Teaching Stories Presents
Henry Schaeffer with Sam Bercholz:
Rinpoche and Roshi
Posted: 15 December 2011
Listen to the audio
In this episode, Henry Schaeffer and Sam Bercholz talk about
||Rinpoche throwing his mala over a fence in Oakland, California in 1970;
||Roshi blessing Rinpoche's son, Taggie Mukpo, and the origins of the children's blessing ceremony still practiced within Shambhala;
||a talk given by Trungpa Rinpoche at the San Francisco Zen Center entitled "The Open Way", and what Roshi said to his students after Rinpoche left. Listen to this talk, The Open Way, given on May 27, 1971
Here is an interview with Henry Schaeffer on cuke.com.
Please send comments to .
Hi Walter and Joanne,
Thank you so much for this wonderful storytelling. Listening to Henry Schaeffer talk about Rinpoche and Suzuki Roshi is like listening to stories of magic. Wow. Very special. And funny too! The story of how Rinpoche outraged the students at Zen Center and that many of them wanted to follow him to Colorado by the end of his talk is hilarious! This is the real inside story of two masters relating to one another, and it also contains important bits of history. Amazing.
PS: I have wondered what happened to Henry Schaeffer. Does he live in NS?
Hi Suzanne, Thanks for posting. Yeah, this is amazing stuff from Henry and Sam; and more to come! Henry's in San Francisco, where I think he's always been. - Walter
Theme music: Balinese Monkey Chants. Chogyam Trungpa very much enjoyed these traditional Balinese chants. They were sometimes used to wake up participants at Magyal Pomra Encampment.
Henry Schaeffer: I saw Rinpoche and Roshi together on four different occasions. The first time was when he gave the talk at Zen Center in May 1971, in the dining room, not the Buddha Hall. The second time was when he blessed Taggie (Tagtrug Mukpo). The third time was when we went there for lunch. Were you there, Sam?
Sam Bercholz: Mm-hmm
Henry Schaeffer: Yeah. We went there for lunch. It was Sam, myself, I think Frannie (Fran Lewis), Cason (Tania Leontov), John baker and Marvin (Casper). We went there and one of the things Rinpoche had said to us then was: "Ask Roshi what's the difference between prajna and jnana." Roshi said: "They're the same." And then one of us said: "Rinpoche says they're different." So then Roshi said: "Excuse me, I have to go up and get my Japanese Sanskrit dictionary. He went up to his room and came back down with it; then he looked at it and said, "Oh, they're different." I really felt, and I believe it to this moment, that he [Rinpoche] was also instructing Roshi. Now, is that something strange to say? I don't know. But that's what I saw.
The fourth time Roshi invited Rinpoche down with Diana. So I drove them down to Tassajara. And then Rinpoche gave a talk at the zendo one of the evenings we were there. Another thing we did down there was Roshi showed us the spot where he wanted to have his ashes, [after he was] cremated. It was further downstream from those buildings: the zendo, the kitchen, the whole thing. We took a walk over there, and Roshi showed us that he had chosen these particular rocks and boulders and stones. It had already been worked on, but it wasn't complete. That I remember very clearly. That was the fourth time I saw them together.
But the third time, he [Rinpoche] was staying with Sam's [business] partner, Michael, in Oakland.
Walter Fordham: Michael Fagan.
Henry Schaeffer: Michael Fagan yeah. And Michael Fagan had this big, maybe Victorian apartment, that was either on the second or third floor, and overlooked several backyards, and it had a back porch. So it was a nice night, and as you know, Rinpoche liked to stay up late at night, and he had a lot of us students there drinking and hanging out with him and talking. It was very late, three or four in the morning, and in the first Garuda [a sangha newsletter, which had just been published, and which Rinpoche was paging through for the first time], there's a photograph of Rinpoche from Gold Hill, wearing a kind of a grayish sport coat with a turtleneck sweater. But in that turtleneck sweater you can see his beads [malas]. They showed through [the sweater (see photo above)]. We were there and Rinpoche told us, "The time for this is over," and he took his beads and twirled them around like this, and threw them over a backyard, he just threw them away.
Walter Fordham: The malas?
