|About the Book
About Suzuki Roshi
Mitsu Suzuki interviewed
by Kazuaki Tanahashi about Shunryu Suzuki, her husband [date?]
Japanese--translated by Kyoko Furuhashi and Shizuko Takatsuka.]
Go to Mitsu Suzuki Main Page
It seems there is very little that I can say about what I remember about the conversations and the life in general with Hojo (Suzuki-roshi). I just lived with him for ten years.
Let me start by remembering when I met him. It was after the war. One hot summer day in 1949, I got back from somewhere to the nursery school I was in charge of at that time, in the corridor I saw a friend of mine and someone clad in a kayo [priest] robe who looked like a monk unwrapping their obento and eating their lunch. I asked my friend "What brings you here today, Tsuneko-san" [is she around], and she replied "I've come to see you with a priest." So I said to her "Oh, yes Is this reverend gentleman looking for a bride" Those were my first words he had heard. Tsuneko, my friend, started to guffaw and said "Oh, no. He already has a fine wife." So I said to her "Is that so What is it you want of me then" She said "He's just opened a kindergarten but he hasn't found someone to become a head teacher there. My father recommended you for this position, so we've come to see you. I'm sorry we didn't let you know beforehand about our coming here." "Oh, I see. But I've resolved to spend the rest of my life here (Shizuoka). I have been taking care of this place, going in and out of the air-raid shelter here at the risk of my own life during the wartime. I was appointed to be in charge of this place by the prefecture office as early as when a jichinsai (a Shinto ceremony for purifying a building site) was held here. They have even allocated a room for me and my daughter to live at. How could I leave this place"
Within three days the monk came again, wearing a furobo (black priest hat) and clattering his wooden clogs with white thongs. He was carrying a huge black umbrella [possibly western], using it as a sunshade for it was a very hot day. I thought "Oh, that monk again. He should know I hate moving next to death." This went on for months. I kept saying no and he kept asking. He was so persistent and earnest that I finally said "Yaizu smells fishy and it's unattractive with only fishermen living there. I've never wanted to go there. But as you ask me so much, I shall go there just once."
The house I visited was of three brothers all of whom were doctors. I talked with the youngest of them, who was an otolaryngology (ear and nose) specialist. Both he and his wife were sophisticated. I was rather impressed to know there was such a fine family in Yaizu. I started to worry. I explained to them that in Shizuoka I was specifically looking after children who had lost their fathers during the war and besides that it was out of the question for me as a Christian to be the head teacher of a Buddhist kindergarten - I'm not qualified - especially for an historically prominent one with a tradition like Tokiwa Youchien. So I refused the offer. Then Doctor Ozawa [Are any of them around], who I was talking with, gave me a keen glance and said "I don't expect you to do anything so splendid for the kindergarten. You only need to come and do it." I felt as if I was struck by a lightning. It was like satori. I realized I had been conceited to think I had to do something special if I became the head teacher of that kindergarten and that I wouldn't be able to come up to their expectations. But he said he didn't expect anything. I asked him "Then I only need to stand on the platform there
Is that all you want me to do" and he said, "Yes that's right." That was the moment I decided I'd do it.
Kaz - The doctor was on the board of hoikuin (nursery school). She corrects to yochien (kindergarten). And he asks about connection of the kindergarten to the temple and she says that would be a long story.
The history of the kindergarten:
In Yaizu before the war, Aoshima Zen'an was a monk of a small neighboring temple who used to work very hard at instructing or helping out ex-convicts right after they got out of prison but in spite of his efforts it didn't work and he started to feel that it would be better to take care of children and he started fund raising for that and he had a lot of difficulties but he persevered and opened the kindergarten. It was closed during the war and the playground became overgrown and the army used the building. Shunryu reopened the school around Showa 24 (1949) and I don't know exactly but at the request of the local people perhaps his school reopened in 23 (1948). Hojo-san asked the city Bukkyokai (Buddhist council) if someone could reopen the school because Aoshima was too old but the bukkyokai was too busy to help him so he asked me if I'd do it. Since the city couldn't handle the problem they turned to Rinsoin. Hojo-san thought that the children's education was very important so he said he would ask one of the danka's (temple member's) daughters to teach there but still they needed an experienced head teacher. The following year they came to see me because the father of Tsuneko-san was in the prefecture government. That's how they found out about me.
The school is in the city and Rinsoin is at the edge of town at the base of the mountain [actually she said, on the mountain].
