|About the Book
About Suzuki Roshi
with and letters from
Click here for Shunryu Suzuki Photo Archive images and links to all cuke.com pages on .
MEMORIES OF SUZUKI Roshi FROM WIND BELL AND DC FILES - #17 - Irene Horowitz (included in what's below)
Interviewed by DC in 1995 or so
Irene Horowitz came to Zen Center in
the early sixties and still lives [no more - she moved to Texas] just up the hill from the City
Center in San Francisco. She's well on in years, keeps mainly to herself,
and has been ill, but every time I talk to her she seems to have that same
old feisty spunk. We start here with a letter she wrote to Peter
Schneider, probably in the early seventies. Throughout are endnote numbers
which are for the questions I had of her and you'll find those notes, questions
and answers at the end.--DC
Herein are Suzuki Roshi stories with a personal covering letter to you with additional data which easily could appear in stories, but probably shouldn't. I have no idea if these stories fall into the category of the thing you are looking for.
Looking them over it seems strange that three out of five of my stories include drinking of tea with SR. It needs to be remembered that the physical layout of Soko-ji was such that the only place there to sit and talk were the kitchen and the office.
The office was used for a social center for Japanese males, primarily, and for Rev. Suzuki to have more formal style talks with visitors or students. The natural place to go was the kitchen. When the office was being used by the local Japanese it was the only place to go. (*1)
The huge auditorium was ill-lit and cold, and very often in use by Japanese bands for rehearsal space, well into the night. And of course the movies on Saturday and Sunday nights.
Well, that's it for now - I might be able to come up with some other stories but they probably are not suitable.
Love and gassho - Irene
What is written on this and the next page is NOT to be considered as part of my contribution of "personal stories about Suzuki Roshi" Perhaps at some future time it would be suitable to put these matters formally in writing in a different context. (*2)
Dear Peter: You asked that I write up some anecdotes about Suzuki Roshi. And it has been suggested to me in the past. I find a big resistance to writing anything, but I will try. In truth, I don't have much in the way of stories. A few factors: first, my hesitations are based on the reality that I did not have the relationship with SR which it is assumed that Suzuki Roshi's students had. That is, while I thought SR was wonderful I never thought of him as an exclusive teacher. I was not a "disciple". From the first, while my major attention was towards zazen and other events at Soko-ji, and Suzuki Roshi, I still was visiting other Buddhist places in San Francisco, on an irregular basis. (*3) This was considered "brave" but improper by certain of Suzuki Roshi's students. Some did profess curiosity of what I found when I went to different temples. But they would not have gone themselves. Somehow, it just was "not right". In the beginning of our friendship, for instance, Pat Herreshoff was quite shocked and cross with me for going to zazen at Dao Lun's [sp?] which was down the road a bit. It's true that some of the hippie types did visit some other places, but by the older students this was attributed only to their youth. "Real" students of Suzuki Roshi just did not do that. I'm speaking of 1964 to 1966 or ‘67.
In those days at Soko-ji there was a very uneasy feeling afoot about what was "proper". Graham Petchey, who had been ordained as a priest in Japan, wore robes only for sesshins and seemed embarrassed about it. Jean Ross, similarly ordained in Japan, never wore robes and would virtually answer no questions about her ordination. It was as though there were something secret and even shameful about it.(*4) However, these two were permitted to give lectures. This was the one open concession to their status. I don't know whether Ananda (known as Claude then) had yet been ordained. I don't recall him giving talks. Of course I am talking only about my personal reactions to the ambience of the scene. Others might not agree. Unfortunately some of the anecdotes I might be able to tell about SR have negative overcasts and that probably is not appropriate. For instance, I was extremely shocked and unhappy about the way he and Katagiri treated the newly visiting Korean Zen master, Dr. Seo. Dr. Seo was made to feel pretty unwelcome at Soko-ji. At the time I was ignorant of historical Korean-Japanese relations. But even if I had sophistication about that subject, I would have thought that someone like SR "should" be able to transcend the typical Japanese antipathy towards Koreans. (This is not to say that I felt that SR should be "perfect" but I did feel that he should have been able to curb his negativity in the context of situations such as another Zen master visiting, no matter where that Zen master came from. I hasten to add that the Korean teacher took it all in stride and if he was upset, he never showed it. I was the one who was upset).
I was very baffled and upset about the situation. Severa1 small sagas could be told about this matter but I feel it should be left to another time. I mention it here (confidentially) simply to explain some of the reasons why it is hard for me to supply material for you. (*5) Another problem in writing a fascinating story (maybe it isn't a bona fide problem) is that I never was able to attribute infallibility or semi-magic propensities to SR (or to anyone else, for that matter) which certain of the students of that time did. Some of the students in that era - and I refer not to the weirdo kids but older, serious folk believed that SR could read every thought in their minds, could make no mistakes, etc. I'm taking a guess that many of the anecdotes which will be shared now about SR will have these beliefs embedded in them. So my tales are going to be very mundane indeed. By the way, SR was distressed when he learned that some people thought he could read minds, and the like. Everything related above is just explanatory and should not be considered in itself a "story about Suzuki Roshi and the early days". My stories will be upcoming on subsequent sheets. (*6)
In terms of the history of Buddhism in San Francisco, there is a story to be told about the relations between the sects at the time (more accurately, a lack of same). Soko-ji had visitors from other Buddhist groups, but I suspect they were pretty much self-invited. To the best of my knowledge SR did not return the visits. Katagiri-sensei during those years was friends with the Jodo Shinshu minister and probably visited the B.C.A [Buddhist Churches of America] and San Francisco Buddhist Church on Pine in the course of his on-going social interaction with that sensei. (Rev.Ogui) Rev. Ogui attended zazen almost nightly at Soko-ji and often ate dinner there. There were some interactions between Soko-ji and the SFBC which involved Suzuki Roshi in sort of a second-hand way. (*7)
When it was decided to try a Sunday School at Soko-ji for the first time, Katagiri read a story in Japanese. I read a story in English. We both tried to get the kids to sit on zafus for five minutes. Okusan played the piano and had a little band and served milk and cookies.(*8) So when it was decided to try a Sunday School at Sokoji for the first time, as a prospective co-teacher in it, I was elected to visit the SFBC'S very extensive Sunday School for several Sundays. I was to observe it at the many class-age levels and report back to SR and Katagiri what I found. As far as I know neither of them went to see the SFBC Sunday School in operation at any time. (Katagiri read a story in Japanese; I read a story in English; we both tried to get the kids to "sit" on zafus for 5 minutes; Okusan played the piano and had a little band and served milk and cookies.) (*9)
Also during about the same period SR was to perform a marriage of two Caucasians. I got the impression then that it was the first time he was to do this, although in retrospect that seems unlikely. (This was 1964) He asked me to go to the SFBC and get a copy of the wedding ceremony used there. I brought it back and he analyzed it, added some things, subtracted some things, and used the result for that wedding, and probably subsequent weddings. Why he was unwilling to go to the SFBC on his own for such information I do not know. (*10)
Once the entire Sunday School of the Sacramento Jodo Shinshu church visited Soko-ji on a Saturday morning with advance notice. The children were entertained by a lively lecture by SR and a short period of zazen instruction by Katagiri. Tea was served to the group and SR was very cordial. However, he never suggested that the little Sunday School which was subsequently developed at Soko-ji ever go up to visit the SFBC Sunday School on Sacramento.