Henry Schaeffer: The malas. Yeah. He just threw them across to another backyard. I can't remember which one it was, but ... We were kind of facing parallel and right and left and in front of us were backyards. And then he told me, tomorrow morning, go at ten or ten thirty and tell Roshi that he [Rinpoche] was coming at 11 with Taggie, and Roshi was going to bless Taggie. Not ask him. Tell him.
As I told you, Roshi always told me I did things wrong. I never did things the right way. I was always doing them wrong. So I told Rinpoche, "No no, oh no, he's going to really get angry with me." I already felt like maybe I had offended him because I had gone to study with the Rinpoche. A lot of people at Zen Center, Yvonne Rand, and lots of people told me I had betrayed Zen Center and Roshi by going to study with Rinpoche. You know they were telling me that there.
Rinpoche told me to get up early in the morning, and go there. So I did. Rinpoche said, "I'll be there at 11." So I went there, and I asked for Roshi, but he was up in his apartment. So then I asked for Yvonne Rand. So she came and I told her what the situation was, and she didn't like it at all, and she said, "No." I insisted, so she finally went up and talked to Roshi, and then in a few minutes he came storming down. At least that was how I saw it, and he was chewing me out, telling me, "What's this? I'm supposed to ... like giving me orders ...?" I repeated what Rinpoche said, and just then the doorbell rang and they had a desk there, with a person there, and the person went and opened those two double front doors at the Zen Center and when he opened the door, Rinpoche was there in kind of a similar shirt that we saw in the video of where Rinpoche is holding Taggie with Diana, that kind of shirt. And he's holding Taggie, and we're just seven or eight feet from the front door. I'm standing there with Roshi. And he [Roshi] wasn't that tall, but he was like a mahakala, or something. That's how I experienced it. The doorbell rings, Rinpoche is holding Taggie, and walks up to us and starts walking around in circles, holding Taggie. I'm standing kind of like this and Roshi is here, looking at me, and Rinpoche just walks around, making a few circles.
Walter Fordham: He goes around you?
Henry Schaeffer: No, just in front of us, just circles, walking around in circles. So then Roshi says, "You want me to bless Taggie?" and Rinpoche said, "Yes." And then Roshi said, "Okay." It changed then, and then Roshi said, "I have to go upstairs because I have these new Roshi robes from Japan that I've never worn before." So it was a very special thing. We went into the Buddha Hall, and Roshi had a special twig with little branches on it.
Sam Bercholz: I was there.
Henry Schaeffer: With water
Sam Bercholz: Yes.
Henry Schaeffer: And he had a little mirror, and he did this whole thing; chanted certain things in Japanese, and then he put the twig with little branches in water, and ...
Sam Bercholz: That's where Rinpoche got that ceremony.
Henry Schaeffer: ... and sprayed Taggie. And then he took the mirror, the special mirror, front of Taggie and [claps hands twice] like that. And Taggie responded
Sam Bercholz: Yeah.
Henry Schaeffer: He said, "But ..." I can't quite remember. But he saw it as a very good sign. Then we went into the dinning hall, and had some sort of refreshments.
Sam Bercholz: Mrs. Suzuki had prepared something.
Henry Schaeffer: Mrs. Suzuki was there, too, right. "Missus" in Japanese is "Okasan," that's how she was always referred to, "Okasan."
Walter Fordham: That's great Henry. That's fantastic detail.
Sam Bercholz: His memory is unreal.
Walter Fordham: And that's a really important event because he [Rinpoche] did that ceremony.
Sam Bercholz: That's unreal. How would anyone remember that, I mean the details of it. But some people have asked where that [ceremony] comes from, and it came from right there. That was the first time, and Rinpoche really paid attention.
Henry Schaeffer: So, I'll tell him about the talk. Yeah, that was something, that was something. So there was already a set date that Rinpoche was going to come [May 27, 1971]. There was already a lot of controversy at Zen Center: Rinpoche was a charlatan, Rinpoche was just a pandita (scholar), not a yogi/practitioner. So this talk had been arranged and a lot of people came. You know, his books were out, Born in Tibet, Meditation in Action, and the first Garuda ... I drove Diana and Rinpoche, and Rinpoche had been drinking pretty good. So we walked in there, and they had the traditional ... the priest's dressing room ... a room shortly after you came into the building, and we went in there before the talk. People were all gathering and they're mostly there already, because we always got there a little late. So we're in there, and Rinpoche was sitting on a regular chair, and he had these high boots, remember the high shoes with a lot of laces? So I was kneeling on the floor.
