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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
58 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 2 forms are very important, and we should continue to look at our resistance to doing them in a traditional way. To me, the particular balance is not so important. The important thing is continually looking at it. NORMAN FISCHER: The lure of Zen Center was always that Suzuki Roshi carried this very tension within himself. He was faithful to Soto tradition—he wore his robes, he transmitted the rituals very carefully, and when he didn’t know the rituals, he brought in Japanese experts to help us. He was conservative in that sense, but at the same time he wanted Zen Center to be independent of the Japanese Soto establishment. He wanted Zen Center to find its own way, and he was attentive to the needs of Western students. This is why, I think, he turned Zen Center over to an American as his successor. He had Japanese priests who were very good, whom he could have turned to, but he chose an American. So the tension between the traditional and the modern, the East and the West, was there from the beginning. Zen Center is very conservative, and yet very open and non-conservative at the same time. BLANCHE HARTMAN: Suzuki Roshi always kept zazen at the center of his focus. There were many unusual things that he did—for example, letting men and women practice together from the get-go—but zazen was his anchor point, and he gave Tradition and Modernization BUDDHADHARMA: On the occasion of San Francisco Zen Center’s fiftieth anniversary, we thought it would help to hear how Zen Center, as one of American Buddhism’s most important and thoughtful institutions, is addressing the important issues that all Buddhist communities face as the dharma makes a true home in the West. The first issue I’d like you to discuss is the tension—one that of course can be very creative—between Buddhist tradition, with its Asian roots, and the values and culture of modern Western society. BLANCHE HARTMAN: At Zen Center there is a dynamic tension between those two things. To me, what is important is that people continually look at it. There are people who ask why we chant all these things in Japanese since we’re not Japanese. We don’t even understand the words. Other people say these ZOKETSU NORMAN FISCHER was co-abbot of San Francisco Zen Center from 1995 to 2000 and continues to serve as one of the center’s senior teachers. He is also the founder and spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization dedicated to adapting Zen teachings to Western culture. MARY MORGAN has been on the board of San Francisco Zen Center since 2007. She is also the chair of the governance committee and a member of the diversity committee. In 2003 she received lay ordination from Teah Strozer, a dharma heir in Suzuki Roshi’s lineage. MYOGEN STEVE STÜCKY became co-abbot of San Francisco Zen Center in 2007 and has served as central abbot since 2010, following the restructuring of the abbot leadership. He has been involved with San Francisco Zen Center since 1972. ZENKEI BLANCHE HARTMAN is a senior teacher at San Francisco Zen Center and was the center’s first female abbot. She was ordained as a Zen priest in 1977 by Richard Baker and received dharma transmission in 1988 from Sojun Mel Weitsman. PHOTOS(LEFT—RIGHT):RENSHINBUNCE;©CHRISTINEALICINO;MARCIALIEBERMAN;LIPINGZHU Zazen at Sokoji Buddhist Church in San Francisco, ca 1961. Shunryu Suzuki carries a keisaku (wooden stick) behind the row of meditators. COURTESYOFSFZCPHOTOKATHERINETHANAS,COURTESYOFSFZC