S: So have you had to work through anything difficult?
RS: Just how to adjust the holiday meal, how Italian to keep it, how Southern to keep it, how Polish to keep it.
SS: Did you mean between us?
SS: Not really. When Daido was first diagnosed he called us and the seniors together and presented his vision. We walked out of the room, and everybody else went back and Ryushin Sensei and myself and Jimon and Hojin were walking back together, and I said, “So this is one of those moments where your life is changed forever.” It’s kind of extraordinary, because you don’t often recognize such a moment. And so we borrowed a sangha member’s house and we went and made dinner and I got a bottle of wine—
RS: Two bottles of wine.
SS: [Laughs]... because what I felt like what we needed to do, right then, was to come together. There were a lot of feelings that we didn’t even know were there yet. I just knew that the whole thing would depend to a large extent on whether we were really together in this.
RS: The analogy of climbing a mountain comes up for me. I’ve been roped together with people on a cliff, hanging out there for three, four days at a time. When you realize you’ve been connected by a rope with somebody for twenty years and doing what we’ve been doing together and witnessing— truly—the pain, the ecstasy... there really is something to that—call it friendship? It is, but it’s something else than that. To share our lives as intimately as we have…
S: So what are some of your differences? We see them. We’re wondering if you do.
SS: I think of Daido on his camping trips and he used to always say, “Be prepared for the worst, hope for the best.” That’s what we do. I was thinking as you were talking, we’d better make good on all this or there’ll be hell to pay! But from the very beginning, Ryushin Sensei and I have had a lot of conversations where I’ve said, “Today it’s like this but we have to imagine what’s going to happen if you really want to do something that you feel passionate about but I just don’t think that’s the right direction to be going in.” We have to at least be able to imagine such a situation and what are we going to do.
S: In terms of the question of tradition, how do you see the Order moving ahead?
SS: I really didn’t grow up in any religious tradition. The very notion of ‘tradition’ in any sense was new to me. But over the years, I’ve come to value it deeply, in a very profound way. I think of it as a light that you ignite with the realization of the dharma, but it’s hard to hold it, and it’s particularly hard to give to somebody else. How do you convey it? Let’s say you pick up a stick and let the light be on that stick. But then as time goes on, you want to make the stick a little nicer. Then the next generation wants to improve on the stick, making it even nicer still and before you know it, people are just dealing with the stick and they’ve forgotten about the light. To me, that’s the wonderful tension in tradition: how do you keep the light bright and burning and keep your attention on it, but without forgetting that you have to have a way of conveying it? Because otherwise, it can be great today, but it’s not going to help anybody tomorrow. So this wisdom tradition is an enormously powerful, organic process that hundreds of thousands of people have been involved in, that carries tremendous weight. But it can very easily become a thing unto itself—something fixed and self-concerned, self-preserving—and then it begins to die.