In I believe 1967 in San Francisco an attempted ecumenicalism was made via the pan-Buddhist celebration of Buddha's birthday in the Japanese Tea Garden. (How this got started is a long complex tale in itself, which is not relevant now). SR was very hesitant about participating. I think he fretted about it for some time. He finally told me (I was quite involved with this project) that he would do it only if he thought the SFBC would do it. He asked me to go and visit the then-Bishop Hanayama, and ask him to call SR about his feelings in this matter. Why he did not phone Hanayama himself, or walk the two blocks to see the Bishop, we shall never know. The upshot was that I did visit Bishop Hanayama, who was at first neutral towards the project. However, as we talked he became enthused, decided he wanted to participate, and he did call SR and urged Soko-ji to do so also. I think SR still had reservations but he finally agreed. (There are follow-ups to this experiment but not relevant here.) (*11)
I'm mentioning these stories to you as a backdrop of some of the behind-the-scenes realities which went on during this period of 1964-67. Being very naive then, I questioned SR rather boldly about why he chose such an isolationist position. He gave me some vague answers which I never did understand. I think that most of the newcomers to ZC then had no idea that there were sects of Buddhist other than Zen and they were not educated to the contrary. The situation changed somewhat when SR met Trungpa and liked him and invited him to speak on occasions; and then there were other Buddhist visitors as time went on. Still, they always came here, I believe to Page Street. Of course I stand to be corrected, but my impression is that SR never visited other Buddhist organizations. Do you have any knowledge to the contrary? (*12)
I shall now proceed to my own personal anecdotes, limited as they are. I can't imagine that such highly personal tales would be of much interest to anyone else, but here goes.
TEA? AND SYMPATHY?
In 1966 or 1967 I became involved with a Korean Zen group. For about a half-year I participated in that group and Zen Center. At the time I was secretary of Zen Center. My responsibilities in both places did not conflict in terms of ideology or practice, nor did they compete with my time or energy. I was comfortable with the situation.
Rev. Suzuki was not comfortable with the situation. The details of what was happening are complex and not relevant to this story, so I won’t include them.
One day Rev. Suzuki asked me to come over to Soko-ji that evening. He said he had something to discuss with me. Already knowing that he did not like what I was doing, I was naturally uneasy.
When I arrived at the temple, he asked me to come into the kitchen. In those uncomplicated days talking with Rev. Suzuki in the kitchen was routine, so I thought that whatever was up could not be a Big Deal.
Little did I know. It was a Big Deal - at least for me.
Rev. Suzuki Started by saying that he did not like saying what he was going to say, he was very sorry about it, but he had to say it. He was asking for my resignation as secretary because of my affiliation with the Korean teacher and group. It was not because I was not handling my job at Soko-ji. I was. But, he said in effect, that he could not handle the idea of my dual allegiances. It was not appropriate for me to continue as secretary, even to stay until my appointed term ended, under the circumstances.
I was upset, shocked, angry, hurt, incredulous. I may have burst into tears, but I don’t remember.
Rev. Suzuki said: "I think we both need some tea". I felt ghastly and remote, and did not watch him prepare it.
He handed me a big tea-cup (green-tea style) full to the brim, and he had one of his own. Of course I waited for him to drink first, and then I took a big gulp. What I swallowed was pure whiskey, with only a little hot tea added. I don't know what surprised me the most - being fired, or the hot whiskey.
Rev. Suzuki laughed merrily at my reaction and then we drank our "tea" in silence, taking our time. When I was finished I told him that I would give him my written resignation the next day, and reeled out. (*13) (*14) (*15)
STORIES ABOUT SUZUKI-ROSHI
When I came to San Francisco in summer of 1964, from Seattle, it was just for a two-week stop-over on my way back to New York City. I wanted to see the sights and to visit the Zen Center which I had heard about vaguely while in Seattle.
I liked Reverend Suzuki and Reverend Katagiri and Zen Center and decided to stay on a little longer. At the end of about five weeks I knew I had better get back to New York. There was a fair chance that if I returned in time I could reclaim my old teaching position. So I told Rev. Suzuki that I would have to go in a week or so.
Zen Center was quite social in those days and a big party was thrown jointly for me and a young couple who were also leaving. I was somewhat ambivalent about going back to New York, but after this going-away party I felt strangely "obliged" to do so. I mean, they had bought all that food! And noted my upcoming departure in the Wind Bell!
A couple of days later Rev. Suzuki asked me to come by the temple at about 7:30 p.m. because he wanted to talk to me. Since we had had a good rapport, and he had asked me many questions about the First Zen Institute of New York during the course of my stay here, I assumed that this would be more of the same.
When I arrived at Soko-ji, Rev. Suzuki said that something had come up and he had to leave "for a few minutes". Would I mind waiting? I was comfortably ensconced on the office sofa, and I picked up a magazine, prepared to wait.
"No", he said, "I'd like you to sit in the zendo until I come back - do zazen".
He came into the zendo with me and was specific about where I should sit - not my usual spot. He adjusted my posture a little and left the zendo.
Lots of time passed, and then more time. The temple was quiet. Okusan apparently was out, and none of the local Japanese came up to the office to visit or watch TV. I could not tell whether Rev. Suzuki had left the building or not. (He never made any noise when he walked).
After about an hour had passed I began to get alarmed, annoyed, perhaps some other things. Had something happened to him? Had he gone out and forgotten all about me? Had he gone to sleep in his room and forgotten all about me? Should I get up and look for him? Should I get up and leave?
By this time it was dark outside. The only illumination in the zendo was from a Bush Street street lamp. I kept on sitting, pondering the situation. I suspect I moved around quite a bit.
After what turned out to be two hours the light was switched on in the office. Rev. Suzuki opened the zendo door saying "I'm sorry I took so long" with no further explanation, but he may have looked a little mischievous. I returned to the office sofa and he went to the kitchen. He came back with tea, which he served.
Without preliminaries he said: "I think you should not go back to New York. I think you should stay here and practice."
Kissing-my academic career, and heaven-knows-what-else goodbye, I heard myself say in a matter-of-fact tone of voice "Oh. O.K."
We drank the tea and spoke of pleasant trivialities.
In the twenty-four years which have followed I think of that night sometimes. But not very much.
These stories appeared in the Wind Bell
My stories about Suzuki-roshi fall between 1964 and 1969.
After I had been coming to Zen Center for several months on a very regular basis, never missing zazen or lectures, I came down with a bad cold. I stayed home from work and everything else.
One evening, around 8, my bell rang at my apartment. It was Suzuki-roshi (Reverend Suzuki, in those days). He had been concerned when I had not shown up came to see if anything were wrong. I felt this was a very kind thing to do.
At Sokoji in the 1960's we followed the routine of "four and nine days". I believe it is a custom in Japanese Zen monasteries. This meant that on any day with a or a "9" in the date there was no zazen. Potentially, then, there were six days a month when the zendo was not open. If anyone arrived at Sokoji's door at 5 they would find the door locked. It was the responsibility of the students to remember the "4" and "9" days.
For a very long time I remained dense and forgetful about these dates. Many a 4 or 9 morning I walked the three blocks from my apartment, only to find the door locked. Not only was I dense about recalling the days, even when I was faced with a locked door and no sign of life I often did not grasp the reality. I was genuinely puzzled by the locked door. Where were all the regulars? Was I the only person making it to the zendo this morning? Hurray for me!
