Interview with Phillip Wilson
Interviewed by DC on the phone before 1998
Phillip’s main Buddhist name given by Shunryu Suzuki was Katsuzen. There's a second part I'll get later. He started studying with Shunryu Suzuki in 1960. Suzuki ordained him as a priest in March of 1964 or 65 [I'm a little confused right now and must look into it] just before he went to be a monk at Eihiji in Japan. He was the second shuso, head monk, at Tassajara - in 1968. This is a long and often strange interview with Phillip who was quite eccentric. I suggest reading Phillip Wilson as found in Crooked Cucumber first. Some of the best information about Phillip comes from other sources. Phillip died in July of 2007. More on that later when I include emails from his former wife, JJ Wilson, and friend Jeanie Stearns and an interview with JJ. - DC
PW: At first Dick Baker and Graham Petchey and myself were good friends. I was always going to their place. I loved their wives and their children. I'd do the same thing with Graham. We were always messing around and going to the movies together and stuff like that. After I came back from Japan that changed. The atmosphere changed. Della and Jean Ross -- she got so she couldn't stand the group. She felt like an outsider. She didn't work with them. I felt her feelings. Although I was just bullheaded and said I'll just take what comes each day. But I could feel her feelings and could sense there was something different.
JJ [Phil’s wife] made a comment later about Dick. She said he and I never did get along. She said she never really felt like he was a friend. Maybe JJ was sharing that with me and I didn't know it. Maybe the hostility was coming out from that side of the relationship. You know JJ. You figure it out. Maybe there's something there, maybe there isn't. Or maybe something was coming from Peter Schneider. All I know is those guys did not accept me. It was always like I was sort of -- well what are you guys doing? It was like they were a group and I was the outsider. Partly it was because Reverend Suzuki had said for me not to get into that. The other part is I just don't think they wanted me there.
DC: I think that's true. I think you were on a different wave length. You marched to a different drummer.
PW: I don't know how you saw me, but I really didn't feel like I was part of anything except when I was shuso. [head monk – at Tassajara – 2nd practice period, spring 1968].
DC: I felt that you were very close to Suzuki Roshi which was the important thing. The rest of it was the social reality.
PW: My hangup has always been that I've always been able to make one or two good friends. I tried at Stanford to sit around a conference table and talk, like on the student whatever it is. I couldn't do shit, man. I'd get around that table. These little girls would be perking up with little ideas, let's do this, let's do that. Parliamentary procedure and the whole thing. I'd be looking like I was a monkey just out of my cage. I tried going over to the alumni association. I knew the students were going over there. These guys would be popping along there. I just couldn't do it. A part of me is dysfunctional when it comes to integrated social activities. You put that in terms of the sangha and that becomes an issue. Why aren't you getting along with your fellow monks? Why aren't you one? Don't you know you're one?
But I would just love Suzuki. So part of it is my own problem. Like Suzuki said things go the way the mind goes. So everyone could have been following the way I was. That was part of it.
The other thing is I've never really had any problems with talking to people and being social. But when it comes to groups I don't get close. I talk and I'm friendly, but I'm not close. That's part of my Kentucky thing.
DC: Does your ancestry go back to Kentucky or is that a metaphor?
PW: We came in with Daniel Boone. We're original hillbillies. In fact when I was doing some work on Indians I asked my mom -- because part of my family is Shawnee Indian.
DC: Interesting. My father’s mother in Texas said she was part Comanche.
PW: There was Cherokee in Texas because the Long March, part of them went to Texas, and part went to Oklahoma, and part went to Arkansas. There were 3 or 4 exoduses, and depending on the different chiefs they went different ways. The Texas branch has several clans. Some have died out. Some have forgotten who they were.
DC: Quanah Parker was the last great Comanche chief. My grandmother was a Parker. She said she was descended from Parker.
PW: I remember there were 2 or 3 main groups. There was one group that remained in Tennessee.
DC: Wasn't it Cherokee law that they'd tell a troublemaker – you go into the peace lodge and we won't pound you to death. Then they'd transform him in there with meditation.
PW: Right. They had precepts. Meditation. They refused to leave Tennessee because they were in charge of taking care of those mountains. If you want a name I can get it for you. She's [?] written a book and tied herself in with the Tibetan Buddhists. Her background is so close to that. I could intuit part of that. I know there are two main groups. A group that tried to please Congress. This group went the white man's way. They wanted to dress like white people. They had plantations. They had slaves. They did the whole trip. They set up a printing press. They had their own language. They had lawyers. They did everything they could to remain a people and get along with the United States.
The other side said screw 'em. Let's declare war and kick the shit out of them. So there were these two antagonistic groups. Both were right. It should have been within one great chief to do both. Both sides went to Oklahoma.
Roshi -- he's not a white man. He's not an Indian. He doesn't know the mentality that went on here and he didn't need it. And he always put me down for looking like I needed it. For doing the Indian thing. I was always doing the Indian thing. I was always bringing up the Indian question. So he'd make fun of me. I was telling him about this Indian I met and this and that. So he said, "I am not Indian. I am Japanese." Then he looked out at the rocks, and he'd say, "That's Indian." And those rocks became red -- the iron in the Tassajara rocks began to stand out. And the qualities of the rocks changed. I don't know if you can understand that, but something took place with the Indian thing.
DC: In other words, you knew this stuff you were telling him about Indians, how there were different groups of Cherokee. Some went to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas.
PW: Right. Most went to Oklahoma but a small contingent went to Texas. It's all written up and is documented. I haven't looked at it for about 10 years. I could pull it out.
DC: You would bring this up with Suzuki.
PW: The whole thing started earlier before I left for Japan. JJ was friends with the guy that wrote a book called "Under the Volcano." Maezumi Roshi was his friend. JJ met Maezumi Roshi through Malcolm Lowry. I think he [Maezumi] gave her a koan, like what is the sound of a frog when it jumps in a pond, or something. I thought well if she can have a friend then I can too. So I had a relationship with one of the Chinese girls at Zen Center - not a sexual relationship, a friendship. One of the Wong girls. She took me to some Indian Powwows. There I met some Sioux, some young bucks. You know how they get hot-blooded? the hot-blooded ones? Their father was the chief. He had a huge gut. One of them came up to me and said, "Can you have yourself cut and pierced and hanged from a pole? Can you be like us? Can you be a real man?" I saw all this hot blood and I said, "God that hot blood's great." But I said, "No, I probably could. I could take my hand and cut it off if I want but I prefer not to. I've already had my baptism as a Buddhist. So I feel that I am a man. And I've been through a lot of other things that make me a man. So I feel like I'm just as much a man as you are. Although I do sympathize with you, and I like to share the feeling of it with you."
So then the Chief came up looking disgruntled. The son introduced me. So I said, "Chief, I'm going to get a cup of coffee. Would you like one?" "Yeah." So I got the chief a cup of coffee and corn bread. His son was mollified, but still a little hot. So that all worked out.
Later on I saw some bows and arrows, little toys to play with. I had made friends with Reverend Katagiri's wife before Katagiri arrived in America. She came here first. I met her when she arrived here. She and I had become friends. She was living downstairs and I was upstairs in the same building across the street from the temple.
I did meet her. I loved her. I thought she was a nice woman. Then I went to Japan. Over in Japan they had these skits. There was dharma battle, where you get up and confront each other with what is Buddha Nature, and all. At Eiheiji. A period of argumentation. Thank god I couldn't speak Japanese. It was during New Year's. We also had a celebration where we would come disguised as different things. I came as an Indian. They had me get up and do an Indian dance.
So when I came back, Christmas or something, I got a bow and arrow set for his little boy. Reverend Katagiri refused it. He said, "You have to ask me if I want that gift. You don't just give it. You can't do that."
DC: You can't give something to his son? You have to ask him?
PW: He said he didn't like the Indian stuff. He didn't want anything to do with it. I thought that was strange because Reverend Katagiri was always trying to get into my new truck -- that big red truck. So this Indian thing. Katagiri would want to drive my truck for me. I couldn't understand how he could be that way with his wife and his family and then come over and get in my stuff without my permission.
PW: Right. I was a friend of Zanuck. I was a sergeant ape in the movie. Dick Zanuck liked it because he wanted to make fun of the Buddhist thing. He couldn't care about meditation. But he was a good friend and he got me the job. To him Zen is like toilet water to my Catholic friends. They just laugh at it. It has nothing to do with Brentwood and Beverly Hills and the lifestyle they lead.
DC: It's important to have some friends like that. Helps not take things too seriously sometimes.
PW: It didn't work out like that. That's another story. I'll tell you about Dick Zanuck. He came to that gambling den we had up there. [At Stanford] He tried to come in and rule it cause he was a rich guy. His father was a semi-gangster. They were semi-gangsters from New York. The movie industry had some very tough characters from that element. He tried to take over. I told him if he didn't like it there he could get out. He liked that. He liked me because I was willing to stand up to him. He invited me down to Palm Springs. But he had some other Stanford friends in a fraternity house. So we would go down to Palm Springs -- 5 or 6 Stanford students, which is not abnormal for Stanford because they were young kids. We all went to college together. We all visited each others' homes. I had a lot of those rich kids coming through my place -- mom's place in El Monte which is in the ghetto. They didn't give a damn. They came in and ate chicken and dumplings and fried potatoes that my mom would make. There was no problem because we were all friends.
It wasn't like, he's my powerful friend. Then he got in a fight in Palm Springs. They attacked him and I came in. I saved his life and got all cut up. So there was some bonding going on there. It wasn't like there's a rich guy I know from Stanford. This is a kid that I had fought for.
DC: I knew you all were close.
PW: Part of me loved Dick [Zanuck]. Still does.
This is another part I didn't understand about the Japanese thing. One of the young priests came over -- Yoshimura. He would give a lecture. He would say, "And we believe that.,," Or "We want you to do..." I wanted to say, "Who is this we?" "Does we include me? You're telling me that I should do a certain thing because your we wants me to. What is that?"
