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Interviews

Brit Pyland

He didnít talk very much. I remember just hanging out to be close to him at tea, and enjoyed his presence. A kind of wonderful openness and lightness. I remember him standing at tea, in this wonderful dappled shade. Heíd be talking to students, and I would just be there very close, listening; didnít say much to him.



Interview with Brit Pyland by David Chadwick at Rick Levine's house. Katrinka McKay was also there. Damn it - I forgot to say the date. - It was in the fall of 2011. Brit started off by talking about a photo of Shunryu Suzuki on the back of a book that he'd propped up next to him.

Will try to get some of Brit's photos here. I'm sure he'll fill in the ??? places with the correct words. One or two for Rick too. - dc


BP: I brought him along to keep me honest, and also to wake me up. This is my favorite portrait of Suzuki Roshi. This is the photograph I wish I had taken. Itís a close-up; he is standing in the shade under a tree with his nyoi [teacher's stick]. Itís either a close-up from that same photo or else itís taken [at the same time]---this is on the front of Not Always So.

 

For me, memories of Suzuki Roshi are things I think about in the past, but I find different ways of bringing him present. Like, how would you put on your socks if Suzuki Roshi were standing right there? Or how would you do anything? So heís helpful to me to make my life a little more conscious. And this particular photograph brings him alive.

This particular photo is my altered photo. I usually bow to this photo rather than the actual one thatís on the altar. This is the photo I have imagined I wanted to take of him. I only took two photos of him. Both were at Jeff and Gretchen Broadbentís wedding, and they are actually quite good. He is very present, picking up the powdered incense at the altar, before the ceremony. The second photo is of him bowing. In both cases, he is really there. It was taken from a distance, in the zendo, at Zen Center. This photo is the one that brings him alive to me. So hello, Suzuki Roshi, and we all remember him, and Iím sure Katrinka is close to him too, even though she didnít physically meet him.

So you asked me what I remember about first meeting Suzuki Roshi. It was in the fall of 1965. I had very little connection with Zen. Iíd done a little reading, perhaps. I was much more attracted intuitively to Taoist literature than Zen literature. I was standing around, six oíclockish, at the ???  bookstore, browsing at the magazine rack. My friend Charles McDermott was walking by, and he came up to me and said, ďYou want to go hear Suzuki?Ē I of course said, ďOh, D.T. Suzuki?Ē And he explained, no was this other, Shunryu Suzuki, whom I had heard of. So I said yes. So we took ourselves off to Sokoji. I think we arrived a few minutes late, because I remember sitting in the back on the floor, in this jumble of shoes. Maybe we were coming in five minutes late. Suzuki Roshi is saying, ďOh, so you are interested in psychology and LSD?Ē Now as it happened, I was very interested, so I perked up my ears. He didnít really have much to say about that, as I recall. It didnít seem to me that he really knew much about it, probably just what he had heard from his students. I canít remember much else about it. Iíve never been able to find that talk, exactly; it may simply be that I misremember what he was saying. So I found him interesting; nothing too powerful. But afterwards, there was a little informal tea, maybe 30 people sitting around in folding chairs, and I went up and sat right next to Suzuki Roshi and Okusan. Probably sat in a seat that was reserved for some senior student. We bowed, and we had tea, and servers came around and served tea and those little bean cake treats that are served sometimes at tea ceremony. I hadnít had dinner and I was hungry and they looked good, so I took two. And that wasnít what I expected. So I am sitting there with these treats, wondering what to do with the second one, somewhat embarrassing, trying to cover it up, find a way to sneak it out in my pocket. I canít remember what was discussed  at the tea. Nothing too powerful; it was very informal. But I remember liking Suzuki Roshi.

Charles sent me off to visit Norman Stiegelmeyer and look at some of his recent paintings, right after that, so we didnít stick around.