When that happened, I would next assume that someone going in before me had accidentally locked the door behind them. How annoying! Therefore I must knock quite loudly to draw the attention of the others (non-existent in these cases) way up on the second floor.
Sometimes Reverend Suzuki would come down to answer the door. Perhaps he was already up on certain days, but judging from his expression and attire on others I am afraid that I woke him up. Of course as soon as I saw him I would realize my error and was profuse with apologies. He unfailingly would laugh, tell me not to be concerned about it, I'd apologize again, and we'd say good-bye. As I headed for home I would vow that this would never happen again.
After this had happened again, several times, it happened yet another time. On that morning it was dismally clear that I had awakened Reverend Suzuki for sure. Before I could say anything he said, "Well, since you're here you might as well come up and have some tea". As I followed him up the stairs I figured that he wanted to give me a good talking to about my peculiar and persistent penchant for coming to zazen when there was not zazen. But no. He just made some quick tea and we sat talking of this and that for an hour or so. It was not until I had left that I realized that I had forgotten to apologize. I won't swear that I never showed up on a 4 or 9 day again. But it was the last time I banged on the door.
Reverend Suzuki and Reverend Katagiri both wanted to visit the Planetarium, so one afternoon I took them there. Reverend Suzuki was enthusiastic because he had wanted to see it for a long time.
Only moments after the lights dimmed and the show began, I looked at Reverend Suzuki and saw that he was fast asleep! I was sitting between him and Reverend Katagiri I glanced at Reverend Katagiri to see if he was noticing but he was paying attention to the show. A dilemma! Should I wake up Reverend Suzuki? Perhaps he needed the sleep. On the other hand, perhaps he would want to see the show whether or not he needed the sleep. Should I ask Reverend Katagiri's advice?
My attention was pretty much distracted throughout the show as I tried to decide. I gave a few discreet coughs and rearranged myself, allowing my elbow to hit his arm, in the hope that he would wake up. He remained determinedly asleep. I could not find the courage to wake him up. As the lights came on again and the audience stirred, he woke up.
When we got out onto the street, I asked them both "How did you like it?" "Very interesting" said Reverend Katagiri. "Wonderful!!" said Reverend Suzuki. I felt a bit paralyzed and after what seemed a very long time, but was not, I said to Reverend Suzuki "You slept through the whole thing!"
We all three looked at each other and burst out laughing at the same moment.
DC Notes from 1996 discussion with Irene about these letters and stories and her comments on the notes.
1. [DC: That the kitchen was often the only place to go is a good point. It gives a nice little detail and it's something that nobody's ever pointed out, although I've had a lot of people talk about the office and the kitchen.
Irene: What might be inserted here is that usually the reason the Japanese men were there was to watch TV. There was a black and white TV in there.
DC: Would Suzuki Roshi be in there with them much?
IH: I think he joined them. Not always. The president, I think his name was George Hagiwara. They seemed to have a feeling of ease and proprietorship of the office, that they could just come and go and turn on the TV whenever they wanted. Very friendly relationship between them and the Suzukis.
DC: I remember going through there and bowing to Suzuki, and there being guys watching TV. Or especially the caretaker reading the newspaper. And there were some people who thought we were bowing to the caretaker at times when Suzuki would be in Japan. He wouldn't be there, and everybody would go bow, and the caretaker would be sitting there reading the newspaper, and some new people would arrive and thought we were bowing to the caretaker.]
2. That's what Irene wrote eighteen years ago [That this was NOT what she was submitting to the Wind Bell to be printed.. Now the time's here and she freely talked about all this stuff. There was more of an idea back then not to say anything that might discourage people.--DC
3. DC: Could you tell me the other places you visited back then?
IH: The guy who used to be known as Tao Lun[?], the Chinese guy down the street two blocks away. He was at the corner of Webster and Sutter in a run-down house and he had a zendo. I was going there. He had sittings every night at about 7:30 to 8:30. Maybe 7:00 to 8:00. It was after supper. Not many sat with him. It was a small room. Probably a maximum of ten. He was already there when I came in 1964. I think he had recently arrived. His periods were about the same length as at Sokoji. He had sutra chanting, and walking around the room rather rapidly, which was sort of funny because it was such a small room. He was not always there for the sitting. It was open sit and if he wasn't there we just sat down.
DC: Fran Keller and Tim Buckley told me they sat there. In fact Tim lived there and he said Tao-Lun was his landlord and was a fierce landlord. Did he give talks?
IH: Sunday morning. That was another time there was sitting, Sunday morning. His talks were translated by somebody else. I have no memory of them. It seems they were always based on sutra interpretations. I had no private meeting with him. I was a non-disciple there, too.
DC: Did you ever participate in any meals there? I hear that sometimes there would be Chinese women around making food.
IH: That was true when they moved over across the street from that horrible project -- Valencia Gardens -- no that was even later. Their next place was down in Chinatown. The meals that I had at Sutter Street were more like tea with cakes and cookies rather than real meals. I don't remember ladies doing anything. Although they might well have done, but I wasn't there.
The Korean teacher, who became a teacher of mine, Dr. Seo, was there when I arrived also. He was living there with Tao-Lun. Ultimately he more or less started his own center in San Francisco. Really less. He was here to get a PhD at Temple University in Pennsylvania. He was back and forth. But he often came to sit in the zendo on those evenings, which is how I met him. One night I came there, and here was this Korean, and I sat down, and when we got up he was extremely hospitable and asked me to come to the kitchen for tea. There were probably only two people there. I'm sure he would have invited the whole group. I was not singled out from the group. There often were only two people there.
DC: You said he became a teacher of yours. Did you always relate to him at Tao-Lun's?
IH: No. I think he had a falling out . . . with the fierce landlord. I think he had a falling out with Tao-Lun, and went somewhere else -- I can't remember where. You remember the "Reverend Warwick"? You know he's dead?
DC: Yes. He was a character.
IH: He then moved in with him. There was a little group of which I was an active member and trying to go to Zen Center at the same time. It was at Octavia and Sutter in a building that was long ago demolished to make another big building. The group's name shifted from time to time. He was a -- what shall we say? -- a person of multiple personalities with names to go with them and costumes to go with them. At one point it was called the Unreformed Buddhist Church of America. However, long after I was out of the scene, it was changed to The Kailas Fugendo [Sp?], and that was affiliated with the Mountain Yogis of Japan. When he did that, I had long since moved to Berkeley and was disaffiliated, etc.
DC: Do you remember Warwick coming to the Zen Center?
IH: Yes, in fact that's where I met him. On a Sunday morning lecture, soon after I had arrived here. I remember that he endeavored to make me think that he was a priest there. He wasn't. But I didn't find that out for quite a long time. He had a long long talk with me, sitting on the first floor where there was a musty old bench in the hall. He talked to me about his very, shall we say, colorful background. He said so many things over the course of a year that I really am muddled about what he said.
DC: Did he say he had been ordained as a priest?
IH: I was given the impression that Suzuki Roshi had ordained him as a priest. Soto Zen. He didn't say he had been given transmission by Suzuki. He didn't tell me that.
DC: Did he say that he'd studied in Japan at Shugendo?
IH: At that time I don't think he'd ever heard of Shugendo. What he told people about his Shugendo connections I don't know because I wasn't around.
