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About Suzuki Roshi
sent by Jack Van Allen
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about Crooked Cucumber and whatever.
3/1/2000 - from David McGrath : I am enjoying reading the interviews very much. The Stanley White one kind of reminded me of Neil Cassidy's "sex letter" to Jack Kerouac in that it went on and on. Is it possible to post the interviewees "now and then" pictures next to the interviews? I lived on Page Street for four years a few doors down from Zen Center, and I knew more people by "face" than by name. Peace, love, etc.,
[I'd really love to post photos like that on the web site with the interviews and elsewhere. It's just a matter of time. It would be most likely to happen if someone else took care of it. - DC]
3/1/2000 - From Aba: Such a delight reading your generous on-line offerings of the rich and instructive oral history of SR's students. Were there any Afro-American practitioners at all among them all those years? I am an old insignificant hermit/yogi, student of Trungpa R since early 1970's, a contemporary of Allen Ginsberg, Rick Fields, Rob Halpern. Pema Chodron, [did the 3-year lama retreat together at Gampo Abbey]. In 1996 I think Al Rappaport organized a national conference on American Buddhism and I remember questioning Helen Tworkov there about our invisibility. There is a perception particularly in California among Buddhists of color that sanghas are elitist, except for engaged Buddhists teachers are not addressing their realities - 1,000,000 of the incarcerated are people of color, etc,etc. Since then Tricycle did an article by Charles Johnson 'outing' a tradition of connections since the 1920's.Sangha by another Name. Your example inspires me - if we can identify them, wouldn't a sharing of our journeys and our relationship with our guides be helpful? Presently mentor Radcliffe students - East Asian studies + languages who go off for a year of purposeful travel to Japan and China - often recommend Thank You & OK as a companion, instruct them in Oryoki, how to sit, gift them Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. And of into the world. Have not yet gotten a copy of Crooked Cucumber - am reading all the interviews on line, such ripening! Appreciate immensely what you are doing. Thank you & OK.
[There have always been a few Afro-American students around Zen center but not so many. I mention it briefly in Crooked Cucumber and have a suggestion there as to why - something about not offering any visible power to disenfranchised people. So there were never any of the poor ghetto folks coming - just more of us middle, upper middle classers. There's a teacher named Deneal Amos I visited in Vermont who studied with Suzuki. I have yet to interview him. Again, he's an eccentric, somewhat charismatic person who surely has never been representative of any group. But then again, I'm a sort of weirdo from Texas not representative of the people where I come from. It's all hard to say. If you spend enough time with anyone you find there's no one like them - sort of like snowflakes. I think it's natural for the early years in the establishment of a religion, an institution, at least one like Zen as we know it, natural for the members to come from the upper strata of society - nearer the rulers - like college kids and hippies - intellectuals and those who are giving up the riches of the materialistic culture. It's more a matter of class than race I think. Anyway, blah blah blah - who know? Gotta go. - DC]
3/2/3000 - From: L.C. Dubec: You have made a beautiful site. Some 15 years ago I picked up 'Zen Mind.....', and it was my first Buddhist book. I never have studied with a teacher but I consider myself a Soto Zen Buddhist, and Shunryu Suzuki Roshi my original teacher.... I never met the man, but I feel I have. He is with us all, just as all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in this burning world of samsara. May your site help people reach they're goal.
3/5/2000 - from Arnie (a publisher, Buddhist teacher and old friend): Dear David, Crooked Cucumber is the best book ever. Seriously. Congratulations.
[I especially liked to hear this from Arnie because he's in the biz and didn't react favorably to Thank You and OK - starting with not liking the cover. - DC]
3/5/2000 - from Nick Phillips: Hello David. Friend of Judy Hardin here. She sent me your book, which I still cherish. Haven't talked to Judy in a while though. Hope things are well with you. Now that I'm finally online I can check your web site, which I do. Love to read through it.
I have a question for you, I suppose not too earthshaking, but important to me. I read a book recently called "Writing Down the Bones," by Natalie Goldberg, a writer and practitioner, and follower I believe of Katagiri Roshi. Good book, helpful to me, especially as it reflects a Buddhist view as it tries to teach people how to write. In a late chapter she relates an incident of Katagiri Roshi, as he was standing by Suzuki Roshi's bedside shortly before he died, and says that Suzuki said to him, "I don't want to die." Then Katagiri answers, "Thank you for your a great effort."
