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Jack Weller Remembers Suzuki and Trungpa

10-17-18 - Jack Weller Shares Suzuki - at SFZC City Center - livestream Vimeo.

Transcription of the video below begins, like the video, after Jack has been talking.

He's reading from a book he's been working on.


Kobun Chino was at Tassajara my whole year.

My first night here. It feels to me like I'm making a powerful connection between Suzuki Roshi and the Zen tradition from Indian, China, Japan and this new Zen Center were building in the US. A few days later DC joins me living in the building (not true – I was at Tass) and a few days after that Bob Halpern also moves in. For the next few weeks we three are the only people living in the Zen Center building as Mrs. Michaelson (sp?) and the workers have moved out. One day Suzuki Roshi comes over when there were just the three of us and I walk through the building with him. He goes into one of the rooms on the third floor looking out on Page Street. Suzuki Roshi is clearly very happy about the building. He's …and smiling and chatting in a way I haven't experienced before. He seems thrilled and joyful about what is happening. He looks at the window at the building across the street on the other corner of Page and Laguna and says, "We should buy that building too." And laughed. My memory of this moment with Suzuki Roshi stays with me strongly over the years. I know he's not completely serious, but Zen Center had recently complete the purchase of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. And now they're completing the purchase (?) of a large, elegant building as the City Center. The key person on fundraising … in this expansion is Richard Baker, Zen Center's most senior (not true) disciple. But I feel there is some element of seriousness in Zen Center's statement at the window. After Zen Center's death, when RB is abbot, he leads Zen Center in purchasing a number of … buildings in the neighborhood.

In 1970 the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa moved to the US from Scotland and comes to visit Suzuki Roshi at 300 Page Street. The two of them met upstairs in Zen Center's room. After Trungpa left, a few of us student residents are sitting talking in this dining room. Right over there – when Suzuki Roshi walks in and sits with us. That was part of the magic of living with him. He'd just appear. I and I think the other students are still getting used to actually living in the same building with Suzuki Roshi. Our talking has stopped.(?) Our teacher has joined us. There's a period of silence. Then Suzuki Roshi speaks and I remember these words. "I could never accept Alan's drinking, but Trungpa is something else. He paused. Trungpa is practicing very hard. I almost immediately realized that Alan must be Alan Watts, a teacher who had introduced Zen Buddhism to my mother and myself and thousands of others with his brilliant lectures on public radio in the 1950s as well as his many books. I also know that he lived in the SF Bay Area and that in the latter part of his life, Alan Watts was an alcoholic and died of cirrhosis of the liver (not true – cause of death attributed to heart attack but no autopsy) and that he and Suzuki Roshi knew each other pretty well. Zen Center's words are very strong (?) to me and on another visit to Zen Center, I get to know Chogyam Trungpa and his new young wife, Diana ( born Oct. 8, 1953 and married at 16 so likely in 1969) who was only 16 when they married. I invite them to the horse rental place in GG Park so Diana can go riding. And while waiting for her and talking to Trungpa, he reaches into his pocket and drinks from a silver flask. Trungpa and I were the same age and had a good (?) relationship and I agreed to take him to meet Haridas Chaudhuri, the founder and director of the CIIS (California Ins.of Integral Studies). I also joined him and Diana at his request with my girlfriend when he lectures in San Diego. We spend time together as two couples. But my girlfriend tells me do not leave her alone with Trungpa. She said she can feel his sexual energy drawing her to him and felt she wouldn't be able to resist. Trungpa suggested I become his student but it's very clear to me that I cannot do that. It makes me appreciate my teacher Suzuki Roshi more deeply. Suzuki Roshi is much less dramatic and colorful than Trungpa – Suzuki Roshi more ???.(repeats prior sentence) but to me Suzuki Roshi has a very particular authenticity and depth and we have such a genuine personal but not personal magic relationship. I keep up with Trungpa to some extent over the next year and some of my closest friends become his students. Trungpa says that he has a special relationship with people like myself whom he met and who helped him when he first arrived in the US. Our last meeting ?? some years after Suzuki Roshi had passed away, Trungpa encourages me to continue my regular daily zazen practice just as Suzuki Roshi always encouraged me. I have a feeling that Suzuki Roshi is speaking through Trungpa. That still feels remarkable today.