The furobo is hera hera (loose, flapping).
Looks like a witches hat so it scares kids when they wear it to the danka's home. That's why he stopped wearing it.
When I told him my reservations about being a Christian in a Buddhist school he said strongly that it's better than having no religion at all. So I came. He said that when Kishizawa Roshi comes, leave your work behind and go hear him speak. That was the instruction Hojo gave me from the beginning. When I went to Kishizawa Roshi's place, the people there were in their sixties and seventies and I was in my thirties, but since I'd left my duties behind I sat in the front row and listened to him carefully. I thought that Hojo was quite definite that since I have a religious mind Kishizawa's teaching would penetrate. It's better that I don't speak about Kishizawa more than that don't you think [ask her more about Kishizawa]
I didn't know anyone in Yaizu. While studying Buddhism and receiving Hojo's instruction - the routine was that he came everyday before school and came to the playroom where the Buddha was and recite the Shushogi with the teachers who each held the text and he'd give some brief instruction. Otohiro came with his mother. Then Hojo's wife died. The danka thought he needed a wife so they brought him info andphotos of some good prospects [what they say is simply brought the honorable talk or something untranslatable like that]. But his mother-in-law insisted, "he should never marry anyone but Matsuno-san (Mitsu)," and accordingly refused all other offers. I heard about that later.
At that time Yamada Gicho (meeting head )from Shumucho was kyoiku butcho (education chief) said that there is no jushoku at Sokoji and since Hojo can speak English - could you go there So Hojo said are you joking I've got over 400 families to take care of - if I go to America they'll throw me out. Komiya-san was constantly sending an invitation from Sokoji for another jushoku. He wanted someone with a family. He said if a single monk came it would be a problem. Hojo said when he applied for a visa he thought it would be better to apply for the visa as a married man and he thought that he needed to be married in order to be approved by the Sokoji danka. So that's why our marriage was hurriedly arranged. Amano sodan (advisor - head of danka or board) arranged everything in place of the parents. We got married in Rinsoin in the Autumn [Yasuko is sure it was December] and he went to America the next year. As soon as we were married he left - in 1959. I came two years later. As for the two kindergartens, the temple, Hoitsu still in college, he left it all up to me and he went to America [she didn't do anything for Hoitsu or the temple as per other sources]. During these two years, the grandmother took care of the temple and I stayed in one of the kindergartens. Occasionally I went there and talked to her about the temple and the children. The first contract was for three years, but so many hippie-san came [pre-hippie, but to her, all young people were hippies], and it was such an unexpected opportunity for his missionary work that he thought he wouldn't be able to accomplish his work within another two years so he wrote me to come to America. So even though I thought there was no way for me to leave the children and the two kindergartens to a seventy year old grandmother but fortunately Hoitsu got married and his wife could take care of the temple. The grandmother [ask Mitsu about her] said that Hojo had been living for two years alone in America, managing everything on his own and the work was so important and I ant him to succeed in it. Otohiro was entering puberty and I won't be able to take care of him so she said please take only Otohiro with you and go to America. She begged me to go, (imploring with her hands and head down). Finally I made up my mind.
The main kindergarten was small and after the war the number of children increased. There were long lines of applicants outside of the gate of the kindergarten and we could take only 100 students and had to turn away so many kids so the local people requested another kindergarten some distance from the existing one - behind Yaizu station. So it was built. And I became the caretaker as well as the head teacher of the new one.
Hojo-san wanted a honzan [head temple - but in this context maybe a head training center] so he and Baker went all over looking for a place and finally found Tassajara which the owner was willing to sell. So Hojo started going back and forth between Tassajara and the city. I took care of Sokoji. People in Sokoji complained about Hojo spending too much time there and I complained too. Hojo spent so much time at Tassajara and in response to the complaints he would always say that there were so many people going there seeking the true teaching of Buddhism that he couldn't be at Sokoji dealing with the danka all the time and he left that up to me.
Often at about three o'clock in the morning he'd get in a car and go to Los Altos, Berkeley, Mill Valley and he'd come back at about the time that the temple would open and he'd say I've already done some work. And he would of already had breakfast. So if I think back now, I think these places became three main temples. I admire his foresight in supporting the development of these centers.