So then Tatsugami comes. He wants an interview with me. Reverend Suzuki isn't there. I don't want an interview with Tatsugami. He was ino [head of zendo, ceremonies, and discipline] at Eiheiji when I was there. But I got the feeling that something was wrong because -- he had to give me permission to go outside the temple. He would always ask me into his room. He would have me sit there for a long time. Nothing would happen. Finally he would say, okay, you can go now. I talked to Graham about it and Graham said, "Oh, yeah, he gave me candy, and he gave me this. And when he said something I immediately did it." I didn't have that response with Tatsugami at all. But somehow I didn't feel right about the guy. Although I loved him. It's hard to explain. He treated the gaijin different than he treated the other Japanese. He kicked the other Japanese around like they were stones in the way. What happened is when he came here and he was ino –
[I had cut the following out but decided to leave it because, even though I don’t necessarily believe it, it’s what he said and that’s Phillip. – DC]
I'll tell you a secret. So he asked me and finally I went down to the interview. This was at Zen Center on Page Street. I went up. I had done some kind of meditation, trying to purify myself, cause I knew that this guy was going to do something and I didn't know what it was. Reverend Katagiri was there. He and Tatsugami had been drinking. I saw him in the office with Yvonne. There was an office to the side. And a little ante-room. Reverend Katagiri and Tatsugami invited me in for a little talk. Reverend Katagiri sat in the middle. I would ask Reverend Tatsugami something and then Katagiri would talk for about 3 or 4 minutes. Then I would ask a simple thing like, "How are you?" And this would go on for 3 or 4 minutes. Then Tatsugami would say something. Then Katagiri would say, "Fine." This went on for about a half hour. Finally I said, "Reverend Katagiri, why don't you translate directly the words that he is saying instead of telling me something that you want me to know."
Reverend Katagiri got up. I stood up out of respect for him standing up. Also it was kind of tight. I had to stand so he could get past my knees in this little room. He said, "Alright, I see you don't need me." And he pushed me back against the wall, hard. I looked at him and shoved him back. I said, "Reverend Katagiri, you don't touch me without permission. No one likes to be pushed." I gave him one hell of a push back. Later on I laughed because I didn't know how much karate these guys knew.
So Katagiri knocked me back. Tatsugami acted like nothing happened. I had been praying for an honest response. And this stuff was coming out. Maybe I did have some hostility there.
I sit down with Tatsugami and he acted like nothing had happened. Tatsugami and I were talking. And Yvonne could see -- she was in the office and she could look right over. Tatsugami put his hand on my dick, on my thigh. He said, "Are you okay" I took his hand away very carefully and I put it on his knee. I said, "No." I put my hand up like smoking. I said we can smoke. Or we can have a drink together. I pointed to my dick and said, "No dick."
DC: So he put his hand on your dick and said ii deska, is that o.k.? That could mean is this o.k.? Can I put my hand on your dick? Or it could mean is your sex life going okay? [The way I see it, Tatsugami had been drinking (which he was known for) and he was just being brash and teasing – not coming on to Phillip but being physical in a way that is quite foreign to almost all Americans, maybe just slapping his thigh.]
PW: So I said if he did that he's saying both are you okay and this is okay too. I realized that maybe Reverend Katagiri was right. Maybe he was protecting me. When he left he may have said, you son of a bitch, I tried to help you, to hell with you. I was saying he was not being a good translator, and he was trying to do too much. Then Reverend Tatsugami did it several more times. He tried that several more times.
When I first came in Reverend Tatsugami, instead of bowing to me, he took me by my arms and tried to throw me, playfully. I let him bend me a little and then I straightened up again. I didn't try to throw him. But I wouldn't let him play like he was going to throw me. Then we sat down and started talking. Oh yeah, he tried that game. Then he reached over and grabbed my nose and twisted it. So I reached over and grabbed his nose and twisted it. He said something so I just said what he said. I thought this was going to be weird.
Then we sat down and had this talk. Then at the end I said no three times. Then Reverend Tatsugami said, "You should leave this temple." He pointed toward the door. He said, "You can leave." I looked at him and I looked at the door. It looked like a pretty good idea. By this time we were outside. I did gassho. But when I did gassho he took his hands and instead of doing gassho he had a gassho like a knife pointed toward my gut. He propelled his hand forward into my gut. As he did that my hand came up in a sign of peace. This wasn't coming from my regular mind. This is coming from pure response. At that point his hand stopped. I had never used a peace sign in my life. Like the Buddha peace sign for the elephant. Palm up. Say a truck is going to run over you and you put your hand up to stop it. I put my palm up. His hand stopped. Tatsugami was in synch with me and I didn't know it. I think what he was telling me was -- I think he was being dirty, but I think he was also telling me, now that I reflect on it, your emotions and your feelings are important. They are also Buddha nature. Somehow you have to be more natural. Something has to come up. I believe I was cut off in some way in my mind and heart. There could have been a block there. It was his attempt to get it free. Or he could have been just a dirty old man. Later on I found that he had screwed one of his jishas at Tassajara.
DC: She didn’t seem to mind.
PW: At that point she was full of vindication [maybe he’s using the wrong word here]. That's what I had heard. She had been, don't touch me.
DC: She told me was all man. More man than any man she had ever been with. But then later when he ordained her – I think she went through with it – he told her he wanted her to go to a nunnery in Japan and she was not interested. I have this impression, have a memory, of her going to Suzuki for help then – I see her hiding behind his robes. Anyway, she didn’t go to Japan and I think that ended their relationship. But I didn’t really know how much of one they had. I liked her. She was doing fine. For some reason it wasn’t even a scandal. It just happened and was over and there was some indication she got cold feet or wanted to get out of his grips but I didn’t really know what was happening and before long it was all over and forgotten.
[I remember hearing of Tatsugami saying in Japan that he had a temple in America and a female American disciple. Also I remember Richard Baker saying he was with Tatsugami at some meeting with other Japanese priests that when Tatsugami said that Tassajara was his temple and that he was going to go back there and retire and Richard said that he then pointedly thanked Tatsugami for coming to Tassajara as the guest of abbot Shunryu Suzuki. After leading three practice periods there he was uninvited by Suzuki to come for the fourth. Richard told me that Suzuki was angry at him for having invited Tatsugami to come to America but I told Richard that I think that Suzuki felt that Tatsugami was helpful and we survived it. - DC]
PW: I believe it was probably good for her if he did it. Although Suzuki would not agree with that and Kennett Roshi wouldn't agree. But probably that woman needed to be fucked. So I think he was trying to help me. So I think he was trying to help me. I was trying my best not to have him pick up my dick. The sign language was pure Buddhist sign language. It didn't come from any training I had had on a conscious level. He had drawn it out of me. When he gave me a spear to my gut, without thinking a peace sign came up and I thought it could be wonderful training with that guy if I didn't get raped.
DC: I never heard of him having sex with a man. He talked about sex. He said he liked zazen, sex, and alcohol in that order. He said it openly at Tassajara. At a party at the end of a practice period he had alcohol brought in for everyone and gave a toast: "I hate Zen. I hate zazen. I love alcohol (sake)." And then some equivalent of "Let’s party!"
PW: I had noticed him at Eiheiji. He would have some of the lay people train. Outside of the regular meditation hall they have an adjacent hallway where you would hit the big fish. There were meditation seats there. Some of the lay people would come who were disciples of Reverend Tatsugami and they would sit there. I noticed on several occasions he would take his hand and move it up their back. It wasn't exactly showing them position. He was showing them sensuality and sex. When his hand went up their back it was like a caress. Both men and women. One woman from Denmark or Sweden. She was about 45. She had a room at Eiheiji. I noticed that he gave her a very loving caressing thing. I never got that from Suzuki. Suzuki would just place his hand on my back. Whenever I touched him it would be like touching a piece of iron. Not much give there. Other times Reverend Suzuki did a similar thing. We would be on the bus going somewhere. He wouldn't let me stand. He would give me the seat. The bus was crowded and his body would lean up against me.
DC: Like they do in Japan.
PW: I guess so. Also his dick and his gut were leaning up against me as well. I've never done that. I've always made sure that my dick didn't get into someone's shoulder. I'm not a Puritan. I've had a lot of sex. But I just don't do that sort of thing. But he did it. I've always wondered. I believed that they wanted to tell me that they loved me with their bodies, as human beings as well as -- and that's part of the Buddha nature. I liked what Reverend Suzuki did. I appreciated.
DC: I always noticed in Japan people pressing up against each other in subways.
PW: I did that and I liked that but it was mostly on the shoulders. Although I did have a man -- I was standing next to him -- and he reached over and put his hand on my leg and then up my crotch.
DC: That's called chikan I think. Subway molesters. It could go back to a tradition of more permissiveness [or more abusiveness]. You can do anything there, it doesn't count.
PW: I could say at times I felt like doing it myself. Anyway, this guy did that. There was no room to move. I looked around at the whole train and this guy was going for it. Silently I asked for help. It happened. People began to move away. They heard my plea and they moved back. And I was able to move away from that person. That I find interesting.
So anyway I'd gone out the door. A few days later I came back. I don't hate Tatsugami. I've often wanted to see him after that. He's probably dead now.
DC: Yes, he is.
PW: Within a short time I'd gone back to Zen Center and I met Dick Baker. The first thing Dick Baker wanted to do was to give me a whole body embrace. I said, this is getting to be too much. Where is this thing going? So when Dick Baker embraced me, I embraced him, but I gave him a couple of short strong squeezes and then I let go. He looked at me and gave me a reappraisal. I'm saying, what's going on here. I haven't had this experience with Reverend Suzuki. This is the first time you've embraced me. Then Katagiri and Tatsugami. I want to have some kind of understanding here. It seemed to be going too far one way. I didn't like it.
This doesn't mean that probably now I would be very careful not to give him a couple extra squeezes. I would love to hug him and say that I don't care what Zen Center thinks if he fucked five of his students.
DC: Five? [depends on how you count]
PW: I'd still love him and hope that he can work it out wherever he is. I don't really care. And at Shasta and everywhere else people are putting him down because he did that. I'd give him the BMW, I think he deserved it. He did all the crap up there. I don't think he should really care about a car. It's not his main priority to get people to drive him.
DC: People did drive him. He spent a third of his time in a car. His feeling was that a car was one of his offices and he should get a good one and it was important to get one that was good in an accident. Though Yvonne researched it and showed that the cheaper BMW was just as safe.
