Sobun Katherine Thanas, founder of the Monterey Bay Zen Center and student of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Dainin Katagiri Roshi, Zentatsu Baker Roshi, and Tenshin Reb Anderson, died on June 24 surrounded by loved ones and disciples, after sustaining a head injury that had left her in a coma.
When I first came to Tassajara in the early 70″s Katherine cared for all guests and new comers.
She greeted everyone with a broad, mischievous smile.
Katherine, I will always remember you. Your grace and humor.
I’m sorry to say, that since I left ZC 25+ years ago, I have not had a lot of contact with Katherine. However, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with her at Tassjajra last May. She was there for Sangha week, and I was there shooting photos for ZC. I was so wondefully touched by this last encounter. She ‘recognized me’ immediately. By this I do not just mean that she remembered who I was, but that she saw into me in a way that rarely happens in daily life. She instantly engaged with me, and we began an extended conversation as if we had only seen each other last week. Even though she was clearly there for her students who were taking this opportunity to pracatice Suzuki-roshi’s way at this unique Practice Center, she did not show any signs of distraction as we spoke. At that time I felt very blessed to have had that encounter with Katherine. Now, after her sudden and unexpected passing, I feel even more so. Deep bows.
that “she met everyone on level ground” says it well. I first met Katherine in the early 70’s, on the same visit to Tassajara that I met David Chadwick. I was just one of the many guests that took advantage of the first guest-work program, she was the head of practice. Katherine always had time to flash the smile and answer another of my inane questions, always leaving with a smile… more than 20 years passed between that encounter and the next, in the mid 90’s but to my surprise, she answered the lone phone, found room at the last minute in the Roshi’s cabin, and greeted me and my partner as though no time had passed. We sat and chatted about the changes in life, and where we are, and all the Dahrma talk things…. as I sas once again reluctantly leaving Tassajara, she said to me “…. you could always stay, you know”. I have thought of her, and Sojun Mel Weitzman, who was the first to say those same words, for all those years … she will remain one of my great teachers.
Farewell, from this world, my friend, you will live forever in my memories.