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Shunryu Suzuki original lectures that led to
Not Always So


For Shunryu Suzuki 's edited words see:
Szudzuki Sunrjú zen mester magyarul nyomtatásban és online:



A zen szellem, az örök kezdők szelleme
[ford. Halasi Sándor]
Buddhista Misszió, Budapest, 1987.
[Kalózkiadás: Farkas Lőrinc Imre Könyvkiadó,
Kerepes, 2002]
Online html

Zen szellem, a kezdő szellem
[ford. Boros Dókó László]
Budapest : Filosz, 2002

Nincs mindig úgy -
A zen igaz szellemének gyakorlása

[ford. Boros Dókó László]
Budapest : Filosz, 2006, 207 oldal

Tisztán ragyogó forrás -
Zen tanítások a Szandókairól
[ford. Fábián Gábor],
Budapest : Filosz, 2010, 208 oldal

Suzuki Shunryu: Te görbe uborka!
[ford. Halasi Sándor]


Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind:
Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
Weatherhill, 1970, 144 p.
PDF: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

HTML: Shunryu Suzuki original lectures
that led to "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"

Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness:
Zen Talks on the Sandokai
Eds. Mel Weitsman and Michael Wenger,
University of California Press, 1999, 197 p.
PDF: Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness

HTML: Shunryu Suzuki original lectures
that led to "Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness"

Not Always So:
Practicing the True Spirit of Zen
Edited by Edward Espe Brown
Harper Collins, 2002, 176 p.

HTML: Shunryu Suzuki original lectures
that led to "Not Always So"

Crooked Cucumber:
the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki
by David Chadwick
Broadway Books, 1999, 432 p.

Zen Is Right Here:
Teaching Stories and Anecdotes of Shunryu Suzuki
Edited by David Chadwick
Shambhala Publications, 2007, 160 p.

was originally published as
To Shine One Corner of the World:
Moments with Shunryu Suzuki.

Anecdote Index

Shunryu Suzuki Lectures

Chronology of Shunryu Suzuki's Life



Shunryu Suzuki, Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen,
edited by Edward Espe Brown.
Harper Collins, 2002, 176 p.
This is the true sequel to
Zen Mind Beginner's Mind.


Calmness of Mind 5
Express Yourself Fully 8
Freedom from Everything 12
Jumping off the 100-Foot Pole 16
Changing Our Karma 21
Enjoy Your Life 25
Walk like an Elephant 29
Letters from Emptiness 35
Brown Rice is just Right 40
The Zen of Going to the Rest Room 42
Caring for the Soil 47
Everyday Life is like a Movie 49
Resuming Big Mind 53
Ordinary Mind, Buddha Mind 58
Supported from Within 65
Open Your Intuition 69
Find Out for Yourself 72
Be Kind with Yourself 77
Respect for Things 81
Observing the Precepts 85
Pure Silk, Sharp Iron 89
Not Always So 95
Direct Experience of Reality 99
True Concentration 103
Wherever I Go, I Meet Myself 107
The Boss of Everything 111
Sincere Practice 115
One with Everything 120
Wherever You Are, Enlightenment is There 127
Not Sticking to Enlightenment 131
The Teaching Just for You 134
Stand Up by the Ground 139
Just Enough Problems 143
Sun-Faced Buddha, Moon-Faced Buddha 146
Sitting like a Frog 151
Notes about Editing the Lectures 155
Further Reading 159
Acknowledgments 161


Calmness of Mind
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin Lecture No. 2
Sunday, June 7, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 5)

Shikantaza, zazen, is-- our zazen is just to be ourselves. Just to be ourselves. We should not expect anything, you know, just to be ourselves. And continue this practice forever. That is our way, you know. Even, we say, even in, you know (what do you say?) [laughs], even in, you know [snaps fingers], [student: “Snap of the fingers?”] [laughs, laughter], you know, in snapping your fingers there are millions of kalpas-- no, cetanas. The unit of time. You know, we say “moment after moment,” but in your actual practice, moment is too long, you know. If we say “moment,” you know, or “one breathing after another,” you still involved in-- your mind still involved in, you know, following breathing, you know, to follow breathe. We say “to follow breathe,” “to follow our breathing,” but the feeling is, you know, in each, you know-- to live in each moment.

If you live in each moment, you do not expect anything. With everything, you know, you become you yourself. If you, you know, feel strictly yourself [your self?], without any idea of time even, you know, in smallest particle of time you feel yourself [your self?]. That is zazen.

Why we say so is if we are involved in idea of time, various desires will, you know, start to act some mischiefs [laughs]-- they will become mischievous, you know. So-- but if you, you know-- when you have no idea of time, with everything, you know, you bec- [partial word]-- your practice will go on and on.

So this practice is not so easy. Maybe you cannot continue this practice for even for one day, one period. If you try to continue it one period, you know, you must make a big effort. So what will you do, then, rest of the time of your five days is to extend this feeling for each period, or to prepared for, you know, for this shikantaza. Maybe that is what you can do, and this preparation, or to extend the practice to another period of time, eventually will be extended to everyday life. So everyday life-- how you practice or how you extend our practice is to expose yourself as you are, you know. You shouldn't try to be someone else [laughs]. You should be very honest with yourself, and you express yourself fully. And you should be brave enough to express yourself, whatever, you know, people may say, you know. It is all right. You should be just yourself, at least, at least for your teacher, you know. You should be just yourself.

Until your teacher may say, “Okay, in that way you should continue your practice,” you know. Until your teacher say so, you should try hard. And after your teacher said, “Okay, now you should continue that practice,” you know, “forever. You don't need me anymore,” you know. That is, you know, actual practice, actual life of you. This is, you know, rather difficult unless you trust your teacher. Rather difficult, you know. But if you find out your teacher's spirit is the same spirit as you have, then you will be brave enough to continue this kind of practice.

Sometime you have to, you know, argue with your teacher-- [laughs] sometime. That is okay. You should do that. But you should be ready to give up your argument, you know, when you are wrong, when you find out yourself, you know, sticking to some viewpoint [laughs] foolishly, you know, sticking to only one viewpoint. Or when you are making some excuse, you should give up. That is how you should-- how to be honest with yourself. You should give up, you know: “I surrender. Okay.” [Laughs.] “I am sorry.” [Laughs.]

If you cannot accept what he says, you know, until you can accept him you should try to understand your teacher. For teacher and for you, what we should do is to perfect-- to have perfect communication, you know. We should try to have perfect communication. So for a teacher, you know, the important point is, you know, always ready to surrender [laughs] to your disciple, you know. If teacher thinks, you know, he was wrong, he should say, “Oh, you are right. I was wrong.” [Laughs.] If, you know, your teacher has that kind of spirit, you should have same spirit, you know. That is not so easy. You may think it is easy. If you continue this kind of practice, sometime people may think he is crazy [laughs]. Something wrong with him [laughs]. But doesn't matter.

We are not same, you know. Each one of us [is] different from the other. So each one has, you know, each one's problem. So, you know, it is okay. Anyway, you should be yourself. You should not, you know-- Fortunately, you have Zen Center here, you know. Advantage of Zen Center for you is-- Zen Center is not shade for you, shade which will protect you, you know. It is-- it is not umbrella [laughs]. But, you know, there you can, you know, you can have, you know, real practice, you know. You can express yourself fully.

And you should open your eyes to, you know, appreciate other's practice, you know. You should, you know, you should be able to communicate with each other without words. Your mind-- your eyes should be open to see other's practice. It does not mean to criticize others, but to appreciate or to know others.

That is why we have, you know, rules or rituals. You may say, you know, if you are practicing zazen, no one knows, you know, no one understand your practice [laughs], but, you know, when you are practicing, it-- you know, for me, it is, you know, easiest chance to understand you. Especially from the-- if you-- if I see from your back, you know, it is very easy to understand what kind of practice you have. So that is [why] sometime walk around [the zendo], not to hit-- not to hit you [laughs] but to see you [laughs]. Very interesting [laughs, laughter].

If you are, you know, dancing or talking [laughs] or making big noise, it is rather difficult to understand you [laughs]. If you are reciting sutra, you know, each one has each one's own voice [laughs] and in the way you recite sutra is different. And it is, you know, easy to know with each other, even though you are not trying to understand. But if you practice together, eventually, you know, naturally you will be a good friend. Sometime because you know with each other [laughs], you know too well [laughs], so you-- there your have some difficulty because of your small mind. But as long as your mind is big enough to expose yourself and to accept others, if you practice, you know, zazen or rituals together, then you will be a good friend.

And another point is already we have free from idea of time. You shouldn't, you know, try to be ordained, or you shouldn't worry how long you should, you know, stay layman. Or if you become priest, you shouldn't worry what will be your next step. When you are lay student, as a lay student you should, without expecting to be something, you should, you know, [be] honest with yourself. Because you try to be someone else, you lose your practice and you lose your virtue. When you try to be-- when you are faithful to your, you know, position or to your work, your true being of you is there. This is a very important point.

Zen Center is, you know, community, and those who come and sit is also, actually even though they are not a member, actually they are our member. We do-- even though we do not call them “member,” but in its true sense they are also our member. When they come for the first time to Zen Center it may be difficult for them to know what we are doing. But more and more, they will feel what we are doing and join our practice. So those who knows, who are practicing our way, should give them some idea of practice or feeling of practice. The best way to, you know, to give the feeling of practice is to have the feeling to-- each one have our feeling fully. Then naturally people who come will feel it. But if our practice is wrong, you know, they will-- what they will feel is something completely, you know, different from the proper feeling a Buddhist must have.

Why wrong feeling is created is because we, you know, we have-- we are involved in selfish practice. I said don't have no idea of time, you know. Why I say so is if you [are] involved in idea of time-- today or next year, you know, or tomorrow-- idea of, you know, selfish practice will start from there. It is all right to have idea of time, but that is the extended practice of non-selfish practice on this moment, to express ourselves.

We don't know what will happen in-- on each moment. So if you fail to express yourself fully, then you will regret [it] later. Because you expect some other time, you fail to express yourself fully. And you will be misunderstood by your friend. So you should be always express yourself fully. That is why we observe-- we eat in some certain way. You may think, you know, in that way you cannot express yourself, but it is not so, you know. Because you have some way to, you know, serve, you know, you can express yourself-- how much sincerity you have.

If there is no way, you know, the way is-- if you have many ways of expressing yourself, you know, you don't know how to do it. So if you know how to do it, you know, you can express yourself in that way. It is big mistake if you think you cannot express, you know. If you want to express yourself, it may be, you know, the best way is to do something whatever you want to do. You may, you know, do, you know, exactly how you feel, you know, superficial feeling, you know, just choosing some way, you know. Because you or when you don't know what to do. Oh, you know, this is not [laughs], you know, you are not expressing yourself. If you know what to do exactly and you do [it] then you can, you know, express yourself fully.

So in that way, strong person express himself [in a] very strong way [laughs], and, you know, kind person will express himself, you know, very kindly, doing same thing, you know. When you pass [out] the sutra card, you know, from this end to the other end, you know, each one, you know, pass it [laughs] each one's own way. So if I see it, you know, it is easy to see, you know, because they do it same way. If they do it different way, you know, it is very difficult to know. Because you do, you know, it-- all of you doing same way from this corner to the other [laughs], it is easy to see [laughs]. And because you repeat, you know, same thing over and over again, so everyone can understand, you know, your friend's way, you know. Eventually, though you shut your eyes, if you [laughs]-- ”Oh,” [laughs] “that was Katherine.” [Laughs, laughter.]

That is advantage of, you know, having rules and rituals. Or else, you know, your understanding or your relationship with people-- without this kind of understanding, your understanding of people will be very superficial, you know. If someone wear beautiful [rubs own robe], you know, robe you think he is a good priest [laughs]. You know, if someone give you some beautiful thing, you think he is very kind to you [laughs], you know. That kind of understanding is very superficial. If he think [bring?], you know, a beautiful thing, you know, you think she is good person [laughs]. That kind of understanding is not, you know, good understanding. Very superficial.

Usually, you know, our system of the society is built up [in] some superficial, frivolous way, you know, always changing. What, you know, the controlling power will be money or something, you know, a big noise [laughs, laughter]. That is, you know, controlling power because our eyes, our ears are not open, [not] subtle enough to see things, and we are-- our feeling is very, you know, dull.

Most people who visit Zen Center may feel Zen Center is very strange place [laughs]. “They do not talk so much. They do not even laugh.” [Laughs.] “What are they doing?” [Laughs, laughter.] But we, you know, actually, you know, without talking so much, we can communicate. We don't say, you know, we don't smile always, but we can feel others' feeling, and our mind is always open, and we are behaving exactly, you know, behaving-- expressing ourselves fully. Actually, you know, even though you are not trying to express yourself, you are expressing yourself anyway [laughs]. If your mind is open, you can see. Those who are accustomed to, you know, big noise, you know, cannot see anything here-- that's all.

We should extend this kind of practice to city life, and we must have more friend, so that we can be-- all of us can be a good friend of each other, of others. It is not difficult thing when you decide to be honest with yourself and to express yourself fully, without expecting anything. Just to, you know, be yourself and ready to understand others-- that is how you extend our practice to everyday life.

But it is not so easy to be free from the selfish practice. So even for one hour a day, we should try to sit shikantaza, without moving, without expecting anything, as if you are, you know, in the last minute. Moment after moment, you know, you feel your last minute. Inhaling-- in each inhaling and in each exhaling there is countless, you know, units of time, and you should live in each unit of time.

And smoothly exhaling first, and then inhaling. When you, you know-- Calmness of your mind is beyond the end of your exhaling. And if you exhale in that way, smoothly, without even trying to exhale, you are going to the, you know, complete calmness of-- you are entering into the complete perfect calmness of your mind. You do not exist anymore, you know. And if you enter the complete calmness of your mind, then naturally, you know, your exhaling will start from there. And all the blood you have will be, you know, cleaned, catching every, you know, everything from outside, and that fresh blood carrying everything from outside and pervade your body and refresh your body. You are completely refreshed. And you start to exhale, to extend that fresh feeling to the emptiness. You exhale. So, moment after moment, without trying [to do] anything, you continue shikantaza.

Complete shikantaza may be difficult because of your pain in your legs. But even though you have pain in your legs, you can do that. Even though your practice is not good enough, you can do that. So you-- your breathing-- with your breathing, you know, you will vanish gradually. You will fade into the emptiness. And natural inhaling --

[Tape turned over.]

-- bring back to yourself with some color or form. And your exhaling, again, with your exhaling, you gradually fade into emptiness-- empty white paper. That is shikantaza.

I'm just explaining, you know, the feeling of shikantaza. So when you-- important point of shikantaza will be, you know, in, you know, in your inhaling. You, you know-- important point is-- excuse me-- exhaling. Instead of trying to feel yourself, but try to fade in emptiness when you exhale.

When you have this practice in your last moment, you have nothing to [be] afraid of. You are actually, you know, aiming at emptiness, empty area. There is no other way for you to have a feeling of immortality-- or mortality, oh, excuse me, mortality. You become one with everything after you exhale-- completely exhale-- with this feeling. If you are still alive, naturally you will, you know, inhale again. “Oh” [laughs, laughter], “I'm still alive!” [Laughs, laughter.] “Fortunately or unfortunately!” So you start to exhale and try to fade into emptiness. This is, you know-- you don't know, maybe [laughs], what kind of feeling it is. But some of you will know it. By some chance you must have felt this kind of feeling.

When you have this practice, you know, you cannot be angry so easily [laughs]. Because you are interested in inhaling, you know, more than exhaling [laughs], you become angry quite easy [laughs]. You are trying to [be] alive always, you know. My friend, you know, wrote on newspaper the other day. He had heart attack, and what he could do was just exhaling. He couldn't take inhale. That was terrible feeling [laughs], he said. But if he, you know, could try to exhale, you know, at that moment as if we exhale, you know, aiming for emptiness, you know, then I think he didn't feel so bad. To have exhale is great, you know, joy for us, rather than inhaling. But he, you know, he tried to, you know, inhale-- take another inhale, you know. He thought he cannot take inhale anymore-- inhaling anymore. But if he could try to, you know, exhale as we do, then, you know, more easily I think he could take another inhaling.

So exhaling is very important for us. So to die is more important than to try to [be] alive. Because we always try to [be] alive, so we have trouble. Instead of trying to [be] alive or active, if we try to be calmer and die or fade away into emptiness, then, you know, naturally we will be taken care of. Buddha will take care of us. Because we lose mother's, you know, bosom [laughs], we are not anymore her children, you know. So if we like, you know, the emptiness like we, you know, like we, you know, feel your mother's bosom, then mother will take care of you. The moment after moment, you shouldn't lose this kind of, you know, practice when you practice, you know, shikantaza.

Various secret of religious practice is in this point. When they [Jodo-shu] say, “Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu,” you know, they wanted to be Amida Buddha's children. “Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu,” you know. That is how they repeat Amida Buddha's name in their practice. Same thing is true with our zazen practice. Zazen practice is not different from their practice. If you know how to practice shikantaza, and if they know how to practice-- how to repeat, excuse me, Amida Buddha's name, cannot be different, you know, as long as Amida Buddha's, you know, their practice is Buddhism. As a Buddhist, we have same practice in different way.

So we can, you know, enjoy, we are free, you know. We feel free to express ourselves, because we are ready to fade, you know, into emptiness. If you are trying to, you know, to be active and special and trying to do something, you know, you cannot express yourself. Small self will be expressed, but big self does not appear from the emptiness. From the emptiness, only great self will appear. That is shikantaza, okay? [Laughs, laughter.] Not so difficult [laughs] if you try, if you really try.

Thank you very much.



Freedom from Everything
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin Lecture, Day 5
Wednesday, June 9, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 12)

I think you, you know, have understood-- (Can you hear me? Yeah? Not so well. Okay? Mmm?) You have understood what is zazen as your practice. But I didn't explain how you sit-- I didn't give you instruction how you sit in detail, but I told you, you know, how I practice shikantaza-- or zazen. Maybe that is my way, so I don't know how another teachers will, you know, sit, I don't know, but that is anyway my shikantaza.

I started this practice, actually, maybe two-- two years ago, after I went to [2-4 words unclear; one earlier transcript states, “cross the creek at Tassajara”] [laughs, laughter], not because I saw many good place to sit, you know. There's two [or] three caves where you can sit. But not because of that. Perhaps some of you were swimming, you know, with me at that time. Some beautiful girl students [laughs, laughter] and Peter [Schneider?] was there [laughs, laughter]. And as you-- I cannot swim, actually [laughs], but because they were enjoying swimming so much, so I thought I may join [laughs]. But I couldn't swim. But there were so many beautiful girls over there, so I tried to, you know, go there [laughs, laughter], without knowing I couldn't swim [laughs], so I was almost drowned [laughs, laughter]. But I knew that, you know, I will not die, I will not drown. I shall not be drowned to death, you know, because there are many students. So someone will help [laughs]. But I was not so serious.

But, you know, feeling was pretty bad, you know. Water is, you know-- I am swallowing water [laughs]. So feeling was too bad, so I stretch my arm, you know, so that someone catch me [laughs]. But no one [laughs, laughter]-- no one helped me. So I decided, you know, to go to the bottom [laughs, laughter], to walk, but that was not possible either [laughs, laughter]. I was, you know, I couldn't reach to the bottom, or I couldn't get over the water. What I saw is beautiful girls' legs [laughs, laughter]. But I couldn't, you know [laughs], s- [partial word]-- take hold of their legs, you know. I was rather scared [laughs, laughter].

At that time I realized that we will never have good practice, you know, unless we become quite serious, you know. I knew that I was not dying, you know, at that time, so I was not so serious, so I-- because I was not so serious, you know, I, you know, had very difficult time. I thought if I, you know, knew I was, you know, anyway, I was dying, you know, I will not struggle anymore. What I could do is to stay still, you know [laughs], if I am dying, you know. Because I thought I had, you know, another moment, so I couldn't become so serious.

Since then, you know, I started shikantaza expecting, you know, another moment, moment after moment I tried to sit, you know, as if I am dying, you know, in the water. That helps a lot, you know. Since then my practice improved a lot. That is why, you know, and I tried so long time, and I think I am quite-- I have good confidence in my practice, so I told you, you know, how I sit my shikantaza.

It was very interesting experience, you know. I was, you know, I was among beautiful girls [laughs], you know, and that sort of thing, you know, reminded me of Buddha's overcoming demons, you know [laughs, laughter]. I am sorry, you are not evil, but, you know, beautiful [laughs] demons [laughs, laughter]. But if I am dying, you know, those beautiful girls will not help, you know. If I am really dying, not because of water, but because of my, you know, sickness or something, it will not help.

So we can sit, you know, with demons and beautiful girls, and, you know, or demons or snakes. You know, snakes is okay, you know [laughs]. When I am dying, you know [laughs], it will not hurt me, you know. Anyway, I am dying, so it is okay. And they are with me. They will be happy to be with me, and I am very happy to be with them. In that situation, everything is with us, and, you know, we are happy to be with them, by not being hurt or helped or disturbed. But usually it is difficult to feel in that way because we have always involved in gaining idea, expecting something in future. So usually it is very difficult. But when you-- at least when you practice zazen, you should not be caught by, you know, you shouldn't be involved in gaining idea.

The most important thing is to confront with yourself and to be yourself. Then naturally, you know, you can accept things as they are, and you can see things as they are. You will have perfect wisdom at that time. That is why I told you my way of zazen.

Now, as Katagiri Sensei told you last night, you know, you awaken, you know, from the dream. By “dream,” you know, he means, you know, our usual everyday life, which is involved in gaining idea. And when you expect things, you know, in various selfish way, that is actually the dream you have. But after awakening from the dream, you know, what you mean [need?] is another to come back, you know, to actual life, which include your dream, you know.

Your dream is actually, you know, in your everyday life. Actually, you cannot stop dreaming, and you will have also-- your life will not be so different from the life you have in your dream. A dream is something you-- in dreams, something you experienced, you know, appears. So actually [laughs], not much difference, you know. What you do is maybe same. But when you realize that this is dream, it is our life from Buddha's viewpoint.

When you, you know, when you are able to sit, you know-- practice shikantaza-- and when you experience shikantaza, and when you understand the meaning of shikantaza, the meaning of your everyday life will [be] completely different. [Laughs.] Do you understand [laughs] how different it is [laughs]? If you don't understand, maybe you are not yet practicing shikantaza, maybe.

What will be the difference? You have freedom, you know, from everything. That is, you know, the main point. Usually you have no freedom from things you have or you see, you know. But if you experience, you know, or if you understand the experience of shikantaza, you will have freedom from things. And you will enjoy, you know, your life in its true sense because you are not attached to anything.

We say always do not attach to anything, but, you know, literally it does not mean, so much, attachment or detachment. Detachment is not actually opposite of attachment. Attachment can be detachment, you know. Detachment can be attachment too. So words [laughs] doesn't mean so much, you know. “Detachment,” you know [laughs, laughter]. “Attachment” [laughs]. Doesn't mean so much, you know.

Anyway, you know, if you become really happy, you know, really happy, and if that happiness, you know, continues, maybe that is detachment, you know, what we mean. Most of the happiness you have is a kind of happiness which you, after having that happiness, you will be [feel] regret, you know. “Oh,” [laughs], “it was,” you know, “at that time,” you know, “we are very happy, but now [laughs] we are not so happy,” you know. You will feel in that way.

But real happiness will last in your mind always and encourage you when you are not-- in your adversity or in your happy life too. When you are successful, you will be, you know, you will enjoy the success, and you, you know, even though you fail, it is also good [laughs]. It will encourage you. Not encourage, but, anyway good. You can feel, you know, the feeling of-- you can enjoy the feeling of failure: “Oh, this is pretty good.” [Laughs, laughter.] “Not so bad as I thought,” you know. That kind of feeling you will always have.

So you have always satisfied with things. So you have always enough. You don't want too much, you know, as you wanted before. Even though, you know, you start one-hundred-day sesshin from next morning, you can do it [laughs]. You will not be discouraged. You will not say, “I cannot do that,” after five days [of] sesshin, “It is too much,” you know [laughs]. You don't say so. “Okay, let's do it,” you may say, you know, because you know you can do it.

In your life, you know, if you come to a great difficulty, you know, like you came to big mountain-- not like Tassajara. Tassajara has many ways to go through [laughs], but big mountain doesn't have any passage, you know. Looks like so, actually, but, you know, even though you go Nepal, you know, there is way to get through. One-hundred [-day] sesshin is difficult if you, you know, do it. You can do it. Even though you die, nothing happens [laughs, laughter]. It is okay, you know. Something will happen anyway [laughs]. So you are always, you know, happy, and you will not be discouraged.

Dogen Zenji explained this kind of feeling, you know, in “Tenzo Kyokun,” “Instruction to the Head Cook,” you know. Even though you think, “I cannot cook with this kind of poor material,” but there is way to cook. If you really want to, you know, want to make your friends happy you can do it anyway. If you have big mind, kind mind, and joyful mind always. That kind of mind arise from shikantaza. As long as you expect, you know, anything in future, you know, you cannot, you know, do things well. When you don't expect anything and just do it, something will happen there. That is actually shikantaza.

The kind of life-- and the kind of life-- next point is, kind of life you choose will, you know, will be different. Before you may like something great, big, and beautiful [laughs]. Number one, you know, in California [laughs, laughter]. Number one Zen Center, and Zen practice, you know, Zen practice monastery in America, in the world. Even better than Japan [laughs]-- Japanese monastery [laughs]. That will be, you know, what you want before you have right practice. The things you choose will be different and way of life you take will be different.

Your life, you know, from your age of hippie [laughs], is very different, I think. Time of hippie, you know, [is] different. Very Buddhist-like. That is why you like Buddhism, maybe. But if you become a Buddhist, your life will change more-- more-- you will be super-hippie [laughs, laughter], not usual one. Your style of, you know, your lifestyle is-- looks like very Buddhistic, but not enough. And, you know, when you have that kind of, you know, strict practice and when you ignore your practice, your weak point of practice, then eventually you will have good practice. More and more you will understand what, you know, Zen master said and appreciate their life more and more.

After my lecture, I thought about what I said, you know. Usually I forget, you know [laughs], what I said quite easily, but [laughs] the lecture I gave you was pretty serious one, so [laughs]-- result of actual experience, you know. So I thought about it, you know, and I thought-- I think I put emphasis on some hard, you know, practice, you know, difficult, hard practice: “Don't expect,” you know, “next moment,” or something. “Don't move!” [Said with mock seriousness.] [Laughs, laughter.]

But I am sorry but I have to say so, you know, because your practice looks like too weak, you know. I want it [wanted?] to make you stronger, you know. But actually what I meant was you need, you know, even though your-- that your practice is not so good is okay, but that you move is maybe okay, but, you know, if you lack confidence, you know, zazen cannot be zazen. If you, you know, are not strict enough with yourself, and if you have-- if you [have a] lack of confidence, then it doesn't work. That is why I said so, but what you will-- what makes your practice deeper and deeper, and the experience, you know, better and better, is usual effort, you know, usual effort-- day-by-day effort to sit. That makes your experience, you know, better and better.

In China and in Japan there are many teachers who attained enlightenment, you know, like this [laughs] [snapped fingers]: Chht! [Laughs.] Like this [snapped fingers again] [laughs, laughter]. You may think so, but actually that was the result of many years practice or many times of failure. This is Dogen Zenji's famous words: “That you hit,” you know, “a mark,” you know, “is the result of ninety-nine times failure.” [Laughs.] The last arrow hit the mark, but that is after ninety-nine times failure. So failure is okay actually. But each time you, you know, hit the mark, each time you shoot you do it, you know, with confidence, you are sure to hit the mark. That is, you know, important. So Dogen Zenji said, “Ninety-nine failure is okay.” [Laughs.] So anyway, I will [laughs] continue to try to hit the mark that doesn't work.

So each time you sit, you know, it is necessary for you to do your best in your practice. Anyway, if you only sit, you know, [in the] cross-legged position for forty minutes, “That is zazen,” you may think. But that is not zazen. If it is preparation, it is okay. Like you practice yoga, it is okay. But, you know, the most important point should be, you know, done-- all your effort, physical and spiritual.

That is why, you know, we must have good breathing. Anyway, when you do something physically, breathing follows. And if your way of breathing is not appropriate, you know, you cannot do any physical work. Even [when] you sew, you know, breathing should be-- should follow. When you lift some heavy things, you know, breathing should be completely, you know, controlled, or else you cannot lift heavy thing. You may say, breathing-- anyway you can take breathing, but breathing-- if you want to, you know, have good breathing, you know, it is not so easy. Your posture should be right, and your mudra should be right because your mudra is a symbol of your, you know, mentality. If spine is not straight, your breathing will not be deep enough.

So if you think about those point-- how to make, you know, how to control all of your mental and physical, you know, effort. Of course it takes time, you know. Enlightenment does not come when [until] you are in perfect control of your mind and body, you know. You cannot accept it. You don't feel you have enlightenment. Or, in other word, when your mind and body [are] completely one, then enlightenment is there actually. Whatever you hear, whatever you think, that will be enlightenment. So it is not the sound of bamboo hit by a stone or color of plum trees that makes them enlightened, but their practice, you know, is there. So they attained enlightenment. So enlightenment could be many-- so in your everyday life, you know, you have, you know, always chance to have enlightenment. Whatever you do, you know: If you go to restroom, there is, you know, chance to attain enlightenment. If you cook, there is enlightenment. If you clean floor, there is enlightenment.

I think we are very fortunate to have various teachers. It is not just, you know, happened in this way, but previous, you know, human effort came to this point. Your culture, you know, is, you know, came to this point where you want to study Zen. Japanese Zen tradition came to the point that we need some revival. It is not-- this kind of feeling didn't happened-- arised in Japan just, you know, ten or twenty years. But pretty long time, this kind of, you know, movement was there.

So far as I know, Oka Sotan Roshi, you know, was the-- all the source of-- source of all the teachers, you know-- source of power of all the teachers. Tatsugami Roshi, you know, studied under Harada Roshi. Harada Roshi's, you know, teacher was Oka Sotan. My teacher was Kishizawa Roshi, and my master was Suzuki So-on, and their teacher was, you know, Oka Sotan Roshi. Yoshimura Roshi's teacher, you know, is Hashimoto Roshi. Hashimoto Roshi's teacher is Oka Sotan Roshi, you know.

At Komazawa [University] there were, you know, good scholar of Buddhism-- Eto Sokuo. He was my classmate-- my teacher's classmate-- master's [Gyokujun So-on's] classmate when they were studying at Komazawa. At that time, Oka Sotan Roshi was head of Komazawa.

So if we, you know-- things didn't happen, yeah, to Zen Center just by chance. If we don't know what to do, if we study, you know, Oka Roshi's teaching, Kishizawa Roshi's teaching, or [Kodo] Sawaki Roshi's [?] teaching, you know. Answer is there.

[Sentence finished. Tape changed.]
-- you know, came from one source. He was a really great, you know, teacher. Not only he was a great teacher for his disciples, but also for laymen who studied under him he was a great, you know, teacher.

I wanted to tell you, you know, something about how to extend our shikantaza to your everyday life, you know, today, right now. But-- and I-- I, you know-- I take out the interpretation of precepts by Oka Sotan Roshi. And I read, you know, preface of it [laughs], preface, which was written by Kishizawa Roshi. And in the introduction of, written by Kishizawa Roshi for Oka Sotan Roshi's interpretation of precepts, he referred to Oka Roshi's, you know, precepts lineage, which was wrong [laughs]. Which was wrong.

Kishizawa Roshi knew, you know, under the, you know, many-- after many years study under Oka Roshi, what is right lineage. Lineage should be like this, he knew-- Kishizawa Roshi knew what-- how it should be. But Oka Roshi's, you know, his teacher's lineage was wrong because Dogen Zenji's lineage consist of two lineage: Rinzai and Soto. And came to Dogen Zenji one from Nyojo-- [from the] Soto lineage. Another is from Myozen-- Rinzai master, disciple of Eisai.

But his lineage is just Soto, you know-- Oka Roshi's. So, you know, Kishizawa Roshi have to ask him why. “Why is this, you know? It is wrong,” you [he] said, “But your lineage is wrong” [laughs]. “What is that?” you know. When he asked him, you know, Oka Sotan Roshi, you know, his face changed, and tears came down from his eyes. “Yes, it is wrong.” And he started to talk about his lineage.

When Oka Roshi was young, he wanted to go to Komazawa University-- Komazawa College-- you know, to study Buddhism. He wanted to go there. But his master Token did not allow him or could not afford to send Oka Roshi to school, so he didn't say yes so easily. So, you know, he said, you know, “I want to study hard and become a good teacher and give precepts, you know, jukai-- ojukai-- having ojukai-e and precepts to many people, so let me study more.” And his master Token was pleased: “Okay, then you can go.”

But after he finished schooling, he came back. At that time he was making, you know, wood print, you know, for lineage, you know, to make, you know, lineage paper, okechimyaku. Some of you already received my okechimyaku when you received, you know, rakusu. His master was making which is wrong, so Oka Roshi explained, you know, in detail, it should not be like this, you know. It should not be just lineage of Soto, it should be Rinzai and Soto.

His teacher agreed: “Okay, maybe I was wrong, but,” you know, “this lineage is the lineage which Kankei Zenji had”-- also famous teacher-- ”Kankei Zenji had. So according to Kankei Zenji's lineage, my lineage is not wrong. But if Dogen Zenji's lineage is like that, it should be like that,” you know, he said. So-- and then-- and he said, “I will make another wood print.”

But Kishizawa Roshi-- you know, when he came back and saw him-- when Kishizawa Roshi-- Oka Roshi saw him again, he, you know, he had-- he was making-- he finished half of it already, which was quite good. And his-- Token-- his teacher-- Sotan Roshi's teacher went to some specialist to make it and studied how to make it and, you know, tried to do it again.

But as Oka Roshi came back, you know, he made it although it was not complete. But he made it. And show it to him. At that time, you know, Oka Roshi ag- [partial word] now-- his face changed again, and tears came down, especially when he said, “This is the okechimyaku,” you know, “lineage paper for you when you have big,” you know, “ojukai-e. This is for you.” When he said so, he almost cried and teacher and disciple cried, you know-- what do you say-- hugging and cried.

And then teacher said-- Oka Roshi said, “This lineage paper is okay, although it is not,” you know, “exactly [as] Dogen Zenji had it. It is okay. As long as,” you know, “this wood last, I will use it.” So that is why Oka Roshi's lineage paper is wrong. Because it was wrong, Kishizawa Roshi accused [him], you know, why [that] it is wrong. So when he was accused, again he [Oka] cried. Oka Roshi was that kind of person. It is not usual, you know, scholar or usual great Zen master. Not usual at all-- very unusual. When, you know, why we say Dogen Zenji is so great is not because of Shobogenzo maybe, but because of his sincere practice, not only as a Zen master but also as a man, you know, as a human. He was the most sincere student of Buddhism. Oka Roshi was that kind of teacher, you know.

I didn't know actually, you know, what we should do with our old okesa after, you know, Yoshida Roshi show us which-- how should be right traditional okesa, you know. I didn't know what to do. But, you know, when I took out [Oka Roshi's book on the precepts], I didn't know idea of solving this problem, you know, by Oka Roshi's help. But when I, you know-- I wanted to know what will be the interpretation of precepts not to act [do] unchaste act, you know. So I wanted to know about it. But what I found out is that, you know, preface [by Kishizawa Zenji], you know, I haven't read that part. It was just, I thought, it is just introduction [laughs]. But, you know, when I need it, you know, it appears in front of me like that. You may say that is just by chance, but I don't feel in that way [laughs]. If you say things happen just by chance, you know, all the things happen just by chance [laughs]. When we don't know, we say, “Things happen by chance.”

Katagiri Sensei and I, you know, discussed very hard about that point-- what should we do? [Laughs.] We had no answer for that. It is not things-- not that kind of thing we can ask Yoshida Roshi or someone else [about]. We should solve this problem just between us, who are responsible for this.

You think, you know, things happens, you know, in this way in America, at Zen Center, you know, but it is not just by chance. It is, you know, result of many years of many peoples' hard work, sincere work. It is not just, you know, way of propagating Buddhism. To us there is no idea of Buddhism. What is the truth will be always our, you know-- main point is what will be the truth.

As Katagiri Sensei said, you know, last night, breathing should be upright to the sky. And we should sit on black cushion without moving, so that we can, you know, grow to the sky. That is, you know, how you practice zazen, how I practice zazen, how Katagiri Sensei practice zazen-- as a priest, as a layman, you know. There is no difference in its-- in the virtue, whether you are layman or a priest, if we know what is the purpose of practice and how we should grow-- what will be our way of life as a Buddhist, you know. Only difference is, you know, we put more emphasis on the truth. Usual people do not respect truth so much, you know-- little bit different [laughs].

But, you know, eventually you will find out which is more important, as you have already found out. We cannot be fooled by anything so easily, you know, and we shouldn't fool anyone. We must “settle ourselves on ourselves,” as Katagiri Sensei says, you know. Excuse me [laughs]. “To settle one's self on one's self,” you know, that is very important point. How you do it is to be yourself on each moment. Whatever you do, you must do it, you know. You shouldn't expect someone's help. You shouldn't be spoiled by some shelter, you know. You should protect yourself, and you should grow upright to the sky. That's all, you know. That's all, but little bit different, you know. Maybe we are crazy [laughs, laughter]. According to them we are crazy, but we think they are crazy [laughs]. It's okay [laughs]. We will find out pretty soon which is crazy [laughter].

Okay. Thank you.



Jumping Off the 100-Foot Pole
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday Lecture
Sunday, April 20, 1969
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 16)

It's-- it is pretty difficult, but I will try-- try to speak about purpose of our practice.

Before I try to explain our practice, I think I should explain why we practice, you know-- why we should practice Zen when we have buddha-nature. And this is the great problem Dogen Zenji had. And he worked for this question before he went to China and met with Nyojo Zenji.

And this is not, of course, so easy problem, but if you understand what do we mean when we say everyone has buddha-nature, and everything has buddha-nature. What does it mean? And he explained very carefully in Shobogenzo, on the-- in the first chapter.

When we say “buddha-nature,” you know, you may think buddha-nature is some innate nature, you know, because we say nature. In Japanese we use same words-- nature-- buddha-nature. But actually it is not nature like nature of human being or nature of plant-- or nature of cats or dogs, you know. It is not, strictly speaking, it is not that kind of nature.

“Nature” means something which is there whatever you do. Whatever you do, there is nature. Nature is not something which is there, you know, before you do something. When you do something, you know, at the same time, nature appears. That is nature, you know. What he meant.

You know, you-- you think, you know, we have buddha-nature within ourselves or innate-- as a innate nature. And because of this nature, you do something, you know. That is usual understanding of nature [laughs]. But that is not his understanding. Or it is not like some seed, you know, which is there before plant come out you know. “That is not the nature which I mean,” Dogen Zenji said. That kind of understanding of nature is, you know, heretic understanding of nature [laughs]. It is not correct understanding of nature.

That kind of nature is some idea, you know, you have in your mind. “Here is plant,” you know. “So there must be-- before this plant appear-- there must be something-- seed or within the plant, there must be some nature which promote the-- its activity. Because of that nature, some flower is red and some flower is yellow.” Most people understand in that way. So why we practice-- when we think why we practice zazen is, you know, because we have nature-- buddha-nature.

“So after,” you know, “after practice-- after training-- after eliminate various selfish desires, that buddha-nature will,” you know, “appear.” That kind of understanding is based on unclear-- unclearness of your understanding of observing-- observing things. According to Dogen Zenji-- he, you know, worked on this problem for a long time, so his understanding is very clear.

Only when you, you know-- when something appears, there there is nature, you know. So nature or outlook of things is two names of one thing, one reality. Sometime we say buddha-nature. Sometime we say enlightenment or bodhi or buddha or attainment. But those are just-- those are the two side of one reality. So not only we call it from those two side, but also we call it, sometime, “evil desire.”

“Evil desires,” we say [laughs], but it is another name of buddha-nature [laughs]. You say, you know, “evil desires,” but for Buddha, that is buddha-nature, you know. There is of course, layman and priest [laughs], but usually you understand in that way, but actually there is no particular person to be a priest, you know. You may be-- each one of you can be a priest and I could be a layman, you know. Because-- just because I wear a robe I am priest. Because I behave like a priest maybe-- like way, I am a priest. That's all, you know. There is no special person for priest or for layman.

So whatever you call it, that is another name of one reality. Even though you call it mountain or river, that is another name of one reality. So we should not be fooled by words of “nature” or “result” or “buddhahood.” We should see thing itself with clear mind. In this way, we understand buddha-nature.

Then why we have evil desires at the same time is, as I explained, that is another name of buddha-nature. Then why we practice zazen-- where-- from where that evil desire [laughs], you know, come up [”out”?]-- there is actually no place for evil desires. But actually, you know, we have so-called-it buddha-nature-- evil desires which should be annihilated. Why is that? And where should I, you know, should we-- after you eliminate, you know, buddha-nature-- evil desires from us, you know, like this-- here is evil desire [probably gesturing]. Where do you throw this away [laughs, laughter]?

You know, when we start to think in this way, we are already [laughs] started to understand things in heretic way [laughs]. That is just name, you know. Just name of one thing. There is no such thing to pull out, like this, and to throw away.

You may feel as if you are fooled by me, you know, but it is not so [laughs, laughter]. It is not a laughing matter. You know, we are seriously confronting with our selfish desires, and we are always observing things in wrong way. When we come to this point, it is necessary for us to understand our practice-- our practice of shikantaza.

I said, where should I throw evil desire? There is very famous koan, you know. A man who climb up to the top of a pole. If he stays here [tapping on stick, probably held to represent the pole], he is not enlightened one. When he jump off from the top of the pole, he may be a enlightened one. This is koan.

How we understand this koan is how we understand our practice. Why, you know, we have something which should be take out from us is because we, you know, stay here, you know [probably tapping the top of his stick]. Because you stay at top of a pole, you have problem, you know. But actually there is no pole for a-- no top for a pole-- for actual pole is continued, you know, endlessly forever. So you cannot stop here, actually.

But you think when you have some experience of enlightenment or something, you think we can rest here, you know, observing various sight at the top of a pole, forgetting all about to climb up-- to continue climbing up a pole. We say, you know, this is-- because this is koan, if-- we say “usually,” but “usually”-- people think, you know, on the top-- on the top for the pole. Usually we think in that way. But there is-- actually there is no top for anything. Things are continuously growing or changing to something else. Nothing exist in its own form [”home”?] or color [”corner”?]. So actually there is no top. But when we think, “Here is a top,” that is already misunderstanding.

So accordingly, you have problem whether we should jump off from here [laughs], you know. Actually you cannot jump off [laughs] where we-- it is not possible. And even though you try to, you know, stop on the top of the pole, you cannot stay here because it is growing continuously [laughs]. So you will be continuously, you know, higher and higher. You cannot stop here. But you think it is possible.

That is the problem, you know. That is why you should practice and you should forget all about the top of the pole. If so, you know, where should I forget or throw our misunderstanding is right here [taps three times on table with stick], you know. Not this way or that way or past or future. Right here. You should, you know, forget all about the misunderstanding when the place where you are right now. Do you understand? You should, you know, forget this moment, and you should grow to the next-- you should extend yourself to the next one. That is the only way. I think you must have understood our practice.

For an instance, you know, my wife [laughs]-- every morning, when breakfast is ready, he hit, you know-- what do you call it?

Student: Clappers.

SR: Clappers? Yeah, clappers-- like this. If I don't answer for it [laughs], you know, I-- he-- she may continue to hit it [laughs, laughter] until I feel rather angry [laughs, laughter]. Why we have that kind of problem is quite simple. Because I don't answer, you know. If I say “Hai!”-- that's all [laughs, laughter]. Because I don't say “Hai!” she, you know, continue to-- she has to continue because she doesn't know whether I heard it or not [laughs].

Sometime she may think: “He knows but he doesn't answer.” Eei! [Probably imitates a mock attack by Okusan.] [Laughs, laughter.] That is what will happen. When I don't answer, you know, I am, you know, on the top of the pole [laughs]. I don't jump off from here. When I say “Hai!” you know, I jump off from here. Because I stay at the top of the pole, I am-- I have something to do-- something important to do [laughs, laughter]-- something important at the top of the pole: “You shouldn't call me! You should wait!” So before I say something I determined to shut up-- not to say anything. “This is very important! Don't you know that?! [S.R. and students laughing.] I am here [taps on stick], on the top of the pole! Don't you know that?” So she start to-- [Probably gesturing.] That is how we create problem.

So the secret is just to say “Hai!” you know, and jump up from here. Then there is no problem. It means that, to be yourself-- always yourself, without sticking to old self. When you say “Hai!” you know, you forget all about yourself and [are] refreshed into some new self. And before new self become old self, you should say another “Hai!” or you should work to the kitchen. So the point is on each moment, and to forget the point and to extend our practice, forgetting ourselves.

So, as Dogen Zenji says, “To study Buddhism is to study ourselves. And to study ourselves is to forget ourselves on each moment.” To forget ourselves is-- means to be yourself on each moment. Then everything will come and help you, and everything will assure your enlightenment. That is enlightenment, you know. When I say “Hai!” you know, my wife will assure my enlightenment. “Oh, you are a good boy!” [Laughs, laughter.] But I stick to the “good boy”-- you know-- ”I am good boy.” [Laughs, laughter.] I will create another, you know, problem. “Oh, you are good boy. Then you have to help yourself,” she may say. So I shall not be good boy any more. I shall not be enlightened one.

So on each moment [laughs] you should be concentrated yourself, and you should be really yourself. At that moment, where is buddha-nature, you know? Buddha-nature is actually when I said “Hai!” That “Hai!” is buddha-nature itself, in its true sense. Buddha-nature which you have proudly within yourself is not buddha-nature. Actual buddha-nature is when you say “Hai!” or when you become you yourself, or when you forget all about yourself. There is another name-- you will have another name of Buddha or buddha-nature.