So the head of the Sokoji board [ who] from the Meiji era had an old way of thinking that the temple is only for the Japanese community and by the Japanese and in Japanese but because so many white people started to come, Hojo thought that wasn't right. So he decided to discuss this with the head of the board and appealed to him to step down and he was very surprised and said are you saying that to me face to face (she keeps saying it seems... it seems)[ a little different from Peter Schneider's story of this but that's maybe another story.] Hojo said yes. At that point George Hagiwara became the head of the board. And he helped Hojo and supported the white people too. If I think back to that time, it was the peak period for Sokoji. Every morning at five and in the evening at 5:30 people would come sit zazen and there were many events for the Japanese Americans.
Lots of hippies came. Old kireizukina Japanese-American ladies were offended by their appearance. And on the occasion of Obon or Ohigan when hundreds of people came and food was prepared, they couldn't say no to the white students and there wouldn't be enough food for the Japanese Americans. It was suggested that at least they should wear zori and tie their hair back. Of course we understood the feelings of the nikeijin (Japanese\Americans) and also I brought a zokin (cleaning rag) and taught them to wipe their feet when they step onto tatami. But in these circumstances I knew Hojo-san really felt strongly that these people were the ones who are really seeking so they had to be treated with great respect and care. At the same time it was a place for Japanese-Americans to go for (ianjo) refuge. I was convinced that both were important. So that's why I think I did my best in doing my job. Nevertheless, Hojo finally decided that we had to leave Sokoji. He thought that unless we left, they wouldn't understand. So we left and came here to Page Street. That was the first time I ever really cried out loud. Even though we tried so hard to make it work, we had to leave. Is that how human society works What would happen to Sokoji Does it have to be that way Hagiwara said, don't worry, Sokoji is okay. I said, is that so and left. There was nothing there at Page Street so from Hegira's [Hagiwara, right] place we brought various items for the alter, butsugu (Buddhist paraphernalia), were brought like mokugyo, something as gohonzon (the principal image on the alter - in this case a plaque).
He'd gone with students to check the new building out and Silas said if Hojo was going to live there for good, he'd find the money somehow. It was two years after Tassajara had been bought for $360,000. [she's a little off] The building would be another $360,000. It seemed like such a big task. I said that Hojo had already been here for ten years and he wasn't so healthy maybe it was time to go back. But he said that since he'd taken it that far he needed to take care of the hakujin (white folks) a little more. So Silas arranged for the purchase of the building.
Baker was in Japan. Since Tassajara had been established, Hojo-san felt that Baker-san needed to get Japanese culture in his skin (practical, more than intellectual understanding).
After ten years at Sokoji Hojo-san had an appreciation party for his 65th birthday (in May) and invited about 100 people from the Japanese community. A month later he submitted his resignation.
Hojo-san said that I used to speak to him about the students in front of them and he said he understood why I did that since I didn't understand so much English and their manners and customs are different from ours and it must get on my nerves so you say all these things to me in Japanese thinking they don't understand Japanese, but they pick up what you mean so be careful what you say.
So first Hojo moved in and I stayed behind and packed our things and moved them over little by little. He went around the building looking at everything and deciding this is the hondo, this is the zendo and without hesitating asked Jim Morton to build the alter and he worked everyday on these arrangements. Since he knew a little about architecture he made plans for remodeling. We did everything with our own hands. So when we had a chance to eat in our own kitchen and when there was no zazen I suggested why don't you have a leisurely meal with me. Since he was a child monk he had had the custom to eat his meals in five or six minutes. And before he got up I suggested he chat with me but said he didn't have time for that. He stood up with his arms crossed and was going to his room and I asked him what on earth he was always thinking about and he always said, "Only one thing - American Buddhism." He was only concerned about how Buddhism would spread in America.
He started going to Tassajara from here - I wouldn't go with him so often. Once he came back with a case of poison oak and his eyes were almost swollen shut and I asked him what happened Everybody loved to go to the creek by his cabin and there was a lot of poison oak there so he decided to take out all the poison oak by himself. I was very surprised but he said that if he didn't the people who came there would get poison oak. He said it wouldn't kill him.
When he was on the road he'd enjoy buying plants with his own money to put in different places in Tassajara. That happened when we were in Sokoji.
