The following videos record an interview with Steve made at Tassajara late last summer by Ryan Gray, a retreat participant and videographer who decided, somewhat spontaneously, to make the video soon after meeting Steve there (see his explanation below*).
Part 1 (9:19) presents some very general background on Tassajara, as well as on Zen and meditation. Part 2 (13:29) gives more detail about daily life at Tassajara and a brief history of Zen.
It seems that everyone was always asking me what my purpose for shooting in Tassajara was, and I really didn’t have a direct answer then, and I don’t have one now. I am a filmmaker and videographer, but I also have a passion for culture and history. I went to Tassajara with my camera with the intent to shoot something, but I didn’t know what. Abbot Myogen was in my Zen and Yoga retreat, so I met him there. But, one night Abbot Myogen sang a song from Leadbelly in the Zendo, “Relax Your Mind.” That’s when I knew I needed to interview him, and that our fates were intertwined. It was an obvious and very personal sign to me from the universe saying, “inquire further.”
I have been a fan of the song “Relax Your Mind”, and Leadbelly, for years. The song is about Leadbelly’s experience being the chauffeur for Alan Lomax. Alan Lomax was a cultural anthropologist and musicologist that recorded the songs of folk artists through out America and the Caribbean during the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Alan Lomax is responsible for discovering Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, Son House, and a host of famous blues and folk musicians. Woody Guthrie, incidentally, is one of my personal heroes. Alan Lomax’s work of discovery and preserving Woody Guthrie inspired me to be a cultural anthropologist, and to record and document important cultural icons or events. I told all of this to Abbot Myogen, and for him to consider me basically as a cultural anthropologist, such as Alan Lomax. I feel this common understanding and mutual appreciation for Alan Lomax and for Woody Guthrie instantly gave us a bond and a familiarity that you can see in the video.
My purpose was merely to display the video for free on the internet for all to see, to share the story of Tassajara. Once you record something, that moment is saved forever. And precious moments with great people, such as with Woody Guthrie or Abbot Myogen, are priceless, and are indeed treasures. I knew this going into it, which is why I was so adamant and persistent. Like I said before, SFZC is free to do what is wishes with the video. This work is my donation to SFZC, and especially to Abbot Myogen, who has heavily impacted my life in such a very short time.
Thanks to Ryan for offering this film freely to the public on YouTube and Vimeo, to share Steve’s voice as well as an introduction to Zen practice and Tassajara.