So “nature” is not something which appear-- which will appear in future. Buddha-- true, real buddha-nature should be something which is actually [taps on table with stick] here-- there. If you cannot see actually what is buddha-nature [taps], it doesn't mean anything [laughs]. It is rice cake or painted rice cake. It is not actual one. If you want to see the actual rice cake, you should see it when it is there. So purpose of our practice is just to be yourself. When you become yourself in that way, you have really-- real enlightenment is there. The enlightenment you have in your mind, you have attained-- you attained long-- you attained long time ago is not actual enlightenment.

Back and forth when we-- you understand our practice, you will enjoy your practice, thinking about what kind of practice you had had before you attained actual enlightenment. Sometime you will have pity on someone who has-- who is involved in wrong practice. And sometime you will laugh at yourself, you know, when you fall in-- when you are involved in wrong practice. “Oh, what are you doing?” [Laughs.] You will, you know, laughed at you-- you will tease yourself: “What are you doing?” You will have various feeling. All the real compassion or real love or true encouragement or true courage will arise from here. You will be not only courageous person but also you are very kind person when you reach-- when you understand yourself in that way.

So one practice include various virtue, and one feeling of practice will result [in] various feeling like a wave on the sea. So we say, “One practice covers everything”-- various virtue. And when you practice your practice in that way, you may be a piece of stone, you may be a tree, you may be a star, you may be a ocean. So you cover everything.

That is how we practice zazen when-- before you attain enlightenment. Actually, enlightenment is, you know-- will be there only before you attain enlightenment, or just before [laughs]. You will say-- if you say, “I attained enlightenment,” you know, it is too late to say [laughs, laughter]. You should say, you know, you should say before smallest particle of time imaginable, if you want to say [laughs]. But if you cannot say, maybe better to be silent. Better not to say anything.

So to talk about enlightenment is rather, you know [laughs], foolish-- rather foolish. But sometime we have to talk about it in this way until we lose our, you know, “eyebrow” [laughs]. You know, to talk about it is to lose our eyebrow, you know-- to lose ourselves. Instead of being ourselves. In this sense, we say “be yourself” to be natural. If you say, “This is the way to be natural,” you know, that is not natural [taps table]. Only when you are you in its true sense, on this moment, at this place, that is “naturalness.” So there will not be any particular way to be “natural.”

For me, you know, to be here right now is naturalness. And to wear robe is naturalness. And to shave my head is naturalness, as a priest [laughs]. In this way, we should-- our practice-- we should practice our way and we should remember this. It is not so easy [laughs] to be natural. Not so easy.

If we have, you know-- in our practice if we have a smallest gap, you know, we will, you know, fall into hell. So our practice should be, you know, continued. Continuous practice is necessary. And we should not, you know, rest. We should continue it, if possible, without trying to, you know, continue it. Just, you know, to have generous mind and big mind and soft mind is how to continue our way. And we should be always flexible, you know. We should-- we should not be-- stick to anything.

I will not repeat same thing over and over again [laughs, laughter]. I think this is enough. To change our topic or angle of understanding, if you have some question, please ask me. Hai.

Student A: You said when we had the smallest “something,” we will fall into hell. I didn't understand--

SR: Smallest. Yeah.

Student A: -- what word you used.

Student B: It sounded like “cup.”

Audience: “Gap.”

Student B: “Gap.”

SR: “Gap,” yeah. Gap, yeah. But gap between our effort, rather-- rather than gap-- our gap of our-- gap between our efforts. It is, you know, to be more-- we say “soft mind,” you know. It is, at the same time, it is big mind, you know, because we do not stick to anything. We do not see things objectively as something good or bad, or strong or weak because, you know, we are strong enough to accept things as it is. So for us who have big mind there is no need to be afraid of anything. But we do not ignore anything. That is strictness of the way.

When we are not afraid of anything, that will be unperturbability [imperturbability]. And the effort-- when the effort is understood by him, you know, to the point that is simplicity, there is no need for him to make his effort in various direction, you know. The only way is just to be yourself on each moment. Our only way is to be concentrated on what you do, completely. [Sentence appears to have been finished. Tape turned over.]

-- whatever it is, you know. In that way, if you understand our way in that way, that is simplicity. And if it, you know-- when the feeling of practice could be extended various way, that is the, maybe, the beauty of the practice. Here we have simplicity and variety of feeling of practice. Simple and rich. Strong and weak. Strong and kind. This is, you know, our practice. So you cannot say what is our practice-- it-- because it could be various virtue. It is not-- it should not be so difficult [laughs], but it is difficult, you know. That is our way. So you cannot say our way is quite easy [laughs]. Or you cannot say our way is very difficult. It is not difficult at all. Everyone can do it, but to continue it is rather difficult. Don't you think so? [Laughs, laughter.] You agree with this point [laughs, laughter].

Thank you very much.



Changing Our Karma
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Tuesday, March 9, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 21)

One day a Chinese famous Zen master was making a trip with a-- with his disciple. A [flock of] geese, you know, fly-- were flying over-- passed, you know, over their head, like this [probably gestures].

And disciple [teacher] said, “Where are they going?” or “What are they?”-- oh-- teacher said, “What are they?”

The disciple said, “They are geese.”

“Where they are going?” [laughs] the teacher asked.

Disciple say, “I don't know,” disciple said quite honestly because he didn't know [laughs].

Disciple [teacher] twisted his disciple's nose, like this [laughs, probably gestures].

As a disciple of Buddha, we should know what we are doing, you know, especially, you know, when we, you know, we are with his teacher, you know [laughs]. We should extend our practice, you know, in our everyday life, as you know. That is our practice. So if you know secret of your, you know, life, you will understand, you know, the meaning of practice. And if you know the meaning of practice, you can extend our practice to your everyday life. That is why-- must be why the teacher twisted his disciple's nose. [Laughs.] “What are you doing now?” Actually, he was not talking about geese.

We feel very serious-- we become [laughs] very serious when you-- when you have problem, without knowing that you are creating problems always. And even though you, you know, you have a lot of trouble, somehow, you know, you can manage-- you think you can manage it. “Oh, this is not big trouble,” you know. “I can manage it quite easily”-- without, you know, knowing how you should cope with the trouble.

The other day, you know, when we had shuso ceremony at Tassajara, someone asked shuso, Peter [Schneider], that kind of question, you know. And after many question and answer finished, Yoshimura-- I thought it was Yoshimura-- Yoshimura Sensei said-- no-- Tatsugami Roshi said, “A tiger,” you know, “catch a mouse with his whole strength,” you know. Whht! [Laughs.] A tiger does not, you know, ignore or does not slight any small animals. The way he catch a mouse and the way he catch or devour a cow is same way, you know. But usually, although we have many problems, this is minor problem. So you don't think it is necessary to-- to treat it, you know, in relationship with our practice. But in this way, to treat our problem in that way is the-- the way many countries treat their international problems: “This is minor problem. [Laughs.] So as long as we do not violate international treaties, it may be okay. [Laughs.] Unless we do not use atomic,” you know, “weapon, we can fight,” you know.

But that kind of, you know, small fight will eventually, you know, result [in] a big fight. It is same thing, you know. So even [though] the problem we have in our everyday life is small-- may be small, but we should know how to solve those problems or else you will have big, big difficulties because of the law of karma, you know. Karma starts from small things, but it will result-- it will accelerate your, you know, bad karma. And you should know how to cope with, you know, with those small difficulties or suffering.

Before Buddha's Nirvana Day, I read some of his teaching about fundamental Buddhist way:

Admonishing our many wishes, yea brethren, in receiving all food and drink, you ought to accept them as medicine.

You must not accept or reject what you like or dislike. Just support your bodies, and avoid starvation and thirst.

As a bee in gathering flowers takes only the taste of-- taste of them but does not harm their color or scent, so brethren, you may [?] accept just enough of people's offering to avoid distress.

Don't have many demands and thereby break their good hearts.

Wise men, for an example, having judge the amount of capacity of his ass' strength, does not wear out its strength by overloading.

“Admonishing our many wishes”: Oh-- this is-- ”many wishes” means, you know, “many wish-- many desires.” “Many wishes”-- it does-- it-- it is-- in Chinese translation, it is-- ”small wishes,” it says, you know. Small wishes.

The many wishes means, you know-- many wishes or small wishes, or many desires and small desires-- few desires-- it is not matter of so many or so few, you know. It is-- it is, you know, not to-- the idea is to get rid of desires or to be-- to go beyond desires. But to have, you know, little wishes means, you know, not to divide our concentration [on?] too [to?] many things. That is actual meaning, you know.

To do things, you know, with one true-hearted way, you know, with oneness of the mind-- that is to have few wishes-- many-- or many wishes-- to be restrained from many wishes. Many wishes looks like, you know, to have various desires-- to eat or to sleep, you know. But [laughs] we cannot live-- we cannot, you know, restrict or we cannot-- it is almost impossible to get rid of some of many wishes, you know. All the wishes should be-- we should have, but we should not divide our focus of activity. That is what it means.

“In receiving all food and drink, you ought to accept them as medicine,” you know. When you accept-- when you receive food, you should be concentrated, or you should accept it with your whole body and mind. That is what it means.

And at the same time, it means you should not accept it in dualistic idea of “you” and “food.” You know, we say “we receive” or “we accept” food. We do not say “we take” food-- maybe [laughs]-- ”as we take food and drink [laughs],” we say. That is, maybe, wrong translation. “As we accept food and drink”-- we should say so, you know. Acc- [partial word]-- ”to take” and “accept” is different. “To take” is more dualistic, you know. “To accept” is more, you know, more complete activity. You know, to-- you may say [laughs] “to take” is more complete, you know, action. But to accept is m- [partial word]-- you know, not so complete, you know.

When you take something, you will grasp it like this [probably gestures]. This is complete [laughs]-- complete concentration on your activity is there. But according to Buddha's teaching, you know, this [probably gestures] is not, you know, to grasp some food or to take food is not complete acceptance-- it is dualis- [partial word]-- because it is dualistic.

And in that way, we will create karma, you know. When you grasp it-- when someone grasp it or someone may grasp it because some other person want to take it, you know. So you must be very quick [laughs, laughter]. That is activity, you know-- dualistic activity which will create many karma [laughs]. But when you receive it, you know, you have it already here [probably gestures], so-- and if you accept it with, you know, with great appreciation-- ”Thank you very much,” you know-- that is more-- it is-- the activity-- Buddha-- it is the true activity or small wishes-- not “wishes” or small desires-- Buddha meant. You ought to accept them-- ”accept them” is right. You ought to accept them as medicine, you know, with full appreciation of it, without not much dualistic mind.

“You must not accept or reject what you like or dislike,” you know. Like or d- [partial word]-- you must not accept it-- accept it because-- or reject it, you know-- accept or reject is also dualistic. You ought not to accept-- you must not accept or reject what you like or dislike.

“Just support your bodies, and avoid starvation and thirst.” “Just support your bodies, and”-- it means that you should not take it with a dualistic idea of good or bad or enough or small [not enough]. So this kind of, you know, teaching does not mean to con- [partial word]-- to have controlling power over your desires. If it is so, you know, it is difficult to know how much you should accept, you know-- how much-- to accept how much food is, you know, appropriate for you. It is difficult to know the limit of the desire or to make some b- [partial word]-- some limit to-- to limit your food, you know.

If you want to control-- [have] controlling power over your desires, you know, how much you should control is-- will be the next problem. And in that way, you will make more problem, one after another. And you will make-- maybe you will make some good excuse, you know, to have more food [laughs]. In that way, you know, you will lose your way.

The point is, you know, again, come back to the zazen practice. How much you-- how you accept things is how you take care of your body and to know yourself, you know, like you sit in zazen with many desires and problems. If-- to feel, you know, your problem as your own problem is our practice. So when you eat, you know, eating is a part of your practice, you know. To eat food as you practice zazen is how to accept your food. So “to accept” is not-- the word “to accept” is not-- has not any dualistic concept.

“Just support your bodies, and avoid the starvation and thirst.” So if you know how you practice zazen, then you will know, you know, how much food you should take. And there is no danger of eating too much or eating too less.

“As a bee in gathering flowers takes only the taste of the flower but does not hurt their color or scent-- ” This is a very famous, you know, parable. “As a bee in gathering flowers takes only the taste of honey but does not hurt their color or scent-- ” It is-- it means that-- to take-- to have true taste of the flower is, you know, not because-- to take it not because flower is beautiful or scent is nice, but because, you know, to take care of you and flower. So to have, you know, to have direct feeling of flower and taste the honey from it. So there is no-- like a bee, we have not much, you know, desire as we have in dualistic sense. So--

So it is not possible, you know, to extend our practice in our everyday life without, you know, knowing what kind of difficulties we have. What is the usual attitude to take care of our problems in our everyday life? We are not so careful, you know. You know, we may be like a carpenter bee sometime [laughs] and may violate many beautiful flowers. But sometime we may be a[n] ant, you know. Even though they do not, you know, destroy the flower, but they-- because of the ant, the flower may die. They are too, you know, sticky [laughs], and stick too much always in the same flower. Purpose of flower having honey [nectar] is, you know, to-- to help the plant in some way, you know, inviting bees, you know. To invite bees they have some honey [nectar]. But if-- maybe they are expecting honeybee or something, not carpenter bee [laughs] or ant. So it is necessary to-- to know whether we are like a carpenter bee or sticky small ant or what was-- [laughs]. It looks like very gentle and kind [laughs], but eventually, if too many ants come to a flower, flower will die. So in, you know, in our everyday life, we should not, you know-- our minds should be more careful, you know, or our mind must be more, you know, cautious, or attentive, or more reflective.

You may think, you know, our way is too-- we have too much rules [laughs] about way of treating things, or way of speaking, or in various way we have various rules. But we should know that-- before you say that is too much, you should know what you are doing, you know. You should know whether you are creating problem in your everyday life or creating bad karma for yourself and for others.

And you should know also why you suffer right now. There must be some reason you suffer. And if there is some reason to suffer, it is, you know, not possible [laughs] to escape from it. If there is some, you know-- some reason, it is not possible to escape from it. Only way is to-- by treating in some way, to change the function of the karma from bad to better. That is only way.

How you do that-- how you can do that is-- only when you are very attentive or when you know the nature of karma very well you can do that. It is not so easy to kick a stone by the [laughs]-- on the roadside. If-- because we have various, you know, karma we have now is created in some way, and law of karma cannot be, you know, changed. How you-- according to the, you know-- when you follow the karma and drive the karma in good direction [laughs], you know, you can, you know, avoid the destructive nature of the karma. How you can do that-- you-- is to be attentive to the nature of karma and nature of your desires and activities.

So, as Buddha pointed out, cause of-- to know cause of suffering is to know how to avoid suffering. Why you suffer: If you know why you suffer, you know, you will know the cause and effect of the karma. And if-- when you understand cause and effect and how it-- how bad thing result-- bad-- bad cause result [in] bad effect-- then, if you know that, you can, you know-- in the same way, you can avoid the destructive power of the karma.

And there is some ways to make the power weaker. The best way is, you know [laughs], to make karma work on the voidness of the air. It-- it will [not] create any harm to anybody. But mostly that is-- looks like difficult for us because of-- because we have-- we exist here, you know, which is idea of self, you know. As long as we have idea of self, the karma has some object to work on. If you have no idea of self, you know, karma doesn't know what to do [laughing, laughter]. “Oh, where is my partner, where is my friend?”

But that looks like very difficult, and we know that. But some people, you know, try hard to banish [it] [laughs], you know. But I don't think that is possible. The best way is to treat them well, you know-- to tame it. And that is how we control ourselves. And that is possible when we know-- knowing the strict rule of karma, and work on our karma immediately.

Did you go to Dr. Lancaster's [seminar]? I think some of you went to Dr. Lancaster's seminar the other day. [One word] was making good point about, you know-- good explanation to-- how to take care of things. If you know something [is] wrong with your car, you should immediately [laughs], you know, stop your car and work on it. That is good point. But usually we don't. “Oh, this is minor problem of my car. [Laughs, laughter.] It doesn't stop,” you know. “Let's go.” That is not our way, you know. We should take care of our car very carefully, even though we can go on and on. But if you go on and on with many problems, the problems, you know, is constantly, you know, working on your car until it will create some destructive harm to your car.

Student A: Roshi?

SR: Yes.

Student A: What if-- what if you know there is something wrong with your car, so you drive very slowly and you try to find out where the problem is? Can you do that? Or do you have to stop completely?

SR: Well maybe you can drive slowly [laughs]. Well, anyway you should take care-- immediate care is necessary, which you don't [laughs]. Perhaps if it-- if you think it is minor problem, you don't do that, and you don't realize how dangerous it is, you know, to take care of-- to have minor care of things. This is, I think, big problem for our society, you know. This point is missing, you know.

So as long as you [don't] violate your state law or federal law, you know, you feel you are [not] doing anything bad, you know. But even [though], you know, you do not violate your rules, you know, you are doing something which will result [in] some big result. And when you find-- until you find yourself in some immediate, you know, necessity to violate your law when it is too late.

It looks like-- you may say this is-- it-- our way is too, maybe, too timid or something. But this-- when you find out-- when you think, you know, when you understand this teaching is just about our desires, you may understand in that way. But if you understand this way of-- this kind of practice include our zazen practice and all-- whole area of Buddhist teaching. One teaching covers whole teachings we have.

[Sentence finished. Tape turned over.]

way. It covers whole area.

If you think, you know, how to apply Buddhist teaching to your everyday life, you know, if that is, you know, why you practice zazen, that is wrong practice, you know. Buddhist-- Buddha's teaching is here, and your life is here, you know, and you are borrowing some-- you are-- you are asking some aid from Buddha, or you-- you ask Buddha's advice so that you may feel better, as if, you know, you think if you don't violate your law it is okay whatever you do. You-- you have some excuse, you know: “I am not,” you know, “doing anything wrong with our-- with our society. I am not in- [partial word]-- creating any-- we are not creating any trouble between our countries,” you know. But if you, you know, push your policy to the limit, what will happen? And when you find yourself-- ”Oh, we cannot,” you know, “we have [to] stop our car.” Maybe that is too late, you know. And it takes quite a lot of strength to stop it. So everyday care is very important.

You may always say “Rinzai way” or “Soto way,” but there is no difference between Rinzai or Soto. But we are-- we have, you know, we are just more-- more careful, you know, in our everyday life and in our practice, that's all-- in our way of practice. When we have this kind of idea of practice, according to the person's ability, you know, we can help with each other. Everyone has a good position, you know. Everyone will be very useful person in our society when-- only when we try to take care of things with, you know, complete attention. When we rely on some, you know, strong way, then, you know, people needed will be limited. Unless you have strong, you know, physical power or sharp, you know, mental power, you cannot help people. But when we have very-- various-- when our way is very cautious, cautious enough not to leave anything behind, then everyone will have their own position in our society, and everyone can have good practice. I think this point should be aware of more. Do you have some more questions? Hai.

Student B: What do you mean by “good karma” and “bad karma”?

SR: Karma is, you know-- karma is a kind of, you know, succession-- link of, you know, like a chain of cause and result which has-- which is not bad or good, you know. But because-- because we have-- because of the viewpoint we take, it can be a good karma or bad karma. But anyway, karma is going. Hai.

Student C: In our actual life, what does it mean to stop?

SR: Excuse me?

Student C: In our actual life, what does it mean to stop?

SR: Stop?

Student C: To stop to take care of--

SR: Stop? [Laughs.]

Student C: -- some minor problem.

SR: Oh, I--

Student C: Some [?] reaction of “stop.”

SR: I-- I don't mean to stop and wait or escape from it. Yeah? You cannot escape from it. Actually you cannot stop. [Laughs, laughter.] Even though you look like stop [laughs], you are, you know, still going to prepare for something-- to go ahead-- to go on. That was, maybe, you know-- Hai.

Student D: Does the “stop” mean that you try to withdraw from too much involvement in what happens so that you can detach yourself enough from it to really see what's happening? I want to see what I'm doing, yourself.

SR: Uh-huh.

Student D: It like a-- it's like-- it's a kind of a slight[ly] diminished involvement.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student D: Does it mean something like that?

SR: Mmm. What I mean, you know, is more intuitive things, you know-- not to think or, you know-- but what I'm talking about is, you know, how, you know, how much misunderstanding you have or how much deluded you are, you know, in your own idea of good or bad, you know, good practice or bad practice, or in dualistic thinking mind. To get rid of those, you know, understanding of life I am talking-- this kind of things-- to know what you are actually doing.

Student D: Actually one can attempt to know one's motivation, but one can't really know what is good and what is bad--

SR: Uh-huh.

Student D: -- because sometimes you think you do a good thing and it turns out to have been a bad thing after all [1-2 words unclear].

SR: Yeah, at the same time. So, you know, in-- when-- only when you practice, you know, zazen without having-- without being bothered by idea of good or bad-- good sound or bad sound-- you-- when you accept it, when you have oneness of-- you-- subjectivity and objectivity, then, you know, that is the way how we are-- we should go. That is the point of, you know-- the point. And what you should do to find out some way thinking about which way we should take-- that is not what I mean. It is confusing because I am talking-- because I use the word “good” or “bad” or “to stop” or “go ahead,” you know. But if you know what is your practice, you know, how you take care of yourself in zazen, you know, that is the way you take care of yourself. That is the point [laughs] of my, you know, my talk. Why you cannot completely agree with me [laughs] maybe is you take my word literally, losing the point of my talk. So-- Hai.

Student E: Sometimes after sitting I-- I will sit, and it will be very-- I'll feel very good about it. And then after I've finished sitting I get up, and for a while afterwards I'll be-- I'll find myself being irritated or nervous--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student E: -- about any little thing--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student E: -- and I'll--

SR: Yeah.

Student E: -- lose my temper or--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student E: -- be very--

SR: Yeah.

Student E: -- irrational--

SR: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Student E: -- for, you know, half hour or so after I finish sitting.

SR: Mm-hmm. But--

Student E: It's like, one minute I'm sitting very quietly and then--

SR: [Laughs.] Yeah. That is very much so.

Student E: -- for a half hour--

SR: Yeah.

Student E: -- I'm very intimate [?]. I'm-- not quiet, but jumpy and angry.

SR: Mm-hmm

Student E: And I was wondering what--

SR: What you should do. [Laughs, laughter.]

Student E: Yes. What should I do. [2-4 words unclear] if that's okay-- if maybe that will go away. I don't know.

SR: Yeah. At that time, you lost your practice, you know, like you lost your counting breathing when you are, you know, practicing counting-breathing practice. So even though you are counting, you know, you may lose your practice, you know. So if you, you know-- so why I say instead of counting breathing or following your breathing, I say [be] more attentive to what you are doing, or to take care of yourself, or, you know, to take care of things, you know. In your practice, if you are following breathing, you know, or counting breathing, you think you are practicing zazen. But it is not always so. Even [laughs] though you are sitting very straight without, you know, sleeping, but sometime your zazen is not there. If you [are] really practicing zazen, you know, you have no second notion or no second thought. All the thought you have will be only direct thought which will come over-- no second thought of good or bad-- what it is, you know:
“I shouldn't be bothered by it.”

So delusion is-- may be divided-- there are two kinds of delusion: the delusion itself, you know-- delusion which, you know, which can be understood various way, but-- delusion itself is same but, you know-- which can be many things-- delusion which arise simultaneously. But delusion is one, you know-- which is not [laughs]-- when we are not in oneness of the mind, that is delusion. And delusion which will arise as a second notion or second thought is also delusion. Because of that, our practice will be divided in various way because of the second notion of good or bad, agreeable or disagreeable. When it comes to you, you know, it is not good or bad.

So after [laughs], you know-- so only way is when you, you know, eat, you should eat: “Oh, thank you very much.” [Laughs.] That is our way, based on pure practice. And if you practice long enough and attentive enough to your practice, you will easily, you know, find out where you are in your everyday life. And if you find out yourself where you are, there is no problem any more because only way is to resume your own way. So you have no one to be mad at [laughs].

So I am-- actually I am giving you some material to test your practice, you know, as I told you, from other angle, you know, to encourage your good practice. So this is not just-- what I'm talking about-- small desires or something like that is not-- not as a[n] art of life, you know, but what is the right practice. Hai.

Student F: Sometimes we speak of pure practice.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student F: Sometimes we speak of good practice.

SR: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Student F: Are they the same, exactly?

SR: Yeah, pure pr- [partial word]-- same, I-- pure practice, good practice, yeah, real practice, yeah, same.

Student F: But-- but we sometimes also say that real practice goes beyond good and bad.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student F: So-- so good practice is actually-- I don't know. If it's good, it should be good, but if it is beyond good, then it should be bad too.

SR: Beyond [laughs]-- it is just words, you know [laughs, laughter]. Your mind is very, you know, very fancy. His mind is very fancy [laughs, laughter].

Student F: Okay. [Said in a humorous tone of resignation.]

SR: Yeah. [Laughs, laughter.] Some other questions?

Student G: Roshi?

SR: Hai.

Student G: I don't exactly how to tell you-- can you do two things at a time--

SR: No.

Student G: -- and stay healthy through them [preceding five words uncertain]?

SR: No. [Laughs, laughter.] That is not possible.

Student G: Not even if you do one just a little bit?

SR: Mmm. No. That is not possible, you know. That is why, you know, it is easy, you know. If you can do two things at the same time, we will [laughs]-- we will have a big trouble, you know. It is good, you know, that we can do-- we can choose some-- only one things, you know. We cannot choose two, anyway. Only when you fool yourself and you, you know, you are making excuse for yourself, you can do it. If you become very sincere with yourself, you cannot do that.

Student G: Well, if we live here and have a job outside, that's kind of like doing two different things.

SR: Uh-huh. Looks like [laughs, laughter] Zen Buddhists cannot eat or drink. [Laughs, laughter.]

Student H: Roshi, how can you tell if you are doing two things or one thing?

SR: Two things or one thing.

Student H: Is it not always one thing if you do it in the right spirit?

SR: Yes. It is one thing, actually. But after you did something-- or before you do something, you may say [it is] two things. But actually, when you start involved in something, it is-- it cannot be two. So if you do things, you cannot do bad things, you know. So easiest way to do, you know, something [is] to choose something more appropriate to do at that time. I don't say [?] “something good” [laughs] because you will raise some other questions [laughs, laughter]. Some-- some more questions?

Student I: Roshi? Sometimes there is “do not waste time”--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student I: -- and other times it's “to be patient.”

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student I: But-- and they seem as if there's two different ways.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student I: So if I do this, I'll be not wasting time. If I do this, I'll be impatient.

SR: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Student I: But shouldn't one-- shouldn't they be the same?

SR: “To waste time” means, you know, to waste time is-- means without, you know, making-- without having oneness of your mind with something else is to waste time in its-- what-- according to what we mean, you know. To waste time is to-- to be involved in dualistic thinking only, without, you know, having the root of the practice. That is “to waste time.” When we do not practicing our way, it is waste of time.

“To be patient,” you know-- it doesn't matter whether you are doing things quick or slow, okay? And that is also renunciation, you know. Renunciation means to refrain from dualistic world. Even though you are doing something in dualistic world, you know, we should be free from-- on the other hand, we should be free from the idea-- dualistic idea. Or you may say if you do one thing only, you know-- if you make best effort on something you do, that is renunciation. That is non-duality. That is, you know, to be patient sometime. When your full effort [is] on your practice, that is, in short, not to waste your time. Okay? Yeah.

Student J: How about making plans for the future-- what about working for a goal in the future?

SR: For future. Future, you know-- you say “future,” you know, but future is-- in-- at the same time, right now. It is just word, you know. You project your activity in framework of past and present and future. There is no actual future, you know. Future will be different even though you, you know, have some plan or some idea about your future activity based on your present, you know-- based on things you are doing right now. But-- but [if] the plan is not related on your present situation, it is not-- it is daydream. So sometime you will be involved in just daydream, you know-- the typical type of [laughs] dualistic mind.

Student K: Roshi?

SR: Hai.

Student K: Does that mean that to think about what you want to do in the future is an entirely useless activity?

SR: No, I don't think so.

Student K: You can think about what you want to do in the future without involving yourself in delusion?

SR: If it is really future plan, you know, the future plan should involve present situation, or present situation should involve future plan. They must be-- that-- that future plan is a kind of possibility, you know, which is included-- which is already in present situation. There may be various possibility, you know. Present possibility [is] not something which exist in future, or else [laughs] you will not [would not be able to?] think about it, you know. If there is no possibility, you don't think.

Student L: Is the future now in possibilities, or is it--

SR: Future?

Student L: -- actually something that actually is just occurring now, along with the past? And can we realize that there is no passing time and survive like [sounds like student snaps his fingers twice].

SR: [Laughs.] Ahh [like a sigh].

Student L: How do you cope with the world as it appears--

SR: C- [partial word]-- appearance.

Student L: -- as everyone else seems to see it appearing?

SR: Appearance. Future appearance. It-- it is question of reality, or appearance and reality, or phenomenal, you know, things and some ontological being, or a problem of present and future, or--[?]

Student L: Excuse me?

SR: [Laughs, laughter.] I don't, you know, I don't catch my-- my frame of [laughs]-- framework of my mind does not catch your, you know, question, so that is why I am asking.

Student L: Well, I was wondering if the future exists as possibilities now, or does it exist as--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student L: -- well, to me it appears as if, in the future, I'll be in another place and time, which I had read is illusion. But I don't see the same that-- I don't see all the events of my life as simultaneous. It seems like if I saw them as simultaneous, I'd be very confused, or, you know, I wouldn't be able to cope with each event. Do you understand what I'm asking?

SR: [Probably makes some gesture. Loud laughter.] Hai.
I am sorry.

Student M: He said if there is no past or future, then everything's happening in his life at the same time, so that makes for one big confusion because then things wouldn't be happening before and after each other. [Laughter.]

SR: No. You know, the present has various meaning or face, you know-- angle. But actually it is one, you know, interp- [partial word]-- many interpretation of the present fact-- event you have. As a possibility, there may be many possibility in, you know, in this present moment, but before it happens, nothing happens. So there is nothing to worry [about]. There is no confusion.

Is it okay? Yeah. [Laughs, laughter.] Yeah, it is-- you are right. It is rather difficult to accept, you know.

Student L: Well, I hear certain things said and then I--

SR: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Student L: The world still appears--

SR: Yes.

Student L: -- as time to time [?].

SR: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Student L: And I'm just asking you about how it really is.

SR: Mm-hmm. [Laughs, laughter.] Unfortunately, I am not so interested in [laughs], you know, some fancy idea [laughs] or many interpretation of things, you know. Oh. Some more question? Hai.

Student M: I was reading Trung- [partial word]-- what's the guy who wrote Meditation in Action? [Laughter.] He said-- Trung- -- Trungpa?

Student N: Chögyam Trungpa.

Student M: He said that-- he made this comment-- we have images of ourselves, you know, like sometimes you get the image that I'm-- when you sit in meditation you have a fine image of how you sit-- ”I want to sit real good,” you know.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student M: He said that you should examine you--

SR: You should examine yourself?

Student M: -- examine in close.

SR: Closely.

Student M: Yeah. And I was wondering the best way to do that. [Laughter.]

SR: To examine?

Student M: Well, I have the image of myself as-- when I walk, say--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student M: -- I see myself. It's impossible to lose, you know.

SR: Yeah. [Laughs, laughter.]

Student M: I wondered the best way to deal with it-- deal with these images.

SR: Uh-huh. To have feeling of Zen when you are walking or something-- when you are eating.

Student M: To feel it rather than see it.

SR: Mm-hmm. What I mean is not, you know, to feel-- to see yourself objectively. I don't mean so. Or to-- to examine yourself, maybe, does not mean to, you know, to, you know, to see your mudra or, you know, to see your posture [laughs, laughter]. I don't think so, you know. If you are in perfect meditation or not will be the point. So when you walk, walk. What you should realize is, you know, when you are out of practice, then, you know, you will realize, “Oh, I lost my practice.” In that way, rather than t- [partial word]-- I, you know-- to-- to check yourself whether you are perfect or not, to check yourself whether you are-- you lost your sitting or not. It is easy to find, you know, yourself when you lose your meditation. It is very easy. Then, you know, I think you have-- you will have good practice eventually.

Student O: Excuse me, Roshi? Earlier Pat said something about dualistic practice. I experienced that. Is that bad practice? A lot of times, when I'm away from the building I practice chanting to [?] Buddha, and when I--

SR: Out of building.

Student O: Yeah.

SR: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Student O: -- as part of my practice.

SR: Uh huh. Yeah. Uh-huh.

Student O: Is that a bad practice?

SR: [Laughs, laughter.] Yeah, we have that kind of tendency, and I understand that, you know. After doing something seriously, you know, you may, you know, feel: “What I-- what have I been doing [laughs] all those days?” [Laughs, laughter.]

Student O: I just-- my involvement with the people here-- I get completely involved. I'm meeting all kinds of fascinating people.

SR: Mmm. Yeah, but-- we cannot be al- [partial word]-- completely-- we cannot continue practice always, you know. But you-- if you know what is good practice, you know, then that will be a great help. And, if possible, you know, to-- to have good practice when we are liable to lose our practice, that is very important. For an instance, after you sit for a long, long, long time, you know, [you may think] “Oh, sesshin is finished! [Laughs.] Rrrr!” [Laughs, laughter.] That will be almost all the people want to do. But that is not so good, you know. If you know that, you know, you should be careful. It is not so difficult, you know. If you are a little bit careful, you know, you can continue your practice. My policy was-- before-- with my-- my policy with myself was, you know, to be-- to remember the word “apt to” or “liable to”-- to be so or to do so “liable to.” That helps a lot. “We are liable to be so, but be careful.” [Laughs.] That kind of thing is not so difficult, you know. Just to be-- to know that-- just to remember that word is-- may be good help. Hai.

Student P: Sometimes we-- we have an attitude of practicing, and sometimes we don't.

SR: Uh-huh.

Student P: What-- what do we do when we don't have an attitude of practicing?

SR: Yeah. That [is a] good question. [Laughs.] You know, if I use the word “liable to,” you know, people [are] liable to try not [to] practice zazen when you don't want to, you know. In such case, you should practice [laughs] zazen, you know. That will be the very good practice, you know. When you practice zazen when you want to, you know, then that practice has various danger or various wrong possibility. But when you do practice zazen when you don't want, you know, not much danger in your practice.

Student P: [3-4 words unclear.]

SR: Do you-- hmm?

Student Q: I don't know if that was your question.

Student P: I don't know if that's the question that I asked or not.

SR: [Laughs.] Yeah, maybe so. [Laughs, laughter.] Your question, you know-- almost all our questions will be answered [laughs], you know, in some other way [than] you want to ask me. For an instance, what will be how we should, you know, get out of birth and death, you know? What you may, you know, what you expect from him [a Zen master] may be, you know-- even though you die, you know, you will have next life, you know, so it may be okay, you know. But almost all Zen master believe in-- who believes in next life will not give you that kind of answer [laughs]. His answer will be, you know: “The life is such-and-such,” you know. He will not answer-- he will not give you the answer which you want. [Laughs, laughter.] And he will [be] very much concerned about your question: Why you make such a question, you know? And he will stick to the, you know, reason why you make question. [Sentence finished. Start of second tape.] -- to ask question. Maybe it's better to think, “Why do I make that kind of question?” Then question will be answered.

Student R: Roshi, you said that if something was wrong that we should stop and fix it. And in my life, if I feel something is wrong--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student R: -- one of the ways that I try to do what I do is to sit zazen.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student R: But I can't see what it is. I can't find it. And no matter how I try, I-- what should I do?

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student R: How can I see it to fix it [?]?

SR: How-- yeah. Maybe, you know-- how long, by the way, have you been practicing?

Student R: Two years.

SR: Hmm?

Student R: Two years.

SR: Two years? Excuse me. [Drinks water.] I think you will-- you will understand pretty soon.

Student S: I've been practicing five years. When will I understand? [Loud laughter.]

SR: You don't understand-- do you know why? [Laughs.] Do you know why?

Student S: No.

SR: Oh. [Laughs.] Maybe you-- because you are trying to practice good practice. Maybe that is the reason. Hmm. Yeah. This is very good question. That will be the question almost all students will have, I think. [Laughs.] But, you know, you shouldn't be disappointed. The only way is to continue your practice because there is no other way, you know, to solve our problems. Just to continue our practice-- there is no other way.

Student T: When you said there is no other way, what do you mean? There is no other way from what?

SR: From-- from practice of zazen.

Student T: There is no other way from-- other than practice of zazen to find out who you are?

SR: I don't think so.

Student T: Then [SR laughs, laughter]-- then what is meant by-- when-- when-- when it is said that there are many, many different ways, and that--

SR: Yeah. Many--

Student T: -- zazen isn't necessarily the way--

SR: Yeah.

Student T: -- for that individual?

SR: Uh-huh. Yeah. What it means [is] there are many and many ways, you know. But it looks like it means-- it looks like there are many and many ways, but that is-- if it is, you know, really, actually-- actual way, that is various name of zazen practice. It means, you know-- it looks like many and many ways, but actually it is one way if it is actual practice. If it is not daydream or, you know-- whatever you do, it looks like different, but actually it is one practice of Zen. And you may say--

Student T: Yoga is a different way than Zen.

SR: Looks like. [Laughs, laughter.]

Student T: Well, okay. Okay. But I--

SR: Yeah. Oh, I see. Yeah.

Student T: [2-3 words unclear.]

SR: Okay. Thank you very much.



Enjoy Your Life
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday, July 20, 1969
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 25)

If you go to some library you will see many books. And those-- in those books, we will find out our achievement, our human knowledge, which is almost impossible to study out. And now we are going to arrive to the moon. 1 And [laughs] actually I don't know anything about, you know, how they reach to the moon and what kind of feeling they may have when they arrive at the moon. To me it is not so interesting a thing.

When I reflect on myself, especially when I feel, on this occasion, I have to speak about the moon trip [laughs, laughter], I have no time to study about those things. So if I try to speak about it, it is nothing but to tell you how foolish I am, you know. That is what I can do, you know. If I talk about the moon trip you may think, “Ah, he is so ignorant about [laughs, laughter] the moon trip.” And I think I may see many people today or tomorrow to speak about the moon trip as if he knows everything about it [laughs]. When I hear them speak about the moon trip, you know, how I feel is-- maybe because I don't know or he has-- he is interested, actually really interested in the moon trip, you know. And because I know that, I may not respect him so much.

The first-- even the first one who may arrive at the moon-- I don't think, you know, if he is very much proud of his achievement. How I feel is I cannot think he is a great hero. I don't know how you feel, but I don't feel he is a great hero. But on television, you know, he may be, you know, for some time, a great hero. At least he will be treated like a great hero.

And why we treat him a great hero is, you know, quite different reason, you know. He may be very proud of his experience, but reason why he is treated by the people as a hero is quite different. If we think in this way, we immediately know how important it is to practice zazen.

Instead of seek for objective world, in its usual sense, we, you know, try to make our life or make our every moment of life, deeper and deeper. That is purpose of zazen. Someone said-- I-- I remember what someone say-- as someone said-- one of your student-- our students said: “The more we see many things changes, the more we find out the similarity in it.” Nothing changes, you know. Even though things looks like changes, but actually we do not find anything new. I think that is very true.

Nowadays-- when I came to America, you know, first feeling I had is-- I-- before I came to America I thought America may be the quite different country from Japan [laughs]. But when I came to San Francisco, I was amazed because San Francisco was not-- there was not much difference, you know, in Tokyo and San Francisco. I think if you make your trip all over the United States, still, you know, you will-- I don't think you will find out something different. You will not be interested in the way of life in different states.

And I remember one experience when Marian [Derby], you know, show me-- showed me a small stone. I like the stone very much. And she picked up the small-- not stone-- sand, actually. And she gave it to me. She gave it to me. “This-- those are very interesting stones [laughs],” she said. But that was just, you know, a pick of sand. And she asked me to see it through a glass, you know, small glass like this, which-- which you use to see jewels or something. And those small stones are not-- nearly-- nearly the same as interesting stones I have in office, you know, although the stone is-- stone I have in my office is big [laughs]. That is the-- difference is just the size of the stone. But I found much more interesting stones in the sand. And I think even though you go to the moon, the moon-- the rocks they will bring to us [laughs] may be the same, I think.

If you say, “This is the rock from, you know, the moon,” you will be very much, you know, interested in it because it is-- it was [laughs] on the moon. But actually I don't think there is a great difference between the rocks we have on the earth.

Maybe in ancient time, long, long, long time ago, the earth and-- the moon may be the piece of the earth. I don't know. I think, even though you go to the Mars [laughs], you will find out the same rocks. I am quite sure about it [laughs, laughter].

If you find out something very interesting, you know-- if you want to find out something quite interesting, only way is-- instead of hopping around the universe, you know, like this-- to enjoy our life in every minute, you know, and to-- to see-- to observe things which we have now. The surrounding-- or to live in the surrounding, in its true sense.

Yesterday I went to see an island where there were many kinds of animals: birds and fish and maybe shells, which owned by-- which is owned by Natural Conservancy group. It was very, very interesting place, this place. If you live in that, you know, area and really start to see things-- see the plants and animals in that area, you will-- I think you will stay whole life. It is so interesting place. But we human beings, you know [laughs], what we do is hopping around or driving around the states, you know, by highway, losing [laughs] many interesting things. And that kind of trip will be extended to the moon and to the Mars [laughs, laughter]. It is rather foolish, you know. If you stay that place, you know, you will enjoy your life completely. Ev- [partial word: even?]-- that is more, I think, human life, you know.

We are now-- I, I don't think we are even human, you know, now. We are just, you know-- I don't know what it is [laughs]. Dogen Zenji said when he received the purple, you know, robe from the emperor-- although he refused it second time-- but the emperor said, “You must receive it.” So he at last received it. But he didn't wear it. And he wrote to the-- wrote back to the emperor saying, “If I wear this, the birds and monkeys in this mountain will laugh at me [laughs, laughter].” That was what he said to the emperor. “I am very appreciate,” you know, “your purple robe, but I am afraid I don't wear it. If I wear it,” you know, “birds and monkeys will [laughs], in this mountain, will laugh at me.”

I think there we find-- find spirit of zazen, you know-- way of life we should follow as a human being. In other word, we should not be fooled by things, you know-- fooled by some i- [partial word: idea?]-- some particular idea.

Now we are practicing counting-breathing, you know, practice-- in comparison to use-- using various machine or computer, you know, to count your breathing [laughs]. It is very silly [laughs] to count your breathing from one to ten, making, you know, mistake-- ”Oh! [Laughing.] Six or seven?”

If you use computer, you know, you will not make any mistake [laughing]. But is very silly to count your breathing just because of this is traditional way of practice. Why it is so-- it looks so silly is the, you know, underlying spirit, or thought, or understanding of our life is quite-- is the same, you know. If we count our breathing in practice-- in our practice-- in its-- in ordinal [ordinary] sense, as you count the distance from earth to the moon, you know, our practice doesn't mean anything. But it-- our-- when we count our breathing, you know, in each number we find limitlessly deep meaning of life.

Not only we count our breathing by our whole mind and body, we count each number with the power of whole universe. That is, you know, counting-breathing practice. So when you ex- [partial word: experience?]-- when you have-- when you experience really the counting-breathing practice, the gratitude you have in your practice is more than to arrive at the moon, you know. [Laughs.] You will not be so interested in, you know, something great, in its usual sense, or something limitlessly small, in its usual sense.

Of course, you may-- you may be very much interested in to have some new experience like a small-- like a baby. But like a baby, you know, you will-- you-- you are comp- [partial word]-- your basic attitude towards things will be the same as-- same-- always same.

Babies founds many things, you know. And he is-- she is very much interested in things, always. But if you watch her, she is always, you know-- she has always same joy. She will not [be] fooled by things, you know. She is always aware of it. And she al- [partial word: always?]-- she will be always enjoying her life.

But we, you know, adult has too many ideas-- many preconceived ideas because we are not completely free from objective world. Or we are not one with objective world. So sometime we [are] interested in something, but some other time we will not be interested in so mu- [partial word: much?]-- things so much.

Yesterday, you know, I experienced-- I could see myself quite clearly when I went to the island where there is-- there were many birds, you know. Young people are very much excited [laughs], but I was not so much, you know. That is just because I am old [laughs].

Even though we see things, you know-- same things, the way-- the life we have is quite different. Even though I didn't enjoy so much, but I was not discouraged [laughs], you know. I know why I am-- I was not so much interested in it, you know. One of the reason is because I am old, you know. But that is not just one reason. There-- there must be many and many reasons. So I was not discouraged. And I think I had some other joy which is different from young people may have.

So, you know, if you observe things and everything is changing, you know, that is not what I meaned when I say everything is changing. Everything is changing-- when I say everything is changing, I don't-- I don't see the similarity in change. I feel always difference in change, instead of similarity. So to say: “The more we see the changes the more we find out the similarity of things”-- it may be so, but what we mean or what we find out in the things which changes is to find out complete change, you know, in everything. In other word, to enjoy our life moment after moment [taps stick on table after each of previous three words] in its true sense.

The life we have cannot be the same. The life I had yesterday is-- cannot be the same as my life today. And we-- we will enjoy completely new life in each moment. Before you become Buddhist, you know or-- most of us become Buddhist because we find out evanescence of life, and we seek for the life which is more stable or which is more meaningful.

So things changes, you know. For usual person [it] is very much discouraging, you know. You cannot rely on anything. You cannot have anything. And you will see which you don't want to see. You will meet someone whom you don't like. If you want to do something, you know, you will find out it is impossible to do something.

