews What's New|