Many many people become interested in Zen after reading Zen Mind, Beginners Mind
by Suzuki Roshi. One could consider this a 'gateway text' .
This essay from the Dark Zen website kicks ASS.
For it was news to me that through this essay, I discovered that from one persons perspective, there is a subtle indoctrination could form the subtext of the Zen Mind Beginners Mind--
and that Richard Baker's self aggrandizement was well served by this book--for which he wrote the introduction, describing the qualities, much idealized, of a Zen roshi.
This would aggrandizes the role of the Zen Master, a role Baker was shortly to fill, and would insinuate a power imbalance into a trustful readers mind.
I call this a preformatting process. Let the author of this essay speak:
but Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind was published in 1970, only one year before Baker himself received Dharma transmission and the title, Zen master.
Downing (author of Shoes Outside the Door: Desire and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center) reveals that by 1969 Suzuki had made it known to Baker and others at the Center that Baker was to be his Dharma heir.
Baker's use of Dixon's words begins the description of Suzuki Roshi, with the strange phrasing "a roshi is..." This substitutes what is supposed to be a description of their close and beloved teacher Suzuki Roshi, a real person, with an abstraction, "a roshi."
Yet Baker certainly knew that, at best, few if any roshi are so fully realized. More tellingly, Baker, inserted the very idealized description of qualities and characteristics supposedly of Suzuki Roshi, generalized to all roshi, knowing it would inevitably, indeed shortly, be applied to himself.**
Corboy notes: thus, readers of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind
would be "pre-formatted" to exalt the role of the Roshi in their own minds and be all the more ready to be submissive and trustful no matter whom they later met and studied with.
It should be noted that relatively few user friendly books on Zen were available in English, greatly magnifying the impact of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind
Much, much later, after the Baker mess, more realistic histories of Suzuki Roshi and Zen Center became available and the role of roshi was de-mythologized-through such books as David Chawick's "Crooked Cucumber
San Francisco from the 1960's into the 1980's was considered by many to be the freest city in America, especially when understanding "libre" as freedom from ideological constraints. Zen Center members did not think there was any thought control or propaganda necessary to escape when it came to Zen. Members had not the slightest inkling that their view of Zen was controlled. They believed their way of living and of practicing Zen was the best alternative available in America. People put their hearts into the practice and the Center, sometimes going as far as asserting that the Center represented the cutting edge of Zen in the America.
'When one member was about to leave (after the Baker scandal), rather than receiving well wishes or a word of advice from his teacher-who happened to be the new abbot after Baker, he was smugly told that he would be back in a year.
'It is clear from Downing's interviews that Zen Center members assumed that there was no ideology to be questioned, i.e., the unreliable history of Zen, the hagiographic picture of the lineage, along with its mythology of Dharma transmission, unbroken lineage, and 'enlightened' Zen masters.
'A number of Downing's interviewees spoke of receiving the true or pure Zen teaching from Suzuki Roshi.*(But, as noted above, filtered through the medium of Baker, who was to inherit the abbacy of Zen Center soon after publication of the very book that attracted so many to Zen Center--a book in which Baker had had an important role in exalting and mythologizing the role of the Enligthened, unquesitionable roshi)
" It was not surprising, then, that when trouble arose at the Center it was mostly assumed that something must be wrong with the members themselves; that it was because they did not use or handle well Suzuki's pure teaching. One older student expressed it this way, "In our hands, and it was in our hands, it [Suzuki's pure teaching] became a bludgeon of power, a source of competition, jealousy, and paranoia. That's what we made of it."
'All trouble at the Center was internalized and personalized by its members. Institutional mythology, which created a seamless picture of unbroken lineage along with pure, desireless perfection and attainment housed in the body of the master, was not questioned, and hence, remained intact.
Those who had loved and trusted Suzuki Roshi and who mourned his early death had to trust that he had been unquestionably correct to give Dharma Transmission to Baker. To dare question Baker meant, retroactively daring to question Suzuki Roshi.
It turned out that for his many admirable qualities, Suzuki Roshi was not a saint.
Suzuki indeed had ordinary and even tragic circumstances in his life, as is shown in Downing's book, who references David Chadwick's book, Crooked Cucumber, for the following details. He was married three times. His first wife contracted tuberculosis and returned to her parents shortly after marriage; his second wife was brutally murdered by an erratic, antisocial monk whom Suzuki had retained as a temple assistant, despite contrary advise from neighbors and colleagues. His youngest daughter, Omi, committed suicide after spending nine years in a mental hospital; he gave Dharma transmission to his son Hoitsu, who did not study with him or even get on with him, but who inherited his temple (this is standard Soto Zen procedure); he gave, as a favor to a friend, Dharma transmission to someone he did not know or have any contact with. He also ran a temple virtually under the control of Japan's repressive fascist era government. This is the sort of detail, which might be useful to both present and future students, but it is absolutely missing from all of the completely standard biographies of Zen masters through the ages.
This is now freely acknowledged at Zen Center. At the time of my visit Hoitsu, Suzukis son, gave a lecture and told the entire 150 plus person audience, which included many drop in visitors, of how his mother had been murdered due to Suzuki ignoring warnings and allowing a mentally ill monk to stay with the family--the one who murdered Hoitsu's mother.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/2009 11:10PM by corboy.