Since they came here Mr. and Mrs. Sekino organized a Kamamoto meguri (pottery tour) and they invited us also and he said that since this place was in order he would join. Hojo wanted to take some hakujin with him but I felt strongly that this would be my first and last opportunity to travel with him so I begged him to go with me without speaking in English or translating - just speaking to me in Japanese. I asked him and asked him and asked him. This was in August. Finally he accepted and during this two weeks trip he carried only his handkerchief and I carried only the luggage. (He was obviously sick or sickly) Every evening in the hotel I'd give him massage and okyu (moxibustion). In the middle of the trip he said maybe he should leave the tour and go to Yaizu. After all the trouble we'd gone to I convinced him to continue the tour and kept on treating him in the hotels while the others were out sightseeing. After he finished Baker's shiho (transmission) - I think it was in November  - it was quite cold - so we came back.
At that time Dr. Ozawa in Yaizu who I had seen before told Hoitsu that Hojo's liver was very weak. I didn't learn this till later.
We had the New Year in America. He had been invited to go to Portland but I had been refusing it but Hojo thought that sometime he had to go there but he knew he wouldn't live long so he thought he should go there at least once. So he went. I didn't want him to go alone so I got Tenshin to go with him and carry his luggage. They went on March 12th  and he collapsed. On the 15th they came back and I met them at the airport and I helped him walk to an ambulance and he had an operation on that day. It was his gall bladder and they removed the stones[ didn't remove the gall bladder]. Students thought and said that he would be okay now. But when I looked at him I didn't think he was getting any better.
While he was lying in bed I brought him a letter of resignation from Katagiri Roshi. He was very surprised and sad - he knew he wasn't going to live long. He had been thinking everyday how Katagiri could help Dick out. He was sad and disappointed. Seeing him like that I felt so sorry for him. At that time he couldn't really move around and he wanted someone to help him.
On Memorial day it was still cold so he wasn't supposed to go out but because Katagiri was going to come he forced himself to go there in a car. There's a cemetery for Japanese\Americans in Koroma (the cemetery) - Christians, Shinto, Buddhist, anything. It was run by a Japanese American group called Jikeikai. While Shunryu was still at Sokoji he would go there on Memorial Day as there was a Hoyo there. I thought because Katagiri had suddenly resigned he was probably invited to a new place and was willingly going there. Maybe it was a good prospect. If it would be too hard for him to be with Baker maybe that was the better way. He went there just because he thought Katagiri would be there. He asked Katagiri where he was going and Katagiri said he didn't have any idea. He was very surprised to hear that and said come back. Since Katagiri had a family, the Zen Center should help him.
I kept telling Hojo to take good care of himself but I heard he said to someone in the Japanese community there is no time, no time. [who] He didn't tell me that. Even though he wanted to go to Tassajara, I stopped him from going because he just had an operation. Then he went to Tassajara in July  and it was very hot and the doctors said he should only go for one week but he stayed for one month. His urine was already brown. Every night he forced himself (sweating blood) and his juban was so wet it could have been wrung out. When I washed his etchu-san (etchu fundoshi - underwear) it was that color.
When I was in the small cabin during the day when he worked with a shovel taller than himself, and when I'd do like this (scolding finger) and say, "Hojo-san!" (scolding), he's say, "Urusai," (noisy) and I'd say, "You're shortening your life." He said that unless we shorten our lives, disciples will not grow." "So please shorten your life and make them grow!" I said and then I said no more. I thought I shouldn't because he knew what he was doing.
The husband of a poet, who went to Colorado - Alan Marlowe, was his anja.
He was working in his small cabin preparing for the lay ordination in the summer with the hot kerosene light, taking down dictionary from a high shelf, choosing the names for many people-
And on the way back even though I wanted to go straight back Nakagawa Soen Roshi was doing a sesshin and it was the last day so Hojo said he would go and Dan was driving with him helping him and Hojo was weak (fura fura) moving back and forth nodding - so he sat in the front row during the sesshin and I thought that would be very hard for him after having worked so hard at Tassajara but he sat for an hour attending to the final ceremony and we came back and soon went into the hospital. He was told he had kan'en[ he was told hepatitis] and would have to stay in bed (zettai ansei) without moving for one month. After one month he went back to the hospital but his condition hadn't improved. I had been thinking at night for several months, what would I do if he had cancer
After his last test we went to the hospital for the result. On the previous night I think it was the mercy of Buddha I realized a kind of satori (Hojo said it was satori) if he has cancer, I must take care of a cancer patient. It was an opening up for me. So I went to the hospital with Yvonne and I told her that if we are told he has cancer that we shouldn't cry. So we went there and the doctor clearly stated it was liver cancer. And Yvonne put her arms around Shunryu and cried. So I said, okay, we have to prepare for that, let's go home. From then outwardly I behaved cheerfully in front of people and when he would start coughing or would have gas problems I used to press this place but I would cry in private. That's what happened everyday. I felt he wouldn't get better and would die and I felt sorry for him and took care of him suppressing my tears.
