Miscellaneous Memories of Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi, 1938-2002

Gina took a deadly serious personal problem to Kobun. They sat together as she told her story and began weeping. Slowly he reached into the sleeve of his robe for a handkerchief, and pulled out -- a dirty sock. Disbelieving, they both stared at it, and burst out laughing. Her problem vanished.

Kenneth went to Kobun to talk about his drug habit. At least, said Kobun, you aren't murdering people. For the first time in his life Ken could see how angry he was, and why he was taking drugs.

While trying to keep up with Kobun walking toward his home, a student gasped "I think you're teaching me without teaching". Kobun slapped the student on the back, not gently but with a whallop, and shouted -- "You've got it!"

To a student loudly hitting the han at Jikoji, Kobun said "don't hit it so hard -- you will frighten the birds!"

Kobun went to help a Hassidic girl in Queens, NY. When he knocked on the door, they said "only Jews can enter". Kobun said "I'm a Jew."

As a little boy, his elder brother sat him by a stream, and told him to find out how to get to the other side without moving. Kobun sat there all day, until his brother returned. Kobun punched the ground and said "this is the other side".

During a sesshin break at the Swift Street zendo in Santa Cruz, Kobun walked with a student on the beach, where a mixed race couple and their child were enjoying the sun. Kobun approached them to say "what a beautiful child you have."

Walking with Kobun in Palo Alto one evening I asked him what Dokusan was. "Doku means to go alone, and san is like that" he said, pointing upward to the top of a pine tree where it vanished into the evening sky.

Kobun said that if even one part of you is OK, then you are OK. He said that if things are basically going along OK, they should be allowed to continue.

When he returned to his home in Los Altos from a meeting, his wife asked him what he had said. He replied that everyone had spoken, and that at some point the words were coming from himself.

Kobun once reportedly said, "I could give you enlightenment, but you would burn up like charcoal".

Kobun said that Buddhism stretches not only from the past toward yourself, but also from yourself toward the past. He said we should create our own version.

While Boddhi was considering buying the Pentler Estate, with the deadline looming, people asked Kobun what to do since it seemed like such a large amount of money. Kobun said "That kind of number is right for this neighborhood" he said, "when the time comes just write the check".

Hojosama, Kobun's brother, once said that his ancestors' spirits lived and played in Jokoji's cemetery grounds. When I asked him if that was consistent with Buddhism, he replied that he did not think Buddha would mind if he thought that way,

Hohosama reportedly once said "everyone respects me, but everyone loves Kobun."