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Comment by DC
5/3/02 - On a recent trip to Tassajara and the disciples group.
I went down to Tassajara in late April for a get-together with other disciples of Shunryu Suzuki which we sometimes call "the disciples group," but which doesn't have an official name I don't think. It's composed of those of us who were ordained as priests by Shunryu Suzuki and a few others who studied with him long as lay people who have been invited to join us. Suzuki Roshi sometimes made a distinction between disciples whom he had ordained as priests and students who were lay practitioners. He didn't really prefer one over the other and wasn't even necessarily even closer to a particular disciple over a particular lay student, but for what it's worth we have a disciples group. Lew Richmond got the idea to do it and got a bunch of us together about four years ago and we've met about twice a year since then. Usually about a half dozen of us can make it. Peter Schneider has been instrumental in keeping the group together by acting as a sort of group secretary who calls people up and figures out the best time for the most of us to meet.
This recent meeting at Tassajara was our first time to meet there. Attending were: Richard Baker, Ed Brown, David Chadwick, Jane Schneider, Peter Schneider, Mel Weitsman, Dan Welch. Reb Anderson wanted to come but he was in Turkey with his wife Rusa. Yvonne Rand, Katherine Thanas, Les Kaye, and Bill Kwong had teaching obligations. Lew Richmond was on a book tour. In the past Ananda Dalenberg, Paul Discoe, Grahame Petchey, Betty Warren, Della Goertz, Blanch Hartman, Linda Ruth Cutts, and Steve Weintraub, and Phillip Wilson, have shown up (this list not yet checked with others for possible omissions and errors).
On the evening of Friday, April 19th we met with students in the dining room. Tassajara was having a work period to prepare for the guest season and was packed full with students who'd been there for the practice period and others who'd come to help out at this busy time so the dining room was crowded. Each of us in the disciples group told a brief story or made some comment about Suzuki Roshi and then we took questions. After it was over our little group of disciples sat up in the garden cabin and talked till after the fire watch had gone around. It had a sort of informal, friendly, slumber party feel and we got into telling ghost stories and other weird tales that related to Tassajara, Green Gulch, ourselves, and friends. I should go over my notes and put some of them down here and add them to what I'm collecting for a section on this site and maybe a book called Tassajara Stories. After that I found a crew that was painting the kitchen and helped them out till midnight.
The next day we walked out to Grasshopper Flats and up to the Hog Back together to Suzuki Roshi's ashes site and offered incense and chanted the Heart Sutra and offered incense to Katagiri Roshi's stupa as well. We looked at some of the markers that were on the other side of the ridge and weren't sure who some of them were for. The waterfall was flowing and it was wonderful to be there with these old friends in those beautiful green mountains.
We met on the dining room deck till lunch and then for a couple of hours in the afternoon. We didn't have any pressing items to talk about or decisions to make but we had no trouble finding things to talk about with each other. I mentioned that I thought there was too much zazen in the practice period schedule - there's no morning work period and people commented on that and compared it to the schedule we had in the early days. We spent several hours going over a lecture by Suzuki Roshi, looking at versions of it edited by Ed Brown and Dan Welch and discussing how best to edit Suzuki's lectures. We talked about the status of the Shunryu Suzuki lecture archiving which this group has been highly supportive of. I'll put a separate report on that here before long but one thing I'll mention now is that Baker Roshi and I agreed I'd come out to Crestone Colorado to go through his storage and archives to look for Suzuki lecture transcripts and tapes that are not yet part of the central archive. I bet there are some real finds there. I love Crestone and his center there and am looking forward to the trip.
It was so good to be at Tassajara with these old friends and with all of the other good people who were there. You'd think after some of the stuff that's been written about ZC recently that we'd all be depressed and complaining and at each other's throats, but not at all. It was like a reunion with some old family members - and new ones.
Some later ruminations on this, inserted 5/10 - Granted that like in family reunions there is some discomfort at times when some of us get together which varies depending on the chemistry of who comes and how we feel that day. As in all human intercourse, there are grudge remnants, little power trips, status vying, and normal background delusion - but on a pretty low level - probably as low as we could get considering we all have our little niches and kingdoms where we're comfortable and we don't necessarily have a lot of peer pressure. Getting together with old family not only can be warm and congenial, it can give us feedback we're not used to and remind us that we'll never totally escape at least some dysfunction and ill will and difficulty in forgiving and letting go (these last two are to me unavoidable doors to the divine). So I guess these meetings have a therapeutic function but I also think it's good, as it can be with the families we come from, that we live apart most of the time, that we consider the option of being, in a way, home-leavers from our home sangha. Some of us have to stay together - there has to be some continuity and cohesion in our institutions and communities - but it seems to me that it's also good to get out on our own. Just thought I'd add a little wholesome negativity to up the reality factor in my feel-good report. End insert.
