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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2 0 1 4 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 67 Walking this path— I choose one patch of sunlight after another PHOTObarbaraWenger Mitsu Suzuki, 2002 had no basis for appreciating Zen as the religion it actually is—a powerful consolation and source of strength in times of suffering and instability. Oku- san’s presence expressed this strength and depth during the long years of Zen Center’s rocky coming of age. She held down the fort, shored up the foun- dations. When that work was done, the maturity of the center established, she went home. More than anything else, what Okusan taught in America was what Japan lacked after the war and perhaps still lacks—confidence in the depth of the Japanese way as formed by the culture’s long encounter with the Buddhist teachings. Although she had studied tea casually as a child, it wasn’t until she came to America that she began to study in earnest. Her practice of writing haiku also began in America, during the time when Suzuki Roshi first fell ill. How strange then that the powerful expression of her life, her essen- tial Japaneseness—that elusive and almost ineffable feeling that unites tragedy, toughness, delicacy, beauty, and simplicity—was oddly never fully expressed in her until it came out in America, possibly as a way of coping with the strangeness, or maybe the pain, of living so many years among the people who had burned her coun- try nearly to the ground—incom- prehensible people, in many ways completely oblivious to who she was and what she had lived through— yet who, at the same time, perhaps understood and appreciated her more than anyone else ever had. Only in America did Mitsu Suzuki finally find and express her Japanese heart. I bow to my ballpoint pen and throw it out— year’s end From A White Tea Bowl: 100 Haiku from 100 Years of Life by Mitsu Suzuki. © 2014 by San Francisco Zen Center. Reprinted with permission of Rodmell Press.