Saturday, November 6, 2010

I am your BIGGEST fan!!!

I am thoroughly exhausted after a long day of celebration, conversation, delicious food, and amazing company. This weekend, I am up in Berkeley to celebrate the completion of what essentially amounts to my father's life's work. My dad, Kazuaki Tanahashi, is many things -- painter, calligraphy master, writer, teacher, peace activist. He is also a scholar and translator of Dogen Zenji, the renowned 13th century Zen master who brought Soto Zen Buddhism from China to Japan. Kaz has been translating Dogen's work since he was younger than I am now, and he has just published an enormous two-volume book set of the Shobogenzo-- Treasury of the True Dharma Eye -- a collection of all of Dogen's teachings. This project has been 50 years in the works. You hear that??? Five-zero, FIFTY!!! I haven't spent that long doing anything, including being alive, so needless to say this is a BIG DEAL.

Friday night, we had a lovely dinner at Greens Restaurant, which was the "intimate celebration", consisting of about 50 people. Norman Fischer made a lovely toast, and I -- along with my mom and brother -- all shared some words about what Kaz meant to us. Today, we scooted off bright and early to San Francisco Zen Center where Peter Levitt gave a really gorgeous talk on Dogen and intimacy. (He used the term "intimacy" not in the exclusively social/sexual context we're used to, but rather in how we get to know the world and ourselves.) This afternoon, we headed back over to Majestic Fort Mason where a Dogen panel took place. There were many speakers from the academic and Zen worlds, along with an enchanting shakuhachi performance by master musician Masayuki Koga. I'd have to say the highlight was hearing my new friend, author Brad Warner, describe Dogen as a nerd subculture, comparing it to comic con, punk rock, and Star Trek. I think I'll have to devote an entire entry just to geek out on that!

Long story short, I feel very grateful to be a part of this whole world. Being as how my parents met at San Francisco Zen Center, I'm what you would call a "Zen center brat." (It's sort of like being an Army brat, except totally different.) So all of the people I have met or re-met in the past couple of days are various permutations and incarnations of the American Zen archetype. The Hollywood movie world, on the other hand, is a more novel beast. Because I didn't grow up around it, I tend to go gaga-ballistic-drooling-misty-eyed-weak-in-the-knees-fan girl when I see an actor or filmmaker I admire. But sitting in the lecture hall today, listening to Peter's talk, I realized that these are the ROCK STARS of the American Zen community! What a privilege it is to know these people, to be enlightened by these people; to be so familiar with them, in fact, that their presence seems as normal as eggplants in the fruit basket. And to think, they are all there to celebrate the work of my daddy dearest!!!

I don't want to get excessively narcissistic about my dad. He had a lot of collaborators on the project, a whole community of people without whom the Shobogenzo would not exist. But he has been chipping away at this for years and years, and I've seen it from both sides of the lens. Countless meetings in our living room and around the world, editing with so many people to get that perfect word. Hours and hours of reviewing the glossary (which for such an epic work is not an easy task). A lifetime of love, exploration, and dedication. And I honestly believe the world will be a more beautiful place because of it. I have yet to seriously crack into Dogen's work (I feel like a schoolgirl who hasn't done her homework), but from the snippets I've heard through my upbringing, and, of course, all weekend long, he is a beautiful poet; a wise teacher; a revolutionary thinker. And I have complete faith that my father's translation has done him every drop of justice.

And of course, no artist or writer -- even when they describe somebody else or tell a story that is supposedly fiction -- can create something that doesn't speak volumes about who they are. I'm excited to get to know Dogen better because in doing so, I'm sure I will discover a few things about my dad. Whether Kaz connected to Dogen because they were similar or whether Dogen influenced the course of my father's life and character, they are surely inextricably linked. I know they say you can't judge a book by its cover. I won't even try to judge this book, since it doesn't actually have a physical cover. But I will say that even before I open it, it is a marvelous sight to behold. It is simple; large; weighty; beautiful. It lives up to its name; a true treasure.

I'll get all gushy and fan girl in my next entry, in which I will share a few words about the more intimate aspects of the awesomeness of that is my dad. But it's late, and I must get some sleep so I can be fully energized for another day of fantabulous fanfare for my biggest idol... my dad.


  1. Wonderful post! I'm his fan too.

  2. Congratulations to your father on the completion of his work, and for having a daughter who appreciates him.

  3. Really inspiring, it's so powerful to suddenly recognize greatness that we've come to think of a commonplace in our lives.

  4. I also enjoyed Brad's view of the "Zen Scene" as a generational phenomena.

    There were a lot of 'insiders' around and a couple of curious types... 100+ caught it via livestream.

    Congrats to your dad.

  5. It was wonderful meeting you at Fort Mason, Karuna. Here's my take on this extraordinary event:

    Did I get it (kinda sorta) right?

  6. from a reader from the "other" coast, let me assure you that those amazing teachers and practice leaders at SFZC are indeed rock stars.

    thank you for this marvelous tribute.