Suzuki Roshi Cancer Diagnosis

December 4th was the anniversary of Suzuki Roshi’s death. One of my favorite stories of great zen master centers on his diagnosis. At first it was thought that he had hepatitis. Concerned about contagion his food was prepared separately and he eat apart from others. Then on receiving his proper diagnosis of cancer he very happily announced to his assistant Yvonne.

“I have very good news. I have cancer. Now I can eat with you”

A beautiful example of a balanced mind and a compassionate heart.

Later in speaking to the community about his illness he said,

” I myself, selfishly feel good, but on the other hand I am very sorry for you, you know. But I think Buddha will take care of everything, so I shouldn’t worry too much.”

Venerable teacher…may you be free of all suffering.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (May 18, 1904 – December 4, 1971.)



Frank Ostaseski is the founder of the Metta Institute and cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project and author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.

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Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most.

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