Sam Bercholz: He had that leg brace thing.
Henry Schaeffer: Leg braces, yeah. Even after the operation, he still wore the braces. So I had to take all that off, and I was kneeling, and there was a knock on the door, and I think Diana opened the door, and it was Roshi. So Rinpoche says to Roshi, "Hi, Roshi, I'm drunk." So they talked while I was doing this, and then Rinpoche said to Roshi, "Well, Roshi, you can go now." So Roshi [says], "Okay," and he walks out and he's looking concerned. So Diana walks out with him, and closes the door, and they're standing in the hallway, and then Diana comes back in and says to Rinpoche, "Roshi thinks you're angry or upset with him."
Sam Bercholz: Do you remember what the talk was he gave? You were going to say that. I think Dick Baker was there, right?
Henry Schaeffer: Yeah, everybody was there. It was totally jammed, people on the floor. I mean ... have you ever been to Zen Center?
Walter Fordham: No.
Henry Schaeffer: It's got a big dining room and they had, you know, they moved all the tables out.
Sam Bercholz: Yeah.
Henry Schaeffer: There were people sitting in the aisles. There were people sitting everywhere, all around. Roshi is up there, Katagiri [Roshi] is up there, and Rinpoche still keeps them waiting a bit. So finally, Rinpoche says, "Well, time to go out." He wasn't staggering at that point, but when he got out in the hallway ... I am holding on to him and he's going all over the place. We're walking down, and they had these like French doors right there and we start walking in and all these people are sitting in the aisles and everything, and [I'm] barely holding him and he's going all over the place, like you're in a ship at sea, a stormy sea. I finally get him up to his seat. Katagiri is there. Roshi is there. And then I sat on the floor, and Yvonne Rand was sitting in a seat. I was right next to her. The place is jam-packed and they're all looking at him [Rinpoche]. He barely gets on the seat. He used to be able to cross his legs and he could always ... you remember this? When he sat, his right leg could go totally parallel to the floor even though ... Do you remember that?
Walter Fordham: Yeah. Right.
Henry Schaeffer: So he would ... and he would miss....[his leg] and he was doing all this stuff.
Sam Bercholz: What a joker.
Henry Schaeffer: And Katagiri went to help him, but Rinpoche went like that [demonstrates] to him. Because I saw it, you know, and Katagiri sat right back down.
Sam Bercholz: Sensitive guy.
Henry Schaeffer: Huh?
Sam Bercholz: He [Katagiri] was a sensitive guy. He knew.
Henry Schaeffer: He knew.
Sam Bercholz: It was just a little ... it was the tiniest little gesture.
Henry Schaeffer: Yvonne Rand said to me, "You're his attendant, you ought to be helping him," and I said, "No way." So there he is. He finally gets the leg up there, and I guess Diana brought the drink in. Whatever it was, but it was alcohol, and they had a glass of water there for him. But she brought him a glass too.
Sam Bercholz: Those were Johnny Walker days, so it was obvious.
Henry Schaeffer: So he's there ... Was it the Open Way?
Sam Bercholz: Something like that. That's right. I remember it was a Mahayana talk.
Henry Schaeffer: Yeah, yeah. At first it's very hard even for us to understand him, but pretty soon ... Oh .... He took a long time, like he used to, before he even spoke, he just [exhales], you know. He felt the whole room, and got the sense of it, and everybody is there with all their thoughts and thinking. I think he must have lit a cigarette and that really ... The drink and the cigarette ...
Sam Bercholz: It was driving them insane. Not like they didn't all smoke or drink, but still ... driving them insane.
Henry Schaeffer: Finally though, he does begin to speak, and as he's talking it gets clearer and clearer, and pretty soon he's just totally right there, and the room changed. It was really something, and then in the question and answer period, it was amazing. So many people, a lot of people fell in ... a lot of Roshi's students.
Sam Bercholz: They were so magnetized, it was unbelievable.
Henry Schaeffer: Yeah, a lot of them immediately planned to leave and go to Boulder, so that was the other thing. It made a tremendous uproar at Zen Center. It was so powerful, and like Sam said the other day, it was like a stroke, a samurai stroke. But it was so gentle, it was so gentle.