PW: But where he's coming from is an upper class person whose family had a lot of money, a BMW is nothing.
DC: No, Dick's family didn't have a lot of money, he wasn't upper class.
PW: I thought he was from Harvard and had a trust and everything like that.
DC: No. He went to Harvard but he wasn’t from a wealthy family.
PW: Probably as a priest -- well, if you're a priest, then you should live as a poor person and do all these things. I say, look, you know, he got Green Gulch, he bankrolled Tassajara. Millions of dollars involved. The property is precious now. You guys are richer than you'll ever realize. And you can't let him get a stupid little BMW. For god's sake, what's the matter with you. Thank god I'm not there. Although I hear there's a woman teacher there now and I don't know what she's like.
DC: Blanche [Hartman]. They're rotating the abbot thing – multiple abbots with term limits. There are a lot of older students. Tell me more experiences you had with Suzuki Roshi.
PW: Did you ever do the mokugyo? I couldn't hit the gong and do the bells at the same time. I couldn't get them coordinated. They would always be at the wrong time. Remember Paul Alexander who fixed the organ? Tatsugami should have done it to Paul Alexander. He was gay. Paul would have known exactly what to do. I think that I'm every sex to tell you the truth. I'm trees, I'm animals. I get turned on by men, women. But I don't do anything. I'm hopeless. But it all turns me on. I put my arms around a tree and I fall in love with the tree. I feel it coming back to me.
So on the mokugyo he [Suzuki] had Paul Alexander do one part and then I'd do the other part because I couldn't get my left side synchronized with my right side. Paul Alexander did it for a couple of months. Then afterwards I was able to do it. I was the only one I know who needed help to do the mokugyo and hit the gong at the same time. When I hit the gong I would stop hitting the mokugyo. So something is not coordinated as well as it should be. That's probably why Tatsugami grabbed my dick.
DC: I've never heard of Tatsugami doing that to anyone else. Except his jisha. I heard he chased her around the room.
PW: When I left Eiheiji he was angry because I was leaving. He didn't want me to leave and he wouldn't come down to say good-bye. The people at Eiheiji wanted me to stay there. They didn't want me to leave. When Reverend Suzuki came to Japan he said that I couldn't do any work at Rinsoin [Suzuki’s temple in Yaizu] because if I did any work there we would have to stay and he would have to start my training there. If you don't understand, I'm telling you the truth. I could sense what he meant, because whatever I did formed my reality. So I'm in a different place than you are. And probably I'll never be enlightened. I'm in this place where I form my reality by what I do. We all do that anyway, right? But this one involves Reverend Suzuki and in this case the temple. I was his disciple. So there's something very sticky about me. Something that is -- maybe really bad karma. It all gets sticky.
DC: So you went to Japan in '64.
PW: I believe it was in the fall of '64. First I went to Rinsoin. Oh the ceremony. You won't understand this at all. Reverend Suzuki gave me -- where they cut your hair. Here's what happened. Usually you're invited into the inner sanctum, before the Buddha, and your head is shaved. First they cut a little piece and then they shaved the rest. What Reverend Suzuki did was to invite JJ and me to his office in the front, the little anteroom. Then he said, you wait here, I'll go do the ceremony. So he went into the altar room at Sokoji and he did the ceremony. Then he came back and he took his hands like a pair of scissors and he held up some hairs on my head and he acted like he was cutting them. Then he took a bag of candy, a big handful, and he opened it up and dropped it all on the table. He said, "Let's have some candy." So we all ate a piece of candy and had some tea. Strange ceremony. Then when I went to Rinsoin he had his son, Hoichi [Hoitsu], shave my head completely.
DC: I've got pictures of it from Jeanne Stern. [note to self: find them or get more]
PW: Bless her heart, I haven't heard from her in years.
He [Hoitsu] didn't act like he was cutting my hair at all like Reverend Suzuki did, he just shaved my head. Then when I got to Eiheiji they said have you done takuhatsu [monk’s begging]? I said what do you mean? They said, they cut your hair and then they shave your head. So I said, no. They said, then you're not a monk. They said, did Reverend Suzuki ordain you? I said, yeah. They said, did you have a ceremony? I said, I don't know. He went into the other room. They said, well did he or didn't he? I said, look, if you don't believe he did, then tell me not to come here. If you think I'm a monk then let me in. Up to you guys. I don't know if I'll do a good job or not, but here I am. If you accept me, I come; if you don't accept me then I go away. So they let me in. But every time they asked me about the ceremony for becoming a monk I would say, yes, but it's not traditional, it's different. They'd say, it has to be traditional or you're not a monk. I said then you write Reverend Suzuki, because I don't know what else to say.
I asked Reverend Suzuki, I said, everyone says am I a monk or am I not a monk? He said, things go the way the mind goes. If you think you're a monk you're a monk. If you don't think you're a monk you're not a monk.
Then to top it off, he gave me a package to take with me. He said, these are some old robes. I want to return them to the temple. I don't need them any more here. So he gave me this old brown bag -- he was always giving gifts in old brown bags -- and it was stuffed full of old robes. I had loved Mahatma Gandhi. Everyone had said just fly over there first class or go first class on the boat. But I had heard Mahatma Gandhi had gone third class. So I said what's good enough for Gandhi is good enough for me. I'm leaving all this stuff behind, my wife, and everyone. I'll go third class. Third class was filled with Japanese immigrants from Brazil. They were all sad because they were returning and had failed in Brazil. They were really poor farmers. I was down in the bulkhead with all these poor Japanese people. I just had this small suitcase and this old brown bag. I'd go up to first and second class and talk to the rich people up there then go to sleep down in the third class. We got over there and the immigration wanted to check my luggage. They asked about the brown bag. I said it was full of old robes that Reverend Suzuki wants to return. They said well we have to check it. They pulled the robes out. They kept separating them. What was inside was a Bodhidharma, an old antique one. Five hundred years old, maybe from China. They said, what are you doing with this? I said, I don't know. I have no idea. They said, how did you get this? I said I had no idea what was in here. They said, what are you going to do with it? I said I'm taking it to Rinsoin. To my knowledge that's where it belongs.
DC: He was returning a Buddha he had borrowed from Rinsoin.
PW: Right, but he didn't tell me that. He was always doing that kind of stuff with me. He wouldn't give me a regular ceremony. He returned things without telling me. Very wise man.
DC: Do you remember -- somebody told me a story that they said years ago you told them, that you and Tatsugami had a wrestling match at Eiheiji.
PW: No. I don't remember it. All the monks used to play baseball on day off. But Tatsugami never played. He never laid a hand on me. I had wished that he had done my spine the way he had -- . Because I felt lonely at times at Eiheiji. I didn't have any close friends. Kobun was there. Kobun wanted to be my friend. But what he wanted to do was dominate the relationship. I didn't like that. Yamada had come to the temple. From LA. He would give dharma lectures at Eiheiji. Apparently he was an outstanding scholar. Later he became head of Eiheiji. When he was in LA, Reverend Suzuki asked me to drive Reverend Yamada wherever he wanted. His son was a physicist in Berkeley. So I took Reverend Yamada, many times, at least 10 or 12 times, to run errands and go places. To the airport . [Yamada was the abbot of Zenshuji, the Soto Zen temple, in LA for some time, and Bishop of Soto Zen in America, a position that Shunryu Suzuki had refused – that was why the headquarters was moved from San Francisco to LA. This is my understanding. – DC]
I didn't put my arms around him and hug him and stuff. I was respectful. I took him where he wanted. I considered him a friend. He and Reverend Suzuki had given me dokusan. They tell you things and say don't say this to anybody else. So they had been spending time on my stomach. They had watched my breathing. And laughed. It was kind of formal. Nice. I felt close to the guy. So when I went over there [Eiheiji] I was last on the totem pole. But when I saw Reverend Yamada I thought there's the priest I helped and here's a friend. I saw him walking down the hallway. I bowed and said, "Reverend Yamada, it's so nice -- " And he just looked at me with a cold fish look. Like the Dick Baker thing.
Kobun had been trying to make friends with me. They had a study hall -- the shuryo. He would straighten my sandals up so they would be in alignment. But they were already in alignment, but he would readjust them. Just like he did the altar at Tassajara. Only he was after my shoes. So Kobun, who was a Dogen scholar, had gotten together with Yamada. Yamada said he would have an interview with me. But now Kobun was in on it. So he and Kobun were like the best of buddies. It was like Kobun was using me to tie things together to come to America. Before I went to Japan I had said to myself -- Jean Ross had brought back Katagiri. Katagiri had wanted to room with Jean Ross. She refused. She made him get his own place with Paul Alexander. She acted like there was a possibility he'd get in her pants. She didn't want it to happen. What I saw was that these Japanese priests were latching onto these gaijin as a way to get to America. So I said to myself, did Dogen do that? Did he bring back any Chinese? He didn't bring back anything except his enlightenment. Transmission.
DC: They said what did you bring back? Nothing. What did you learn? Nose vertical, eyes horizontal.
PW: Then I read that his friend that went over with him, the Rinzai dude, he died over there on the second trip. So they weren't really interested in bringing anyone back. They were interested in the training. So I had said to myself, I'm not going to bring any Japanese back. When I got over there and they tried to make friends, after a few weeks they would have a nice warm heart, very nice. Then they would say, can you take me to America? I would say no. Why? Well, I said, I'm married. My wife is helping to pay for this trip. I have a temple, but it's not mine, it's Reverend Suzuki's. I don't have any money. Why can't we be friends over a long period of time? You write me letters. Maybe after this visit, in a couple of years, I'll come back and make more friends. Over a long period of time we can establish a relationship. They wanted instant relationship. They were interested in taking me to their temple. They said we'll give you everything. We'll help you. Just get me to America. I said no, I'm not going to be a mule. And I loved the guys. But as soon as I said no, they would shine off. So I didn't have many friends. This happened over and over again.
DC: If it was Japanese they would just say yes and then not do it. They don’t say no.