I remember those last words (Suzuki's) as being attributed to Ikyu, the famous monk in Kyoto a couple of hundred years ago. They stick indelibly in my mind because coming from a great monk they seem unusual. They seem to show some attachment, if only to life itself, and no doubt from a wish to continue compassion and complete the end of suffering rather than from fear or attachment. It makes me think that if our goal is nonattachment and even such a monk can not fully transcend that, then perhaps we needn't be too hard on ourselves if we can't either. Or maybe it means we must still be part of the world and not try to be too removed from it. What do you think? Anyway, this incident, or at least these words, are not mentioned in "Cucumber," and I wonder if you have heard of it. Did Suzuki say this or was he referring to Ikyu or was the writer confusing the two stories?
[This is just one of many stories that was cut from the final version of Crooked Cucumber. I'll make sure it's in the archive. The reason I didn't use it I guess is that Suzuki said the same thing to Dr. Stunkard: "I don't want to die," and that's in the book so it just didn't work to repeat it. There are zillions of important exchanges left out. I'm looking at a way to possibly put it in the current book I'm doing on Suzuki which will be little exchanges. But I don't know if it will make it in this book either. - DC]
3/8/2000 - a message from Kathy Cook about her knee problems, Suzuki, pleasure and pain.
3/9/2000 - From McCann: [Suggestion for title of the new book] Postcards: Travel Notes from Suzuki Roshi
[It's going to be called "To Shine One Corner of the World" with a subtitle something like "Meetings with Shunryu Suzuki" or "Encounters with Shunryu Suzuki." - DC]
3/9/2000 - from Deborah: There was great comfort and disappointment when the murder of his wife takes place. His child says that he could not find some acceptance of this horrific act. He says that it is beyond his understanding. I've been struggling with something traumatic for over two years now and not found peace. There in those words "beyond his understanding", I realized some comfort. It is beyond my understanding. Thank you. I also realized how much faith I put into the authority. I was outraged and fearful, that such a prominent figure in Buddhism, could actually have handled this situation like he did. How could a "master" not see how dangerous this man was? How can someone so present not see the danger. How did he not see the life in his own children. How could they too, have a distant father!!!! Suzuki??? Who will keep me safe? It made me see that my practice is not what I thought it was. Perhaps its the wizard of Oz version rather than having faith in "here." You rocked me. Geesh David. Your book is a wonderful biography
Do you think most people idealize men like Suzuki? Did you?
[Absolutely - it's an old story - some gurus want it and some don't but they all get it. Sorry I have no answer for your questions about Suzuki - DC]
3/13/2000 - From: bonbuyer: Having recently re-read Beginner's Mind, I was thrilled to hear about the Crooked Cucumber. I am about 100 pages into the Crooker Cucumber, and am enjoying it immensely. I like the style of inserting his comments in the text...it is almost as though I expect to feel a whack across the shoulders when my mind wanders. Your commitment to spreading the wise words of this man are greatly appreciated. I look forward to exploring the Web site and contributing to the project. Gasho!
3/15/2000 - From John Mullen: Occasionally I read your web site, and once ran across something you said about "the eyes of Buddha are upon you". Where was that? [Under Old Digressions - click right here] I had the fantasy of Zen folks singing that, a la U. of Texas, and yelling "Hook 'em Bodhisattvas" at the end. My son and I have really enjoyed your book, "Thank you and OK", especially as he and I took a trip to Japan 4 years ago when he was 15 (sushi boys do J-pan). He has long been enamored of all things Japanese and I have been interested in Zen stuff since I was a teenager. I also enjoyed "Crooked Cucumber" very much as well. I look forward to future writings, Best Regards.
3/15/2000 - from Sarah E. Truman, Publications Manager, ascent magazine www.ascentmagazine.com:
Hello again. I am writing to ask you to respond to our small but potent question for our upcoming issue on the mind: what is mind? Could you answer it from your own experience? It can be a brief response. Spring has arrived here in the mountains. The fruit trees have buds waiting to open. In light, --
[My answer was, "I don't know," and I wasn't being cute. - DC]
3/17/2000 - From Andrew C. McMaster: I just finished re-reading Thank-you and OK, when one of my sangha mates sent out this web site. I read Crooked Cucumber, last month. Thanks for both of them!! We sit zazen every morning at the Missouri Zen Center in St. Louis. Our roshi is Rosan Yoshida, who received transmission from Katagiri Roshi. Yoshida Roshi teaches in the same tradition as your teachers. JUST SIT!!! Thanks, again!
