Suzuki's Explosive Answer page
Suzuki on Peace and War
Some day when I have time, I'll go through cuke.com and my archives and get all the comments about this event, (one of the most remembered and reported) on this page. Till then you could Google: <steiner site:www.cuke.com> - dc
as told by John Steiner, the recipient of Suzuki's emotional response
with introduction by DC.
The story as told in Crooked Cucumber (or go to the top and read that excerpt about war and peace from the beginning.
Peter DiGesu's memory of this story
Sue Satermo remembers:
My version of the beating of John Steiner.
Question period after lecture, Sokoji. Various questions, I remember Janet asking about "laughing and crying in emptiness". Roshi repeated the phrase a couple of times, as though not understanding, and started to laugh. He laughed, and then the audience started to laugh. Still laughing, Roshi said, "you are laughing. That is laughing in emptiness." Then he told a beautiful story about a pregnant female monkey, confronted by a hunter, who cried "in emptiness" for the hunter to spare her young.
I was very much into peace movement, draft resistance things, at the time, and I asked, "Roshi, what is war?" "War?" he said. "War is like these goza mats, when two people want to sit on one mat, and try to smooth out the wrinkles on their side pushing them to the other side. When the wrinkles meet, that is war."
This started a complicated discussion about the peace movement, whether it was right to march in demonstrations, resist the draft, etc. There was one person in the back who kept asking complicated questions about the peace movement, which organization was better, using movement slang and hippie jargon. Roshi couldn't understand him very well, and John S. took on the function of translating the questions for this guy so Roshi could understand. Roshi kept trying to answer the questions very patiently, but suddenly he jumped up like a bat out of hell, rushed off the stage and hit John S. eight or ten times as hard as he could. He shouted something like "What are you dreaming?" to everyone. He went back and sat down and waited for a few moments. "I'm not angry," he said, although he looked very angry. Then he went on to say something about he was not selling zazen as the right way (the question John Steiner asked that provoked Suzuki Roshi to hit him was: "Well Roshi, what is the right way?"), that our practice wasn't like that.
John Steiner was all upset about the war in Vietnam and you know a lot of young people didn't want the war and the government did want it and there was a lot of mess about that - and John was in a frenzy about the whole thing and he was asking a question and his eyes were popping out and he was really upset and he said what can I do?! And Suzuki Roshi said, Gasho! Gasho! Gasho! and he came down off of the raised area where he was standing speaking with his short straight flat stick and he started batting John till John was sinking to the floor and then he said, now get up, you know what you can do!" Oh! it was something! He could settle people's bullshit so easily. I'm not saying John didn't have a right to be upset but Suzuki Roshi unupset him. He taught a lot of people a lot by doing things like that.
DC: One way to look at this is that Suzuki Roshi couldn't express himself to the person who asked the question, so he used you. His response was not just for you of course but was for everyone. I know of other situations in which he used that sort of tactic in public situations: hitting Dick or Philip in front of others. It’s traditional.
Katherine Thanas remembers: Reb told the story about John Steiner getting hit with the stick - he asked what should we do about it or something - about the war - and Suzuki Roshi got off his seat and Reb said he hit him so hard he fell over although I don't remember hearing he'd hit him that hard.
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