Phillip Wilson Main Page
People’s mentions of Phillip Wilson as found in my
computer, mainly in cuke interviews - DC
[and surely I've missed stuff. I used Google desktop search and just found that it missed all the Grahame Petchey interview material from below - either that or I neglected to see it at the time. - DC]
I have a lot of recollections from the 60's; I met Alan Watts when I was working at KPFA. A very exciting time. I remember meeting Richard Baker and Phil Wilson. I used to watch Phil Wilson at zazen to see how he did it, because he'd been to Eheiji.
I suppose the four main students were probably Bill Kwong, Dick Baker, Graham Petchey and Phil Wilson. Phil and Graham were about as opposite as any two people you can imagine. Phil was this ex football player and really a nice guy and full of life and loved the good things of live and lots of women and drink. And Graham in those days was a very prim English Buddhist who looked like he'd been born to wear a Buddhist robe. One day, I think it was on a Saturday after we'd cleaned up the zendo, Phil and Graham were standing in the middle of the zendo and Suzuki Roshi just walked over to them and he pointed to Graham and said, "You're all priest," and then he crossed his other hand and pointed it to Phil Wilson and said, "And you're all pig." And then he reversed his fingers real quick so that it clearly meant and vice versa and they both stood there with shit-eating grins on there face - they'd both just been whacked pretty hard.
Phil Became an alcoholic I hear. That’s too bad but it happens.
[NO – I don’t think so. JJ said he was never much into alcohol. He was just very eccentric. But I’m not sure. I leave this in because Phillip did give that impression and think I remember him drinking beer around Sokoji some – maybe just to bug people. - DC]
I remember Suzuki Roshi beating Phil Wilson with a rolled up newspaper in the Sokoji office. I don't remember what Phillip said, but Suzuki Roshi rolled up a newspaper and beat him over the shoulder with it.
I'd heard about Zen Center in '63, something like that. The person who talked to me about it was Phil Wilson. I was an artist.
I remember that when we'd just been reminded by Tim Buckley that the correct way to address Suzuki was as Suzuki Roshi or Roshi, Phillip Wilson still used Sensei a number of times that night - like he was saying, no one's gonna tell me how to address Sensei. And Phillip had that child-like way of talking - like Bob Halpern.
MD: When we first started sitting there was something going on that was -- in my own mind it was finding our way -- something that made it particularly intense at times.
DC: This included?
MD: Betty Warren, Della, Trudy, myself, Dick [Baker], Bill Kwong, Phil Wilson, Norm Stieglmeyer, Graham [Petchey], Paul Anderson, FK.
MD: Phil Wilson really disappeared. He burned his robes I hear.
Mike Dixon - interview not yet edited and on site
Before I came to ZC I knew Mel Weitsman pretty well and I respected him and Phil Wilson - he used to paint and I lived with a woman he knew. I went to Mexico in 64 and came back and started attending zazen at Sokoji in 65 when I was 22.
Tim Aston - - not yet on cuke
Virginia Baker [talking about the oldest students] - - not yet on cuke
Bill (Kwong) had the most amazing feet. And I remember Connie Lueck who smoked all the time. Tall with short blond hair. She was sort of a character. Ananda was there but he was Claude. There was Della. And Grahame Petchey. Bill McNeil and Paul Alexander who was nervous and sort of balding a little bit, who was fixing the organ. Phil Wilson and his wife J.J.
(We talked about how strong and big and sort of scary he was but agreed we felt safe if J.J. and Suzuki were around - he and Dan were the robe burners).
Richard Baker - (walking through the room) Bob Hense. - - not yet on cuke
DC: and Betty and Jean.
RB: Where's Phil Wilson? I remember he was banging those two small Chinese girls - sisters of Wong who's on the board of CIIS.
RB - There were a few people who Suzuki Roshi had a special relationship with and one of them was Phillip and Suzuki Roshi was clear that "Phillip goes crazy about fifty feet from me. But if he stays within the realm of about fifty feet he's fine." Suzuki said to me once, "Phillip understands me in a way others don't."
VB - Phillip used to make very astute comments about Suzuki Roshi. He'd say, you think such and such and he'd laugh and it was like the buffoon is talking but it was sort of wise.