In this way you will be discouraged by the, you know, the w- [partial word]-- by the things-- by the way things go-- is going-- are going. That is why most people, you know, become Buddhist or seek for religion. It means that actually you are trying to, you know, change-- you are trying to change the foundation of your life-- or understanding of your life.

Before you have-- when you haven't right effort to enjoy-- right understanding or right effort to enjoy your life, you know, things-- that things changes will be the reason why you suffer in this world or when you are-- why you are discouraged by the change-- by the evanescence of life. But after-- when you change the understanding of life or way of life, then the evanescence of life is the reason why you enjoy your life.

So the point is, you know, to change your understanding of life. And the point of practice is to practice our practice with right understanding of it. To arrive at the moon may the great-- the historical event, but if we don't change the understanding of life, it doesn't make much, you know, meaning. It doesn't make much sense. What we should do right now is to have deeper understanding of life-- to make effort with right understanding of life.

You may say “Rinzai way or Soto way” [laughs], you know, “Hinayana practice and Mahayana practice.” Whether it is Rinzai or Soto, you know, if you practice it as you drive your car or as you hopping around whole universe, you know [laughs], it doesn't-- it is same thing, you know-- Rinzai or-- there is no Rinzai or Soto. Mostly people, you know, who say Rinzai or Soto are the people who want to practice zazen as they drive their car-- as they choose their car: Chevrolet or Ford [laughs] or-- you know-- I, you know-- that is their understanding of zazen. A train or, you know, airplane.

If you understand-- if you have right understanding in your practice, you know, that doesn't make much difference, you know. Train or airplane or ship or-- doesn't make much difference. You can enjoy, you know, trip-- your trip anyway.

If you go to Japan by boat, it may take ten days. But you will-- and by airplane, maybe ten hours. But if the point is to enjoy your trip, you know, it doesn't, you know, make much difference. Time is not the point because you don't-- even though you make a trip by airplane, you cannot live a thousand years [laughs]-- same thing. You only live, you know, maybe one hundred years at most. So it-- it-- it is the different way of enjoying your life. It is. And you cannot repeat your life, you know. So you cannot compare your life to someone-- some other's life. You have your own life.

So the only way is to enjoy our own life. So even though you are practicing zazen, you know, counting breathing like a snail [laughs], you can enjoy your life, you know, maybe much better than to make a trip to the moon.

That is, you know, how-- why we practice zazen. And we should-- whatever-- what kind of life you may have is not important. The most important thing is to be able to enjoy your life, without fooling by things.

Thank you very much.



Walk like an Elephant and Sitting like a Frog, p. 151
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
True Practice As Expression Of Buddha-Nature
Sesshin Lecture No. 2
Sunday, August 2, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 29)

In Japan, a terrible fire broke out, and some hotel was burned down, and many sightseeing people killed in the fire. And recently in Japan, they had many sightseeing people even to Eiheiji, where monk-- only monks practice our way. Uchiyama Roshi-- Uchiyama Roshi said in his book-- if you open the book, he says recently, “Everything is going like that” [laughs]. Because we have so many sightseeing people, [laughs], so many years of hotels is built as one building after another. So the building is very complicated. So once something happens [laughs], they don't-- it is difficult to figure out which is entrance and which is fire escape [laughs]. [Coughs heavily.] Excuse me.

I am very much interested in Uchiyama Roshi's remark, and it-- it is something like that happening to us too [laughs]. Zen Center become bigger and bigger [laughs], and people-- students who come here will find it very difficult which is entrance and which is fire escape [laughs]. I, you know, I thought maybe he is teasing me [laughs]. But what he said is very true, I think. The world situation is something like that.

But we should know, you know, the right entrance for zendo. Dogen Zenji says in Shobogenzo, right entrance for the Buddha hall is zazen. Zazen practice is right entrance. So everyone should, you know, enter the big right-- from the big wide entrance. Because no-- no Buddhist-- there is no Buddhist who does not practice zazen. So all the teaching comes out from zazen, and what we obtain by practice of zazen is transmitted mind from Buddha to us. So when we practice zazen, all the treasures transmitted to us will come out from our transmitted mind. And how to open up our transmitted mind is practice of zazen.

So to talk about-- to discuss about transmitted mind or true mind, or to express our true buddha-nature is through our practice. That is “Sesshin sessho,” about which I talked last night. Why, you know, streetcars and bus and airplane is so crowded is there are too many people who seek for, you know, some special sightseeing place. Why we-- our way is mixed up or confused is because we are practicing sightseeing zazen [laughs].
There is actually-- this is not word I made up-- ”sightseeing practice.” Some Chinese people say “sightseeing practice” [laughs]. Or Dogen Zenji says, “Why do you give up your own seat and wandering about various countries?”

So we should not involved in hasty idea of attainment. We should not practice to achieve something-- to attain something. Step by step, appreciating, you know, our everyday life-- day by day, step by step is our way. When we cannot see what we are doing, where we are, it is useless, you know, to put ourselves in hard practice.

If you, you know, if you invite, you know, some kabuki player [laughs]-- kabuki-- how do you say?-- kabuki dancer or player from Japan, it costs a lot of money [laughs]. If you-- even though you invite a first-class monk, you know, or even you can invite archbishop from Japan [for] the same amount of money [laughs].

So many people, you know, go to Japan and to study something about Zen, but it is rather difficult, you know, to study Zen in Japan. Many people ask me, “Could you introduce me to some monastery?” But I have no idea, you know. So I may say, “Maybe why don't you stay at Zen Center?” [Laughs.] And almost all the people say that, “I thought that will be your answer.” [Laughs, laughter.] He knows very well. They know very well but, you know, why they go to Japan is to encourage [raise?] hotel, you know, money [laughs] to build some more new buildings.

They may be very happy to see you, but it is the waste of time and money for you. And you will be very much discouraged because, you know, you couldn't see any good Zen master. It is almost impossible to-- even though there is-- there are good Zen masters, but it is difficult to meet him. And it is difficult to underst- [partial word]-- study under him. You may figure out why it is so quite easily.

But practice of zazen and watching our step-- steps, one after another, this practice is actually true zazen practice. We say our practice should be like, you know, a cow, you know [laughs]. Our practice should not be-- our steps should not be like a horse. You-- you cannot gallop, you know. You should walk slowly, like an elephant or like a cow. And if you, you know, if you can walk slowly, without not much, you know, gaining idea, then you are already a good Zen student. There is no other way to follow our way.

At the end of Sung dynasty, we have many Zen masters. And most Zen masters encourage people to attain-- to have enlightenment experience. You know, that is, you know, why they encourage, you know, people to attain sudden enlightenment, with some psychological, you know, way, is to meet the people's-- student's desire-- to satisfy student's, you know, desires. They provided that kind of technique or trick [laughs]. It may not be trick-- I shall be scolded if I say “trick.” [Laughs, laughter.] But I-- I feel-- my feeling about, you know, that kind of practice is, you know, something like a trick, you know.

So Zen masters will be a good friend of psychologist [laughs]. And they will help with each other [laughs] how to, you know, explain-- or how to explain enlightenment experience. And psychologist will explore some new field in psychology, but Zen or-- Zen is, you know, originally Zen is completely different from that kind of practice.

Actually Dogen Zenji, you know, point up-- point out this point very sharply. In “Sesshin sessho,” in Shobogenzo-- in chapter of “Sesshin sessho,” he referred to another story. Tozan-daishi, the founder of-- actual founder of Soto school-- oh, no-- I [already] told you about the story between Tozan-daishi and Mitsu Shihaku.

He referred to another story about First Patriarch of China and the Second Patriarch in China. The First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, told the Second Patriarch, Eka-- he said: “If you-- if you want to enter our practice, you should stop-- or you should cut off your self from outward objects. And you should stop your emotional and thinking activity within yourself. And when you become like a brick or stone wall, you will be-- you will enter. That is how you enter our way.”

That was what, you know, Bodhidharma said to the-- to his disciple Eka. But it was actually-- for him, it was very difficult practice, as you must have experienced [laughs]. Even to stop your mind is [laughs] difficult enough. It is so for the Second Patriarch. So he, you know, tried very hard, but he couldn't, you know, understand what he meant actually.

So the Second Patriarch, after trying very hard, he thought, you know, he could, you know-- he could understood what he meant, at last. So he said to him, “Perhaps I understood what you meant.” When he said so, Bodhidharma thought, “Oh, this student must have understood what I meant.” So he did not ask any questions. “Okay, you must have understood.” [Laughs, laughter.] That is what-- all what Bodhidharma said to him.

But he said, “Is it,” you know, “Is it-- is there cessation in your,” you know, “way? Is-- is there a break,” you know, “in your sesshin?” [laughing]-- twenty minutes' break or thirty minutes' break. “Is there some break in your practice-- in your sesshin?” he said-- Bodhidharma said.

And Eka said, “No break, no cessation in our practice.” Bodhidharma said, “Then who are you? [Laughs.] Who has,” you know, “constant practice? Who are you?”-- just, he said-- ”Who are you?”

Eka said, “Because I know myself very well, so it is difficult to say who I am. [Laughs.] Because I understand myself so well, so I cannot say who I am.” And Bodhidharma said, “That's right. You are my disciple.” Do you understand? [Laughs, laughter.]

Our zazen practice is not-- is not to attain enlightenment actually-- rather to express our true nature. Even though, you know, you don't feel you are expressing your true nature, but actually you are expressing your true nature when you practice zazen. And that something is, you know, according to the Tozan-daishi, it is someone in front-- back of the building [laughs]. Someone is talking something-- backyard of the across the street. What are they talking about, you know?

That someone is actually not a particular-- not any particular person. That someone means, you know, our true nature. So always, you know, true nature within ourselves is talking about Buddhism-- discussing about Buddhism. And whatever we do actually [is] expression of buddha-nature.

So at last, you know, the-- Eka-- the Second Patriarch, understood, came to this point. So he said, you know, “I think I understood what you meant-- what you meant by to become a stone wall [laughs] or brick [wall]. I understand. The stone wall itself is buddha-nature, and brick are also-- bricks are also buddha-nature. Everything is expression of buddha-nature, so now I understand what is buddha-nature. Before, I thought after attaining-- after I attain enlightenment, we will know who is in backyard of the-- of a-- of the house. But there is no special person who is talking some special teaching. There is no special person,” you know, “but all things we see, all what we hear about, is expression of buddha-nature.”

When we say buddha-nature, so buddha-nature is everything. We say buddha-nature is our innate true nature which is universal to every one of us, or even to various being: sentient beings or animate or inanimate being. [Sentence finished. Tape turned over.]

-- special nature which you can understand. How you understand the universal nature is through everything. There is only one way to-- to have approach to the universal, so to say universal nature. So only way, you know, to-- to realize our true nature is to know who I am-- who is doing constantly something.

So he said, when Bodhidharma asked him, “Is there cessation in your true practice, after you enter or even before you enter, or before you join our true practice-- is there any cessation?”

He said: “No,” you know, “even before Buddha there is no cessation in the prac- [partial word]-- in our practice, because our practice is Buddha's practice, which has no beginning and no end.” So he says “no cessation.”

“Then who is practicing that kind of practice, or who are you? Which is,” you know, “which join this kind of practice?”

You know, he-- he may be-- he may be Eka-- personally he may be Eka, but actually what he-- he is doing is constant, permanent, ever-lasting practice which was started beginningless time to-- and end in endless time. So, you know, it is difficult to say who-- who is practicing [laughs] our way.

So Bodhidharma said, “Various-- every patriarchs practicing same way as you do. I am practicing that way, and you are practicing that way.” First of all, you know, when we practice zazen-- when you practice zazen, you should know this point clearly. So you cannot waste your time. Even though your zazen is not so good, but it's-- but that is zazen. Even though you will not-- you may not understand what it is even, someday, sometime, you know-- someday and someone will, you know, accept your practice. Only when you practice, you know, right here without wandering about, without being involved in sightseeing zazen, so I say why don't you sit here, you know.

It-- it does not mean, you know-- what I mean is, if you don't give up sightseeing zazen [laughs], you have no chance to join our practice. If you understand this point, you know, even though make a-- make a big, big trip, that is not sightseeing zazen. That is real practice for you.

So point is to have-- to have good start and to join the real practice which is always true and which has-- which has no danger in your practice. So our practice, you know, not-- is not necessary be hard one, you know, or good one. Good or bad doesn't matter [laughs]. If you sit with this understanding, and if you do not waste your time, or if you have conviction in your buddha-nature, then sooner or later you will find yourself in-- in amidst of great Zen masters.

When you read, you know-- especially young ambitious people read Zen books, you know, or when you listen to various Zen masters talk, they will talk about-- about their masters who is very strict with him, or hardship he had in their-- in his young age. And, you know, and he may say it is very difficult to be a good Zen master [laughs]. And we haven't so-- so many good Zen masters so far, and maybe more difficult to have Zen masters-- good Zen master in future.

So, you know, you will be very discouraged, you know. It means that you cannot be a Zen master [laughs]. But when you understand real practice-- what it is, you know, this is-- you will never be involved in such a foolish, you know, problem like Sengai. When-- maybe 6–7 [years ago?]-- 2–3 years after I came to America, I went to Fields Bookstore, and I saw Sengai's picture, you know. And, you know, it was something like calendar [laughs]. And frog was on the calendar. And Sengai said, “If frog,” you know, “if someone can be a buddha, I-- maybe I can be a buddha too.” [Laughing.]

Frog was sitting like this [probably gestures] [laughs, laughter]. “If people can be a buddha by practice of sitting, then I can be [laughs]-- soon I will be a buddha” [laughs]. For the people who knows what is actual practice, you know, even though they don't experience enlightenment experience, if he sees someone who, you know, who is sitting to attain enlightenment [laughs], we think he is like a frog sitting [laughs].

Actually their sitting is much better than [laughs, laughter] our zazen. I always admire, you know, their practice-- much better than my practice. They never get-- they never be sleepy, you know. Their eyes is always open. [Laughs, laughter.] Tatsugami Roshi will admire him very much, I think. “Open your eyes!”-- you know. But there is no need, you know, for him to say so if we are like a frog [laughs, laughter]. And they do something very, you know, appropriate intuitively and [in an] appropriate way. You know, when something-- when something come, they go like this-- chomp! [Laughs, laughter.] [Sounds like he is snapping at something with his mouth, like a frog catching a fly.] Never-- they never miss anything, but they, you know, are always calm, you know [laughs, laughter], and still.

I always think “I wish I could be a frog.” So Sengai says, you know: Moshimo-- Zazen shite moshimo hotoke ni naru naraba, you know: “If by practice,” you know-- ”If by practice we can be a buddha-- ” you know. He doesn't say anything more [laughs], and he draw a frog [laughing]-- sitting frog.

This kind of, you know-- if you understand what Sengai is feeling when, you know, you see a picture of a frog, you are already, you know, Zen-- you have already understood what is Zen. There [is a] lot of humor in it, and there is good understanding of our practice. Even though our practice is-- is not better than frog, you know, we will continue to sit. And we can accept a frog as our good example of practice.

I think that is a kind of enlightenment, but if-- you should know how you, you know, actually understand a frog. Sengai, you know, drew-- after, you know, practicing pretty long time [laughs], you will, you know, partly laugh-- laugh at someone who is involved in wrong idea of practice, and partly you will, you know, laugh at yourself [laughs] who is sitting always [laughs] without doing anything-- without making not much progress. You will laugh at yourself. When you can laugh, you know, at yourself, humorously, then there is, you know, enlightenment. But still, your zazen is beginner's zazen or sometimes worse than beginner's zazen [laughs].

Sometime I [am] ashamed of myself when I see someone-- some student's practice which is very good. “Oh, he is very good.” You know, I think-- I wish I could be as young as-- as he is once more. But it too late.

But anyway, our practice cannot be better than sitting of a frog. So it is okay. But to see someone who is practicing good zazen is very impressive, not only to me but also for everyone. I think that is-- if your zazen is good enough to give good impression to others, your zazen is pretty good. Even though you don't think so, it is actually very good zazen. But even though you think your zazen is very good, and you think you [are] proud of your enlightenment experience like this, you know, if he doesn't impress anyone [laughs], his zazen may not be-- wrong practice.

I think, you know, there are several important points or factor in our practice. One is to-- not to-- we should not [be] involved in hasty gaining idea in our practice. We say, you know, we should not practice zazen for sake of others or sake of yourself. Just practice-- just practice zazen for zazen. It means you should just sit. You should not sit for fame or profit. Just practice zazen.

We, you know, we say many things-- not to do this, you know-- or we talk about precepts, but the point of practice-- observing precepts is there is no need not to do something bad. There is no need to try not to do something bad, but if you do good thing like zazen, you cannot do bad thing at the same time [laughs, laughter].

So if you, you know, continue, you know, positively something-- continue to do something good, that is how you observe our precepts. So the point is just to sit, forgetting all about fame or profit. Just to sit for sake of zazen. That is one point. And that-- that kind of attitude is also the attitude to-- to have real way-seeking mind. Way-seeking mind means, you know, to find out inmost desire.

At first, you know, maybe you will-- first step will be, you know, to know what is good and what is bad. Like when you go to shopping, you know, you will-- it may be difficult to know what-- which material you choose. For an instance, if you go to draper's shop, you know, all the materials-- there are various color-- there are various quality of material in various color, and it is rather difficult to choose, you know.

Starting from that kind of practice, you know, you should brush up your intuition. How to buy or get something good is, you know-- if you try to compare one to the other [laughs], you will-- even though you spend two–three days, you will not get something appropriate for you. And after trying two–three days [laughs], what you will get will be something which is not at all appropriate to you, and you should visit the same store again. If they change it for someone or something else, you are lucky [laughs].

Don't say this kind of practice is useless. It is actually first step to our way. But how you, you know, get-- how you practice good practice and how you buy something appropriate to you is same. When you are not involved in it, you know, shopping too much, you can get something appropriate.

So what-- after you know the secret of intuitive, you know, activity which is free from various restriction, you will, you know, find our way in your everyday activity. Until, you know, you, you know, you understand why we practice zazen and what is actually true activity, intuitive activity, free from various desires and restrictions, it is difficult to figure out, you know, what is good practice, what is, you know, what kind of-- how you practice zazen. But it is okay. If you continue it, eventually, little by little, without knowing how you acquired that kind of intuition-- intuitive activity, you will-- anyway you will get it.

So it is rather foolish, you know, to-- to be involved in some particular hard special practice. Our practice is hard enough [laughs], so don't, you know, seek for some special enlightenment, and don't seek for some special practice-- way of special practice. Dogen Zenji said there is no Buddha who attained enlightenment-- real enlightenment, who gave up our zazen practice. Only through our zazen practice various teachers attained-- there is no other word, so I say “attained enlightenment” [laughs]-- became Buddhist, real Buddhist.

[Sentence finished. Tape changed to Tape 2.]

By the same way as you do something else, our pra- [partial word]-- the-- our practice is very different from usual practice. You know, you have book Zen and Archery, you know, but when you understand our practice, you know-- because the author understand real practice, archery can be, you know, Zen, but only for him it is Zen [laughs]. If you don't understand how [to] practice archery in its true sense, even though you practice very hard, that is-- that-- what technique you acquire is just technique. It doesn't help-- help you through and through. You will be-- you can hit a mark without fail, but without bow and arrow you cannot do anything. If you understand the author's point, when archery is-- could be Zen, then maybe, you know, without bow and arrow the archery will help you. How you get that kind of, maybe, power or ability is only through right practice.

So, you know, we should make, you know, right practice-- we should have right understanding of practice so you should have-- to have right understanding of practice you should have right teacher who has right understanding of practice. So you should not have any gaining idea in our practice. And follow your teacher. And you should understand completely what is right practice. So Dogen Zenji says, you know, right practice and sanshi monbo. Sanshi monbo is “to have good teacher” and, you know, “to receive right guidance in your practice.” Or else you will not understand, you know, what is Zen.

And one more thing is, you know, maybe, we say Sozoku ya tai nan. Sozoku is-- ”to continue our practice is very difficult thing,” maybe the most difficult thing. If you continue it, having right understanding by good teacher, and if you practice it without any gaining idea, and continue right practice or fundamental practice-- the only one practice, which is fundamental to various practice is the most important thing.



Letters From Emptiness
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
How to Understand the Idea of Emptiness
Sunday, March 8, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 35)

Whatever I say, I am actually talking about what is emptiness, because this emptiness is something which we must understand literally and completely through experience. But if it is difficult to experience it through experience, you can tentatively understand it as a kind of idea in comparison to your way of thinking or in comparison to the idea you have, [the] various idea you have.

And we classify our idea in two: one is idea of emptiness, another is idea of being. And when we say, usually, idea it is idea of being. And the idea of-- your way of thinking belongs to the idea of being, and idea of emptiness makes a pair of opposite with your idea you-- ideas you have. So whatever the idea may be, you can say those idea is idea of being. So we should know that.

Besides the ideas about things you have, there is another-- another ideas which is not same as-- same-- which is not same idea you have and which is not brought about in your concept. Actually that is why we practice zazen, you know. You cannot reach the idea of emptiness with your thinking mind or with your feeling as an conception. And to practice-- to actualize the emptiness is shikantaza.

This morning I want to point-- I want to point out some points in our usual understanding what kind of mistake there is and how different idea Buddhists have. We say emptiness is-- in Japanese or Chinese is ku. Ku is, of course, a noun, and it is-- sometime we use it as a verb, kuzuru. Kuzuru means-- is verb and maybe-- so you can say “empty”-- you can use words “empty” in two ways. One is noun and the other is verb. “To empty.” To empty is-- to empty a cup is to empty, you know, maybe.

But when we say “empty a cup” or “empty water” does not mean to drink it up [laughs]. It means that keeping the water in it, and still we do not think there is water. That is to empty the water. When we have no idea of water, even though we see is, that is to empty a cup.

So to empty everything means to have no idea of anything, or to go back to the situation where no idea of anything arise. We may, you know, think of some koans-- to hear a bird before bird sing, or-- this is also difficult word: shosoku. Shosoku means some [laughs]-- it is also still difficult-- I don't know how to express it. Shosoku, you know-- when you receive a letter from your, you know, from your home, that is shosoku, you know. Receive a letter, receiving a letter, and to know something about your home is shosoku: what are they doing [laughs] now, or what kind of flower they have now, what kind of things they are involved in. That is shosoku, you know, to-- without any actual, you know, actual picture of it, to know something about it is shosoku. So, you know, we have no letter from the world of emptiness [laughs, laughter]. We have no letter, but to know, you know, what is going on in the world of emptiness [laughs], that is shosoku.

To communicate with the world of emptiness is to, you know-- that is maybe enlightenment, you know. When you see the plum flower, or when you hear the sound of bamboo which hit by a small stone, and, you know, that is a letter from the world of emptiness. And to know [laughs], you know, the world of emptiness through this sign is, you know, shosoku. So it is not actual written communication, but it is something, you know, some hint or some suggestion. Through this kind of suggestion to know what is going on in the world of emptiness is maybe so-called-it enlightenment.

There is this kind of world, you know, besides the world which we can describe. Originally, all the description of reality is limited-- should be limited expression of the world of emptiness, but we are so attached to the description, you know, and we think this is the reality. There there is some mistake, because what is described is not the actual reality. And when you think this is reality, there is your own idea involved in it. There, you know, there is some idea of self. Idea of self is involved in it when you say “this is it”-- that this is a description and this-- some description is it when you say so, already your idea is involved in it.

When Buddhist study was not completed, many Buddhists, you know, made this kind of mistake. That is why they attach to the written scriptures or Buddha's words. And they thought this is the most valuable thing and the way to preserve the teaching is to remember what Buddha said.

But actually what Buddha said was the letter, you know, from the world of emptiness. So letter is just suggestion, you know, or some, you know, help to think of his home. But if you read-- if someone else read it-- some other person read it, it doesn't make any sense, you know. That is-- that is the nature of Buddha's words. How to read-- or if you want to read a letter from the Buddha's world, it is necessary to be ready for understanding what is Buddha's world. So to understand Buddha's-- what is Buddha's world, it is necessary not to rely on usual thinking mind.

And I have to go back to the verb “to empty.” “To empty” means without relying on the form or color of being, to have direct, pure experience of it is kuzuru or to empty. To-- what should be empty is our preconceived idea, or our idea of being, or our idea of big or small, round or square. This kind of, you know, round or square, or big or small is not reality, you know. It doesn't belong to the reality. Round or square or long or short is some idea.

The idea is when we analyze our experience. When we analyze our experience, you know, this kind of time or space or big and short or heavy and light-- this kind of, you know, scale is necessary. And with those scale in your mind, you actually, you know, experience things. But thing itself is-- has no scale or no weight. It is something, you know, we add to the things-- reality. So the idea is analyzed-- when you analyze your experience, there is, you know, idea of time and space. And because we use this kind of a scale always, you know, and we depend on the scale so much that we thinks this kind of scale is, you know, exist, but [laughs] it doesn't exist. It is, you know-- if it exist, it should exist with things, with being. Things itself is mother of the scale in itself. Actually it is so. Or you may say, you know, scale is mother of being, you know. Both is true. If both is true, then scale and being is one being. It is actually one thing, you know, one reality. One reality could be analyzed as some entity, some substance, and the idea we have-- the sense of big or small.

So this kind of-- when we have idealize something, when we conceptualize something, it is already, you can-- it is already dead experience. It is not actual experience. And why we, you know, why we empty things-- being-- what we empty is not actual reality, but the idea of big or small, or good or bad. This part should be empty because it is some measurement we have. And that measurement [is] usually based on-- usually used in a selfish way. When we say “good” or “bad,” you know, scale is in yourself. That scale is not always same. According to the person, the scale is different.

So there is-- I don't say that is always wrong, but mostly we are liable to use our selfish scale when we analyze-- when we idealize something, when we have idea of something. That part should be emptied. We must empty this part. How we empty this part is to practice zazen, and we-- we should be more got accustomed to accept things as it is without any idea of big or small, good or bad.

If some artist or some writer to, you know, actualize something or to actualize his, you know, experience, it isn't-- they may use-- they may write something, they may paint, but if his, you know, experience is very strong and pure, you know, he will give up [laughs] description. “Oh.” [Laughs.] “Oh my.” That's all. [Laughs.] He-- he will give up, because his, you know, experience is so pure and so realistic that-- realistic I don't know [laughs] this words is correct or not-- so actual that he sh- [partial word]-- he have to give up: “Oh no-no-no-no.” [Laughs.]

You know, I like to make some, you know, miniature garden, you know, in-- around my house, but if-- if I go, you know, to the stream and seeing wonderful rocks and water running, I give up [laughs, laughter]. “Oh no!” [Laughs, laughter.] “I shall never try to,” you know, “make rock garden.” When my friend who was a gardener, you know-- he is very much proud of his, you know, art. And when he came to Tassajara, he said: “I shall never [laughs] work on rock garden” he said. “It is much better to clean Tassajara stream, you know, picking up if there is some paper-- picking up paper and cigarette. That is much better. I shall never work on -- ”

[Sentence not finished. Tape turned over.]

We copy nature, you know, in the small area. That is maybe Japanese garden, but in nature there is, you know, actual beauty which is beyond beauty. If you-- because you see a part of it, you may think this rock should be, you know, moved this way [laughs], and this rock should be moved that way. Then it will be a complete garden, you may say. But if you see from the distance, you know, and if you see more wider area, you know, without moving anything, that is complete garden.

Because you, you know, limit the actual reality with small self, there is “good garden” or “bad garden,” and you should change some stones. But if you see the things itself as it is with wider mind, with wider view, there is no need to do anything.

So things itself is emptiness, actually. But because you add some, you know, something to it, it-- it doesn't-- actually you spoil the actual reality. So if we don't spoil anything, that is to empty things. So if you sit-- when you sit in shikantaza, we say don't [be] disturbed by sound, don't operate your thinking mind. It means that don't rely on any sense organs or thinking mind and just, you know, receive the letter from the world of emptiness. That is shikantaza.

So to empty-- usually when we deny something, we, at the same time, we-- we replace some-- something else, you know. That I deny, you know, a blue cup means I want-- that I want white cup. That is [laughs] usually what is happening. When you discuss something, when you argue, you know, that you deny someone's opinion means [laughs] to force your opinion to others. That is usually what we are doing, but in-- our way is not like that, you know. We just correct the, you know, some added, you know, element in your observation of things, and-- and we purify this kind of selfish idea. To see, to accept things as it is is our way. So we d- [partial word]-- there is no need to replace, you know, something.

So to deny is to make it clear and to make it more actual. That is what we mean by empty things. If we empty things and let things be as it is, then things will work. Originally things are related, and things are originally one. So as one being, it will extend itself. So how let things extend itself is, you know, why we empty things.

This kind of practice is missing in our religious practice. So religion naturally will become like a sometime opium, you know, because of lack of this kind of practice. If we have this kind of practice without any idea of religion we have religion. So to purify our experience and to observe things as it is, is to have-- to understand the world of emptiness and to understand why Buddha left so many teaching for us.

So naturally in our practice, in our shikantaza, we do not seek for anything because when we seek for something there, there is, you know, our idea of self. Our idea of self is involved in our practice. So that practice is-- will not work to purify our experience, to purify our life. So how, you know, we get rid of this kind of tendency is the point we make effort.

When we say “to make our effort,” you know, means to push, you know, the idea of self to achieve something. That is [laughs], you know, actually what you are doing when you make some effort, but we make our effort to get rid of this kind of self-centered effort or self-centered activity.

You know, for an instance, you know, if you are writing-- reading something, someone may say-- your wife or husband [laughs] may say-- may say something to you: “Why don't you have a cup of tea?” [Laughs.] You may say, “Oh, I am busy! [Laughing.] Be quiet!” That is not-- when you are, you know, reading in that way, I think you should be careful [laughs, laughter]. You should be ready to say, “Yes, that may be wonderful. Give me a cup of tea.” And having a cup of tea or stop reading, and after having a cup of tea you should continue your reading.

That kind of attitude is more like our attitude. “Now I am very busy!” [Laughs.] I shouldn't say so, you know, but I always say, “I am busy now. Right now I am busy.” [Laughs.] That is not so good, because my mind is not actually in full function. A part of my mind is working hard, but the other part is-- may not be working so hard. Anyway, I may be losing balance in my activity.

If it is reading, it is o- [partial word]-- it may be okay, but if you are, you know, making calligraphy, you know [laughs]-- calligraphy, you know, express yourself, you know, completely. If your mind is not in a state of emptiness, you know, your work tell you, “I am [laughs] not in state of emptiness.” So you should stop. If you are a Zen student, you should be ashamed of making [laughs] such calligraphy. As a Zen student, you know, calligraphy-- to make calligraphy is to practice zazen actually [laughs]. Your practice should be there. So when you are working on calligraphy, if someone say, “Please have a cup of tea.” “No, I am making calligraphy!” [Laughs, laughter.] Then your calligraphy will say, “No! No! No!” [Laughs, laughter.] You cannot, you know, fool yourself [laughs]. That is our practice, you know.

I think you must understand-- you may-- you might understand what we are trying here in Zen Center. Sometime it may be all right to practice zazen as-- as a kind of exercise [laughs] or training, you know, to make your practice stronger or to make your breathing smooth-- smooth and natural. That is, maybe, a part of practice, but when we say shikantaza, you know, our practice is not that kind of practice. So we put more-- we put more emphasis on this point. Only when you have this point, various practice will work.

Thank you very much.



Brown Rice is just Right
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Morning Sesshin Lecture
Sunday, February 1, 1970
City Center

How do you-- how do you like zazen? [Laughs, laughter.] And maybe-- maybe better to ask you how do you like brown rice? [Laughs, laughter.] I think this is better question, you know. Zazen is too much. [Laughs, laughter.] Brown rice, I think, just right. [Laughter.] But actually not much difference. [Laughter.] Zazen has strong f- [partial word]-- zazen is strong food like brown rice. And I was very much interested in the way you eat brown rice. [Laughs.] I'm-- I'm very much impressed, you know, the way you eat brown rice.

Can you hear me?

I think you, you know, naturally, when you eat brown rice, you have to chew it. Unless you chew it, it is difficult to swallow, so you chew it very well. Your mouth, you know, looks like a part of a kitchen [laughs]. You are cooking, you know [laughter, laughing], brown rice in your mouth and to be a very good food-- tasty food. While you are, you know, chewing, actually brown rice become more and more tasty. So I think brown-- your mouth-- when you eat brown rice your mouth is kitchen. But usually, you know, I realize that usually our mouth is not kitchen when we eat. You know, we-- no-- when, for an instance, when we eat white rice, you know, we don't chew so much. We just, you know, put-- put it in our mouth and without chewing so much. And feeling is so good, so it naturally goes to our throat. So we don't chew it.

I think Japanese people, you know-- at first I understand our ancestors who are eating brown rice. But because white rice is easier to eat or taste good, so they become more interested in white rice instead of brown rice. But actually when you, you know, accustomed to brown rice, the white rice is not, you know, so tasty. We, you know-- when you put it in your mouth, we think it is good, but that's all. No more, you know, variety or no more depth of taste. But brown rice-- at first it is not so good, and it is difficult to eat-- swallow. So while you are chewing, it become more tasty. And when it become tasty, you know, you-- you hesitate to s- [partial word]-- even to swallow because it is so good [laughs, laughter]. Brown rice has that much, I think, taste in it.

That kind of, you know-- I think the brown rice is more-- much more natural to our body-- or digest-- stomach, because our mouth originally is a, you know, a kind of, you know, not just-- not just a part of organ to digest or to eat s- [partial word]-- to chew something or to taste something, but also it is a part of organ to digest things. This kind of, you know, process of digestion should start from here, from our mouths, and naturally should be carried on, you know, to our tummy. And you know, we must think more about this. When we, you know, digest completely the food, what will become of it? It will [be] carried over, changing its chemical quality. It will, you know, circulate all of our body. And what will become of our body [laughs], is, you know, sooner or later we will die. [Laughs, laughter.] And from, you know, to eat brown rice is, you know, best, you know-- you know, the most natural to our-- to us who is, you know, changing one thing to the-- to another.

Now when you eat white rice, you know, that kind of natural process will be disturbed by-- by your mouth, you know, because your mouth stop chewing it, and stop cooking it, and stop changing it to-- into something. Without changing it, your mouth will, you know, push the rice in your tummy. So there is some gap [laughs] in our organic process of activity.

This organic process is called-- in one word, we call it emptiness, you know. It is, you know, we call it-- our activity is-- rice is-- or brown rice empty because it will eventually die [laughs] with our body. But it, you know, it changes. And while it-- it is changing, it carried on-- it carries on our life energy. And this maybe called also emptiness.

Why we call it emptiness is-- it has no, you know, form-- no special form. It has some form, but that form is never-- is never permanent. And there is no end in-- in changing of its form [?]. So, you know, there is no other word than to call emptiness, you know.

We know we are empty, and we started to know now this earth is empty [laughs]. It is not permanent. We started feeling that way, you know, already. And then you may wonder, “What is this universe?” But this universe has no limit. If there is a limit to this earth, there should be something outside of it, you know.

So in one word, there is no other word, you know, emptiness-- than emptiness. So emptiness is ultimate, you know, reality. And emptiness, you know, is not something which could be understand when you, you know, make a space trip, you know. Emptiness could be understood when you are chewing rice, you know, and when you are perfectly involved in chewing brown rice. And your world is, you know, with-- with brown rice. That is, you know, actual emptiness.

But you may say that is not empty, you know. We are doing something. When you say so, we say that is illusive. You think in that way because of your illusive tendency. We have that kind of illusion. That brown rice has no form is, you know, right understanding [laughs], you know. And brown rice is always changing with us is right understanding. And, “Here is brown rice, and here is I who is chewing it,” is elusive-- illusion, which was caused by our illusive tendency of thinking.

But we-- we have to completely-- but or because, I don't know [laughs] which to say [laughs]-- we must be, you know, completely involved in, you know, chewing rice when we chew rice. When you are chewing, you know, rice, if you think of white rice, you know, which you ate at some restaurant [laughs], that is-- that is wrong practice caused by illusion-- illusive tendency of making everything substantial being. White rice doesn't exist, you know [laughs]. What-- that which exist for you right now is brown rice and you yourself. Nothing else exist. You may say, “This floor exist,” you know. “This zazen room exist.” But that is also actually illusion.

So we have to get rid of-- we have to get rid of this kind of illusive practice, or else we cannot practice right practice. And at the same time, we should accept this illusive practice too [laughs], you know. We should accept it, knowing that ii illusion, you know. To know that is illusive practice-- when you know that is illusive practice, that is not illusive practice. That is true practice. For the right practice it is illusive practice, but right practice exist because of your illusive practice. So our, you know, imperfect bad zazen is very important-- very, very important.

If you seek for-- if you try to perfect practice-- if you try to practice perfect zazen only, ignoring your illusive practice, that practice is not true practice because even though you say “pure right practice,” but that is illusion for you because that which you have is illusive [laughs]: brown rice, which doesn't taste so good. So even though-- even brown rice, if you think-- if you chew it so that we can get some delicious, you know, taste of it, that is for us also illusive practice.

So when you put brown rice in your mouth, [the fact] that you don't feel so good is, you know, there, you know, there is right practice. When you feel pain in your leg, that is the practice you have now. That is a practice you should strive for without, you know, thinking about some, you know, wonderful feeling of practice. That is illusion. So if you [are] caught by it [laughs], you know, you will lose your practice and you will hate your practice. So you lose-- you-- your practice will be completely [laughs] lost. Even though you continue that kind of practice for a thousand years, you will [not] gain anything. But even though you do not practice zazen, if you chew brown rice, if you accept brown rice and started to chew, you know, over and over, and you-- and you-- if you find true meaning of emptiness in each chew, then, you know, that is real practice. That is real zazen.

We say “Accept things as it is.” Or we say “eternal present” or “emptiness” or “buddha-nature.” The words-- meaning of those words is, you know, quite simple. Understanding our life-- positive way and negative way-- and appreciating our life moment after moment, and completely satisfied with the surrounding, completely. And continue our life in this way is, you know, our practice. And Buddhism-- Buddhism is there when we have that kind of practice.

Dogen Zenji says, you know, we like something which is not true, and we don't like something which is true [laughs]. I think that is very true [laughs, laughter]. We don't like something which is true. Something which we like is-- mostly is not true because mostly it is just idea created by yourself, you know, and which will create some difficulty for you [laughing]-- some trouble for you. And that is something by which you will be sacrificed.

So forever we are, you know-- we cannot escape from our suffering, and there is no chance for us to attain enlightenment. But if you like it, that is another matter [laughs]. If you like it, it is okay. But you should know this is not true, you know. And if you know that is not true, you know, it means you accept-- you have there reality. When you say, “That is not true,” that is reality. Or when you say, “This is true,” and “This is complete,” you know, then that is not reality any more. There no such thing exist in this world. You-- if you say, “This is permanent,” that is also not true.

Something which exist is bound to change or bound to be-- to vanish, you know. If there is something which does not, you know-- which exist forever, that is not a true-- true being. That is something-- something wrong with it or with you, you know. Maybe mo- -- [Word and sentence not finished. Tape turned over.]

To-- to make further, you know, effort to understand things, that is to deny, you know, like scientist, you know, you deny the truth you found out-- you have now, and, you know, deeper understanding of the truth is true denial. In, you know, Zen-- Zen training is famous for its, you know [laughs], for its difficult-- for its strictness. We are raised up, you know, under the scolding voice and slap.

But it does not mean you are no-- you are, you know, useless or you should, you know, you shouldn't be here-- you should go out. It means that, in other word, help-- help you, you know, to find yourself more-- to study yourself more. So we try to give you chance to find yourself more-- to study more. If you go out, you know-- if you run away [laughs], that's all, you know.

You are, you know-- you know, also-- you think if you go somewhere else, you know, you will find some good teacher [laughs]. But, you know, as long as you have that kind of attitude, you know, choosing or discriminate-- discrimination, you will not have a good teacher. It is you which is wrong [laughs], not teacher. If you met with good teacher, you know, because you cannot accept good teacher because of your discrimination, because of your lack of effort to be yourself. Actually you are escaping from yourself, but that is not possible. If that is possible, you may find out some good teacher [laughs, laughter]. But that is not possible.

So the most important point is, you know, to deny yourself and to establish yourself in its true sense without establishing yourself on your delusion. So we say, “Establish yourself on yourself, not on your delusion.” And without-- but without delusion we cannot live, we cannot practice. So delusion is necessary. But delusion is not something on which you can establish yourself. It is like a, you know, stepladder, you know. You can use it, but you shouldn't stay on stepladder [laughs, laughter]. But without it you cannot, you know, climb up.

So with this, you know, confidence you must study our way. So that is why I said, “Don't run away! Stick to me!” But it does not mean [laughs], you know, stick to me [laughs, laughter]. It means stick [to] yourself, you know, not to delusion. Sometime I may be a delusion [laughs]. You may, you know, you may overestimate [laughs]: “He is a good teacher.” That is already delusion-- a kind of delusion [laughs, laughter], you know. I am, you know, your friend, you know. I am just practicing with you as your friend who has many stepladders [laughs, laughter].

So anyway, you know, we must-- we cannot be-- we shouldn't be disappointed with bad teacher [laughing], with bad students. Bad student and bad teacher, you know-- if we-- bad teacher and bad student strive for, you know, truth will establish something real, you know. That is our zazen, you know. We must continue to practice zazen and continue to chew brown rice. Eventually, we will accomplish something.



The Zen of Going to the Rest Room
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday, March 29, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 42)

How do you feel now? [Laughs.] Excuse me. I thought of funny thing right now [laughs]. I feel as if, you know-- I don't know how you feel, but I feel as if I-- I have finished, you know, things in restroom [laughs]. As I am pretty old, you know, I go to restroom so often. Even when I was young, I went [to] restroom more than, you know [laughs], usual person. I had, I think, some advantage, you know [laughs, laughter], because of that. When I went to tan- [partial word]-- Eiheiji and sit in tangaryo, for seven days [laughs], I could go to restroom without any guilty conscience because I had to [laughs, laughter]. I was so happy [laughs, laughter] to go to restroom. I think someth- [partial word]-- to go to restroom is something to do, you know [laughs, laughter], with our practice.

Ummon may be the first one to make some connection between our practice and restroom. “What is our practice?” Or “What is buddha?”-- someone asked him. He said, you know, “toilet paper”-- no, not toilet paper. Nowadays it is toilet paper, but he says [laughing, laughter], “something to scratch your-- scratch yourself after you-- after finishing restroom.” That is what he said. And since then, you know, many Zen masters [are] thinking about or practicing on that koan: What is toilet paper? [Laughs.] What he meant by it?

Anyway, our practice is closely related to our everyday life. Physiologically it may be-- our-- to go to-- we go-- we have to go to restroom, but psychologically I think we have to practice zazen. In our everyday life, we, you know, eat many things, good and bad: something fancy or something simple, something tasty or something tasteless like water.

But after having this kind of food in our everyday life, in term of study, but actually if you eat, you know, if you study too much without practicing zazen, our thought eventually will become very unhealthy. I think that is, at least, one reason why we practice zazen. It is necessary for us to make our mind blank before we study something. It is like a, you know, to draw something on white paper. If you-- if you don't use clean white paper, you cannot, you know, draw something which you want. Sometime you may use some colored paper, but colored paper, you know, is also originally white paper. So it is necessary for us to go back to our original state where we have no-- nothing to see, or nothing to think about. Then you will understand what you are doing, you know.

The more you practice zazen, I think, the more you will be interested in your everyday life. At the same time, you know, you will find out, you know, what is something necessary and what is not necessary-- what part should be corrected or what part should be emphasized more. So by practice you will-- you can organize your life more-- more, and at the same time you will know how to organize your life. For some purpose we organize our life, but more important thing is to observe our situation clearly. And to observe our situation clearly we should blank our mind and to start from original starting point. That is, you know, to go to restroom [laughs]. You know, if you go to restroom and get rid of old-- squeeze out [laughs, laughter] all the polluted water, then, you know, you will feel good, you know, and you will be encouraged to drink more [laughs, laughter] and to eat more.

But after you eat it, you know [laughs], you should go to restroom. The all-- what you eat will be get rid of by going to restroom or exhalation and-- inhaling and exhaling. In this way, you know, actually we keep alive. Because I feel, you know, I must say something right now, I make it, you know-- I make my idea, you know, I put some water in my idea so that I can talk [laughing] twenty minutes or thirty minutes or more [laughs, laughter].

But actually, I want you, you know, to feel how you feel after zazen. And, you know, in comparison to your everyday life-- how usual person enjoy their life-- the way to enjoy our life is completely-- may be very different-- not completely, but-- .

Usually, you know, our culture is based on some gaining idea, you know: to accumulate something. Science, for an instance, is accumulation of our knowledge, you know. Modern science-- scientist-- I-- I don't think is greater than the scientist in the 16th century. But we have-- the difference is we accumulated our scientific knowledge. And we human being knows how to accumulate it. That is good point and at the same time eventually there is-- we have some danger to bury it, you know-- to be buried underneath the accumulated knowledge [laughs, laughter]. And we have some danger, also, you know. Trying to survive without going to restroom. Actually, you know, we almost underneath [laughs, pauses, laughter]-- we are already swimming in the pond of polluted water and air. We are talking about air pollution, but that is just a picture of human being. Actually we are hardly, you know, survive in polluted knowledge.

So maybe that is okay, you know, if we know-- if each one of us know [how] to go to restroom without, you know, attaching to something you have in your body. If you have it in your body, you will become attached to it until you get rid of it. Because we think things are yours, you know, ours, we become attach to it. If we think we have everything, we will not be attached to it.

Actually, we have everything. Without going to the moon, you know, we have it. To go to-- try to go to moon means, you know, we are-- we think the moon is not ours. Our mind, as Buddha told us, is with-- with everything, or everything is our mind. Within our mind, everything exist. If we understand things in that way, then we will understand our activity. When we understand ourselves, we will try to, you know, exchange our property with something else.

