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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
64 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 3 director’s further challenge. “Yes, that would be best,” concluded Roshi. Right, wrong, good, bad—often I don’t know what to say. David got to stay, and he continued being David. I rarely went to the morning meet- ings with Roshi, as I kept working in the kitchen, and my lessons came from cutting a hundred thousand vegetables. I like to think that Suzuki Roshi knew David’s heart, and knew it was in the right place. How shall we understand this human life, intrepidly wayward, intrepidly seek- ing the way? I think it’s well worth noting that for many years after Suzuki Roshi’s death in 1971, David was the one who championed him, telling every- one that we needed to preserve Roshi’s lectures and establish an archive. Disciples much better at following the rules did not have this inspira- tion and did not readily agree to support David’s efforts. Little by little David carried the day, run- ning up large debts in the process. (I think that he should receive a grant to be David, as he is so phenomenally good at it.) It took a while, but David eventually got sober, and there is a new quietness, focused and alert, receptive and curi- ous, that has deepened his easy engagement with others. David’s story touches me. What is it, finally, that helps people, awakening their good hearts? I know that Suzuki Roshi also wanted others doubtful of their worthiness to stay at Tassajara and continue practicing Zen. I wish I had known this story when I was head resident teacher at Tassajara in the spring of 1984. Although that chosan had taken place in the sixties, I did not know about it until David’s biography of Suzuki Roshi, Crooked Cucumber, came out in 1999, so I did not have Roshi’s example in front of me. One day during the spring of 1984, the offi- cers of the temple, serious and stern, came to inform me that one of the students, James, had been doing drugs and sharing them with others. Unfortunate news, I thought, as I sat in the crisp During the summer, David was apt to sit down with the dining room guests toward the end of the meal, share some of their wine, and visit. After cleaning up, he would head off to a guest’s cabin and continue visiting, often shift- ing to brandy or scotch, and then the following morning he would miss the student schedule of zazen, service, and breakfast. The guest season was an opportunity for David to be David. Behavior such as this does not go unnoticed in a Zen center. One day during chosan, the morn- ing meeting of temple officers with Suzuki Roshi, the director brought it up. Each chosan began with silence while Roshi’s attendant prepared tea. After the tea was passed around, everyone would bow together, following Roshi’s lead. The tea was sipped in silence until Roshi spoke. His announcements or concerns would lead to his invitation for others to speak: “Is there some- thing you would like to bring up?” With David sitting nearby (after missing the entire earlier schedule), the director asked, “Roshi, what do we do with someone who is always breaking the rules, drinking alcohol with the guests, and missing morning meditation?” Suzuki Roshi paused, cleared his throat, paused again, and said, “Everyone is making their best effort.” Persisting with his inquiry, the director said, “But we’ve got to do something. He’s break- ing the rules flagrantly and persistently.” Roshi responded, “It’s better that he does it in the open, rather than hiding it from us.” Again the director pressed his case: “We can’t let this behavior go unpunished. It’s a bad exam- ple for others.” Roshi replied, “Sometimes someone is fol- lowing the spirit of the rules, even if he is not following the letter of the rules.” That exempli- fied Roshi’s exquisitely gentle firmness, his utter conviction. “Wouldn’t it be better if he followed the let- ter of the rules and not just the spirit?” came the Zen practice is not like training your dog: Sit. Heel. Fetch. Some of us dogs have taken years to mature. What finally helps is hidden in the heart, waiting to be uncovered.