5/24/04 - The weekend long Shunryu Suzuki 100th birthday bash (announcement) was terrific.
A Report by DC
The photos of the Shunryu Suzuki 100th birthday bash that Roovane Ben Yuhmin (the zoomin') so thoughtfully put on Shutterfy.
Thanks to Robert Front (Roovane Ben Yumin), for coming up with the idea, pushing it, and then coming all the way from Taiwan with his daughter to join us.
Saw a lot of old friends at the Friday night reception and the memorabilia show was well presented with a lot of new stuff I've not seen or forgotten such as photos and examples of Suzuki's calligraphy - something he didn't do a lot of. Went there with Andy Ferguson and got out of it just what I wanted which was mainly a lot of schmoozing with old friends. It's not like everyone showed but it was great seeing those who did. This is not really a devotional community, so it wasn't too gooey thank goodness. Spent some time with Hoitsu and his wife Chitose Suzuki, and Suzuki's other son, Otohiro.
Hoitsu Suzuki gave a lecture Saturday in which he talked about, among other subjects, coming to terms with his resentment toward his father - a theme he frequently revisits - see interviews with him on this site. I'll try to get it transcribed and up here in a while.
The Saturday birthday ceremony, with Blanch Hartman in charge, was perfect - went smoothly and didn't last too long. Suzuki disciples and abbots offered incense and made brief statements to Suzuki at the altar. Akiba Roshi, head of Soto Zen in America, made a statement and Hoitsu ended it by saying simply, "Happy birthday." I arrived after an hour and a half of rehearsals and so sat it out in back behind the bell. I thought that was fine and I didn't stand out by not participating more because I could see across the room that Lew Richmond was also just watching. I said that to some people afterwards and they said no he's not here and then I said hello to Albert Kutchins up close and realized that that was who I thought was Lew from afar. He said that happens to him a lot.
Skit night at Green Gulch was especially enjoyable. It started off with Edward Brown doing some pretty funny standup on cooking at Tassajara in the Suzuki days. Next Laura Burgess sang (with good voice on key) two songs topically appropriate for the occasion: Waking Up is Hard to Do (of course to the tune of Breaking up... [which I'd originally written as "Making up" till Michael Katz put his magnifying glass on it]) and a very cool old cowboy poem explaining reincarnation (I'd just the week before heard it recited at Tassajara by a visiting musician). It starts with a cowboy dying, being buried, a horse eating what grows above his grave, the reciter observing the horse's manure and remarking to his deceased friend, "you ain't changed that much." Mel Weitsman on recorder and Liz Tuomi on keyboard played a Telemann partita, there was a great three act skit mainly done by Tassajara folks which started with Mel and Reb finding Tibetan-style a baby girl to be the reincarnation of Suzuki Roshi. Later in that skit Luminous Owl mistakenly channels D.T. Suzuki instead of Shunryu. Rick Slone played three classical guitar pieces quite skillfully, Danny Jokelson played a very humorous charmingly rambling song about Green Gulch, City Center students did a wacky ballet impression of the morning schedule, I (DC) sang a cappella an old medley of Zen songettes from the late sixties and early seventies and a more recent composition with guitar called Every Day is a Good Day. Maybe I'll put the words for those down here. Hoitsu Suzuki finished the evening with traditional Buddhist singing - I forget what it's called - accompanied by two little bells he rang. I think that's complete except to say that Michael Wenger, who put the whole weekend together did a great job getting that skit night organized.
Instead of a lecture on Sunday a few Suzuki disciples and students briefly told stories and made comments. That tape is also being transcribed. Afterwards there was tea and then questions and discussion.
And that was it. I know the schedule said there was something happening at Sokoji and I know Hoitsu and his wife went there but I don't know what happened. I also don't think there was any meeting of Suzuki-related groups.
It all went great - much better than I had imagined. And it was great seeing everyone.
From: Yochi Alan Drake
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