To study something is to appreciate something. To appreciate something is to be detached from things. When we become detached from things, everything will be ours. Our practice is, you know, to obtain this kind of big mind-- in other word, to-- to go beyond our-- each being-- each being including ourselves, and let ourselves work as it work. That is zazen practice. And when we practice zazen, we actually clean up various attachment we have.

We are very much afraid of, you know, death. But, you know, death is something which should happen to us when we are mature enough, you know. When you are young, maybe, you will be very much afraid of death. And if you die, that is terrible thing [laughs]. Yeah, it is so, you know. But if I die, it is not so terrible thing to me and to you too, because I am matured enough, you know, to die.

So I understand our life-- my life pretty well, and I understood what is human life, you know-- what is to live one day, and what is to live one year, and what is to live, you know, sixty years or one hundred years. So you-- anyway, when you become mature, experienced things-- or when you eat, you know, many things in this life, I think you-- you will be happy to die as if you go to restroom [laughs, laughter]. Yeah, actually it happens in that way, you know.

Old man of eighty or ninety, you know, haven't not much, you know, problem-- difficulties. Physically, they may suffer, but that suffering is not so big as you see, you know. You know, it is our habit, you know, when we feel uneasy, and from, you know-- when they are young, they have been, you know, thinking about death [as] something terrible [laughs], you know, so when they are dying, you know, they think it is terrible. But actually it-- it isn't.

And there is some limit in our capacity to endure suffering-- physical suffering. And mentally we-- we have, you know, limit of capacity, but we think it is limitless. That is, you know, why we under- [partial word]-- we have limitless suffering is because we have limitless desire, you know. So that kind of desire, as Buddha said, create our problem. If you understand our life clearly, actually there is not much problem in our life. Because we do not sit, you know, and we are creating problem, one after another, we are accumulating our problems one after another with limitless desire, so we have fathomless [bottomless?] fear.

So if we only know how to clear up our mind, we will not have so much problem as usual person would have. But as-- as you go to restroom every day, you know, we have to practice zazen every day.

If, you know, zazen practice is just for-- just to have good feeling in restroom it is all right if you go once [laughs], you know. But, you know, our actual practice or need of practice is much more than that-- not to at- [partial word]-- not just to attain some freedom from things, but to continue cleaning our mind. That is absolutely necessary.

And in monastic life, the most important thing will be-- or the most good practice-- the best practice will be to clean restroom. So wherever you go, whatever monastery you may go, you will find out someone-- some special person who is cleaning restroom always. We do not, you know, clean our restroom just because it is dirty. Whether it is clean or not, you know, we should clean, you know, restroom until you can continue it-- you can do it without any idea of, you know, clean or dirty. If so, that is actually, you know, our zazen practice.

To extend our practice to everyday life is maybe difficult, but actually it is quite simple. It cannot be so difficult, but, you know, as we are lazy, you know, as we don't continue it [laughs], that laziness makes it difficult, that's all. That is why we put emphasis on endurance, or to continue it. We say there should not be any cessation of practice. Practice should go, one after another.

Some student who practice very hard, you know, zazen practice, liable to ignore our everyday life. If someone, you know, attain enlightenment, you know, someone may, you know, ignore our life: “I had attained enlightenment under some great Zen master, so whatever I do, that is okay. [Laughs.] I have complete freedom from good and bad. The only, you know-- those who do not have enlightenment experience stick to the idea of good and bad.” [Laughs.]

Saying in that way, they ignore their everyday life. They do not take care of their life. They do not how to-- they don't know how to organize their life and what kind of rhythms they should have in their own life. Old man has-- an old man has, you know, old man's rhythm of life-- way of life. Young man has, you know, young ones has their own, you know, way of life. How to know the rhythm of their own life is, you know, to-- to understand what they are doing. And if you want to understand what we are doing, it is necessary to see our activity, our life, with clear mind-- not m- [partial word]-- yeah, mind-- or through zazen experience.

Why I came to America was, you know, I was almost, you know, disgusted [laughs] with Buddhist life in Japan. You know, I have too many problems [laughs]. That is maybe why, you know, I came to America. I didn't know that, but I think perhaps [laughs] that will be the reason-- would be the reason why I came to America. But when I was, you know, in Japan, I didn't practice zazen [laughs] as I do here, as a matter of fact [laughs, laughter]. Since I came to America, you know, I have-- I don't have same problem, you know, as I had in Japan. But I had very different problem [laughs] which I had in Japan. Hmm. I have no time to explain it [laughs, laughter].

Anyway, you know, my mind is like a garbage can [laughs]. So, you know, even I am in America, which is called free country, you know [laughs], my mind is garbage can-- even though I am, you know, I am practicing-- practicing zazen with you. I am a Japanese, and I have many Japanese friends there. So I have enough problem which Japanese-- most Japanese people have [laughing]. In addition to, I have some other problem.

So sometime I-- I, you know, I wonder, you know, what am I doing here, you know. But when I know what I am doing, you know, clearly, without any overestimation or underestimation, very honestly [laughs], truly, I have not much, you know, burden in our mind-- especially zazen practice has been [sighs]-- I think will be-- the great help, you know. If I haven't had practicing zazen, you know, I wouldn't have survive in this way, you know.

Last year I was pretty weak, you know, but I am recovering even little by little. I think that is merit of zazen or because of zazen I think I can survive anyway. And, you know, I have no joy of accumulating anything, you know. But I have joy of getting rid of, you know, something dirty [laughs]. That is, you know, how-- why I can survive in this way.

I started my practice when I was pretty young, actually. But the more-- actually I think I started my practice in its true sense after I came to San Francisco. I think you have pretty difficult time with me [laughs]. I know that, you know, and I am doing, you know, something-- I am making you, you know-- making your practice difficult. But this kind of effort to understand things from another angle without communicating [with] the people who-- who is brought up [in a] quite different cultural background, I think you will understand things more clearly.

To understand things just, you know, [from] some certain egoistic personal or national viewpoint is our weak point. So we cannot develop our culture in its true sense. When our culture came to this point, only way to-- to make our culture healthy is to participate [in the] various cultural activity-- cultural activity of various human being. Then you will understand yourself better, as I understood myself better, you know-- zazen better since I came to San Francisco.

If you understand yourself better and others better, you know, there is not much to study-- just to be yourself. And just to be good American is just to be good Japanese. And just to be good Japanese is just to be, you know, to be good American. Because we stick to [laughs], you know, Japanese way or American way [laughs], our mind become wastepaper basket.

I think that is-- if you notice this point, I think how important-- you will understand how important it is to practice zazen. Maybe I am forcing you Japanese practice [laughs]. I know, you know, what I am doing [laughs, laughter]. But there is some reason, you know, why I do this. If you are ready, you know --

[Sentence not finished. Tape turned over.]

-- to get rid of various dirty things, then there is no need. But fortunately or unfortunately, even though you don't like it, we should go to restroom [laughing]-- stinky restroom. I am so sorry [laughs, laughter], but I think we have to go to restroom anyway [laughs] as long as we live.

If I am young, you know, I like to sing a Japanese folk song right now [laughs] about restroom [laughs, laughter].

Thank you very much.



Caring for the Soil
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism
Sunday, January 25, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 47)

The difference between so-called-it Theravada Buddhism and Sarvastivadian or Hinayana and Mahayana is very important and directly, you know, concerned with our present problem. We are supposed [laughing] to be Mahayana Buddhist, but I think most of us are Hinayana, actually. There is not much Mahayana students. Almost all of us may be Hinayana or sectarian Buddhists because we study Buddhism as something which is already given to us, like Hinayana Buddhist thought Buddha already gave us-- have given us-- the wonderful teaching. So what we should do is to preserve his teaching as you like-- as you put food in refrigerator [laughs]. That is Hinayana way. And to study, you know, Buddhism is to take out food from refrigerator. So wherever you want it, it is already there. That is Hinayana way of understanding.

But Mahayana students rather interested in how to produce food from the field-- from the garden. So naturally Mahayana Buddhist, you know, put the emphasis on ground or garden which has nothing in it, you know, which you don't see anything in it. You know, if you see the garden, you don't see anything. But if you take care of seed, it will come out.

So we-- Mahayana Buddhist make our effort to, you know, to see something come out from ground. And joy of the Mahayana Buddhist is joy of take care of the garden. That is Mahayana Buddhist. So we-- Mahayana Buddhist-- that is why Mahayana Buddhist, you know, put emphasis on emptiness. Emptiness is-- is a garden where you cannot see anything. But it is, actually, mother of everything from which, you know, everything will come out.

Teaching eventually will be almost same, but our attitude towards teaching is different. So actually, Mahayana teaching and Hinayana teaching does not differ so much. And so we say, “We should practice Hinayana teaching with Mahayana spirit, with the gratitude of raising things or taking care of teaching or to appreciate teaching. How to appreciate teaching from nothing is, actually, our practice.

All of us has buddha-nature, so the teaching which will grow from the buddha-nature will be the same. But attitude is different. When you, you know-- when you think teaching is already given to you, then your effort-- naturally, you know, how to apply the teaching in this common, you know, world-- ordinary world so that, you know, they make a great effort to apply the teaching to the-- our mundane world. So that is a difficulty they had.

And the more and more the teaching is flavor or real sense. I think you-- Yoshimura Sensei told you about something-- a teaching of 20-- 12 links, you know. Did you or--[?] I think most of them listened to his lecture. And their-- Hinayana understanding of the 12 links and Mahayana understanding of it is quite different. One is, you know-- Hinayana Buddhist apply that teaching of 12 links, you know, for our actual life, you know, how we born and how we die.

But the original purpose of the teaching-- when Buddha told us the teaching, he used it to explain the interdependency of the-- of various being. So there is a big difference between the interpretation of the same teaching.

The more and more Buddha's teaching became very common and meaningless. Buddhas, you know, Buddhas-- why Buddha told us, you know-- how Buddha-- and how Buddha tried to save us is to destroy our common sense.

You know, we are not usually, you know, as a human being, we are not interested in nothingness, you know, nothingness of the ground [laughs]. If you-- you have something on-- in the garden, you will be interested in something which is on the-- in the garden. That is our tendency. But we are not so much interested in-- usual person, at least, is not interested in the bare, you know, soil. But if you, actually, if you want to have good harvest, the most important thing, of course, is to make rich soil and to cultivate the soil and to weed the soil. That is the most important thing.

The Buddha-- Buddha's teaching is about not what is there, but how it grows and how to take care of things. So he is not interested in, you know, various idea of deity, you know. But he rather interested in the deity, you know, which will grow [laughs] from the ground. So for him everything may be some holy being-- not special, you know, given deity. So he looks like atheist, you know. He doesn't-- he was not interested in some special deity, which we find out as something which is already there. He is not interested in them. But he was interested in the ground from which various gods will appear.

And this difference, you know, or lack of understanding of Buddhism result many non-Buddhist practice. For an instance, you know, in this zendo, in our group, we have, you know, officers, you know [laughs]. But, you know, officers are, you know, someone who appeared from the group, you know. So sometime, you know, officers are not someone who is, you know, the most respectable-- which our-- we must know from where he appeared [laughs]. You know, from our group he appeared, tentatively, to take care of our group. That is officer. But when we understand officers or respect officers as someone who is-- who is selected people from your group, and who is the most respectable people because he is officer, that-- that is very non- [partial word]-- un-Buddhistic understanding. As we are living as a Buddhist in this Zen center, there must be someone who should take care of-- someone should take care of our group. That is officer.

As a officer he is not, you know-- he should be grateful [1 word] as a officer, as a-- to take-- he should be interested in to take care of our group rather that someone who is respectable, who is capable, you know. There is big difference, you know, in understanding themselves and in understanding officers, you know, his-- their own understanding as a officer and people's understanding of officer.

When-- I am not blaming [laughs], you know, anyone who is in the position of officer, but I am a, you know-- as an example, I'm talking about this matter, but don't misunderstand me. When you become officer, you know, when you become officer you think you are some special person. [Laughs.] That is also very un-Buddhist-- Buddhistic idea. We-- each one of us comes out of the ground of Zen Center, you know. The ground [laughs] is the most important thing from which everyone of us comes out. So it is the ground, you know, which should be taken care of-- not the plant, you know. If the ground is good, naturally good officers will appear. So we should respect all of the members of the group. Take care of Zen Center and you yourself, as a member of Zen Center.

When you think officer is some special person, that is, you know, that understanding is to understand things, you know, as some-- to unders- [partial word]-- to have more understanding of substantiality, a concrete idea, as a officer-- officer as some special, you know, being, that is already concrete idea. Officers is something appeared from the members, you know, not special person. Cannot be any special person, because any one of you can be a officer. If members are very good, any one of you cannot-- can be a officer. But because the soil is not so good [laughs], you know, so only capable one should be officer. The fault is each one of you-- the reason why you should choose a special person. And special person should feel so bad, you know, to be appointed always same position [laughs]. “Oh, it's awful! [Laughs.] I wish someone can take my place,” you know. If they-- we are all good spirit, you know, anyone can be a officer. But that I should be always be officer is very regretful thing. The officer should understand themself in that way. Then that is very Buddhistic, you know, understanding of their position.

So Buddha says: “If people are good, good buddha will appear.” Because if people in some country, at some-- in some time are not good, they will not have good buddha. That is very interesting, you know, remark. Buddha did not think himself to be some special person. He tried to be the most common people wearing ragged robe, you know, making trip with a, you know, begging bowl, without having any special novel teaching. He just tried to be a good friend of people. That was, you know, why Buddha appear in this world, and that was what he did at his time in India.

You know, because he had that kind of spirit or understanding of world, he could be a buddha. And he thought that I am-- I have many students is because students are very good-- not Buddha himself. That is most-- the most Buddhistic understanding of teaching. But after Buddha, you know, the people respect his teaching or respect Buddha because of his-- his teaching and his character. Maybe his teaching was very good, but why his teaching was very good is his understanding of life was good. His understanding of emptiness or his understanding of people was good. And because his understanding of people was good, he loved people, and he-- he enjoy helping people. And that was why Buddha was great. [Sentence finished. Tape turned over.]

-- enjoy himself as a-- as-- because he is some special person or special sage, you know [laughs]. He enjoy himself as a friend of people. And he amazed at, you know, people's buddha-na- [partial word]-- buddha-nature, which is in each person. So it-- when he attained enlightenment, he said, “It is wonderful to see the buddha-nature in everyone of us.” That was what he said when he attained enlightenment.

And buddha-nature is not some special nature which only human being has. In Buddhism, when we say “sentient beings,” it include, you know, plants and stones and mountains and stars and the sun and everything. That is sentient being. So, in short, it is emptiness, you know. The ground from which everything comes out: stars and moon and everything comes out-- that is, you know, emptiness. That is why we call-- we put emphasis on emptiness. So emptiness could be sometime, tentatively Zen Center or America or Japan or this world or this cosmos, from which everything comes out. So purpose of our practice is how to take care of Zen Center, how to take care of America, how to take care of this world or this cosmos, and enjoy things from which appears.

I said we are mostly Hinayana Buddhists [laughs], you know, although we call ourselves-- we think ourselves Mahayana Buddhist, maybe because we don't mind [laughs] so much about precepts, or we eat feed-- meat and fish. That is why we, you may think-- because we don't mind as a Mahayana Buddhist to eat meat and to eat fish, Mahayana Buddhist is not so lazy, you know.

So we are Mahayana Buddhist. But that is not [laughing] real Mahayana Buddhist, you know. Of course, you know, Mahayana Buddhist doesn't mind so much about any special given teaching.

But we should be, you know, we should not be caught by the idea of substantiality. To be caught by idea of substantiality means, you know, to become dualistic. When we put emphasis on emptiness, you know, in emptiness there is no dualistic idea. If you, you know, start to have dualistic idea of emptiness that is not emptiness. A dualistic understanding, you know, appears when you have some idea of substantiality. When you have id- [partial word]-- some idea of duality-- priest and officer, you know-- officers-- officers and students-- that kind of idea is already very substantial-- substantial.

Because there is students, there is officer who take care of students. Without students [laughs] there is no officer. But you may think, “I was once a officer of Zen Center.” [Laughing.] He thinks, you know, he is always officer [laughs]. Very substantial, you know, idea. That kind of idea is not our idea.

In Soto school, you know, there is ridiculous things, you know, in giving some title to a person, you know [laughs]. I think only when I was in Zen Center, I am a teacher of Zen Center. I am a teacher, you know. If I go back to Japan, I don't think I can be a teacher any more because I am already too Americanized [laughs, laughter]. I don't know, you know, what is going on in America. So I cannot be a teacher, you know, if I go back to Japan. That is right, you know. I should be like that, you know.

If I think I am always teacher wherever I go, even though I join monkey teachers [laughing]-- ridiculous idea, you know. I cannot be a teacher of a monkey or monkey group or teacher of fish. That is not possible, you know. So I should not have any special title, you know. But here, today, I shall be a teacher of you, you know. I think that is real teacher.

But people, you know, very Hinayanistic people think, “I'm always teacher. I am entitled as a teacher by Soto headquarters” [laughs, laughter]. That is very, I think, Hinayanistic teach- [partial word]-- idea. And that is, I think-- that is why I don't like sectarianism. But most people, you know, involved in this kind of misunderstanding. That is why it is-- there is some difficulty in managing-- in the management of the group. If we-- we really become interested in Mahayana Buddhism, there is no problem of this kind.

Even though we are teacher and disciple, teacher and student, we are, you know, eternally friend of Buddhism. That is very important statement, I think. We are eternally, you know, friends. Tentatively, even though we have position, but we are eternally friends. This point should not be forgotten.

Thank you very much.



Our Everyday Life Is Like A Movie
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday, March 15, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 49)

I think most of you are rather curious about what is Zen. But Zen is actually our way of life, and zazen practice is actually as-- like as you set your watch-- alarm, maybe. Unless you set your alarm, alarm clock will not serve the purpose.

So it is necessary for us to start our activity from some standpoint-- to some ground or we must have-- every day we must have starting point. Where to start is most important thing. The sun arise at certain time and setting at certain time. And the sun, you know, always repeats same thing. And we do too [laughs, laughter]. But we do not feel in that way, you know. We-- our life is not so organized, and we don't know even how important it is to-- where to know where to start our life. Zen student start our life from zazen practice. We come back to zero and start from zero. We have various activity, and how our activity arise from zero is most important thing to know, to feel, or to realize.

Usually, I think, most people practice zazen to attain something, to achieve something. But more important thing is to start, you know, to start our everyday activity-- to know where to start to everyday activity and to know how to practice zazen. When we-- before actually you practice zazen, you know, or at the moment you decided to sit, it means that you, you know, already started to set your alarm. And when you have that kind of confidence or you have made that kind of decision and start to zazen, that is zero.

And during zazen, sometime, you will hear the bird singing. That is something arise in your practice. In the same way, in our everyday life, many things will arise. But if you know where, you know-- if you know where things-- from where those things happens, you will not be disturbed by it. Because [laughs] you don't know, you know, how it happen, you lose your confidence in your life. You know, if you-- if you know how things happens to you-- ”Oh!”-- you know. And the moment something happens you will be ready for that: “Oh, something arising”-- [laughs]-- and as if your-- like you watch-- watch the sunrise: “Oh, the sun is just coming up.”

You know, anger, for an instance-- sometime you will be angry. But anger actually doesn't come all of a sudden. It comes, you know, very slowly [laughs] actually, but when you feel it comes all of sudden. That is real anger. But when you know [laughing] how it comes-- ”Oh! Anger is coming-- anger is arising in my mind”-- that is not anger. May be anger. People may say he is angry, but actually he is not angry. If you know, you know, you are almost started to crying-- ”Oh, I am crying next minute, two minutes, three minutes” [laughs]-- ”Oh, I started crying”-- that is not crying.

If you know what is zazen, you know, what is the practice, you will accept things as you accept various images in your sitting zazen. So in our zazen the most important thing is to have big mind and to accept things in your practice. And even try not to, you know, observe things how it happens to your mind.

If you practice zazen to attain some stage or enlightenment, that zazen-- like-- the man who practice that kind of zazen is-- will be the same as a man who is, you know, using alarm without setting it. It will go anyway [laughs], you know, go and go and go, until you-- until it comes to-- to some, you know, its end. It will go anyway [laughs], but, you know, it doesn't make much sense.

When you sit every morning it makes sense. You know what time it is. To know what time it is is the most important thing for us in our everyday life. To know what you are doing is the most important thing. What kind of effort you are doing and what kind of situation you are now-- that is the most important thing.

Our everyday life is like a movie, you know, which is going on wide screen, you know [laughs]. But most people may be interested in screen-- picture on the screen without realizing there is a screen [laughs, laughter]. So, you know, when, you know, you don't see anymore, you don't-- when the movie stops, you will be, you know-- when the movie stops, before it come to end maybe [you may say], “I must come again tomorrow evening” [laughs]. “I will come and see it.” And in that way, what you see is, you know, just, you know-- what you are interested in is the movie on the screen. And because you think it, it stops. You have, you know, some-- sometime you expect something for tomorrow or if-- or you will be discouraged because you don't know the screen. But if you realize-- if there is a screen, because there is screen in the movie theater-- anyway-- someone come and show you some more picture. So, you know, the most-- most important thing is to have screen in your mind [taps on something repeatedly], and that screen should be white.

The scr- [partial word]-- if the screen is colorful [laughs], you know, colorful enough to attract people [laughs, laughter], screen will not, you know, serve for the purpose. But most important thing is to have screen and to have-- not colorful-- to have plain screen, white-- pure white screen. That is the most important thing. But most people are not interested in pure white screen [laughs, laughter]. It is, I think, good thing to be excited by seeing movie. It is good, you know. But why you can enjoy the movie is, you know, to some extent you know that is movie. That is not actual, you know-- actually that kind of thing is not going.

So you have, you know-- even though you have no idea of screen, but you have-- your interest is based on, you know, some understanding of screen or machine. And you know that is something artificial. So you can enjoy it. You can enjoy something which you should enjoy, not more than that. That is how we enjoy our life. If you have no idea of screen or machine, you know, perhaps you cannot see the movie. You will do-- always do like this [laughs, laughter] [gestures: probably hiding face]. “Oh no, no, no!”

So zazen practice is, you know, necessary to know what is-- what kind of screen you have and to-- to enjoy our life as if you enjoy the movie in theater. How can you do it [is] because you have screen here [taps three times]. And you are not afraid of screen [laughs], or you don't, you know, or you do not have any particular feeling for the screen-- just-- that is just a white, you know, screen, that's all. So you are not afraid of your life at all, but, you know, you enjoy something to be afraid of [laughs]. You enjoy something, you know, which makes you angry, which-- or which makes you cry. And you enjoy cry and anger too.

But if you have no idea of screen, you know, even you will be afraid of even enlightenment. “What is it? Oh, my!” [Laughs, laughter.] If someone attained enlightenment, you know, you may ask him what kind of experience you had when you had enlightenment. “Enlightenment is this kind of experience.” “Oh, no! [Laughs.] That is not for me,” you may say.

But that is just movie, you know, something which you should enjoy. But if you want to enjoy the movie, you should know that is the combination of, you know, film and light and white screen. And most important thing is to have plain white screen. That is actually not something which you should attain, but which you have always. But why you don't have it-- you don't feel you don't have it is your mind is too busy, too busy to see, to realize it.

So once in a while, you know, you should stop all of your activity and you should make your white screen-- you make yourself sure that you have white screen. That is, you know, zazen. So that is not something to attain, but something [laughs] you must find out by practice. That is, you know, foundation of all our everyday life and foundation of all our meditation practice. Without this kind of foundation, you know, your practice will not work. All the instructions you will-- you have in our practice is to have a clean white screen as much as you can. Always, you know, it is not pure white because of various attachment to it, because of some stain previous made-- previously made for it.

We say to practice zazen is just to-- just-- when we practice zazen we are like a baby in her mother's bosom [laughs]. That is, you know, our zazen. You have no idea of anything. You are quite relaxed, but, you know, is difficult to have complete relaxation in your usual posture. That is why we take some certain posture.

This kind of instruction is necessary, and this kind of instruction is the result of various experiences of many and many people in past. And they, you know, found out this is much better than the other posture, than standing up or lying down. So according to some-- under some instruction with this kind of understanding, if you practice zazen, it will work. Whatever practice it may be, it will work. But if you do not have, or if you do not trust your own pure white paper, you cannot, you know, practice. Your practice will not work.

Thank you very much.



Resuming Big Mind
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin Lecture No. 1
Friday, February 5, 1971
San Francisco

[”For this seven-day sesshin, there are only transcriptions for lectures given on Days 1, 3, 5, 7, and the closing words. I don't know if those were the only lectures given, or the only ones recorded, or the only ones transcribed.” -- Brian Fikes.
One of the lectures on Day 2 of the sesshin, and maybe others, was given by Ryogen Yoshimura. -- Bill Redican, May 2000.]

Purpose of sesshin is to be completely one with our practice. That is purpose of sesshin. Sesshin. Sesshin means-- We use two Chinese characters for setsu. Setsu means to treat or, you know, like you treat your guests or like a teacher [student?] treat his teacher, is setsu. Another setsu is “to control” or “to arrange things in order.” Anyway, it means to have proper function of mind.

When we say “control,” something which is controlled is our five senses and will, or mind, Small Mind, Monkey Mind which should be controlled. And if-- why we control our mind is to resume to our true Big Mind. When Monkey Mind is always take over big activity of Big Mind, you know, we naturally become a monkey [laughs]. So Monkey Mind must have his boss, which is Big Mind.

And when we say “Big Mind,” then while we practice zazen, it is the Big Mind controlling the Small Mind. It is not so, you know, but only when Small Mind become calm, the Big Mind, you know, start to start its true activity. So in our everyday life, almost all the time, we are involved in activity of Small Mind. That is why we should practice zazen and we should be completely involved in this kind of practice.

Good example of our practice is, you know, a turtle, you know, which has four legs, you know, and head and tail-- and six, you know, six parts of his body is sometime outside of the shell, sometime inside [laughs]. We must have that kind of, you know, activity. Sometime, you know, our head and tail and legs should be out [laughs], or else you cannot eat or anything. You cannot walk. So when you want to eat or go out [laughs, laughter], four legs should be out. [Laughs.] But if it is always out, you will be caught by something [laughs]. So, you know, in case of danger, you know, you should [laughs] draw up all the legs and head and tail. This is sesshin [laughs, laughter]. For, you know, one week our [laughs] head and tail and legs should be inside of the shell. Then, you know, no one can catch you [laughter, laughs]. In scripture said even demon or devil cannot destroy you if you, you know, are inside of the shell-- if your six parts of your body inside of-- actually, six means five senses and, you know, mind.

But in zazen we do not try to stop thinking, you know, or we do not try to listen or hear or see anything. But we, you know-- if something appears in your mind, leave it, you know. And if you hear something, you should hear it, and you should just accept it, you know. “Oh [laughs], that's all.” No second activity appears in your zazen-- should not appear. Sound-- that is one activity. Second one is, “What is the sound? Is a motor car or, you know, or garbage car, or something?” you know. That is second notion, second activity. If you hear it, that's all, you know. You hear. If you see, that's all. You have no-- you don't make any judgment. You do not figure out what it is. Just open your eyes and see something. Maybe when you practice zazen, you may, you know, try to make some sense by what you are watching, you know. What, or “It looks like river” [laughs]. “It looks like dragon” [laughs]. While you are thinking, you should not do so, you know [laughs]. When you are sitting pretty long time, you know, watching same place [laughs, laughter], it may look like, you know, various things [laughs, laughter]. It may be good idea, you know, to kill time [laughs], but it is not sesshin.

It may be good idea to be concentrated on something, you know, but to have good-concentrated mind is not zazen, you know. It is not zazen. Of course, it is one of the many elements of the practice, but calmness of mind is necessary, and you shouldn't intensify five sense organs' activity. You should just leave your sense organs as they are. That is how you free your true mind, or how you open your true mind. Only when you can do so in everyday life you will have soft mind. You don't have not much preconceived idea. Some bad habit of your way of thinking will not appear so strongly. It will appear, but it will not appear so strongly. And you will have generous mind and Big Mind, and what you will say will help others.

I think you have Zuimonki. If you read Zuimonki, you will understand why we practice zazen. One night, he [Dogen] talked to his students and said, “This story is-- the story I was told by someone, so I am not sure if that is correct or not.” But he said some influential person, Ichijo Motoie, you know, maybe his-- he may not be his direct relative but was one of the many relative. One day his sword was stolen, you know, and they knew that no one else couldn't broke into, so they thought some of his men must have stolen it. So naturally they tried to find out, and the sword was found and took back to him. But Motoie said, “This is not my sword [laughs], this isn't-- so give it back to someone who own it. This is not mine,” he said. But most of the people knew that that man who had it had stolen that sword, but because he said he did not accuse of it, so no one couldn't say anything. So, you know [laughs], nothing happened [laughs, laughter]. That kind of, you know, calmness of mind is the mind we should have, he says.

And he emphasize, you know, life of bare life, you know. Hardly support him to live-- something poor, you know-- a bare life. Without expecting anything, just practice our way. But many student asked him why that is possible, you know, without any plan-- just to live and just to practice zazen, how is it possible to support his temple or his group? But he said, “When it is difficult to support our temple, we will think about it. But [laughs] until then, it is not necessary to think about it.” [Laughs, laughter.]

So before something happens, to think about it too much is not our way. If we have generous Big Mind and if we have strong spirit of practice, then, you know, there is no need to worry about anything. That is the way how we have complete calmness of your mind. Because you have something, you should worry about it, but if you don't, there is no need to worry about losing it.

One night he said, “Even some teaching you think it is complete and right teaching, even though you think so, there may be someone who tell you better way. Then, you know, you should change your understanding of the teaching.” In this way, we should improve our understanding of the teaching forever. That is our way. So even something you think which is completely right, you know, you shouldn't stick to it. It is right at that time, so because you think so, you followed the theory or rules, but you have some, you know, space in your mind to change the idea. That is soft mind [laughs].

Why, you know, is it possible for you to change your idea, you know, is because you know what kind of monkey is thinking [laughs, laughter]. So sometime he may follow monkey's suggestion-- ”Oh yeah [laughs, laughter], that's right [laughs]. If we go that direction, we may have some food. Okay, let's go!” [Laughs, laughter.] But if there is something better [laughs], he may say, “Oh monkey, maybe better to go this way!” [Laughs, laughter.] Because he is naturally he is a monkey, he may follow, you know. But if you stick to, you know, your greed or anger or some vulgar, you know, emotional mind, stick to the thinking mind, monkey mind, he cannot change his former notion.

So in our practice, we should rely on something great. So in that great area we should, you know, sit. The pain you have in your legs or some difficulty you have when you are sitting is something happened-- something happened-- something may happen in the great area. But as long as you do not lose the feeling that you are in the area of buddha-nature, you can sit, you know, even though you have some difficulties. But when you want to escape from it, or when you try to improve your practice or improve your being in that big area, that is-- it means you created another problem for your being. But if you just exist there, then you will have chance to appreciate something which surround yourself, and you can accept yourself completely, without changing anything. That is our practice.

So it is a kind of belief or faith which is, of course, different from usual faith to believe in some concrete idea or being. But believing something which is supporting us and supporting all our activities-- thinking mind or emotional feeling. All those things are actually supported by something big which has no form or color. Which is impossible to know what it is, but something exist there, not in the sense of material or spiritual, but something not material or not spiritual. We say “spiritual or material,” but it is something more than that. Something like that always exist, and we exist in that area. When you feel in that way, that is right pure thinking. You feel in that way, that is pure feeling of being. Every activity should start from this, you know, kind of feeling.

When I was young, you know, many Zen masters says, “What is Buddha? Buddha is something which make bamboo bamboo [laughs], which make bamboo long [laughs], which make stone round.” That is [laughs] buddha-nature, they said. I couldn't understand [laughs] because I wanted to figure out what it is, you know [laughs], and I didn't feel so good if I cannot, you know, figure out what it is in usual sense: big or small, right or wrong, good or bad. But if you practice zazen, and, on the other hand, if you realize how foolish we are, you know, if you see yourself like animals in the zoo [laughs, laughter], then you will understand who you are. Each time I go to the zoo, you know, I think, you know, animals may be very much interested of human being, or American people who is black, white [laughs], yellow, and many Americans, you know. I am [laughs] American too, you know. “Oh, he is also American! [Laughs, laughter.] How strange American he is!” [Laughs.] They may, you know, enjoy us, you know. Animals in San Francisco Zoo is very lucky, you know. [Finished sentence. Tape change.] If they are in Japan, you know, they always may see small [laughs, laughter] human being-- small and short leg [laughs, laughter]. Not so interesting at all [laughs, laughter].

I don't say you should fool yourself, you know. It is exactly so [laughs]. But usually you say, “I am an American [laughs],” or, “I am a human being. So it is alright for us to kill animals, to eat animal.” But that is not right. Maybe we have to eat, but, you know, it is not right. But while you are repeating the same thing, you know, you use, you know, you begin to think in that way. So you lose your pure thinking, pure observation of yourself.

If you practice zazen, if you are brave enough to throw yourself on the floor, you know [laughs], for seven days [laughs], you may be a little bit better-- not too much, but [laughs, laughter] but that little bit is very important, you know. That little bit understanding will help your rigidness, you know, your stubbornness. Almost all the problems we create because of our stubborn mind will be vanish.

But actually, zazen help us not so much, you know, not so much. But if you know how to help yourself, you know, and if you know how valuable it is, if you have even smallest, you know, understanding of the reality, your, you know, way of thinking will completely change, and the problem you create will not be problem anymore. But as long as we live we have problem. And that is also true [laughs]. So you shouldn't think-- you shouldn't practice zazen to, you know, attain some big enlightenment which will change your whole being [laughs]. That is not right understanding. That maybe so-called-it, you know, “Zen,” you know, but true Zen is not like that.

Zen does not include all the teaching of Buddhism, but Zen-- this kind of understanding will save various labor of studying so many scriptures. If you understand little bit of this, you know, if you read scriptures, it will make sense. You don't have to, you know, seek some truth in the scriptures we have. We even try to read all the scriptures. It maybe whole life job to read our scripture once, but if you don't know the point, you know, you have to, you know, seek for the truth in the scripture. If you know this point, all the scripture you will read will help you, will be a good nourishment for us.

In this sesshin, I think we will be concentrated to have experience or to have real experience of true practice. Forgetting all about gaining idea, we should just sit here. If this room is too cold, we will make it warm, and if your legs become painful, you can stretch your legs. And if it is too difficult, you know, you can rest, but we should continue our practice for seven days.

Thank you very much.



Ordinary Mind, Buddha Mind
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday, March 30, 1969
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 58)

[The point of] -- my talk is just to give you some help in your practice. So it is just help, you know. So there's, as I always say, there is no need for you to remember what I said as something definite, you know. I'm just trying to help you, so it is just support of your [laughs] practice. So if you stick to it, it means that you stick to the support-- not, you know, tree itself. You know, a tree, when it is strong enough, it may want some support. But the most important one is the tree itself, not support.

I have, you know, I am one tree, and each one of you are a tree of itself. And by itself, you should, you know, stand up. And when one tree stand up by itself, we call that tree a buddha. In other word, when you, you know, practice zazen in its true sense, you are really buddha. So buddha and tree is one, in that sense. It may be sometime we call it a tree; sometime we call it a buddha. “Buddha” or “tree” or “you” is many names of one buddha.

When you sit, you know, you are independent from various being, and you are related to various being. And when you have perfect composure in your practice, it means that you include everything. You are not just you. You are whole world or whole cosmos, and you are a buddha. So when you sit, you are ordinary man, and you are buddha. So in this sense, you are both ordinary man, ordinary man, and buddha. So you are not just ordinary man-- ordinary man. Before you sit, you know, stick to the idea of “you” or idea of self. That is sheer [fear?] old [?] ordinary man. But when you sit, you are both, you know, ordinary man and buddha. So you are not the same being. When you sit you are not same being before you sit. Do [laughs] you understand? Because, when you sit, you are ordinary man and buddha.

You may say it is not possible to be ordinary and holy [laughs]. You may think so. When you think so, your understanding is, we say, heretic understanding or one-sided understanding. We should understand everything, not just from one standpoint. We call someone who understand things from just one side, we call him “tamban-kan.” Tamban-kan in Chinese or Japanese means “a man who carry a board on his shoulder.” Because he carry a big, you know, board on his shoulder this way, he cannot [laughs] see the other side [laughs]. He is always, you know, carrying big board on his shoulder. Almost all the people are carrying big board [laughter, laughs], so he cannot see the other side. He thinks he is just ordinary man, but, you know, if he take off the board, he will understand, “Oh, I am buddha, too [laughs]. How come to be a buddha and ordinary man? It is amazing,” he may say. That is enlightenment.

So when you experience enlightenment, or when you are enlightened, you will understand things more freely. You don't mind whatever people call you. “Ordinary man.” “Okay, I am ordinary man [laughs].” “You are buddha?” “Yes, I am buddha,” you know. How come to be a buddha and ordinary man?” “Oh, I don't know why, but actually I am buddha and ordinary man.” [Laughs.] Doesn't matter. Whatever they say [laughs], that is all right.

The buddha, in its true sense, is not just different, special one from ordinary man. So ordinary man, in its true sense, is not someone who is not holy or who is not buddha. This is complete understanding of ourselves. With this understanding, if we practice zazen [laughs], if we practice zazen, that is true zazen. You will not be bothered by anything. Whatever you hear, whatever you see, that is okay. Actually, but before you have this kind of actual feeling, of course it is necessary to be accustomed to our practice. Although intellectually we understand ourselves, but if we haven't actual feeling with it, then it is not so, you know, powerful. And so that is why you must keep on our practice. If you keep practicing our way, naturally, you know, you will have this understanding and this feeling-- actual feeling, too.

Even though we use-- we can explain what is Buddhism, if you do not have the actual feeling with it, we, you know, cannot call him real Buddhist. Only when you, you know, your personality is characterized [by this] kind of feeling we call him a Buddhist. How we, you know, characterize ourselves by this kind of understanding or practice is always, you know-- it is necessary, you know, for us to be always concentrated on this point.

It is rather difficult to explain how to be concentrated on this point. There are many koans and saying on this point. And those saying looks like very different, but [laughs] actually they are all the same. Ordinary mind is tao, you know. Ordinary mind is tao, you know. Even though we are doing quite usual things, whenever we do something, that is actually Buddha's activity-- Buddha's activity, but our activity [laughs], you know. Ordinary mind is tao. Buddha's mind, Buddha's activity, and our activity are not different.

Someone may say our activity is originated or based on Buddha's mind. And Buddha's mind is “such and such” is Buddha's mind, and the “so and so” is ordinary mind. You may, you know, say various explanation [laughs], but there is no need, you know, to explain in that way. Whatever we do, you know, if we, you know, do something we cannot say, “I am doing something,” you know, because there is no one independent from, separated from, the others. When we do [thumps stick on table] something, you know, it makes sound [laughs]. What is the sound? [Taps stick once per word.] When I say something, you are hearing it. So I cannot do, you know, anything by myself, just for myself. That is actually what we are doing, so I cannot say I am doing something. Everyone-- if someone do something, everyone is cooperated. And everyone will do something. So there is no explanation [laughs], actually, you know. So just [thumps stick] minute-- moment after moment [thumps stick], we should continue this kind of activity, which is Buddha's activity.

But you cannot say this is just Buddha's activity, because you are [thumps stick] doing actually [laughs]. You may say then, I don't know what I-- who is doing what. But why you say, “Who is doing what?” you know. You wanted to limit your activity, you want to intellectualize your activity, that's all, you know. So before you say something, the actual [thumps stick] activity is here. That is, you know, actually who we are. We are Buddha, and we are each one of us [laughs].

Our activity is cosmic activity and personal activity. So there is no need to explain what we are doing. When you want to explain it, that is all right, but we should not think if we cannot understand it, you know, because of we-- because it is impossible to understand it you should not feel uneasy. You know, actual you are here, right here. So before you don't [thumps stick] understand yourself, you are you, you know. After you understand it, you are not you anymore [laughs].

But usually you stick to who is not you, which is not you, and you ignore, you know [laughs], the reality. And you feel uneasy with the reality, and you feel something, some satisfaction, you know, which is not real. As Dogen Zenji said, you know, we human being attach to something which is not real and forget all about which is real [laughs]. That is actually what we are doing. If you realize this point, you will have perfect composure in yourself, and you can trust, you know, yourself. Whatever happen to you, it doesn't matter. You can trust yourself.

That belief or that trust is not usual trust or usual belief in [that] which is not true, [that] which is not real. So when, you know, you are able to sit without, you know, being attached to any image or any sound, with open mind, that is true practice. And that you can do that means you are [have] already absolute freedom from everything.

Right now I am put emphasis on, you know, one side of the truth. But it is all right with you to have, you know, to enjoy your life moment after moment because you are not enjoy your life as something which is concrete and eternal. Our life is momentary, and, at the same time, each moment, you know, include its own past and future. Next moment will include its own past and future. In this way, our momentary and eternal life will continue. This is, you know, how we lead our everyday life, how we enjoy our everyday life, and how we get freedom from various difficulties. How we not suffer from difficulties and how we enjoy our life, moment after moment, is our practice, based on true understanding.

I was in bed for a long time, and I was thinking about those things, you know. I am just practicing zazen in bed [laughs, laughter]. I should enjoy my bed [laughs]. Sometime it was difficult, but [laughs, laughter] if it is difficult, I laughed at myself. “Why is it so difficult?” [Laughs, laughter.] “Why don't you enjoy,” you know, “your difficulty?” [Laughs.] That is, I think, our practice.

Thank you very much.



Supported from Within
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Ekō Lecture 4
The Second Morning Eko, Part 3 of 3
Sunday, July 12, 1970
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 65)

[This is the fourth in a series of six lectures by Suzuki on the four ekos chanted at the conclusion of morning services at San Francisco Zen Center and other Soto Zen temples and monasteries.

The Second Morning Eko:
Choka ogu fugin

Line 1. Aogi koi negawakuwa shokan, fushite kanno o taretamae.
Line 2. Jorai, Maka Hannyaharamita Shingyo o fujusu, atsumuru
tokoro no kudoku wa,
Line 3. jippo joju no sambo, kakai muryo no kensho,
Line 4. juroku dai arakan, issai no ogu burui kenzoku ni eko su.
Line 5. Koinego tokoro wa,
Line 6. sanmyo rokutsu, mappo o shobo ni kaeshi goriki hachige,
gunjo o musho ni michibiki.
Line 7. Sammon no nirin tsuneni tenji, kokudo no sansai nagaku sho
sen koto o.

Dedication for the Morning Service Arhat's Sutra

Line 1. May Buddha observe [see?] us and respond.
Line 2. Thus, as we chant the Maha Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra,
we dedicate the collected merit to
Line 3. the all-pervading, ever-present Triple Treasure,
the innumerable wise men in the ocean of enlightenment,
Line 4. the sixteen great arhats and all other arhats.
Line 5. May it be that
Line 6. with the Three Insights and the Six Universal Powers,
the true teaching be restored in the age of decline.
With the Five Powers and Eight Ways of Liberation,
may all sentient beings be led to nirvana.
Line 7. May the two wheels of this temple forever turn
and this country always avert the Three Calamities.]

In the second recitation of the Prajna Paramita Sutra, we dedicate for the-- to the arhats and many various sages in the-- in the world. And what we pray is-- what we pray is-- this is the translation Mel [Weitsman] and I did. “What we pray is that the wisdom-- that the wisdom-- and Three Wisdom-- and the Six Unrestruct- [partial word]-- Unrestricted Ways of the arhats.”

Three Wisdom-- we explain the Three Wisdom. “And the Six Unrestrict-- [partial word]-- Unrestr- [partial word]-- Unrestricted Ways of the arhats may be always with us in our unceas-[partial word]-- unceasing effort to renew Buddha's way to save all sentient beings from the world of suffering and confusion.” “World of suffering and confusion” means the mappo. “And to keep Buddha's way always new to our-- always-- our al- [partial word]-- world always.” That is the spirit of Dogen.

We understand the three period of Buddhism is just the skillful means of Buddha to encourage people to practice our way. And next: “And we encourage ourselves, and we pray to-- we pray to arhats to encourage ourselves, to continue our practice, even in our adversity, and keep the wheel of dharma turning forever, and to avert disasters of fire, water, and wind, and calamities of war, epidemics, and famine. That is, actually, what it says in this eko. After reciting sutra we recite-- ek- [partial word]-- doan recite eko, as you know.

And I-- I have to explain more about what we pray in this-- the second paragraph of the eko. Actually we-- it is-- according to the usual way of observing ceremony, we Zen Buddhist apply the usual way of prayer. But, according to Dogen Zenji, there is no need for us to expect help from outside. He says: “We are protected, actually, from inside firmly, so we don't have to expect any protect from outside.” That is his spirit. Nyingmo sude ni sakan nare kemo nan somata. We are protected from inside, you know, by ourselves, always, incessantly.

So, we don't have to expect any help from, you know, outside. But actually, it is so-- our belief is so, but, when we recite sutra, we follow the usual-- we apply usually-- usual dedication-- way of dedication. And this is also Dogen's, you know, idea. He says-- for an instance-- I cannot find out his word regarding-- We, you know, ac- [partial word: actually?]-- we do not have any idea of dirty or pure, or any idea of calamity or disaster. But even so, he says, we have, you know, practice of cleaning restroom, you know. That is a kind of practice. We clean our body, you know, because our body is filthy, you know. Even though, you know, we-- our face, or mouth, or body is clean, we sh- [partial word: should?]-- when-- if you get up, you should wash your face, and rinse clean your mouth, you know, even though it is clean. We do it as a practice, you know, but not because it is dirty. That is our practice.