DC - It seemed to be physical. He understood him physically.
BR- Among the early students, definitely Suzuki Roshi had a bond with Phillip - most people he was friends with but he had a real bond with Phillip.
DC - Hoitsu says that the Japanese loved Phillip too. I think Suzuki Roshi was very disappointed that it couldn't work out with Phillip. As soon as Suzuki Roshi was gone at Tassajara he'd start listening to music on earphones on his battery powered record player and drinking beer. He couldn't sustain anything. And in the city he was just lying around drinking beer and Suzuki finally asked him to leave I think.
I can remember going to an event at Golden Gate Park - maybe it was a Buddhist event that ZC participated in and there was music and I remember Mrs. Suzuki dancing with Phillip Wilson there.
I was sitting in sesshin when he died and I just remember that the zendo was full and the hallway was full and what's now the men's dorm was an overflow zendo and I was sitting there and all of his old students started coming to join the sesshin when they got word of his death and many people I'd never seen before who had scattered around like Phillip Wilson was walking kinhin in front of me and he had big broad shoulders.
I do remember Phillip Wilson being there that first morning - those blue blue eyes. And he was like a happy precocious kid was the feeling that he had. And the way he handed me the Heart Sutra card - he was so pleased to be handing the sutra - that was the feeling.
Once Phillip Wilson brought a bum in off the street to see Suzuki Roshi and he asked Suzuki Roshi for some money and Suzuki Roshi said no, I know what you want it for, you want it for wine, and the bum said you don't want to help me and Suzuki Roshi said I want to help you but you won't let me. The guy told me after it happened.
Rick Morton - not yet on cuke
Phillip Wilson always said that Suzuki Roshi is a very capable person. He said that at Eiheiji he realized that there were other priests with Suzuki Roshi's eye but Suzuki Roshi was more competent.
Mel showed me a picture of Suzuki Roshi and some students walking in a procession in Japantown and Phillip Wilson was in it and Tony Johansen and his son were in it and his son wrote a story about that day. Suzuki Roshi looked very young and wore that fancy red outfit and the way he was holding that staff was the way he held it going into the mountain seat ceremony.
SH: Phillip Wilson had a hard time with Dick taking over. He later burned his robes. He was frustrated because Dick was getting the nod and he wasn't.
DC: Well, he couldn't function. Suzuki had asked him to leave, at least for a while, because it just wasn’t working for him or for others for him to be around and so he wasn’t around much for the last couple of years. But he started visiting Suzuki toward the end. I think Suzuki loved him a lot. I think they had a feeling bond, but not so much a spoken one. But he couldn’t function.
SH: That's right.
DC: I told Kobun that Suzuki Roshi says he's going to give Dick transmission, Kobun freaked out and went no no no not Dick he didn't say that - Phillip maybe. He was desperate.
PD: The first person that Ruthie and I met was Phillip Wilson and he put his arms around us and said, I love you folks but you have to leave. It was about three days before tangaryo. And then we met Rob Gove who showed us the ropes. He took us to the zendo for zazen with Ruthie on one side and me on the other in the old dining room before the new zendo was ready for tangaryo and the junko came by and he put his hands up in gasho to receive the stick and so she did too and the junko hit her whack! whack! and she burst into tears. And then I talked to Dick.
DC - I think it took him about one minute to figure out that you were someone who should be there.
PD: Once going to Tassajara with Suzuki Roshi in the Land Cruiser with Phillip Wilson driving Suzuki Roshi was sitting cross-legged in the passenger seat and Phillip was nodding out and I tried to wake him up and he said, "It's okay - he's driving." And he pointed to Suzuki Roshi and he never swerved or wiggled or anything. They had a very special relationship.
Soen Roshi was visiting Tassajara - maybe a month before that I was in my cabin in the upper cabin and Suzuki Roshi was in the cabin down below so I could look right into his cabin and he had Phillip in his room and was berating him for all the bad things he'd done and he was hitting him hard with his stick and Phillip was saying, "Oh sensei I'm so sorry I'm so sorry" and finally Suzuki Roshi broke that short teaching stick over Phillip and then later he brought me the broken stick and said, "I want you to glue this back together but don't do it too good because Soen Roshi is coming and I want him to see that we have strict practice in America." He was so proud that he'd broken that stick over Phillip. The old Rinzai-Soto conflict.