I'm looking forward to going back to Tassajara at the end of July for ten days with Clay who is now eleven. We've been doing that every summer for some years now. It is such a great place. I think Suzuki Roshi would be delighted with how it and ZC in general is going - of course he had a big tolerance for imperfection.
Clay's birthday party was the next day so I left at seven thirty on Saturday evening, taking with me a student who had stayed an extra two days because I could give her the ride out. The Tassajara road was in good condition since it had just been worked on. We left in time to see the last colors of sunset in the spectacular view from the top. People frequently want to leave Tassajara before it gets dark because they think it's safer, but I think it's actually safer at night when you can see the other cars' headlights coming around corners and also you can see the bumps and holes in the road more clearly because of the contrast of light and shadow. On the way out I stopped and bowed to the giant old Oak on the road near the top. Someone told me on this trip that Suzuki Roshi used to bow to that tree. Maybe it was my rider who told me she'd heard that. I didn't know that, or, if I did, I'd forgotten it. (Another bit of minutia for the archive.) I always try to say hi to that tree. It's got such presence. I fine it easier to go out of Tassajara than to go in because the decent into it is so steep. I have done it many times in automatic transmission cars and as long as I'm careful and don't ride the brakes they're fine. My automatic transmission Camry has a perfect low gear for the road which keeps me going at a slow enough pace that I don't have to hit the brakes a lot.
When I drive I frequently get into mental mathematical meanderings. I wanted to check on the exact mileage because I have read that the Tassajara road is 14 and 15 miles and it came out at - oh darn, I should have written it down - about 14.1 miles I think which took 41 minutes to traverse - only twenty miles an hour but you don't want to go any faster than that though I have in the past. (I remember Lou Hartman scolding me [as he should have] for driving it in 25 minutes when I was head monk back in 74.) I also noted that it's 14 miles from the end of the dirt road at Jamesburg to Carmel Valley Village. That took twenty minutes. There are stretches of that road with a 55 mph speed limit that if one drove that fast it would be difficult to stay on the road and I find it interesting that they never change those signs.
In the Village I looked around at the shops and restaurants and trees and tried to compare how it looks now to how it looked thirty-five years ago when we first started going through there. A lot of it is pretty much the same - attractive well laid out small establishments with trees in the parking lots. The clerk in a store and I figured she and I might have run into each other back then having breakfast across the street or an espresso at the old Encounter Coffee shop. I got a half pint of 100% agave tequila from her as a gift for an old friend I was going to visit late on the way back, threw it on the back seat (should have put it in the trunk), and drove on noting, as I was calculating mileage and that I'd spent four minutes in the store. It was ten miles over Los Laureles Grade to highway sixty-eight and ten more from there to 101. That's 48 miles and about an hour and a half from 101 at Salinas to Tassajara. I forgot to keep track after that. I got some gas and coffee and headed down 101.
My rider was sleepy and had put back her seat in the Village. I thought maybe I'd bored her with all my road rally comments about mileage and averages but she'd been up painting very late for the last two nights and had gotten up for zazen on the following mornings and worked all day. She'd been telling me about her family and what she was interested in studying in school, but now she had put her seat back and closed her eyes. I zoomed down 101 with its 55 changing to 65 mph speed limit, my cruise control set at 67 then 77, speeds that I can drive at with a highway patrol car behind me (my general rule for driving) because my speedometer consistently reads five miles an hour too fast (I have learned from studying those Speed Monitoring Awareness Radar Trailers they put out on the highway) so I was really going 62 or 72. I think I might need more air in my tires to make it read right. My rider being sound asleep after such a demanding week, I sneaked a few sips of the tequila, forgot about Tassajara, Suzuki, my old friends, traveling math, and entered into highway samadhi. - DC
Postscript - Another interesting decision to make on this trip is which road to take to go North. South of San Jose there is a choice of whether to continue on 101 or take the more scenic 280, and if one's going to take 280 there's even an earlier cut off to it on a Gilroy-Mountain View short cut highway whose number I forget. That's a good way but if it's late night then 101 is pretty straight and fast. 101 and 280 can both be used to get one to the Golden Gate or the Bay Bridges and, something interesting that I learned from taking the airporter from Sonoma and Marin, if there's no traffic it's faster to go over the Bay Bridge past Oakland and Berkeley into Richmond where 580 departs from 80 and goes to San Rafael over the Richmond Bridge. That's the way I went. Got in San Rafael at my friend's house at 11:30 - not bad, even for late at night. On the way down, I drove Highway One all the way and that's the best and sometimes only adds as little as thirty minutes to the trip. One can also drive part of the way on Skyline up top between 101 and 280. Maybe next time I'll explore that. Incidentally, for those who remember Niels Holm, the reason I took Highway One, the coast route, when I went down, is that I was driving Silas Holm, Niels's son who spent five days at Tassajara and loved it.
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