Probably before then he told me that I should go back to Japan - he didn't explain why - maybe for saitokudo or because he wanted to be with students and away from family. I thought that if he had been well and said that, I would have left, but he wouldn't be able to eat anything but okayu and he would have to speak in Japanese so how could I leave him. And who would be taking care of his last moments That's why I wrote a letter to Hoitsu and he wrote back to Hojo and me saying only I could take care of Shisho And he said if I came back they'd have to send someone to take my place. Then he must have noticed that he was weakening and I was the only one who could take care of him.
He asked me about sammotsu no koto o koumyo shite moraitai but I refused saying noryoshi had a special diet so I can't take care of two people so I asked him to leave that to Baker. I understood how much he wanted to do that but he had to give up.
[The previous paragraph I pondered for a long time and then I finally realized what she was talking about. The translators [both Japanese women] couldn't figure it out. This is the sort of thing that needs to clarified in the interviews as presented herein. I just noticed this one quickly going over this interview. My notes for this were elsewhere. Without referring to them I remember that what Suzuki-roshi is talking about using an obscure phrase to her here is that he wanted to give transmission to some of his disciples before he died and he wanted to bring Noiri-roshi over [Noiri-roshi was written as noryoshi] This was a very important corroboration of a story I'd heard from Ananda Dalenberg and which a number of us had heard of and faintly remembered but couldn't remember who'd told us what when.--DC]
And then Amano-san who was like his god father and Hoitsu and Yasuko came. So I got busier but his health remained as it was.Since Amano saw Shunryu's face and knew he was ill, he wanted to go back to Japan and so he asked Hojo many times and finally Shunryu said, "Father, there is one important job I need to do as a monk so please see this and report that to Yaizu - since I left there and came here." I knew that Amano had cancer too and was having problems with his bowels but I begged Amano many times, "father please fulfill Hojo's wish."
And we asked him to stay until the shinsanshiki. After that when we returned to the dokusan room, Shunryu told Amano, "I've finished all my duties. Thank you very much. Please report the details to the danka." That was the last...(thing he said to him)
One day I asked Shunryu what should I do when he died. He said, "Since you've been away from Japan for ten years, you wouldn't be able to adjust to life at Rinsoin so easily. There would be some difficulties there also. Everyone would be very happy if you stayed here. I said I didn't understand English very well and that I'd been here just to take care of Hojo-san. What kind of help could I be to them here And he said, "You are honest and fair so definitely you can do it." So thinking back about that time - he hadn't given me any kind words - we had no light conversation together. He saw me as a person who had the spirit of Buddha and he could leave me in a place where he couldn't see. At that time I didn't notice so much what he said but now that time has passed it seems that what he said is too much for a wife. (it's like she's saying that the respect he was showing her by saying that was almost too much for her to accept).
He hadn't taught me what the teaching of Buddha is. And my character was that I'd say whatever I wanted to say to people. And he never tried to stop me. Even when I came here [to Page Street] during the last two years, he always had a sense of trust in me.
And also I'd been only observing him for ten years in our married life. I learned a lot from that. It was a great teaching for me. Only one thing that he did or one word that he said I wanted to put into practice in my life rather than just knowing about it. I wanted to stay here as long as they would take care of me.
T - Why did Kishizawa Roshi come to one of the branches of Rinsoin
He was already jushoku when I came there - Gyokudenin. I don't know when he came there. He was teaching at a school in Kobe. When he gave a talk on the Shobogenzo at his temple, monks from all over would come to hear him. Shunryu also would go.
And Kishizawa lead the ojukai (big ordination ceremony) so they had been in touch quite often.
T - How many branches does Rinsoin have
I don't know. [200 or so]
T- Tell me about everyday life at Sokoji.
I joined him two years after he came. In the morning we used to do zazen and some people would stay and have breakfast. After Zazen he would change into samue. Danka would bring flowers which he liked and the water always had to be changed and the dead leaves cut off. The candles which had burned down would be melted together in a tea can in the kitchen. When someone came who liked to drink [tea] he told me to make a snack for them and entertain them. When I asked him what I should do first, he told me to make pickles. So I bought nuka and made pickles. I cooked soy beans, chick peas, various beans. Shunryu sometimes joined in for tea. We served tea from Shizuoka and pickles.
