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Shunryu Suzuki Stories - Suzuki Stories Index
MEMORIES OF SUZUKI Roshi FROM WIND BELL AND DC FILES
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Lew Richmond link page
One day Suzuki Roshi was giving a lecture downstairs at Sokoji, I think during sesshin. There was a crazy guy who had been coming around during the sesshin, shouting, hitting the bells, creating a disturbance. During this lecture he sat in the front in zazen posture, very close to Roshi. Everything he did was outrageous; he mimicked Suzuki Roshi's movements, made weird facial expressions, threatening gestures, etc. One of the things he did was to make blowing motions with his mouth toward the candle burning on the stage behind Suzuki Roshi's head. Roshi took absolutely no notice of him throughout the lecture. I remember being worried that maybe the guy would try to attack Roshi or something. At the end of the lecture Roshi got up, did his usual bows etc., turned to leave, then whirled back and quickly blew out the candle, then walked up the aisle, laughing loudly to himself.
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 S. asked that provoked Suzuki Roshi to hit him was: "Well Roshi, what is the right way?"), that our practice wasn't like that.
Roshi came to dinner at the Berkeley zendo with Okusan. Eight or ten other older students and Mel stayed for the dinner. The dinner was informal but there wasn't much talking, as most of us were a little intimidated. Roshi didn't say anything, just ate. At one point Okusan gave Mel her soup bowl and said, "Sukoshi." Mel served a big ladle of soup. Okusan gestured "sukoshi, sukoshi." Mel said, "Oh, Okusan, you want some squash?" and poured the soup back. Okusan didn't understand. "Do you want some squash, Okusan?" Mel said, starting to serve up squash. "no, soup." Mel served up a big ladle of soup. "No, sukoshi." Mel stopped. "Squash?" Eventually Okusan got what she wanted. Roshi completely ignored this whole interchange and just continued eating. After some minutes of silent eating(everyone was little embarrassed) Roshi looked up and said, "Zucchini."
When Amy and I were anja and jisha for Tatsugami at Tassajara, Suzuki Roshi was visiting Tatsugami in his cabin and we were serving the tea. Also we served Greek olives (the bitter kind). There was a plate in the center of the room with all the olive pits on it. Suzuki Roshi noticed some of the pits had a slight bit of olive meat remaining, so he proceeded to clean off all the pits in his mouth, one by one.
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