Paul Disco - - not yet on cuke but another interview is
Say, 1965 is three years before Tassajara took off. And so there were a couple of years there, 1965 and 1966, when I was attending as a student at Sokoji. I lived across the street from Sokoji on Bush Street with Phillip Wilson and his wife, JJ. And on Friday nights we'd slip across the street and watch the samurai movies, which was a fund-raiser for the church.
And I remember sitting and watching the first few students that he had, namely Phillip, Bill Kwong, Richard Baker, and Jean Ross, Dixon. It's as if I could see them right now. They were very, very, very, very rigid.
At that time, 1965, he still didn’t have the big pressures put on him, to expand Zen Center, and so it was a good time. And, for example, his wife had time to teach Phillip and myself, and a few others, Japanese, conversational Japanese. But it was shortly after that they got so busy that they didn’t have time to do that kind of small things.
Q: Did you have tea in his office at the temple?
No, it was in the kitchen. Had a little, uh, long table, actually, for the cooks.
Q: So you’d work there on the weekends sometimes, and have tea afterwards?
Q: Who were the other people who were there helping him out at the time?
I remember Phillip was up there quite often.
Q: That was Phillip Wilson?
Yeah, Phillip Wilson. He was strong, and so we’d depend on him to do the real heavy work. But what was surprising was how strong Reverend Suzuki was even in those days. He lifted up, it was just amazing, he’d lift up one end of the pew by himself, and I could just barely nudge it.
Q: Did you know Phillip and his wife before you moved in with them, or was it just an advertisement in the paper?
Uh, I don’t know how that happened. They were trying to clean up the building across the street, and make it so other students could live there. And Phillip and I took over the corner flat. The second floor.
He says that he thinks that he has some photos of Phillip Wilson, his roommate, during the Sokoji days. He's going to look for photos and call me when he has them rounded up.
Breck Jones who interviewed Seiyo Tsuji from the above source.
From Chronology -some places I find the date is March, 1964. Gotta make sure and fix this. - DC
Seems to me that before the first training period started that I finagled and pushed my way to be on the rock crew with Suzuki Roshi - no matter what I was assigned to - I ended up on the rock crew. I'd help him pick out rocks in the creek I tried to stick to him like a glove. Until Phillip Wilson showed up I'd get the job. And then I'd even usually get that job with Phillip - we made that our niche - we wanted to be special. In one paragraph Phillip would call him Reverend Suzuki, Suzuki Sensei and Suzuki Roshi, Roshi, get all mixed up
DC: Same with me - once driving him to Stockton to Dan's parents place for a Quaker meeting I was falling asleep and Phillip was in the back seat and kept asking me if maybe he shouldn't drive and was worried that I was going to kill his teacher. We were always so tired from getting up early and going to be late.
BH: Ask Phillip Wilson how he'd [Suzuki] move rocks. He had pretty good strength considering he was a frail man in his sixties.
Ask Phillip Wilson how he'd move rocks. He had pretty good strength considering he was a frail man in his sixties - and occasionally he would do things that just didn't jive - because he had that bent finger - and without putting any weight behind it, he'd move a rock with his hands instead of with his body. In working with rocks you have to get close up - you can't just reach up with your hands and move them so his way of working was a little surprising - but basically he was straightforward. It wasn't miraculous but something nagged at me that he had a special relationship with these rocks because they moved around when he felt like it.
Phillip and I would have contests of strength - we'd act like complete show off babies and he'd fuel the fire and he'd ask on of us "isn't that one too big to move and we'd completely exhaust ourselves trying to impress him - he'd get an incredible amount of work out of us - or just let us play out our energy and I was quite amazed at working with him that he could do all this without drinking water - you know hot hot Tassajara summer The way we had to guzzle down water to work in the sun - he didn't want a sip - he didn't get thirsty, he didn't sweat.