DC: Do you remember when he stopped going to Sokoji?
IH: No. He never totally stopped going. I think he would go over and sit once in a while. I'd see him there, but he'd get up and leave immediately after zazen. He may have stayed for the service, but he didn't linger in the building.
DC: He said that Suzuki had ordained him. He's not on the list of people that Suzuki said he ordained.
IH: I don't think he was.
DC: But Suzuki might have ordained him early on and then regretted it and not mentioned it.
IH: The reason I think so is that there were no robes.
DC: Were there any other Buddhist groups you were associated with?
IH: These are very light associations. I used to go down to -- when Tao-Lun moved down to Waverly Place I used to go there and one night a week he had zazen and a lecture. At about 8:00 o'clock. About 45 minutes of zazen and a lecture. You'd get out about 9:30 or 10:00. I did that intermittently when I felt like I could.
Then there was a Buddhist-Taoist association at the corner of Waverly which has been there a very long time. I used to go there occasionally. That was basically a lecture given by an American named Iru Price. He had an arrangement with the Taoist master to have an open lecture on a week night in English. He had a certain number of devout followers and I was not a follower, but I was interested. I had been writing my doctoral dissertation on Buddhism in America. That's really what motivated me to go to these many places. I didn't finish my dissertation. I have my master's part of it, the first 88 pages, but that has to do with Buddhism in Japan. Considering the little literature that there was to read in the days that I was doing it it's not a very informative piece of work.
DC: What about the work you did on Buddhism in America?
IH: I was just experiencing, and collecting, but there's nothing I can show you.
I also occasionally visited the Universal Buddhist Church in Chinatown run by the brothers Fong. It's a fascinating place. The congregation built the whole structure by themselves by selling cookies on corners. They call it Buddha's Universal Church. I think they're still functioning. The brothers are a doctor and a dentist. In fact, Della Goertz, -- one of the brothers was Della's doctor for many years. A unique place. They've got their own brand of Buddhism which as far as I know doesn't equal the happenings in any other group. They give plays, pageants. The church is quite beautiful. They have Sunday afternoon happenings there. If they still do, I don't know.
Buddhist Churches of America. One of the reasons is my natural interest, and then going up there to talk about the ecumenical happening in . . . and then when I was talking to Suzuki Roshi about having a Sunday School at Zen Center he sent me up there to investigate their Sunday School for ideas. The result was that I found their Sunday School systems to be very sophisticated. According to grades. At the high school level they read quite difficult texts. I visited each grade. I went about 6 Sundays. I often also stayed for the service in the temple which followed the Sunday School.
Katagiri was best buddies with the minister up there -- Ogui. At one time he was head minister there.
DC: He still sits zazen.
IH: The last time I spoke to him which was -- 10 years ago -- he was in Cleveland and he had a zazen group.
Dc: He's just turned that over in the last few years to some other people, but he still sees them. He was in San Francisco for a board meeting of the Buddhist Churches of America. Great guy.
IH: I ran into him in the street when he was here for a board meeting many years ago. So, yes, I did go there a number of times.
DC: What about the Jodo Shinshu place in Berkeley?
IH: I've been there but only on a weekday to look around.
Pat Herreshoff got over being annoyed with me. We ended up being roommates for a year with nothing but a positive relationship.
DC: I talked to her recently in Hawaii. She's doing great. She sounds exactly the same. She can't see well. She sent me a letter that was typed in words that were about half an inch high.
4. IH: You realize this is a subjective opinion.
DC: Of course. I'm not sure Jean got a priest's ordination. Do you think she did?
IH: She had the robes in her apartment.
DC: O.K. She did. I think she got ordained by one of the chief priests at Eiheiji.
IH: That's what I'm saying. You say you don't think that she was.
DC: At first I wasn't sure. But you say she had the robes. So good.
IH: I saw the robes. I used to have breakfast over at her place about once a week. Because it was very close to where I worked for nine months. So we'd walk back from zazen together and she often said come on up and have coffee. So I'd have about a half hour or so before work. That's how I happened to see the robes. I'm pretty sure they were the real robes.
DC: That's good to hear you say that. Of course. I remember seeing her wear robes because I used to sit with her in Carmel. I just never have read anything about her ordination. But Suzuki treated her as an ordained priest. She was Shuso. He waited for her a whole practice period. We had no Shuso one practice period -- so he waited for her because she couldn't come for one of them. He really thought very highly of her. Do you know how to get hold of her?
IH: I have no idea. I've never heard from her since she left San Francisco.
DC: I've got an address. And talked to several people who have corresponded with her. Tomoe-san, in recent years. I'm going to try to get hold of her, but she probably won't talk to me.
IH: I think a lot of people have tried, including Pat Herreshoff, and Betty and Della. I think they've all given up.
DC: If she won't talk to Betty and Della she's not going to talk to me. [I subsequently found out that Jean had died. See my article on her in cuke.com--DC]
5. DC: Could you tell me more about that?
IH: I can't think what some of these small things were.
DC: How was he treated rudely?
IH: The biggest thing I can remember . . . oh, a lot of the ways he was treated rudely he himself didn't know about, because it happened . . . they laughed about him. They made fun of him behind his back when he wasn't there, but I was there. About his accent. He and Katagiri were taking English in the same class in a school up in Pacific Heights.
There was a beautiful slide collection of Korean temples that Dr. Seo had brought. I thought, oh how wonderful that we at Zen Center would have an opportunity to see these works of architectural splendor. It was amazing. It was like pulling teeth to persuade -- I think I was dealing with Katagiri then -- to have him bring them over. After a bit, Katagiri felt a little ashamed that he was not showing any interest, and agreed to do it. We did have the slide show and it was very beautiful. And participants in the audience asked questions and showed enthusiasm. The two reverends just about ignored Dr. Seo, as though he wasn't even in the room.
DC: You mean they didn't greet him when he arrived?
IH: Probably they didn't. I can't say for sure. It was just a feeling that he was there under duress. At one point I began to feel sorry that I had pressed for it. I felt that Dr. Seo was under Suzuki Roshi's duress. They didn't really want him there. But they realized they should want him there because he had something to offer. When he arrived, there was not the effusion that I saw given to other guests -- Japanese people, etc. But again, this is purely through my eyes, and maybe it was nowhere near -- I don't think these things should be written about.
DC: I think it's an important observation.
IH: Not in these close details. He was not greeted graciously. Let's put it that way.
DC: For people like Katagiri and Suzuki who have such incredibly good track records, and whose personal stories are so totally clean, and had such wonderful relationships with people, and were so often gracious, I think it really helps give them something where people can relate to them easier, if there's negative information.
IH: I think that this negative information is all based on what we talked about earlier, about this almost ingrained dislike of Japanese for Koreans. He was being reacted to as a Korean, not a Zen Master. I never knew Suzuki and Katagiri to ever be ungracious. At that time they were. Ask Ananda about it. He probably has an entirely different take on it.
DC: Ananda never hesitates to express any negative thoughts he has. Or balancing thoughts.
IH: These are not horrible faults, really. It's natural, given the circumstances of their history. And my expectations that Zen -- or Buddhists even -- might transcend their historical relations was unreasonable probably.
DC: Did you feel that Dr. Seo was a good teacher?
IH: Nowhere near as good as Suzuki Roshi. I respected him as a priest and liked him very much. He was a delightful person, as was Suzuki Roshi.