3/20/2000 - From Kalen: Thank you for your books. I've enjoyed both of them tremendously and am looking forward to future books (attachment?). I've bought several copies of Crooked Cucumber for gifts. What a sensitive piece of work. My teacher is Yoshida Roshi who is from Katagiri's lineage. Sensei read the book also and referred to it in several of his talks. Thank you for your gifts,
3/20/2000 - From Andrew McMaster: Please visit our web site at www.missourizencenter.org and, if possible, add it to your links page. Gotta go work on my rakusu. We still do it stitch-by-stitch, taking refuge in the Buddha. Arigato gozaimashite!! In gassho,
[I put it on the links page too. - DC]
3/26/2000 - from Michael Thaler:
Just finished reading "Crooked Cucumber." I thought it was a marvelous book. Oftentimes, we have a tendency to elevate our teachers and heroes to the point where their very human foibles are minimized or overlooked. Your characterization of Suzuki-roshi, though, made it clear that in many key respects, he was "one of us," so to speak.
3/30/2000 - from Jim Westrich:
The Austrian musical group Tosca (Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber) have just released a CD called *Suzuki* and dedicated it to Shunryu Suzuki. Their music is a smooth, jazz and dub hybrid that is hard to describe in case you have not heard it.
I was not familiar with Shunryu Suzuki until I saw the dedication and hope it would not be too much trouble to ask two questions (I am writing a review of the CD).
All Tosca CD covers contain visual puns (and R. Dorfmeister's other group/producer team's--Kruder & Dorfmeister--covers do as well). Their most recent cover is two figures (probably Dorfmeister and Huber) in white robes but they are not visible (only the robes are). The background is a red wood grain if that matters. I was wondering if this was an identifiable reference to any of Suzuki's teachings or practices.
Also, I notice on your website that a picture of S. Suzuki was taken by Tim Buckley. Was that the musician Tim Buckley by any chance? Thank you.
[No, it's not the musician, but he's a professor at the same University that your email comes from - U Mass. - DC]
3/31/2000 - From a later message from Jim Westrich:
All their releases are on G-Stone their Vienna, Austria label and distributed by K7! in the United States. You will have to use the internet (CDNow carries it) or have a good independent local shop to find their releases (any good shop will know who Kruder & Dorfmeister are but may not be familiar with Tosca).
My review will be up on a new website sometime later this weekend www.nodimension.com . The music reviews will be in the There is No Day December 00 e-zine.
[I couldn't get the review when I went to this site, but I sent a note about that problem and it should be fixed soon. Anyway, to read about this CD, one can go to Amazon.com and search for Tosca. - DC.]
More later (2008) on Tosca - including big front and back cover and links.
3/31/2000 - Two letters from Frank Anderton with stories about Suzuki and Katagiri. See them together with other emails from Frank.
[Here are a few older messages I found in the cracks of my hard drive. - DC]
2/18/2000 - From Falota Cristian: I love your web site. Do you have a picture of Suzuki Roshi sitting zazen you could put on your web? Which is the exact birth date of Suzuki roshi and according to Chinese/Japanese horoscope he was what?
[I should put the photos from the book on the web site. They include a photo of Suzuki Roshi sitting zazen. He was born on 5/18/1904 in the year of the year of the dragon. - DC]
11/21/1999 - From my dear friend and helper Liz Tuomi: Got "Crooked Cucumber" back from the person I'd loaned it to and, inspired by Rick Levine's comments, went back to it. I had read it in a slipshod way. Now I absorbed it more fully, especially the final parts, and I add my congratulations to Rick's. Your robes are thoroughly soaked: sweat, tears, mist, fog, rain. Thank you for producing this wonderful book. It's an honor to be in such company.
[And it's an honor to be in your company Liz. Thanks for all your help transcribing and typing things on disk for me over the last six years. More to come. Love, DC]
1/21/2000 - from Lakshmi: First, I LOVED your books (both of them). Thank you so much! Something weird is happening with your "author's events" link on the cuke.com website, did you know? I actually would really like to know about any upcoming readings/events you might have in the Bay Area, but when I click on that link, I get a page that just makes no sense. Blessings. [Thanks a lot. I fixed it. - DC]
A few messages about my first book, Thank You and OK!-DC
Readers' Comments: 1999
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