October 13, 2021
Awakening the Archive: The Exciting Discovery of 29 Lost Suzuki Roshi Lectures

Suzuki Roshi reel-to-reel

San Francisco Zen Center is very pleased to announce the release of the newly completed Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive, a comprehensive collection of more than 300 recordings from SFZC’s founding teacher, Shogaku Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.

We are also excited to announce that through the forensic audio work of the audio archiving company Engage Wisdom, twenty-nine previously lost or unknown recordings of Suzuki Roshi’s Dharma lectures have been discovered and carefully restored from original reel-to-reel tapes.

Additionally, the audibility and clarity of all 300 recordings in the archive have been enhanced and remastered, allowing listeners to clearly hear Suzuki Roshi’s voice in a way never before possible. The audio improvements are so dramatic in some cases that tapes that were previously set aside and labeled as “inaudible” are now quite clear so that the talks can be transcribed, which was previously not possible.

The Awakening the Archive Series

The Awakening the Archive Series is a year-long project that celebrates this new-found treasure. To provide context and continuity, one of the twenty-nine newly discovered or significant talks from the archive will be released every two weeks through SFZC’s Sangha News Journal and announced in the Sangha News Newsletter.

Each Awakening the Archive Series article will explore the historical context and connections of Suzuki Roshi’s words and will include the audio, text transcripts, and photos of the original tape reels. The articles will be written by Shundo David Haye, a priest and teacher in Suzuki Roshi’s lineage, who was also deeply involved in the audio restoration process. The series will culminate on August 13, 2022, SFZC’s 60th anniversary.

Many of the talks featured in the series are from the founding years of SFZC, when Suzuki Roshi was establishing his way of teaching, including some from the earliest months at Tassajara.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Tapes

Published in 1970, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a collection of talks given by Suzuki Roshi to the Los Altos Zen Group, where he visited and lectured once or twice a week. This collection continues to be one of the most important and well-loved books on Zen Buddhism.

The first four releases in the Awakening the Archives Series will relate specifically to Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and will include three talks that formed the basis of chapters for the book, as well as another talk to the Los Altos group which is the oldest extant audio of Suzuki Roshi. Now, for the first time, we can hear Suzuki Roshi speak the words “Beginner’s Mind” and articulate what it means.

To get started:

Beginner’s Mind: Awakening the Archive, Tape 1
Wisdom Seeks for Wisdom: Awakening the Archive, Tape 2

Click here to access the landing page for the Awakening the Archive recordings where a new talk will be posted bi-weekly until all twenty-nine are made available.

What’s next?

With the completion of the Suzuki Roshi talks, we now turn to the entire SFZC audio archive of more than 11,000 Dharma talks spanning 50 years and dozens of teachers. SFZC has received grants and donations to enable the first phases of this work. To support the completion of the archive, further fundraising is ongoing.

Please donate to the preservation of San Francisco Zen Center’s audio archives.

Non-monetary support is also welcome. This collection of talks is a living, evolving archive that depends on input from people like you to unlock the wisdom it contains. Several of the newly discovered talks are in need of transcription, and nearly all can benefit from listeners adding descriptions and keyword tags to improve searchability. To get started, visit the Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive page for many ways to engage.

San Francisco Zen Center offers boundless gratitude to those who throughout the years have made this project possible, including David Chadwick, the Lenz Foundation, the Khyentse Foundation, Elizabeth Ury, Bill Redican, Peter Ford, Mark Watts, Charlie Wilson and Shundo David Haye of Engage Wisdom, Susan O’Connell, and the many people who, knowingly or unknowingly, aided in preserving the original tapes so that these many years later they could be restored and made broadly available and accessible.