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Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki
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Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  845 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Shunryu Suzuki is known to countless readers as the author of the modern spiritual classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.This most influential teacher comes vividly to life in Crooked Cucumber, the first full biography of any Zen master to be published in the West.To make up his intimate and engrossing narrative, David Chadwick draws on Suzuki's own words and the memories of h ...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published January 5th 2011 by Harmony (first published February 9th 1999)
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I don't have heros, but Shunryu Suzuki comes close. He is as human as you and I, with countless faults, bad habits and temptations. His life shows us that we can all be a Zen master, that it doesnt require a person with perfect character. It requires hard work and dedication, it requires constant attention and patience and a beginner's mind. But these characteristics are available in all persons, including you and me. That's what I like about his teaching: it is firm, it is strict, but it always ...more
Despite having a deep interest in the subject matter it took me a while to get intimate with this book. This book seemed to start off like many biographies do beginning with childhood. Suzuki had a unique childhood in the sense that he had a father who was a priest and Suzuki became a monk himself at a very young age. What follows from there is a tracing of his life from his own priestly and temple duties in Japan to his eventual coming to America to spread the dharma.

I think the most striking
I try to limit myself mostly to fiction in my postings to Goodreads, but this is such a great book, it has to go here. I read it when it first came out, and decided to give it a second read. Suzuki Roshi's life and teaching are the ultimate Buddhist teaching. He must have been a wonderful, fascinating, and very human teacher. And in this and the other three books I have related to him (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind = the ultimate book on Buddhist practice; Not Always So = addditional great teachings ...more

I first came across Shunru Suzuki on the back cover of `beginners mind'.
In the picture he looks mischievous and has a twinkle in his eye. Looking at his image, I figure this man was doing something right and I wanted to learn from him.

That book was full of contradictions, and although I had an inkling of what he was trying to convey I wasn't sure. Reading about his life I maybe understand a bit better. The contradictions are there to blow away the cobwebs and the fixed ideas.

The book moves slow
Harish Venkatesan
This isn't quite a review, but rather my interpretation of some ideas in the book compared to another that I recently read about Yogic practice-- 'Autobiography of a Yogi'.


