In 2011 Roshi Bernie Glassman asked me to prepare an unusual lineage chart. Rather than make a vertical down-through-time chart listing our historical Buddhist ancestors, he wanted a horizontal chart. He wanted a cross-section of time as it manifested in my particular life. He wanted a chart of living persons who collaborated with me to created what we call Peter/Kuku. In the original version Bernie asked me to begin with pictures of my parents and grandparents, pictures of my teachers, friends, lovers, my nation and my creations, but I’ve left that out of this version. Here you will see my co-creators from the Buddhist world, I am very grateful to have had them as friends and teachers.
The title, I Am The Buddhas and the Buddhas Are Me, is drawn from The Gate of Sweet Nectar, an ancient Sanskrit to Chinese to Japanese to English Buddhist chant, To my ears, that line rings true. The colorful squares are the colors of The Five Buddha Energies, which is a similarly ancient system of categorizing personal styles.
The chop says Ku-Ku in Japanese, or Kong-Kong in Chinese. In English the literal meaning is cloudless sky, one might say it translates as Nothing-Nothing or Emptiness-Emptiness or even Emptiness-Fullness. The name was given to me by Maezumi Roshi’s Japanese brother, Junyu Kuroda Roshi, who wanted to give me a Buddhist name that would also serve as a clown name. When it came into his mind, the audience at a quiet Lincoln Center dance concert witnessed a Japanese man in monk’s clothing break into rolls of raucous laughter.
The people in this book represent the first and second generation of American and European Zen teachers. There are others.
Peter KuKu Cunningham.