David, many a time I heard Phillip Wilson talk to Roshi (or did he talk to -roshi?) something like this: "Rev Suzuki, would you like the rock put here, or over there, Sensei? Oh, all right, Roshi, yes it does look better here, yes it looks great this way, Reverend Suzuki." I'm sure you remember those adorable interchanges. Probably Phillip would agree with you about the interchangeability of Suzuki Roshi and Suzuki-roshi. For me, Suzuki-roshi reminds me of Rev Suzuki simply because they're both old-fashioned. Because you said either will do, I'd like to suggest you stick with Suzuki Roshi on cuke.com. I looked at Zen Center's website and found that they use both, which doesn't make sense to me.
Bob Halpern in an email about the spelling of Suzuki Roshi
Phillip Wilson was a physically intimidating person with crazy energy who would get close to you and talk crazy. He was flip out throw things around and I might kill you. He indulged himself with his power. Phillip Wilson went to Eiheiji and he and Tatsugami were talking about something that Phillip had done and Phillip challenged him to a fight and Tatsugami said okay lets go into the rock garden. [Tatsugami was the sumo champ of Eiheiji I’d heard. Phillip was a large thick strong almost All-American Stanford lineman] Phillip said that Tatsugami beat him up so bad that it scared him and turned his hair prematurely grey. Before that he said that Suzuki Roshi had just hit him with Puppy blows.
Doug Anderson and I lived in the cabin across from Suzuki's with Silas and Ed in back. I used to run up and down the road and ring the bell in front of all the cabins. In the evening after the last period of zazen, Doug and Phillip Wilson and I would sing old rock 'n roll songs right in front of Suzuki's cabin and he didn't say anything but one day in lecture he said there's these lunatics singing outside of my window every night and I don't say anything because I know that it can't go on forever. I don't know if he used the word lunatic but he sure meant it. So we stopped.
When Grahame came back from Japan there was an election held in January or so and you could see the factions starting - Mike, Trudy, Pam around Dick and Grahame and those who favored him. There were clicks. And because of that, of Dick and Grahame dividing the votes, Phillip Wilson was elected president. I think Dick was the treasurer and Grahame the VP. It was still small - there were three votes here, four there, five there, but we had an organization and politics were beginning. That election was a dividing line in the development of Zen Center. Phillip was sort of a new figure but he emerged as president.
I remember once when Phil left Eiheiji he arrived at mother’s apartment and immediately threw off all his robes. Mother said you don’t know what letting a Zen master into your life can do to you.
Phillip asked Suzuki Roshi why do Japanese make their tea cups so thin and delicate so they break. Suzuki said it’s not that they’re too delicate but that we handle them well. Again, you adjust yourself to the environment and not vice versa - not to change the surroundings but the self. It was the gentle way.
When we were at Rinsoin in 66 we’d spent days preparing for the ceremony where Suzuki Roshi would turn the temple over to his son and there was a great typhoon and we were sleeping in a big room in the back of the temple and a huge branch came through the roof and ceiling. Phillip and Claude were also there - and David and Julia. Tile had blown off the roof.
**********Sōtō Zen master and ino-rōshi at Eihei-ji monastery in Japan for many years. A teacher or master of Jean Ross, Grahame Petchey, and Phillip Wilson (all students of Suzuki-rōshi) while they attended Eihei-ji. He visited Tassajara to help establish monastic forms and practices. He was head of training at Tassajara for the spring 1970 practice period and for two subsequent practice periods.
Suzuki lecture note on Sotan Tatsugami
Yes, I am the Stuart Lachs that was at Tassajara in 1967. I am surprised that you remember my name. I naively arrived in San Francisco I believe in May or June, JUST planning on going to Tassajara. I was kindly given lodging at San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) housing across the street from the Center, which was quite a fluid and lively place. I worked for the Center, both at Tassajara and with various fund raising tasks in and around San Francisco. I sat in the morning and evening at the SFZC, except when I was at Tassajara.
One of the first nights I was there a few people were sitting around on the living room floor talking. One of them was Phillip Wilson, who was quite large, an ex-college football player. He said something about "going crazy " sometimes. He was to sleep on the floor near me in the living room that night. I thought, man, if he goes crazy it will take an elephant gun to stop him. Later I learned that for him, "going crazy" meant letting the practice slide. He was really a gentle person.
