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Buddhadharma : Winter 2006
winter 2006| 72 |buddhadharma Asia. In Japan, Ruth met Daisetsu Tetario Suzuki, and she also visited a Zen temple there. Two years later, she returned to Japan in order to immerse herself in formal Zen practice, and she may possibly have been the first Westerner to take on traditional Zen meditation forms, including sitting cross-legged on a zafu on the floor. She was also initiated into koan introspection, the specialty of the Rinzai school of Zen. When Ruth returned to America, a friend suggested that she contact the Japa- nese Rinzai master Shigetsu Sasaki Roshi, better known as Sokei-an, who had settled in New York City. Sokai-an was a poet and artist as well as a Zen teacher. For many years after that, Ruth alternated between the more informal householder- style Zen practice that Sokei-an presented and formal monastic study in Japan. With Ruth’s financial backing, the group around Sokei-an became more for- mal, incorporating first as the Buddhist Society of America and then renaming itself the First Zen Institute of America. During the war, Sokei-an was interned as an enemy alien. In 1943, shortly after his release and three years after Edward’s death, he married Ruth. Alan Watts, who had married Ruth’s daughter, Eleanor, in 1938, wrote about how Ruth and Sokei- an interacted, “she drawing out his bot- tomless knowledge of Buddhism; and he breaking down her rigidities with ribald tales that made her blush and giggle.” Their marriage was happy but brief, as Sokei-an died only two years later. Fifty-two and twice widowed, Ruth threw herself into the work of the First Zen Institute. Then in 1949 she returned to Japan, where she continued her prac- tice, first with Sokei-an’s dharma brother, Zuigan Goto Roshi, and then with Sesso Oda Roshi, Goto Roshi’s dharma heir. Except for an occasional trip to America or Europe, she remained in Japan for the rest of her life. While she was ordained a priest and installed as an abbot, it seems that Ruth Fuller Sasaki saw her role primarily as a translator, leading and underwriting a team that at various times included the Japanese scholars Iriya Yoshitaka, Hisao Kanaseki, and Seizan Yanagida and the Americans Burton Watson, Philip Yam- polsky, and Gary Snyder. Her scholarly endeavors produced a number of pam- phlets as well as the magisterial Zen Dust, an extensive study of the koan cur- Come practice in winter and revel in life exempt from public haunt. All manner of shikantaza and mindfulness retreats plus what you make for yourself. Mt. Equity Zendo Pennsdale, PA 17756-6564 Dai-En Bennage, abbess Tel. 570-546-2784 or mtequity.org The way of ease and joy The way of ease and joy