So, if you think, you know, to cleaning of [to clean] restroom is dirty work, that is wrong-- wrong idea. Restroom is not dirty. Clean. Even though you don't clean it, it is clean. Or more than clean. But, you know, even-- but we have to clean it as a practice, not because it is dirty. If you do it because it is dirty-- if you think you have to clean it because it is dirty, that is not our way.

[Line 6. sanmyo rokutsu, mappo o shobo ni kaeshi goriki hachige,
gunjo o musho ni michibiki.]

So far we explained goriki and hachige. And next word is gunjo o musho ni michibiki. Gunjo means “all sentient beings.” Gun is “various folk” of [or] “folks,” you know. Jo means “living being.” So it means “sentient being.” Musho means “arhatship”-- another name of arhat. Gunjo. But here it means “sentient being who is [in] confusion and suffering.” Gunjo o musho: “to lead sentient beings who is in defilement to the arhatship by the power of unrestricted power of arhat.”

[Line 7. Sammon no nirin tsuneni tenji, kokudo no sansai nagaku sho
sen koto o.]

And Sammon no nirin. Sammon means “the main gate of the temple,” but sometime it means-- sammon-- means “temple.” Sometime it is one of the building which is gate, but sometime it means “temple”-- all the temple. Sammon no nirin. Nirin is “two wheels.” Two wheel is dharma wheel and-- and alms wheel or materialistic support.

So when dharma wheel is turning, you know, our belief is if the dharma wheel is turning-- going, then the materialistic wheel will be, you know, will-- will be going, too. That-- that we are not supported by anyone means our dharma wheel, actually, is not going [laughs]. So we should know that. If our dharma wheel doesn't go-- if we are not supported by people, it means that our dharma wheel is not going. This is very true.

I-- you know-- I have-- you know-- I-- since I know this world of Dogen Zenji, I experienced it, I tested whether [laughs] it is true or not. So I-- even when I was in, you know, when I was almost, you know, especially in the-- during the war, wartime, I had not much to eat [laughs]. Most priest, you know, worked to earn some money to support themselves and to support their families. But my belief was if I, you know, observe Buddhist way, faithfully, someone will support me, you know. If no one support me, it means that Dogen's world was not true [laughs, laughter]. So I never ask anyone to give anything to me, and I just observed the Buddhist way, without working in, you know, as a teacher, or as a clerk of the town office [laughs, laughter], or I-- I raised some vegetables and sweet potato [laughs]. That is why I know how to raise vegetables [laughs] pretty well.

When I was cultivating temple garden, you know, I have pretty spacious temple garden in front of the building, so I dig the garden out, and took out all the stones, and put manure in it, and I raised, you know sweet-- I was trying to raise sweet potato, and some [laughing] villagers came and helped me too. And I had a good crop.

And one day, my neighbor came and opened my rice box, you know. I had rice box as much-- as big as this [probably gesturing to students] and as long as this. Pretty big. One day, they came and-- came to help me cooking. When they opened the rice box, there was no rice at all [laughing]. She was quite astonish-- astound, and she, you know, brought me some rice-- not much, you know. She didn't have so much rice. And, you know, my neighbors and my members collected some rice, you know. But I had pretty many members, so I had a half, maybe [probably indicating that the rice-box was half-filled]-- pretty many rice. But, you know, when people found out that I have a-- a lot of rice [laughs], they come to the temple. So I gave it-- gave my rice to them. And the more I gave my rice to them, the more I got the rice [laughs, laughter].

But at the time, Japanese people had a awful time, you know. At that time, most people-- city people went to the farmer's family and [ex]changed their dressing [dresses], or geta, or whatever it may be. Something good was changed to food: potato, or rice, or sweet potato, or pumpkin. But I had no difficult- [partial word]-- no such difficulties. Most of the time, I had a plenty of food. But I didn't feel so good, you know, to eat something special, something different from the usual people, so I tried to eat the same food which was given to us.

The Tassajara food, you know, is wonderful, you know: strong and rich, in comparison to the food we had in the wartime. So I-- I don't have any complaint about food. And, if you observe our way strictly, we will be-- we are sure to be protected by Buddha. That is very true. We should-- should trust people, and we should trust Buddha. Since then, since wartime, Japanese priest started to wear, you know, your suit, you know, giving up robes-- not give up, but when they have funeral service [laughs], or memorial service, they wear it, you know, to observe service. But usually they didn't. I didn't feel so good about that, you know. So that is why I didn't, you know-- I don't wear-- that is why I always wear robes.

When I was coming to America, you know, almost all the priests who is going abroad wear, you know, good suits and shiny shoes [laughs, laughter], but the head was not shiny, their hair was pretty long and well-combed, but their shoes were very shiny. With shiny shoes and new suits [laughs, laughter], they came to America, because, you know, they thought to propagate Buddhism to America. They have to wear something-- they have to be like-- something like American people. But, even though they wear-- they buy best suits and best shoes, Japanese are Japanese. They cannot be American people anyway. And the American people will find some fault in your wearing-- way of wearing your suits or shoes. So, anyway, Japanese are Japanese, you know.

So that is one reason why I didn't come to America in, you know, suits. Another reason is I was disgusted with the priest who gave up robe and change their robe into suits to support themselves. When Dogen said: “We are protected from within, firmly, why do-- do we expect support from outside?” That is our spirit. But [laughs] nowadays they started to lose that kind of spirit. The priests in Japan-- most priests, I may say, in Japan, does not respect their way, their practice.

So we should [not?] expect from-- material support from outside, but what we-- here it says, what we pray is dharma wheel and alms-- and-- what do you call it?-- material fre- [partial word]-- wheel goes smoothly forever. But to-- to observe this kind of ceremony is important. Not because we have to beg arhats to help us, but because that is the way which we have [been] observing for long, long time. And this is, you know, how to repay the-- to the bene- [partial word]-- benevolence of the Buddha and arhats. Buddha and arhats are the people who, you know, supported themselves by their practice only, so if we observe, if we pay full respect to the arhat we will be also protected.

Sammon no nirin. Sammon no nirin. “Two wheels of Budd- [partial word]-- temple will-- may go smoothly.” We say: “-- food wheel and dharma wheel may go smoothly, and may the calamities of the country and the temple”-- calamity like war, epidemic, and famine, or fire, water, wind. And big calamity is the calamity we will have in the last period of-- kalpa-- time. Many eons of time after all the universe will have big disaster-- disaster, then we say koka.

To some extent, you know, our universe will, you know, will-- will go on and on and will be built firmly, and firmer and firmer, until some-- when we-- when the universe go to some point, it will go to the destructive-- it will enter into the process of destruction. That is also, you know, a kind of good means of Buddha.

We don't know-- to-- you know-- if you-- if we are going to the way of destruction, personally, we-- from the time we were-- we were born, we are going to the-- we are in the process of death [laughs], you know, but that is just our understanding. But at the last period of time we will have big disaster. That is the “big disaster.” The “small disaster” will be war, and epidemics, and famine, or flood, or fire, and the typhoon or hurricane. “May those, you know, disasters avert from us.” That is how we-- what we decide in the second-- in the second dedication-- dedication of the Prajna Paramita Sutra. Words is going this way, you know: “I pray, I beg, may such-and-such,” but spirit is different.

So in-- when you recite sutra, you should express this spirit, you know. We should not, you know, observe our way or recite our sutra to ask arhat to help us, you know. That is not our spirit. When we recite sutra, the feeling we create here is the feeling of non-duality, perfect calmness, and strong conviction in our practice. That kind of feeling should be always with us. If that kind of feeling [is] always with us, we will be supported anyway.

If our practice, you know, become involved in dualistic, selfish practice to support our building, or organization, or to support our personal life, you know, there is not much feeling in our dedication. Only when, you know, we have strong confidence in our way, and without expecting anything, with, you know, deep, calm feeling, if we recite sutra, there there is our rea- [partial word: real?]-- actual practice. That is, you know, context of our practice-- meaning of practice.

So if you cannot express that kind of feeling in your way of dedication, that is not our way. So Dogen says: “If we do not practice our way with, you know, with everyone, with all sentient beings, with every being in the world, or in the cosmic space, that is not Buddhist way.”

So the spirit of zazen, you know, the zazen practice, should be always with us, especially when we recite sutra or observe ceremony. The spirit should be always there, that kind of spirit: not dualistic selfish spirit, but calm, and deep, and firm-- with firm conviction, we should observe our way. That is actually arhat's unrestricted power.

So to clairvoyance or to hear something, you know, through or from distant, is just a part of our power-- unrestricted power. Our power should be always with all beings, and our everyday life should be protected-- that kind of power which pervade everywhere-- which is everywhere. That is, you know, the last unrestricted power of arhat and the most important unrest- [partial word: unrestricted?]-- power of arhat.

When we observe our way in that way, you know -- [Tape turned over. Possibly not many words lost.] -- even though you want to create karma in that way, that is not possible. Because we are always with us, we are always one with all buddha-world, where there is no karmic activity. That which is going in the world of Buddha is just, you know, Buddha activity, there is nothing but Buddha activity in the realm of dharma world. In that way, when we observe our way, we do not create any karma. We are beyond the karmic world. So with this spirit, and with this understanding, we should observe our way. So when we observe our way in this-- with this understanding, there must be actual spirit of this kind.

Nowadays, you know, as our world become busier and busier, you know, even in a big monastery in Japan, they have not much [laughs] time to dedicate, you know, our way, you know, without any idea of time. So, you know, their doan is watching always time [laughs, laughter]-- time to, maybe-- ”How many memorial service we may have?” [laughs], or “Ten more service, then it will be-- will be-- our breakfast will be-- very late, so, let's make it faster [laughing, laughter]. It become faster and faster!

As we know, you know, how much-- before we start morning service, we know how much service we will have, so from the beginning, we-- we s- [partial word: say?]: Maka Hannyaharamita Shingyo [chanting very fast]-- GONG! [Laughs, laughter.]

They may think, you know, if they recite many sutras, they will be supported better [laughing], but actually it is not so. It is same, you know. Even though you cannot observe memorial service, ten [times]-- but if you observe, you know, with the-- with our spirit, one or two, we'll be supported anyway, you know.

If we are involved in the idea of time too much, you know, or feeling of the members too much, we will lose our way, and in this way, we lose our way, we lose our practice. And naturally, people lose Buddhism, you know. Our members thinks we have our priest, but priest is not any more priest because they are already involved in dualistic practice-- involved in busy life, busy world, busy mundane world-- so there is no priest, you know. Even though priest is there, they are not practicing priest way.

So, we say, “They're-- they cover their pan with-- you know [laughing], cover of bathroom.” They mixed up, you know, worldly practice and priest practice. That is how we lose our way. So when priest observe our way like priest, there is priest. When we do not observe our way like priest, we are, you know, “cover of the restroom” [laughs], not cover of the pots and pan.

“To help others” mean-- does not mean to help others for their convenience sake. Maybe, you know, priests may be the most troublesome people [laughs]. May be very difficult to handle. Even they offer, you know, million dollar, they may say “oh, thank you.” Even one penny, they will “thank you.” They will say “thank you,” that's all. It is very hard-- difficult to handle.

That is, you know, when-- when-- when people wants real priest, they should handle priest carefully. They shouldn't mixed up, you know, priest with someone else. Though we should not lose this confidence within ourselves, we don't have to say, you know, in-- by words, but within ourselves we must have strong confidence in Buddha's way, and we should be supported from within, not from outside. So Buddhists should be Buddhist, completely. When Buddhist really become Buddhist, you will be supported as a Buddhist.

The eko will be like this:

[Line 2] We dedicate the merit of the recite-- recitation of this
Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra to
[Line 3] the Triple Treasures-- Buddha, dharma and sangha,
and to the sages in the sea of the fruitful world of buddhahood,
[Line 4] and the sixteen arhats and their followers who attained
the supreme attainments of the arhatship.
[Line 5] What we pray is that
[Line 6] the Three Wisdoms of-- Six-- Three Wisdoms and the Six
Unrestricted Ways of the arhats may be always
with us in our unceasing effort of-- effort to renew
Buddha's way forever. All sentient-- to-- excuse
me-- Buddha's way-- to renew Buddha's way,
to save all sentient beings, and sentient beings
from the world of suffering and confusion.
[Line 7] And all the-- and encourages-- encourage us to continue
our practice, even in our adversities, and keep the
wheel of dharma turning forever. And to avert
destruction of fire, water, and wind, and calamities
of war, epidemic, and famines.

This will be the translation of the eko. Maybe good idea to recite, you know, eko after English, you know, Prajna-- after reciting the English translation of Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra. In the second, you know, service. Tomorrow I will explain the third one, which is dedicated to the-- our patriarchs.

Thank you very much.



Open Your Intuition
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin Meeting
Friday, July 31, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 69)

-- [laughter]. What he-- she meant is if you stand up, you know, with painful legs or sleeping legs, you will [laughs]-- it will be dan- [partial word]-- dangerous [laughs, laughter]. That is why she said so-- so, you know. I think that is very important, you know, and even though you feel your legs, okay. But it is better to make it-- make them sure [laughs], rubbing, you know, your knee.

Student A: I thought what she was saying was that once we stood up, we were supposed to stand there without-- before we started walking.

SR: Excuse me, I don't--

Student A: I thought that, you know--

SR: -- I don't know what she said, you know, so it is difficult [laughter].

Student A: I just won't move [laughing] until the person in front of me leaves.

SR: When you make kinhin, you know, walk, you know, so that you give them-- You know, if you walk too slowly or if you have too much, you know, distance, between you and someone ahead of you, that will make other person difficult to walk, so you should be careful, you know, abo- [partial word]-- about distance between you and a person ahead of you. So keep certain, you know, distance. And if, you know, someone like me, you know, walk-- naturally I walk slowly, you know. That will give others some difficulties. And as I walk very slowly, we-- I will have big distance from [laughs] a person who is walking ahead of me.

So if you-- if you have too much distance in between, you know, catch up to the person. That is, you know, very small things, but that kind of small things is pretty important to-- to have good feeling in our practice.

Maybe do you have something more to say? [Apparently addressing a student who had spoken earlier.] Ah.

I am so-- so much encouraged to see so many students, old and new. I hope we can sit together with good feeling.

The purpose of sesshin is to have more stable practice for us, especially those who are involved in busy, everyday life. It is good occasion to resume our true nature and to open our mind for various circumstances you may have in your everyday life.

And it may be incredibly important to-- to practice with the students who you-- whom you [are] acquainted with. Even though you do not communicate by words, you know, just to be with them, you know, will be a big encouragement. Verbal, you know communication tend to be very superficial, but when you don't [laughs] speak, you know, your communication between you will be very much encouraged, and your mind become-- will become very subtle. And your intuition will be open by staying [in] silence. This is very-- just to stay, without saying-- stay here without saying anything for five days with you is already very meaningful. That is why we do not talk.

We, you know, when we [are] involved in some superficial interesting matters, because of some special interest, your true feeling will be covered by the-- some special feeling. So to open your innate nature, and to feel something from bottom of your heart, it is necessary to remain silent, and that kind of practice will-- through this kind of practice you will have more, you know, intuitive understanding of teaching, and your intuition will be improved.

“Not to talk” does not mean to, you know, to keep you in deaf and [laughs] dumb, you know. Just to improve your intuition, we practice silence during sesshin time. And so same thing is true with your reading. If you read something interest-- interesting, because of something you become interest-- interested in it, your intuition will be-- it will be the disturbance of your [ability to] to open your intuition. That is why we don't read.

So if you-- it doesn't mean to, you know, to confine yourself in dark, you know, room [laughs]. It means that, you know, you-- to encourage your intuition or to encourage your-- to open your, you know, true mind is why we do not read. In zazen, we do not think, you know, even.

If-- some of you maybe Rinzai student who is practicing koan practice. If so, he can, you know, practice koan practice-- practice too. But in koan practice it is not necessary to speak or to read.

Of course, for-- especially for beginners it may be difficult to stay silent or not to read even newspapers. You may be very-- you may be very-- very much bored, so-- [laughs, laughter] [sounds of nearby hammering]. You know, in that case, you should ask [for] kyosaku [laughter]. Do you know what it does [?] If you do so, someone will hit you.

And that kind of thing [door slams nearby] will be taken care of mostly by old students, you know. In, you know, in sesshin, usually, everything will be taken care of by old student, and old student help, you know, new st- [partial word]-- must help new students to practice more. And so old students, you know, take care of many things: serving meals for you, and giving some instructions, and carrying sticks. Those things will be-- should be well taken care [of] by old students.

Try anyway. Sit [laughs], you know, and see what will happen to you [laughter]. And try to keep right posture according to the instruction. Important things is to follow the rules, you know. This is very important. “To follow rules” means to find, you know, to let you find your-- yourself, you know. If, you know, there is no rules, it is difficult for you, you know, to find yourself because you don't know whe- [partial word]-- where you are. [Laughs.] If there is food, you will know what time is it, and when we should eat, and which way we should walk [laughs].

If there is no rules, you know, and no one taking care of you, it is rather difficult to practice. And it will be a great help. It is much better than to have no rules and sit in one corner of the room five days, you know, without doing anything. So rules is something you should understand. Rules is something which you-- which help you, you know. That is rules. Instead of, you know, restricting you by some, you know, cord.

If you have some question, I think I can answer.

Student B: During the sesshin should we still go on counting our breath, or would you recommend some other form of zazen?

SR: There are various kinds of practice. Following breathing, or counting breathing, or ko- [partial word]-- koan practice. But I recommend you to, maybe this time, you know, following breathing practice.

Student B: Following breathing--

SR: Uh-huh.

Student B: -- or counting?

SR: If-- if, you know-- when you find it difficult to count, you know-- no, no, to follow your breathing, counting breathing will, you know, may help you because if you count your breathing, you know exactly what you are doing. Or when you-- your practice get lost, immediately, you will, you know, know it. So that will-- will be a-- it-- that will help you. So-- but following breathing is good.

Student B: Just following breathing, but then you can't, you know, go in too deep [?].

SR: Mm-hmm. And at that time, don't, you know-- don't make too much effort in, you know, in making your breathing slow down or, you know, making faster or anything like that. Just-- if you just follow your breathing, then naturally, your-- your breathing will be good, you know, appropriate for your practice, without-- even though you don't try to make it slower, if your breathing is fast-- too fast, the breathing will be slowed down.

Student C: For dokusan do you sign up every day for that day, or do you sign up Sunday for the whole week?

SR: Maybe better to sign up, you know.

Student C: Every day?

SR: Not every day. Hmm? What-- what-- what was-- ?

Dan Welch: Just-- there'll be a list, and just sign up once, whenever. Recommend that you sign up early-- soon as possible. If there's nobody on the list, there will be dokusan, so--

Student D: Dan, will Roshi be giving dokusan, do you know?

Dan: He'll be giving a few.

Student D: Will there be a sign-up sheet?

Dan: No.

Student D: So--

Dan: I can take care of that.

SR: If you send me some patient by ambulance [laughs, laughter], I will see the patient [laughs, laughter]. Do you have some question? Hai.

Student E: This is a beginner's question, but do you-- in your last lecture you said if another Roshi had said: “You can put your mind in the palm of your hand.” And I didn't really understand, but I-- I tried that, and [laughter]-- it was very-- very calming. It made me feel very calm, and I'm wondering if that's alright to do that, to calm your expiration [4-6 words unclear]. [Laughter.]

SR: Actually then, I created one more problem [laughter]. I said, you know, so that you-- you may not be, you know, you may not be caught by some particular practice. Do you understand?

Student E: They are to do nothing but follow your breath.

SR: And, you know, we have various-- you will listen [to] various instructions, you know, but what I am saying is instruction will be given to you so that, you know-- to help you, you know, to help your practice. That is why we give you instruction. We do not give instruction so that I can force some practice, special practice, on you, you know. Or it does not mean you should do this or you shouldn't do this. You know, you may have various intr- [partial word]-- instructions, but if you, you know, think that will help, then you can do it. So that is up to you.

Student F: Where do the services take place? In the zendo also--

Dan: Yes.

SR: -- or the Buddha hall?

SR: Yeah, in zendo. In sesshin time we do everything in zendo. Some more questions?

Student G: What is the form for taking dokusan?

Dan: The ha- [partial word]-- before you go-- for those of you who have never had dokusan before, the jisha, right, the person you-- the attendant for the Roshi during sesshin, she's-- Laurie Palmer will do it this time. He will instruct you before it's your turn to go.

SR: Some more questions maybe?

[Suzuki whispers with student (probably Dan Welch) for 2-3 sentences.]

Dan: Okay, uh--

SR: Thank you very much.

Dan: -- if you all know where your seats are, located in the zendo. We'd like to go down and sit last [3-4 words unclear].



Find Out for Yourself
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Saturday, March 15, 1969
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 72)

In your zazen, perhaps you will have many difficulties or problems. But when you have some problem, it is necessary for you to find out-- try to find out by yourself why you have problem. Before you ask someone, it is necessary for you to try to find out why.

Usually your way of study is to master it as soon as possible and by some best way. So before you think you may ask someone why you have some problem. But that kind of way may be very good for your usual life, but if you want to study Zen, it doesn't help so much.

You should always try to find out what really mean by “buddha-nature” or by “practice” or by “enlightenment.” In this way, you will have a more subtle attitude towards everything until you understand things as it is.

If you are told something by someone, naturally you will stick to something you experienced or you understand-- you understood. The moment you think you understand something, you will stick to it. And you will lose the full function of your nature.

So when you are seeking for something, your true nature is in full activity, as if you are, you know-- when you-- even know what are you seeking for-- like someone who is in the dark seeking for his own pillow because he lost it. In the dark-- so you don't see anything but you're seeking for the pillow you lost. At that time, your mind is in full function. So-- but if you know where the pillow is, you know, your mind is not in full function. Your mind is acting in limited sense, you know.

So-- but if you don't know where is the pillow, you are just seeking, worried, and your mind is open to everything. In that way, you will see things as it is.

So to study means-- if you want to study something it's better not to have any purpose to study without, you know, knowing how to study or what is Buddhism. But because you do-- you are not satisfied with something which you are told, and you cannot rely on anything which was told-- which was-- which is set up by someone. Perhaps you may have this kind of feeling always. And I think you seek for freedom just because of the freedom you seek for. You try various way.

Of course, you will sometime-- you will find, sometime, you wasted your time. If some Zen master drink a lot of sake, you may think the best way to obtain enlightenment is to take a lot of sake [laughs]. Then you will attain enlightenment, you know. But even though you take a lot of sake as he do-- as he does [laughs, laughter], you will not attain enlightenment [laughs, laughter].

It looks like waste of time [laughs, laughter], but it is not so, you know. That attitude is, you know, important. To-- if you continue, you know, to try to find out in that way-- your, you know, understanding-- power of understanding will-- more and more you will gain the more power to understand things.

So whatever you do, you will not waste your time. But when you do something with some limited idea or some definite purpose, what you will gain is some concrete things which is not-- which will be-- which will be the cover of your inner nature. So it is not matter of what you-- what you study, but matter of to gain the faculty to see things as it is, to accept things as it is, to understand things as it is.

Some of you may try hard, may study something if you like it, you know. If you don't like it, you don't. You ignore it. That is not only selfish way, but also the limiting your power of study. Good or bad, small or big, we should find out the true reason why something is so big and why something is so small, why something is so good and why something is not so good. But if you [laughs] only are trying to find out something good, you know, you will always lose something. And you are limiting your faculty. So you always live in limited world. You cannot accept things as it is.

We have-- perhaps too many students in this zendo. But even there are two, three-- even [if] some master has two, three students, they will-- he will never tell you what our way in detail. The only way is to eat with him, to talk with him, and to do something-- to do everything with him. And to help him without, you know, even [being] told how to help him.

Even-- but eventually, you know, because it is difficult to help him, you will try to find out how to help him and how to make him happy [laughs]. Mostly, he is not so happy. You will be always scolded without any reason. Maybe there is some reason, but because you don't find out why so [laughs] you are not so happy and he is not so happy. So what you-- if you want to-- if you want [to] really study with him, you will try hard how to please him-- how to make your life happy with him.

You may say that is very old, you know, way. I think you had, in your civilization, sometime I think you had, this kind of life-- not like in Japan, but there is some reason why they had this kind of difficult time with their teachers. There is no particular way for us, because each one of us are different from the other.

So each one of us must have each one's own way. And according to the situation, you should change your way and-- to find out some appropriate way. So you cannot stick to anything. The only thing we have to [do] is to find out new-- some appropriate way under new situation.

For an instance, you know, in morning time we have-- we clean our room. But we have not enough rags or brooms, so it is almost impossible to participate our cleaning-- in [our cleaning]. So under this circumstances, what you should do is to find out something to do [laughs]. You may think, “It is-- there is nothing to do for me.” But there is, if you, you know [laughs], if you try hard to find out what you should do.

I don't scold you so much, but if strict-- if I were a strict Zen master I shall be very angry with you [laughs], you know, because you give up quite easily. “Oh, no. There is not much equipment to clean.” Or, “There is not much things-- there are not much things to do.” And if you sit, you know, [on] balcony with people without much help [laughs], you may easily give up to practice. “Maybe better,” you know, “not. It is not possible,” or “It may be foolish to practice,” you know, “under this circumstances-- under such a, you know, bad circumstances [laughs]. You may easily give up. But in such case, you know, you should try hard. How you should practice-- for an instance, if you are very sleepy, you know: “Oh, maybe better not to practice to zazen. Maybe better to rest.” Yeah, sometime it is better, but there is-- that is, at the same time, that may the good chance to practice.

When I was [at] Eiheiji serving a teacher-- helping teacher-- my teacher, he was-- he did not tell us anything. But whenever we make mistake [laughs], he scolded. It is a rule-- a kind of rules to open left-hand-- right-hand side, you know, [of the] sliding door. This is usual way. Little bit-- you open little bit by the handle-- not handle, but by the hole which serve the-- which-- by which we open.

So I opened this way [probably gestures], and I was scolded: “Don't open that way-- that side.” So next morning I opened, you know, the other side [laughs]. Scolded again. I don't know what to do [laughs, laughter]. The next morning I-- but I found out that the day I open this side, his guest was this side. To open this side is a rule, you know. Left-hand side is the rule. But because-- at that morning his guest was there. So, you know, I should open the other side. Before I open, we should-- I should be careful and find out which side guest is.

And one day-- yeah-- the day I [was] appointed to serve him, I gave him a cup of tea. And it is rule-- almost rule to fill eighty percent of the cup. That is the rule. So I filled eighty percent or seventy percent [laughs]. And he said, “Give me hot,” you know, “hot tea. You should fill the cup,” you know, “with very hot tea.” So next morning I filled, you know-- next morning when there were some guests, I filled all the cups [laughs] with hot water almost ninety-nine percent and served them. [SR hits or slaps something.] I was scolded [laughs, laughter]!

There is no rule actually, you know [laughs, laughter]. He himself like hot-- very hot bitter tea filled in the cup. But almost all the guest doesn't like bitter hot tea. So for him I should, you know, give him bitter hot tea. And for the guest I should give-- I should have given her-- given them, you know, usual-- given them usual way. In this way, you know, he never tells [us] anything.

If I get up earlier-- or I-- when I get up twenty minutes earlier than the handbell come, I was scolded. “Don't get up so early!” [Laughs]. “You will disturb my sleep.” Usually if I get up earlier it is good, you know, but for him it is not good [laughs]. In this way when-- if you are trying to understand things better, without any rules or prejudice, then that means selflessness.

You say “rules,” but rules are already some selfish idea. Actually, there is no rules. But when you say, “This is rule,” you are forcing something on the rules to others. You are-- so actually, there is no rules. But when it is-- rules is only needed when we have not much time or when we cannot help others more closely, more kindly. So-- or anyway, this is rules. So you should do that [laughs]. This is easy, you know. But actually-- that is not actual way-- our way. So to give each student-- to give instruction-- some instruction is not so good, you know.

If possible, we should give instruction one-by-one. But because that is difficult, we give some instruction or lecture like this [laughs]. But you shouldn't stick to lecture. You should think more what [laughs] I mean-- what I really mean. So for the beginner, maybe, instruction is necessary, but for, you know, for advanced students, we don't give so much instruction, and he should try various way.

In this sesshin I think-- or I'm-- I feel very sorry for you that I cannot help you so much. But the way you study true Zen is not [through] some verbal things. You should open yourself, and you should give up everything. And whatever it is, you should try-- anyway, you should try, whether it is-- whether you think it is good or bad. This is the fundamental attitude to study.

You should be like a children, you know, who drew things whether it is good or bad. Sometime you will do things without much reason. If that is difficult, you are not actually ready to practice zazen. It is, you know, we say “absolute surrender.” But you have nothing to surrender. If you have something to surrender, it may be-- it is usual way. But we have nothing to surrender. But you should find out always yourself. You shouldn't lose yourself. That is only things you should try.

Some more time. Do you have some question? Hai.

Student A: What do you mean we don't have anything to lose-- or to surrender?

SR: Oh. Without finding-- without-- I mean, you know, “without surrender” means when you have-- when you find it difficult to surrender, that is surrender. But you should know that is not complete surrender because, you know, you find it difficult. So that-- that much you should [be] aware of, you know-- yourself, what you are doing [laughs].

That-- that you have problem means you are not-- not yet [taps five times with stick-- once for each of previous five words], you know, surrendered enough. [Taps several times.] Something is there, you know. So you should-- you should not attach to it, or you should not [be] bothered by it, or you should not [be] satisfied with it, whatever it is, or you should not try to avoid it because it is there [taps several times]. So you should think-- or you should be aware of that, you know, problem and why you have that problem [taps several times]-- that kind of problem.

You know, if you fail to serve, you know, tea, you should think why, without sticking-- without making some excuse, you know. You failed anyway, you know. So what you should do not to fail again? So there is no rules but to be aware of what you are doing. Do you understand?

Student B: What do you mean, “We should not lose ourselves?”

SR: “Lose yourself” means you should not stick to something-- some rules or some idea. You should be more realistic [laughs]. Do you understand? Lose yourself-- lose-- ”to lose” means to stick to something, [to be] enslaved by something. We exist-- we always-- we are doing something always with-- in relation to something else. But we should not be enslaved by it. There is difference, you know: to be enslaved by it and to have a good relationship. When you are enslaved by it, some-- you're-- what you do is not pure enough-- realistic enough. Something, you know, is in it between you: rules or idea or idea of self, you know. “I am doing something.” That is actually-- ”I am doing something” means, you know, I am enslaved by “me,” ideal “me.” So, you know, we should be more realistic. Do you understand? What I want to say --

[Sentence not finished. Tape turned over.]

SR: Hai.

Student C: Do you think it's important to continue practice even when we're not feeling well? When we're ill?

SR: When you are ill, but-- sometime it may be better to sit even though you are ill. But sometime you cannot, you know. Or sometime [it] may be better not to take formal posture. But you can sit-- not sit, but you can practice our way whatever the situation is. Even though you are lying in bed, you can practice zazen-- not zazen but-- we can practice our way. Hai.

Student D: In the beginning it was suggested-- in the beginning of my practice of zazen it was suggested that I count my breaths. Are there other methods I could use? Should I just experiment around [with] different ways.

SR: Yeah. For an instance, maybe, you know-- usually our breathing is very shallow, you know, and if you try-- if you continue shallow breathing in zazen because, you know-- in everyday activity, you naturally-- sometime you take deep breathing like this [gestures], or, you know, when you do some particular activity you take deep breathing. But in zazen, you know, if you keep-- if you do shallow breathing always, you know, it is-- it create problem because, you know, in your-- in zazen you cannot do like this [speaking in an ironic voice-- sounding very tight or compressed], you know [laughs]. So you are always like this without making deeper breathing. So that is why I say, you know, take deeper breathing. You should try to make your breathing deeper. Hai.

Student E: Roshi, why do people suffer? Why do people suffer?

SR: Suffer? Yeah. The-- it means-- suffering means, you know, spiritual suffering especially or some-- most of the physical suffering too. When you have-- you-- you expect something, you have already suffering, because actually things doesn't go as you expect. So there is suffering already. Even you are ill, you know, for an instance, if you try-- if you do not try too much to, you know, to get well, it is pretty good. It is not so bad. But if you try to get well too much, that is suffering. So you should-- when you are ill, you should accept it. “Oh, I am-- I am not so well [laughs]. Maybe someday I shall be all right.” Then you have not much suffering. So, you know, some idea will create some, some-- when you expect something, we have already suffering. And that expectation is not realistic enough, usually. Hai.

Student F: If I-- if you try-- I guess if you try not to have expectation, that's negative expectation.

SR: Uh-huh.

Student F: But if you get into wanting to expect-- like someone would say, “Would you like to go get an ice cream cone?”

SR: Uh-huh.

Student F: How-- how do you, in your daily life, how do you keep from-- how do you keep a healthy mind from not expecting when some people, without knowing it, want you to get into expecting it with them?

SR: Yeah. That is-- to know, you know-- if you don't know the nature of suffering, you know, you will suffer more. But if you know why you suffer, then you think, “I expect too much,” you know. “There is no ice cream here,” [laughs] so I shouldn't think about ice cream. It is-- that there is no ice cream is-- is already not so good. But if I expect it-- if I want [laughs, laughter] to have it, you make yourself words [laughs, laughter]. So in that way, you know, you will be relieved from a lot of suffering.

Student G: Roshi, you said not to get stuck or caught by some particular idea. But it seems like many ideas have two sides.

SR: Uh-huh.

Student G: And you get stuck on one side-- still that allows the other side to help you. For instance, if you get caught by the idea of the sangha--

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student G: -- become impassioned [?] by sangha or an area [?] of practice--

SR: Yeah.

Student G: -- even though you're caught by it, still it's kind of a skillful way for a sangha to help you, because it keeps you with it.

SR: Oh, yeah.

Student G: But how-- it's a very strange feeling, if you find yourself afraid to stop practice or to change practice--

SR: Yeah.

Student G: -- out of some formal sangha, because [you're] getting caught by both sides of the idea.

SR: Yeah.

Student G: Even though the other side may help you, still, you know, still you're caught.

SR: Yeah. If you know that point, you know-- it is necessary to know-- to understand that much. Without understanding it, you know, if you push one way always-- one side always, that will be awful. So at least we should know both side. Then the rules we have will help us. But because we don't know the other side, rules doesn't help at all-- makes us worse.

So our sangha is small world itself or society itself. So we will know-- we will learn many things. So for-- for us it is necessary to know or to understand why we have rules-- why he say so, you know. Like you steal something [laughs]. Why, you know, you should steal his way. Or-- and you should, you know, understand what he mean-- actually what he means without being caught by rules or words or what he says. And he should know why, you know, we have rules and why you have to say something to others. So actually, there is no rules. But [laughs], the rules is good devices. Hai.

Student H: In zazen, if the cushion before your eyes begins to glow, or you see the bodhisattvas blinking their eyes, or the people on each side of you seem to be mutas [?], what is happening?

SR: What is happening? Maybe that is a good experience. But sometime, you know, it is because of your bad breathing exercise. Something-- if it is healthy, you know, good experience for you, of course that is very good. But sometime, you know, it is just some created idea because of your unhealthy practice. [It is] not always-- what I mean is not always good, you know.

Student H: Well, one feels very peaceful when one sees this[?]--

SR: Mm-hmm

Student H: -- then perhaps it's good.

SR: Yeah.

Student H: But if, for instance, there's a feeling of a strong weight on the head--

SR: Yeah.

Student H: -- then that's unpleasant.

SR: Yeah.

Student H: And one doesn't know what to do.

SR: Yeah. That is, you know, your breathing is not so good. And even though it is good, we shouldn't stick to it, you know. You [?]--

Almost time?

Thank you very much.



Be Kind with Yourself
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Tuesday, February 23, 1971
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 77)

It is more than six months [laughs] since-- Is it working?

Student: Yes.

-- since I came to Tassajara, and I was very much impressed, you know, of your practice at this time. And I am now thinking about, you know-- not thinking about-- but actual feeling I have now, you know, and some, you know, prospect for the future-- future life of Tassajara. I feel something right, and I want to talk, you know, a little bit about my feeling and my hope.

I don't know if you have actual feeling of true practice. I don't know, because, you know, why I say so is because I didn't know [laughs], you know, when I was practicing zazen. Even though I was practicing zazen when I was young, I didn't know exactly what it was. But although I had some feeling of practice, but, you know, it was pretty difficult to talk about the feeling I had. But now, you know, the feeling I had makes some sense right now for me, right now [laughs]. But at that time, it doesn't make much sense, although I had some feeling, and sometime I was very much impressed by our practice at Eiheiji or some other monasteries. Or when I see some great teachers, listening to their teisho, I was very much impressed.

But it was difficult to organize that kind of experience-- to put some order in those experience. Maybe because I wanted to put some order, you know, it was not possible. This way is to have full experience and to have full, you know, feeling in every practice. Then that is, you know, that was our way. But maybe it is true with you.

Why we couldn't satisfy our practice is one reason I didn't. I thought I did my best, but I didn't, you know [laughs], [make] enough effort for our practice. That is why. And another reason was because, you know, I wanted to put order, you know. People say “stepladder [laughs] stepladder Zen,” you know. Actually, we are talking about, you know, enlightenment and practice is one, but still, you know, actually, my practice, at least, was stepladder practice, you know: “I understand this much, and next year,” I thought, “I understand a little bit more, little bit more” [laughs]. That kind of, you know, practice doesn't make much sense. Maybe after you try, you know, stepladder [laughs] practice, you may realize, you know, that that was mistake.

This morning, you know, when [Sotan Ryosen] Tatsugami Roshi was, you know, giving dokusan when we are practicing zazen. I cannot explain you literally what he said, but, you know, our zazen is-- If we don't, you know, feel some actual feeling of practice, some warm, you know, big satisfaction in your practice, that is not practice. Even though you sit, you know, with right posture, trying to have right posture, following your breathing, you know, and following all the instruction which was given to you, but maybe still, you know, it is, you know, empty [laughs] zazen.

Why it is empty zazen is you are just following instruction, you know, following form of, you know, practice. And you are following what the way you should do, even though you are counting, you know, you are not kind enough with yourself. That was the point of Tatsugami Roshi's saying this morning. You should be very kind, you know, with yourself. Not just count your breathing to, you know, to avoid your thinking mind, but to take best care of your breathing, you know. There is big difference, you know. Even though you are following breathing, you know, just to follow your breathing doesn't make sense. If you, you know, if you are very kind with your breathing, then, one after another, you will have, you know, refreshed warm feeling in your zazen.

Perhaps, you know, we are not kind enough with ourselves, with our practice. We understand that our practice is, you know-- Still we understand, you know, our practice by following some instruction. Or if you only follow the instruction given by some teacher, then you will have good zazen, but [laughs] it is not so. Why you have instruction is how you are able to be kind with yourself. That is, you know, purpose of instruction.

If you don't feel Buddha's mercy in instruction, and if you don't feel, you know, Buddha's mercy on your form and breathing, you know, and take care of your practice, then there is no warm feeling in it, and it is not, you know, well-satisfied zazen. You should be fully satisfied with your, you know, practice. Or you should be very kind with yourself. So, you know, when you are very kind with yourself, naturally you will, you know, feel satisfaction, you know.

A mother may take care of her children, you know, even though she has no idea of how to make her baby happy, you know. But still, what she is doing for his mother is to, you know, to make her laugh or to make [laughs] her baby, you know, happy, you know. In that way you take care of your posture and your breathing, you know. There should be some warm feeling in it. And when you have warm feeling in your practice, that is actual good example of great mercy of Buddha. If you practice, you know, this way, whether you are priest or monk or layman, you know, you have actual practice which will help your everyday life, which will be extended to your everyday life. When you do something, you take utmost care, you know, of what you do. Then you feel good, you know.

So we say, you know, you are, you know, rather something on or in what you do. For instance, you know, as Tozan Daishi said-- Tozan Ryokai Daiosho, you know. You recite his name every morning. And Tatsugami Roshi bow, you know. When Tatsugami Roshi bow, all the patriarchs, you recite their name. And Tozan Ryokai Daiosho, he, you know, attained-- It is difficult to say, you know, when he attained enlightenment [laughs]. So he [laughs] attained enlightenment so many times [laughs, laughter]. So we cannot say, you know, when. But when he was, you know, crossing river, he saw himself in the river and he said, “Don't,” you know, “try to figure out what is you. If you try to figure out what is you, what you will understand will be far away from you. You will not have even image of yourself.” Don't try to do so.

But you, actual you, are rather in the river. You may say that is just shadow or that is just, you know, reflection of yourself, not me. You may say so. But if you carefully, you know, if you see it with warm-hearted, you know, feeling, that is you, you know. [Laughs.] You know, you think you are very warm-hearted [laughs], but when you, you know, try to understand how warm I am [laughs], even by temperature, you know [laughs], thermometer, you cannot measure your feeling actual. But when you take-- see yourself in mirror or water with warm feeling, that is actually you. And whatever you do, you are there rather than here.

If this side of the monks are, you know, doing something, and the other side of the monks doing some other things, what [laughs] what Manjushri is doing [laughs, laughter]? When you do something, there is Manjushri, actually. Real you is there, you know. [Laughs.] You don't have to [laughs] seek for where is Manjushri and what is he doing. If you actually, you know, [have] good practice in your everyday life, there is our practice, and there is Manjushri, and there is true you, you know, real you. Don't say Manjushri is here or there [points] or in the middle of the zendo. It is actually, you know, there when you do things with warm heart, by your warm-hearted mind. That is actual practice. That is how you take care of things. That is how you talk with people.

So there is many ways, you know, because some of you are priest, some of you are layman, and some of you are married priest and some [of] you are not married priest. But our practice is same, not different. Those who, you know, who are not monk and priest may, you know, may his own way, you know, to go. Those who are not married or who have already married, you know, they have their own way of extending our practice to everyday life. So although our situation is different, but, you know, practice is just one.

Manjushri is actually one, but even though he is one, but [laughs] he is everywhere, you know, and with everyone, and with things what you do. Whatever practice you are involved in, there is Manjushri. But secret is, you know, not to forget the true mercy of Buddha who takes care of everything. If we lose this point, you know, whatever you do, it doesn't make any sense.

Tatsugami Roshi put emphasis on warm heart, warm zazen. If you practice zazen, you will feel very warm. Even though it is cold, but you should feel some warm feeling in your practice. That is, you know-- The warm feeling we have in our practice is, in other word, you know, enlightenment or Buddha's mercy, Buddha mind. It is not matter of just counting your breathing or, you know, following your breathing. Counting breathing is too too too, you know, tedious [laughs]. So maybe better just to follow [laughs] breathing. This is easier, you know, and less disturbance in our practice [laughs, laughter]. This is just [laughs, laughter]-- Doesn't make any sense.

The point is, you know, one after another, inhaling and exhaling, you have to take care of, you know, the breathing in and out, just as a mother may watch a baby, you know. If a baby smile, mother may smile [laughs]. If a baby cry, mother will worry. “Ohh” [laughs]. That kind of, you know, close relationship-- to be one with your practice is the point. I'm not talking about anything, you know, new. Same old things [laughs, laughter], I am sorry. But I was very impressed, you know, this morning when he was, you know, giving you dokusan. I wish you could understand Japanese [laughs], but you don't. But I think you must have felt some feeling from his, you know, talk.

Various rules we have here, you know, maybe like some, you know, I think maybe like some, you know, machine gun looking glass [sighting scope] [laughs]. Do you know the machine gun looking glass, you know? There is many line on it, you know. It is easier to see something, you know, where the target is, you know [laughs]. And it is for the teacher, of course, you know [laughs, laughter], to-- Of course it is so, but, you know, it is for the student too: to work on it, you know, to work on something more carefully, you know. When you want to work on something more carefully, naturally you will count, you know, and naturally you want to figure out how to work on it, you know. That is just, you know, relying on your machine-gun looking glass. I don't know how you call it, but they have it, you know. If you see the movie, you know [laughter], BOOM! [Laughs, laughter.] It goes in that way. And there you see, you know, the glass in that way.

It is just to help your practice, you know, for teacher, some [?], or students. It is not something actual, you know. Actual relationship between teacher and the student is this, you know: “Hi, how are you?” But this is, you know, too direct and too much, so we have to have looking glass and you [laughs]. Through it, we need something, you know, between us. If we are too close with each other we cannot see, but we can feel. But, you know, if we feel too much too close [claps hands together twice], it doesn't make any sense. We cannot help each other. So we need some distance, you know.

So the rules will give us some distance between teacher and disciple. So because of the distance, student may have some freedom in his activity, and teacher will find out how to help, you know, him. When you play something, you know, if you are too close, you cannot play game. Only when you have some distance between you, you can you play something, you know [laughs]. You have some freedom. If student do not have any freedom, you know, teacher cannot tell actually what he wants to do and what kind of, you know, instruction he need. Only when he see from distance, you know, teacher can help him.

[Sentence finished. Tape turned over.]

-- something to restrict your freedom, rather to give you freedom to behave and to act in your own way. And teacher, without criticizing him, you know, and knowing him-- knowing student what really they want to do or what kind of mistake they have, and teacher may help him more meaningful and helpful. It is, for instance, it is something, you know, to-- when you want to know whether this, you know, water is too much sugar or your coffee is too much sugar [laughs] or too little, you will stir it up, you know, or too strong or too weak. It is necessary to do something on, you know, coffee or on what you do. We should act on it, you know. That is rules. By rules we know what kind of experience you need or what kind of help you need.

