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A message from Jerry Halpern, March 21, 1999

Jerry Halpern cuke page

Dear David, I've just read "Crooked Cucumber." You convey the complete burning without smoke, "no gaining idea", nothing special; and (to a lesser extent) the unostentatious but very severe, and "no wobble" qualities of Suzuki Roshi. That is an achievement. The feeling of his practice is there, and the evocation of events and people is not distorted. It is encouraging for me to have this record and the overview of Suzuki Roshi's life; and I am sure it will be encouraging for others also.

Three points unsatisfying to me are:

i) The presentation of Suzuki's wartime position is not as clear as most of the rest of your narrative and tinged with apology.

ii) Dick's good side and remarkable abilities are given considerable mention, but his darker side, which has had (continues to have?) disastrous consequences for numerous individuals, Zen Center, and for the maintenance of the lineage is only hinted at.

iii) Tatsugami, despite his presumption and his introduction of various monastic forms

(I wonder how much of this he could have done without the not so tacit approval of Suzuki, who may not have been so unhappy to have had someone else do this), never-the-less stressed zazen.

The practice he particularly stressed was zazen, and the text he particularly emphasized was the Fukanzazengi.

Looking at, I saw the remarks about the missing tape of Roshi's Los Altos Zendo talks: In the early 70's, I thought I would like to find and listen to these talks myself. I soon found in the Haiku Zendo library of the time, a reel which contained some of the Beginner's Mind Lectures. I believe it was the reel that was used to originally tape them, but I do not know this for sure (The only evidence bearing on this that I know firsthand is that the first talk on the tape was the "In the mind of the beginner there are many possibilities..." talk and the immediately following lecture was much of the Yosemite waterfall talk. I continue below as though the reel in question was in fact the original reel [there may have been more than one]). To my disappointment, the tape had been cut and most of it was not there (in fact, not all had been taken. The "Beginner's Mind" ("in the mind of the beginner there are many possibilities.....") talk and much of the Yosemite waterfall talk remained on the reel). It could be that that mostly empty reel is still somewhere with Les Kaye.

I was disappointed and asked about the missing tape.

Here is the hearsay (I have no firsthand knowledge of this) that I received in answer:

Someone (I think it was said that the action was done specifically on Zen Center's initiative but it may have been only that of the individual involved. I do not know if I was told who did it; I have the impression I was told that it was a woman I knew) came to Los Altos from Zen Center, cut (odd--why would the tape have been cut?), rewound the tape (I presume) and left with it. This kind of action is certainly in keeping with the spirit of Zen Center's operations at that time. I was told that Les had been asked for and had given permission for this. If true, he might have some memory of what happened and who was involved, or it might be that someone at the Zen Center end (Yvonne?) remembers.

[This is somewhat like what I've found out. Les said that in 1972 a woman called and said she wanted to come pick up the Suzuki-roshi lecture tapes. He thought it was for the Zen Center. Later he found out from Yvonne that she wasn't associated with ZC anymore. He remembers that she was short and maybe a little plump. Yvonne was angry at the time he said and wanted to get the tapes back, but she doesn't remember it now. It's something I really would like to follow up on. We should find those tapes so that they can be copied and preserved and so that posterity has access to them. Whoever has them could have copies or even the originals if they wanted them plus copies. But so far we don't know who took them or where they went.--DC]

One statement of Roshi's in the "beginner's mind" lecture on that tape, but not in the edited version in Beginner's Mind was "If you can say 'thank you', that's enough, but that is not so easy (or 'but that is very difficult to do' something to that effect)".

I also include here two reminiscences of Suzuki Shunryu and a note on the Chronicles of Haiku Zendo:

1)In the fall of 1968 before I had come to stay at Tassajara, Roshi, I, and at least one other were, near the place at the beginning of Grasshopper Flat where it begins to widen, pruning some trees. About dusk and as the end of work period sounded, we gathered up our tools and had almost started back to the zendo area when he couldn't find his knife. I was self-conscious and in awe of him. He was in a much better position to retrieve his knife, there was little (so far as I could see), that I could really do to help, and I felt it would be insincere, a disreputable show, something not truly respectful of him, to begin beating the bush for his knife. He searched around for a short time and declared his knife found. We then returned to the zendo area. Some years latter during a time that I had begun to feel warm toward myself and others, and felt grateful, for the first time I suddenly remembered this incident.

2.On another occasion, we were again pruning trees. I was on the ground. Roshi was in the tree almost as high as I could reach. One branch was in a difficult position to cut. There was no place for him to get the right stance to make the cut. I reached up to use my hands against the trunk as a place for him to put his foot. Without hesitation he stepped into my hands with his full weight.

Another note which I include because mentions that the Chronicles of Haiku Zendo may be republished: I wrote my remarks on the condition that they would not be altered in any way. But wanting to make the text a bit smoother, the editor could not resist putting the sentence "A picture remains in my mind (Or something similar---I am not at home now and will not be for the next few weeks so I cannot check)." into my contribution. Should "the chronicles" be reissued, I would like to see that sentence, which, although attributed to me, was not part of what I had written, removed.

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