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Excerpts on Shunryu Suzuki

from Stephen and Ina May Gaskins' books

7-03-14 - Stephen Gaskin, founder of The Farm, dies at 79

amazing.gif (122973 bytes)Gaskin, Stephen. Amazing Dope Tales. The Book Publishing Co., 1980.


I didn't know Suzuki Roshi, but I was slightly acquainted with him. I sat with him once or twice, and went to hear him lecture a few more times. But I didn't have to go see him all the time, or spend a lot of time in his presence: He had his integrity whether I was there or not.

Knowing that he was there and that he had his integrity all the time made it so that I felt safe. As wild and scary and trippy as it was in San Francisco, I felt safe, because I knew there was such a thing as an honest man. I knew an honest man. I knew where an honest man lived. I knew I could go see him and talk to him if I wanted to. There was an honest man there who believed in reality. He was the strength to all of my trippings: Everything I ever did in San Francisco was strengthened from knowing that he was there, that he existed, that he was like he was.

And I find that I tend to respect him more rather than less as time goes on, as I see how long it takes to find another one like that.

Mind at Play 
Excerpt from a chapter titled "A Visible Spark" pp.73--74

I heard Suzuki Roshi was dying and we had a 400 cubic-inch Buick Wildcat medical car—the Farm’s only car that ran in those days—and I took it and left for California, going as fast as I could go. I had tossed a picture of Suzuki up on the dashboard, and it landed on the dash in such a way that it reflected right up and was just like him sitting there out in front of the car, and I was looking out through his eyeholes down the road.

I charged down the road, man, haulin’, got to where he was, and got to the door.

The gate man didn't want to let me see him, and I didn't want to push. I'd just been driving 3000 miles as hard as I could roll, so I had a lot of inertia and push.

Richard Baker came around the corner and recognized me, and I had such an obvious rush on that he stopped and dropped me a gassho, real slow, to see if I was too fast to notice that or not, and I slowed down and gave him one back. He said,

"What's happening?"

I said,

"I heard Suzuki Roshi is very sick and I've just come from Tennessee to see him, and I would like to see him if I could, but I don't want to make him no hassle, and it's okay if I can't."

He said I could. I was so grateful.

I went up and I went to Suzuki's room. He was small and frail and very yellow, and he looked different than I'd ever seen him before. He looked regal. Royal. Very skinny and very pale and very puny, very weak and very yellow and very royal. I saw him and my heart went to him and I went running across the room. I reached out and he took my hand, and it just stopped me cold in my tracks where I was.

He couldn't have weighed more than 75 pounds or so. But he had so much power and command in his grip—it was like hitting a stone wall,


It wasn't like he didn't want me up close; it was just that he wanted to stop me and until he could integrate me for a minute. He just held me off a little until he integrated that hammer-down-for-3000-miles attitude I'd come in with.

He touched my hand three times that day, and each one of them said a different thing. One of them was just like you ran up too fast on a sword-master and suddenly found yourself facing the edge of his blade, while he figured out who you were. The next time he touched me he drew me closer to him, and that was very full of love and very intimate. The last time he gave me his hand was like maybe when the pope puts his ring out to you—regal again. And the most of what he told me was in touch. I hardly remember any of his words.

Thanks to Mark Bittner for transcribing and sending this excerpt

from the newly revised and annotated edition of Gaskin's book Monday Night Class p. 156.

When Monday Night Class got up to about a hundred people, I went to Suzuki and said, "I have been teaching this class about spirit, and I have about a hundred people coming every week. They are asking real life questions. Could you be my teacher?"

He said, "I can't be your teacher. I have this whole monastery to run, and all these students. What do you tell them about LSD?"

I said, "I tell them that LSD can be a tool to search for inner truth but that it is very strong—and that it shouldn't be used by children or used casually by people who are unprepared for the effects."

He said, "You better teach your class."

Thanks to Mark Bittner for transcribing and sending this excerpt

There are many mentions of Gaskin on cuke such as this out-take from Zen Is Right Here (formerly To Shine One Corner of the World):

At a Zen Center picnic in Golden Gate Park, when Suzuki arrived in his robes, a baby blanket on the ground caught his eye. He lay down on it, rolled up in it and just lay there a while. - Stephen Gaskin

Think that was taken from Ina May Gaskin's book attributed to Stephen. Should have noted the source better. I have the book but everything's being moved so can't check it now. Mark Bittner has it too but all his books are in boxes because of painting being done or something like that. In time- dc

midwif.gif (72318 bytes)Gaskin, Ina May. Spiritual Midwifery. The Book Publishing Co., 1990.



Ina May Gaskin's website

Ina May Gaskin's Wikipedia page

Note from Gaskin's daughter Dana Gaski Wenig and a short entry from that note in Brief Memories.

Two Zennies remember Steve Gaskin - looking for more

I remember Gaskin from one of his nights at the old ballroom down at the beach, later taken over by Chet Helms for the Family Dog.  Gaskin's manifesto that ranks up there with Ram Dass for best spiritual sound-off by a former academic back in the day.  - Steve Tipton



Stephen was a teacher, he was able to teach with great clarity, but sometimes you experience some sense of fear in yourself when you were around him- perhaps because his standards were so high.


 Many Zen Students passed through the "Farm" on their way to Zen Center. Stephen often said that Suzuki Roshi was the "clearest" teacher he had ever met, but a disciplined meditation practice was not Stephen's way. I was Stephen's first attorney and incorporated the Farm, the commune he started in Tennessee in 1971. In the original incorporation papers, which I think still stand, he wanted all of the "Farm's" property to go to Zen Center if the commune was to fold. He always had great respect for Suzuki Roshi.  I feel he taught me many things that I have found useful in my life.


Bruce Fortin

Kanzan Jiru

Corresponding with Dana Gaskin Wenig, Stephen Gaskin's oldest daughter. He and she may come up with something more for cuke to augment what we've got. Here's her note in Comments with a brief sentence in Brief Memories of Shunryu Suzuki.

Stephen Gaskin's Wikipedia page.