July 8, 2013
The Presence and Way of a Zen Master: Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s Teachings

Article by Kogan Sheldon, Program Assistant
Quotations from a talk given Saturday, March 26, 1966: “The Way-Seeking Mind

“When we have problems for ourselves, direct feeling of the problem—of the fact you have to face—is how you arise the way-seeking mind.”

SR0010-x200wThe words of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (1905-1971), still fresh and fascinating, spoken from his heart to a group of uncertain American students gathered in San Francisco trying to find a path—these are a continuing study for Zen students today. A direct spiritual descendant of the great 13th-century Zen master Dogen, Suzuki Roshi provided intimate study and practice opportunities for his students. Beginning with the ordinary and pointing toward the work and joy of deeper self-discovery, his teachings challenge us and are guiding us into the 21st century.

“By nature human beings have good and bad sides, half and half. When you want to do something good, at the same time you don’t want to do something good. [Laughing.] If you want to get up early, at the same time you say, ‘I will stay in bed five more minutes. It is too early!’ At the same time you want to get up, you will say to yourself, ‘No, yes, no!’ ‘Yes’ is fifty percent; ‘no’ is fifty percent … or more! Bad things sixty percent; good, forty percent.”

His spiritual descendants continue this intimate teaching practice today. In the August 10 workshop Presenting Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s Teachings, Mel Weitsman and Steve Stücky will offer a Suzuki Roshi study opportunity at City Center.

Sojun Mel Weitsman, who studied with Suzuki Roshi in San Francisco, was directed by him to begin a new satellite Zen center in Berkeley in 1967. Sojun and his Dharma descendents guide and teach regularly in San Francisco Zen Center locations and throughout the United States. One of those descendants is Myogen Steve Stücky, who came to City Center in 1972 and stayed on as a student at Green Gulch, Tassajara and City Center. Today he protects and carries Suzuki Roshi’s heritage as the central abbot for San Francisco Zen Center, looking after all three temples and their programs.

“The more you reflect on yourself, however, the more conscientious you become. Because you become more and more conscientious, you feel as if you are doing ninety-nine percent bad things! That is actually human nature. It is not a matter of what is good and what is bad. It is a matter of our human nature. When you realize this fact in your everyday life, you have to wonder what we should do. If you realize this fact, you will not be fooled by anyone. You may take some pleasure in entertainments, but you cannot fool yourself completely. You cannot deceive yourself when you realize the true state of our human nature.”

SR0219-x350The direct and intimate style of Suzuki Roshi’s teaching is reflected in his many transcribed talks. Some of  these have formed core Zen teaching in the books Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Not Always So, and Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness. In addition, the Suzuki Roshi Dharma Talks blog aims to provide a complete collection of his talks, in both audio and transcript forms, by publishing additional talks regularly.

His particular presence and way, however, are still available to us in the memories of Zen teachers like Mel Weitsman, and in those who have immersed themselves in his teaching for many years, like Steve Stücky. Join these teachers on August 10 as they share their own intimate perspective on the teachings of Suzuki Roshi.