The background or-- our rules is based on, you know, also a warm, kind mind. So you are, you-- It is not so important to follow the rules, you know, literal, but within the rules you should, you know, try hard. And sometime, if you don't feel so good, you should [laughs] try to break it [laughs, laughter]. You should do something like that. Oh no [laughs, laughter]. Then we will know, you know, what is wrong with him, you know [laughs, laughter]. Maybe his tongue is not so good, or today he lost his belt. That is also gives us some help, you know. So you are pretty free, you know, within our rules. But if you-- So when you practice our way, you know, our rules are very very, you know, organized and very, you know-- It doesn't, you know, words doesn't come up. Anyway, it is very good for students and for us.

That is actually Tassajara life. And that is why we make our rules [laughs] stricter and stricter, you know. Don't misunderstand us, you know. If your, you know, practice improves, you know, we have to have, you know, more-- we have to know about your practice more, you know, carefully. So we must have very, you know, small, very fine, more lines on it anyway [laughs], so that we can measure exactly [laughs, laughter]. If your practice improve, more exact [laughs], you know, glass [crosshairs] is necessary.

You may think, you know, Tassajara became more and more rigid and, you know, strict. And what be-- what will happen to us after all [laughs, laughter]? Nothing happens [laughs]. You are you-- still you. You have big freedom, you know, but your practice will be improved a lot. And when your practice improve, you have good control over your everyday life. When you have good control of your desires and everyday life, then you will have, you know, big freedom from everything. That is, you know, goal of our practice for priest and for layman.

Ahhh. I don't think I have any more time.

Thank you very much.

And, yeah, you know. I have to go. I have to leave you this afternoon. Take care of your practice. Take good care [laughs] of practice and to be very kind with yourself.



Respect for Things
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
What Is Our Practice?
Sunday, January 4, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 81)

In our zazen practice, we stop our thinking and we must be free from our emotional activity too. We don't say there is no emotional activity, but we should be free from it. We don't say we have no thinking mind, but we should not be-- our activity, our life activity should not be limited by our thinking mind. In short, I think we can say [we trust ourselves completely, without thinking,] 1 without feeling anything, we-- without discriminating good and bad, without saying right or wrong, we should trust our life activity. Because we respect ourselves, because we trust completely, put faith in our life, we do not think, we do not discriminate, and we sit. That is, you know, our practice.

Tentatively, this morning, my version of our practice is like this because I want to extend this kind of understanding to our everyday life. Between -- human relationship, for an instance, should be based on this kind of understanding. If our love between us is not based on this kind of understanding, respect, and complete trust, we will not have completely peaceful life.

And relationship between ourselves and nature should be like this. We should respect everything, especially something which we are related directly. This morning when we were bowing, you know, in zendo, we heard big noise here, you know, because everyone fling chair [makes noise by moving a chair along the floor] like this, you know [laughs]. I thought this isn't-- may not be the way how we should treat chairs [laughs]-- not only because it may cause disturbance to the people who are bowing in the zendo, but also fundamentally this will not be the way to-- how we should treat things.

This has a wheel [castors?] here [moves chair again], you know. Wheels, you know, it has. This is very convenient. So I, you know-- sometime I don't like something too convenient, you know. It gives us some-- some lazy, you know, feeling which does not accord with our spirit of practice. And this kind of laziness, you know-- I think our culture is started this kind of lazy idea. And, you know, eventually we-- because of this, we should eventually fight with each other. And we have our cultural background, East or West, nowadays, is something, you know. This kind of lazy idea. Instead of respecting things, we want to use it for ourselves. And if it is difficult to use it, we have idea of conquering something. I think this is not-- this kind of idea does not accord with our spirit of practice.

We are thinking about rituals and how to decorate our buddha hall-- having some beautiful buddha and offering some beautiful flowers, you know. But Zen Buddhists says with a leaf of-- with a blade of leaf we should create buddha-- joroku-konjin-- golden body of buddha which is sixteen inches-- feet high. With, you know, blade of leaf, we should create big buddha. That is our spirit.

But here, you know, to create sixteen-feet-high buddha with a blade of, you know, leaf need a great effort [laughs]. I don't mean to accumulate many leaves, and [laughs] grain [?] it, and make a clay and big buddha. I don't mean that. But anyway, to see-- until we see the big buddha in a small leaf, we need a great amount of-- I don't say how-- how much effort we need. I don't know. For someone it maybe quite easy, but for someone like me it [laughs]-- it needs a great effort.

It is much easier to just to see a great golden buddha. It is much easier. But when you see a great buddha in a small leaf, that joy may be something special, I think. But we need a great effort.

My teacher, Kishizawa Ian, you know, did not allow us to shut amado-- to draw amado more than one [at a time]. We should, you know, draw it one by one. Do you know? Perhaps you don't know amado, the door outside of shoji screen. There is-- outside of shoji screen there is wooden wood [shutter] to protect shoji from storm or rainstorm. It is, you know-- the end of the building there is a big box for the amado, and one by one we put it in the box, you know. It is sliding doors, so one by one we, you know, put it in that box.

So one priest is there, and another priest is there, and if you pull-- if you push [laughs] five or six doors, you know, like this [probably gesturing]-- another one can be wait there and put it in the box. But he didn't like it. He told us to do it one by one [laughs], so if you-- so one by one-- so one person can do it, you know, and push it-- put it in, and next one. That is how he told us to do it. And it is more-- I think, anyway, it may be in that way we will not make much noise, of course, but the feeling is quite different when you do like this, you know [probably gesturing]. The feeling we receive from it is something, you know-- lack of respect. But when you do it one by one carefully, without making much noise, then we will have there the feeling of practice there.

So there we have feeling of zazen practice. So even you carry, you know, even you arrange your chair-- [drags chair back and forth]-- if you do like this, you know, there is no feeling of practice. If you do it one by one [moves chair in one motion], then you have complete feeling in dining room. I don't feel good to practice zazen in the first floor where we eat-- no, under-- under the dining room.

When we practice zazen we are Buddha himself. And Monjushiri is there. When we recite, maybe, sutra, you know, we are reciting sutra underneath kitchen. I don't feel so good [laughs], but if we have this kind of feeling in each corner of the building, I think that is much better because we-- our practice is beyond the idea of the first floor or the second floor. But that is pretty difficult.

But we should know that, you know, even though we have this kind of beautiful building, there is difficulties in our practice. If it is easy when we have complete building with nice buddha hall and zendo we can practice zazen, that may be mistake, I think. But, at the same time, I know how [laughs] difficult it is to practice with this spirit in this kind of building because building is so good that there is-- on the other hand, there is difficulties.

Because I know, you know-- I know that anyway to practice our way is not [laughs] easy. It is anyway-- it is difficult. And what kind of difficulty we will have is-- I know what kind of difficulty we will have-- which way we may take. As this is, as you know, city zendo-- city zendo where everyone come and practice our way, not only old student but also those who don't know anything about Zen, there is double difficulties, you know, for new student and for old student too. I think old students have double duty, you know, and new students will have difficulties which they do not ever dream of-- dreamed of.

So we must-- old students must make their practice easier, you know. How to make them easier is, without telling them this way or that way, you should do this or you shouldn't do that, you should lead them so that they can practice our way easier. There may be various way, but I think our traditional way-- we say “traditional way”-- is set up with this idea: how to help people to practice right practice.

We say in our practice is “ornament of buddha-land.” Our practice itself is ornament of buddha-land-- bukkokudo shogon. You know, even though they don't know what is Buddhism, if they come to some beautiful, you know, buddha hall then they will-- naturally they will have some feeling. That is, you know, the ornament of buddha-land. But essentially for Zen Buddhist, ornament of buddha hall is the people who are practicing there.

Each one of us is-- should be beautiful flowers, and each one of us should be Buddha himself who lead people in our practice. So whatever we do, there must be some way of doing it. And we should always think-- consider about this point. Of course there is no special rules for, you know, to treat things, to be friendly with others-- there is no special rules. But how we find out the way we should do at that time is to think about what will be the way to help people to practice religious way. If you think-- if you don't forget this point, you will find out how to treat people, how to treat things, how to behave yourself. And that is, at the same time, so-called-it “bodhisattva way.” You know, our practice is to help people. And how to help people is how to practice our way on each moment, and how to live in this world, and how to practice zazen.

To stop thinking, to be free from emotional activity when we sit is not just to have concentration in our mind. It is not just for concentration, but there we have complete reliance for-- to ourselves, to find absolute, you know, refuge in our practice. That is why we do not have emotional activity or thinking activity in our practice. We are just like a baby who is on the lap of mother, you know. That is zazen practice, and that is how we should extend our practice to our everyday life.

I think we have very good spirit here in this zendo and Tassajara. I was rather amazed at the spirit you have. But how you should extend this spirit to our everyday life is-- will be the next, you know, question. And how you do it is to respect things, to respect with each other. When we respect things, we will find the true life in it. When we, you know, respect plants, we find-- there we find the real life of, you know, life power of flower and real beauty of flower. So love is important, but more important element will be respect. And sincerity and big mind. With big mind and with pure sincerity and respect, the love could be real love. Just love separated from those factors will not work.

Let's try hard how to take big buddha [laughs] with, you know, with our effort.

Thank you very much.



Observing the Precepts
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
June 29, 1968
Esalen Institute
Second of two lectures
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 85)

Last night I talked about construction of teaching and our practice in one word, how to, you know, organize, organize, this realistic, you know, teaching or this paradoxical teaching into our actual life. It's the purpose of practice, zazen practice. In zazen practice, as I explained symbolically what does it mean to put this leg here and this leg here. [Demonstrates?] This is supposed to be our activity, this is. More or less this is openness, this is calmness of mind and this is activity. If this is wisdom this is practice. And when we put one leg, left one, on the right side, it means we don't know which is which. [laughs] So here we have, you know, already oneness, symbolically. Here this side is, you know, already activity and wisdom and hand and our posture. Our posture is vertical without tipping right or left back or forward. This is also expression of the perfect understanding of teaching which is beyond duality of the teaching.

I want to explain this kind of idea into our rituals and/or precepts. When we extend this kind of practice into relationship between teacher and disciple naturally we have there precepts, idea of precepts, how to observe our precepts and what is the relationship between teacher and disciple. This is also extended idea of, extended practice of zazen practice. Zazen, this posture, is not only, not originally maybe a kind of training or something but it is not just training it is more the actual way of transmitting Buddha's way to us. Through practice we can actually transmit Buddha's teaching because words is not good enough to actualize its teaching. So, naturally how we transmit it through activity or through contact, through human relationships. Here we have relationship teacher, between teacher and disciple. Disciple, of course, can, will, must choose his teacher. Teacher should accept disciple when he wants job, when he's job should accept him as a disciple. This is sometimes teacher may recommended some other teacher for, you know, disciple. Or else, you know, human relationship will not be perfect. So if a teacher think, think his friend is maybe more perfect teacher for him, he may recommend him as a teacher. But, between teacher there's there should not be any conflict.

So, it is quite natural for some teacher to recommend some other teacher for some disciple. Once he become a disciple he should try hard to devote himself to study his way. At first, and because he maybe he, disciple like him, you know, just because, not just because he want to study Buddhism but for some other reason he may want to study under him, but it doesn't matter, you know, anyway if he devote himself completely to the teacher he will understand, he will be his dis.. teacher's disciple and he can transmit our way. And teachers should be, should know what, how a teacher should be. And teacher, relationship between teacher and disciple is very important and at the same time it is difficult for both teacher and disciple to be teacher or disciple in its true sense. On this point, both teacher and disciple should make their best effort. And this is relationship between teacher and disciple. If, when we have our teacher or our disciple there we have various rituals. Rituals is not just training, it is more than that.

Through rituals we communicate in its true sense and we transmit the teaching in its true sense. That is the meaning of ritual. And we have many precepts. Precepts of the relation is also based on this idea of relationship between teacher and disciple or between disciple and disciple. Rituals, true of all ritual or precepts its to understand our teaching in it's true sense. We put the emphasis on selflessness so teacher and disciple, as long as they have their observation of rituals or precepts it's, is not selfless then that is not true ritual. For instance, when we observe one thing together, we should forget, you know, our own practice, we should practice when we, when we practice something with people it is partly each individuals practice and it is partly it is also, it is also others practice. So, we say, for instance, when we recite sutra, we say, recite sutra with you ear, really?, you know, to listen, you know, to some other chanting. So with my mouth we practice our practice and with my ear we practice, we listen to other's practice. So, this kind, here we have the complete egolessness in it's true sense.

Egolessness does not mean to annihilate or to give up our own practice, you know, individual practice. Egolessness, you know, true egolessness should forget egolessness too. So as long as you understand my practice is egolessness, then it means you stick to, you know, ego too, ego practice too, you know, practice of giving up ego center practice. So, When you practice your own practice with others true egolessness happen. That egolessness is not just, you know, egolessness, it is also maybe ego practice. And at the same time it is practice of egolessness. So this egolessness is beyond ego or egolessness [laughs]. Do you understand?

This is also true in observation of precepts. If you observe precepts you know, that is not true observation of precepts. When you, when you observe your precepts without trying to observe precepts, then, you know, that is true observation of precepts. So, we say, in observation of true precepts there is positive way of observation and negative way of observation. And true (two?) of that and not true (two?) of that, there must be, you know, for our ways. But those four ways, should be, should not be different. To observe precepts should be, not to observe precepts at the same time. Not to observe precepts means not just observing precepts but when you do not try to observe it then there you have both observation of truth and not observation, not observing precepts. So, one is positive and one is negative. Looks like so, you know, but in its true sense, anyway we have to observe it and out inmost nature, you know, help us to observe precepts.

So, when we understand our precepts from our, from some point of inmost nature that is not observation of truth precepts it is, you know, the way as we want, or way as it is and there, there is not precepts, you know. Precepts is not necessary. So, we are not observing any precepts. But, on the other hand, inmost nature is so, but we have on the other hand, the opposite nature, we are double nature, so on the other hand we want to observe precepts or we, we fear we have to observe it, you know, and we fear the necessity of precepts which will help us, you know.

So when we are helped by precepts that is the coming of the, the blossoming of the, blossom of the true nature. And when we understand precepts in a negative sense, spiritually, as a, spiritually sense that is also expression of true nature but that is negative way of expression of our inmost nature. So precepts observation has two sides, one is negative and the other side positive. And we have choice, you know, to observe it and not to observe it. This is some of the different way of analyzing the way of observing precepts.

When we cannot observe, ten or more precepts, then we have to chose some precepts which is possible to observe. And we have this choice, it doesn't mean precepts observation is not some set up, is not ruled, set up by someone, you know, it is the expression of our true nature. And so if something wrong with our expression of the true nature, you know, Buddha will say that is not the way. That is wrong way. Then you have precepts.

So, rules is not path, but the actual event or[?]so this the nature of precepts, so we have chance to choose, you know, our precepts. If you go this way, you know, you will have some precepts and if you take the other way you will have some other precepts. So weather you go this way or that way is up to you. So if you go this way you have some if you go the other way you have some other precepts, because precepts is not something set up is not set up rule by Buddha. So, this is actually the extended practice of our zazen practice.

Not rules, in its true sense. When we say rules, rules is for everyone. But our precepts is not for everyone. It is the precepts is his own way of observation of practice. This is a characteristic of Buddhist precepts.

We have chance to choose, you know, choose precepts. And precepts observation is both negative and positive. Both expression of our true nature. And it has prohibitory meaning too. To prohibit, you know, some conduct is up to your teacher. Teacher, you know, knows whether his way is good or bad, which way is more appropriate to him (you?). Before you are not familiar with our way you should depend upon your teacher, [laughs] that is the best way. So, in this case we have prohibitory precepts. But when you become familiar with your way you have more positive, you have more positive observation of precepts.

If we start to talk about precepts I think we have to explain our, you know, sin or guilty conscious too. This guilty conscious or idea of sin is, I don't know, Christian way of how you think about things, but Buddhist thinks our by nature as we say Buddha Nature, Buddha Nature is birth? a nature to everyone, that is more good nature, not sinful nature. That is our understanding of our nature. And, in its true sense it is not either good or bad, that is complete understanding. But, in its usual sense it is more good nature rather than bad nature.

And, how sinful or guilty conscious appears in our mind because of karma, you know, because of our accumulation of personal or social karma, activity. Accumulation of inappropriate way of observing our way, will result some power, you know, which drive us to wrong way. That it is our idea sin or karma. And karma is not just, you know, what you did, but also it is more personal. One way it is social and on the other hand it is more accumulated. It is not just created by our body, this body, but our ancestors or our before like, you know, created by our former life.

If when we understand sin or karma in that way it is rather difficult to surmount to[?]it just by our confidence or decisions. It is more than that. So in this point I think there is some similarity of Christian sin and our idea of sin. Both for us and Christian this idea of sin is something inevitable and something impossible to get out of it. This is, you know, the idea of karma or sin for us.

And how to get out of it is to best answer is by our practice. But before we go to the best answer, where we have no idea of good or bad, I think or -- not simple. There we have to go pretty [laugh] long way in our practice, which is little by little we should improve ourself. Even though you attain enlightenment in something but you cannot change your karma as long as you live here. So, we have long way to go.

So, this impossibility of solving our problem or sin we have vows as a bodhisattva. Even though our desires are innumerable we vow to cut it, you know, put and end to it. Some thing like this, you know. Even though our way is [not?] attainable, we want to attain it. This is the vow we should have forever. In this way, Buddhist way, will have its own life. If Buddhism is some teaching which is attainable, you know, if you attain it that's all, there's no Buddhism, there's no need to study Buddhism. But fortunately, I didn't attain anything, so we have to strive, to attain it. And here we have double structure, one is, it should be, you know, we should attain it, but on the other hand it is something attainable [not attainable?]. And, how to solve this problem is to practice our way, day by day, moment after moment, to live on each moment is the best answer.

When we satisfy with our attainment moment after moment, with some improvement, we have there composure of life. We have satisfaction. So in our way, there is no idea of complete success, you know, complete enlightenment. And yet we are aiming at, you know, we have some ideal, but we should note that, we, ideal is something which you can't reach, you know, because you cannot reach that ideal. So, ideal is ideal and reality is reality. Now, we should have both reality and ideal, or else we cannot do anything. So ideal and reality, both ideal and reality will help our practice.

And we should not treat ideal or reality something desirable or something not satisfactory. We should, you know, accept ideal as ideal and reality as reality. So even though our practice is not perfect, you know, we should accept it, without forgetting, without rejecting ideal. How to do that is to live on each moment. On each moment we include reality and ideal. So everything is included on each moment. So, there's no other way to be satisfied with what we have on each moment. That is only approach to the ideal.

And we have, we understand Buddha as the ideal, as a perfect, you know, one. At the same time we understand him as one of the human beings, you know, although we have ideal there is no need for us to be bound by ideal. The same thing is true with rituals and precepts. There is no need to be bound by precepts and there is no need to be bound by, to observe, you know, our rituals as some formality.

And in Soto practice, you know, we do not put too much emphasis on enlightenment, you know. When we say enlightenment I. we mean something perfect, perfect stage, you will have, you will attain. But actually [laughs] that is not possible, you know.

End of tape -- and end of Shinshu's transcription [See note at end]

Rest of transcription is from Ed Brown's version which is slightly edited

-- as long as you experience it in term of good stage or bad stage, high or low stage. That is not perfect enlightenment. So we do not you know expect anything perfect, but we do not reject it. We have it, always have it, but ideal is ideal and reality is reality, and in our practice we have to have both side again. This is original nature of Buddhism.

It may be necessary to talk about repentance when we start to talk about precepts. Repentance you know or teacher you know -- let's understand in this way -- teacher will point out you know some mistake of a student. The way he point out the student mistake is very difficult one, you know, how he points out -- uh -- its mistake ..because teacher does not understand that is his mistake you know. If a teacher something what his student did is mistake he is not a true teacher. He should understand on the hand it is the expression of his true nature, so we should respect. If we respect our students true nature we should be careful how to point out. In scripture five points is pointed out.

One is you have to have -- you have to choose the chance(chuckles),..you know. point out to the student. At least it is not so good to point out his mistake in front of many people. If possible he should point out his mistake personally in appropriate time. This is the most ... this is the first one. And second one is -- uh -- he should be -- just a moment, last one is -- he should be ... uh ... truthful to his disciple. He should not point out ..uh ... his mistake ..uh ... just ..uh -- he himself think you know that is his mistake, but he should respect why, he should understand why he did so, so he should be truthful to his disciple. That is the second point.

Uh -- and there ... uh ... there are three more -- I will, ... uh ... umm. say what I'll say will not be in order, but the fifth one is to ... uh ... point out his mistake by compassion. He should be uh ... one with ... compassion means to be friend of disciple, not as a teacher, as a friend he should point out, he should advise, he should give some advice. That is the last one.

And ... uh -- and the fourth one is he should ... uh -- umm -- I forgot -- uh -- you know -- very similar but little bit different (everyone laughs) How different is very you know ... very delicate. Excuse me. chuckles. ... I went maybe wrong direction -- and he should when he talk about his disciples mistake he should use most gentle and most calm mind. With his calmest mind, with low voice he should not shout (audience chuckles, Suzuki chuckles) very delicate, something like truthfulness, but here -- uh -- uh -- the scripture ... uh you know put emphasis on ... um ... calm gentle attitude of talking about someone's mistake. So here you will understand the relationship between teacher and disciple ... Teacher is also his friend and his teacher. And the fourth one (chuckles, laughs) fourth one is very different trouble (laughs) trip. The fourth one is for the sake of you know to help student we should give him advice or point out his mistake. So even though he want to talk about you know his student wants to talk about his mistake or some um even though he make some excuse you know for what he did -- we should not treat it ... you know -- uh -- easily. Teacher should be very careful how to treat it, and if teacher thinks he is not serious enough then you shouldn't listen to him. You should ignore it until he become more serious. That is to give advice for sake of, only for sake of helping student. So we should not be always easy with student. Sometimes we should be very tough with the student or else we cannot help him in its true sense. This is the fourth one, and it is described in this way. To help student we should give some instruction.

So it is not so easy problem you know ... uh ... to be a teacher, to be a student, is, is not at all easy and we cannot rely on anything, even precepts. We should make our utmost effort to help with each other. And in ritual observation ritual too this is also true. We do not observe our precept just to, uh, for sake of precepts, for perfection of rituals. There were famous Zen master maybe about 70 years ago he passed away -- maybe fifty ... maybe -- umm forty years ago , and he had very good disciples and they were so sincere students that when he lived with students in poor monastery in near Odara city near Tokyo. Odara city is not so big city and they were very poor, but disciples wanted to buy bell you know to chant and asked him to buy some bell for the temple and he was very angry when his students asked him the bell. Why. What is the intention of reciting the sutra. It looks like you recite the sutra because people in the town may appreciate our practice. If so, that is not my way. We have to practice for our sake not for others. So if you can only chant sutra that is enough. there is no need to buy bell so some others can hear it. That is not necessary. but by rules. We have some rules in our chanting. Without bells that is not perfect ceremony. But if our intention is not right, even though form is perfect it is not our way. There is rules but actually there is no rules. Rules is like precepts. We have precepts, but no precepts. Precepts should be set up according to the circumstances. That is why we chance to choose our precepts in small monastery there is suitable precepts for the monastery. So you may say our way is very formal, but there is some reason why we should be so formal. It is not just formality and even though we have 250 or 500 precepts it doesn't mean we should observe one by one all of them. This is our way of observation, our way of practice.



Pure Silk, Sharp Iron
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday, September 14, 1969
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 89)

Sunday school-- a Sunday-school girl saw me in sitting, and she said: “I can do it.” And she crossed her legs like this [gesturing], and then said, “And what? [Laughing, laughter.] And what?” She sit like this and said, “And what?” I was very much interested in her question because many of you have same question [laughs, laughter]. You come every day to Zen Center and practice Zen. And you ask me, “And what? [Laughs.] And what?”

I want to explain this point a little bit. I cannot-- I don't think I can explain it fully because it is not something to be-- to ask or to be-- to answer. You should know by yourself. We-- why we sit in some formal position is through your body you should experience something, you know, by doing-- by formal sitting-- something you yourself experience not by mind-- by teaching, but by physical practice.

But to be able to sit in some form and to attain some state of mind is not perfect study. After you have full experience of mind and body, you should be able to express it in some other way, too. That happens quite naturally. You don't stick to some formal position anymore, but you can express same feeling-- same state of mind, or you can convey your mind to others by some way. And even though you do not sit in some certain form-- for an instance, in chair, or in standing position, or in working, or in speaking, you can-- you will have same state of mind-- state of mind [in] which you do not stick to anything. This is what you will study through our practice. That is the-- what you will, you know-- that is the purpose of practice.

Yesterday [visitor] Yasunari Kobata was speaking about something about Japanese literature. Of course, Japanese people studied Chinese culture maybe from 600-- six-- 700 [CE], maybe. For a long long time, Japanese people are studying Chinese culture through Chinese characters. And then, as you know, Kobo Daishi started kana hiragana, and then Japanese people established some [of] their own culture. You know, that is how-- it is-- same thing will happen in our practice. After stopping sending any students to China officially, one hundred years after stopping sending official student from government to China to study Chinese culture, at Fujiwara period, especially in Michinaga's time, we had exquisite Japanese culture.

Anyway, we established Japanese-- beautiful Japanese culture in literature and in calligraphy too. After that period, the literature and calligraphy was not so good as we had at that time. He said some of them were too formal, and some of them is too-- this is something which you may not understand-- too-- anyway [laughter] we could see [laughs]-- we can see his ego in his writing or in his work.

Through practice we, you know, get rid of-- for long long practice we get rid of our ego, you know, by training. Training means-- like, you know-- actually, to train in Chinese or Japanese means neru. Neru is, you know-- to refine silk, you know, we wash it many times so that it can be white enough and soft enough to weave. That is neru. This part is thread, you know. To, you know, to refine the material is neru.

Or if we-- sometime we use iron, you know. We-- sometime the character consist of two parts. One part is just pronunciation. The other part is iron. To, you know, train-- not train-- how do you-- what do you say? Hit iron when it is hot-- while it is hot you hit iron like this. And--

Student: “Forge.”


Student: “Forge.”

Forge? No-- forge is different. Forge is to--

Student: To hit the iron and you mold it or shape it-- shape it.

Forge? Oh. To shape. Not to make shape. Just to make iron strong. Forge is to put something iron-- melted iron in something.

Student: Temper it.

Yeah, temper. Yeah. That's the word.

We should hit it and it should-- we should hit it when it is hot, you know. After [laughs] it is cold, even though you hit, it doesn't work [laughter]. Training is something like this, you know. When you are young, and when you have a lot of ego [laughs], when you have a lot of desires-- evil desires, so-- so to say. Even though, you know, evil desire, if you, you know, rub it, you know, and wash it, you will be quite soft, pure white silk. Even though, you know, you have various desires, and too much strength [laughs, laughter], if you hit, you know, if you temper it enough, you will have strong, you know, sharp iron like Japanese sword. This is, you know, how we training-- train ourselves. He said-- I was very much interested in what he said.

After that, there-- after Fujiwara period, in comparison to Emperor Saga's work or Kobo Daishi's work or Tachibana Hayanari's work-- not so good, you know. Some of them is too-- too much ego in it, you know, and some of them are too formal. You cannot see anything-- any characteristic-- any personality in calligraphy. The personality we see in their work should be well-trained, you know, personality-- not much ego in it. The difference between-- you may-- I think you may understand this point: the difference between personality and ego. Ego is something to-- which covers your good personality. Everyone has his own character, but when that character is-- if you don't train yourself, your character is covered by ego and you cannot see-- you cannot appreciate your personality. So in their work, you know, he said, we cannot completely accept-- appreciate their work as he appreciate the calligraphy in Fujiwara period.

That was, maybe, because of war-- civil war. Or too heavy control over people like Tokugawa government. To control people by force-- by some policy or force, is not the way how to train people. The people themselves, you know, try to train themselves, not by government or force or policy.

Fujiwara period we had a lot of freedom. But at that time, there were various scholars and artist who studied arts and philosophy or religion in various way. They tried various way, and they had pretty good teachers. Anyway, this is why we practice zazen. By ourselves and for ourselves we should practice zazen. To give more pressure on yourself, you know, we say-- as Dogen Zenji said: “We settle ourselves on ourselves.” [Laughs.] Actually, Dogen Zenji was born 1200-- right after the Michinaga's time. And he did not care for any fame or profit. And he devoted himself just to the truth. And he thought it may not be possible for people at his time to understand his way. But some other day, in future, someone may understand his spirit and his way. And he-- that is why he wrote so many books for his descendant.

This kind of thing is not something I should talk about, but something I must show you [laughs], you know, by my everyday life, which is not so good [laughs]. And I am afraid you will study only my, you know, weak point [laughs]. I think Zen Center is developing pretty well, but we are not, you know, not yet completely on the track. We should know why we should practice zazen, and we should be able to acknowledge something really good from something which looks like good [laughs]. There is a big difference something which looks like good and which is very-- really good. Unless you train yourself by hard practice, you have no eyes to see; you have no feeling to appreciate something which is very good. Only when many people have this kind of eye to see or feeling-- to feel something good, will we not [sic] have really good teachers and students. This is a mutual practice, as Buddha said. That Buddha was great is because people were great. When people were not ready, there will be no Buddha [laughs]. That is very true. I don't want every one of you to be a great teacher [laughs]-- I don't. But most of us must have to [two?]-- must have eyes to see which is good and which is not so good. This kind of mind will be acquired by practice.

Another thing he said was-- no, he didn't, you know, say actually in this way, but-- he said perhaps even in Fujiwara period Japanese people did not completely-- were no so good as Chinese people-- Chinese culture in calligraphy. He was talking about-- mostly about calligraphy. As you know, Chinese people, you know, use always brush more than Japanese do. And Chinese people-- in China they have various brush. And we Japanese has-- have no material to make good brush. We have many bamboo [laughs], but we have not much sheep or various animal --

[Tape turned over. Sentence was probably not finished. Original transcript continued with: “from which to make brushes.”]

-- of it.

So our-- Japanese people's training in calligraphy cannot be so good as Chinese people. That will be the reason-- main reason. But before-- before [Japanese] people master Chinese calligraphy completely, they started already some unique-- unique calligraphy to Japanese people-- Japanese-- as a Japanese calligraphy. This point is very interesting point. Before Japanese people completely study Chinese way, Japanese people already started his own way too-- Japanese way too. Maybe that is the destiny of the, you know, some people who was born in some particular place.

But Buddhist has been-- have been very sincere about his point. That is why we have transmission. Especially Chinese master put strong emphasis on transmission. And Japanese people-- Zen students or teachers-- put emphasis on transmission. That is a reason why is to master, you know, teacher's way completely. And-- and then you should be free from it. That is very hard practice. That is why it takes so long time to be a Zen master. It is not knowledge. It is not some power. The point is whether he is trained enough to make himself pure white material and very sharp iron. At that time, without trying to do anything, you will have-- you can express your true personality in its true sense. If we cannot see any personality in his work, or in his personality, means that he is not yet eliminated his habitual way.

You know, my habit [laughs], you know, is absentmindedness [laughter]. So naturally I am very forgetful [laughs]. Something wrong with my, you know, with my brain, maybe, or this is my inborn tendency. I worked on it pretty hard. I started to work on it for-- when I went to my teacher. Thirty-- I was thirteen years [laughing, laughter]. I was very forgetful, even when I was thirteen. It is not because of old age that I am so forgetful. Not because of my memory, you know; that is my tendency. I worked pretty hard on-- on this, but I couldn't do anything about this. But while I am doing this, you know, I became more and more-- I could get rid of my self, you know-- selfish way of doing something. If the purpose of, you know, practice-- training is just to correct our weak point, I think it is almost impossible to renew or to correct your way-- habit or way. It is almost impossible. But it does not-- even so, it is necessary [laughs], you know, to work on it, because if you work on it, your character will be, you know, trained and your ego will be got rid of.

People say I am very patient, but actually I am very impatient character, you know. My inborn character is very impatient. But while I am working on my forgetfulness, now I don't try to [laughing]-- to correct it. I gave up. But I'm-- I don't think I-- my effort was in vain, because I studied many things. I have to be very patient [laughs], you know, to correct my habit. And I must be very patient when people criticize me, you know, about my forgetfulness. “Oh! He is so forgetful. [Laughing.] We cannot rely on him at all. What should we do with him?” And teachers scold me, you know, every day: “This forgetful boy!” [Laughs, hits stick on table several times.]

But I didn't like to leave him, you know. I want-- just I wanted to stay with him. I-- I was very patient whatever-- with whatever he says-- he said. So I'm-- I think I am very patient with some others' criticism about me. You know, whatever they say, I don't mind so much. I am not so angry with them. Actually, if you know how important-- how important it is to train yourself in this way, I think you will understand what is Buddhism. And this is the most important point in our practice.

As Buddha said: Nin-- nin is patience, endurance, virtue of endurance-- is greater than virtue of observing all the precepts we have. The virtue of endurance is greater than the merit of asceticism. That was what Buddha said. I think this point is very important for our practice, especially, I think, for American students.

Thank you very much.

Not Always So
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
August Sesshin Lecture
Thursday, August 7, 1969
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 95)

[In] Buddhist scripture, you know, there is a famous story. Water is same, but-- water is, for human being, is water [laughs], and for celestial being-- for celestial being it is jewel. And for fish it is their home. And for people in hell or hungry ghosts it is blood or maybe fire. If they want to drink it, the water change into fire. So they cannot drink it [laughs].

Same water [laughs, laughter], you know, looks like very different. But you may-- you may say, you know, our understanding of-- of water is right. It-- it should not be “home” or “house” or “jewel” or “blood” or “fire.” It should not be so. Water should be water.

But Dogen Zenji says, you know: “Even though you say 'water is water,' it is not quite right.” [Laughs.] It is not right. I think most people think water should be water, and that is right understanding of water. “It-- it cannot be anything else. Water is something drink [laughs], not to live in it.” Or, “It cannot be fire,” you know. But he says that is not right-- quite right. He doesn't say it is wrong, but he says, “Not quite right.”

I think we practice zazen, you know, and this is right practice, and the attainment we will acquire is something right and perfect. But if you ask Dogen Zenji, he may say, “Not quite.” [Laughs.] This point should be-- this is, maybe, good koan for you to work on two more days or three more-- two and a half days more.

I don't know how to explain-- or how to explain why, you know, the answer “Water is water” is not quite right. At least not much different if you say-- if human beings say “Water is water,” it is-- it's not much difference from to say “Water is fire or blood or jewel.” Not much difference. Don't you think so?

You know, it may be, you know, actually for angels, it may be actually jewel, you know. And he may-- they may like it because it is beautiful. But we like is because it is cool-- nice and cool and not tasty, but, you know, help our thirst. If so, to say “Water is jewel,” there is some reason. And to say “Water is water” is also some reason. Not much difference. Buddhist has been explaining this point in various way. For an instance, teaching of selflessness, or teaching of interdependency-- those teaching, or teaching of emptiness, you know. There are many teaching which will expl- [partial word]-- intellectually explain why the answer “Water is water” is not perfect.

When we say “Water is water,” we understand substantially, you know, here is water. But what we-- we say water is maybe H2O [laughs]. This is not actually-- may not be actually water. So by-- under some condition, you know, H2O became liquid. But under some condition it may be a vapor, you know. So you cannot say “This is-- here is water,” because water is not constant. So it is changing, and because it exist under some condition, it is something which is-- which exist the rules of interdependency or rules of causality. So because of the some reason, some cause, water just tentatively became water, that's all. So we cannot say “Water is water.”

Tentatively, you know, for convenience sake, you can say “Water is water.” But it is not always so. We-- you may understand in this way. But when Dogen Zenji says that is not complete answer, we should actually, you know, appreciate the water in its true sense. Water is something more than just water. It should not be a kind of, you know, drinking, you know-- one of the drinking of many liquors.

When we drink water, water is everything to me, you know. And the whole world is water. Nothing exist besides water for me. When we drink water with this understanding and attitude, that is water, but that is, at the same time, it is more than water. So he says: “'Water is water,' that's right. But not quite.”

This explains what is shikantaza. We say “just sit.” “Just water” is like water. We should just sit. Or to “settle ourselves on ourselves.” It means to become we ourselves, you know. We should not be anything else-- something else. We should be just ourselves. And when we become just ourselves, “we” covers everything, “we” include everything. There is nothing else than-- nothing else but you. That is shikantaza.

So by practice-- so what we acquire is ourselves. To become ourselves, we-- completely ourself-- ourselves, we practice zazen. That is shikantaza. We have everything. We are fully satisfied with ourselves. And there is nothing to gain or nothing to attain. This is maybe very verbal [laughs] interpretation of-- of true practice. Anyway, this kind of gratitude or joyful mind we sh- [partial word]-- must have in our practice.

I understand-- I think I understand why you practice zazen. But I-- I think most of-- and I think most of you are trying to seek for something-- something true, something real because the world is, you know, too much unrealistic, and too many, you know-- too many things is told. And we hear too many things which we cannot accept or believe in. So I think you are s- [partial word]-- you seek for something true and real. And you don't seek for even something beautiful. Something beautiful is not-- to you, I think, is not true or real, you know. It is very-- it looks like beautiful [laughs], but actually you don't think-- you don't think that is really beautiful. Some-- something, you know-- it is just outlook of something. It is just ornament for someone who is not honest enough.

So justice doesn't mean anything, or beauty doesn't mean so much to you. Or some virtue, you know, doesn't mean so much-- virtuous person. Mostly, you know, maybe-- I forgot the word-- hypocrist [hypocrite], you know. I think you feel in that way because so many beautiful things-- so many things was told something like “true.” And so many virtuous person appeared but who didn't convey you real, you know, gratitude. You couldn't trust him.

So what is real to you is big problem, I think, for you. What is real? [Laughs.] What do you-- you know-- you don't know. You don't have any person to trust, or any teaching to believe in to follow. I think that is most people nowadays, you know, have inner idea-- in our mind, and this kind of feeling is universal feeling for many people.

That is why, I think, you came to Zen Center. Real reason is-- that is the reason. But, you know, even though you came here, you know [laughs], I myself, you know, don't believe any special thing, you know [laughter]. I don't-- I don't say “the water is water” or “water is jewel or blood or house or”-- I don't say so, you know. But really, according to Dogen Zenji, you know, this-- water is something more than that. Our-- we stick to righteousness or beauty or virtue, but there is something more than that.

So I can, you know-- I don't feel so bad, you know, even though you seek for something. First of all I will tell you, you know, you are-- it-- it is not appropriate or it is not wise to seek for something like that. I noticed that you like trip, you know, very much [laughs]. Today Alaska, next day, India [laughs, laughter] and Tibet. I don't think that is wise too, you know. You are seeking for something-- blood or jewel or something like that. But because we come to the time when we cannot believe in those things, we should, you know, change our way in seeking the truth. We have to change our way of trip. Instead of going to moon [laughs], you must make some other trip. I don't mean acid trip [laughs, laughter]. We have to change our way of trip. That is, you know, [as or what] Dogen Zenji suggested. The trip he meant is something different.

Yesterday I-- I talked about something about freedom. Real freedom is, you know, to feel freedom wearing robe-- this kind of, you know, troublesome robe. Instead of, you know, [being] bothered by this busy life, we should wear this, you know, civilization without, you know, being bothered by it, without ignoring it, without being caught by it. So without going somewhere, without escaping it, we should-- we should have composure, you know, in this busy life. You shouldn't laugh at people, you know, who are engaged in busy activity. We shouldn't laugh at them. But-- or we shouldn't follow them. As Ummon says: “Following wave and drive wave. Follow the wave and drive wave.” It means that, you know, to follow the wave, and actually you should drive the wave.

Or Dogen Zenji says: “We should be like a boatman.” A boatman is on the boat, you know, but actually a boatman is carried by boat. But actually boatman is handling [laughs] the boat. This is how we live in this world. We know how, now, if I explain in this way, you feel as if you understood how [laughs] you live in this difficult world. But actually, even though you understand how, you know, like boatman, but it does not mean you are able to do it [laughs]. To do it is very difficult. That is actually why you practice zazen.

I, you know-- yesterday I said, “However painful your legs are,” you know, “you shouldn't move.” I, you know-- maybe some people understood in that way. But I-- I talked about the confidence or determination to practice zazen should be like that, but there is no need, you know, for you to do it literally [laughs]. If-- if it is too painful, I think you can change your posture [laughs, laughter]. But your determination should be like that-- and should be also, you know. When I say “should be” is, you know, some-- that is a good example, but it is not always-- it is not necessary be so always.

When I say something, you know, you understand-- like a “fish” or like a, you know, “angel”-- you know, you understand it literally and rigidly. “This is house, our house. This is-- this is WATER,” [thumps table for emphasis at each word-- especially at “WATER”], forgetting all about how human being feels. So even though you live in water like a fish, you know, you should know: “This is, for human being, something to drink. So we should be very careful not to be drunk by human being, like a small fish.” [Laughs.] This kind of consideration is necessary. That means to have freedom from everything.

The secret of Soto Zen is, you know, just two words: “Not always so.” Oh-- oh-- three words [laughs, laughter] in English. In Japanese, two words. “Not always so.” This is secret of the teaching. If you understand thing in that way-- you don't ignore, you know. “It may be so, but it is not always so.” If you understand things in that way, and without being caught by words or rules, without too much pre-conceived idea, we should actually do something, and doing something, you should apply your teaching. Then, the teaching which was told by our ancient people-- ancient masters, will help.

Actually, you know, to take something rigidly is laziness, you know [laughs], because, you know, you-- because you under- [partial word]-- because you want to understand it before you do something difficult [laughs]. So you-- you are caught by some words. But if you are, you know, brave enough to accept your surrounding without saying which is right or wrong, then, you know, a teaching which was told to you will help.

If you are caught by teaching, you will have, you know, double problem: whether you should follow this teaching or whether you should go your own way. This is, you know-- this problem is created by the teachings which was told-- which was told.

So practice-- practice first, and apply teaching. Then, you know, teaching will help you. So to-- to seek for some good teaching like Buddhism [laughs], you know, is, you know, to seek for something good anyway. Whatever it may be is the “sightseeing people” [laughs]. You-- even though you don't take a trip by car, but spiritually you are making sightseeing: “Oh, beautiful teaching! [Laughs, laughter.] This may be true teaching!”

We say yusan-gansui. Yusan means “to-- with playful mind,” you know, “to go to mountain or to go to river or ocean”-- someplace where you can enjoy the view of things. Yusan-gansui. This is the danger of-- danger for Zen practice. Yusan-gansui. Don't, you know-- be careful so that you may not [be] involved in practice of yusan-gansui. It doesn't help at all [laughs]. It doesn't help. If you have right understanding of yourself and right understanding of practice, then yusan-gansui will help. But if you don't know the actual way of practice directly, whatever you study doesn't help at all.

Or we say: “You shouldn't be fooled by things.” Fooled by things: Fooled by something beautiful. Fooled by something it looks like true [laughs]. Don't be involved in play game, you know. This is also [as, what] Dogen Zenji suggested. You should trust Buddha, trust the dharma, and trust the sangha in its true sense because that is the-- those are ultimate goal you will reach anyway. You shouldn't be fooled by things.

So we should practice zazen like someone who is almost-- almost dying. For him nothing, you know, to rely on, nothing to depend on. When you reach this kind of situation, you will not be fooled by anything because you don't want anything, because you are dying, you know. Money [laughs] or wife? No [laughs]. No more wife, no more children. You have-- you cannot be fooled by anything. But you may still want to know who you are, without fooling-- being fooled by anything. That is why we put emphasis on the feeling of evanescence of-- of life, so that you may not be fooled by anything.

But most people, you know, not only always fooled by something, but fooled by himself [laughs]. Very silly, you know. Fooled by himself. When you are fooled by something else, you know, the damage will not be so big. But when you are fooled by yourself [laughs], it's fatal. No more medicine [laughs].

I think we should know whether we are fooled by ourselves or not. Here there are many students, but I think most of you are fooled by yourself [laughs]. Most of you are fooled by yourself: by your ability, by your beauty, you know, or by your ability, by your confidence, and by your outlook. It is all right, you know, to feel some resistance to this kind of way of life, but we should not-- we shouldn't be lost in fight [laughs], in resistance. Do you understand? You know, if you involved in-- deeply involved in resistance or fight, you will lose yourself. As you are human being, not so strong and very emotional-- not much reason you have. It is-- you will be easily lost. Even though you are young, you will be lost. You will lose your strength and you will lose your friend, lose your parents. You will lose everything. And you will feel lonely. And what will you do?

You lose your, you know, brightness of your eyes. You lose your confidence. [Laughs.] You are dead body. And no one will say, “Oh, I am sorry.” No one say so [laughs]. Actually many people, you know, are lost, I think. Look at your face into the mirror-- [see] if you are still alive or not.

If you don't change this kind of-- this sightseeing practice, even though you practice zazen, it doesn't help at all. Do you understand? It doesn't help.

We have three-- two and half day-- oh, no-- two-- two days more, so let's practice hard, while we are still little bit alive.

Thank you very much.



Direct Experience of Reality
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday, June 22, 1969
San Francisco

Dogen Zenji says: “Everything is encourages us to attain enlightenment. Mountains and rivers, earth and sky: everything is encouraging us to attain enlightenment.” So, of course, a purpose of lecture is to encourage-- to encourage you attaining enlightenment. So we call our lecture, you know, teisho. Teisho means “with teaching-- with koan,” to help people to attain enlightenment.

And usual lecture-- sometime to explain the context of teaching-- like to explain philosophy-- to understand our teaching in philosophical way is more a “lecture”-- a kowa. Kowa is more philosophical. And purpose of to listen to kowa is to have intellectual understanding of the teaching. While teisho is to encourage students to attain enlightenment, or to have perfect understanding of-- to have real experience of-- to have real Buddhist experience.

