Myotai Sensei, Roshi’s first successor, echoed Mutai’s sentiment in her eulogy when she described Roshi as a tough yet surprisingly affectionate teacher who could be both uncompromising in his standards and extravagant in his support of fledgling students. It was the “bitter and sweet, like coffee and cream intermingled into one so thoroughly,” she said, “that it made the most unlikely places and beings know they were home. They had great work to do, and they could of course do it, and . . . they might find they were doing it again, until it was not just perfect, but beautiful.”
Until it is not just perfect, but beautiful is, in fact, how Roshi approached everything he did—whether it was creating a new Buddhist order, fighting the Department of Environmental Protection over the appropriation of land, or photographing. It’s also how he trained us. “It’s all in the details,” he would say when someone would complain about the exactness of Zen. “If you miss the details, you miss your life.” Maybe he would have been pleased with the weekend’s activities after all.
In the weeks leading up to the funeral, not one detail was overlooked among the dozens of phone calls, travel plans, purchases and rentals we needed to make in order to put together a tribute that would be not just perfect, but beautiful.