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About Suzuki Roshi
4/8/03 letter from Mitsu Suzuki, Shunryu
Suzuki's widow, to DC
translated by Hideko Petchey, edited by DC - see notes below
David-san, Clayton-san*, Hideko-san,
Today is Hanamatsuri*, Buddha’s birthday. I picked flowers in my garden, placed them on the Buddha’s alter, sang the first verse of the song called "Children’s Hanamatsuri" and offered incense. That was my own celebration. Later I attended a Zen gathering at Rinsoin* in the afternoon and poured amacha* over the statue.
I affectionately recall how amacha was purchased all the way from Kyoto for the celebration of Hanamatsuri in Zen Center every year. When I went to the United States in 1961, together with Zen Center participants, I joined the parade* to the Peace Pagoda in Japan Town and poured the amacha over the wooden statue* created by George Hagiwara*.
Many years have passed. When Suzuki-roshi died, I thought I had lost my strength and would not survive until my 67th year, the age at which he died. I have now lived thirty years* more since I was 57 when I lost him. I feel I survived for the sake of all the Zen Center people’s kindness. I was allowed to live more than twenty years* in Zen Center teaching tea. During that period, I never had any uncomfortable incident and everybody there was so respectful and nice to me.
After I returned to Japan in 1993, I kept on seeing the people from Zen Center who visited Rinso-in. Exchanging our unchangeable friendship with my limited English was my joy beyond anything.
Last year, I was so comforted by Clayton’s kindness in Tassajara. I wanted to send some small Christmas present to him to express my feeling since it was by my side*.
Time passed so quickly. It is already the 10th year since I returned to live in my old home town. I go out everyday to the park nearby the beach with Mt. Fuji behind and Suruga Bay, with the greatest variety of fish in Japan, in front, and pray for world peace looking towards the United Sates far across the ocean. I do this even on rainy days if it is light. Then, I talk to anyone old, young, children and foreigners, sometimes giving them some candy. That is my wonderful daily chore.
The grass was yellow and dry a while ago but now, it becomes greener day by day. Crows and hawks are flying over. The sea in spring is really beautiful. I am a self-appointed tour guide of the park and the park rangers are my friends. I sometimes take care of the children who lost their way home. In the fields, peaches, cherries, pears and yellow mustard are blooming. This is the most beautiful season of the year in Japan.
David-san, I read your book through Asaoka-san’s translation* many many times and was deeply moved by your efforts. Asaoka-san does not mention anything about publishing it any more. That would be your business. Suzuki-roshi is not known among the Japanese. I am quite OK about it.*
I have no idea about the psychic world.* I am strongly feeling I am with my husband at this moment. This is quite clear to me.
Mr. Zendo Matsunata, from the International Division of Eiheiji* sent me a letter describing Suzuki-roshi as Dogen in the modern world. This statement to me is a high honor.
I just wanted to put my pen to paper today.
NOTES by DC
* Clayton - my 12 year old son.
* Konnichiwa - Good day.
* Hanamatsuri - literally, flower festival
* Rinsoin - Shunryu Suzuki's temple in Yaizu, Japan, now run by his son Hoitsu
* Amacha - sweet tea
* All over Japan on Buddha's birthday, in Buddhist temples, people pour sweet tea from ladles over a statue of the baby Buddha.
* Parade - Assumed in this image is that the Japanese American congregation at Sokoji comprised the bulk of the procession. I've seen pictures of it and, as I remember it, it was a Sokoji event, not one of the general Japanese- American population.
* George Hagiwara was the president of the Japanese-American congregation and always a good friend of Suzuki's zazen students.
* Thirty years more - actually, thirty-two years. Hideko's translation also said that it had been forty years rather than many. But that's wrong too.
* She lived at the City Center in San Francisco for 22 years after his death, returning in 1993.
* Not sure what this means but I left it in. I guess it means since she had that feeling with her, felt that way.
* Asaoka-san, a member of the Takakusayama-kai, comprised of men who lived at Rinsoin during the war when they were students, translated Crooked Cucumber for family and friends to read. There has been interest in publishing it, but, according to authorities I know, it needs a lot of work and the business of getting a new translator and a contract and all is daunting and complicated and hard for me to do when I'm always behind the eight ball financially. Someday soon I hope to get this done. It could be an important book for Japan but it needs to be done right.
* Psychic world - I wrote to Mrs. Suzuki in March or so thanking her for her generous Christmas gift to Clay, mentioning that I haven't forgotten about the translation business and telling her that in interviewing a psychic (Ann Armstrong with her husband Jim) for the oral history, that she had psychically contacted Shunryu Suzuki. Toward the end of that reading, Ann had said he wanted to know if anyone knew how to get hold of his wife. I said yes and Ann said that he said to please say hello to her and to tell her that she was a great partner and friend and taught him what love was. This tape is being transcribed now and I'll get that interview on the site before long I hope. Anyway, I didn't know how Mrs. Suzuki would take this sort of info but I felt obligated to convey this message to her - even though it's not something that can be proved to be true.
* Eiheiji - one of the two head temples of the Soto Zen sect
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