So same thing will be subj- [partial word]-- topic of our everyday life in its ordinal [ordinary?] sense. And same thing will be koan [definitely said “koan” here] to encourage-- to encourage us to attain, to have direct experience of our life. Even though you think you are studying Buddhism, actually, you are, when you are just reading, you know [laughs]-- it is-- it may be-- it may not be true or it will not help to have direct experience of Buddhism but just intellectual understanding of it.

That is why we, when we study Buddhism, it is necessary to have strong conviction and to study it with mind and body, not just, you know, not only just mind but also body. So if you attend lecture, you know, even though you are sleepy, you know, and unable to listen to it, just to attend the lecture [laughs] in spite of the drowsiness will be, you know-- will bring you some experience of enlightenment. And it will be the enlightenment itself.

So intellectual understanding is necessary, but it will not-- it will not complete your study. Through-- by actual practice you can study it in its full meaning. So intellectual study, we say, doesn't make much sense [laughs], but it does not mean to ignore intellectual understanding or-- enlightenment experience is quite different thing from intellectual understanding. And the true, direct experience of things could be intellectualized. And to intellect- [partial word]-- to have to try some intellectual explanation to our direct experience is necessary to help your-- to help your direct experience. So, for us, both intellectual understanding and direct experience of it is necessary.

Sometime even though you think that is-- you think this is enlightenment experience, it may be just, you know, intellectual, extended explanation of-- or extended experience of intellectual things, and not true experience-- direct experience. That is why you must have true teacher who knows the difference between extended experience of common experience in its dualistic sense. Direct experience will come when you are completely involved in your practice, or when you are completely one with your activity, and when you have no idea of self-- not only when you are sitting, but also when you are-- your way-seeking mind is strong enough to forget your selfish desires. Or to forget selfish desire when you do something, study something with your whole mind and body, you will have direct experience.

That you haven't-- that you have some problem means your practice is not good enough. When your practice is good enough, whatever you see, whatever you do-- that is direct experience of the reality. This point should be remembered. And if you know that, it is not so easy to say “this is right” or “this is wrong”; “this is prefect” and “this is not perfect.”

Anyway, [for] most of us, it is not possible to say “good and bad” or “right or wrong.” Usually we, you know, without knowing this point, you say, “this is right, this is wrong.” [Laughs.] That is, you know, ridiculous when we know what is real practice. Because you are just involved in usual judgment of good or bad, right or wrong, you can easily say, “this is right, this is wrong.”

We Buddhists-- you may say, for Buddhists there is nothing wrong. Whatever you do, you know, “Buddha is doing it, not me.” [Laughs.] And so, “Buddha is responsible for it, not me.” But [laughs] that is, you know, also a kind of misunderstanding.

When we say we have buddha-nature, that is, you know, the statement to encourage you to have actual experience of it. To encourage your true practice we say, “we have buddha- [partial term]-- you have buddha-nature.” It works only to attain enlightenment, you know, to encourage your true practice. Purpose of the statement is just to encourage true practice, not to give you some excuse, you know, [for] your lazy practice or your formal-- just formal practice.

People misunderstand the true meaning of, or true purpose of our words, and you abuse and-- or you make excuse for your lazy practice, referring to Buddha's words, understanding the statement in relative sense. This kind of mistake is everywhere. “It works,” you know, “only this way and not that-- the other way.” [Laughs.] Do you understand?

Everyone has buddha-nature. Period. No more. You shouldn't say, “so” or “but” [laughs, laughter]. You should put “period,” you know. “Everyone has buddha-nature.” [Hits stick on table once.] No more statement. If you say something, you know, you will be-- you will get big slap. Whap! [Laughs, laughter.] You have to put “period” here. If you don't, you know, your teacher will put big “period” [laughs, laughter].

So we say, you know, in China, people carry something on their head. Honey or water in big jar. Sometime he may, you know, falled [dropped?], you know, of course, by mistake. But if you do not, you know, look back, like this [laughs]-- it is all right. You should go on and on [laughs], even though there is no more honey or water on your head. If you go on and on, that is, you know, that is not mistake. But if you [say]: “Oh! I lost it! Oh, my!” If you say so, that is mistake. That is not our true practice.

When skillful martial artist use their, you know, sword, he could be able to-- he should be able to cut fly [laughs] on your friend's nose, ffft!-- [laughs] without cutting off your [his], you know, nose. It means that, you know, if you have some fear of cutting his nose, that is not true practice. When you do it, you know [laughs], you should have strong determination to do it! Whei! [sound of sword cutting air]-- without any idea of skillful or not, or dangerous or not. You should just do it when you have to do it.

When you do it with this kind of conviction, that is true practice. So when you do-- do it with this conviction, it is true enlightenment at the same time. Not just because of the skillful-- skill. It is necessary to have strong conviction to do it, conviction beyond “successful or not successful.” Beyond any feeling of fear. You should do it. That is real practice, and that is the way-seeking mind, which is-- which goes beyond the idea of-- dualistic idea of good and bad, right or wrong.

Now-- can you hear me?

So if you should do it, you should just do it. We shouldn't mind whether it is-- whether you will be successful or not. That is our vow, you know, four vow. We-- we must do it. We must help people just because we must, you know. Sentient being are numberless, so we don't know whether we can help completely all of our sentient being. That is out of question. Our practice should go beyond it-- the idea of numerous sentient being or some limited number of sentient being. A part of it or all of it-- it doesn't matter as long. As we are here, we should continue our practice. That is true, you know, practice.

Of course, there is no limit in our understanding of the-- our teaching. The meaning of Buddha's teaching is limitless, but we should do it. Whether you understand it or not, we should try to understand it. This kind of conviction is necessary when you-- once you started to study Buddhism. Then that teaching --

[Sentence not finished. Tape turned over.]

-- has the teaching, valuable teaching which you will not encounter even [in] a thousand kalpas of time. That is the absolute teaching-- incomparable teaching to any teach- [partial word]-- any other teaching. That is the most valuable teaching.

“Incomparable teaching” or “supreme teaching” does not mean this is the best of all or something like that, in its comparative sense. When you have right attitude in your study, the teaching you study is the absolute teaching. So, as Dogen Zenji says, “We do not discuss the meaning of teaching in its comparative sense, but we should practice it in its-- our practice should be right.” With right practice we should study. As a right practice we should study the teaching. We should try to accept teaching with right attitude. Whether teaching is profound or lofty is not the point. But the point is our practice, our attitude to study it. So whatever the teaching is, we do not, you know, we do not discriminate teaching in Zen. Kegon Sutra or Lotus Sutra or Agama Sutra, we don't mind. Whatever the sutra is, the sutra is-- all the sutra is our fundamental teaching. We do not discriminate: “This is tea- [partial word]-- this is scripture for Soto.” Or “This is the koan for Rinzai.” Or “This is scripture for Nichiren Sect.” Or “This is the scripture just for Pure Land School.” And all the sutra is our sutra.

Whatever the teaching is, if we have right attitude towards the-- in our study, that is our teaching. This is characteristic of Zen and characteristic of true Buddhism. We do not set up any system of Buddhism, but we put emphasis on true practice.

In this sense, we say “Zen school.” Zen means “right practice.” It means to extend Buddha's practice, you know, day by day. That is, you know, how to be Buddha's disciple. That is why we started Zen Center here, or Tassajara Mountain Center: to practice our way in its true sense. It may be rather difficult to study our way in the city, but if you understand, you know, this point, you have no excuse for not practicing zazen. All the rules we have-- but all the rules we have here is just to make your practice easier. Not to make our door narrow, but to open up our door for everyone.

Maybe Tassajara door is narrower, you may think, but wider. To have rules is to help your study. Because we know, you know, how difficult it is, so we set up some rules to help your practice. That is the purpose of having rules in Zen Center. If there is no-- no pole, you know, to climb up, it is rather difficult for you to experience what kind of feeling you will have when you jump off from the pole. If a baby has no toy, you know, it is rather difficult to-- to have actual experience of human being, as a human being. We have-- we must experience many things, but if there is nothing, you know, even though whatever things may be-- things in our room could be, you know, devices to experience human experience. But if we have, you know, special toy for babies, it is easier to experience our human-- develop our human experience.

The, you know, rules we have is just a kind of toy to help your experience as a Buddhist. But toy-- it does not mean toy is always necessary, you know. When you are young it is necessary, but after you know how to handle a cup or how to work, it is not necessary for you to have some wheel to, you know, push, or to have some cup or toy made of, you know-- miniature, you know, cup made of plastic. If you want to have taste food better, plastic, you know, cup is not so good, you know [laughs] . It is better to use some ceramic, you know, or cups made of-- mud? How do you say it? Clay. You taste better.

So you don't-- it is not necessary for you to stick to toy always. And you should extend your way of life deeper and wider. But it is-- even so, you know, beautiful, you know, ceramic is not necessary. If you have, you know, if you are ready to appreciate things, and if your practice [is] always encouraged by things you see, things you eat, you know, any special things is not necessary. Whatever it is, things will encourage your true practice.

If you can enjoy your life in its true sense, even though you lose your body, you know, it is all right. If you are not conscious of your mind, it is all right, you know. Even you die, it is all right. If-- when you can-- when you are encouraged by everything, you know, and when you realize everything is always helping you, then there is no difference whether you are dead or alive. It doesn't make, you know, any sense. It is all right, quite all right [laughs]. That is complete renunciation.

And your practice will be vigorous-- enough to continue this kind of practice forever, regardless of life or death. In this way, our enlightenment should be-- could be explained. And how to, you know, have this kind of practice is up to you. I cannot, you know, explain your understanding of Buddhism. You should explain your way of life as a Buddhist in your own way.

So, you know, my talk is just to encourage your practice, but even though you memorize what you say-- what I said, it will not help you in its true sense. Maybe it will give you some suggestion.

Tomorrow I-- I will go to Tassajara and stay there maybe more than ten days or two weeks. So I must say sayonara, you know [laughs, laughter], for ten days or more.

Thank you very much.



True Concentration
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Right Concentration
Sunday, January 10, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 103)

-- were given about our practice referring to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva? What is, you know, who is Avalokitesvara? I don't mean a man or a woman [laughs]. He is, by the way-- he's supposed to be a man who take sometime figure of a woman, you know. In disguise of a woman he help people. That is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Sometime, you know, he has one thousand hands-- one thousand hands-- to help others. But, you know, if he is concentrated on one hand only, you know [laughs], 999 hands will be no use [laughs].

Our concentration does not mean to be concentrated on one thing, you know. Without, you know, trying to concentrate our mind, you know, without trying to concentrate, concentrated on something, we should be ready to be concentrated on something, you know. For an instance, if I am watching someone, you know, like this [laughs], my eyes is concentrated on one person like this. You know, I cannot see, you know, even it is necessary, it is difficult to change my concentration to others. We say “to do things one by one,” but what it means is, you know, without [laughs]-- ah, it may be difficult-- maybe not to try to explain it so well [laughs]. Nature [of] it is difficult to explain. But look at my eyes, you know. This is eyes, you know, I am watching someone [laughs]. And this is my eyes, you know, when I practice zazen. I'm [not] watching anybody [laughs], but if someone move, I can catch him [laughs, laughter].

There is your-- so-- mmm-- from old time, the main point of practice is to have clear, calm mind. In short, that is our practice, and that is our, maybe, faith, you know, belief. By “belief” we don't mean to believe in something. Our practice should not be something like fanatic, you know, practice. Or infatuation is not our practice, you know. Just, you know, to always to have calm, serene mind, whatever you do, you know. Even you eat something good, your mind should be very calm to be ready to appreciate, you know, the labor of making food and the effort of making, you know, dishes, and chopsticks, and, you know, bowls, and everything. And we, you know, we should appreciate each vegetables, you know-- one by one-- its own flavor. That is, you know, how we make food, you know, and how you eat food. So we don't put so much seasoning or flavor to food. We rather appreciate each, you know, food. That is, we say, “calorie.” Calorie is not flavor. Flavor is, you know, something you put, you know, is flavor.

So, you know, to know someone is to sense someone's flavor. Flavor [laughs] is not smell [laughs] but something you feel from someone. And each one has some, you know, particular flavor-- or not “flavor” [laughs]-- personality from which many, you know, feelings comes out, and each one has each one's own flavor. Then we have, you know, good relationship with each other. We are really friendly with each other. To be friendly does not mean to occupy someone or to stick to someone, you know, or try not to lose your friend, but to have full appreciation of his or her own personality or flavor, you know.

So to appreciate things and people, we should be-- our minds should be calm and pure or clear. So to have this kind of mind, we practice zazen. So when we practice zazen, we just-- that is what do we mean by “just sit,” “just sit,” without not much gaining idea-- to be you yourself-- or to “settle oneself on oneself.” That is, you know, our practice.

“Freedom,” you say, but maybe freedom you mean and freedom we Zen Buddhists mean may not be exactly the same. Maybe same, but not exactly. For an instance, you know, to attain freedom [laughs] we cross our legs [laughs] and we keep our posture straight, and we keep our eyes in some certain way and we open our ears, you know, to everything, even without trying to open. Let our eyes open to everything. But there is some way to have this readiness, to have this openness, because or else by nature we are liable to be, you know, go extreme and to stick to something, losing, you know, our calmness of mind or mirror-like mind. So there must be some way, you know, to obtain this kind of calmness of your mind, of clearness of your mind. That is zazen practice.

So it does not mean-- it looks like, you know, to force something physically, you know, some form physically on you and to create, you know, some special state of mind. Is maybe-- you may think that is Zen practice, and you may think this kind of state of mind is, you know, Zen practice, you know: To have mirror-like mind is Zen practice. It is so, but [laughs]-- but [laughs]-- if you practice zazen, you know, to attain that kind of, you know, mirror-like mind, that is not already the practice we mean. There is slight difference. If you practice zazen to obtain, you know, a kind of state of mind, it is already art of Zen. Art of Zen.

The difference between art of Zen and true Zen [laughs]-- do you, do you-- oh. What is the difference, do you think? Art of Zen and Zen. Actually, you have it, you know, when you do not try. Because you try to do something, you lose it. When you try to do something, you know, it means that you are concentrated on one hand of one thousand hand, you know [laughs]. You lose 999 hands. So that is why we say just to sit, you know. It does not mean, you know, to stop your mind altogether, you know, or to be concentrated on your breathing completely. It doesn't mean that. But it is a kind of, you know, help, you know, to have better practice. When you count your breathing, you don't think so much. You don't have so much gaining idea. Counting breathing doesn't mean much to you. So that is why, maybe, someone get bored about [laughs] counting breathing. “It doesn't mean anything.” But when you think so, you know, your way of understanding of real practice is lost. Why we, you know, practice-- why we try to be concentrated or let our mind go with breathing is not to be, you know, involved in some complicated practice in which you will lose yourself. So to have calmness of your mind, or pure mind, or open mind, we apply this kind of practice.

Art of Zen or, you know, is-- I don't know so much about art, but art of Zen is, you know, skill of Zen or skill of practice. You know, to be like Zen master [laughs], you know, skillful Zen master who have big strength and who have good practice. It may be your, you know-- some of you may practice zazen to be like someone like, you know, [Sotan Ryosen] Tatsugami Roshi, for an instance [laughs]. “Oh, I want to be like him. I must try hard,” you know [laughs]. You are learning art of Zen [laughs, laughter]. You are not practicing true zazen [laughs]. That is how you [laughs] study art, you know: How to draw straight line [laughs] or how to, you know, to control your mind, that is art of Zen. But Zen is for everyone, you know, even though he cannot draw a straight line. If he can [in] any way draw a line, that is our Zen. And if that is very natural to a boy, even though it is not straight, it is beautiful [laughs]. Maybe that is, you know, art-- or more than art so, you know, people like some work done by children rather than done by, you know, famous artist. There is some difference. I don't know how to explain it.

So whether you like [laughs] cross-legged position or not, or whether you can do it or not, if you know what is true zazen, you can do it. Somehow you will figure out if you watch Tatsugami Roshi's practice carefully, with openness of your mind, then you learn something from it, or when your mind is based on gaining idea [laughs], what you learn is art of Zen, not true Zen.

So, you know, the most important thing in our practice is, you know, just, you know, follow our schedule and to do things with people [laughs]. Again, you know, this is, you may say, “group practice” [laughs]. It is not so [laughs]. Group practice is quite different thing. It is a kind of art. You know, in wartime, when we are practicing zazen, some young people who were very much encouraged by, you know, militaristic, you know, mood of Japan told me that in the [Soto-shu-kyokai-] Shushogi, you know, it says, “To understand what is, you know, birth and death is main point of our practice.” [Laughs.] “But even though we don't know anything about Shushogi,” you know, “I can die easily in [at the] front” [laughs]. That is group practice, I think, you know. Encouraged by trumpet and guns and war cry (WRAAA) [laughs, laughter], he is normal [?]. It is quite easy to die. That kind of practice is not our practice. We practice with people, you know, first of all. But goal of practice is to practice with mountain, and with river, and with trees, and with stones-- with everything in the world, in the universe-- and to find ourselves in this big cosmos. And in this big world we should intuitively know which way to go.

When, you know, your surrounding show some sign, you know, to go this way or that way, you should intuitively go this way or that way. Show a sign, you know. When they show some sign, we should intuitively follow it. I am very much interested in the word “show a sign.” “Show,” you know. “Sign” is something which is shown, you know, by something else to you, and even though you have no idea of following sign, you know, if some sign is shown, you will, you know, go that direction. This is the real practice Dogen Zenji meant. If your practice does not go with everything, with-- he doesn't say with your friend-- with everything, it is not real practice.

How you can practice with everything is to have, you know, calmness of your mind. So how you, you know-- so to come to Zen Center and practice our way is good, but you should not make a big mistake. Maybe you [laughs] already made a mistake [laughs, laughter], but you should know that you are making mistake. But [you say] “I cannot help coming here” [laughs], you know. Then your practice have quite different quality. Meaning is different. “You,” in that case, means you which is involved in wrong idea, you know. That is you. So I think you have to accept it: “I am involved in wrong practice,” you know. Then your practice include your wrong practice and “you,” in that case, means you which includes some wrong practice.

But, you know, we should accept it, because it is there already. You cannot do anything about it. There is no need to try to get rid of it. But if you, you know, open your eyes, true eyes, and accept it, there there is real practice [laughs]. Do you understand? It is not matter of right or wrong, but how to accept frankly, with openness of your mind, what you are doing. That is most important point. Then you will accept “you” thinking something else in your practice, you know [laughs]. “Ah, something came over already.” And you should accept that “you” too. You should not try to, you know, to be free from the images you have: “Oh! Here they come” [laughs, laughter]. That is, you know [laughs], this kind of eyes [laughs]. You are not watching any special thing. Someone is moving over there. “Oh, he is moving [laughs].” But if he stop moving [laughs], your eyes is, you know, same. In that way, if your practice include everything, that is, you know, one after another, if your real practice, if you do not lose some kind of, you may say, “state of mind,” that is, you know, your practice.

So this is, you know-- this kind of practice is a practice which is unknown to most of the people and which is very important for us-- which is transmitted from Buddha to Bodhidharma and Dogen Zenji. So our practice is not group practice or, you know-- by means of, you know, people we practice, so it looks like group practice but it is not so, actually. Maybe group practice with everything in the world. Then [laughs] that is not group practice any more [laughs]. You know, group exist in big society: this group, or that group. That is group practice. Our practice is not, you know, Soto practice, you know. Rinzai, Soto, or Obaku, you know: That is group practice, but our practice is to practice with everything. If there is someone else, you know, we should include that person too. We should practice with that person. So our measure of practice is limitless-- we should have -- [Sentence not finished. Tape turned over.] When we have this base, we have real freedom.

Each one of our being means [needs?] something. But when you measure or evaluate your value of being, you know, good or bad, or right or wrong, or black or white [laughs], that is, you know, comparative value. You will not have absolute value in your being. When you evaluate yourself by measure of limitless measure, each one of us is really will be settled on real self, you know. To be just you is enough, you know. Because you have short, you know, limited measure, you know, or a dualistic measure, you lose your value.

Hmm. Black one should be just black, white [laughs] one should be just white. That is enough, you know. What do you need more than that? Why do you need more than that? Because of your, you know, small measurement. We must know this point, and we should know what is real practice for human being and for everything. And for everything.

Thank you very much.



Wherever I Go, I Meet Myself
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Saturday, January 23, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 107)

Most of us, maybe, want to know what is self. This is a big problem. Why you have this problem, you know, and is-- I want to understand [laughs] why you have this problem. I'm trying to understand. And even though, it seems to me, even though you try to understand who are you, it is, you know, it is endless trip, you know, and you will never see your self.

You say to sit without thinking too much is difficult. Just to sit is difficult. But more difficult thing will be to try to think about your self [laughs]. This is much more difficult. To do is maybe easy, you know, but to have some conclusion, you know, to it is almost impossible, and you will continue it until you become crazy [laughs, laughter]. That is, you know, when you don't know what to do with your self. Or when you don't know, when you find out it is impossible to know who you are, you know, you become crazy.

Moreover, your culture is based on the idea of self and science and Christianity [laughs]. So those element, you know, idea of Christianity or sinful idea of Christianity or, you know, idea of science, scientific-oriented mind, makes your confusion greater. You try to always, when you sit, you know, perhaps most of you sit to improve your zazen. That idea to improve, you know, is a very Christian-like, you know, idea and, at the same time, a scientific idea: to improve. You acknowledge some improvement of our culture or civilization. We understand our civilization, you know, improved a lot. But, you know, when we say “scientific” in sense of science, you know, or “improve” means before you went to Japan by ship, now you go to airplane or jumbo [laughs] plane. That is improvement.

So when you say “some improvement,” it include idea of value. And that is at the same time, you know, base of our framework of our society-- economy. Now I understand you are rejecting that kind of, you know, idea of civilization. But you do not, you know, reject the idea of improvement. You still try to improve something.

And I think in Christianity, you know, all the improvement or civilization should be, you know, end. When the Last (what do you call it?) Last [Judgment], you know-- when you are judged, you know, when what you have done is judged by God [laughs], you should go to hell [laughs, laughter]. You have done-- you have made a atomic bomb, so you should go to [laughs] hell. You invented, you know, jumbo jet plane, so you should go [laughs, laughter] to hell. And when you go to-- that is the end of everything. So our society has some end, you know. When we have end, you can say “improvement.” You are improving our civilization just to go to hell [laughs]. That is, you know, improvement according for the Christian.

My friend [George] Hagiwara has very Christian-oriented mind. He criticize always, you know, people, scientists, who are trying to go to the moon, you know. Someday all of us will be, you know, must go to hell [laughs] by trying that kind of thing [laughs, laughter], he always says to me. At first I couldn't understand what he meant, actually. Now, you know, I have some clear understanding, you know, how he feels. He believe in, you know, Last Judgment of God.

What I am talking about is the idea of improvement, which we Buddhists do not, you know, have so much. Nowadays, you know, in Japan or in China, all the people are trying to improve their way of life. We are deeply involved in the idea of improvement of something-- to improve something. This kind of element, you know, of idea of to practice-- when you practice zazen, you maybe try to improve yourself, and you want to know yourself more, you know, psychological way. That is why you are involved in-- interested in psychology so much.

But psychology will tell you about your psychological things, but psychology will not tell you exactly who you are [laughs]. It is one of the many, you know, interpretation of your mind. One of the many. So if you go to, you know, psychologist or psychiatrist, endlessly you will have new information about [laughs] you [laughs]. Endless. So as long as you are going, maybe you feel, you know, some release. You feel as if, you know, all the psychological burden you have, you know, you will be released [from] the burden you carry by a psychologist, by a psychiatrist. But, you know, the way we understand [laughs] ourselves is quite different from that kind of understanding.

This morning I want to introduce Tozan's, you know, famous saying. Tozan, the founder of Chinese Soto school, he said, “Don't try to see yourself,” maybe, “objectively.” Maybe we can say scientific way. He didn't say so, but, “Don't try to see something which was given to you,” you know. In other words, don't try to see, you know, some information about you which is given to you by some objective truth. That is information.

He says real you is quite different from the information you will have. Real you is not that kind of thing. “I go by myself my own way,” he says [laughs]. “I go by myself in my own way. Wherever I see, I meet with myself. Wherever I go, I meet myself.” When you [laughs]-- so, you know, he reject that kind of effort to try to be, try to cling to the information about yourself. But you should, he says, but you should go, you know, alone with your legs. Or you should, you know, in other word, you should practice our way, you know, with people. Whatever people may say [laughs], you should go your way, and you should practice with people.

This is, you know, another point. “With people” is another point. It means to meet yourself is to practice with people. To meet yourself. When you-- you will see yourself-- someone's practice, you know, if you see someone practicing hard, you will see yourself. You say, you know, if you are impressed by someone's practice, “Oh, she is doing very well,” you know. That “she” is not she or you. Something more than that. “Oh, she is doing very well,” you know [laughs]. What is “she”? After thinking, you know, for a while, “Oh, she is there [laughs], I am here.” But when you, you know, struck, when you are impressed by her practice, you know, that “her” is not you or she. When you see it, when you're struck by it, that is actually real you [laughs]. “You” is, you know-- tentatively I say “you,” but it is-- that “you” is pure experience of our practice. As long as you are trying to, you know, improve yourself [laughs], you know, having some core of idea of self, you know, trying to improve yourself, that is wrong practice. That is not practice we mean.

When you, you know, empty your mind, you know, when you give up everything and just practice zazen with your open mind, whatever you see, that is to meet yourself. There there is “you,” you know, you which is beyond she or he or me. So as long as you are cling to the idea of self and trying to improve your practice, trying to, you know, to find out something, or to see, you know, improved self, better self, or to find better practice, then your practice, you know, is in [has gone] astray. You have no time to, you know, to reach the goal, so eventually you will be tired out, or and you will say, “Zen is no good. [Laughs.] I practiced zazen for ten years, but I didn't [laughs] gain anything!” [Laughs, laughter.] But if you just come here and sit with sincere student and find yourself among them, and, you know, then that is, if you continue in that way, our practice. That is our practice. And this kind of experience could be everywhere. As Tozan said, “Wherever I go, I meet with myself.” If he see water, that is he himself. Even though he cannot see himself in the water, you know, to see water is enough for him.

I think it's a, it-- I don't want to, you know, criticize someone's religion, Christianity or anything, but if you do not understand the nature of the religion, you know, you believe in, you will be lost. Even though you are a very good Christian, you say you are a very good Christian, or-- even though people say you are good Christian, but, you know, you will be lost if you don't understand how to be a good Christian. Teaching is good, but when you don't understand the real teaching, you will be lost. So actually for a Christian, you know, if you go to church and do this or [laughs] you don't do this [probably making a gesture] [laughs, laughter]. I don't know this way or that way or [laughter]-- that is enough [laughs], you know. There is, you know, complete liberation. You are saved at that time. Because you, you know, pray for [to] God for something, you know [laughs], you cannot save yourself. Actually, you know, when you are already saved, you know, you say, you know, you pray for His help [laughs]. That is why, you know, you cannot be a good Christian.

So how you understand yourself is not to understand yourself objectively or try to cling to the information, you know, from various source. If people say you are crazy-- ”Okay, I am crazy.” [Laughs.] If people say you are bad student, “Okay, I am-- maybe so I am bad student, but I am trying, you know, pretty hard.” That is enough, you know. In this way, when you, you know, continue or when you sit in that way, accepting, you know, yourself and accepting everything with yourself, when you are involved in various, you know, silly problem, you should sit with the problem you have. You know, that is you, you know, at that time. When you try to get out of it, out of them, you know, that is already wrong practice. If you cling to, you know, some idea created by you, like self or some objective world, you will be lost in objective world which you created by your mind. So you are creating one after another [laughs], so there is no end. There-- maybe there many kinds of world, and, you know, you are creating. To create it may be very interesting-- to see many things is very interesting, but you should not be lost in it.

Another side of, you know, our practice is we, you know, we try to think and we try to act. We do not try to, you know, to be like a stone, you know. We-- for us, our everyday life is our practice. Instead of being enslaved by thinking mind or imagination or emotional activity, we just, you know, think, in its true sense. Thinking mind, thinking activity, comes out, you know, from true self, which include everything.

Before I-- we think in our practice, trees are [thinking] and birds [are thinking] and everything is thinking, you know. And when they think, they grow-- they-- they sing, you know. That is their thinking. There is no need for us to think, you know [laughs], more than that. You know, if you see things as it is, that is thinking. Already we are thinking. This kind of pure thinking is the thinking mind we have in our practice, so we have always freedom from ourselves too. And we can see things as it is. At the same time, we can think about things.

For us there is no truth or no falsehood because we have no particular, you know, standard for our thinking, standard to which we cling to. [The preceding sentence was finished by Suzuki, but the rest of the lecture was not recorded on tape. A handwritten note was enclosed with the original tape containing a summary of the missing conclusion: Before you ask for dokusan with me, start your own practice. Stand on your own feet. Then I can help you. If you want to find out about yourself, maybe better to go to someone else. They will tell you many interesting things.]



The Boss of Everything
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Saturday, January 16, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 111)

Something valuable [laughs]-- not jewel or not candy, but something which is very valuable. You recite right now, you know, a verse on unsurpassable, you know, teaching. What is actually-- how to, you know, receive this kind of treasure is, you know, to have well-oriented mind. I have been talking about self for maybe three lectures-- what is self and what is your surrounding, what kind of thing you see, how you accept things, and purpose of zazen.

Purpose of zazen, why we practice zazen is to be a boss of everything. That is why you practice zazen. If you practice zazen, you will be a boss of your surrounding-- wherever you are, you are boss [laughs]. But if I say so, it will create some misunderstanding: you are boss, you know, you are boss of everyone or everything. And you is, you know, also, in your mind, you are boss of everything, you know. When you understand in that way, you know, you are enslaved by idea of you and, you know, your friend, or everyone-- all the people surrounding you. You are, you know, you know, you exist in your mind as a kind of idea, and also people exist in your mind as a member of [laughs] delusion [laughs]. I say “delusion” because when those idea is not well-supported by your practice, then that is delusion, you know. When you are enslaved by the idea of “you or others,” then that is delusion. When real, you know, power of practice is supporting those idea, at that time, you know, I say you are “you” who is practicing our way is boss of everything, boss of you yourself, you know.

That is why we say, or Buddha say, you have to control yourself, you know, control yourself. When, you know, you have something you have to control, that is, you know, deluded you, not real you. “You” are in your mind as an idea, you know [laughs], and you are deluded by the idea of you, and [laughs] you are enslaved by the idea of people, so, you know, you have difficulty or confusion between idea of you and idea of your friend. That is confused [laughs] mind. But when you have, you know, you support or you are supporting in its true sense-- not encouraging [laughs]. I don't mean to encourage, but you are. Those idea are well controlled by your power of practice, then, you know, that “you,” you know, is boss of everything. So even confused mind will be supported by your practice.

That is how, you know, how things, you know, how sound of motor car or various sound, you know, come to your ear when you are practicing zazen. Even though you practice zazen, you may hear various voice. Sometime you may have various idea, you know, in your mind, but if your practice is good, you know, it is, you know-- it is supported-- not “supported”-- your practice obtains, you know, those things from outside. It is not actually from outside, but, you know, are things you have at that moment. At that time, you know, things you see or you hear is a part of you, you know. You include, actually-- your practice owns or include the things you hear, images you have, but your practice is strong enough to obtain it, to have it, to own it, without being enslaved by it, as if you have your own hands, your own eyes.

You know, it doesn't create any trouble, even though it looks like, you know, you know, creating problem, you know. Sometime, you know, this hand and this hand will fight [laughs]-- not fight-- it looks like fighting, you know, when you [laughs] holding, you know, something like this. [Probably made a gesture with hands.] It looks like this hand is fighting with the other hand [laughs]. But, you know, it is not problem for you. They are trying to do something, that's all [laughs].

When you are really boss of everything, even though it looks like confusion, you know, it is not confusion. Even though it looks like confusion, you know, it is not confusion. Even though you look like doing something wrong, you know, some bad thing [laughs], people may say, “Oh, he is doing something bad.” [Laughs.] But, you know, that is, you know, their understanding. For you it is not bad. You are not doing anything bad. It is, you know-- because “you” owns everything, and you manage things as if you manage your hands. So it is not bad. So, you know, “don't do something bad” means let yourself be, you know, with everything and let everything as they want to. That is the power of practice, and that is quite different from doing something wrong. And by doing something wrong, by doing something wrong, you may suffer, you know, but for him there is no suffering. He is just, you know, managing things in some way, as his own. So it is a part of practice you do in your everyday life.

The precepts also should be observed in this way, you know. You observe precepts not because you have to follow Buddha's words, but because to extend or to have true practice in our everyday life or to settle yourself on yourself. That self, you know, include everything.

You know, sometime we say, you know, you have to extend our practice on everyday life is to be completely involved in your activity, or to be one with, you know, what you have or what you do. That is how you extend our practice, you know, in your everyday life. But that is not, you know, so clear. Then you may ask, you know, to be caught by baseball mania [laughs] is, maybe, our practice [laughs]. To be infatuated in some, you know, gambling [laughs] or something, may be practice [laughs], you may say, but that is not our practice. Do you know why? Why that is not practice? Because you are enslaved by it [laughs], you know. You are not boss of, you know, gambling. Gambling is boss of you [laughs]. Your practice is not working. You are enslaved by something which you create in your mind. You know, the machine is just going [laughs] without thinking or without doing anything [laughs], but your mind works on it, you know, and you create some delusion on the machine. And, you know, your gaining idea or your playful speculative idea, you know, makes machines, you know, gambling, that's all. So you are enslaved by yourself and by machine too. You are not practicing zazen at all. You are not boss of, you do not own the machine, you do not own your legs, you know, so, you know, as soon as you get up, your legs [laughs] wants to go to Reno. [Laughs, laughter.] You don't own your legs even [laughs]. There is no practice, you know, which support your legs. That is the difference, you know.

So to be one with something, you know, does not mean to be caught by something. Why you caught by something is you become a member of something, you know, in your idea. You already create some, you know, something interesting in your mind. And as a member of, you know, the group, you, you know, become very insuggestic [suggestive], you know. You feel some zeal to be a member of, you know [laughs], to be a member of the group you have in your mind. And you are enslaved by it, and you have nothing but something which you create in your mind. There is no practice-- nothing which is supporting you. You are not boss, and you even lose yourself, you know. That is the difference.

So we say you have to practice zazen without any gaining idea, gaining of idea, without any purpose [laughs] even, we have to practice zazen. Let things work as they go, supporting everything, you know, as your own. So you have always-- real you have-- real practice has orientation. It has orientation or direction. But it has no purpose or no gaining idea. We do not practice zazen because of something which is in your mind, but because, you know, your real “you,” you know, [is] well-oriented, and, you know, and always extending itself. It has some direction, you know, direction, which works always outside and at the same time inside too. It has some, you know, always some feeling or direction. That direction does not work, you know, will not be realized, will not happen to be active, but when something come, at the same time it includes everything. So whatever it is, you know, it will work on it. Whether it is good or bad, it doesn't matter. Something bad come, “Okay, you are [laughs], you know, a part of me.” Something good come, you know, you will say, “Oh, okay.”

We do not have any special goal or special object or purpose of practice. It doesn't matter whatever it is. That is why we call it “Big Mind,” because it include, you know, include everything. So we call it “Big Mind.” Because it is great we do not say “Big Mind.” Whatever it is, it include within us, and we own it, so we call it “Big Mind,” “purposeless purpose,” or we say “tongueless tongue” [laughs] “tongueless tongue.” Even though I talk [about] something, there is no purpose [laughs], you know. I am talking to myself [laughs], you know, because you are a part of me, so I have no purpose of [laughs, laughter]. I have no purpose in my talk. Something is going, you know, that's all. How it goes is, you know, because of the real joy to share the joy of, you know, practice.

So maybe you practice our practice to share our practice with everything. So when one is practice zazen, everything [is] practicing zazen. When you practice zazen, everything you have, you know, is practicing zazen. Buddha practice zazen, Bodhidharma practice zazen, and everything practice zazen with you. And you share the practice with everything. So, you know-- it happens in that way. Our real life happens in that way. Our real bodhisattva way happens in that way. That is how you help others, you know. Help others. “To help others,” means to share the practice with people. With children, you know, with people on the street. We have to share the practice, even though they do not practice zazen, you know, like this, you know [laughs], we can share the practice because if I see people, you know, people is already here. And I practice zazen with him, with the sound of the car, with everything.

So to have well-oriented mind is, you know-- if someone ask me why you practice zazen, I may answer to have well-oriented mind I practice zazen. Without any purpose we practice zazen. Without any special purpose. So point is not to lose this kind of, you know, well-oriented mind. In Japan, you know, in Japan, children has, you know, Bodhidharma toy, you know. Do you know the paper toy, made of paper? And it, you know-- even though you toss it, it will stand up [laughs]. Well-oriented [laughs, laughter] practice. People enjoy the toy, you know, tossing around, because it stand up, wherever it goes, it will stand up like this. It doesn't matter where it goes. That is, you know, good example of our practice.

So our practice should be with everything, you know, with everything. Without being enslaved by it, we should be able to share the practice with everything. That is how you establish yourself, you know, on yourself. And we should know that “the self,” we say, but it include everything. It is ready to include everything. And it is not even “it,” you know [laughs]. It is something which include, you know, everything is real self. We don't know where it is [laughs]. If you say, “Here is my mind,” that is already some idea of, you know [laughs] self. It is here instead of here [laughs]. When you say, “Here. Here is my self,” you know, but actually, at that time, the self is here [laughs], not here [laughs, laughter]. And your brain is up here too [laughs, laughter]. Where is it? No one knows. [Laughs.] The only way is to participate [in] the practice, Buddha-practice, and to share the joy of practice. That is, you know, so-called-it, anraku no homon-- ”easiest and most,” you know, “easy and joyful practice.”

Thank you very much.



Sincere Practice
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
How To Have Sincere Practice
Tuesday, April 28, 1970
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 115)

Since Tatsugami Roshi came, you must have heard Dogen Zenji's name so many times. But Dogen Zenji may not like to hear his name so many times [laughs]. But unfortunately he had a name like Dogen, so [laughs] there is no other way to address him. So we call him Dogen Zenji or Dogen.

As you know, he didn't like to say “Zen” even, or Zen-- in China they called monks who sit in zazen, called [them] “Zen monks,” but he didn't like to call “Zen” even. And he said if necessary you should call us “Buddha's disciple.” Shamon, you know, he called himself Shamon Dogen-- ”A Monk Dogen.”

In China, there were many various schools like Rinzai, Soto, Ummon, Hogen, Igyo. But Nyojo Zenji's-- Nyojo Zenji, who was Dogen's teacher then, was not, according to Dogen, [from] one of the five schools of Zen or seven schools of Zen. His Zen is just to practice zazen, to realize-- to actually realize by his body Buddha's mind, Buddha's spirit. That was his Zen. That was why Dogen accepted him as his teacher.

Before he-- Dogen went to China, he studied Hiezan [Onjoji?]-- Tendai-- main temple of Tendai school. And after Tendai, he went to Eisei-- Eisai Zenji-- Yoshinji [Kenninji?], and then he went to China because Eisai Zenji passed away when he was very young. So he went to China to continue his practice with good teacher.

He may have-- according to Kenzei-ki, he already attained enlightenment under Eisai, but he wanted to continue his practice with right teacher. So he went to China with Myozen, who was also one of the-- Eisai's outstanding teacher-- no, disciple. But he couldn't accept-- although he visited many temples and saw many Zen teachers, but he couldn't accept them as his teacher until he met with Nyojo Zenji. And when he saw Nyojo Zenji, without studying under him, when he saw for the first time, he accepted him, Nyojo Zenji, as his teacher. And Nyojo Zenji also thought, “This is my disciple. This is my disciple who will carry my practice.”

And when he was practicing with Nyojo Zenji he attained-- he-- someone-- Nyojo Zenji was scolded someone who was sleeping in his practice. And at that time-- the feeling or experience he had at that time was submitted by Dogen to his teacher. And he became a completely-- he transmitted-- he received the transmission from Nyojo Zenji and came back to Japan.

The first thing we should notice here is Dogen was a monk who wanted to be sincere-- one of the sincere good monks of Buddha or disciple-- disciple of Buddha. That's all. And he has nothing in his mind when he went to-- he saw Nyojo-- Eisai Zenji, he already gave up scholarly study of Buddhism which he was-- he had been involved in for long long time.

But his problem is how to be a good disciple from the bottom of his heart and mind. So for him to have this spirit it was the most important point. He was so sincere student that he couldn't accept teachers who is not so sincere as he was. Already he gave up scholarly study, so he couldn't accept someone who is talking about Buddhism. Already he experienced what is Zen, so he couldn't accept someone who is just talking about what is Zen. But what he wanted to see is a man who [is] really practicing Zen in its true sense. So when he saw Nyojo Zenji, who is practicing his way, he accepted him as his teacher. And when Nyojo Zenji saw him, he could acknowledge his sincerity-- his sincere practice. And-- the next question will be what is sincere practice? What is the way-seeking mind?

Perhaps, you know, you want to know what is sincerity in your practice. First of all, when you become very sincere you cannot accept which is superficial. But bef- [partial word]-- when you are not so sincere, it is difficult to know what is sincerity, who is sincere student. It is difficult and almost impossible. Only when you become very sincere, you can-- you will know what is sincerity.

It is like to know-- to appreciate art. You know, when you see-- first of all, if you want to appreciate good art, the most important thing is to see the good work. If you, you know, if your eye-- if you see a good work always, if you-- in case you see something which is not good enough, you will immediately know this is not so good because your eyes is already sharp enough to know what is bad, you know, what is good work. And when you know what is good work, you will know what is bad, you know-- what is not-so-good work.

That is why Dogen Zenji always put emphasis on the teacher. If you want to know what is sincerity, you should have good teacher. Only when you have good teacher you will know-- by him you will know-- by seeing him you will know who is good teacher-- what is good teacher. When you see sincere person, you will know what is sincerity. That is not something which I can describe. That is something you will feel by your intuition. That kind of intuition will be gained by seeing good teachers always.

And next thing which is important is to give up or to be ready to give up everything, including your understanding of teaching or your knowledge about, you know, Buddhism. Most of you may think, you know-- may accept some teacher who say-- whose knowledge-- whose knowledge is understandable-- acceptable for you. You will say he is good teacher [laughs], you know.

But the standard is-- you cannot judge your teacher by your low, you know, standard. Only when you have well-polished-ups, you know, eyes or standard of judgment, you will understand-- you will see-- you can tell which is good and which is bad. To have-- but as long as you have some standard, that standard may be your own, you know, standard which cannot be perfect.

So best thing is, you know, to give up everything. Many teachers, you know, give up-- burned all the sutra they study and practiced zazen only. In that case, he had-- he did not rely on anything, but he just practiced zazen to purify his mind. To accept true teaching-- teaching can be-- any teaching can be your good teaching for you, but because of your foolish judgment, you know, teaching does not make much sense. You-- you are spoiling good teaching by your own judgment. But when you have no judgment, and when you see or accept teaching as it is, that is, in other word, good teaching.

What he-- what Dogen transmitted from his teacher is this acceptance-- giving up everything. Great spirit-- to-- to be ready to give up everything. Especially when he is practiced zazen, he has nothing in his mind. He was just practicing zazen. That, you know, purity of practice strucked [struck?] him.

When you are, you know, trying to give up everything, you don't-- you haven't give up everything yet. When you become tired of foolish, you know, discussion or foolish study of, you know, foolish mind-- to seek for something which is called truth or true teaching, you will be completely involved in pure practice, giving up everything.

My teacher, Kishizawa Ian, he was a-- actually a great scholar. But his study was started after when he give up everything [laughs]. He didn't care for position or fame or, you know, reputation. Whatever people may say about him he doesn't care. And he continued his study and his practice just to meet some ancient teachers who devoted themselves to the-- to our teaching. When we, you know, realize this point, there is no Soto or no Rinzai, you know. Before you give up everything, you have Soto or Rinzai. When you give up everything, there is no Soto or Rinzai.

In Dogen Zenji describing various teachers' ways of practice, among them there are Rinzai teachers, Soto teachers, and some other schools-- teachers of many schools. He just, you know, wanted to see him through books. That was also true with my teacher. Whenever he meets some student or some scholar, what he ask is-- give me some record you have. Whatever record it may be, he was very much interested in to see it, to read it. He was seeking for his friend always, his teacher always. Whether he is famous or not, it doesn't matter for him. Only when you give up everything, you can see true teacher.

Even name of Buddhism is already dirty spot on our practice. It is not teaching but the stu- [partial word]-- but their character or their effort. When you seek for even enlightenment, his mind is not big enough. He is not sincere enough because he, you know-- he has some purpose in his study. To, you know-- for us I think everyone want to see a great man. That is not, you know-- that is not a selfish desire. It is the desire which everyone has. But desire to accomplish something or even to propagate Buddhism is not pure enough. Just to-- just to see someone who is holy and great and pure is our purpose of studying Zen or Buddhism. [Gap in tape: Recorder stopped for unknown period and restarted on same side.]

-- on what point your teacher could be strict. First of all, when you are lazy [laughs] he will be very angry. If, you know, good, intelligent student, you know, always involved in something which is not pure enough, he may be angry. He is wasting his time.

As much as possible, we should follow our inner voice, rejecting useless things and how-- sometime, you know, we will think something is necessary to support yourself. But Dogen says if you study hard-- pure-- if your practice is pure enough, you will be anyway supported by Buddha. You should[n't] worry who will support you or what will happen to you. You shouldn't worry about this kind of thing. Moment after moment, you should completely devote yourself which you-- listening to your inner voice. That is to see someone who is great in its true sense. To see someone who can accept-- who you can accept-- that is the most important point for Zen student.

So if you cannot accept a teacher as your teacher, you should seek for someone-- someone else as your teacher. Without this kind of spirit, it is almost impossible to study our way.