PW: Right. I said no and that was the end of the relationship. So good, I'd rather be lonely than lead these guys on. When they asked Suzuki if they could come to America, he had it on a different level, so they couldn't get the question out. The first time I went to do meditation, I couldn't say meditation. I don't know. The Japanese are different. I saw them squirm in front of Reverend Suzuki, and talk about everything except going to America. They were like little kids who wanted an apple but didn't want to be refused. This was at Rinsoin. Young monks with transmission would come to see him. They could never ask. Later he said if they don't ask me I don't have to say no. I don't know what was going on.
I stayed at Eiheiji 9 months. In '64. Suzuki came after I left Eiheiji. Suzuki said I should have stayed a year. There wasn't anything happening inside of me. My meditation was no good. I had no enlightenment whatsoever. I was like a dirty dishrag. So I thought, I've got so much bad karma. I love everyone here. I even love the ground I'm walking on. I loved Eiheiji. I was on the dark side. Some of the monks would help me, they would pick me up on a trip. Up in those mountains they had all those poisonous snakes. There'd be about 10 monks. We'd take a big walk in the mountains. One of them would turn over a rock and underneath would be 15 or 20 poisonous snakes. Those little brown ones. Sometimes I would look at the monks. Then I would look at the snakes. And I couldn't see the difference.
Eiheiji has these polished floors of clay. We would wipe them. When I looked down into the clay I could see thousands of monks that had left their impression in the clay. I could see a spirit world of Eiheiji. Not the Buddha world. It may have been one of the Buddha worlds. I hope Buddha is there. It was a ghost world. One time I went to tosu [toilet] like at one o'clock in the morning. I went by the shuryo. There's the big zendo where you sleep. Put on your clothes. Step out. Curtains. You go by the hallway that's part of the shuryo then down the hallway toward the tosu. When I looked to the right, the hallway that leads to the entrance of the shuryo, and further on is Tatsugami's office. I saw a big white glowing ball about a foot in diameter with hair standing up straight, like a porcupine. It was alive. I had never seen a creature like that before. They had flying squirrels. They caught them and kept them for a while and let them go. But this thing was like alive and had its own light. I pinched myself. I felt I had to pee. I started to walk toward it. Something said, "Danger." I backed up. I said to myself if it's still here after I take a pee I'm going to go over and introduce myself. I came back and it was gone.
I've thought about it. The only thing I could think of is that the energies there produce different kinds of realities. I had either had a complete delusion, or I had seen something that had been created, gestated by all the monks and previous monks that had lived there. You've been in Japan. I don't know if you see that kind of stuff. Maybe you're lucky if you don't. I've asked Kobun Chino about it. He gives me a funny look and says no, he's never seen anything like that. But I do believe that there are Japanese ghosts. And that they materialize, and I saw one of them. Now to this day I don't know I'd go near it.
DC: That doesn't sound like a ghost, it sounds more like a spirit.
PW: You're the first one who's actually told me something. What kind of spirit would that be?
DC: Good lord who knows. That's a very private experience, you know. In that place, in that time.
PW: And I called it up by being there. Why would it be facing the shuryo? If it had been with me it would have been --
DC: It was facing? It had a face?
PW: It was like the door to the shuryo was there and it was directly in front of it. Like something going into the shuryo. It was a ball of hairy light with each little thing distinct, like hairs of light sticking up all over like a porcupine. It was at the shuryo entrance. It wasn't in the middle of the hallway.
DC: You don't feel like it was a vision, you feel like it was an objectively real light that was alive on its own.
PW: Right. Just like you and me. So it could be a spirit. At Tassajara I did see something that was entirely different and material. Remember the little creek bed adjacent to the entrance to Tassajara on the left side.
DC: We named it Cabarga creek. Tom Cabarga was the guy standing opposite Dick Baker at a work meeting when somebody asked what it's called. Dick just looked at Tom and said Cabarga Creek. [That’s the way I heard it. – DC]
PW: I used to walk up and down the creek bed and then get up on the path. I'd look at all the different rocks. I was coming along there and there was a little snake. A grayish-tan snake. I looked at it more closely. I usually look at animals with some interest. It's head was about as big as the circle made by your finger and your thumb. In the middle of its head was a star, a rosy star with a circle around it. This was not in my sleep. I said, this can't be. Someone has painted a star on this poor snake's head. I looked more closely and the pigment was part of the scales. This is absolutely marvelous. I've never seen a snake like that before. I watched as it slowly slithered off the rock and up to the other side of the creek. I was not asleep. I know that you can't sympathize with that experience. Was that a spirit? Could it be a kind of spirit that would happen in the new world?
DC: It could be. I was standing out at Grasshopper Flats once during a sesshin. Standing there, meditating, looking at the trees. A fox walked right up to my feet and lay down and went to sleep. I stood there. After about five or ten minutes he got up and walked off. Then the bell rang and I had to go. So I don't know.
PW: I had heard of monks doing that in parts of Thailand or someplace with tigers. They do walking meditation and none of the predators attack. Apparently it's due to the condition that walking meditation set up. So you were in a good condition. Or it could be like one of the messengers of the Indians had come to see you.
DC: You got to Japan in September of '64 and you were in Eiheiji for nine months which would bring it to June. What did you do then?
PW: I went to Kamakura. I did some informal training at the Rinzai temple there. I met Kapleau a couple of times. I think Jeanne Sterns introduced me to that temple. This is a big temple. Giant trees. Giant boulders. You could walk there from Kamakura City. It's really old. It has a huge gate. It was near D.T. Suzuki's house.
DC: I've been up there. Maybe Engakuji or something like that.
PW: They had informal meditation where you face out. Then they served tea. They had wooden floors. No tatami. Just tea on hard floors. I liked it. I was in a great deal of pain at Eiheiji. But I had enough stamina to last at least for 45 minutes or an hour. After that I would die. At Eiheiji they made me sit in seiza for four hours. I cheated. I said I have to go pee. I'd get up about every half hour and go take a piss. I was in great pain. I said my body is totally stupid. At Zen Center when I was in pain, when I tried to do half-seiza [half-lotus?] my body became in pain after about 15 minutes. Eventually my whole body would be like fire. Then the fire would turn into bliss. So I had a bliss body. The connection between pain and bliss are interchangeable in me. But it never happened at Eiheiji. It wouldn't interchange. So I just got burnt.
PW: Yeah. In the third quarter my body would begin to complain a lot. So I became a ghost. I would move my body and it would be like I was floating in the field. My body would be trying to stay up with me. The fourth quarter I would just know where to go. I knew where everyone was going. After the game they'd put me in the hospital and it would take three days to recuperate. I did that every week. I kicked the shit out of everybody.
DC: I remember you saying that by the fourth quarter you were floating above your body.
Were you All-American?
PW: I was like third string All-American or something. I just went to a football reunion with the Stanford team. One of the guys was nominated All-American. He said Phillip, you were the most underrated player. He said I never had anyone hit me so hard. Every time you hit me it hurt. What happened is I remembered that. But when Norman Minugian [sp?] was telling me, what I saw was I was hurting another person and my friend. So I said, Norman, I'm really sorry, I apologize. I've always admired you. He was one of these Armenians that was always very dedicated. He would share his food with you. He was what a Buddhist would call a Good Buddhist. He shared with you. The harder you hit him the more he loved you. But the coach, I had problems with the coach. He had wanted Norman Minugian to be All-American. Then Norman was hurt. He hurt his knee and he couldn't give up his relationship with Norman and I was playing better and better ball. So it remained in a kind of fixed position. I figured I was getting my grant and aid from Stanford. We were poor people. My mom worked 12 and 14 hours a day as a waitress. So I figured if I got the scholarship, everything else was gravy. So I just played.
[DC Note: Farmed San Francisco lawyer Tony Serra (known for drug cases, progressive causes, a movie made about him called True Believer) was a wide receiver on the Stanford team with Phillip. Tony used to live down the street from me in Bolinas and has also represented some people I knew. The last time I saw him was when he gave a talk to the annual meeting of the ACLU for Sonoma Country CA in Sebastopol in the Veteran’s Hall, a short walk from where I lived. I remember Tony talked about the scourge of the grand jury system. Anyway, afterwards Tony and I talked about Phil.
Tony said Phillip was, "pure of heart, creative," and said that Phillip had a happening in North Beach with ropes hanging from the ceiling where it was hard to get around in it. Tony’s tall and strong but he said that that Phillip picked him up (or was it Phillip who told me that Tony picked him up? Ah, that’s history). He echoed what I’ve heard from others - that Phillip was a force of nature on the field who did much more than his share to neutralize, to pulverize, the opposition.]
DC: What about Suzuki? When you were in Japan, in about June '65 you left Eiheiji and went to Kamakura. How long were you there?
PW: I was in Kamakura for about a year. I would take trips down to Rinsoin. [Suzuki’s temple]
DC: Were you living at a temple?
PW: No. I had rented a small apartment in a house -- actually a room in the upstairs. I used to go see Jeanne Sterns. I would go to the Rinzai temple and do meditation there and tea ceremony. I took shodo [calligraphy]. There was a woman who had a Rinzai teacher. She was a shodo calligraphy teacher. She used to give me Mu [no, negative, emptiness] to do. [She’d say] I hear your Mu. It makes me feel good. I just heard the sound of Mu. I felt something in my stomach. She would say do you know what this means? I'd say no and she'd give it to me to write. So I did Mu and Mu and Mu. Then I'd look it up and see what it meant. Apparently it meant some kind of fire. In the old days they burned corpses in fires, they burned stuff up. Like burning up all karma. Everything is gone. But your grunt. Hmm. That's the best explanation of Mu. You don't hang onto it. You let it go.
They had these tunnels that I'd have to walk through, and graveyards with Buddhist grave markers, and Christian/Buddhist grave markers. I asked her about some of the grave markers. Crosses. She said at one time there were many Christians at Kamakura. But there was intolerance and many of them died. They annihilated them. Recently I ran into a woman who has a friend from Japan who gives tea ceremony. Apparently she's a Christian Buddhist. But isn't the tea ceremony from Buddhism? She said originally, but now we consider it just tea ceremony and we do it as Christians. She had a presence. A lot of good energy. Even though she had taken a long plane trip and was very tired, she gave me her full attention. My mom was alive then. I think she was jealous. This happened here in El Monte in 1990. A big jump.
DC: You were in Kamakura for a year then. Did you have a particular teacher?
