Recollections of Early Zen

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so the morning again everybody
some of you are probably hear the last night to hear that
knockout performance
of mountains and rivers without end which kind of i realized last night
is actually the crystallize and distilled version of what we're going to here today when you come down to it

i'm norman fischer and that represents a calamitous edson
and you know it's we have a study curriculum cause buddhism is really fast and you don't know what to study there's so many things to study so we figured out a number of years ago a study curriculum which we call the five rude curriculum five topics that we study
the first one is the life of the buddha in the early teachings
the second one is buddhist psychology
the third one is the teachings of emptiness before it's one is ethics and compassion and a fist one is in classical texts we study and when we reviewed this curriculum about a year ago we realized that something was missing
so we decided to change the curriculum and add to those five route studies a sixth brute study
which were about to can unveil and began in the spring called contemporary buddhist practice
and the reason why we open up that six route is because we realized that
something new was going on in buddhism
based on a continuation of all the teachings of the past but that contemporary buddhism is actually a different animal
and what's happened in bodhidharma in the last forty fifty years
with its transmission to the west and then interestingly enough from the west back to asia
a whole new turning the wheel
and so
gary snyder
was around and was working on his questions from the early beginnings of that new turning the wheel
so to hear him speak about those times in a personal way
ah not only historical fact but also feeling and sense of what it was is a really really important for us to hear
so this is a real special day for gary to
talk to us and also hear from us i think he'll he'll let us know how we can participate by asking questions and probing so that we can all share together in a deeper understanding of what this last period of the turning of the wheel has been
so i am really really delighted that we were able to
get him to show up in cow which is not easy to do i'll tell you the truth
so we're lucky and so please enjoy the day with gary snyder

i snorted
please sir
be relaxed and make yourself comfortable and down this is going to be of
the kind of a family gathering
ah i want you to feel free to
raise questions and bring up your thoughts or anytime you feel like it
how
it's a real pleasure to be able to do this dorman
asked raised raised the possibility of me coming down and doing a talker to here at green gulch three years ago and the
for three years we've been trying to figure out when when what might do that
i mean it sounds silly doesn't it
ah that's probably because ah i'm a situated person i'm situated to the will watershed of northern california the river system that comes out of the sierra nevada perhaps into nevada county yuba county
and sierra county and
as a person of place so i live a life that is very much engage with my own community and my own local sanga
as well as being on the faculty at the university of california davis fifty percent time
and also keeping up my connections and my responsibilities so to speak to the world of our poets and cultural revolutionaries and dharma characters ah internationally and trim figure out what's going on you know like everybody else
i only i've just i've been confused longer than some
i recognize me are old friends faces here today and realize that of course you know i'm just whatever story i'm telling is just part of a story that dog
how are others here have got another chunk of that it would take all of us to put this story together
and some of you have been enough following these paths virtually as long as i have i am however as i've recently realized the oldest person in the english department at uc davis
i used to think i was the youngest
but as time goes on you are about last month
yeah to keep rethinking you know the chancellor the university is younger than i
i don't think he realizes that
the
ah now that i have finished though working through the writing of mountains and rivers without end
which was a very absorbing artistic project over the last seven or eight years and it would be a whole topping in itself to talk about how it feels to be an artist and at the same time a practice or of the donor because i think that the artists engaged
hunt concentration focus and also the complex of what you might call the responsibilities that go with being an artist
i have qualities of the wrong or and limitations of their own net or are are a little different from some of the other roles that we might play
it's like being an artist you can be sociable
you can't even be nice
in our lot of the time so it's it's a different kind of a demand
being done with that i am turning back towards reflecting a little bit are on ah
on the larger picture of my owning my own involvement with up for cultural affairs of the last forty years
what i want to what i would call what i'd like to do today is situated the dharma
so to speak that is to say i don't want to talk about how great it is to get enlightened
or proposed that you do that
or proposed that there's this good way to do it that good way to do it
but i want to talk about is how we ever got the idea that you can get enlightened
and how how problematical that isn't some ways and what that means in terms of the the evolution of our own culture whatever that is
how problematical the idea of an american culture is right now
we have four hours will take a break after one hour we'll have lunch after the second hour after lunch we'll come back while another our a break and a fourth our roughly i'd like to divided up this way the first segment of post world war two bear
a buddhist characters people thoughts and reasons and stories and gossip
the gossip is what is really
it doesn't to keep the years

and then for another segment i'd like to talk about asian buddhism
ah
traditional buddhism particularly in japan
at what asian buddhism is and what is not and
why there's nothing intimidating about it
in you know a little bit of the gossip of stories about what was going on back there across the other side of the pacific with these guys who became to teach us over here before they came over here
i know y sasaki joshua roshi had to leave japan and come to los angeles