He gave the talk during the sesshin and it was either a 7 or a 9-day sesshin, I can't recall. The talks were on Tuesdays or Wednesdays generally at Zen Center, and Saturdays. That Saturday I heard that Roshi was giving a talk, and then I went to the talk at the sesshin. I got there in the morning and sat and then about 11 he gave the talk. So he started talking and he said, "I want to talk about Bodhisattva Trungpa. He said, "When Alan Watts came here and smoked and drank, I couldn't accept it. But when Bodhisattva Trungpa came here and smoked and drank, and drank the way I'm drinking water now... (and then he took a sip), I gave up." And he went like ..., he made that gesture like, "I just gave up." Then he said, "You have no idea how much support he's giving you. He's giving you so much support. You have no idea."
So he [Roshi] saw. He understood right away.
Listen to this talk, The Open Way, given by Chogyam Trungpa on May 27, 1971
David Chadwick's comments on Schaeffer & Bercholz memories of Roshi and Rinpoche
Including relevant excerpt from the lecture Schaeffer refers to
For whole lecture (71-07-06V) go to shunryusuzuki.com
Here's the link these comments on cuke.com
A few tiny unimportant points -
The ashes site where Suzuki took Trungpa was not downstream. It was on a hill we call the Hogback which is upstream but not by much - the stream goes around it and to get there you go away from the road by the stream to a trail up the hill. There was never any other place considered that I know of.
Henry says that in the blessing ceremony that Suzuki clapped his hands twice. If so, I'd say that's from Shinto. In Japan people take their babies to the Shinto shrines to be blessed, not to Buddhist temples - or not much to Buddhist temple.
Richard Baker was not there at any time when Trungpa spoke while Suzuki was alive. Baker was in Japan and returned while Suzuki was dying and not going out.
Not many people at the ZC smoked or drank much. I did from time to time, some of us did. It wasn't forbidden - you couldn't drink in the building though unless it was a special event or you were Trungpa. That did shock people. Some could not accept it.
There were no sesshin over seven days at the ZC.
As I remember it Suzuki was fine with people going to study with Trungpa. He didn't have the energy or time for them anymore. He'd been sick a lot. He was happy for Bob Halpern to go and he'd almost ordained Bob as a priest until Bob decided he shouldn't. Maybe some people didn't like it but I don't remember people being negative about SFZC students going to study with Trungpa. The way I saw it, there were people who Suzuki felt he couldn't handle or who might do better with Trungpa. I don't remember anyone saying Trungpa was a charlatan and I don't remember any heavy controversy - and I was there when Trungpa spoke a couple of times and at Tassajara when he was there. But there are always people there who grumble and complain and the ZC has a lot of freedom of speech and expression and people don't have to be respectful or reverential so I can see some people saying stuff like that and I might have heard some of it and forgotten it, not paid attention. Most people felt very positive about Trungpa. He's the only non Zen teacher who Suzuki asked to speak there like he did that I can remember. Things chilled when Baker became abbot but there was no open criticism that I remember. There was a lot of criticism of Baker in Boulder though. And I think I'll take this opportunity to tell a story about that.
I visited my friends in Boulder every few years. I stayed either with Bob and Abby Halpern or with Jack Elias. Alan Marlow threw a party for me once and there were so many old friends from the ZC. In about 1980 or so I was visiting and one evening a group of us, ten or so, were drinking and sitting outside the Boulderado Hotel, Loring Palmer inside at the desk. Duncan Campbell (?) and I got into an exchange.
As I remember it, Duncan asked, "Why don't you come here and study with Trungpa Rinpoche? He's Suzuki Roshi's real successor. Everybody knows that Richard Baker isn't enlightened."
To that I replied that Dostoyevsky has a story about a monk in a monastery, an elder who was revered by the other monks, a pious, humble exemplar of their practice, considered by all the be a saint. When the monk died they lay his body in state with the intention of keeping it there for some time as the body of saints does not decompose. However, a foul odor began to rise from the corpse which was quickly buried. It was a dreadful disappointment that no one spoke of afterwards.