PW: Remember the old guy at Tassajara. The old man that was in his 90s or 80s. He came to visit. A Japanese Zen master. Yasutani. I remembered him because I had gone to his temple in Kamakura and had done meditation there which was mainly for lay people. They had an energetic style. I got a note from him two years after I had left with a bill. You forgot to pay $7.50. You owe us. Please pay. Like my karma would be blackened forever. So I sent $25 or something. When I saw Yasutani I related to that whole thing. They were very nice to me other than that. I thought it was kind of strange. But maybe you should pay your debts.
DC: Well, it's just one person in the office is all it takes to do something like that.
PW: Grahame Petchey. I would go and visit them. [Grahame and Pauline and kids] That's about what I did. They lived near a Shinto temple. The kind where the tail sticks straight up. Kyoto. I think he lived in Kyoto. He was at Eiheiji with me. We did tangaryo together [at Eiheiji – Grahame for the second time – he’d been at Eiheiji in ’63, before Phillip came]. Maybe he stayed there for a month or two. He said it was a great vacation from his family. He said I've never had it so peaceful in my life. I don't think he was going there to do anything great. I was there. He had been there before. He was the first one to go. [Jean Ross was the first.] That's why I went. Graham said, go, it's a once in a lifetime experience. I found it was more than that. I saw things that Graham didn't see. He didn't see those ghosts. And he didn't see those figures down in there, in the clay. Apparently I have a different kind of mind. I have a ghost mind.
Have you ever heard of Michael Harner? I went to Michael Harner's seminar. I figured I'd given the Japs a whack at my spirit. So I might as well give these Christians a chance [Harner - Christian?]. Harner had studied with the South American Indians. He had found out that one way to stop the discursive mind is to either take drugs, or be the tom-tom. So I said I'd always wondered what the tom-tom was for. And why dancing had a beat to it. And why in Zen you have that big drum. Because it stops your brain. That gives you a chance for your spirit to be activated. So I did that with Harner. And I went to the lower world and saw the animal spirits there. I took him at his word. He said if you go to the spirit world and meet something you don't like you don't have to have anything to do with it. It doesn't mean you should be afraid of it or say that you shouldn't go there. Go there with a question. Below they have animal powers. In the upper world they have spirits. So I did it.
First I had trouble getting in the underworld because I did some of that stuff naturally anyway. I'd lie in my bed and I would feel myself sinking down through the bed into another place. I mentioned to Michael, I said I do that already. I lie in my bed and sink down and go into another world. He said, no, no. You can't do it in your bed. You have to imagine a place that you already know that is like a little hole in the ground, or some place that you can jump into. A crack or something. Than you go down in that crack. I said, no bed? He said, no bed. I said o.k. What happened is that later on I saw that some of the guys were arguing with Harner on what was right about what they were doing. What they were creating was blocking out the actual doing of it. Even if they did what they wanted, they still couldn't do it because of their frame of mind. My instinct was to say, Boss, you say jump, I jump. So I jumped.
I remember when I was a little kid there was a little crack and there were these little bugs that in the light would shimmer like gold, and green. I thought they were real gold bugs. So I'd watch where they went. I wanted to know where those valuable bugs were going. I imagined this crack. It took a big effort for me to get down there. Finally I got down there. I saw some things I didn't care for. Then I saw a couple of horses I liked. Harner said put your arms around the horse. Touch it, feel it. If it feels good to you then that's your friend. That simple. So I took him at his word. It worked out okay.
It comes time to go to the upper world. All this time my body does not feel good. We paired off. I was with some married woman. She had been doing this for several years. She was using the rattle and it was helping me go on my trip. I liked her and bonded with her. I knew we were bonded at the navel. I apologized to her. I said I will respect our relationship here. But I could feel her pussy right down where my dick was. Okay, this is just part of the trip. So I laid down and imagined I jumped from a pepper [?] tree. That wasn't high enough. So I imagined myself jumping to the top of the San Gabriel mountains. At that point I wanted to jump down. So I jumped down. This force, like a gigantic wind. At that time I thought this was all a game because Harner had said if you don't have a spirit to work with, just use your imagination. Eventually it'll work out for you. I took him at his word. I'm paying $200 for this thing. I might as well try it.
When I jumped, I jumped down and this wind pushed me up into the upper world. He had said you'd meet different layers. If you get this far, then you're supposed to break the first layer, enter in to it. If there's nothing there, then break into the second layer. Keep going up until you find something you want or need. It's better if you go up with a question. I said, well this is not Zen, but what the hell. I went up the first layer. There was nothing. Finally I got up to the third layer and I saw Michael Harner there and one of his assistants. I had always wanted to know a spirit teacher. So I thought this was a good time.
Reverend Kennett Roshi's supposed to be my teacher. So I go off and do this seminar. So I looked at Harner and said, are you my spirit teacher? He just looked at me like I was a puppet or something. There was no response. I looked over and saw this creature that was lit up with neon lights. He had robes. Dressed in black and white. And he was skinny with an unshaven beard. He gestured to me to come to him. I said, are you my spirit teacher? He called me closer. He was on this big dais. I said this is phony but I can't believe it. I went up there. This spirit put his arms around me and drew me in and gave me a warm hug. Love.
I was pleased. I said I think I betrayed Kennett Roshi but I was pleased to be able to experience this thing. I said can you help me to understand shamanism and the spirit? He said, yes. I said, what about Buddhism and Zen. This spirit said, anything you want to know I'll help you. Also, when he embraced me he took a knife and cut the back of my neck open. All of these bugs and dirt and crawly dark things popped out of the back of my neck. Little monsters. They all ran out of me. He cut me deep and open. Pretty hairy. All the feeling I get most of the time is just peace. I don't know what it is, but something took place there, and I have a friend there. And I'm still open to do whatever I want.
Along with that, not because of the spirit world but because of my own iniquities, my own tendencies, my own cravings to lie, steal and cheat and screw and do everything else which I have, completely. It's all there.
DC: I wouldn't put screwing on a level with lying stealing and cheating.
PW: It depends on how you do it and who you do it with. The senses are innately pure. So what I did was I took a special trip up to the third world. All the creatures I met there I said, I want you to know, this is for my benefit, not yours. If you want a relationship I accept it. Then you must do no evil, you must do only good. I gave the usual baloney. I did it as a safeguard. I went to my spirit teacher and said to him, do no evil, do only good. Let's keep that kind of relationship. I think it's sort of like I'm not enlightened, so I must make some attempt to do the precepts. Some kind of thing. Whatever world I'm in. In the upper world, according to Harner, and it's true, sex is wide open. It can happen, or it doesn't have to happen. It's done in a different way. There you can have the whole thing: your dicks and your cocks and the whole bit. You can be cut open and divided. Everything can happen to you.
So I did that. Then I met some spirits that are what I call like an Indian medicine man that dances, does an eagle dance. Also very magical. This particular one is sorcery itself. I believe it is a real spirit. But I also believe he's interacting with me. So I told him, you have to use all of this stuff that you have with me to do only good. We can't do any of this to hurt anybody. Harner said you can take these things and you can kill somebody with them. But if you do, if you hurt somebody, eventually it's going to screw you up. He said they leave you. I don't think they leave, I think you just become a dark soul. You just become a devil and darker and darker. Probably you'll be reborn over and over. I think Harner was giving a nice warning. He said they will leave you. For most people that would be like oh no. I believe you can become very dark in that world.
I still wanted to be a Buddhist. I still wanted to do my practice. I wanted my cake and eat it too. The reason I wanted it partly was because of this American Indian thing. So many Indians have lost their own way of realizing spiritual purification. At the same time they are Indian and they feel Indian. They resent a lot of things about the white world. Now, even though I didn't see an Indian god up there, I saw one shaman that was really all sorcery. I have an affinity with the guy. Now I can say I know how to do your Indian trip. I know you can go that way. If you're an Indian, then tell me what your religions is. What is Indian. What can I share with you. If you want to do a spiritual trip, then let me travel with you. Maybe you don't have anything going up there.
DC: You say you're doing shikantaza but then you say no you're doing upper world trips.
PW: I'm doing both. I do my meditation and I go up there for advice. I think it's a good deal. I've got a friend up there.
DC: So you were in Kamakura and you studied some with Yasutani?
PW: Yasutani was on a trip to America or some other place. I never did meet him. I saw Kapleau there. He was just divorced. No. His wife was there at the time. I think they were divorced later. He took me around and introduced me to all of his friends. He was casual, light, very nice. He said anything you want, if you want mokugyos, I'll take you to a place where you can make some mokugyo. I told him I liked the sound of the mokugyo. [the wooden fish, a drum for ceremonies]
DC: You said Suzuki Roshi said you should never divorce JJ.
PW: So when JJ asked me for a divorce -- what had happened was she had started a women's center there. She started asking these women to come to her house. All these dikes came out of the wall. I'd known several lesbians myself before and we'd been good friends. But when JJ entered into it, when she was there they would act like men to her. They would be antagonistic to me. When she left we would be friends and I'd just be talking to them. When she wrote her book they had all these women and they would all sit around in a circle with their legs and tushies all facing each other.
DC: You said you remember what Suzuki said when she asked you for a divorce. What year was that?
PW: '74. I said no. Finally she asked me again and I said if you do it one more time then I'll have to do it. What happened was instead of giving her a divorce, my personality changed and I became like a god. I reached into my body and I took this thing out. I said, here. It was like it wasn't me, it was like a god. It was not my personality. I said, here, this is something that belongs to you, and I put it back inside of her. She said, what's that. I said, if you have to ask you'll never know. You are now divorced.
[Unintelligible] is when we really got married. So this is just part of it. I'm just giving it back to you. I said, let's be friends. We've been too long together, we know each other so well, I said let's not ditch the relationship. You've become a part of me and a lot of what I am I got with you. It's very important. She couldn't do it. It was like you're in the bathtub or you're out of it. At that point. I've always kept in touch with her and had a high regard for her. Jeanne Sterns was there at the time. In L.A.
DC: When did you leave Kamakura?