It was very interesting for me to read, in a short period of time, both Paramahamsa Yogananda's 'Autobiography of a Yogi' and David Chadwick's 'Crooked Cucumber'. The books detail the journeys of two of the greatest spiritual teachers of the last century-- two men who can each be attributed with bringing a traditional school
Patrick Santana
Who hasn't read and loved Suzuki's classic, BEGINNER'S MIND? So who was the man and his life that led to that great book? CROOKED CUCUMBER pulls back the curtain and gives us a window on the human being that was Shunryu. The upside: Chadwick's story humanizes Suzuki. We see how this great master was no super-being: he was temperamental, lashed out, was abused as a kid, had depressions, and everything else. It's eye opening to read biography for this reason: helps break up the myths we carry abou ...more
I guess I was finally ready to read this biography of Shunryu Sukuki who brought Zen practice to anglo americans. Beautifully written, no hero worship...just the story of an ordinary Japanese zen monk who came to the US, San Francisco, to be a priest in Japantown temple...and history, culture and 60s combustion all collided to create SF Zen Center. His life (3 marriages, tragedies, dissatisfactions, WW2 in Japan) is so compelling. Though I've read and reread Zen Mind Beginners Mind many times, t ...more
I won't overpraise what amounts to a very good book of zen and Buddhism as practiced. This un-guru is completely human and flawed, bumbling even, but with a particularly keen dream and determination to spread the practice to fertile American ground. His real world screw ups are pretty significant, but he does at least one thing right, with persistence, humor and real human connection, which is really just to be himself and share his hard-learned wisdom of self and emptiness and a lifetime of con ...more
Ryan Kovacsik
Very enjoyable biography about the life and zen teachings of the Soto Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi. An educational and fascinating glimpse into some of the history of religion in Japan, especially Buddhism, specifically Zen, and what it was like to grow up and live in Zen monasteries as a monk in the early to mid 20th century. Also got a strong feeling of the overall emotional climate in Japan through the second world war. Getting a feel for what it was like as Zen was just taking off in Amer ...more
Sarah McAleer
Loved this book. Full of detail of the life of the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. Reading this book is like watching a movie.
One of the best spiritual biographies ever - insight into the life of a rare spiritual pioneer in America - Zen Master Suzuki Roshi.
Barry Lancet
This intriguing biography charts the rise of one thread of Japanese Zen Buddhism in the United States through the story of the “other Suzuki.” Shunryu Suzuki is known to countless readers as the author of the modern spiritual classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. He began his studies in a rigid monastery in Japan, and realized his only chance to practice Zen as he believed it should be practiced was to flee to the United States. Eventually, he was sent by his order to establish a temple in San Fran ...more
Crooked Cucumber is kind of an ugly duckling story. Suzuki was a bit of a progressive in Japan. During the war it wasn't safe to be against the emperor or voice disagreement, but he was vocal about the things Japan could do if it were at peace. He had a group of thinking friends and he was very dedicated to the practice of Zazen or sitting meditation. It was foreordained that he be a Soto Zen Priest and carry on after his father retired. Although he gained some success in this, he was in a backw ...more
Hablar de un maestro zen y él apenas se consideraba un simple ser humano?
Que siendo él todo un maestro zen, apenas le hablara -durante el transcurso de las décadas- del budismo a sus hijos?
Es posible dicha conducta, dicha perspectiva, dicha actitud?
Cualquier budista practicante aseverará que es normal. No obligar a otros respecto de sus creencias (Ashoka, siendo rey, no estableció como religión oficial de estado al budismo, siglos atrás), afirmar a más no poder la humildad ("tu enemigo usualment
A great story well told about the founder of Soto Zen Buddhism in the United States. First half is Japan and second half is America. Non-jargony exploration of Zen and its history. I enjoyed it and a lot of things about Zen Buddhism started to make more sense. Also about the founding of Tassajara monastery on the West coast. Recommended.
An honest, informative, inspiring, and highly readable biography of a fascinating and wise man. I enjoyed this book so much! I didn't know much about Shunryu Suzuki beyond "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind", but after having read this, I really have a sense of who he was, deep down as a human being, and the magnitude of his wisdom and his importance within the teaching of Zen Buddhism. I would easily recommend this book to anyone, regardless if they were interested in Zen or not, simply because it is su ...more
Wendy G
My only complaint about "Crooked Cucumber" is that it tends to deify Master Shunryu Suzuki; the author repeats the same kinds of "Suzuki had this mystical effect on people and they were so moved" kind of trope. I know it is easy to do this with Zen Masters, but it gets exhausting in the text. Otherwise, I loved reading this personal and practice history of the great modern teacher of Japanese-style Zen Buddhism. Suzuki's "Not Always So" and "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" are two of my favorite book ...more
I learned a lot about this Zen Buddhist priest's life, vision, and his relationships with masters, family, students and disciples in Japan and then later in life, in America. A flawed but humble individual who really embodied the tradition that he was devoted to. I found a lot of similarities in his exposition of Zen practice with aspects of monastic-influenced Christian prayer and attitude toward creation. Zen also has a lot of application to the 12 steps. Very engaging book.
I think it's been 10 years since I read this book, but I remember enjoying it very much. Zen Mind, Beginner Mind was always my favorite book about Zen Buddhism and I felt this biography added a dimension to Susuki's talks like nothing else could. There always seems to be the tendency to make religious figures larger than human life, but when we can successfully appreciate human wisdom without elevating it beyond what it is, it can have a healthier and more powerful impact.
Enrique Valdivia
As a fan of biographies generally and a recent devotee of zazen, it comes as no surprise that I like this book quite a lot. Suzuki is depicted warts and all, an all too human man of his times who was at times a poor husband, father and friend. His gifts it seems were his ability to connect with the Americans he met in San Francisco in the 60s and render the dharma in eloquent English making it accessible to a new Western audience.
Great insights into my first teacher (via "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind")and Dharma ancestor. The history of his legacy including insights into the personalities of his early students is very informative.
Feb 03, 2012 J rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012-read
I read Chadwick's first book and loved it, so I sought out his other books. I hadn't really heard about Sunryo Suzuki before. After reading this, I feel like I met him, though briefly. Watched him perform a service or conduct a zazen session. I can't reconcile the different sides of the man, of course, but Chadwick is good at presenting the inconsistencies and letting them sit.
The quotes from Shunryu Suzuki throughout the book are great, and this book is generally a super read about zen training in Japan and the early days of zen in the US, esp. the founding of the San Francisco Zen Center and Tassahara. I was affected by this book in a good way.
Karl W.
Chadwick has done a wonderful job in telling the story of a remarkable teacher who rose above his own limitations by hard work and persistent effort. This book is interesting both as biography and as an insight into the practical implications of spiritual teachings.
Christian Layow
Great biography about Shunryu Suzuki. A pioneer of bringing Zen to the West. Rich with his paradoxical but gently witty quotes. And some surprising experiences he had to endure. San Francisco Zen Center in the 60s was a rich source of discovery.
Account of Suzuki, founder of Tassahara... Born and trained in strict Japanese tradition, transferred to San Francisco Ca and founder of monastery. LIVED the life, allowed changes to tradition to accomodate American culture. Excellent and interesting.
Maybe I just love reading about a legendary figure in the American Zen community, but I really liked this. Zen and down to earth humanity can be one and the same when neither excessive formality (in Japan) and American hippies can't get there.
David Chadwick does it again! Masterful storytelling, and wonderful insight into Suzuki Roshi's life and teachings. A gem of a book, packed with teachings and wisdom. I thoroughly enjoyed Chadwick's presentation of the subject.
Ed Emmons
A vivid account of the reality of zen student/master. The relation to WWII as a monastic is presented with minimal bias, showing Suzuki's humanity. Helpful to realize that all people held in high regard do have similar feet of clay.
Wonderfully written book about Shunryu Suzuki - - his teachings, his life, his accomplishments, his students. I loved this book. I will recommend it to all my Buddhist friends.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
More about David Chadwick...
Thank You and Ok!: An American Zen Failure in Japan Zen Is Right Here: Teaching Stories and Anecdotes of Shunryu Suzuki, Author of "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" Liberty Bazaar Weird Love Panoptocon

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