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Shunryu Suzuki Stories - Suzuki Stories Index
MEMORIES OF SUZUKI Roshi FROM WIND BELL AND DC FILES
Letters on Suzuki Index - with more on these letters
Sue Satermo link page
WHEN I was living at Zen Center in May of 1970 I was working in the front office one sunny day when Roshi happened to come walking by with his stick. He told me to quiet down. I was being rather loud and obnoxious. Then as I stood there feeling rather guilty and embarrassed, he pointed out the office window to a nice tree‑shrub and said, "There, now, didn't I do a nice job of trimming on that tree?" (He'd been pruning it all week.)
Then he stood facing the different arches of the Front Hall and Buddha Hall, using his stick to fan away the bad breezes and calming everything down. I guess it calmed me down a lot too.
Also, about this time, we were having a winter sesshin. I passed Suzuki Roshi on the stairs carrying his stick again! I was laughing and being silly. He said, "Are you going to sit the sesshin?" "Oh, yes," I said, very lightheartedly.
Shaking his stick at me, surprisingly, he said, "You better be good or I'll hit you with my stick!"
Another night about this same time a group of us were sitting in the front hallway passing a bottle of wine and singing folk songs. (We had only been in the building one month.) When who should appear in the front door but Roshi himself, just returning from an outing, dressed in his white silk neck scarf, tabis, and grey overcoat‑kimono, and accompanied by some sidekicks.
"Oh," he said, as he tripped through us. "I thought you were all a bunch of stones!" (As we all sat there feeling bewildered, guilty, and ashamed.)
When I first saw Suzuki Roshi I said, "I've got this problem. I don't understand marriage, sex, and love. I've been married three times and had six abortions. It seems like I could love anybody, or be married to anybody, yet I can't seem to stay married to anybody." He said, looking shocked. "Even me?!"
The first thing I asked Suzuki Roshi was: "Why are you a Zen master?" He answered nothing. Then, like a fool, I told him I was going to Japan. He, like a fool replied, "You must not." I, like a greater fool, inquired "Why?" He then replied, "Because you don't know who you are."
So, like a fool I've stayed,
And like Little Bo‑Peep who lost her sheep,
Doesn't know where to find "it."
But "it" comes home,
Wagging "its" tail behind "it."
About this time I saw Roshi again and told him people said I was asking to see him "too much". He said, "I don't know what the people are saying. I just see the people who come."
Also about this time I tried knocking on Roshi's door without an appointment because I thought it was an emergency. Okusan (Mrs. Suzuki) answered the door and said you want to see the roshi. "Now?" "Yes," I said. And she told him and he saw me even though he had to put on his robes and get all ready at an unexpected hour. What a bad student I was. And what a nice teacher he was. I told him I thought I should visit my father because he had had a heart attack. "Yes," he said, "tell him he's just getting old and sick ‑‑ like me!" Of course I did, which got me in a lot of trouble of course.
Recently I had a dream in which I was "being turned over" to "Bluegrass Bill."
The Press was there. Spotlights.
It started out in a hotel in Stockholm where Steve Weintraub was looking for his zoris. I was supposed to be helping him because I had been living in this hotel since leaving Zen Center.
But soon the scene switched to the outside night under a Van Gogh black leafless tree with the spotlight moon behind where Baker Roshi was in deep conversation with "Bluegrass Bill" who wore black glasses and a white suit.
Baker Roshi was more interested in "Bluegrass Bill" than the fact that I was "being turned over" to him!
I was very put out, what with the press being there 'n all.
Next day I turned on the radio and Bill Monroe was singing away. Shur 'nuf. Bluegrass Bill.
But in the dream it was obvious to me Bluegrass Bill was an inferior teacher. So why was I being turned over to him?
But then why were these two teachers so interested in each other?
Not a very deep story.
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