DC: How old was Dr. Seo when he arrived?
IH: He was probably 55 or 60. I'm guessing now.
DC: Do you know what happened to him?
IH: I'm ashamed to say I haven't kept track of him. I haven't kept track of anybody since I've been sick. I've really lead a cloistered existence here. I don't write to people. In fact I was thinking of Dr. Seo just yesterday and feeling ashamed that I hadn't made any effort to find out what's happened to him.
DC: The slide show happened. It was in one of the Wind Bells.
IH: I remember it appearing in the Wind Bell and they did very nicely. That we saw a beautiful slide show. I don't think he ever came back.
6. DC: You said that Suzuki Roshi was distressed when he learned that some people thought he could read minds and the like.
IH: I'm the one who told him. I don't know if anybody else ever told him. They might have. But I knew that Pat Herreshoff believed that. She believed that all the older students believed that. So I mentioned it to him one time in the kitchen. I lived two blocks away. I was single with no family responsibilities. Because of that Mrs. Suzuki often asked me to stay to supper with them. So we had a chance to talk a lot more than if I had lived far away. I remembered thinking that I felt an obligation to tell him that I had learned that some of his students thought this about him. I thought he might like to know that. He responded with distress. I think he did something about it in the sense of saying things in an upcoming lectures. He thanked me for telling him.
DC: I'm glad you told me that. You're right. Some people, a small percentage, do say things like that still.
7. DC: Do you have anything to say about that?
IH: I don't know what I mean by second-hand way.
DC: Maybe they'd have an event that he'd go and attend.
IH: Maybe. I don't know what I meant.
8. DC: What do you mean she had a little band?
IH: She had a tambourine and a triangle and a drum. She played the piano. She played very simple things. She may have been very expert as far as I know. She was perfectly adequate with what she did. You know she had been a kindergarten teacher in Japan. So this piano playing came natural to her, I guess. It was a kindergarten type of band. Actually band is a bit of an exaggeration. A little musical group would be more accurate.
9. IH: That's probably what I mean by second hand. They learned about it, but they didn't actually go there to learn about it.
10. IH: Another second hand affiliation.
DC: It would be interesting to get a copy of their wedding in English and see how much ours is derivative.
IH: Ours now is very different. I'd say that the Jodo Shinshu wedding was more like a Protestant wedding.
DC: I think he did some weddings before 1964 but maybe not many.
IH: I couldn't remember if Kathy Cook married Silas before or after that.
DC: I think that was after. But there are some weddings announced in Wind Bells, I believe before then.
11. DC: What do you mean by that?
IH: I don't know.
DC: This letter isn't dated. Do you know when you wrote this?
IH: This letter is incredibly old.
DC: It must be after Suzuki died. But while Peter was still there. So it would be maybe '72. Although it could be when he was still alive.
IH: 24 years ago. But again it may pop into my head as you keep reading.
12. DC: I don't. And for the last two years I've been full time, for the last 3 1/2 years I've been doing research on Suzuki Roshi. I can't remember anything -- just related Soto groups in the country like Elsie Mitchell's.
IH: Yes he did go there.
D: And Charlotte Selver and her work. And he spoke highly of Soen Nakagawa Roshi and of course he was close to Trungpa Rinpoche.
13. DC: Is the word "group" accurate? This is Dr. Seo, right?
IH: It depends.
DC: You visited Dr. Seo at Warwick's.
IH: Yes. The unofficial name at that time -- this was long before Warwick got involved with Tibetan Buddhism, although Tibetan Buddhism was hovering on the horizon. He elected to call it the Unreformed Buddhist Church in America. Dr. Seo was the teacher. As far as a group goes, there were various people who came and went. There were a couple of psychologists. There was someone we thought worked for the CIA. There were some psychedelics takers. Young people. They were people who very much liked Dr. Seo. He would hold forth with a lecture about 3 nights a week with zazen. His talks would be much like Suzuki Roshi's talks, in the sense that they were not academic. Precepts. Anecdotes. Because of the language problem, which he suffered from as much as Suzuki Roshi did, and probably more so, a lot of his lectures were impossible to understand in places. It was hard to put together what they were all about.
DC: How was Suzuki's English when you first arrived?
IH: I was able to understand him fine. When I read through some of the typed up lectures they're verbatim, so you can tell for yourself what his English was like.
DC: The stuff in the Wind Bells was edited. I think everything was pretty much edited until they started taping in '65. And his English had gotten so much better by then.
IH: An anecdote about the taping might be of interest to you. I had gotten a tape recorder for myself. And this was in the days when very few people had tape recorders. This was a very inexpensive Norelco tape recorder. When I suggested that it would be wonderful to tape Suzuki Roshi's lectures, again there was that same group of people who thought that was a shocking idea to introduce technology into the scene. But Suzuki Roshi wanted to do it. So we did it.
DC: So you're responsible. Dick has told me he opposed it and that he was wrong.
IH: So you know what I was up against.
DC: Do you know where any taped lectures are that aren't at Zen Center?
IH: No. I didn't keep any of them.
DC: Do you have anything else to say about taping lectures?
IH: No, just that there was this interesting resistance at the beginning. I don't think that I operated the tape recorder. It seems to me that Dick Baker operated the tape recorder. He must have put a label on them, with the date. I hope he did.
DC: Those are all being archived and copied now. It's a $25,000 project. [At least it was back then.--DC]
IH: My tape recorder which was never very good in the first place began to expire. Somebody supplied a better one. I don't remember who or when.
14. IH: I don't drink. I very seldom have a drink.
15: DC: Do you remember anything else about that?
IH: No, I think I described it right on.
DC: You said here at one point that . . . the details of what was happening are complex and not relevant to this story so I won't include them.
DC: Are there any other details?
IH: The details that were really irrelevant was the fact that Dr. Seo was connected with Dr. Warwick. I guess Suzuki Roshi felt Dr. Warwick to be a non-credible person which made his feelings toward Dr. Seo even worse than they might have been.
DC: I would think there might be a possibility that it was even more Dr. Warwick's association.
IH: It could be. And the fact that I would be involved with that. I can't say any more. That's really what it was. I didn't want to drag in a living being like Dr. Warwick. At the time I told the story he was alive and functioning as a teacher. I think that he was highly disapproved of by Suzuki Roshi. But I don't think it's necessary to say that. Because the real issue was that I was sitting with two Zen masters with whom I had equal regard, and this was not done.
DC: There are at least three Japanese Zen masters in Japan named Harada Roshi that all have about 20 to 25 western students and a few Japanese students living at their temples at any given time. There's the Harada that I studied with in Okayama. The one connected with Aitken is the older Harada who was Yasutani's teacher. He associated with both the others and they're in Obama, and they don't talk to each other. And they're both older. One is Hoshinji, and the other is Bukokuji, and they're right next to each other. I know many people would have sat in both places. They are the Harada-Yasutani type of Soto/Rinzai Zen that emphasizes Koans and has a real emphasis on getting Kensho. The one in Bukokuji is a really wonderful old guy. But if he hears that any student of his plans to see any other teacher, he'll kick him out immediately.
IH: So nothing was unusual here, really.