huh
nothing to nothing nothing too shocking
several go in try to go through some of the topics
that are part of what you like call asian buddhism and or what are some of the keep the key points are some some key points that we might one look at like why do you wear black
what does that mean at what does that come from
and then a for the rest of the time after lunch roughly are see if we can talk about a north american practice and what norman was suggesting that we are interested in which of course we all are what would a north american practice be ah
in how are we getting there
ah that's the way of looking at it roughly
and as i said you know let's try to stay within those territory so that we can kind of cover that ground
but within the territory that oriented any given time please feel free to raise a question or pursue something a little bit
ah
and see how that works for us
gilchrist some of this is going to be my own personal story because i come into this in my own quirky way and we all come into these things in our own quirky raise and i have been known as as a poet and as a political cultural figure in american culture as well as the
a dharma practice or
i've been
somewhat marginal complicated problematic to myself are among the more radical and among the more orthodox among the more traditional and among the more groundbreaking ah
and one of the best behaved one of the worst behaved
simple as forty years and i haven't improved in for
in certain ways
i so some of you here remember all of this
ah
so the fifties let's look at the fifties
ah right after world war two
ah with a that that remarkable kind of psychological switching that takes place ah in big events
directly after the american victory in the pacific war ah
the surrender of japan
a
combat soldiers are combat navy and combat army people
the front the pacific war were not sent in to the act the occupation of japan
none of the combat troops were ever said ah into the japanese occupation as soon as the surrender was announced the combat troops were were pulled back and will return to the united states and let out of the army
and all the people who were in as occupation troops were new troops recently drafted who had never seen combat against japanese this was a deliberate policy
ah this was
for obvious reasons
not to complicate matters by having guys driving around in jeeps on the streets of yokohama in tokyo newly arrived maybe just there are a week soldiers who had seen their buddies killed in war
ah what that meant was that the american soldiers who went into japan
we're not
nearly so conditioned and qualified by the events of combat and what they found was ah
a friendly population
robert watson was one of the burton watson a great job translator and scholar of chinese japanese was with the navy he was a navy and tributaries where the very first people to go ashore off the aircraft carriers that were out in your cusco bait and to actually walk the streets of yokohama after the surrender papers were signed
he was like the very first wave he said they went ashore
ah with our arms and guns and fear and trepidation and were expecting you know hostility possible sniping on the streets they weren't sure what they were going to run into
our within a four five hours
are they were drinking tea and bearded bars and having chats with people and or what happened or in raymond i'm undescribed notice how the kickoff of a totally new attitude towards asia and towards japan came about so that within
a few years after just three or four years after the end of of the pacific war are americans were trying out japanese cooking
in japanese aesthetics became a key item in sunset magazine and broke through the fifties
diy the aesthetic ideal of should we or our our asperity
dryness or i was proposed
and ah ah a whole and the part d translations of our blight our exploits translations of haiku a whole wave of a japanese cultural items are came in to especially here in the west coast or what was
from five years earlier a hostility towards japan towards a tremendous openness are towards japanese culture and japanese aesthetics japanese switch how come they were so friendly
cause down
the other people kill rey so right them is no american tastes
good questions the why lower the japanese so often or able to be a non hostile
i've i've talked with burt watson and feel your polski and others who were in the occupation about that
and then they said well frankly there were hostile people here and there but they held back kept their mouths shut
and
partly it was are you know some of the characteristics of japanese culture or were indeed ah to accept of the instructions that came down from the top
and when the emperor himself announced on the radio or that the war was over that was an extraordinary turn
for everybody and then elsa costume some of you know the the wandering for it and ah
ah shamanistic buddhist practices he calls himself a teacher of fox zen
and he said that on the on a radio interview that he and i were on together in australia once and the interviewer asked to go mister sparky what is frocks is then he said oh it's a kind of zen where you for people
the now there's a radar man in the navy and he describes how they were all called to attention out in the yard and the said but that at such and such an order of the upper is going to make an announcement may turn on the radio and the ever spoke in incomprehensible
a grammar because he has his own grammar that nobody else knows imperial levels a japanese so
i'm only the top aristocrats don't use that grammar so nobody understood it but somebody interpreted it and said the emperor has said that we are now surrendering and you must be peaceful
and they turned off the radio this is distorted in hotels and move their commanding officer said
everyone get out their service revolver we all going to shoot ourselves it's time to commit suicide
and one of the junior officers said wait a minute let's listen to the radio no more
the
epic
so returned to back on
and there was a quick message which was oh yes the effort forgot to say it don't commit suicide

