Crooked Cucumber

Reflections on the Life of Zen master Shunryu SuzukiDavid Chadwick

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The following is a collection of anecdotes about and teachings by Shunryu Suzuki, a Japanese teacher in the Soto school of Zen, who came to San Francisco in 1959 to minister to a small Japanese-American congregation. He came with no plan, but with the confidence that some Westerners would embrace the essential practice of Buddhism as he had learned it from his teachers. He had a way with things—plants, rocks, robes, furniture, walking, sitting—that gave a hint of how to be comfortable in the world. He had a way with people that drew them to him, a way with words that made people listen, a genius that seemed to work especially in America and especially in English.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, a skillfully edited compilation of his lectures published in 1970, has sold over a million copies in a dozen languages. It’s a reflection of where Suzuki put his passion: in the ongoing practice of Zen with others. He did not wish to be remembered or to have anything named after him. He wanted to pass on what he had learned to others, and he hoped that they in turn would help to invigorate Buddhism in America and reinvigorate it in Japan.
—DC


I moved to San Francisco in the winter of 1966 and began attending morning zazen at the San Francisco Zen Center. Suzuki-roshi had been away in Japan during my initial visit to the Center, but, despite having been told very little about zazen and Zen, and with very little encouragement from anyone, I resolved to come to zazen every morning and every afternoon for one year.

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