So that was my first meeting. I liked him. And then about two years later, it was during the first training period at Tassajara in 1967, John Veglia who was living in Monterey, was visiting, and we decided we would go off and visit Clark Mason, who we both knew, at Tassajara, maybe enjoy the hot baths. We were just out for a day trip and a lark. So in my old ??? we drove down there. It turns out it is training period and we are not entirely welcome. Dick Baker came out and somewhat politely suggested we could stick around for a couple of hours, but no baths, and be on our way. Clark showed us around and told us a little bit about Tassajara and the practice, and he showed us how to sit. That was my first introduction to the sitting posture. He gave us a fifteen-minute drill on how to sit. I donít remember actually meeting Suzuki Roshi. He was there. I think maybe I saw him but I donít remember talking to him.

So I thought that was pretty interesting and I started sitting on a sleeping bag at home. Ten, fifteen minutes at a time. I couldnít sit very long, my legs did not accommodate that posture yet. I thought, there is something here. And I did like Suzuki Roshi; I thought he did have something or other. So at the end of training period I went back to Tassajara and spent three days as a guest student, and really got introduced to the practice, and some of the people. I thought, well, yeah, this is something for me. I started sitting regularly at home, and gradually could sit a little bit longer, and worked my way up to finally to be able to sit for 40 minutes. I started going to lecture at Sokoji once a week. Sometimes I would go to sit and hear the lecture. Again, I donít think I had a particularly powerful hit off of Suzuki Roshi, but I liked him. I thought, Oh, this guy has something. In the spring of 1969 I went down again as a guest student for about ten days, and really got into it. What I remember is being enormously helped by Kobun Chino. A big help with adjusting posture. Oh, I think in that first three-day trip I had kind of given up in the middle of a period, brought my knees up, was kind of hunched over, figured Iíd had enough for that period! I remember he came up behind me, with this quiet little laugh, and he got me back into the posture. He was a big help in adjusting posture. And also was very friendly and accessible. Mark and I and some other people went on a hike to the Horse Pasture and then down around to the Narrows and back up, in the spring of 1969. On the way back we were walking above the Narrows back towards Tassajara, and I remember this beautiful depth of light; trees overhead. He stopped suddenly, looked up, and he drew an [imaginary] arrow and shot it at this bird, and gave us this big smileóhe knew he had hit the mark there.

One thing I should say about Suzuki Roshi is that for meóyeahóIím talking about Kobun just aboveóbut when Iím talking about Suzuki Roshi Iím just as much talking about his [assistants and] disciples, who were so helpful, enormously helpful to me. I especially remember Dan Welch and Reb, and you, David, and Niels, and a few others, who just really extended themselves to me and encouraged me in a wonderful way. It was probably shortly after that that I started sitting with Mel, whom Iíd met at Tassajara during one of these work periods, and had liked. I started going to the Berkeley Zendo, as it was called, on Dwight Way, a wonderful zendo up in the attic. I started sitting early in the morning and fairly regularly went to hear Suzuki Roshiís talks. I didnít have personal access to him at that time. Really the times when I had most access to him was when I was a guest student at Tassajara. I would go maybe twice a year for a week or ten days. It was wonderful just being around him. He didnít talk very much. I remember just hanging out to be close to him at tea, and enjoyed his presence. A kind of wonderful openness and lightness. I remember him standing at tea, in this wonderful dappled shade. Heíd be talking to students, and I would just be there very close, listening; didnít say much to him.

One afternoon I was assigned to help him with his rock garden. Our job was to moveóI donít know if you recall the big rock that was about, maybe waist height, in his gardenóit was kind of the most prominent feature in what became his rock garden. This was a rock down in what we now call Cabarga Creek. I think Alan Marlowe and Jeff Sherman and I, and Suzuki Roshi, were trying to move this rock up to where Suzuki Roshi wanted it in the garden. We were at it just the longest time. By tea time we had moved this thing about 2 or 3 feet! It was still very much in the creekbed, dry creekbed at that time. I remember thinkingówhy donít we just get a winch and get it out of there! But I was so happy to be working with Suzuki Roshi that I kept that to myself. I think I was trying to call attention to myself, to my great aesthetic appreciation of the rock, and he was pretty much ignoring me.