yes

ah

ah
ah
ah
ah

more
right
from a good and fill a who were good enough at japanese they had been trained in the monterey language school in the the boulder a japanese training school that they could go in there and talking japanese or and and the took discipline was excellent you know
the american troop discipline and as i said these guys had not been in combat they weren't angry so they did not go ashore in commit as the japanese have been told they should be afraid of perhaps at least earlier in the war all kinds of violence and rape and so forth the american soldiers behave themselves quite peaceably and they would you
interested looking around so everybody relaxed and in fairly short order and the experience of soldiers in the occupation was a very positive experience they found people friendly and helpful they are also struck by the poverty and the destruction of tokyo and yokohama the the suffering and pay
ain't that the ordinary people were living in and so they more or less pitched in to help and it was so you know in the annals of of war in history of the occupation of japan is a not a terrible story or it worked out better than anyone would have imagined
oh
and we're still trying to understand you know we're still learning this cross cultural differences between a traditional asian people and north americans as to how these cultural attitudes enable things to happen in this way
ah
the reason i mention this is because the fifties was not just a tiny here on the west coast where are a large are an interest of from an interest in buddhism arose but it was part of a cultural ambiance that is a little hard to pin down a little harder to pin down part of that ambiance was
expressionism in painting of improvisatory jazz and it clicked of miraculously will with the idea of spontaneity and immediacy as in haiku
and are the kind of buddhism that was presented in the writings on d t suzuki who made and then the popularizer of that a fine man whom i respect i'll named and watts
are that are made the language of our zeal especially as it came through or alan watts or sound very much in line with very much appropriate to or the aesthetic and style interests of the fifties he just all clicked together somehow you know and
predictable in a way that would have been unpredictable or but it made it a very lively moment in time and particularly a lively moment in time up here in northern california in the bay area
oh where there was a are independent strong artistic community is a composers like harry patch over in sausalito
a circle of peters who arose into considerable prominence working with some of the same ideas
highly are extraordinarily well read and thoughtful poets like kenneth rexroth
who said to jack kerouac the first time jack went to his house on a friday evening soiree ah regular friday evening thing at kenneth's
it's always a circle of people they're talking on friday evenings and jack says he had just come from the east coast should you guys are talking about buddhism
and keller said this is a nineteen fifty two keller said oh jack everybody's are buddhist in san francisco
there's a nineteen fifty tooth
ah
but and and it wasn't so much buddhism is it was pacifism are there was a strong pacifist impulse or in the bay area that was connected to an anti soviet and anti capitalist politics and it was that little
note of people who founded pacifica foundation and found kpfa they are some of them were just back from the conscientious objectors camp up and walport oregon
so we started off on the right after world war two the northern california and the bay area started off started off running in these matters i came down here from the pacific northwest and are had stumbled onto
my thoughts about buddhism partly through ethics
partly through my own are almost native a deep concern for nature and for our the question of how we relate to and what our obligations towards non human beings is ah
feelings and values that i just held without conscious reason except feeling but impressed by him very much taken with the fact that buddhist ethics as i discovered somewhere along the line
ah the first precept of ahimsa
ah was an ethic of loan harming and an ethic of respect that extend to the whole natural world
ah and with very little more than that i thought ah this is very interesting i want to find out more about this
later i was able to find out how much else there was in nam buddhist thought any buddhist practice that made it all the richer when i came down here from love oregon
somehow i'd heard about alan watts so i looked up alan watts over at the academy of asian studies so these are some of the nodes are from the fifties one was the academy of asian studies are located over him san francisco
first started my friend frederick spielberg and an alan watts became director of it
he just arrived from illinois where he had been the chaplain for northwestern university
and and had gone from being a christian to a buddhist and from a buddhist back to being a christian
that was how he did the to chaplaincy at northwestern ah and then right on in the process their decided that he was really a buddhist not a christian and came out then to the west coast and with frederick spielberg and a few others started our the
a academy of asian studies in san francisco which became a real center for a lot of us that's where i first met de clawed dalenberg are in luck mccorkle
who were good attending dropping it on our the lectures that alan watts in particular the lectures that alan was case
ah another node of the fifties that we all connected with are many of us connected with was the brickley buddhist church in berkeley are a jodo shin pure land japanese american buddhist center
ah that was my first contact with people who were culturally are traditionally family ah
i'm embarrassed and totally natural buddhists
another word words not people like myself who were reading books and talking marianna philosophy or trying to figure out how to choose as it the people who were just buddhists
and that was wonderful for all of us who are
began to go to the friday night steady group meetings over in berkeley hosted by the berkeley buddhist church on t anyway
open to people of all description the greater part of the people attending a japanese american college students berkeley students but alan watts turned up there and gave talks there was a tibetan lama lama ta-da who was in residence ah
alex women who went on to become our our major scholar of tibetan buddhism based at columbia university was one of the graduate students who visited there regularly
glenn grow gene ah who are still travels to japan and korea periodically and following his buddhist practice many other fine people ah
and he of whom i've known for years title know became like a major scholar of joseon buddhism were all there in that circle general sheridan got kind of lost in the shuffle in in the it got kind of lost to the consciousness or through the sixties and seventies of a are
new people kept coming and new caucasian people who kept me into buddhism
for those of you who aren't so well acquainted with jodo shin on the pure land sect of buddhism following in the line of shin ron
oh
it is the major school of west coast buddhism
it had not too long ago something like four hundred temples churches and chapels up and down the west coast
california oregon and washington
oh
the joseon temples are out in valley towns like cortez by sacramento modesto
bakersfield
going back to the twenties and before
ah strong jodo shu temple right now active and well in south central l a
how are the priest or there are of the george w moscow dani ah whom i knew in kyoto when he was doing his training at the on ganji ah has been a hard core supporter of staying in the neighborhood and are working with black people in the neighborhood in his jewish and church
ah
so ah the the peculiar quiet a soft-spoken nature of joseon has been such that
ah more energetically practice minded you don't want wanna try something difficult and hurt themselves white folks
yeah have
not been able to see its subtlety yeah
a lot of the time
ah but are
the remarkable a pair or jane imamura and reverend combo in and imamura on who hosted the or our friday evening study group meetings at the the berkeley buddhist church to the fifties are touched the hearts of many people who have gone
then involved in buddhist practice in very many other schools later so that it's not that all false to say that almost every branch of caucasian buddhist practice here on the west coast today has had some karmic connection at some point with the brinkley buddhist church and john ocean
and these are relationships that are not over know this is still weaving back and forth and
john ocean itself is a west coast your notion is
is looking very deeply into its own practice right now it's own practice which is no practice you know giotto should do nothing
anything that you try to do is going to stand in the way
how will come back to that with
ah
and then the and then the university
with dr ferdinand lessing in charge of mongolian in tibet and studies with graduate students like alex waving
ah or in the chinese department peter boot berg and ed schafer most of whom had a sardonic attitude toward buddhism
when i first went to enter to the chinese japanese the department at berkeley as a graduate student in nineteen fifty two or three or the graduate advisor than was ed schafer and of it said to me of why do you want to study classical chinese just knew he does that anybody and
i said well because i wanna get a sense of what the education of a tang dynasty person was at the pointed that they then decided to become as instant