DC: Suzuki Roshi told me himself that when Herman Aihara, who was the head macrobiotic guru on the west coast, came to Tassajara as a guest, Loring Palmer wanted him to give a talk. I asked Suzuki Roshi, and that's when he told me that -- since it's America, and since you all are the way you are, I guess it's appropriate and he can speak here. But let me tell you, this is not the way things are done in Japan. In Japan priests are very jealous of their temples and they do not let other people speak at them. He didn't say other sects, or teachings, he said anybody. But he did let Aihara speak. And there was the added deal of macrobiotics being a sort of thorn in the side of -- there was a certain amount of troublemaking going on because of macrobiotics.
IH: I'm wondering if Pat Herreshoff and that subgroup had been made aware of this situation long before I came on the scene. So when they expressed shock and disapproval that I would go to other groups, that it was based on something they knew about that they never told me.
DC: I doubt it. It's just a normal sort of loyalty to the teacher. There have been a number of students who come through Zen Center who studied with various teachers while they studied with Suzuki, and he got more and more used to it. I think it's normal, and appropriate for Americans, and it just took him time to figure it out and accept it. A lot of things we did he had to come to accept. One of them was fighting and arguing with each other. You know how indirect Japanese are. They don't deal directly with things. We tend to take them straight on. As he got older he'd say he really disliked the way we argued with each other, but he began to appreciate it more. The education of Shunryu Suzuki is what was happening. Not just our education.
[We stopped talking then because she had to go somewhere.--DC]
Telephone interview by DC in 1997
IH: When my son came to visit me, Trudy and Mike Dixon were going to Wyoming, which I think is where they had relatives. They offered to lend my son and me their car while they were away, which was very nice. We dropped them off at the airport and then had the use of their car for a week or so, then picked them up again. It made things interesting for my son's visit because we went all over the place. That must have been '66. My son is in Texas now.
DC: Have you thought of anything since I talked to you last of something you wanted to say?
IH: Not really. I've been going over a lot in my mind and haven't been able to locate the pictures and writing that I mentioned. There was one thing which I think Claude would be able to tell you about. You were interested in Suzuki Roshi's desire or lack of same to be involved with other Buddhist groups. I was remembering the day when Kennett Roshi came here from Japan. Because she had known Claude for many years they had met in England during World War II and had been in touch with each other for years. I hope I'm not guessing to say that he picked her and her two disciples up at the airport and brought them to Zen Center. Her idea was to start some kind of little group in San Francisco. In the meantime they allowed her and her disciples, a male and female, to live in one of the apartments owned by Zen Center across the street on Bush Street. My memory of it is that Kennett Roshi, whom I got to know quite well sometime later. My memory was that she and her followers felt poorly received at Zen Center. They became extremely anxious to leave. Claude was driving them around looking at places. They took a rather unsuitable flat at the foot of Potrero Hill. I got the feeling that there was a pressure, that they weren't wanted there, and they wanted to get out. If you're interested in those kinds of interrelationships, you might ask Claude about it. He was in on the inside story of that. After she got that place she had zazen on certain nights with a lecture. I think a couple of people from Zen Center outside of myself did go over there on occasion. There was a period where Claude and I went over there for zazen and lecture. They ultimately moved to Oakland where they had a whole house in a much nicer neighborhood. Then they finally moved to Mount Shasta.
DC: They kept the place in Oakland didn't they.
IH: They have a place in Albany. But it's not the same place. I can remember an occasion where Kennett Roshi had sent two of her disciples to come over to deliver a book to Suzuki Roshi here at Page Street. I happened to be in the hall of the building when they came. I knew who they were. I can't recall the exact mechanics of this, but Suzuki Roshi did not invite them in at all. They felt quite upset. He was there. Someone was dispatched to tell him about the two visitors, it might have been me. I don't recall what was said, but they never did see him. This was before he was ill. They left the book and left the premises. They felt quite slighted. That's another in that category of commentary on the interrelationship of people at Zen Center. In this case Suzuki Roshi.
The big breakthrough came, partially, when he met Trungpa. Somehow Suzuki Roshi was greatly attached to Trungpa. As far as I recall he was the first outside Buddhist to come and lecture at Zen Center. [Not really true but Trungpa did have a unique relationship with Suzuki and there weren't many outside Buddhist teachers who spoke at Zen Center and none of them spoke a number of times [four or five times?] like Trungpa. --DC] He was always welcome there no matter what state of inebriation he was in.
DC: It could be that Suzuki wasn't really aware that he was being rude.
IH: I had to have done something to be aware of how badly the two young priests felt. I was with them as they came to the door I met them. I think it was I who went up to tell him that they were here, downstairs, and they had something for him from Kennett Roshi. I expected him to ask them up. But he didn't. I had to be the person to tell them that he wasn't going to see them. I felt rather embarrassed. I may have tried to cover it up. I don't recall what I said. I remember thinking they were surprised. I was not surprised, knowing the history of people being received.
But there was an exception to this rule. Reverend Ogui of Jodoshin-shu was over on Bush Street and was a great pal of Katagiri's. Ogui had dinner at Zen Center at least one night a week, out in the kitchen. He was welcome there.
DC: I interviewed him. He thought the most of Suzuki. He says Suzuki saved his life. But there was no conflict there. Ogui was interested in coming to Zen Center and sitting zazen. He wasn't a rival teacher or something like that.
IH: Not at that time. Although when he got to be the chief priest and had his own zazen group, that was one night a week, another place where Claude and I went to sit, you'd think I was running around all the time, I wasn't really, we were just interested in these places.
DC: You were two of the ecumenicalists.
IH: Exactly. I said to people like Pat Herreshoff, why don't you come up and sit one night. The chanting is very interesting. Different. Really a very nice place to sit. There again was that reluctance to do anything outside of Zen Center. I don't know if I was considered to be doing something bad or not. I did go over there on a number of occasions. There were three middle-aged, or over, Japanese ladies who came to sit. There were a couple of young Japanese boys who were going to get some kind of a badge in return for sitting for a term of school. Then there was me and Claude. And a young man who eventually became a minister in Jodoshin-shu. Jay Hardin. He eventually went to Japan to their Honganji there to be a priest. He was on the peninsula somewhere. I really wanted to fill you in on the Kennett Roshi business.
DC: It's hard to know how to interpret it. It could have been that Suzuki wasn't paying much attention, didn't care much. Or it could have been that he had something against her or maybe just felt she didn't fit with his teaching.
IH: I never knew.
DC: Do you remember the last time you saw him?
IH: The last time I saw him was at Baker Roshi's installation as Abbott. I remember how shocked I was to see him being almost carried into the Buddha Hall. He looked so ill. I did not have any opportunity to greet him. I don't know if anybody did. I can't recall what happened after the ceremony.
DC: He met with his disciples and older students and officers of the places in his tatami room. It was quite emotional. He thanked Dick. Katagiri howled and crawled over to him sobbing saying "Don't die" over and over and Suzuki said "Daijobu (It's okay)." He had saved his life energy for that moment to install his successor in the temple.
Was Warwick there?
IH: Yes. I think he was a mountain yogi then. But even if he had been it doesn't mean he would have worn the costume. I don't think he ever had any Soto Zen robes. I'm trying to think in which that was the one where there were reserved seats along the south wall. It was one of these occasions where Della and Warwick and I were given reserved seats together. I think it might have been for Baker Roshi's installation.
DC: There was the funeral.
IH: It might have been the funeral.
DC: Those two events were very similar in the people who came. Trungpa came to the funeral. He wasn't at the installation.