Then somehow, after a long time, magically we started moving this rock, and it started actually going up the creek bank. By the end of the work period we actually had it established where he wanted it, exactly the way he wanted it placed. He was just totally pleased. It was a magnificent rock. I was standing there, and he came up to me, and thanked me for helping. And bowed. I was justóI didnít bow back, I justósomething about the utter sincerity of his thanking this person that he seemed to be ignoring for the whole afternoon, that I just stood there, and didnít bow. I think I had some polite reply, perhaps. It really stopped me. He was so accepting and open. That was a quality that I picked up just hanging around him, the openness and the playfulness and the joy in just being there. I remember the way he crossed his hands; not exactly gassho. And he would just be chatting with students. That openness, I think, was a hallmark that I noticed in many contexts. On my rakusu he put the robe chant, to the right of my Buddhist name. For the character Mu, I see six little birds, on branches, doves. When I sit, these birds are part of my sitting space. They are there in this lovely Mu.

Some years later, very much when he was alive, I went out of my way to try to be with him at every possible opportunity. Probably to an awkward degree. And again, I didnít talk to him much; I just liked to be around him. I remember after I mentioned those two photographs from Jeff, about his and Gretchenís wedding, afterwards there was a little tea reception in the dining room. Suzuki Roshi was sitting by himself on one of those high-backed kind of yellowish chairs, the armchairsóthose big pieces. I was sitting on the rug a few feet away. I was fiddling with the camera, and the lenses, and doing some busy work. I was really kind of waiting for the moment to take the portrait that I wanted. He sat there without speaking for about 20 minutes, I think. I guess he looked at him and he just looked so beat, so utterly exhausted, that I didnít have the heart to get him to pose for the photograph. So he just sat there, without talking.

Iíve read so many of the talks on your cuke.com site, and heard some of your lectures, that I can no longer remember what I actually heard, personally, versus what Iíve read and heard later. I remember some specific lectures on the Sandokai at Tassajara. One time I was down there about a week or so. They didnít have a particular impact, but many of his lectures had growing impact and became a kind of focal point of my week. I'd go hear him during the week sometimes, at Sokoji and then later at Page Street. But I didnít really have much access to him in the City, only at Tassajara was I able to get close to him.

So, here we are, sitting next to this portrait. [see cover of Not Always So above] Take a good look at that. I think very much that this might have been a photograph that he wanted us to have. I remember reading on cuke.com your account of ??? photograph of him in the zendo, with the stickówhich I have, actually, in my room. That too is, I think, a photo that he wanted us to have. So he may have communicated, I think, extremely [well in this (unclear)] regard. And of course the talks. Ed has done a wonderful job of editing, I feel heís kept the voice so vivid and unadorned, it really makes him come alive. And itís nice to see, here, on cuke [and shunryusuzuki.com] sometimes, unedited.

I get a distinct of sense of him when we talk about Suzuki Roshi or we are talking about ourselves, but one thing I notice in reading all of the interviews of cuke.com is how people very often go into a very private space when telling their stories, a very privileged space, shall we say. Some kind of special voice. I know most of these peopleósome of them I didnít actually knowóbut there is some quality in these interviews that you are creating, a kind of clarity and presence. I think thatís pretty typical of the interviews. I think Iíve probably read them all.

[some conversation about the recording process]

DC: Itís interesting where you say about people getting into a space. The most difficult people to get are the ones that have some sort of teaching position. Psychiatrists or therapists can be difficult, or people who authority, but people who donít have a reputation, who just sat there, open up a little more. ... some people I had to give up on. Some say, well thatís private. Then I say, good - less work for me.

RL: It is very apparent to me, also having read most of the interviews, that it is very obvious that youíre being respectful of the intervieweesí wishes not to have certain things.. you know, somebody criticizing somebody, for example.