and he said oh are you interested in xin i said yes this is nineteen fifty two he says everybody wants to studies there these days what i want is somebody who's interested in tang dynasty material culture
as i'm sorry to disappoint your doctor schaefer but i will try to look at material culture too
is so i was admitted to studying there and that department and actually you know budvar good schaefer with all of their
are sort of ironic attitudes towards these things are great cars really helpful ah and i commend the works of dr edwards schaefer to you he did exactly what he was interested in namely material culture but believe me it's a fascinating topic or his book the golden peaches of samarkand
and
u c berkeley press are out of print now but in libraries
chronicles the trade between our persia and anatolia and china during the tang dynasty you wouldn't believe how fascinating areas
and another of his books the vermillion bird is an account of chinese relationships with what we now call vietnam and cambodia and laos ah between the night and the thirteenth centuries
and gum
are all of the are a number of interest in cultural exchanges there including the history of the chinese discovery of incense and the importation of incense from southeast asia and china ah which is still going on
hum fascinating little details and that was and then schaefer went on to become a scholar of medieval taoism can chinese astronomy so he's great book on chinese astronomers got pacing the void
so great teachers pay teachers
ah
alan watts
has so much in our minds at that time luck
was publishing is he handed me a word
several treatises on buddhism by our lives or and nineteen pay out the time and nineteen that game
we
this by the society founded ah and he said before they talk about it without how said he was a barely and they talked about it is a good idea
i was a big deal for that
was operated right is learned person in
enlarge on any with me
the lazarus was some kind of boy genius is look out about it and also middle aged genius you know is is he got older how with an an irrepressible confidence
ah that enabled him to
ha
hold his view of buddhism and without wavering hold his view of zen were not wavering on his whole life or that itself was kind of of of a koran as as to seek to see alex confidence in his own path
i don't remember if all of this is in lichfield books book or not but on
allen left england or when he was nineteen or twenty at the outbreak of the war ah
i'm not sure if that was exactly his age and within the relatively small circles of our caucasians interested in buddhism or made contact right away when he came to new york with ruth's saki and so okay on the roshi who was
teaching in ah
our new york at that time and it was ruth's the saki was ruth everett or root for everett who took the name sasaki when she married him during the war
the reason that she married him they say or she says is to keep him out of the camps but the fact was
he was in a camp anyway
i guess i guess when they got married she got amount of the camp anyway
i'll admit ruth sasaki of her household in as a young man
and ruth had a daughter by a her marriage to mr everett who had been a chicago stockbroker
and are ellen ended up marrying bruises on his daughter ah ha elinor on so there was like a very sort of in the world of our english speaking buddhists little for top level marriage
christmas humphreys protege and the daughter of roost saki who was possibly the first american to ever studies and in japan in the thirties oh and what little centers there were of zen practice at that time are the first scientist to the new york founded by research route everett this
zaki i was almost it ah so allen was right in there and he and eleanor or were together still when they went to northwestern university and when he was the chaplain now
then are they got divorced shortly after that and i guess when he came out here to the west coast i he had remarried at that time to another person
very in very small circles and very into circles for a while at that time
ah

