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About Suzuki Roshi
Molly Jones was at Tassajara and in the city with Suzuki. She' written a new (April, 2000) book called White Magic: Vibrational Medicine in Action which is in the bibliography with a review.
From Molly Jones
I've written what I remember about Suzuki-roshi - I hope it may be useful.
First of all he had the attributes of a great teacher - he was compassionate, fierce, humorous, intelligent, clear-minded, strong, dedicated to his students, and seated in realization based on practice. Physically he was so small but perfectly proportioned, his head was so beautifully shaped, clear-eyed, most often dressed formally in priest's robes. He was very attractive in a spiritual sense - I used to look at him and want to emulate him - he was an inspiration to practice. Also I felt him to be a true enunciate, very simple in how he lived, he lived right with his students and was a great example to us.
The first time I had dokusan with him I had just turned 20. It was on the 2nd or 3rd day during my first sesshin. I sat across from him after bowing in the simple downstairs office of Sokoji. During the sesshin I was feeling a tremendous amount of fear rising up from my abdomen into my throat as I was sitting zazen. I said, "I feel fear." He raised an eyebrow and the told me the fear wouldn't last long. He asked me what practice I did when I felt fear. I said, "Count my breathing." "Very good," he said.
After several more days of sweating blood in the zendo I plunged into the deepest samadhi I have ever experienced- right through the fear - a full descending samadhi, the real McCoy. I wasn't ready for this realization to be stable, however. Some months later I told him I felt lost. He said, "You are afraid of the emptiness from which you come. Don't be afraid." And also during a later sesshin when I confessed to him that I was manipulating myself in zazen to try to experience something greater, he said, "You shouldn't seek a so-called enlightenment experience."
When my mother was killed, Yvonne sent me over to meet with Roshi in the kitchen at Sokoji. He made me tea. I think I was in shock, but even so I was most curious about him at such close quarters. He was very simple and compassionate - he looked at a picture of my mother and gave me some advice about the trip to get her body. Several months later he expressed such concern about what had happened. He said to me directly, "What a terrible thing."
Another time at Tassajara he arrived and greeted everyone who had gathered to see him. At that time he walked right up to me and took both my hands and said, hello. These human gestures he made toward me really affected me.
I also remember with some embarrassment some of the adolescent, immature things we (I) did around him. I think he must have had some trouble with the young, relatively immature Americans he found were his students.
The last time I saw Roshi was at the Mountain Seat Ceremony. He was really sick. It was hard to see him that way. He was so yellow, the ceremony was too long, his robes looked too heavy for him. When he got up and walked out to leave, he planted that staff and shook the rings on it - looking at everyone on both sides. It was an enormously powerful last gesture which I have never forgotten. I still hold him such high regard.
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