PW: I must have gone to Eiheiji earlier. I must have gotten back. I thought I'd gotten back here by '65. But maybe it wasn't. I know I spent a year there. I was at Rinsoin with Suzuki Roshi. I stayed at Kamakura. The last part, the last couple of months JJ came over. We stayed at Rinsoin. We went back to Eiheiji. Just to show it to her. I went back as a tourist. All the monks remembered me. They just opened up the doors. They gave us a suite at the top like they give all the mucky-mucks who come through there. They treated us like rich folks. It was very nice. We took a bath. We had this chant. We had it all to ourselves. Then we went to Rinsoin. Suzuki was there. Must be '66.
DC: Suzuki was there from August to November of '66. You were there when he passed on the temple to his son Hoitsu? You were at that ceremony?
PW: Right. There was a big ceremony. One of the nice things that happened was when Reverend Suzuki came back he started doing what Hoichi had sluffed off on doing. Reverend Suzuki included me in the morning ceremonies for the temple. Hoichi had put that away. The place was really dormant until he was invested. At the time we were leaving he threw out a lot of relics and stuff. Old trash. They looked like they were different forms of mystic Buddhas with one finger holding another one. Hoichi threw them out. They were like figures three or four inches high. Dark carved little Buddhas. He threw them in the trash.
[Hoitsu Suzuki was sometimes called Hoichi – both itsu and ichi mean "one," as in first son.]
PW: [Tape turned – Phillip talking about a large stone Shunryu Suzuki had brought in and put in the garden] . . . strength and stability.
DC: Three-quarters of the stone is in the earth.
PW: Yeah, you bury it deep. Probably he had put a rock in shallow and it would look deep. That's a good artist. He had placed some rocks -- you've been to Rinsoin? You know those big rocks to the left and in back where there's a little pond. Suzuki set those. Big rocks. I don't know how he did it.
DC: I heard he brought one from a ways off and everybody thought he was crazy for trying to put it in. That's what he bent his finger on. It broke his finger. [no - it was on another stone at another time he did that – whatever I said in Crooked Cucumber. This interview is before I learned more about that. But now a decade or more later I’m editing it to put it on cuke.com - DC]
PW: I helped him repair it when I was there. The rocks had slipped in their positions up above the pond. We worked all around the yard. He was more active than Hoichi. Reverend Suzuki said that this temple needed two monks. It was too much for one. Did you meet Obaasan? [Grandma – Suzuki’s mother-in-law from prior marriage]
DC: No she died before I got there. What do you remember about her?
PW: She put her magic on me. There was the place where you took a bath and then my room. Obaasan and Hoichi stayed over on the other side, on the kitchen side. Partly they began to control me through my actions. Almost like you can't have visitors, you can't go into the kitchen, look at your hippie thing.
DC: I just got a picture of her from Jeannie Sterns. [gotta find these photos]
PW: She must have her doctorate by now. Is she teaching?
DC: She's teaching at LA.
PW: She was afraid of my mother. My mother was like a witch or something. Jeanne wouldn't come around. That told me something about Jeanne.
DC: You were telling me about Obaasan.
PW: I began to have dreams of her as a young woman. I can feel it now down in my groin. When I would talk to her I would talk to her in a nice way, but inside I would see this young woman. She began to manipulate that and use it. Like a good woman usually does. I began to feel uncomfortable and unhealthy there. When Suzuki arrived he saw Obaasan do it in front of him. She did a control thing for everyone. She's the one that kept the money. She was the boss. Somehow I got controlled in there too. He [Shunryu] did something. He went to her. He spent about a half hour with her right out where everyone could see. They talked in a low voice. When he went away it was like he took it all away from her. He took all of her power away. Like he said if you don't behave yourself you don't get any more. That's what it looked like. My life got a lot easier. I felt better. I don't know exactly what took place but something did and it may have been on a Japanese wavelength and I couldn't pick it up, but I was certainly feeling it. I know that Hoichi could do things with me with my body that I didn't know he could do. Partly it was my own response. But I know they did make fun of me. I liked to give English lessons to some of the townspeople. So Hoichi said several of the Japanese girls came for lessons. I kept it pretty clean. I was there for a couple months. They wanted to acclimate me to Japan. I stayed for about a month. Then when I returned I stayed for a couple of months. I gave English lessons. Then I went to Kamakura.
DC: [after a break] Where were we?
PW: We used to go up and see light shows. One time we went with Reverend Suzuki. Finally he put his hands to his ears and said, "Too loud."
DC: Janis Joplin and Suzuki?
PW: Dick Baker was there. The benefit at Avalon Ballroom.
PW: [tape turned back on – ]. . . strange things going on. I had made a little altar. I had a guest house out by the bathtub. One of those Japanese things.
DC: After you left Eiheiji you went to Rinsoin.
PW: I went to Rinsoin. I set up a little altar and I did a drawing. Kind of abstract. I had some toy Buddhas and stuff. He [Hoitsu] would come and deride it, make fun of it. What is that? The way I understand a guest to be is that you open your doors to him. Everything is kind of casual. A lot of trust. If they want to go to the refrigerator in the middle of the night that's perfectly fine. People get hungry. But not at Rinsoin. You only eat what the other people eat. So he put me down for stuff like that. So I said, piss on this. I'd make trips into the town, Yaizu [the city where Rinsoin is]. I met a couple of Japanese that liked jazz. One of them owned a little bar that served coffee and doughnuts and stuff. They started inviting me to their house. They weren't monks or anything. I made good friends with a man called Suzuki. They were afraid. I invited them over to the temple. They were afraid to go. I said why. They said Zenshu [Zen sect]. Like it was dangerous stuff. Maybe it's because you only go there when you're going to die. They said, no, that's powerful stuff, man. I said, I'm involved up to my ears and I don't find too much wrong with it.
DC: Do you remember anybody telling you anything about [Shunryu] Suzuki while you were there?
PW: Reverend Suzuki took me around to see some of his friends. My Japanese was no good. I was just dumb. I told Suzuki I'd like to go, but what about my Japanese. He said, don't worry, you're in the same boat as everybody else -- whatever that boat was -- you'll do alright. I didn't do very well but I stuck it out.
DC: What Hoitsu told me was that Japanese people liked you. They didn't like Graham and Dick. They liked you and Jean Ross. You were humble and understood how to relate to them. That Dick and Graham were arrogant and didn't.
PW: It's probably true but it's probably because I'm part peasant. And a lot of people around Rinsoin were peasants. All the Zen masters were beyond me. And I really did love them. Each one was willing to open his door for me. They all gave me invitations to be their student. Tatsugami for one. In Kamakura I studied with a big monk. He wasn't a Roshi. I think he was like head monk. Engakuji. That's where I went. It was on huge grounds. There's a temple just to the left of the main entrance. That's where they did a lot of the lay meditation. They would have tatami, then the rest would be hardwood floors.
DC: Suzuki would take you around and introduce you to people. Do you remember anything that happened?
PW: He introduced me to one of the guys that shaped the wooden han. [a board struck with a mallet usually in rhythmic sequence for zazen and ceremony] I didn't know what they were talking about. They would talk for a long time. This guy said what road is Phillip going to take? Is he going to take the upper road or the lower road. Suzuki said he's going to take both of them. So far he's right.
DC: Did anybody ever tell you anything about him there?
PW: There was another man who did urns. Remember the urn at Sokoji that was deep red?
DC: I met his son and went to their home. His name was Suzuki Seisan.
PW: That man showed me some of his other urns. One urn had a whole bunch of little circles that would go around and around and then disappear in a little swirl. But very distinct. He said I can't do this all the time. It's only by chance I can get this. It was a big ordinary urn with this unusual pattern. I wanted to ask him how he fired his pots to get that. I never did find out.
I remember Reverend Suzuki saying, you know, I thought when I would come back I would see a lot of my friends. But when you're gone for a little while a lot of them die. I don't have a lot of friends any more.
He probably took me to the first temple he was abbot of but I don't remember. [Zounin in Mori] He took me a lot of places, everywhere he went. I didn't know one place from the other. He was meeting a lot of roshis. They were curious about me. Suzuki took me along.
PW: Probably. If Okamoto was Reverend Suzuki's friend I met him.
DC: He was the abbot of Zounin. I think Suzuki passed on Zounin to him I believe at the same time as he passed on Rinsoin to Hoitsu.
PW: Hoichi may have been Reverend Suzuki's disciple before he came to America. Hoichi was pissed off at his dad. He said I had to leave Eiheiji. I was having a good time at Eiheiji. I was up there at Hatto [dharma hall]. Hatto is the head room where they have all the big ceremonies. The monks are divided up into different portions of the temple. He was up there in Hatto. He said he loved being a monk. He had no family responsibilities or anything. Then when Reverend Suzuki left Rinsoin he had to come out and take care of it. He made an arrangement with one of his friends, another priest, to take over discipleship of Hoichi.
DC: That was Noiri, a tough old Zen master. Okamoto was like a dharma brother of Hoitsu's that took over Zounin. That potter lived near there. I think Noiri was responsible for Hoichi while Suzuki was gone. I think Hoitsu kept a distance from him because Hoitsu didn't like zazen and Noiri is well known in monastic circles for his strictness.
PW: No he didn't like zazen. I used to do zazen there and feel very lonely. I wonder why? I know he did like kendo. And he asked father if he should take kendo. And his dad said, if you become a Zen master you don't need it. It's just extra, but if you want it go ahead and do it.
Hoichi was very interesting. At times I longed for feminine companionship. Hoichi once in a while would take me out to a bar. He had a bar where they'd sing and stuff. A nice raunchy bar. One of the women made a pass at me. I felt it right down to my balls. So I said well Hoichi what about that. He said, oh, you want to settle for that? I sat there and he filled my dick and my balls and everything up with sexual energy. He said, like what do you want? you going to settle for garbage? What I realized was that I was a neophyte in the transmission of energy just at normal lower levels. This guy could singe your hair off. So I thought I'm not anywhere near that. I don't think I can even keep up with a regular Japanese in all the intricacies of relationship and sex and stuff. These guys are far beyond me.