it was ruth's saki who got me to go to japan
how
i was a graduate student at berkeley studying japanese chinese it was in my plan to try to get to japan somehow i didn't have much of a clue how to do at other in well i'd better learn the language anyway
and i was in it i had a fascination with classical chinese poetry or that was really one of my reasons for study with schaefer and the great chinese scholar captures young
so i was working away learning classical chinese and taking courses in spoken and written japanese and doing my buddhist studies and sharing an apartment with filled wailing ah and of yeah the berkeley buddhist church going to the brooklyn looked at berkeley buddhist church friday night meetings
and bringing a jack kerouac and allen ginsberg right to some of those berkeley buddhist church friday night meetings
ah so that to the traditional japanese american asian buddhist circles in berkeley in the fifties jack a gave a lecture
this is true
ah and he was he was deeply steeped in the lotus sutra
he had read the lotus sutra practically memorized passengers have it he had one of the old translations
how was it the jack kerouac had read the lotus sutra you might ask
when he was working on the railroad as a brakeman
across across texas and oklahoma and then later between los angeles and san francisco on those runs
ah
there are certain towns that they would drop the men off in for three or four days at a time then they would pick up another job and go on from there key little railroad toutes nos key little railroad town said dormitories for the unmarried men are that word for the railroad and they have public libraries good ol carnegie libraries
so jack discovered the series or edited by max miller called sacred books of the east
big hard bound
brown backed ah thirteen or fourteen volume series of books the sacred books of the east they were in and possibly still are in every public library in america
and jack started reading the lotus sutra out of one of those volumes and loved it because he said it was even bigger bigger and gautier than catholicism
with its vast expanse of of universes and galaxies and varieties of beings and this extraordinary eschatology that promised salvation not only the human beings but to every possible being in the youtube
verse including our demons and angels or even all possible galaxies he said now that's a religion
the
well
the jodo shin people connect with the lotus sutra
in the part that connect with is just one little section in it
that dumb you know prior to ahonen shown in everybody had overlook this one little section that said if you find it too difficult to read this whole sutra and to understand what it says
if you will simply recite the name of amitabha come take care of it
and then you don't have to read the book
all those scholars and the ten dissects sort of passed over that passage
to hone in you know discovered it and said why are we working so hard reading this whole book or we have to do is say amitabha and so he starts the the up your land school of buddhism with that in jagmeet the connection of and allen ginsberg to of
they both it also ah
young radical writers were living in the barry at that time and we were going back and forth between a saturday night or friday night care of the restaurants and friday nights at the berkeley buddhist church and then other friday nights of unmentionable behavior
and were welcomed by the or the asian american buddhist community and by the scholarly community as much
oh ruth sasaki was a some of this is in feels ruth sasaki after the war during the war her husband okay on sasaki sasaki should get so
our the first japanese roshi to live in teach in the united states he died during the war shortly after they got married not long after they got married
his word and ran a strawberry farm in nineteen seven
most of them you know this story or they came over nineteen seven stayed and tried to grow strawberries for three years
said that the strawberries were too small and the farmers probably japanese american farmers laughed at them and said their strawberries whitney good so they gave up and went back to japan where are all accept our to r one was of
so on and the other was of the guy who went to los angeles said zaki yeah they were yoga is jackie then people often forget that it wasn't just an executive stay behind it was also a society she gets it
meagan went to l a where he became a janitor and eventually started a little study hall a little zen study hall and down
that was where robert eat can first touched base with living buddhism or in the united states was with new said zaki
our society she gets you on the other hand what north and worked on ranches and for the railroad in oregon
it was an itinerant laborer happened down the coast he was a big man and very hardy and so he entered into the immigrant working class for a number of years ah made periodic trips back to or kildall are no yes it was talk you're actually in his case
where he did for five months of intensive doc son with his teacher then came back and again worked in the united states as a laborer he did that until he completed his training
and then he moved to new york and he was supporting himself as a furniture carver in a factory or when roosts saki discovered him and funded are funded him to have a symbol
and that was the beginning of the first institute of america
okay after the war groups are goes back to kyoto context waters reagan her husband's dharma brother start studying zen with him sets up a branch of the first and institute of america in die tako je is given a temple by the dipole congee priests there's a here's an old temple were not use it we also
not why did you fix that up and you can have it really make you the priest of the tap on they did they may not only a woman but a white woman into a date or gigi priest which just goes to show something i want to talk about a little later is about how asian buddhism is a nearly as rigid as and might have thought
when it comes right down to take care of things it's very flexible underneath that that authoritarian exterior
also misses the secular society was working away with her or what she took to be her first and highest priority was translation
ah she had started doing docusign our sons in our in the thirties ah with luncheon can roshi ah
that non zingy
and had and had done then allowed to sit in the zendo with the monks also a first ah
had a tiny room nearby or came back every morning at four am for songs and sat through all of the session followed through all of the sitting schedule
and made some progress in practice over to old winters that she left her husband and family behind in chicago is in the thirties and went into this practice in kyoto
i've barely another white person in kyoto at that time except for missionaries
so hurt her post world war two conclusion about what was needed for americans instance was very practical the zen students that she foresaw as coming because she can see a couple she said oh and her entire focus was rinzai styles in so she said
people need translations because you're going to be given courts and you're not going to know what the heck the coins are so we have to get right to work and translate the move on khan and the hexagon roku right now to lay the groundwork for cummings instance yeah haven't
cheap
how'd you learn japanese she never did
sure japanese was terrible
and she president she did the dogs our lashing
we are somehow actually actually see had a person who was an interpreter for her first term dukson she had an interpreter and it might have been dr suzuki g d t suzuki set her up for this
ah how did that come about i'm not telling the story in chronological sequence
oh roof husband mr everett
this is a wonderful agricultural stockbroker he was interested in funding japanese agricultural projects in manchuria
during the thirties
and a you might say he politically sort of took the wrong side of prior to world war two he was not have the a problem with the japanese doing a lot of industry and a lot of agriculture in manchuria so he had business in manchuria so they took a big fancy steamer out of san francisco
she had been studying yoga and doing sanskrit classes at night at the university of chicago on her own in one of her upper class with a spiritual yoga women friends i had told her just a word or two about zen buddhism which he had never heard of and had
dr suzuki who spoke english who was married to an american woman who knew a lot about sin are looking kyoto
so when their ship are en route to harbin port from manchuria
stopped for a few days if kobe she took the train up to tokyo have to call at kyoto took a taxi and looked up dr suzuki
dr suzuki gave her a copy of his just published book called essays in zen buddhism first series which she didn't read on the ship
yeah great story
and after she got back to the united states and had read his book she wrote him and she said this is what i want to do is so he set it up for her he said if you come next winter i will arrange it for you to sit at nonsense g and be a dharma student of none should get roshi
now to say a to new dungeon can she is no small matter either he was considered the finest in the toughest and the most orthodox of room-sized and priests during that era
in his name is still very well remembered it in ruins eyes in circles
ah
so here she is back in kyoto nineteen fifty three or fifty four
she can't read chinese she couldn't do japanese too well but she could get by but she had a brought in our
ah a brilliant young japanese chinese scholar a japanese scholar of chinese literature give you a yoshitaka and another brilliant young japanese scholar of zen literature
are you gonna says on as assistance to work in her research library that she started so she had these two a younger or middle aged the young middle aged our experts scholars she was paying
to start doing this translation and research work and then as it happened to fulbright in town the very first wave of post-world war two fulbright
in japanese studies filipino polski from columbia but watson from colombia
and bert and so where each of course working on their own projects as fulbright students but our she
they weren't getting paid too much either so she hired them also as part of her part-time staff and put together of those for men as her research translation crew to do her dream of translate the heck you gone rogue the mancha
ah
when the winds iraq and the rooms iraq so where do i fit in
oh one of my professors were berkeley was over in kyoto briefly one witter fifty three or fifty four she invited him over for dinner and she said i could use another research assistant somebody knows chinese and he said well we have a graduate student at berkeley
and are not only is he studying chinese japanese he's actually interested in buddhism
she's a really
ah because you didn't take it for granted those days there was convention buddhism
so chic on one of her trips back to the united states she contacted me and i'm i met her and she said well if you'd like to come and be part of my research team it real soon on and we're right across the lane just right across the alley or from the di toko giamatti
story you can
hitter in and study full-time are as much as you like at the title gigi sodo
i'll make it possible for you
and you'll have enough employment with me doing whatever research in translation
we need to support you but you won't have to work so much that it interferes with your own zen practice either and it will be very flexible
oh
so of course i was just are delighted i with that opportunity and that's you know what it was that got me on to in those days we didn't fly across the pacific
i got me onto a passenger a japanese passenger freighter sailing out of san francisco and may have nineteen thirty six were my first trip to japan paul
yeah that was a graduate seminar with ginger's young
this is our team a aware i would
not remember i showed her those later she had even heard of hunch on i don't think herself at that time
you know brick got interesting non show what he saw my translations
so yeah that's the next part of the story is that i arrive in know kyoto in
start getting into a working with russa saki and studying existing kyoto and this is a good point for us to take a quick break stride after eleven

