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About Suzuki Roshi
A comment in
10/16/99--[begun 23 September] A kind message
from old friend and occasional contributor (good errata) Andrew Main in
Santa Fe. I must admit that letters like this help to encourage me to keep
going on this venture. Thanks Andrew.--DC
Andrew has kept up making occasional insightful suggestions and comments though the years. - dc, 10-27-17
I was showing a friend your Web site; after he left this evening I've been browsing the site for over two hours, enjoying everything and marveling. It's just wonderful!
Just now I was reading the note from Miriam Bobkoff, and learned that she was involved in publishing the "Kaliflower" commune newsletter in San Francisco in the early 1970s. In the fall of 1971 I was living with a bunch of down-and-out hippie/ex-convict friends in a boarded-up derelict house on Oak Street, just a block behind Zen Center. It was a "family" in the culture of the times, an informal commune, and one day a copy of Kaliflower somehow appeared, wherein I read of the death of Suzuki-roshi. I'd known about him and Zen Center for years--in the mid-60s Jack Weller was a student at the UCSB Philosophy Dept, where my mother was departmental secretary, and they became friends; I remember Jack calling my mother's house once from Tassajara, maybe during the first practice period--then in the late 60s I was involved with the Steven Gaskin crowd, where photos of Suzuki were everywhere--but somehow I'd never gotten around to going to the ZC (except for one evening on an acid trip when I went to an incomprehensible [to me, anyway] lecture on "the meaning of traditional okesa" by some Japanese priest--maybe Katagiri?). So there I was, living just a block from ZC; I read in Kaliflower about Suzuki's death, and thought, "Well, better late than never," and went to zazen instruction on Saturday morning, 25 December 1971 (Christmas day), went home and thought about it for a week (pretty stoned most of the time in those days), went back to zazen instruction on 1 January, then on Monday morning, 3 January 1972, set my alarm clock (all I owned along with a sleeping bag, teapot and copy of the I Ching) to 4:30, got up and went to zazen. And every morning thereafter, pretty much, for the next 11 years. Saved my life, I think.
And here I learn that Miriam Bobkoff was involved--perhaps she even delivered that copy of Kaliflower to our house?--in my beginning practice. As you may know, Miriam works in the Santa Fe Public Library, where I am a frequent visitor; recently I had the pleasure of telling her the story above. A connection you made possible. That's what I love about cuke.com, and your work. Marvelous. I hope you really are having as much fun as you seem to be. Meanwhile you're doing all of us a tremendous service. For my part, always having felt something of an outsider at the Zen Center, I somehow feel more part of a community, or group of friends, or--perhaps the word is "sangha"?--as I browse and read the site.
Reading the recently-posted interview with Jerry Fuller, whom I never knew well but remember with a pleasant feeling (no help for it, as we get older more and more of the best people we know will be leaving), I am particularly struck by the comments about the nature of Suzuki's teaching. And feel fortunate that I somehow found my way (or was somehow led) to Zen Center, as I realize that the "non-teaching" you and Jerry discuss was and is exactly suited to my own seeking--and is not that commonly found. I *love* it that Zen Center students "couldn't say what they'd gotten out of it." Now that's something really worth doing.
The remark about life being one continuous mistake is in ZMBM, and was, as I recall, presented as one of Suzuki's favorite quotes from Dogen--and has always been a favorite of mine, along with "To take this posture is in itself enlightenment." (I think it's "shoshaku jushaku" in Japanese, and Suzuki explains it as meaning "one mistake after another" or "one continuous mistake"--"a Zen master's life.")
[Later note from Andrew: The "shoshaku jushaku" note is on page 39 of ZMBM; I found it, by golly! "When we reflect on what we are doing in our everyday life, we are always ashamed of ourselves. ... Dogen-zenji said, "Shoshaku jushaku." Shaku generally means "mistake" or "wrong." Shoshaku jushaku means "to succeed wrong with wrong," or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master's life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku. This means so many years of one single-minded effort."]
I expect I'm far from alone in that, though I never met Shunryu Suzuki, I feel closer to him than to nearly everyone I have met--thanks in no small measure to your efforts.
Thank you so much, David.
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