The same thing happened with Suzuki. One time we were driving to Tassajara. There was this girl and Reverend Suzuki and myself. This girl acted like she was asleep and she kept throwing herself at my shoulder and my lap. Suddenly my whole body became like a sexual organ. I'd never had an experience like that from a girl. I was kind of embarrassed about it. I didn't say anything to Suzuki. But I knew it was coming from him. He was laying a trip on me. We got out of the car and stretched our legs and went on. That kind of experience I'd never had with any of my male or female friends or wife. I think I'm really dumb, not really wise and functional the way a lot of people are with their energy and their organs. I don't think about it very much.
DC: Do you know anything about Suzuki's past?
PW: Back at Sokoji, the little waiting room. I had come back from Japan. I was going to talk to him about something. Suddenly he said, you know, I was married before Mitsu. She was murdered at Rinsoin. I asked him how it was done. He said he was away from the temple and she was by herself and some robbers came. In the process of robbing, she was killed. He was completely distraught. Really wrought up. Then it passed. That was it. He hardly ever talked about his past.
DC: It wasn't robbers. It was a monk who was living at the temple. A crazy monk. She and the children were telling him to get rid of him because he was crazy. Kishizawa roshi had sent him there -- he was like his mentor. He was Noiri's teacher. Suzuki said he had no choice but to take care of this unstable monk. The guy killed his wife with a hatchet one morning while he was doing firewood. His mother-in-law was there. He and the children were all out for the day. It was a holiday. They came back and she was dying. He went to the hospital and she died with him and her mother that night. It was a big deal. But you're the only person I've ever talked to that he told it to. I know it from talking to relatives and people in the neighborhood. I never heard of him telling it to anybody.
PW: I was surprised. He just blurted it out. That was it. As I remember he told me robbers. But you know how memories are. JJ is good. She's intelligent, so she can work with her memory. I have a weird mind. It jumps in and out. It's clear, then not clear. Funny mind. I remember him saying robbers.
DC: A woman I’ve been very close to had an experience that was very big in her life, and if people ask her where she got certain scars she says she had an automobile accident. He just might not have wanted to reveal to you that a monk --
PW: He did funny things with me. Like the statue and things. And I may have a weird mind because I do see snakes with designs on their heads. I just saw one. It never repeated itself. It never came back. I went back day after day hoping it would come back.
DC: Do you remember any other experiences with Suzuki Roshi?
PW: He did a lot of things to me. At first everyone went into the Tassajara hot baths nude. I've bathed nude a lot with my girlfriends and my wife and stuff, but never with a group of people. Everyone was pretty laid back, pretty open. [spring of ‘67, right after ZC had acquired Tassajara] I was kind of shy. Reverend Suzuki asked me to take a bath with him. I washed his back for him. He held his little towel in front of him, very nicely. [Japanese traditionally cover their genitals with hand or towel when bathing together] When we got to get in the bath he asked me to go first. I took one or two steps. I was feeling if the water was hot. He just pushed me. I did a belly flop into the water. I guess he thought you shouldn't test the water, just get in it. So we got in there and everyone was naked. The Welches were there [Dan and Louise]. Maybe a pregnant woman. We were all in the water. It was pretty nice. Roshi was always something awesome to me. Makes me cry. An old man crying.
DC: That's what he said. He told Toni Johansen, he said, when I light incense for my father I feel sad. When I light incense for my master the tears run down my cheeks.
PW: Did you meet his daughter? They talked about Reverend Suzuki as a young man and how they used to go to the beach and play and go swimming. I had never pictured him playing. They said he liked to go to the beach and have a good time. Probably he got so busy with the temple that he couldn't do it very often. They said he was very athletic and loved the outdoors.
DC: Yes I’ve met her but I hadn’t heard that from any of them. I've got a picture of him playing tennis. A picture with a boat. He may have done some archery.
PW: I remember him showing me how to fold my robes. You take two sticks. You take a stick and fold them one way then take a stick back the other way. Like it's parallel. You can fold them back and forth real easy. You can take a whole kimono and fold it very easy. There are probably lots of other things I'll remember when we hang up.
DC: I remember him showing us at morning tea at Tassajara how to fold the zagu, the bowing cloth. I was mesmerized and felt like he was transmitting the whole of Zen to us. Do you know about the suicide of his daughter?
PW: I felt a lot of negative stuff from him. The anguish. Like he was really distraught. Was that when I was at Eiheiji?
DC: I know it happened in 1964.
PW: He may have said that. Instead of saying the whole thing he may have said just that to me. If she had hung herself.
DC: That’s what she did – while in a mental institution. His wife was murdered in '52. His daughter committed suicide in '64. The same year you went to Japan.
PW: Wouldn't you be distraught if your son committed suicide? Wouldn't that remind you, if she hadn't gotten over her mother, wouldn't that bring that together? Something may have been happening at that time. I was just getting set to leave in '64. I remember he was very distraught. I couldn't figure out what triggered it.
DC: Before you went to Japan you remember him being distraught.
PW: Yeah. He was extremely distraught and he talked about his wife committing suicide.
DC: No – his daughter did that. You were talking about working on stones with Suzuki.
PW: I had told him that I wanted to work with stones. He introduced me to a rock man over in Hayward. A Japanese rock gardener. I worked with this guy for about six months. That was before I went to Japan -- '63 or so. That's where I became sensitive about the stones. Maybe Hamada but I'm not sure. He came from a Samurai family. He would invite other Japanese men to come and work for him. If he wanted to put a light in the ceiling he'd tell them to bend over and he'd step on their backs. He was brutal and tough. I thought this was just the way Japanese were with each other. He tried being tough on me. I didn't like it so much. If he told me to do something I'd do my very best, but I didn't like him hitting me or anything. One time he got rough. He told me to pick up this long board, about 20 feet long. He was at one end so I went in the middle and picked it up. He said, "Take it over there." When I turned, the end of the board hit him in the side of the cheek. It didn't hurt him. Just a tap. He said, "No, no, over there." I turned around. I think I got him again. He said, "Did you do that on purpose?" I said, "What." I was completely guilty. I thought I was getting back at him for all the things he'd done to the other guys. He needed a little of that himself. But I liked him. When he was really ill he told me he used to be a Buddhist and would go to the temple and he'd lost contact. He appreciated Reverend Suzuki bringing [unintelligible]. Later on he came to Reverend Suzuki's temple, to Sokoji. Paid his respects. A Sunday visit. It was nice. When Suzuki asked him to show me how to do rocks he gave him a picture of something. He was always being given these little square cards with calligraphy on them. I guess they were about 9 inches by 9 inches. They would be given by all the different priests that visited him. He would give them away to his friends. He wouldn't keep them. He gave a beautiful one to this man. He wrapped it up in an old grocery bag, all wrinkled. I brought it and said here's a gift from Reverend Suzuki. Inside the bag was this beautiful calligraphic figure. He didn't say anything. He put it on his altar.
DC: Did you do professional work in people's yards?
PW: What this guy had was like a thousand garden trees all wrapped in sawdust. An acre of them. All bonsai for gardens. You saw these big trees and they just had these little roots in sawdust. We'd pull one of those out and he would do a little landscape, whatever the yard needed, pop in some rocks, and make a little pond, and stick a pine tree in there. Voila. He would put different kinds of small dwarf plants around it for alpine foliage. A little Japanese garden. They were nice. Very fast. That's what happened. When I saw Suzuki moving those rocks around with his hands. Those stones in the box. This man was like a child when it came to what Suzuki was doing. Suzuki loved rock gardens. This guy loved rocks a lot. That may be where I began to get this rock fetish where the rocks do things.
A friend of mine who's Indian took me out along Old Woman Road down here. Up a dry bed creek for about five miles. We came to this big wash. There was a big rock in the center. He had brought along his wife and a 22. He was shooting his 22 and stuff. He and his wife would be arguing. I stayed out of it. Finally we got to this stone. Up in the center of it was a chipping [?] out, like a serpent going back and forth. He had said, Phillip, I get some very strange vibes from that. What do you think about it? I said, well I don't feel anything. He said get closer. That was my undoing. I climbed up on the rock, on the ledge where the serpent thing was. This was about 10 feet off the ground. I don't know, I said. This has a funny carving in it. I put my hand on it and it began to vibrate. I turned around. My friend was in a big heated argument. This thing kept vibrating. Then the whole thing broke open. It was like looking through a television set into another land. It looked just like this one only a little different.. Behind I could see mountains and terrain and I was in a gully with rocks all the way around. I could see back. It was a little green, but still desert. This Indian walked over the knoll. He came about 20 feet away from my television screen and squatted down on his haunches. We telepathically talked. This guy said, I am a relative of yours from a long time ago. I've come here to give you some of my magic. He proceeded to give me his magic. I don't know what it was. It was some kind of power thing. We did this communication telepathically. This must have gone on for about five minutes. I don't know. It was timeless. And all the time this rock was going voo-voo-voo. When he went back over the knoll I took my hand away and the voo-ing stopped. And they were still arguing. I asked them, did you guys see anything. They said, what? I was drained of energy. I didn't want to tell them cause I thought they'd think I was nuts. I just went over on the other side and sat down in the shade. I'd been used up. Going back to the car was like, the party's over.
DC: Did you ever have any experiences along those lines with Suzuki?
PW: No. In the Zen thing I've never had much of any experience. In the zazen thing I haven't been touched by it. All this phenomena I've gotten through the Indian side. The only time I experienced that was when I picked up the staff for the shuso ceremony. Also on Reverend Suzuki's death [ashes] ceremony where we put his bones in the hole. I had a visitation from a power source that was greater than the Indian stuff. I don't know what it was. If it was my own nature peeking out then it should be ashamed of itself. It should come out more often. I'm sure all of these phenomena have occurred to other people before. It's nothing new.
DC: When you talked to Suzuki about your Indian side he just said I'm not an Indian.
PW: Right. I told him one day that he reminded me of an Indian. That Japanese were related to Indians because they were Asian. He said I am Japanese, I am not Indian. I got the same thing from Katagiri. There's a defensive mechanism in there because one time when I was taking a class in computer programming, which I failed completely. I wanted to do some of my visions on the television. They only wanted business. But there was a Japanese woman in there. I told her I'd been to Japan and thought highly of the culture. I put Japan into two parts. One was the Zen training, the other was the culture. The two sometimes related and sometimes were disparate and connected at the same time. I appreciated both of them. One day she told me she couldn't understand what I was talking about because she was Japanese. I think that Suzuki and all these guys could probably find themselves up against the wall with Americans and might just say, I'm Japanese, I have to have Japanese things, excuse me, but you'll have to learn something of my way, because I'm Japanese. I think it's a copout, but also true.
