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About the Book       

About Suzuki Roshi    

The Cucumber Project
(The Crooked Cucumber Oral History Project)
December, 1999 fundraising letter from me, David Chadwick. I'm still sending these out to my mailing list due to a killer flu I got in December.--DC 1/14/2000.

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to ask for your help. Last year at this time I sent out a letter on behalf of the Shunryu Suzuki lecture archiving being done at the San Francisco Zen Center. The response was very good. This year I'm seeking support for my own efforts, the other side of this archiving.

When I started working on Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki in 1993, I wasn’t sure how long it would take or where it would lead. It turned out that I had embarked on a wider project than the book—that of collecting and recording the oral history of Suzuki Roshi’s sangha.

Since May, when the readings and events around Crooked Cucumber subsided, I've spent much time working on the web site, The site has evolved in various directions. It is a growing and evolving archive for the interviews and materials upon which the book is based, new materials, readers’ comments, and more. It also has grown into a fledgling interactive forum for news and communication among members of the loosely knit, spread out community of people that sprang up because Shunryu Suzuki came to America. When a forest fire threatened Tassajara this summer, Zen Center sent callers to's Sangha News section to get the latest updates, first hand reports, and links to the Forest Service site which even had daily photos.

In the Spring I plan to finish another book on Suzuki Roshi. This one, tentatively entitled "Letters from Emptiness," will be a book of stories—brief accounts of significant encounters with him. The authors will be the people who related these encounters, and I'll be the editor.

Having gone as far as I had into the oral history of Suzuki Roshi and his community, I didn’t want to stop. I have continued to interview people about their memories of Suzuki Roshi and their own lives, to transcribe, organize and edit these and prior interviews, and to attend to many other aspects of this archiving work. Since the book came out, I've received emails, letters, and phone calls from many people who knew Suzuki Roshi . I have found that each person, including those who only briefly met Suzuki, has something unique to add to the total mosaic.

Looking at my balance sheet this fall, it was obvious that I needed to find some way, in addition to book publishing, to support this work. Calling it the Crooked Cucumber Oral History Project, abbreviated to the Cucumber Project, I wrote a description of what I've done and plan to do, and showed it to a few key advisors. As a result, the Regional Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library of UC Berkeley has expressed an interest in being an official home of this archive, with Dr. Lewis Lancaster as the faculty sponsor. The Graduate Theological Union (in Berkeley) followed suit. With letters of support from each of them and from Michael Wenger, Dean of Buddhist Studies at the San Francisco Zen Center, I approached the Institute for Historical Study (also based in the Bay Area) and am now a member of this organization which has kindly agreed to be the fiscal sponsor for the Cucumber Project. This means I am now able to receive tax deductible contributions to help me to complete this task. [These letters of support can be found on under Archives Projects/Cucumber Project, or will be mailed or faxed to any wishing to see them.]

The archive—the interviews, notes, letters, articles, photos, and various other materials—will not only be housed in Berkeley, but will also be found at the San Francisco Zen Center, and at any Zen Center in Suzuki's lineage which wishes to have the archive or any parts of it. It will also be on the World Wide Web on The Cucumber Project will be a record of the early history and the continuation of a whole community, of the teachers, disciples, students, and those who just passed through. It centers on Suzuki Roshi, but it is unique in that it also focuses on the sangha. It preserves the thoughts and recollections not only of transmitted teachers, but also of a great many who were involved.

Considering the ages of all of us who were around for this wonderful event, now is the time to complete this project. I estimate it will take two to three years if I continue to concentrate on it, and if I can hire others to help me. I wish to make one more trip to Japan and do some traveling in the US. There are some necessary equipment purchases, ongoing office and computer expenses, and the cost of living.

I am projecting that it will take roughly $175,000 to complete the Cucumber Project. (I can send a more detailed budget to any who’d like to see it). This amount doesn’t include taxes or my considerable debt. I'm prepared to do a formal proposal for foundations (I welcome suggestions in that area).

Contributions of any size, from you my friends and friends of Shunryu Suzuki's legacy, can keep this project alive while I do what’s necessary to put it on a firmer financial footing.

Thank you very much and a happy new millennium.

David Chadwick

Checks should be made payable to "Institute for Historical Study," specifying Cucumber Project, and mailed to:

Institute for Historical Study
PO Box 5743
Berkeley CA 94705.

I will promptly acknowledge receipt of your gift.

Return to Cucumber Project  to see letters of support.

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