Every Wednesday evening there was a lecture in English so we had to prepare for that. An old man who wore a red hat sat in the first row - a newspaper columnist. When Shunryu made grammatical errors he'd point it out and correct it. When Shunryu wore glasses and used the dictionary and prepared for lecture, I used to look over his shoulder and he was working so hard and sometimes just one or two people would come. Sometime it rained. After the lecture I told him I wished at least ten people would come and then he would yell at me, "One or one thousand doesn't make any difference!" He was very clear about that kind of thing. So I said, if you say that, I won't worry anymore.
T- Shunryu studied English in junior high and then came to the US to teach Buddhism. What about that
I don't know directly but I think somebody told me that he said he didn't feel the spirit of Japanese Buddhism was so alive and it was natural for Buddhism to spread in the West. And when he was in the University, it was important to him when he sent off Suzuki Daito at San Yokohama harbor. He went to the temple in LA. Probably he sent him off with his own imagining (his own trip to America.) When he had to come over here he had to do Daito San's funeral. It seems he had been thinking of coming here since way back then. But he had to be the abbot of his temples in Japan.
After the war the occupation forces came to Yaizu and they needed someone who spoke English and Shunryu was called for. Since then Showa 21 (46), people started to speak English in Japan. When he rode on trains there were almost always Americans there and he'd always sit next to them and say hello.
When he was in Komazawa Daigaku there was an English teacher from England called Mrs. Ransom who was teaching there I think. One day a student, one of his friends, invited him by saying we always have something cold in the hot summer and he was attracted by that. So when he was talking and eating with Mrs. Ransom and the student he was told he could also stay there. He said but you already have someone here and she said one more student doesn't make any difference. I don't know how long he stayed there but she took good care of him and before she left for England she stayed for a while in Rinsoin. She went back to England as a Buddhist [sympathizer]. There was a quite big long rattan sofa in Rinsoin that belonged to her and a long white silk futon[ are they gone] that Mrs. Ransom brought to use there - that I (sic - someone? - Mitsu not around then) brought there - which Zenji would use.
T-How did Shunryu used to get up in the morning Without thinking I heard he said that if one thinks about it one can't get up so we should just get up when the alarm clock rings.
He was good at getting up. Since his childmonkhood (kozo) he had to get up before the elder monks got up. And at night also he had to stay up because his master played go till late - keeping the fire going. When it went out he'd have to relight it. That was hard for him. Even when he had pleurisy , he didn't have time to think about it.
As far as getting up, he didn't hesitate - he just got up right away. He used to say there are those who go to the zendo a few minutes early and those who go a few minutes late - people have to be a few minutes early.
When I came here the first thing the accountant of Sokoji told me was, "we haven't been receiving the checks back so could you please look for them." I asked what that was and found out it was for salary. It didn't seem he had used them. So I checked the books and dictionaries and found some checks. So the accountant told me that from then on he'd give the checks to me to cash immediately.
T- I also heard he was looking for a place to send students in Japan to practice.
That's why when we went on the pottery (kamamoto) tour while people were sightseeing we went to Zuiyoji by car because by then he knew that Eiheiji wasn't an appropriate place. I don't know if it was because it was too big or strict. He knew it wasn't for our students. He was looking for a more friendly place (kateiteki) but since he didn't have enough time he only visited Zuiyoji [in Shikoku - associated with Katagiri's teacher Hashimoto]. The roshi [Narasaki - Katagiri's dharma brother] was away at a memorial service and an unsui told him that there are a lot of danka which means daily obligations so maybe it wasn't such a good place either. So he wanted to find the right place. Really, he wanted Eiheiji so he went there and to Shumucho and applied for registration for his ordainees one by one [Ananda says he did that a number of times] but because the connection Baker had with Eiheiji was terminated - he had some connection with Mumon or receiving his teaching or something. [Baker not associated with Mumon yet I don't think, but he had studied with Morinaga at Daitokuji, a Rinzai temple, and had left Eiheiji.]
T-Have you ever heard anything about him doing anything against the war during the war?