DC: I wonít put that up and a few things I held back but I've included some criticism of Richard Baker if it's not just unhelpful anger because he's a public figure.

BP: I wish I could tell you something critical, but I canít.

RL: Sex, sexual innuendoes, adventures, things like that, arenít there,

BP: Well, he never talked about those.

RL: That marvelous story about somebody having him, she thought that she had attraction to him, she didnít have the strength to resist him, and he said, I have enough strength for both of us.

DC: Thatís not anonymous. Itís from Toni Johansen. And some people just had a tendency, especially East Coast people, New York... to rant or sometimes to tell stories that are glorifying themselves and putting down others. Sometimes I wonít put that. I have some critical stuff on Suzuki Roshi I haven't included yet, in one case because it makes the person who's saying it look bad and I want to talk to her more, and in the other it involves a woman who was raped by a student there and she felt like she was manipulated by Suzuki to protect the ZC I need to get her permission to put it on and what to use and what not to and we've had so much communication and yeah, I should get on both of those.

BP: Well, I wish I could tell you something critical about Suzuki Roshi. I just didnít know him that well.

DC:  Well, what happened with you since then? When was the last time you saw him.

BP: At the Mountain Seat Ceremony [when he made Richard Baker abbot].

DC: What do you remember about it?

BP: How he leaned on his staff, his leathery dark appearance and frailty. I remember the last time I bowed to him, I actually got so into the bow I didnít really look at him very long. The bowing thing I mentionedóIíll tell you a little story, about bowing, about years of going out of my way to try to bow to him.  Some years later, it must have been my first training period at Tassajaraóthat would have been the fall of í73? It was the Fall of í72, and the spring and summer of í72. I was jikido [zendo cleaner]. I liked being jikido. What I found was that if you really went all out all day long you could actually do everything on the list. I tried my best! I remember one time they were rehearsing for Rebís shuso [head monk] ceremony, and I was really pissed off that they were taking away my space and my work time. They did a rehearsal for an hour or so and they wanted me to stop cleaning. I really loved doing itóI liked to throw myself into it.

I was sleeping in the zendo after the day of the jikido. You may recall how that old floor of zendo kind of creakedóprobably from heat and cold, expansion. During the night I heard these footsteps walking past me up towards the altar. You may call this a dream, if you want. I got up and turned around, and it was clearly Suzuki Roshi, and there was this very pale blue light, as if the burner on a gas stove was turned down to the very tiniestówell there was this blue light throughout the zendo, and he was approaching the altar, got up to the altar, bowed and ascended to the tan, and as he turned it was as if his robes were some kind of rheostat valve. As he turned the robes turned around and turned the color code up from dim blue to the brightest orange, and he was enveloped in a penumbra of flames around him. I was really startled, and a little afraid, but Hello, it was Suzuki Roshi, hereís a chance, so I walked up to the front and bowed. And he looked down and very matter-of-factly said, ďItís not necessary to bow in this situation.Ē And then he said a bunch of other stuff about my life and practice, and I was sitting there the next day at lunch, thinking, Oh, that was important, but I couldnít remember it!

So I guess thatís just a personalization of the ďnot always soĒ teaching. I think this kind of wonderful freedom that I thought I was experiencing from him, he somehow gave me the ???, Oh, I could do that. And I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and so many people helped me with practice. Because I didnít get to see Suzuki Roshi in the City, I saw Katagiri, and developed a wonderful relationship with Katagiri Roshi. The other students were so helpful and encouraging to me. I feel that they were an extension of Suzuki Roshi in their own way. I donít remember if I mentioned Mel. He was at the Berkeley Zendo when I was practicing there and was one of the people that an enormous help to me in the early years. He probably got me assigned to that rock crew. He was there that summer.

DC: Anything you want to say about your life since then? What you have done...

