Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I was lighting the altar in the zendo this morning when Jordan came in; this was notable since he is the doshi doing the morning jundo now that Paul is at Tassajara. He came over to tell me that Darlene had died at 1:15 this morning.
I didn't get back to my seat, but went to set up for the 108 bells, which we did after the jundo. Almost everyone from the zendo came out to offer incense, bow and strike the densho in her memory. We also did the same service that we had done the morning after Jerome's death, with the Heart Sutra and the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo. Everyone was in a sombre mood.

Again, I leave it to others who knew her better to tell of her life. I remember her in dharma talks reminiscing about how she came to Zen Center, in the early days, and how she met Tony, her husband. One of my favourite memories was from Tony's shuso ceremony, first with her question:
"Yes, dear" replied Tony almost completely deadpan.
"What is the secret of a successful marriage?"
Tony came right back without a pause: "Knowing when to say 'yes, dear'".
Later in the ceremony, as the former shusos offered their traditional compliments to the new shuso, usually about their wisdom and insight and skillful answers during the dharma inquiry, she purred: "'re very handsome!"

A couple of photos as well: the first is a picture I took in the old days of 35mm, Darlene with Joan on the day of Joan's tokudo in September 2004. The second is a picture that Ren kindly sent on to me after I had previously written about not having any recent pictures of Darlene. This was from the ceremony at the tail end of last year where she was presented with a new ceremonial okesa.
I remember being at Tassajara when she did her dharma transmission with Michael. As is traditional, after the midnight ceremony, she came to the zendo the next morning (less than four hours later, that is), to give a dharma talk. My memory is that she started by looking at her new brown robe and saying "What do I do now that I look like a giant truffle?" I wonder how she described herself in that beautiful lilac okesa?

Photo courtesy of Ren Bunce


Dennis said...

Thank you for the wonderful shuso stories from Darlene. I never really met her, but the great love for her around the ZC has been palpable the last few days - it's nice to get a sense of her.

Anonymous said...

I saw her this summer. I had no idea. RIP.

Anonymous said...

Although I never met her face to face, I feel like I met her in her written works about dealing joyfully with a life of pain. She knew courage and lived a brave life.

RIP my friend
In gassho,

Flor said...

i remember her workshops about how to practice with physical pain...and her teachings were coming from her own perspectives about these issues changed, helped to me a lot...and since then, i share that with my friends in Peru

Shundo said...

Thank you all for these lovely comments - I didn't really articulate in my post how inspiring I found Darlene in her strength and openness about her suffering. Her teachings were incredibly helpful to me when I was just beginning to practice.
Flor - it is nice to hear from you, I hope you are doing well.

Todd Stein said...

Thank you for reminding me of Darlene's wonderful exchange with Tony. I was his benji that practice period and loved both him and Darlene dearly. I haven't seen them in some time but am thinking of them both now and lighting incense.

Shundo said...

Hi Todd, nice to hear from you too. I remember that practice period being a lot of fun. Hope you are doing well.

Jean said...

Darlene was good company on a river trip through the Grand Canyon. We liked silence inside the commotion of rapids and loading and unloading rafts. We exchanged wisdoms about bodies and pain. She touched my heart. Thank you for this glimpse of how she touched others.