It wasn't really against the war, it was his inevitable action that he went to Tohoku and stood at the corner of the houses which had lost a family member to the war and recited a sutra and did takuhatsu. And also since there were no more monks who volunteered to do imon (console, encourage troops) he went to do that in Manchuria. So he went there during the last year of the war. If he hadn't have made the last ship he wouldn't have made it back. Maybe his intuition was good.
So I asked him, why did someone with good intuition like you choose me, who is such a shrew He said, "because you are ridiculously honest."(bakashojiki) It seems that was the only good quality I had according to him.
When he was conducting ceremonies he was very proper and graceful (ripa), mindful. I saw monks in Rinsoin performing ceremonies but they were distracted. If someone made mistakes or not, he would just pay attention to what he was doing. (deta tokoro shoubu) Wherever you are, you act accordingly. That's what he used to say. If one makes a mistakes, that's all. (mata nashi) You can't say wait. So he was just focused. If he looked around he would see people's mistakes.
At Sokoji he'd careful line up the Buddha statue, the koro (incense pot) and ihai (memorial placard). If anything was even a hair off he'd adjust it. He'd been like that since he was in Rinsoin. He was strict about that. Me ga kiku. Effectiveness in looking. He was very still. [He had a good eye]
T - How about time.
He was quite punctual. He valued that. The way he got up.
T - How about the supplement that comes with Shufu no Tomo (Housewife's companion).
Oh yes, that was the only present I got from him. Soon after I came from Japan one day he came home with a smile and said, "I bought something nice for you today." I asked what it was and he said, "This." And he showed me the tea ceremony book - Omotesenke. I had never seen a book on tea before and I laughed and said how could someone ordinary like me learn tea ceremony So anyway, why don't you take a look, he said. Hanamura[ sounds like same lady SR studied calligraphy with], the Socho (head priest of Shinshu's wife was teaching tea ceremony - omotesenke. When I had gone to say hello, she had said since you're the wife of a Zen monk why don't you at least practice tea ceremony So I came home saying that I wouldn't be able to do it because I'm not skillful (bukiyo). It was after that that he bought me that book. And Hanamura's wife had been encouraging me, calling me on the phone saying why don't you do it So since I had nothing special to do I started going there. Thinking back on that, the only present I ever got from him is supporting me in my life now. How insightful he was. He thought, since there is ten years difference in our age, when I go first, my wife has to have something with her. So he left me with tea and haiku.
When I told Hojo-san that a group had invited me to join them in studying haiku, he said yeah that's a really good idea and why don't I do that. That was about a year before he died. I remember when I'd written my first ones I showed them to him in Tassajara and asked if it was okay. He made some corrections. I said that when you corrected them they got stranger, and he said, "Do you think so"
T- Thanks a lot, I'll use some of what you said here for a magazine article. Because Shunryu had that kind of humanness in him he was able to do such a great job.
Do you know about the daikon he bought There was a grocery store next door. The wife of the owner is still there. When he'd go to the store he'd get the old daikon and she'd ask why he did that and he said because no one else will buy them. He got the ones with the old leaves!
A few years ago when I had a lower back problem, the wife of the grocer made something warm for me (a shawl or something) and when I offered her money, she said it was a present for you because whenever Hojo-san came to our store he used to shop cheerfully and made me feel very pleasant so this is for you. So thanks to Hojo-san I got that present from her. I still have it.
When Shunryu was in elementary school, he used to leave school before the others. Kids used to blow air through a straw into frog's behinds - mischievous children used to do that - and the frogs would inflate and die. I have seen that several times. So when school was over he'd be the first out and using a stick he'd go to where the frogs were and say, they're coming now, go away! waving the stick. He'd do this on the paths around the rice fields. Then the kids would come. He had that kind of warm heart.
Since he wasn't rich, when other kids would throw their old zori out, he'd pick up the good one and make pairs this way.
Even though his life was very simple and poor, he had a generous heart in giving things to others and was not greedy. He even gave away something that I treasured without my knowing.[what] When I complained about that, he told me, if you don't give something which you value, then you're not really giving. Now I understand what he meant and this teaching has remained with me. If you give something you don't need it means you haven't given. [shows how married couples consider themselves a unit - the man will make very personal decisions for the woman and vice versa I used to see that.]
He didn't talk very much and if something was important he'd just say it once and it would remain with me. He said Buposhin no nai mono niwa... As for those who don't have way seeking mind and since I've been talking about Dharma I've realized not to speak to people about Buddhism who aren't open to it.
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.