Q: about Suzuki Roshi relationship with his wife.

When I (or the one I) started it was with both of them at Tassajara. She often came to Tassajara. Not during the practice period.?? I had a very close relationship with Okusan. Okusan mean "woman of the house" and that's what we called her. And a very fun relationship with her. One thing about the relationship is that Okusan after – I went to Kobun Chino. KC was a young monk who was at Tassajara ?? teacher and when I started teaching in SF, I sometimes invited KC to teach as a guest in my class. And Okusan worried about him. ?? in a ?? way. So I would see Okusan and she would almost immediately say, "How is Kobun?" So I felt my relationship with Okusan was related to my relationship with Kobun Chino because she was worried about him. I think she knew he could get into trouble and had trouble ?? and actually died by drowning. She was motherly – to me too. I felt a mothering experience with Okusan.

He says to Mary Watson, "You want to say something about her."

MW: "Yes. I studied tea ceremony with her for many many years. It was a great honor and she would always save something for Suzuki Roshi. She had a memorial for him (a little more)

Another woman (Vicki I think) comments saying we'd have to spend a whole evening on Mrs. Suzuki and that she had a very mischievous relationship with Suzuki Roshi and how they'd go to Tass with Della, Betty and a Japanese American woman and go to the ashes site and when she was done she'd say loudly, "Bad husband! Bad Husband! Good teacher – bad husband!" and more…

Q – About how did the neighborhood respond to Zen Center moving in.

JW: The kids were very fascinated by what Zen Center was and the door was open to come to zazen and they would come in like three of them and they would say, "Meditation! Meditation!" and they'd go wow. And they were trying to figure out what …?? And I can remember a couple of times Suzuki Roshi talking with them and – where there's a restaurant across the street, there was a grocery store. And someone held it up and the owner of the store killed them [Before Zen Center there male Chinese owner killed in robbery. After that wife killed two robbing it]. And someone was killed right here on Lily and there was blood on the sidewalk for weeks and weeks. And prostitutes and it was a real challenge.

(Reading something he wrote from back then). It's the end of the fall winter practice period and we're doing a seven days sesshin and Suzuki Roshi is giving dharma talks. He says, "I don't feel like I can really trust you," to all of us. If I am too hard on you, I think I'll hear the cars going up the road as you leave," and then he goes varoom! Like the sound of a car and he laughs. This statement stays with me and now some days later there's a ceremony at the end of the sesshin where each student asks Suzuki Roshi a question. When it's my turn I say, and I found this in the website, "Roshi, I'm troubled by your saying you don't trust us." Suzuki Roshi laughed and said, I want to encourage you to stick to something not in terms of good or bad, like water keeping a lower place. I want to see your practice like the water and then I can trust you." I say to him, "So we can trust you but you cannot trust us." Suzuki Roshi replied, "Yes, maybe I'm trying to stick to something. We stick to our practice just like water flowing to a lower place. I want to trust you to continue your practice, not because it's a good thing or a bad thing." As I listen to him, I felt a connection to the many times he'd talked about non dualism and I think this is another example. He's saying not to practice because it's a good thing to do or for any benefit you may achieve since that implies a dualistic separation between yourself and the practice, but rather to practice automatically without thoughts or feelings the way that water naturally flows downhill. At other times in a similar way, Suzuki Roshi has talked about how he feels he has to give us candy so we will continue our practice. At the end of the ceremony, I'm content with my question and it feels very right to me, this issue of trust and non-dualistic practice continues to be important to me in the coming years. And that continues today . ??

And I was thinking a while ago, "What did Suzuki Roshi say about non dualism?" and I opened up ZMBM and it is on the first page to my surprise and I'd totally forgotten that.

