There was the altar crowned by a large portrait of Daido Roshi and his ashes in a beautifully-crafted wooden palanquin, symmetrical flower arrangements and candles, white altar cloths (white being the color of mourning in Buddhism), and on a lower shelf, Roshi’s staff, kesa, and monk’s bowls. There was the liturgy officiated by long-time friend Seido Suzuki Roshi, Daido Roshi’s three successors, and his dharma siblings, and the moving, funny, irreverent eulogies offered by Roshi’s colleagues and friends—among them Robert Thurman and Bernie Glassman.
Details can help to highlight certain features of a person, object or place, or they can bring into focus a particular trait or strength. Seen together, they can also paint a rich and varied landscape, reflect a broad vision—and as Roshi said—make a life. The services and their respective dedications, the dharma words and eulogies of the funeral ceremony, created both a solemn and very human image of Daido Roshi and his critical role as a teacher in the establishment of the dharma in the West. The evening’s performance, on the other hand, celebrated Roshi’s life, his irrepressible spirit and, of course, his lifelong love of art.
The arts tribute began and ended with a showing of Roshi’s last film, Water Speaking Water, and included a visual poem by Roshi’s wife, Rachael Loori Romero; a jazz improvisation by Gary Shoso Peacock, John Kyomon Wieczorek, and Jim Jinmon Langabeer; performances by Bob Een and Meredith Monk’s ensemble; a poetry/performance by Anne Waldman; and a solo dance by Jimon. This last was especially powerful, not only because Jimon, as a monastic, had lived and worked closely with Roshi for more than twenty years, but also because of the history behind the dance.
The story—which is fast on its way to becoming legend—is that when Shugen Sensei, Ryushin Sensei, Hojin and Jimon gathered at Roshi’s bedside just days before his death and asked if he had any last wishes, Roshi looked thoughtful for a moment and then turned to Jimon and said, “Yes. I want you to dance on my grave.”