IH: I was at both.
DC: Tao Lun, Master Hua, was at the funeral I believe. He might have been at the installation. Do you remember anything else about the installation? or the funeral?
IH: No. I was very nervous about Baker Roshi becoming abbot. But I couldn't put my finger on why. A general feeling of unease.
DC: A lot of people felt that. Some people like Jean Ross were quite distressed about it. She was living down in Carmel. It's only normal when the master dies for people to have trouble seeing his successor as qualified. Same thing happened to Suzuki when he took over his master's role as abbot.
IH: I visited Jean at her place in Carmel.
DC: I think she was sort of broken-hearted about it.
IH: I think she probably must have gone wherever she went -- Della and I understood that she'd gone back home to her sister's family in the Midwest. That's the last I heard about Jean Ross. I don't know of anybody who's actually talked to her or written to her.
DC: I know two people that have been in contact with her. Mark Lewis who was a student of hers had some contact. She also wrote some to Tomoe-san. One when Katagiri died. I might try to get hold of her. I don't think she wants to talk. We'll see. [See Jean Ross article under interviews for what I found on this. She had died.--DC]
IH: Dr. Seo was still alive. I have made no effort to keep in touch with him as closely as I did for many years. Did you know that Warwick, to the best of my knowledge, has four remaining disciples who run the Golden Nagas, the store they had where they sold their meditation cushions. I don't know if you know that most of the zabutans and zafus at Zen Center, or lots of them, come from the Golden Nagas which was run by Warwick.
The Golden Nagas used to be out on Geary Street near the Coronet Theatre. It closed down. I went by once and it was gone. Then I heard from somebody that the disciples were making the zabutans and other accoutrements near their place on Mississippi Street which is where Warwick ended up. Warwick ended up having a half-hour radio program one day a week in which he presented himself as the Bishop as the African Orthodox Church and spoke of many visits to Africa to study poverty. I listened to him a few times.
There is a guy named Jack. I'll describe him to you. He has a Jewish last name and it escapes me. He used to live in Zen Center and he had a long blonde beard, long blonde hair which he kept in sort of a braid. He was an avid practitioner at Zen Center, but he was simultaneously an avid follower of Ajari [Warwick] up to Ajari's death. If you want to know anything about that person -- Ajari died about six years ago. After Jack lived at Zen Center he was living up the street on Laguna between Page and Haight. Jack Schwartz. Is that right? Anybody in the office who's been around a while would remember him. He was a very striking figure.
At some point in the Warwickian career they started walking on fire. The group went out to Ocean Beach at least one night a week walked on fire out at the beach. They'd gotten a special permit. Jack was in on all of it. He would have a history and maybe some knowledge about Warwick's feelings about Suzuki Roshi. The person who knows Jack, at 307 Page, is Rosemary. I went to Bill's place, and so did Jack and so did Rosemary, and I remember taking a snapshot of the two of them. [break in the tape]
[I think the following is about Ananda.]
IH: Della, me, Hal Papp, and a fourth person and we all went over there and his wife had prepared a supper for us all. We sat around the dining room table and had spaghetti and salad and ice cream.
DC: And Ananda [Claude] talked about Alan Watts--in lectures.
IH: Afterwards we would sit with coffee around that table. It was not a formal lecture. Very informal. People were encouraged to say anything they wanted to. I think there were some assigned readings -- one of Alan Watts's books. It was extremely pleasant. What broke it up was the Baker Roshi crisis. I came in there from work by myself. I walked into Ananda's living room and people were sitting around looking very strange. He thought I knew about what had happened and I didn't. I finally asked what was wrong. They told me about what had happened on the weekend at Tassajara. After that all these small groups formed.
There was a time when one of the people that came every Saturday was a clinical psychologist and teacher, Dr. Douglas Duke who taught at the college in Rohnert Park, Sonoma State. He was a very faithful attendee of Zen Center every Saturday for zazen and lecture. Occasionally he came in the middle of the week. He invited Suzuki Roshi to talk to his psychology class. Four of us were invited: Suzuki Roshi, Katagiri, Jean Ross, and me. We all had assignments. I was described in the newspaper as an instructor in Sociology from New York City which I was at the time. Suzuki Roshi was going to talk. Jean Ross was going to talk about her happenings in Japan. Katagiri and I were supposed to do a demonstration of the sitting posture and sit throughout the lecture so the people attending could see how someone could sit completely still for 50 minutes. That was an interesting experience. Jean Ross also served to act as an interpreter when Suzuki Roshi's English got difficult, particularly in questions and answers at the end. I would guess that was '66. I remember how interested Suzuki Roshi was to approach a college class. He seemed to beam with enjoyment. I guess we all were. It seemed to go over well. That may have been his only experience in a college classroom.
DC: Bill Kwong started teaching up there later. Suzuki even said he didn't want his students doing that. Maybe he had the experience, enjoyed it, and said we shouldn't do that. Bill was doing it. Mel did it for Bill. He (Suzuki) didn't particularly like it.
Tell me briefly your history.
IH: I come from Massachusetts. Where I was born and spent my childhood. High school in New Jersey. I went to NYU for a year and flunked out. I got married and had a child and was a housewife/mother for 5 years. Then divorced. My child stayed with his grandparents. When I was 29 years old I went back to college, Brooklyn College for a BA in psychology. After the horrible flunk-out at NYU I graduated with honors. Then started working on a combination Masters/PHD at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. During that time I was teaching at City College and Brooklyn College for four years. Married somebody else in the meantime. He was a physically abusive husband. I was with him for five years. I literally had to escape him. I was being stalked by him. I fled to Seattle where I then lived for two years. I was very homesick for New York. My husband did not know where I was. I fled without telling anybody but my aunt. I thought it was safe to come back to New York even though my husband was still there working for the police department. I thought I would get my old job back and continue on my PhD.
While preparing to come back to New York I decided to come via San Francisco because I had heard there was a Soto Zen temple there. I had never seen San Francisco and thought once I get back to New York I'll never leave. I thought to visit San Francisco for a couple of weeks and visit this temple I had heard about. Suzuki Roshi had somehow gotten in touch during the years with a couple in Seattle, the husband was very involved in zazen and was informally conducting meditation evenings in his homemade temple in his basement. Suzuki Roshi at some point went up and spent a week with this couple, brought a huge gong from Sokoji, dedicated this little temple. While in Seattle I happened to run into the woman of the couple while making the rounds of the Buddhist places in Seattle. Not very many. I met her and she invited me to their home. That's how I got to hear about Suzuki Roshi. McCleod was their name. Hugh and Grace McLeod. Grace is still alive. She's 84. I talk to her regularly. I have pictures of him there. I got the pictures from Grace. So I came to San Francisco and got very involved with Zen Center. There was a mini-Tangaryo. That night Suzuki Roshi said please stay. Almost all of my work in San Francisco was in medical offices.
DC: Did you ever know of MacDonough?
IH: The Reverend Jack MacDonough? I've been to his place in Stockton. I accompanied him to a big prison there to teach zazen to a group of prisoners. I went to his house every morning at 5:00 for zazen for two weeks. I spent a great deal of time with him. He's a very mysterious person. I never figured him out. I spent hours with the man. He wanted me to stay there and help him develop a suicide crisis line which he had already started and needed another person for. I wasn't interested in Stockton or doing that. Interesting man. He is a Soto Zen priest. His closet is packed full of every conceivable robe.