This is the last one. (page) This is the one I'm working on now. And I want to introduce ?? She's my friend and she's helping me write it. We work there at CIIS.

When I moved into this building, I was given the job of starting a library so I was the librarian, and after a year or so, I decided we should sell books too and I started the bookstore. I like to start things. And also I worked at the Studies Center.

This is still in process (what he's reading). The last dharma talk. I've left my job as librarian and bookstore manager to my old friend Carl Ray. Carl is a professional bookstore manager from Los Angeles and he wants to come up and move into Zen Center. I'm delighted that Carl can take the bookstore to a new and professional level – and he did.

It's just before what I feel was Suzuki Roshi's last dharma talk. I've moved out of Zen Center to a building two doors up the street into an apartment at 340 Page Street. It's a nice apartment at the front of the building on the third floor. I'm the first Zen student to move into that building. [when did Della?] It's owned by a brother and a sister. And I continue my daily practice at Zen Center.

Suzuki Roshi asked me to be treasurer of Zen Center and I said no – I felt – and he accepted it and it was hard. Saying no to Suzuki Roshi about the treasurer as his health was deteriorating, I could see that he was focusing his last energy on his close ordained disciples and our relationship felt less strong. Also Richard Baker had returned from Japan and much of Zen Center's energy was going toward preparing Richard Baker to take over. It was announced that on November 21st, 1971, there will be a Mountain Seat Ceremony installing Richard as the new abbot of Zen Center. On that day I arrived at the ceremony quite early knowing there would be many people and I wanted to fully tune in to the event while being seated in the back. It's an elaborate ceremony coordinated by Katagiri Roshi as he is now called [he was called that before then by suggestion of Suzuki – maybe a year before] he ?? teacher and Kobun Sensei. The time came for Suzuki Roshi to arrive and we began to hear the sound of the staff pounding on the floor. Suzuki Roshi appeared with his son from Japan on one side, and his wife, Okusan, on the other side helping him to stand and walk. He walked very slowly. He looked terrible. His skin was jaundiced and a yellow brown color and a ferocious look was on his face. There's a picture in the Wind Bell. Almost immediately people began to cry. The sound of the continuing pounding of his staff on the floor, mixed with the sound of people crying and I was crying too (?) transfixed. Soon after, I realized, this was Suzuki Roshi's last dharma talk to us – the pounding of the staff and the ringing of the bell on top. The sound itself was the talk, the teisho – that's my question. [end of reading]

In the months before [summer before – June 6, 1970] this happened, I was teaching a class at SF State and I brought the class to Tassajara. And Suzuki Roshi was giving a lecture at that time on the Sandokai. And he interrupted the series of lectures on the SDK and gave - it's ?? on the SDK but also a broad –cause it was for my class. And then he had a dharma talk for my students the next day on the porch in front of the dining room. And in the talk to my class – and the other students, there was question and answer but not from my students at that time. He saved it for the next day. ?? And he talked about taiso. And one or more times he went (tapping something off camera) This can be taiso. The meaning – I looked it up in Rinzai – it's a special part of a formal where ?? giving a dharma talk. But in Soto it's different. And so where I am now is I'm trying to understand that. The students asked him to talk about taiso. And I wondered where it came from ?? and I thought the students must have gotten it from Suzuki Roshi before. And it means a very intimate connection. What Suzuki Roshi said, he said, "I don't want to say this but I have to say it. I'm sharing my enlightenment with you." That's what taiso is.

Q: Would you please repeat.

JW: He said I'm sharing my enlightenment. He didn't want to say that. He didn't like to talk about enlightenment. And that lecture that he gave to my class of students who were at Tassajara – you know, people have told me, that sometimes you go to lecture, a Buddhist lecture or whatever – and it seems like he person is speaking to you – and I had that feeling about that lecture. And so here I am fifty years later still figuring out what he means in that lecture. That's a good place to stop.

I have one more thing to say. Sangen (?)– when she wrote this – when I dictated it to her – she cried.