"You see," I concluded, "The problem isn't that Baker Roshi isn't enlightened. The problem is that Suzuki Roshi wasn't enlightened and Baker Roshi is the smell of Suzuki's body rotting."
Duncan broke the stunned silence with, "Oh you're just being a contrarian like Bob Halpern."
Here's the question and answer from Suzuki that Henry refers to. This is a literal translation of the lecture from July 6th, 1971.
Student I: Why have all this weakness, and desire, and struggle? What is the sense in it?
Suzuki Roshi: Struggle?
Student I: Yeah, why is it--what is the sense in all of this--these--having small mind, having weaknesses and desires? Why?
Suzuki Roshi: Reason why is, you know, not to--actually, we do not have small mind, so-called-it "small mind" to suffer, but to support ourselves we have small mind--to know what actually we are doing, inch by inch. That is small mind. If you call it small mind, but if it doesn't cease to act, you know, going on and on, that is actually big mind. So if you lose the background of the small mind which is big mind, then small mind end up in small mind for you. It is actually going, but you don't feel so, and you are always afraid of something will happen to you. That is fear, you know. That is why we suffer.
Student I: I know; but my question is why was all this created in the first place?
Suzuki Roshi: Which practice?
Student I: Why was all this created, all this--
Suzuki Roshi: Yeah, that is--
Student I: --you're given that, kind of, climb out [?] of small mind. The whole process. Why? What's the sense of this?
Suzuki Roshi: Oh. Why we have that--why this kind--why we are created in that way?
Student I: Yeah.
Suzuki Roshi: Uh-huh. It is something which is difficult to answer [laughs, laughter]. But actually it is, you know--we are--the purpose of Buddhism is not to answer that kind of question, like Christianity. Who created, you know? Your question is something like, "Who is responsible for?" [Laughs, laughter.] What if? But no one is responsible for that. If you say someone should be responsible for that, you should be responsible for that because you change your mind little bit, you know. If you have little bit right understanding, you will be free from that kind of problem and you can and even enjoy the problem. So, actually, you are creating and you are responsible, but we are not talking about whose responsibility it is. But actually things is going in that way. That is nature of Buddhism; that is the nature of Buddha's teaching. He didn't, you know, say anything definitely, and he did not pick up any special cause.
It is impossible to answer when this earth or when this universe started, you know, when we are going, you know, and what is the limit of the universe. Is that possible? Not possible. This is important point also. If there is some limit, you know, or if we think there is some limit, it is not absolute anymore. Because we--there is no limit in universe, and things started [from] beginningless beginning and going to endless end. That is why, you know, we can believe in our destiny. If there is, you know, beginning and end, like Christian teaching, you can believe in God, but you cannot believe in our--each--each one of us. We can believe in our destiny. That is very important point.
And if Buddha have answer to that question, he is not Buddha anymore. He is not Buddha. Because he didn't--he was great because he didn't answer that kind of question. That we don't know anything about it is very important point. That we cannot answer for this is very important [laughs]. When you say "this is very important," it is not important anymore. You can compare, you know, to some other thing, and you can say which is important, then this is not absolutely important. You cannot depend on that kind of thing, which has some limit, which has some beginning and which has some end, because, you know, emptiness, which has no limit and no start--beginning, we can believe in it. Isn't that so?
This is very important. I am not fooling you. [Laughs, laughter.] [Sighs.] Okay? If you really, you know, understand this, tear will come out. [Makes sound like crying.] You will really, you know, feel happy to be a Buddhist. Just now, we are--this is question and answer, so you don't have this kind of feeling. But if you struggle bad enough [laughs], you will, you know, feel how important point this is. Why--how you can struggle with this struggle is you--you are supported, you know, by something, something you don't know. But as we are human being, there must be that kind of a feeling, you know. You must live in such city or village or community. That is, I think, very important. So whatever community it may be, it is necessary to have community to--which have this kind of spiritual support.
That is why I respect Trungpa Rinpoche. That is a point, you know. He is supporting us. You may criticize him because he drinks like I drink water [laughs, laughter]. That is minor problem. He trust you completely. He knows if he is always supporting you, in its true sense, you will not criticize him, whatever he does. And he doesn't mind whatever you say [laughs]. It's not point, you know. This kind of spirit is necessary for--for human being, without clinging to some special, you know, religion or form of practice. [Sighs.]