BP: Well, I am still alive, and still trying to practice. I donít know, it seems like itís been at least a couple of lives since that time. All my time at Tassajara was pretty transformative. The experience of practicing there...[few words inaudible]... Iím sure that affects my daily life. I lived at Page Street for a good number of years after that. I had a wonderful time at Zen Center with Dan.

DC: Now heís abbot at Crestone...assistant abbot, soon to become the abbot.

BP: Well heís been essentially acting that way for years. He was one of my teachers, he singled me out in some way. Especially when we were assigned to try to start of the Whole Earth household store, when we acquired Whole Earth, the catalog. And so we moved the store up to the basement of what was then the guest house.

DC: What year was that?

BP: The same year that Greens was getting started.

DC: í79.

BP: We would go down to Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and Dan would talk and he was ??? advisor, and I was trying to learn the ropes. I was going to be the book buyer and Dan was going to manage the store. We were assigned to find a retail space. We had a lot of fun trotting around trying to locate a space, and looking at various spaces together, and just having a great time in the process.

DC: Michael Katz and Bill Lane worked on that too.

BP: Later, later. What happened was Zen Center pulled the plug on our efforts; Greens was needing that energy, and couldnít do both, really.

DC: Dan was a tremendously important person at Greens.

BP: We had this great thing planned, and it would have been terrific! Later, Bill and Arnie got the project out at Fort Mason that went for a few years, at least.

DC: Really, a few years?

BP: I think a couple of years. A while. Then essentially they lost the space to, I think, the Mexican museum.

RL: The bookcases left over from that.???

Brits: It was a nice effort. Anyway, so Dan and I had a lot of fun trying to get that together and brainstorm that together. I remember one time I was painting the baths, must have been like an interim work period. Silas was in charge. Another great assignment, because the light was so beautiful, that blue, standing in the baths, painting, the old baths. And we got to the end of the day, Silas wanted us to finish. Then he said, you guys head off to service and Iíll clean up. I felt a little odd about that, but he was in charge, so I left for service. Next morning it was the day off, and Dan comes up to me, and says, ďYou know, Britton, at Tassajara we always clean up after ourselves.Ē So he took me over to the bathsó

DC: He had just left it?

BP: He'd put it in the thinner. I guess he figured we would come back the next day. Anyway so Dan and I cleaned the brushes. I didnít take it as a put down. I was happy to work with Dan, and just be there doing it with them.

So Dan was giving me this great piece of advice. You remember the tone that people used, ďYou know at Tassajara we....Ē

DC: It's fine to leave the brushes in the thinner. Silas was experienced and knew that. Dan was just following another way of doing it which he thought was right for Tassajara. I had a similar way of doing it to Silas when I had a paint crew, I liked getting them to paint until the second it was all through, then I had them all put their brushes in water, or thinner, whatever, and usually I would clean them all but sometimes I'd leave them till we came back to work. Youíd get so much more done that way, than getting everybody to clean their own brush which most work leaders thought of as an important practice.

Where are you from?

BP: San Antone.

DC: No kidding. I forgot about that.

BP: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, and lived there until I was eight years old. And loved it.

DC: You really donít seem like a Texan.

BP: Well, I talk Texan.  I moved to LA when I was 8.  I was born in 1940. So this is the war, the prelude, and San Antonio you remember was a big militaryóthere were quire a few air bases and military bases. So everyone was a little bit crazy, I think. As I was being born, and after. But the Alamoóin my auntís back yard I had a little miniature Alamo, it was a doghouse about half the size of that couch. I would sometimes crawl in,  with this little dog, I guess it was my cousinís dog, and would hang out in this Alamo replica in the back yard.

DC: You went to Stanford, and then Cal...

BP: I went to grammar school in San Antonio, and I spent summers in the country. My cousins had a big Jersey farm, near P??? San Gio???. So I would spend big parts of the summer in the country. Then later, went to church camp, Camp ??? [Rio magina?] on the Magina??? river, near ??? maybe, a couple of hours from San Antonio, west and maybe a little bit north. I would spend several months in the summer at this church camp and loved it. I was designated best camper in my second year.