so on
okay
going to talk about japan and asian buddhism or for a wild next but before are we go into this to into that does anyone have any leftover thoughts from what we were just talking about the fifties yeah

right
the practice
for you are to maintain a practice in the midst of fact a lot of promise

if it's a personal question and in a personal concern i will answer it
ha well first of all it's like the newspapers you know the
the first page of the newspapers
the newspaper always gives you an impression of greater chaos turbulence and crime in the world and they're actually yes and so rumors of wildness are highly exaggerated
and
ah and down
the question still as a basic question of course
how do you follow a path of practice as a lay person in the world and perhaps in a world say like the bay area which is full of the body distractions and exciting this ah
some of which are legal and some of which might not be even
ha and i all that one can see to that is you keep your health
and down
it goes back to a basic approach to the precepts
ah
did i find very useful bet is to say in my reading of it as i have been instructed and as and as i have understood the way the precepts and this is going into asian buddhism the way the precepts are seen known and applied in most of traditional asia
is that they are not
the same as the ten commandments
that is to say it is not proposed as legal istick prescriptions by which you stand or fall
ah in an ultimate kind of bracken right
nor in the asian world
but are use taking your eternal salvation
on some bits of behavior in just one lifetime
this is one of the
oddities of christianity at least some varieties of christianity
in india and people have noted this of course that in one of the behavior of one brief lifetime ah establishes your career for eternity
and if people actually believed that as allah was used to say if people believe the christian teachings that you're going to go to hell forever and if you don't do the line they would be good
that's
obviously people are taking it as seriously as they should

