On Becoming a Teacher

An Interview with Jakusho Kwong-roshi


That Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Shunryu Suzuki-roshi shared a close friendship is familiar lineage lore for many and a central story in the history of Buddhism coming to the West. It is also part of the living memory of those who knew both teachers. Perhaps Jakusho Kwong-roshi stands as a premier witness of this friendship. Kwong-roshi became one of Suzuki-roshi’s dharma heirs and drew inspiration and guidance from Trungpa Rinpoche after Suzuki-roshi’s death. Perhaps not a lot of people know that Kwong-roshi erected a stupa on his land, Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, in honor of Trungpa Rinpoche – that is how deep the gratitude and lineage exchange goes.

This video is taken from footage I gathered at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center during two trips I made in 2008 and 2009. My initial intention was to interview Kwong-roshi about his relationship with Chögyam Trungpa and about the drala principle. But Roshi went on to discuss many other subjects – and in the handful of days I spent during my visits I received an intimate glimpse of life at SMZC (one that added to times I did retreat there in the 1980s). Roshi was very generous with his time, as was his wife Shinko, his son Nyoze, and the other residents.

In this footage, Kwong-roshi talks about what it means to become a teacher, for having to become a teacher was the position Kwong-roshi found himself in in 1971, the year Suzuki-roshi died. In this interview, Kwong-roshi shares many aspects of this journey, and also gives us glimpses into what it meant to know and study with Suzuki-roshi and Chögyam Trungpa.

– Bill Scheffel – 7 June 2011

Bill Scheffel was a graduate of Naropa University, where he received an MFA in Creative Writing in 1994. He taught Chance, Synchronicity and Mind-writing for ten years in Boulder and throughout the U.S, and classes in creative non-fiction and poetry at Naropa University for many years. His own writing teachers include Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman and Diane di Prima, among others. Bill became a student of CTR in 1976, and began to teach Shambhala Training in 1980, which he has done since then. Bill also taught the Shambhala Meditation Practicum at Naropa University from 1991 to 2004. Bill died on July 8, in Boulder, Colorado. Please visit his tribute page.