DC: The camp I went to didnít have best camper. In Colorado, there was a guy who thought he was going to get it and didnít get it, and practically burned the lodge down. That had happened years before. So they eliminated best camper.

BP: I donít know if it was any big deal! We had a great time, canoeing, and we would do an electrified fence number---would get a chainóof course the one at the end gets kickedóthe end of the line. We played archery, golf, we found Indian beads and little arrowheads I think must have been planted in some cave...the beads for sure...So we had this country kid kind of great experience. Horseback riding, bareback riding, fishing, chasing grasshoppers, in the hot Texas sun. My sister lived in LA, and I was quite excited about moving to Hollywood!ógiven the fact that it was in LA. Actually it was near what is now the Zen Center. It is just down the street.

DC: Near Koreatown?

BP: It was a kind of a very nice, middle class Jewish neighborhood, with a little commercial street and lots of quite well kept apartment buildings. I was astonished when I went down to visit the Zen Center...

DC: Itís not on Normandy now.

BP: At the time it was about two blocks down from where I lived. Steve Bodian was down there; I was visiting him. I was living at Page Street, and I think I helped the woman who was running the bookstore, giving her some points about how to operate a bookstore.

I went to ???Wilkin Place grammar school in LA. John B??? Junior. I was quite saddened when we moved to Sacramento in the ninth grade. Leave my friends, my schoolmates, and I loved LA. Sacramento was kind of a ??? close to a lot of ???.

DC: Youíre not the first person Iíve heard say that.???

[I know this stuff doesn't matter. I'm just curious so I leave it in for Brit to correct. - dc]

BP: Although right now I think I would enjoy it much more, living there. But it was a much less interesting place at the time. So I went off to Stanford for a couple of years. I was a non-student on campus for about a year, then moved to Berkeley, changed to English studies. I started outóI had a scholarship to go to Stanford as an engineering student. So this background as an engineering student allowed me to have a terrific summer job in Sacramento, ???  making  ??? good interesting job, not technical...they kept hiring me back every summer, and let me work on vacations. I saved up ???, deal where the night watchman at this place, which was out in West Sacramento, on the river, they had retired, and temporary thing to hire a couple of us single guys  to help around on the staff there and let them do the watchman thing. So I would show up at 10:00, look around, check the ???, go to bed, and be paid for a few daysí work at night, regular salary, which was a nice little nest egg. I worked for Aerojet for a year, ??? rocket propellant engineering, Titan missile.

DC: Was that while you were still in college?

BP: I dropped out of Stanford for a year. Because I had some experience, and ??? where to stay, and I had this classwork, transcript, that allowed me to get hired for these jobs. The Aerojet job was actually right south ??? they were shorthanded. It was during the Kennedy space age, Sputnik trying to catch up, there was lots of money, lots of overtime. I had tons of money from overtime.

DC: And you studied what in Berkeley?

BP: English. I thought I was going to be an English professor.

DC: Wow. After making all that money in the space program you wanted to be an English professor?

BP: Well, I still got a very good job with the Feds in Berkeley as an engineering technician, at half time. Again, working half time and having plenty of money to live on. Graduate student, little basement studio. Beautiful Berkeley hills place.

DC: What were you doing?

BP: At  Aerojet, about the first six months, was just learning. I was analyzing rocket ???s, there would be a lot of telemetry, and what we were trying to do was to balance the engines so they wouldnít blow up. They were trying to sell them to the Air Force. These were supposed to go on the Titan missile. I never worked on the missile per se, -- these were the first and second stage liquid rockets. I would be monitoring telemetry, because I was young, there were kind of using me for a little bit of a gofer. I had a badge that allowed me to go to a lot of places. Most people could only go to one or two sections, for security reasons. But because I was doing errand type things, I got to go out to the test sites...

