A roshi is a person who has actualized that perfect freedom which is the potentiality for all human beings. He exists freely in the fullness of his whole being. The flow of his consciousness is not the fixed repetitive patterns of our usual self-centered consciousness, but rather arises spontaneously and naturally from the actual circumstances of the present. The results of this in terms of the quality of his life are extraordinary—buoyancy, vigor, straightforwardness, simplicity, humility, serenity, joyousness, uncanny perspicacity and unfathomable compassion. His whole being testifies to what it means to live in the reality of the present. Without anything said or done, just the impact of meeting a personality so developed can be enough to change another’s whole way of life. But in the end it is not the extraordinariness of the teacher which perplexes, intrigues, and deepens the student, it is the teacher’s utter ordinariness. Because he is just himself, he is a mirror for his students. When we are with him we feel our own strengths and shortcomings without any sense of praise or criticism from him. In his presence we see our original face, and the extraordinariness we see is only our own true nature.
–Trudy Dixon, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi was the first person I ever met for whom I felt immediate and total trust. It was something which I had never expected to experience. Every sense, every brain cell and nerve fiber in me suddenly woke up. I felt alert, and watchful, and euphoric, all at once. … It was that he was so simple and utterly there, standing in that dim room, looking at us. There was a nakedness about it. No cover-up, no attitude at all. His gaze was flat, and extraordinarily deep. I felt he saw into and through me, and in spite of, or perhaps because of that seeing, he was totally kind.
—Diane di Prima, Recollections of My Life as a Woman