Fred Harriman translates interview with Hoitsu Suzuki - but this exchange not yet on cuke - horrors - I didn't realize that. There's even stuff with Suzuki himself not on cuke yet. Must persevere. You can see how this exchange needs to be edited so it's easier to read. Don't need the [in English] - Harriman is a pro.
PETER [in English] : The only person he would ever really get angry at would be Phillip.
CARL [in English] : Phillip Wilson?
PETER [in English] : Yeah.
FUMIKO [in Japanese] : Have you heard about Phillip Wilson? He is an old pupil...
HOUITSU [in Japanese] : Yes I know him. [Carl is saying something about Eiheiji.]
FUMIKO [in Japanese] : He has gotten angry at him in the past. Only that person.
HOUITSU [in Japanese] : And did he get angry at him in America?
PETER [in English] : Here, also.
FUMIKO [in English] : Here... HOUITSU [in Japanese] : When he was in Japan too, in my temple, Phillip was there, and once Phillip did something to get scolded for. And there was big Phillip, with his arm over his head like this. And he was running away. And there was the short Roushi going after the larger Phillip... "Hey you!" [Houitsu obviously finds humor in the scenario]
[Fumiko and Carl translate]
27.8 HOUITSU [in Japanese] : He was really very concerned (shimpai). About Phillip. He was very concerned and he didn't know what to do. I think it is still the same. When he thinks of Phillip he starts to cough... And he gets angry, but...
FUMIKO [in Japanese] : He really does get angry, though, doesn't he.
HOUITSU [in Japanese]: He can't bear to watch him, he sees the danger. Even though he himself is loose about things, he can't bear to see others that way. So I think that Kazumi and Phillip understand that.
FUMIKO [in English] : [translates]
Between February, 1965 and June, 1965, the following people began to attend the Palo Alto meetings regularly: Gladys Halprin, Marian Derby, Gertrude Davenport, Tim Burkett, Phillip Wilson, Helen Donaghey, Bob Randle, Dan Baty, and Toni Johansen. 3
There was a sesshin in LA after Yamada came. Five or six people came to LA from San Francisco to join in. They stayed at our house before and after it. Phillip Wilson was there. He was jolly. Betty Warren broke her leg. It was a big treat for me because I wasn’t used to LA yet.
DC: Who was there when you were there?
GP: Phillip Wilson, Betty Warren, people probably you don't remember. Connie Luick, Bob Hense, the person who tried to get Zen Center together but never did, Bill Kwong. Bill McNeil had left. He'd gone to Japan.
GP: Well it wasn't actually in terms of the ceremony. It was extremely simple. It was Pauline, Okusan, and Suzuki Roshi and myself at six o'clock in the evening, and it was done symbolically. I didn't get my head shaved or anything like that. He just waved the razor over my head. We both needed to go through the process so I could go into Eiheiji.
DC: When was that?
GP: I'm going to guess. 1963.
DC: And Phillip went after you?
DC: And Jean Ross went to Eiheiji before you, but she went as a layperson.
GP: Yes. I went twice.
At Eiheiji Phillip was so big and strong that they didn't harrass him so much. One day a Japanese monk was bullying a younger monk and Phillip went over and picked him up by the back collar of his robes and just walked him away.
We used to go to Esalen a lot - Pauline and Phillip and I. That’s how we discovered that area. Phil and I liked to test our zazen strength by sitting in the freezing cold stream near there. And to Nacimiento further south - we used to go there - often - many weekend - so we tried China Camp [on the way to Tassajara]. Al Levinson was there. It was mid summer. We put eggs on the frying pan for breakfast and 1000 wasps descended on it - we’d camped below it. We drove to Tassajara but didn’t go in. It didn’t look inviting. So Al, Phil and I thought it might be the greatest place in the world for what we want to do. Actually, Al went there first and came back and reported to us.
Suzuki Roshi brought brochures about the horse pasture purchase which Zen Center was raising money to buy and Pauline and I were shocked - such big talk. I was going around rice paddies in waraji [straw sandles] and back there they’re having Zenefits.