RL: When people say, ďYou donít need to be a rocket scientist?Ē you know they are not talking about you.

BP: Not me. What I would do is I would get this data, I would do some graphic analysis, and I would enter some data. I remember in those days you would take this stack of IBM computer cards to this locked room, and youíd give it to some technician in a white coat, and then you would come back two hours later and get the data analyzed, then we would use that. We were just putting little check points in the fuel lines to allow either more or less fuel, more or less oxygen, etc. Not blow up, which they would do occasionally. I loved it. I sort of liked all this secrecy stuff. Locked cabinets and all that.

RL: You said you heard Suzuki Roshi lecture in fall of í65? So when did you realize that you were a man living in the body of a beatnik Zen person?

BP: Well, all these things were concurrent. I was very much involved in the antiwar movement. This was Vietnam. So that was a big part of my life. I was also a part of ??? drugs, and whatever, ??? it was that whole Leary Alpert romantic thing about psychedelics at the time. And like many of us I was ???. It wasnít until two years later that I went he showed us how to sit, and I started gradually sitting ten, fifteen, twenty minutes at a time. I think the time when I said, Oh, Iím going to be a Zen student, was maybe the spring of í69.

Berkeley Zendo was a great place to practice. Small scale. Suzuki Roshi used to come over for dharma talks. Monday morning we would have breakfast. Maybe eight people sitting there, afterwards. Sometimes other teachers would come. Sometimes there would beóPeter Schneider, he was there. Sometimes Peter or Silas would come over and give a talk, or Bill Kwong.

RL: Really? Mel didnít give talks in the City.

DC: Only Silas. The only person who gave a talk in the City before Dick Baker got back from Japan, before Suzuki Roshi died, was Silas - as I remember.

BP: Oh, well they were allowed to come over, in fact Mel didnít give the talks, as I remember, until later. I remember for sure Kobun came, and Katagiri. But for sure Peter Schneider, for sure Dan Welch, for sure Bill Kwong. Would give the dharma talk, I think it was Monday morning.

DC: This was before Suzuki Roshi died?

BP: Yeah. He had stopped coming, probably his health, and being busy. At a certain point he didnít come as often. Katagiri would come. Sometimes Katagiri would come for a weekend and do a sitting. I was his Jisha [attendant]. He would just be running circles around me and I'd be trying to catch up.

DC: Yeah, he was very important back then.

BP: He was an important teacher for me. Kobun was another.

DC: You know there is a thing about turning in memories of Kobun, by November first?

BP: I have a little story about Kobun. Kobun came over to the Berkeley Zendo. It was a evening thing, and he stayed over, and he gave a talk in the little attic zendo. Someone asked him about getting rid of attachment, and he smiled and said, Oh, Iím sorry, we are just attachment from head to toe.Ē

DC: Katrinka and I went to the memorial site at Felsentor above Lake Lucern where he drowned.

BP: I heard various accounts... how could that have happened?

DC: I didnít ask Vanja. I didnít ask him where it was...I just let him say what he had to say and take us where he took us. It was a real tragedy. Most deaths arenít tragic.

BP: That one, particularly. I have a kind of visual imagination of the whole event. Panic...

DC: And also, his wife, who could swim, going off for help.

He had just moved to Naropa, he had a new start going on there, he had been struggling for so long... I would call them in Santa Cruz and when I had some money I would take them all out to eat at their favorite Japanese restaurant. Earlier he lived with Steve Jobs for some time.

BP: On the property.

DC: It was Steve Jobs who was putting him up. But he wouldnít support him unless he was there. Bob Watkins told me that. Bob ran the zendo in Taos, he would call Jobs up and ask him if he would help Kobun.

RL: ??? Tassajara______ Steve Jobs and Kobun came in together. I happened to be a guest. It was long after I had lived there, so I canít remember exactly when it was.

[bit of discussion about the recording equipment]


transcribed July 2012 by Layla Smith