DC: I heard he got an order book. There are places in Japan that sell Buddhist paraphernalia. You can order anything. Even robes.
IH: In other words he could have bought these robes.
DC: I've heard that he got them through a catalog. I think he was ordained but I'm not sure who by. Maybe Tobase.
IH: Yes, Tobase. Or that Bishop Sumi.
DC: It would have been before Sumi came. I think his ordination goes back really early, like '61, '62. Dr. Kato was helping out with Zen Center. He took Suzuki down to see MacDonough to appraise him for this other sect. Dan Welch sat with MacDonough before he went to Japan, or maybe after.
IH: MacDonough has some very interesting practices. One was disciplinary practices. There were two nights that I stayed at his house. He was married to a very affable, outgoing, extraverted woman. He had a daughter. He had a guest room and I was invited to stay for two nights. I helped him can tomatoes during that period. His wife supported the family. One day he had told me something about the bathroom door. I had done it wrong. Because I had done this wrong I had to be punished for it. He wanted the bathroom door closed even if you weren't in there. My practice is that when you leave a bathroom you leave the door open so somebody knows they can go in. I had forgotten and left the bathroom door ajar. The punishment was for me to go into the zendo and lie down on the floor on my face with my arms extended, like a cross, for one hour. Every once in a while he'd pass by to make sure I was still there. I was investigating him. I'd do almost anything within morality.
He was a regular once-a-week visitor to the big prison there. He had been doing it for a long time. We lugged all these zafus over there. We were given a chapel to sit in. He had these regular prisoners that came in. He explained me by saying I was a colleague who had been sitting since 1958, which I had. That I was there visiting his temple. He thought it would be nice for me to see his class. Everybody was extremely kind. This was while Suzuki was still alive. I don't remember telling Suzuki I went to see MacDonough. This was during the period when Zen Center moved from Bush to Page Street. I was living near Bush Street. So going out at night to lectures put a damper on me. I wasn't coming to Zen Center all that much. It was during that period that I was living alone on Octavia Street after Pat had gone to Tassajara. Octavia and Sutter. I didn't move to Page Street until 1973.
DC: Did MacDonough say he was a Zen Master?
IH: Oh yes. He didn't walk around announcing it, but he made it clear. I think he was suspicious of me when I appeared at his door on a bicycle and introduced myself. But after a day or so he became at ease. He drank beer all day. And invited me to do the same which I didn't. But I did help him can tomatoes.
I started sitting in 1958 in New York with the First Zen Institute. There was no roshi there at first. Mary Farkas was my good friend from 1958 until she died a few years ago. Whenever I went to New York I stayed at the Institute. Sometimes for weeks at a time. I sat erratically by myself. When I was in Seattle there was no place to sit except by myself. I had my sitting robes.
DC: What about the McLeods?
IH: I see now that you ask me that that I have something mixed up about when I met the McLeods. I'm remembering now saying to Grace when I met her, just think I lived in Seattle for two years only four blocks away and I never knew you were here. Now I'm beginning to wonder when I did meet her. Oh yeah. I know. Ajari got involved with her somehow. Grace was involved with Jodo Shinshu. It was her husband that was into Zen. Grace came down to the San Francisco Buddhist Church to attend a conference. Ajari knew about it somehow. He invited her over to meet Dr. Seo. I was there and met Grace. I went back to Seattle on visits on many occasions and stayed with Grace for two and three weeks at a time.
DC: You're sure Suzuki went up there and installed a little temple? Was this guy McLeod a priest?
IH: Yes he did. And no McLeod wasn't a priest. It was like a practice center. Maybe something like this lady named Kathy down the Peninsula. Half Moon Bay maybe. Hameson. She's got a sitting group but she's not a priest. Her sitting group is listed in the back of the Wind Bell.
DC: And Dick Baker's isn't.
IH: Is his now in the mountains in Colorado?
DC: Crestone. Yvonne Rand's isn't. The Wind Bell is highly discriminating on who they list.
IH: Grace and I immediately took to each other. This was at a period where Warwick was just entering the Tibetan phase. He gave an extremely wild lecture. I was serving the refreshments. Grace was looking at me and cornered me outside and said, is he for real? I said I'm still trying to figure it out. We were great friends ever since. I have letters from Grace McLeod which must be two inches high that I've collected during those twenty years. She's got the same from me. She'll tell you about Suzuki Roshi's visit. Okusan was with him.
DC: I wonder if it was the same time he went to Portland. He did a sesshin up there for -- I can't remember her name. It was the year he died. [I later called Grace McLeod and she said that Suzuki only came to her temple once. She found it in her book. He was with a tall English man and Warwick's signature was in her book on the same day so maybe they went together. I think it was 1959.--DC]
DC: Suzuki-roshi went straight to the hospital and had a gall bladder operation on his return.
IH: That's what's wrong with me. I've never recovered from my surgery. That's right. Okusan told me that. About his gall bladder surgery. She said he was alright from that surgery.
DC: They knew it was cancerous and they didn't tell anybody because the doctor thought he'd gotten everything. It turned out that it spread. Originally they thought he had gall bladder cancer. I'm not sure of any of this. [Wasn't then.--DC] I know that some people say his gall bladder was cancerous.
IH: It could have been. I've done a lot of studying of the gall bladder. Cancer of the gall bladder is a disease entity but it's rare. It always seemed very hazy to me. I could never find out what was wrong with him. Outside that he had cancer.
DC: They didn't know that he had cancer again until more like October.
IH: He had a lingering cough. When I first heard that he had had cancer I assumed it was the lungs. He couldn't seem to cancel out that cough.
DC: He'd had tuberculosis when he was younger and his lungs were weak.
IH: Warwick's zendo was tiny. It was the size of a -- he had a ranch-style house, one floor, spread out. What would have been another bedroom was his zendo. It would fit ten people at the most. I think MacDonough was sincere. I don't know if he was sincere about saying he got all these robes -- but he was sincere about wanting to convey Buddhism. I also think Warwick was sincere and a lot smarter than MacDonough. In a learned sense. Warwick was really a scholar in Buddhism. MacDonough was far from that. I don't think that MacDonough had a hidden agenda, nor did Warwick have a hidden agenda. I think it's safe to say they were sincere. Although there might have been questions about their backgrounds. MacDonough was not in it for the money. There was no money. None of his disciples paid anything.
DC: MacDonough went to the meetings of Soto Zen priests that the Japanese priests went to. He was the only Caucasian priest there. I've driven Suzuki and Katagiri to those. I had no interest in being involved, but MacDonough would be sitting there. I got the feeling everybody was a little embarrassed about him being there but didn't know what to do and were too polite to say. They were speaking in Japanese. He didn't know any Japanese I don't think.
IH: He had a delightful wife and they seemed quite happy. The child was about 8 or 9 when I met her. A nice, well-adjusted child. There was nothing spooky about the place. When I was there I was the only one to sit with him. He said he had other males who sat with him.
Home | What Was New | Contest | Digressions | Links | Jacket Notes | Book Reviews | Reader's Comments
Author's Notes | Bibliography | Author Events | About the Author | Errata |
Interviews | Suzuki Stories | Photos | Suzuki Lectures | Archives Project | Sangha News | Contact Me
This site designed by
The Empty Wig
Original site designed by Sheryl B.