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ZC Stories

Gomashio



This from DC Suzuki Roshi Memories

I learned how to make sesame salt, gomashio, from Loring Palmer and started making it in the Tassajara kitchen in the late winter of 1967. Remember a time before the first practice period - June 1967 at Tassajara - that I cooked and served breakfast. We were eating in what is now the dining room while the resort dining room was being remolded into a zendo. For the first bowl I made brown rice cream without the milk, sugar, soy milk, and all the side condiments we were giving back then - except for gomashio. Some people were obviously pissed at me but it was a silent meal so they couldn't complain. After breakfast Suzuki Roshi gave a little talk in which he said something like, "You notice that this morning we had the grain by itself. We should continue doing this. If you put milk and sugar or honey on your grain then you cannot taste the spirit of the grain, the pure quality and essence of the grain. In a monastery we should eat more simply and naturally so from now on this is how we will eat."

Here's Ed Brown's version of this story.

I remember afterwards that a friend went on a complete tirade for serving gomashio with the meal, telling me I was on a food trip and we should just eat simple food and I said that's what I did, didnít you notice? I eliminated everything but the sesame salt which is traditional and which Suzuki Roshi approved of. A month later or so I tried to talk to him about it again and he said, oh shit I thought you would have forgotten about that by now. I felt terrible about that and now I feel terrible again. My interpretation of what happened with him is that he had picked up on the simplify message just as I had at that time. It made me feel like I hadnít really done what I did myself but had just followed some orders coming from the cosmos.

M. Katz comments on yesterday's sesame post. Flash forward to Tass Fall practice period '81. Gomashio is served with every meal. Somewhere in the middle of the practice period, Richard Baker has it taken away. Can't remember exactly why; he may have said a diet dictated by the senses leads to sugar-toasted salt.  Anyway, after a week or two of silent grumpiness, a student turns red and explodes at a general meeting. He explains bitterly that eating potato without salt was the last straw and should not be asked of any human being. It was the closest I saw to a mutiny at Tassajara. Next day, gomashio comes back to stay.

DC comment: I remember this having happened though I wasn't there. It had to do with salt. Dick was anti-salt. He complained about gomashio earlier like when I was director and finally decided to ban gomashio but, like you pointed out, was overruled by popular demand. He was also anti-soap, preferred to wash off without it before entering the hot tubs. But soap was never banned.

This started as a Saunters post 4-27-14