I was doing memorial services with Phillip Wilson and we were in robes and had shaved heads. That was in Shizuoka and Suzuki Roshi was with Claude coming along in people’s homes and Dutch Reform Claude was horrified that we were becoming Japanese
Okusan was not there. She didn't come with him on that trip. But Kobun was there at Hoitsu’s ceremony. Pauline and the kids and I left for England via Russia before the ceremony.
Kinu Obaasan, Suzuki's mother-in-law, was quite a character at Rinsoin. She sat there and observed and commented. She was tough, abrupt, and carried weight.
It was a peaceful wonderful experience being at Rinsoin. Except for the typhoon. There was a typhoon and Suzuki Roshi was out at a village meeting when the storm came in and didn’t make it back to Rinsoin. There was a large hole broken in the wall and ceiling by a branch. Shoji were flying horizontally across the hatto and Hoitsu was battling with them. I got knocked out going through a door then got back to and wrapped the kids and Pauline in a futon to protect them.
The next morning at zazen with Phillip and Claude, I saw the downed trees and debris through the opening where shoji doors had been. Phillip had slept through it. He didn't even know. Suzuki Roshi got back while we were having breakfast and we learned that many people had died.
From some old interviews for the Wind Bell with Grahame Petchey and Richard Baker and others that aren't on cuke yet -
GP: At a weekend lecture we attended, where was it . . . Berkeley Shin Buddhists.. . . and Dr. Cartel . . . and he introduced me to Suzuki Roshi and I went along to see him the following day. And I remember, on my right, in the middle of evening zazen . . . and waited in the office outside . . . and the only sound I could hear was people breathing, I remember, and they just seemed to go on breathing for a long time . . . and then the noise of the bells and eventually the Sutra. And I remember sitting there on that couch watching the first people coming out of the zendo. I remember the first was Al Levinson, dressed in blue jeans, and then Phillip Wilson, also in blue jeans and a tartan shirt. And a friend of Paul Alexander's, I've forgotten his name . . .
GP: It appeared one morning, Saturday morning. The first edition. (Everybody laughs.)
RB: It had been started even without your knowledge, you mean?
GP: Yes. You didn't know about it either.
RB: Roshi and Phillip had just concocted it.
GP: The first sheet just appeared. Dogen's poem on the heading, I remember. Single, rather dirtily duplicated sheets, and I remember you and I looking at one another saying what the devil do we need a newspaper for. This is organization. (Laughing.)
RB: Who thought it up?
GP: I think Roshi did.
RB: He wanted it.
RB: It wasn't Phillip's idea? Why did he want it?
GP: Well, I'm not sure about that but he wanted it, I think.
At the end of a letter from Suzuki to Elsie Mitchell
Rev. Shunryu Suzuki
P.S. I have many things to write.
My wife is leaving S.F. April 8. [going to Japan for a visit]
2. Phillip Wilson is leaving S.F. for Eiheiji to stay one year there.
May 22, 1965
[horrors - I guess Phillip was ordained in May of 65 and I got that wrong in other places - like in Crooked Cucumber. This will take time to sort out. - DC]
SUMMER SESSHIN LECTURE: 6:30 PM
You can fight with teacher if you like, if you can enjoy that [laughs, laughter]. But still [?] teacher like me will—will not be enjoyable [laughs]. But if I am big, like Phillip [Wilson]—
Phillip Wilson: Hit you [?].
Suzuki-rōshi: —it may be pretty interesting [laughter]. Here we have no teaching. That is our ideal world. That is our heaven, nirvāna, where there is no teaching.
In Eihei-ji Monastery, you know, if you go to Eihei-ji Monastery you will be bored [laughs, laughter] because you will repeat same thing over and over again every day. Fortunately Phillip and Petchey couldn't speak [laughs, laughter] the Japanese. They have—they had something to study there [laughs, laughter], so—. They say that is a problem, but for us it is very good [laughs]. It was very good that he—they couldn’t understand Japanese or [laughs], you know, speak Japanese. But our understanding of life is very firmly based on the mechanical understanding that we think our everyday life is repetition of same thing. But it is not so. It is—no one can repeat same thing over. What you do something is different from what you do in next moment. That is why we should not waste our time.Grahame Petchey went to Eihei-ji in 1963 and again in 1965. Phillip Wilson went in 1964.
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