so the precepts i i see as and this is some in enum in zen training to our of themselves challenges in cohen's
but to which every day you address yourself how am i going to deal with this one today and know and i'm often you don't deal with it entirely as well as you should perhaps
to the point remains you don't excuse yourself where do you necessarily beat up on yourself too hard and just say well i didn't do so well yesterday and you look at it and you live with it are and sometimes you make choices ah and down you might make a severe choice
shoot somebody in self defense
okay i killed somebody
i'm not gonna let myself off the hook i certainly broke the first precept but i know why i did it
and no excuses whatever karmic retribution goes with that i fully accept it i made my choice and perhaps you would say and it was for that time and for that situation the right choice
ah so that's how you know traditional i think traditional buddhist thought approaches the realities of era moral and ethical life
oh
to add a little bored of that our culture here are just in california has changed a lot since the fifties
people's attitudes and values have shifted and swung around several times between the fifties and and through the sixties and until now
oh
in what might be almost forgotten is that there was a strong cultural our culture of bohemian islam
ah through the fifties and sixties and particular ah that made of a more experimental and goofy or lifestyle
possible sometimes with made of results sometimes with harmless results but it was are a lot looser and a lot more playful and lot nuttier ah and certainly a lot more free of anxiety then
it is now part of that his aides
ah part of that is
the a complicated the rise of an authoritarian and are basically police state mentality in the anti drug movement and an inability on the part of the authorities to come up with any creative or flexible ways of trying to deal with what what is ah
honestly a true problem namely you know the abuse of drugs or but they have they've only come up with police state alternatives to and
for those reasons and for other reasons including your the emergence of various dreams of feminism and are the misunderstandings and hard steel says taken on both sides that have are made the dialogue between men and women on the left even
no and in the old days if you were on the left men and women work in good dialogue with each other and the left
has made that dialogue much more difficult and so ah ha
our interactions are more complex now and more front and they were in the fifties and sixties or innocence in the fifties and sixties there was a brief period there
when a lot of people were in agreement and there was a kind of in unity of practice in opinion about ways to go maybe they weren't smart ways to go in some cases but at least people were in agreement know there's no agreement is really fractured
and as everyone says the left is all fractured if there was the right now all fractured in the center's to be frightened to upset
as part of our current cultural dilemma so that's a long answer to a simple question
anything else you'd like to go back on yeah
britain
wow i'm touched on a is zeroes inherits an old work and i wonder about a christian pacifist quakers side of the remnants efforts are each passing day holiday
you don't interestingly in my experience very few quakers have ever made a move will return or buddhism
and then maybe because they find the practice they have within our the friends
quite satisfactory as supportive as it is and the friends have better than many christian denominations they have a stronger sanga spirit a stronger sense of community ah
but what has one of the things that has amused me know about quakers is how that and i've had how people who follow the friends come to some zendo affairs and ceremonies and taisho for example in our own son
ah i remember a couple of people in particular
who were really offended by having to make bows
and doing prostrations and you know their their opinion of of observed even was i thought bosom i thought zen buddhism was supposed to be pretty plain and simple and free from ritual and free from superstition you'd just like all the other guys
i said yeah we are yeah
yeah zen buddhism is part of buddhism and as part of my ayanda buddhism and we i said i hope we never get rid of our ritual and our superstition is wonderful
so you know there's a difference of feeling there and any historical the quakers come out of of that one lineage of plain folks plane church and i priestly and i ritual protestantism and with good reason you know their opposition to the abuses the catholic church in europe and these they haven't lucy
end up enough with that to appreciate the possibilities of archetype all ritual a ceremonial as of in other traditions or as an interesting question
as to the quality and the nature of quaker city was compared to buddhist sitting i don't know
and there's a pacifism question that's interesting there to
one cannot help but a respectable great respect to their friends for their strong stance their strong and i stance thirty years
in a question the vietnam war are there were thousands of young men who flocked into the greater church and that was a period of are really high period because of the anti war stance that they got so many young people that you know decided they were great courage right about that time i don't know how are their fortunes are right now
well but it was some during the korean it was during the korean war when i i was on are spending time at the berkeley buddhist church that was just in the korean war
ah kenneth rexroth of course in that whole are anarchist book of poetry circle of the bay area the argument of as i said earlier a very strong pacifists background robert duncan william everson are all of those people so we have very strong pacifist leanings
ah and the quakers and the j w as the jehovah's witnesses you know got our respect
so the japanese buddhist church does not take a formal anti war stance
this is during the korean war i say to my friends in the joseon church and you guys going to come out against the war was just in naive liberal kid you know you're right you can come out against work know
they wouldn't talk about it and i thought there was a dead time i thought there was some kind of political moral feeling at some point in japanese american buddhism that they wouldn't announce themselves as in solidarity with the peace churches because you know buddhism is the
to be against war rack and write my mind
to me years to understand what the experience of japanese american citizens had been how ah
totally traumatic having been so to the camps was
what the
deep wound it was to be a fully qualified american citizen and then be put in a camp
and so are there was kind of the shut down in the japanese american the world after world war two of political engagement they were not going to speak up on any issue on a national scale because they had
no trust in their safety as american citizens in the american political process
and i know the japanese american possibly chinese american asian american buddhist world is just now beginning to think i think about the possibilities of entering into the larger cultural and political dialogue but many of us take for granted you know because we're not risking the
early as much as so that's part of the history of racism in america right there
yeah