I went to the University of Florence for a year. I refused to associate with Americans or English or anyone who spoke English. I found that the Americans were always bumming around with each other. They would meet a few Italian people. The rest of the time they clung to each other. They had to have American food -- hamburgers -- something American. So one part is desperate and needs that cultural reinforcement to say that they exist or something. The other part is like you can use it in different ways.
DC: Did you feel that Suzuki clung to his Japaneseness at times?
PW: He had to be Japanese, and he was proud of it, and he wanted us to -- he did both. I'll tell you some things I noticed. He wanted to show us the very best of Japanese things. He was selective. At Sokoji we had these cushions we sat on all the way around. At the end, remember those folding blinds to block off the entrance to the kitchen. They were solid wood, natural colors. He had us make them. He didn't want painted ones. He wanted natural wood. We did the floor in natural wood with a slight stain. I helped on that. We were all working on it. That was about '60, '61. I think.
I got to know Reverend Suzuki when JJ wanted to go to Mexico and learn Spanish for her graduate work. She had to know four languages for her doctorate. She had gone to Italy and studied it. She knew French. She had to work on German. She went to Mexico to study and that's when I met Reverend Suzuki.
JJ and I got married in '59. I had been a maverick at Stanford. I refused to wear suits and ties and in those days that was a no-no. You had to wear a suit and tie if you were a graduate student. I was trying to get men and women to live together. It was kind of an ideal thing -- they should know each other instead of living apart. By knowing each other they would have more respect and be more natural. Then I'd gone to San Francisco State because Stanford [unintelligible] didn't like my attitude. So I thought maybe I could survive at SF State. And they didn't like my attitude. I asked questions. I'll take something simple. I really like physical education so I'll be a coach. I took classes in coaching. Kinesiology. One of the classes contained elements of different diseases. There's a condition where a person or child has no control over their motor responses. They can only do it through conscious effort. To hold their head up, their body in alignment, it must always be conscious. They can't develop a habit. Their motor system is always falling apart but their conscious mind can reinvent it for a few moments. I began to fall in love with these children. I saw the gigantic effort they were making to survive. I loved the drool coming out of their mouths. Everything they did I adored. They would give them things like, good posture means good health. And I would say, what are your sources, can you prove it. I had not had zazen at that time. So they would give me a source and I would check it. Finally it would come back to the same source and they hadn't proved anything. They couldn't prove what they were saying. All this stuff in these schools, you should be able to prove it. Why is it healthy to sit up straight? Just tell me why. And they couldn't tell me why. I'll see if there's a relationship between success at anything and good posture. I checked with Olympic athletes. Half of them had something wrong with them. Their feet were flat. They had scoliosis of the spine. They had fused spines. Some were diabetic. They had everything kind of curvature and things wrong with their backs. Still they succeeded. I could see no parallel between good posture and being healthy and being successful. Can you prove otherwise? They got pissed off at me. You're just supposed to memorize that and then when you come to that little block, you check good posture means good health. That's all they wanted. I questioned them. They didn't want that.
I was also taking art classes at the Art Institute. They didn't ask me that question. They would ask, do you like what you're painting? At that time if I had Rembrandt on my mind I would paint Rembrandt. If Picasso was on my mind out would come Picasso. My teachers would ask, what do you want? Where are you? This is Picasso. Where are you? I couldn't find myself. To me that was a big question. In one class I tried to make a painting for myself and I couldn't. My whole frame of mind was on the appreciation of art and artists. But that was not being an artist yourself. Suzuki gave me another dimension of appreciation where you become the appreciator, and the appreciation becomes a creative form of existence. At that point I could see that I was only appreciating the work.
DC: You said he got you into studying stones with this other guy. Do you remember working with Suzuki on stones?
PW: At Tassajara. We did some walls. In his garden by his cabin we placed stones. Mostly we did walls. He said that one of the most difficult things to do is to repair a wall that's already built. When a wall is finished and something goes wrong in the base, it's hard to replace the stones at the foundation. I reflected on my own foundation or lack of it. I kind of peeked in there but it was too dark. I didn't see too much. So I would work with him on repairing the foundation walls. He showed me how to put the rocks in on an angle. This is without mortar. The rock edges back on an angle. He would dig holes and we'd put up some structure to hold the other rocks back. Then he would use a big stick or limb to lift a rock or move it into place. He'd jiggle around there. He showed me that the rocks have different positions. You can make a rock very stable by setting it. You have a flat surface, then a front, different sides and back. He showed me there were different faces to a rock. That may have gone into my unconscious about putting water all around a rock.
End Tape 4 Side B.
interview on phone with DC 3\2\98
In Japan in ’66, Suzuki introduced me to a lot of artists and craftsmen. One of them asked Suzuki, does he take the path over the mountains through the valleys? Suzuki said that I take both.
I went to a squat toilet at Rinsoin at night and when I got in, turned the flashlight on there was a big yellow black spider on a web there. It scared the heck out of me
J.J. was finishing her doctorate at Cal in comparative lit. We had a tiny room, a closet across the street from Sokoji on Bush St. She couldn’t work there. She was trying - when she wasn’t there a gal down the hall were trying to bust into the room to make out. She started pounding on my door when J.J. wasn’t there. And Evelyn Lentz would wander up there and so J.J. wanted to move and Rev. Suzuki said stay don’t move - a lot of guys were turning on in the courtyard too. I didn’t mind it but with the Zen thing and Japan, I’d become more of a prude and it changed me. I was critical of Tatsugami for drinking at Eiheiji. So I moved to Berkeley with J.J. and solved that problem.
Jean Ross had problems with the hippies too - she was very middle class too. Maybe I was inhabited by a ghostly monk when I had tokudo [ordination] but I got sort of prudish.
Hoichi used to take me to his favorite bars.
We moved to Berkeley in ‘69. We stayed there for six or seven months and then moved to Russian River. I worked on Beneath the Planet of the Apes for Dick Zanuck, Darrell’s son. Bought a truck with it in Dec ‘69. Was a sergeant ape. Lived there by the Russian River for about a year -- outside Guerneville. J.J. had been teaching at Sonoma State since 69. Took classes in scuba diving. Then we moved a couple more time, J.J. got an inheritance so we looked around and bought a place in Petaluma. We lived in Glen Ellen maybe before that.
I remember visiting Rev. Suzuki from Glen Ellen at Page Street when he was dying. He said if Katsuzen [Phillip’s Buddhist name] comes, let him in no matter what time it is. If that door had of been closed I would of knocked it down. We’d chat and if his wife came in he’d change the subject completely. The tone, quality, everything would change. He was telling me something. It was interesting. Most of the time was not talk. He’d hold my hand a little bit. I remember saying I wish I was a rag and could soak up all your sickness and you’d heal. If possible use me as a rag. One time I said some of us may be draining your energy. Is it possible for you to just shut off and use all that energy to heal yourself. He said yes. I said can you do it now and he said yes. I said Why not do it. I felt like a vacuum sucking the air out of me and I grunted and he let go and I was a normal person again. I didn’t understand how the reality of the spirit really worked. It was a naive question. For a developed person it would have been superfluous. We can’t be independent we’re interdependent. All you can do is be non attached. He was always doing stuff like that with his students in one day or another. I was visiting three times a week. It was raining a lot in Glen Ellen at that time. I had Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and it was all wet partly from me crying. Mainly I’d just sit by his side. He wanted me there. Dick was very nice - go on in, he’d say.
We should know about Rev. Suzuki that he knew, knew who we were and let us get away with it.
He said if I don’t know about it, it’s better – better not to tell on others. If I get made it doesn’t help. [Suzuki was talking about it being better if he doesn’t know about his own cancer – Japanese traditionally felt that way.]
I became separate from you guys by going to Japan. It kind of warped my mind - how I responded to the environment. I was there on a religious scholarship and wasn’t supposed to date or go into bars. They wouldn’t let me do anything. I met some business people in Yaizu. Finally I went to Kamakura and stayed with some friends and got my own apartment and did tea ceremony at Engakuji. There’s a zendo to the left when you walk in - I did Rinzai zazen sitting out on tan on floor level. They’d serve tea to us we’d sit in seiza [sitting kneeling on shin] on floor level. I had calluses from sitting seiza at Eiheiji.
Rev Suzuki said at Eiheiji, take the incense and drive it into the center of the incense bowl deep. When I first went to Eiheiji they had me come to the office and I sat in seiza from six am to five pm. I nearly died. I didn’t say anything. burning sheer fire. Then I sat eight days of tangaryo. We did everything in seiza. Tatsugami taught us and we did it all in seiza. We sat for two hours. They brought in benches. You’d sit on tatami under the bench. I could take half an hour or forty five minutes in the Hatto in the morning for long ceremonies all in seiza. It hurt a lot. People who did seiza from childhood have bones shaped to sit like that.
In Japan, Rev. Suzuki said I could stay there and get a temple or I could come to America and get one there. I was planning on being a teacher but I didn’t like the scene across the street from Sokoji so I put it on hold and when Rev. Suzuki got sick I couldn’t mention that. [that Phillip should be a teacher and have a temple] It would have been greedy.
Remember the patch over his eye? [no] It got infected. I came to see him. and said what happened Rev Suzuki? and he looked at me very indignantly and intensely with the one eye, took a step forward and I took a step back and he said, "Do you understand?" I said no and then he took a step back and said "Do you understand?" and I said no and then he said, "Next time. Do you understand?" I said no. Maybe he was saying I’m dying so my big mind will have to happen in another body.
I had the experience of big mind at Rev. Suzuki’s ashes ceremony at Tassajara - pure intelligence - it’s not me but it’s my body and mind. I think Rev. Suzuki gave me a last visit as big mind. As big mind he’s always ready to help me.
Rev. Eko at Shasta Abbey told Mel Weitsman at the Berkeley Zen Center that Phillip had died
Berkeley Zen Center had memorial service in early September, 2007
So did Steve Allen in Crestone.
DC learned about Phillip’s death from Jeanie Stearns.
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