is right

ah ah
yeah i'll as if you weren't about that of course you know when you go to city lights or some other bookstore in you're looking for park ah a poet book of poetry and you don't find it on the shelf and isn't necessarily bad news
it might just mean that they're sold out
and that it'll be reordered on kenneth are selected poems or edition in new directions press is perennially available and perennially and print now i mean some of the other books one hundred get right guy has a volume of selected poems is going to be available and will continue to be
the and he does have a steady readership
for those of you weren't you are acquainted with this with the name of kenneth rexroth
ah i'm sure practically everyone has heard of him at least but
he ah
was a very powerful cultural leader and poet in the bay area almost from the tiny arrived in the bay area or at least became active and he became active around thirty six thirty seven nineteen thirty six or thirty seven he has originally from chicago and was
raised or grew up within the
political activist ah union labor union labor movement and radical mentality of of those circles in chicago which was quite something
oh he was immediately active or when he became active on the west coast he became active in things like organizing nursing unions they were not organized in any of the hospitals he he and his wife marie who was a nurse and are in ah became engaged in a whole
whole series of issues and efforts in some of which were on cultural like are the wpa programs for writers the writers of on the books on the river series and you you might not know that the federal government the wpa not only
gave people shovels and had them work on trails and roads but they assigned writing projects to people who are writers and paid them to write books or they assigned murals like the great mural that is in sight of great tower which is from that era in which is worth going and looking at odds full of socialist propaganda
they signed paintings and in an end our books two people were cleaned the series on american rivers during that period and kenneth actually was one of the administrators of the writing program
so he was very active in the san francisco cultural left and need a break with the communist party
yeah i don't think he ever was in the communist party but also like he came out very strongly critical of it in the late thirties or early forties even before well before it was well
a popular to be critical of the soviet union and critical of of the communist party are you have to also remember that cultural life in the united states that the thirties i was almost uniformly pro socialist strongly marxist and a hard a very strong core of com
his party members as writers and painters and editors and filmmakers that was american life in their thirties and that was what the mccarthy years the mccarthy era was still trying to root out and it wasn't entirely something they've made up it was really there are although it was new
early as dangerous as they made it out to be it wasn't dangerous at all
anyway so kenneth comes out of that left which became an anti soviet left and an anti capitalists of stances well and then became characteristic of san francisco literary life san francisco literary life and intellectual life in general was like a island of him
dependent left wing thought that was not pro soviet not pro communist and it made it unique in it's sort of pushed it beyond the boundaries
ah in the midst of all that kenneth also was a student of buddhist literature chinese and japanese literature a great lover of japanese art ah ha and a great sensibility and a spirit for nature and the sierra nevada ah
he made long backpack trips every summer for a period into the high sierra brought some beautiful points about it he had a little cabin are over in what's called devil's gulch in what's now samuel taylor state park
where he would go and spend weeks at a time coming across from san francisco and so he a paradoxically road some of the most serene and beautiful poems of reflection and nature that you'll find and at the same time wrote some very powerful right
radical political points
ah
unique really in that regard
ah his personal manner was so abrasive that he made enemies right and left
and ah when the undying hostility of the east coast left wing establishment because of his not only opposition to the communist party and do or soviet are being pro soviet but his absolutely outrageously abrasive ways are talking about it so yeah solid everybody
ah and then as his biography or which recently came out our discloses and it wasn't entirely a secret to those of us who knew him he was terrible with women
he he heard of basically what he wanted was a to be allowed to have as many affairs as he could possibly manage while his wife stayed true to him
that isn't that an outrageous attitude
can you imagine a man thinking that way
that he actually tried to live it out
are so he went through several traumatic divorces were his long suffering wife would finally leave him and then he would totally break down and cry and couldn't understand why she was leaving him
it's a it's a funny story
but he was a complicated and difficult man and because of that that's one of the reasons his reputation suffered after he died is that down are a lot of negative stuff about it came up
understandably and in truth
ah but the long range outlook for kenneth is that his poetic reputation will survive and will be appreciated and ah the role he took in our standing for something that we still desperately need an end
dependent free spirited rest that does not fall into any authoritarian trap ah any our status to program but keeps a critical stance of it's all very valuable and a pacifist left very
valuable well so that's a legacy of kenneth rexroth
ah and we teach kenneth r in num any courses we have like at uc davis and california learn our our literature of the rest are in students uniformly love reading rexroth just as much as they love reading ken robinson jeffers robinson jeffers
and kenneth rexroth are of our lineage they are elders and west coasts culture and if for that reason alone everybody should be acquainted with and should be reading them and should be proud of our be proud of what they didn't and should remember that
great art is often created by people who are rest in great human beings and not worry about it has just what is that i was going to be
so thank you for asking about kenneth restaurant okay am