With this spirit, or to polish up our way-seeking mind, we practice zazen, you know. How you practice zazen is, you know, to have right posture. He s- [partial word]-- Tatsugami Suzuki said [laughs] very interesting remark, you know, “How about your mudra?” “Hai.” [Laughs.] That was very good!

“How about your eyes?” “Hai.” [Laughs, laughter.] In short, zazen is, you know, “Hai.” That is a [laughter]-- “How about your,” you know, “spine?” “Hai.” [Laughs.] “How about your chin?” “Hai.” [Laughs.]

It is, you know-- actually you are not checking your posture. You are, you know, just, you know, accepting your posture: “Hai.” [Laughs.] That is zazen. There is no more activity in your practice, and that spirit is the greatest of all the spirit you may have [laughs]. Even though, you know, you are like this, you know [probably gesturing], “How is the posture?” [Laughs, laughter.] “How is your breathing?” “Okay” [said in a humorous, laboring voice] [laughs, laughter].

There is no other secret in our practice. If you have something more than that, that is heresy [laughs, laughter]. You have some extra. When you have some extra fancy practice, you know, your practice will not reach to the point. I think everything is-- may be the same.

Today I was mending someone's broken cup, you know. If I fix it-- Chht-- [laughs], that is okay, you know. If I-- after fixing it, if I do like this [probably gesturing] [laughing], you will, you know, break it. So the work you do will not be so good. If you-- if you just do it [laughs], that is zazen. But usually, you know, you do like this [probably gesturing] [laughs, laughter]. That is extra, you know, and waste of time, and you are spoiling yourself by doing this. “Hai.” [Laughs.]

“Don't kill,” you know. It is same thing with precepts. “Don't kill,” you know. You may s- [partial word]-- you may think, “No, I cannot survive [laughs] if I don't kill anything. No, that is not possible.” That is you are doing this way [probably gestures]. “Don't kill.” “Hai.” Whether it is possible, or not is it is out of the question. “Don't kill”-- we don't want to kill. So someone-- if someone said, “Don't kill,” “Mmm. [As in “yes.”] That's right.” [Laughs.] “I will not kill.” Then you have perfect buddha-nature at that time.

Because you say, you know, “that is not possible,” or “impossible,” “right” or “wrong,” and because you compare Buddhist precepts to, you know, Christian commandment, so you lose the point. When you say “okay,” whether it is commandment or our precepts, it doesn't matter. There we have buddha-mind or perfect mercy of God-- of the god.

So if we notice this point, there is no other secret. Rejecting everything, giving up everything. When you listen to your inner voice directly, without even trying to listen to it, whenever you chance-- you have chance to hear it, there there is the way. There there is a voice of Buddha. 1 [Sentence finished. Tape turned over.]

So when-- when you see or when you listen to your teacher, you will not think about his nationality or his sex or whether he is old or young-- it doesn't matter. That is what Dogen says. Even a-- a-- a girl of seven years old may be your teacher. If you know this point-- secret of practice-- that is pure practice which you can apply to your everyday life.

Our instruction of practice-- pull in your chin, or keep your spine straight, or mudra-- about mudras-- are concentrated on this point. This is the front door to the various religion. There is no other doors. As Dogen Zenji said, “Don't hang around”-- hang around [laughs, laughter]-- ”hang around the gate. You should directly enter the gate.” Hai. Okay. Then you are inside of the gate, you know. If you sit [probably gestures] [laughs, laughter]-- and if you peek in the inside of the gate, wondering what-- what is going [on] there, you have no chance to, you know, practice pure practice. It is quite easy if you have-- if you say “Hai!” That's all. No other secret.

My teacher had many disciples [laughs]. Not so many, but pretty many. And he was always angry with us-- always [laughs]-- because we are lazy. We are always pretending, you know-- we were always pretending to study, you know, Dogen's way. But actually, we were not. So he was very angry with us.

But he cannot be always angry with us, so he start to speak something to the audience, you know-- many people in lecture hall. He [laughs]-- instead of angry with us, he was angry with people-- all the audience. Rrrr! [Laughs, laughter.] Ohh.

So I was-- we were listening to him, you know-- we feel as if we are scolded. And, you know, when he was not, you know, scolding us, we realized, you know, what we are doing, and we become-- became very sorry.

“The first precept-- 'Don't kill.'”

This is a precept transmitted from Buddha to us.

“Can you keep it or not?”

And he said, “Yes! I will keep it!”

This is the way you keep precepts, you know. He was almost screaming [laughs]:

Dai-ichi husessho-kai, nanji yoku tamotsuya inaya?

Yoku tamotsu! [Laughs.]

“This is the way you keep precepts!” you know.

We have-- we don't have that kind of spirit. When you say, “Yes I will!” there there is Buddha's voice. When you hesitate, you are always, you know [laughs], you are always saying nothing happened to you. Only when you say, “Yes I will!” and feel how you feel it when you said “Yes I will!”-- when you fix your mind to do so, whatever happen. Without spirit-- without this spirit, you cannot, you know, extend our way, especially in America, I think.

I may be difficult to accept Tatsugami Roshi's way, you know. I know that [laughs]. I know very well. But, you know, you should try, and you should say, “I will do it!”-- not because it, you know, Buddha's teaching or Japanese way or American way or appropriate to our society or not. You should say it-- you should do it-- and feel what it was.

[Laughs.] Did you see the movie 2000? [Laughs, laughter.] That is what you are doing. 2001-- or what it?-- 2001-- square, I am. All the monkeys, you know, hanging around [laughs, laughter]. [Probably gestures like a hominid.] That is, you know [laughs], what we are doing. If you feel it-- if you, you know, seize it, nothing happen. It is yours. Maybe that is the key point of practice and way to save all sentient beings.

Thank you very much.



One with Everything
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Zazen Talk
Tuesday Evening, July 20, 1971
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 120)

I wanted to see you earlier, but I was too busy so I couldn't come.

Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

Student: Yes.

Oh. Okay.

Anyway, it is very good to see you and Tassajara, which has improved a lot since I left here. Tonight my-- I didn't have any idea of giving talk, but I-- as, you know, we have many guests and some of you may leave tomorrow, so I decided to talk a little bit-- maybe I said ten minutes [laughs]. But it is rather difficult to say something in ten minutes, so I don't know how many minutes my lecture last.

What I want to talk about tonight is something-- some idea or some understanding of Buddhist which is not-- may not be unfamiliar to you.

We observe things in two ways. We understand things has two-- two side. One is phenomenal side; the other is, maybe, more ontological side. Something-- some-- most of us, you know, understand things from the light of difference, like big or small, black or-- black and white, material or spiritual.

Usually, maybe, spiritual-- If we say “spiritual,” usually it is something which is not material. But, according to Buddhism, even though you say “spiritual” that is, you know, not much different from-- different of physical or materialistic side. “Spiritual” or “materialistic” we say, but those are, according to Buddhism, not much different. It belongs to the understanding of phenomenal side of the reality-- spiritual too, spiritual understanding too include phenomenal understanding.

The other side is, [as] I said, you know, tentatively ontological side-- a noumenal side which we cannot see, you know. Before you [existed], something exist in dharma: big or small, black or white, heavy or light, spiritual or material. Then something, you know-- before something looks like-- looks like, something looks like spiritual and material. Things looks like spiritual sometime material, looks like, but there is-- there is some, you know, something before it can be spiritual or material. Let's think [about] this point more: spiritual and material.

When you think something material is quite different from something which is spiritual, that is not Buddhist understanding. We understand spiritual and material is also, you know, it belongs to one side, you know. There is partition here [laughs], and spiritual and material also belong to this side. The other side is, you know-- it doesn't belong to the other side.

So we say spiritual and spiritual things, spiritual being and materialistic being is one, not different. It belongs to this side. [Sighs.] Let us-- let's think [about] this very carefully. If you think spiritual being is something different from material, then your life will be split in two [laughs]. One side of you want to be very spiritual [laughs]. The other side of you want to be material or physical or emotional. The other side of you may want to be more calm and good. So there is some separation. That is why you have-- you feel that kind of separation. Is-- your understanding is not clear enough.

For an instance, while you are alive, you know, you think you-- as long as you have body, you are physical being and after, only after you die, you will be a spiritual being, you know. That kind of understanding is very usual understanding. You may understand in that way. That is why you have problem after this, you know. Or, even though you are still alive, if you lose your friend, then you feel very lonely because you think, you know, as-- so long as your friend [is] alive, he is with you, which is material or physical. But after your friend die, he changed into spiritual being, leaving physical body behind. People may call it “soul” or “spirit,” but that is not our understanding. That is still the understanding you have in your mind-- understanding of your mind or brain [laughs] in term of, you know, spiritual or material, because no right or wrong. Something, you know, something understandable and you cannot-- you don't know the other side of something which you don't understand, which is not possible to understand. We do not-- even though we do not understand what it is, but, you know, it is, you know, you cannot deny things which is not understanding by your small mind. And you will know that to understand things in term of big or small, black or white, man or woman, you know, is to put limitation to actual being. Actually. I am not just physical. I am spiritual too. But even though I say I am spiritual and physical that is also I put myself in limitation of spiritual and physical. But actual “me” is something more than spiritual and more than material.

So as long as you are trying to understand what is actual reality, what is actual “me,” you don't-- it is not possible to understand who you are. That is our way of understanding. If your-- If your understanding can reach this point, there is something, you know, more than spiritual and more than material, more than right or wrong, more than man or woman, and that is reality, and that is actually each one of you. Then you will have renunciation from good or bad, life or death. You will be free from the idea of good or bad, life or death.

Even though you try very hard to be very spiritual, still you exist this side, ignoring the other side of yourself. That is why you suffer. If you really want to be-- want to attain enlightenment and realize what is real you, you know, then you have to try to go beyond the idea of good or bad, life or death.

And how we can go beyond the idea of life or death, physical or spiritual, is zazen practice [?]. So in our practice we should not-- our practice should not be involved in “good practice” or “bad practice.” You should be just you, and you shouldn't think anything. If something come, let it come. But don't, you know, think about it in term of good or bad. Let it come and let it go away [laughs]. Don't say “this is good” or “this is bad.” Or don't think “it is not good to think”-- to have something in your mind while you are practicing zazen.

That is actually, you know, our zazen practice: to go beyond various ideas and to be just yourself. And that is possible. If you think about yourself or if you think about someone, you or he is not spiritual or physical. You cannot say he is good or he is bad. Even though he looks like [he is] doing something wrong, it looks like so to you or to the people it looks like so. But who say so? People say so, you say so [laughs]. But he is not good or bad.

This, you know, standard of society-- this society-- our people have some kind of moral standard. Tentatively we have some moral code and say “this is good” and “this is bad.” But it may change. If the moral code or standard of judging which is good and which is bad, then someone which was bad may be-- may be good, and which-- someone who is bad can be good tomorrow [laughs] or in one or two years. It is as you must have experienced. So our world is changing rapidly.

When I was young there were many moral codes, many idea, you know, [of how] we are involved in good and bad, idea of good and bad: “You shouldn't do this or do that.” But more and more we have less moral code. As Dogen Zenji said, “There is-- actually there is no good or no bad. There is no good and no bad. No good or no bad. No good; or, good is up to the time. Time makes-- makes things good or bad; but things itself is-- things-- things themselves is not good or bad,” he said.

It is actually how things go, that's all. And-- by some rule, or there is some-- It is just matter of cause and effect, you know. Things, you know, goes. Things exist now will result [in] some effect, and that effect will cause another effect. Things going in that way, that's all. Actually there is no good or bad. What is going that way is the point. What is going in that way? Something which is not good or which is not bad is going [laughs]. That is the reality. Things going in that way. Anyway, things is developing itself. By itself it is going. That's all.

So if we notice that who is developing, what is going in that way, something which is not good or bad is going in that way. And we-- we say this is good or bad, that's all. We do not realize this point, and we say this is good or this is bad. I'm not talking about something, you know, invisible. I am talking about something actually we are-- we have with us always. [Laughs.] Do you understand? But the difference between your understanding and my understanding is you understand things in term of good or bad. You think there is a good person and bad person, but we don't-- I don't understand in that way. Things [are] just going in that way. Anyway, things are going in that way, and you call it “good” and “bad,” that's all.

If we realize this point, we have already realization [?]. So when you sit in zazen, you are you. You cannot say, you know, “My practice is good.” Or you cannot say, “I am bad person.” Nor you can say, “You are-- I am good person. My practice is perfect.” [Laughs.] You cannot say so.

Anyway you are perfect [laughs] from the beginning. It is not necessary for you to say you are perfect. You are perfect, even though you don't realize you are perfect. That is why we say we are all buddhas and we have buddha-nature. And buddha nature [is] developing itself constantly. We understand things in that way. We say, “I am here, and you are there.” It is okay, you know, to say so, but actually, you know, without me you don't exist. Without you I don't exist. [Laughs.] It is very true. Since I am here, you are there. Since you are there, I am here. [Laughs.] You may say even though I don't come to, I don't come to, you know, Tassajara you exist here and waiting for me. That is [laughs], you know, maybe so. Maybe so, but that is not perfect. I am at-- at-- I have been at 300 Page, and you-- with everything. I couldn't say goodbye to-- to the building which is related to other things: freeway [laughs], and trees, and air, and everything, stars and the moon, the sun. If I was related to the sun and moon as you are related to the sun and moon, how is it possible to say I am there and you are here when we are always related? But just your mind says you are here and I am there, that's all.

So originally we are one with everything. That is very true. And if someone die, you may say he is no more. But is it possible for something to vanish completely? That is not possible. Is it possible for something to appear [laughing] all of a sudden from nothing? Because there were something, you know, it appears in that way. Something which is here cannot vanish completely. It can change its form. That's all.

So we are always one. It is just your superficial feeling to feel you are lonely. So if you are very sincere, and if you really, you know, give your-- give up your small mind, then there is no fear and no emotional problem. Your mind is always calm, and your eyes is always open, and you can hear the birds as they sing. You can see the flower as it opens. And then nothing to worry, actually. And if there is, some-- something to worry [about], it is a kind of, you know, treatment [laughs]-- special treatment for you, as if you see, as if you read some interesting novel; as if some writer, you know, write [2-3 words unclear] about human life. It is interesting maybe, and to read it is very interesting. But it is not something to be afraid of or to be-- to feel lonely. So we can enjoy our life fully when we understand things in that way. That is Buddha's-- Buddhist way. [Sentence finished. Tape turned.]

[Note.-- Side B of the original tape was blank. The early transcript continued with the rest of the lecture. The following was superficially edited but could not be checked against the tape.]

When I was flying back from the east the other day, I saw beautiful sunset. Sunset lasts pretty long time if you fly from the east. If you leave, for an instance, New York or Boston six o'clock, you will arrive at here nine o'clock, up in the air more than three-- you know-- 13 or 15,000 or more-- sometime 30,000 feet high. You know, when people think it is dark and there is no more sun. But still, if you are flying high up in the air, you have still sunset and you can see beautiful clouds. It is wonderful to see. But someone may feel very lonely, you know. But if you think you are-- wherever you are, you are one with cloud and one with the sun and one with the stars you see, even though you jump out from the airplane, you don't go anywhere else. You are still with everything. That is very true. More than I say-- more true than I say, or more true than you hear.

I am [not] talking about something which is very strange or very mystical. You are mystic and I am not mystic. Your understanding is strange, but my understanding is not strange. Don't you think so? But it is you who feel in that way, just your superficial feeling feel in that way. It means that you are not truthful enough to the truth. Your feeling was not deep enough to feel something true. As Dogen said, people like which is not true-- people feel which is not true, but they do not feel something true. [Laughs.] They like something which is not right. And they do not like which is true. That is very-- what he said is very true. Don't you think so?

We must be ashamed of-- to feel something very superficial. If you [are] ashamed of yourself you should practice hard. You should be sincere enough to be yourself. That is our practice and that is our effort-- our direction of effort. We are-- our practice heading to that way. But usually your practice is heading to wrong way. Again, Dogen said you shouldn't try to go south heading to the North Pole, heading to the dipper. You see-- after lecture when you are going to your cabin you will see dipper. Heading to dipper it is impossible to go south. But people are heading to-- trying to go south heading to north. And he says also, if you want to attain renunciation from birth and death, you shouldn't try to be out of birth and death-- problem of birth and death. And the birth and death is our equipment for our life. Without birth and death we cannot survive. It is our pleasure to have birth and death. That is how I-- we understand truth.

So don't be-- in short-- don't be involved in making too much home-made cookies [laughs] in term of big and small, good or bad. You should make as much, just as much as you need. Without cookies, without food you cannot survive, so it is good to make home-made cookies, but don't make too much. It is good to have problem, and without problem we cannot survive. So it is good. We must have problem. But not too much. You don't need to create problems for yourself when you have enough problems. You have just enough problems to survive. Any more than you need, you have just enough problem; the problem you have us just enough for you. That is so-called-it “soft-minded practice-- soft-minded practice.” Because your mind is too -- [Sentence not finished. Transcript says tape turned over here, but that is not correct. Maybe just a gap in the tape.]

After all, you can create you and big problem and for your children and for your wife. If some husband enjoy making home-made cookie, your wife will be upset [laughing]. Don't make so much. But that is not usually what we are doing. So if you really understand your life, it is not necessary to practice zazen even. It is not necessary for me to come or stay in America. If you just make home-made cookie just enough for you. It is okay for me to come back-- back to Japan and to eat Japanese cookies. As you make too much cookies I have to eat [laughing]. I have to help you. It is not always so good job to eat home-made cookies. Actually that is what we are doing. If we realize this point and enjoy just enough home-made cookies, that is Buddhist way. And just-- that is how to enjoy life and that is why we practice zazen.

We do not practice zazen to attain special enlightenment. Just to be ourselves and just to be free from useless effort or tendency of human nature we practice zazen.

Thank you very much.



Wherever You Are, Enlightenment Is There
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin: First Night Lecture, “I Don't Know Zazen”
September 1969
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 127)

In our practice, the most important thing [is] to-- to know-- to know. “To know” is that we have buddha-nature. Our practice-- real practice happens when realization of buddha-nature take place. Intellectually we know that we have buddha-nature, and that is what was taught by Buddha.

But to know buddha-nature-- when you know that we have buddha-nature, at the same time you will know that even though we have buddha-nature, you know, it is rather difficult to accept it. At the same time, we have various evil nature. And buddha-nature is something beyond good and bad, but our everyday life is going [on] in realm of good and bad. So there is-- there is two-- twofold of duality. One is duality of good and bad, and the other is duality of good and bad-- realm of good and bad, and realm of the world where there is no good and no bad.

And our everyday life is going [on] in realm of good and bad-- the realm of duality. And buddha-nature or our absolute nature is found in the realm of absolute where there is no good and bad. Our practice is to go beyond the realm of good and bad and to realize the one absolute world-- to enter the one absolute world is our practice. If I say in this way it is rather-- it may rather difficult to understand.

Hashimoto Roshi, the famous Zen master who passed away last year or 1967, I think, explained this point. “It is”-- I think I told you once-- ”It is like a-- to-- to prepare a food,” you know. We prepare food-- various food-- you separate: rice is here, and pickles are here, and soup is in middle bowl. We don't cook like a gruel all the time [laughs]-- soup and rice and everything in one bowl. Even though, you know, to cook-- to prepare food separately, you know, in each bowl is the-- our usual world-- world of seeming. And-- but when you eat it, you know, in your tummy, you know, soup and rice and pickles and everything-- gomashio-- and everything [gets all] [laughs] mixed up and you don't know what is-- which is gomashio or rice. That is the world of absolute [laughter]. As long as gomashio is gomashio, and separately prepared on the plate, it doesn't work-- like your intellectual understanding of Buddhism. It doesn't work. [Laughs, laughter.] That is book knowledge.

But, you know-- so zazen practice is, you know, to mix various understanding in our practice and let it work. How to let it work is our practice. The other day, by some chance, I talked about kerosene lamp. You know, when it-- when kerosene lamp is just oil, you know, kerosene oil-- it doesn't work. Kerosene lamp will work when it become-- when it is in a state of combustion by aid of air. And even though you have kerosene lamp and air, it doesn't work. When you using it-- use matches, you know, it will work-- it will start to work. And this flame of matches is our practice which is transmitted from Buddha to us. By aid of matches, and by aid of air, kerosene will start to work. This is actually our zazen practice.

You may think, you know, “You are just kerosene oil,” you know [laughs]. It doesn't work. Even though you have-- you say, “I have buddha-nature,” you know, it doesn't work. If you have no buddha, it-- it doesn't work. If you have no friend, no sangha, it doesn't work. When we practice zazen in this way, by the aid of sangha, helped by Buddha, we can practice our zazen in its true sense, and we will have bright light here in Tassajara zendo.

We will have question/answer the last day of the sesshin-- last day of sesshin. Question and answer will be going this kind of question and this kind of answer. Back and forth we should discuss this point. We should know clearly what is our practice and what is our everyday life, and how to apply zazen p- [partial word]-- how to extend our zazen practice in everyday life. When you are practicing zazen in this way, actually you have true practice in its true sense. But why it is difficult for you to extend our practice in city life is because of lack of precise understanding of our Zen teaching.

If you-- when you know-- when you know why you practice zazen and what is the most important point in our practice, you can practice our way even though your practice is not perfect. You have direction. And you know how to do it. So you will not-- you will not be mixed up.

Our life, in short, should be always in complete combustion, you know. We must-- we should aim at complete combustion in our life. If the flame become little bit smoky, you know, you should know how to adjust the flame, you know. If it is too long, you should make it shorter. You know, if it's too small, you should make it brighter. Actually, you know, in your practice, I think you know your practice is-- what kind of practice you have-- whether your practice is good or bad. You yourself know. But instead of being discouraged by it, you should know how to adjust the flame [laughs].

Before you ask questions, you know, you should know how to adjust the flame. To have a so-called-it enlightenment experience is of course important. But more important thing is to know how to adjust the flame-- flame of life in zazen and in our everyday life. When the flame is in complete combustion, you know, you don't smell the oil [laughs]. When, you know, it is smoky, you will have a kind of smell. You know the, you know-- you may realize there is kerosene lamp [laughs]. When, you know, your life is in complete combustion, you have no complaint. And there is no need to be aware of your practice. But, you know, we should know that if we talk about too much-- like me-- about zazen, it is already smoky kerosene lamp [laughs].

If I-- if you see me, you may ask, “Is there lecture tonight?” Maybe I'm very smoky kerosene lamp [laughs]. I don't want, you know, to give lecture. I-- I-- what I want is to-- just to live with you, moving stones, having nice hot-spring bath [laughs], and eat something good [laughs, laughter].

Zen is there, you know. When I start to talk about something, it is also smoky-- it is already smoky kerosene lamp. As long as I [must] give lecture, I have to explain it in term of right or wrong: “This is right practice. This is wrong. How to practice zazen.” It is like to-- to give you recipe [laughs]. Recipe doesn't work. You cannot eat recipe [laughter]. Maybe after having a long, long practice in hot summer weather, it may be good to enjoy to say something [laughs] and to listen to something. This is, you know, our [a?] purpose of practice.

I said just now [that] to know how to adjust the flame is important. This is actually what Dogen Zenji worked so hard for-- for us descendants. Not just-- not-- usually Zen master-- a Zen master will give you: “Practice zazen! Then you will attain enlightenment. If you attain enlightenment, you will be detached from everything and you will see things as it is. So if you want to see things as it is, you have-- you must practice zazen hard and attain enlightenment.” That is usually [what] a Zen master will say.

But our way is “not always so.” That is, of course true, but we, you know-- Dogen Zenji told us how to adjust back flame-- back and forth, he told us in his Shobogenzo-- this point. This is one of the characteristic of Soto Zen.

In-- in Soto, people say in Soto-- Soto priest doesn't-- Soto school doesn't use koan, and they have no koan practice. But Dogen Zenji, after studying koans, and he simplified all the koan in a-- in a quite simple forms, as-- like Tozan Zenji in China did. Tozan Zenji used five ranks-- five ranks of practice, or five ranks of seeming and reality. But Dogen Zenji did not use five ranks in practice or five ranks in seeming and reality because Dogen Zenji's understanding or teaching of Zen is much simpler than that. Quite simple. The point of Soto Zen-- Dogen Zenji's zazen is to live on each moment in complete combustion, like a kerosene lamp or like a candle. So how to live in each moment, and how to become one with everything, and attain oneness of the whole universe, is the point of his teaching and his practice.

I don't think you have not much pain in your legs. Do you have some? It is pretty painful for you to sit now? It doesn't, you know, looks-- looks like so. Pretty good, I think. Maybe some pain-- some pain.

And Zazen practice is very subtle thing. When you are working, you know, something which you do not realize will mentally and physically will-- will be realized if you practice zazen. You know, I have been moving stone pretty [?] [laughs]-- for a long time, and I didn't know that I was tired. And I didn't realize my muscles, you know, were tired. But, you know, today, as I, you know, sit in this way calmly, so I realized, “Oh! [Laughs.] My muscles are in pretty bad condition.” I felt some pain all over. Here [probably points], and in my arm, not in my back so much, but here [sounds like he is rubbing an area]. I have not much flesh here, so I haven't not much muscles to be painful. But my bone is painful, maybe [laughs, laughter].

You know, if you have no problem, you know, then you may think then you can practice your zazen very well. But actually it is not so. Some problem, you know, is necessary. Not much, but some [laughs, laughter], if possible. Then, as he said-- as Dogen Zenji said, by the problem you have-- by the difficulty you have, you can practice zazen. This is very, I think-- very meaningful point of zazen, especially in our everyday life. He put great emphasis on this point. So he says, you know, “Practice and enlightenment is one.”

Practice is something, you know, which you do consciously, which you do with effort. There there is enlightenment. Most Zen masters missed this point. They didn't know how important this point is. They were striving, you know, for-- to attain enlightenment-- perfect enlightenment. But actually, you know, the most meaningful point of zazen is to have enlightenment in our imperfect zazen

That is, you know, his [Dogen's] teaching, and that is how everything exist in this world actually. Things [that] exist are imperfect. Nothing [is] perfect. Whatever we see, whatever we hear. Things are not perfect. But [in] that imperfect things there is a perfect reality. This is not just, you know-- this is true intellectual understanding. Intellectually it is true, but in realm of practice it is also true. It is true on paper, you know [laughs], but it is true also with our body. We can-- we can realize how true it is by-- through our physical practice and emotional problems.

So according to him [Dogen], you know, our practice should be established in delusion [laughs]. Do you understand? We are all deluded people, and before we attain enlightenment we should establish our true practice in our delusion.

Usually, you know, after you attain enlightenment, you may think you can establish true practice. But it is not so, according to Dogen Zenji. True practice should be established in delusion, in frustration [laughs]. If you make some mistake, you know, you should stand b- [partial word]-- you should establish your practice thereby. There is no other place for you to establish your practice.

“Enlightenment,” we say, but in its true sense perfect enlightenment is our-- is beyond our understanding, beyond our experience. That is true enlightenment. That kind of enlightenment-- if so, that kind of enlightenment is in our imperfect practice, actually-- or even in our imperfect practice there is enlightenment. But-- but the problem is that we don't know [laughs].

And here, again, I want [to] put emphasis on this point. People usually do not trust anything if they do not actually-- if they cannot actually experience it, actually think about it.

There are two types of people. Someone-- some of them cannot trust anything until they understand things in term of right or wrong, good or bad. After they analyze reality in various way, they understand things and trust things. But some of them become more uneasy, you know, if someone explain something so well [laughs], you know. If someone talk about something-- analyze something eloquently and very precisely, you know, the more he explain about it, [the] more you may doubt it [laughs, laughter]. “Oh! Is that so?” That --

[Sentence not finished. Tape turned over.]

There are actually two types of people. Like an artist, you know: If people say, “Oh, that's very good [laughs],” some of them will-- some of the artist will be very glad if someone says, “That is very good. It may be-- it may [be] worth ten thousand [laughs]-- hundred thousand [dollars].” But some of them will not, you know, will not be so happy. Some of them will be happy-- will be happy even though no one buy it-- no one say something-- anything about his art. But he can enjoy his art.

There are two kinds of people. And there may be two ways of helping people also, you know: to help people by giving something-- by giving some actual help to help others. That is one way. The other way is, you know, without giving anything, without saying anything, without doing anything we can help others too.

The joy of enlightenment experience is actually-- because that joy is beyond our comparison to our usual experience, you cannot say that is good experience or bad experience-- but something unusual experience, that's all.

It is like a-- it is like to push, you know, something-- to push round ball on the top of the mountain, you know. It is very difficult, you know. When [laughs] someone who cannot [be] satisfied [with] his work until he push it up to the top of the mountain, you know, he may lose the ball, you know, because it is the top of the mountain. If he push [laughs], you know, too much, it will go [laughing] the other side of the mountain. “Oh!” [Laughter.] That will usually, you know-- something what will happen to you. If you, you know, push everything, you know, up to the extreme, you will lose whole thing [laughs]. We are doing same thing over and over again. You may think, “We should not do that again.” But, you know, in-- within one month you will start same thing again, and you will lose whole thing [laughs].

You practice zazen, or you study Buddhism, and you help people. But if you don't know how to help people in its true sense, you cannot help people. The more you help people, if you help people in usual way, to the extreme, you will lose the friend, that's all. We say-- ah-- the other day, Dana -- Dana Frazer said, “Something too much is worse than too little.” “Something too much is worse than too little.” Actually what it means is to find the true meaning of practice before we attain enlightenment, not-- not to try to, you know, attain enlightenment completely-- not to try to have complete enlightenment. Why that is wrong is when you try to have complete-- complete enlightenment, then you started your practice. It means that your practice is not real practice. Your practice is already started-- you already started to analyze your practice-- complete practice or [?] enlightenment, whether it is complete or not.

So complete enlightenment should be, actually-- before you attain enlightenment there is complete enlightenment in its true sense. Dogen Zenji also says the more you have good practice and good enlightenment in its true sense, you may feel you haven't enlightenment-- you haven't-- your practice is not good enough. When-- only when you-- not-- I cannot say “only”-- but when you-- most of the time, for human being, when you feel in that way, you have at least better practice and deeper understanding-- actual understanding of enlightenment, which is beyond the realm of good and bad.

So enlightenment will be attained in easy time and in adversity. Wherever you are, enlightenment is there. And if you stand upright where you are, that is enlightenment. Try to stand up-- up-- upright. There is our practice. It means that to accept things as it is, to accept yourself as you are.

When-- Soto way is also called-- Soto practice is called “I don't know zazen.” [Laughs.] “I don't know zazen.” We don't know what is zazen anymore. “I don't know who I am.” That is Soto way. “I don't know.” [Laughs.] To find complete composure, you know, when you don't know who you are and where you are, what is-- what are they-- that is Soto way. And that is, you know, to accept things as it is. Even though [laughing] you don't know who you are, you accept yourself. That is, you know, “you” in its true sense. When you know who you are, you know, that you will not be real you. You may overestimate [laughs, laughter] yourself quite easily. That is-- that is not you. When you don't know: “Oh-- oh, I don't know,” you know. Then when you feel in that way, you are you, and you know yourself completely. That is enlightenment.

Maybe, even though I say so, I think you feel, “He is talking something unusual, and he is fooling us.” [Laughs.] But actually it is not so. Only thing I can say is you like to be fooled by me [laughs]. If I don't fool you, you know, you will not listen to my lecture. Dogen Zenji says people does not like something real [laughs], and they like something which is not real. That is very true [laughs]. Why I am-- if I am strict with you-- I am strict-- very strict with that point. Even though you make some mistake, I-- I-- I will not say anything. But if you have some false, you know, unreal confidence or unreal self, I shall be very strict with you because you are in danger.

I think our teaching is very good-- very, very good. But if we become too arrogant, and if we believe in ourself too much, we will be lost. There will be no teaching at all, no Buddhism at all. So when we find out our joy of life or composure, when we, you know, don't know what it is, you know, when we don't understand anything, then your mind [is] said to be very great, very wide. Your mind is open to everything.

From what should we, you know, [be] relieved [laughs], you know, is this point. We should be relieved from this kind of arrogance, this kind of selfish way, this kind of immature childish, you know, way. And our mind should be big enough to know before we know something, you know. We should be grateful before we have something. Without anything, we must be very happy, you know-- not after you have something, but before you have something, we should be very happy. Before you attain enlightenment, we should be happy to practice our way, or else we cannot attain anything in its true sense.

Thank you very much.



Not Sticking to Enlightenment
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin Lecture, Day Seven: Closing Words
Friday Evening
February 12, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 131)

The Sixth Patriarch said: “To dwell on emptiness and to keep calm mind is not zazen,” he said. Or he said, you know: “Just to sit in squatting-- sitting position is not Zen.” But we say, you know, you-- you have to just sit [laughs]. If you don't understand what is our practice and stick to those words, you will be confused. But if you understand what is real Zen, it is quite usual warning, you know-- a kind of warning for us.

Now our sesshin is almost [at an] end. But-- and some people, maybe, you know, go back to their home and participate or involved in previous everyday activities. But if you practice-- if you have been practicing true zazen, you will not, you know-- you may be happy to go back to your everyday life. You may be encouraged, you know, by our practice to-- in going back to your everyday life. But if you feel, you know, if you feel hesitate [hesitant] to go back to your or-- go back to your city life or everyday life, it means that, you know, you will still stick to zazen.

So that is why the Sixth Patriarch said: “If you,” you know, “dwell on emptiness and stick to your practice, then that is not true zazen.” When you practice zazen, moment after moment, you accept what you have now and what you have in that moment, and satisfying with everything you do, and you don't-- you do not-- you don't have any complaint because you just accept it, then that is zazen. Or even though you cannot do that, you know what you should do. Then sitting zazen will encourage you to do some other thing. Just as you accepted your painful legs, you accept difficult everyday life. Because city life may be more difficult than your zazen practice, so zazen practice will encourage you to have more difficulties.

If you understand in this way what is zazen, that is right understanding. If you have, especially in your seven-days practice, having some taste of real practice, without losing the taste of practice, and continue your busy activity, then that will be great encouragement. Even though you are [it is] difficult, and even though you are busy, you have always, you know, taste of calmness of your mind, not because you stick to it but because you enjoy it. There is some difference [between] “to stick to it” and “to enjoy it.” When you enjoy it, you don't have to stick to it, you know [laughs, laughter]. So if you have real, you know, taste of our practice, you can enjoy it all the time, incessantly. Whatever you do, that taste is not something you have to stick to it, something you have to recall it. That is, you know, true enlightenment. But even though you think you attained enlightenment, you know, when you are busy, when you are some-- in some difficulty, and you think you need, you know, to have that experience again [laughs], that is not real enlightenment because that enlightenment is something you have to stick to it [laughs]. But real enlightenment is always with you, and [there is] no need for you to stick to or for-- there is no need even to think about it. It is always with you. So difficulty itself is enlightenment. Busy life itself is enlightened activity. That is true enlightenment.

But even though expect-- you-- even though you want to have this-- have a taste of true practice, you know, it may be difficult to have it. Only way to have it is, you know, just to continue right practice according to-- following the right instruction and right teacher. That is the only way. If you follow right schedule in your practice, you know, naturally or some day you may have a taste of it. Nowadays, you know, you make date [laughing], you know, young people are making date, but, you know, enlightenment is not something which you can meet by date.

But if you, you know, follow-- if you organize your life, if you get up at some certain time and pick up bag lunch at certain time, and go out for the work, then if you have some girlfriend or boyfriend, you know, you will meet her, you know, without any date. There is no need for you [laughs, laughter] to make date. At some certain time, she will come to the corner. You will usually see her, you know. That is our way, you know. It is rather foolish to make phone call, you know [laughing, laughter]. It is, you know-- it is troublesome, you know. And you sh- [partial word]-- even though you meet her, if you meet her by date, you know, by telephone call, you know: “Hey! I am leaving now,” if they-- if she doesn't come to the corner, you know, you will be irritated. If you do not make any date, you know, and if she come at some certain time to the corner, you will be really happy. That is, you know, how you attain enlightenment [laughing, loud laughter]. It is not a laughing matter. I am talking about something real, you know. I think you will agree with me.

That is, you know, how not to stick to enlightenment. Not to make any date means not to expect enlightenment or stick to enlightenment. Being encouraged by enlightenment, by seeing her even though you don't say anything-- you don't talk with her, just have a glance of her is enough. And all day long you will be happy [laughs]. But if you, you know, are demanding too much of her, then already it means that you stick to enlightenment.

That is what he-- the Sixth Patriarch meant when you-- when he said: “Just to,” you know, “dwell on emptiness is not true practice.” Originally he attained enlightenment by one famous statement: “Without dwelling on anything, you will have true mind.” If you d- [partial word]-- so it means that if you stick to something, you will lose your enlightenment. Even though you try hard, you know, in making an appointment or date, it doesn't work. If you attain enlightenment in that way, you know, it may not be-- most of the time it may not be true enlightenment. The enlightenment you will have in that way is enlightenment which you will stick to, and which-- and is not something which is always with you, which will always encourage you.

This point is very important. So even though we finish our sesshin, we should continue well-organized life and to-- to have real enlightenment. When you practice hard according to the right instruction of your teacher, then that is how you have real enlightenment experience.

In this sesshin-- this sesshin was very fruitful sesshin, and some of you already had a good taste of our practice. Even though you haven't real taste of practice, I think, you knew-- you have understood how you practice zazen. So what you should do from now on is to continue our true practice.

Thank you very much.



The Teaching Just for You
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin Lecture No. 1
Saturday, June 5, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 134)

First of all, I want to explain, you know, I want you to understand what is our practice. You know, our practice we say, “just to sit.” It is, you know, “just to sit,” but I want to try to explain as much as possible what do we mean by “just to sit.” Practice is usually, you know, practice to expect something: at least, if you practice, you know, some way, some practice, your practice will be improve. And if there is a goal of practice, you know, or if you practice aiming at something, you know, you will-- your practice supposed to reach, you know, eventually, the goal of practice you expect. And actually, you know, if you practice, your practice itself will be improved day by day, you know.

That is very true, you know, but there is another, you know, one more, you know, understanding of practice, you know, like, you know, our practice is, you know, another understanding of practice. We practice it-- our zazen-- with two, with different, you know, understanding from this. But we cannot ignore the-- our imp- [partial word]-- progress in our practice. Actually, if you practice, you know, day by day, you make big progress. And actually it will help, you know, your practice will help your health and your mental condition, you know. That is very true.

But that is not, you know, full understanding of practice. Another understanding of practice is, you know, when you practice, you know, there there is-- goal is there, you know, not, you know, one year or two years later. But when you do it right there, there is goal of practice. When you practice our way with this understanding, there is many things you must take care of so that you could be or you will be-- you can-- you will be concentrated on your practice. You will be completely involved in the practice you have right now. That is why you have various instruction, you know, about your practice, so that you can practice hard enough to feel, you know, the goal of practice right now, when you do it.

You may ask me, you know, then, “My practice [laughs] usually-- even in sesshin, my practice is not good enough to feel the goal of practice or to feel full meaning of my practice.” You may ask in that way. Here you should apply another idea of practice, and you should know there is, you know, progress in your practice. But even though your practice is not good enough, you know, even though your practice is, you know, bad, you say, “My practice is bad,” but even so there is no other practice for you [laughs] right now, you know. Good or bad, you know, that is your own practice, you know. There is no other way to accept yourself, to have, you know, approach to the perfect practice. There is no other way. If so, you know, you shouldn't say your practice is good or bad, you know. Even though you feel your practice is bad, that doesn't help your practice. Even though you say, “My practice is excellent,” it doesn't help so much [laughs]. Your practice is same, you know. You are talking about your practice in various way, good or bad, that's all. We should know this point first of all.

Actually, this is how you understand Buddhist teaching. For us, you know, whatever it is, whatever you see, whatever you hear, that is actually Buddha's teaching. That is very true. And all the teaching Buddha or patriarchs taught us is interpretation of the truth we see, you know. Interpretation of the actual reality is the teaching, you know, although according to the situation, according to the time, there were many ways of explaining it, you know. Buddha explained it in his own way, according to the people with him. Bodhidharma, you know, gave instructions to Chinese people, you know, in his own way. But Buddha and Bodhidharma, you know, understood his friend is buddha and his follower is-- were buddha, and buddha is nothing but what he-- what they saw.

That is very true, but there is another side of the teaching. Without Buddha, without Bodhidharma, without people, you know, who may see things, you know, who live in this world, there is no beautiful flower or bright star. Because we are here, and because Buddha was there in India, there were teaching. That is another side of the truth. It means that there is, you know-- what you see is expression of, you know, embodiment of the truth. But at the same time, for us, you know, subjectively, it is your own understanding of the truth, you know. When the understanding of yourself and embodiment of the truth, you know, become one there is real, you know, truth. Even though, you know, scientist, you know, explain the reality very carefully, you know, that is not truth we mean. The truth we mean is, you know, truth which is experienced actually, you know. The fact-- through the fact you are facing to it come together, that is, you know, actual truth which will help us, which is our own.

So we say, “just to-- just sit,” you know, “just sit.” And why we say “just sit” is because we have buddha-nature. So you just sit, you know. Then there is buddha-nature. So you just sit, you know [laughs], we say so. But that is not, that is, you know-- if you understand fully that is good explanation, but there must be-- there is misunderstanding. Most people will misunderstand “just to sit,” you know. And moreover, we say, good-- ”Even though your practice is not so good, you know, that is perfect practice [laughs], so just to sit. Just sit.”

But what you will understand will be, you know, because of your scientific mind, you know. Way scientific mind will understand is you see, you know, you objectively observe your and understand your practice, or see your practice or someone's practice, you know, “Oh anyway, they are sitting in the Buddha hall,” you know, “so that is good practice [laughs]-- perfect practice. There will be no need to encourage them,” [laughs] you know, “and there is no need for them,” you know, “to sit all day long. Maybe if, as much as possible, if they sit, that is okay. Even one hour is okay. One period is enough.”

If-- you may understand in that way. That kind of understanding is, maybe you could say, superficial understanding. But more clearly, if you want to understand this point, it is, you know, understanding of, you know, truth-- as a[n] embodiment of the truth, you know. You don't understand-- you have no understanding from the viewpoint of your subjective side.

Truth is there-- always there. But if someone who do not observe the truth accept the truth, that is so-called-it, “painted cake,” you know: cake on the paper which you cannot eat [laughs]. Even though you are actually sitting, you know, you are eating paper, you know, cake on the paper. So there is no taste, and you will give up because it doesn't mean anything, actually.

Or [you may say], “Zen is no good,” you know, “it doesn't mean anything. Even though we sit seven days [laughing]. Doesn't result [in] anything, so may be better to go to downtown and to eat something, instead of,” you know, “food Zen Center provide.” That will be, you know, exactly, you know, what you will understand. But you, you know, you, you know, maybe you fool yourself, you know. And you are pleased, you know, when people call you Zen student [laughs]. That's all. So your practice is encouraging your ego, you know. You are not practicing Zen. If “just to sit” is like that, Zen does not mean anything. This is more-or-less intellectual understanding plus something, you know, plus some physical effort.

But our true zazen cannot be like that. If Zen is like that, Zen will not survive, you know, couldn't survive so long time [laughs]. Long time ago, Zen must have vanished from this world. Why Zen, you know, [is] still alive, you know, is because of the other side of the truth, you know: to accept the truth as your own. Various, you know, and patriarchs and great, you know, sage of Buddhist or various religion said, you know, “Buddha,” you know, “left teaching just for me,” [pats himself] you know, Nichiren said, you know. “Buddha left Lotus Sutra just [pats himself] for Nichiren. Just for me. Not for anyone else. Just for me.”

If that side is forgotten, you know, the Buddha's teaching is nothing, you know, nothing but waste paper. “Just for me” means, you know, it is not arrogancy, you know. “Just for me” means, you know, because-- when he has full appreciation of the teaching as his own, you know, he says, “All the teaching is just for me.”

That is a side-- that is the spirit we need in our zazen practice. Everyone can be, you know, Nichiren. Everyone can be Dogen or Bodhidharma. Because I practice, you know, zazen, there is Buddha, there is Dogen, there is Bodhidharma, and there is Buddha's teaching.

Actually, you know, we should realize that, you know, I am-- you are only, you know, one being in this world. No one else exist. You are the only one who exist in this world. And that is very true. No one can take over your position. And that is very true, so all the teaching is just for you.

When you are young, you have no such feeling, you know [laughs]. You think you live fifty more or one hundred more years [laughs], so today is not so valuable for you. If you become my age, you know [laughs], you will really feel, “I am just one being, you know. No one can take over my position,” you know, “so I must not fool myself,” you know. This is very important point for Zen student-- maybe for everyone, but, you know, especially for those who practice our way this point is very important.

Without this confidence or this understanding, you know, your practice will be involved in, you know, various, you know-- you will expose your weakness in your practice, you know. “Oh, no, I am not,” you know, “I am not good enough,” you know, “to practice zazen,” you know. “Look at me. What I have been doing?” you know. “I cannot practice,” you know. “Zen is so beautiful and so perfect. How is it possible for me to join,” you know, “their practice?” You will expose your various weak points, and you will, you know, feel, actually feel, various weakness of your character and of your conduct or habit, you know, you have. And, you know, in calm sitting, this kind of, you know, feeling will occupy you, and you cannot sit. But whatever you say about yourself, you are only one, you know. You cannot escape from this world, because the whole world is yours. That is, you know, that is very true-- more than-- it is more than truth, you know, which we can talk about. This is ultimate truth, you know.

How you can deny this fact that you are, you know, only one person? Even though you can criticize yourself-- that is easy. But how you can deny this fact? That is, you know, that is the point we should face. If you understand this point, you know, you have no time to say good or bad-- good practice or bad practice. Because you turn deaf ear to this truth, you have time to criticize yourself. When you realize this point, you can hear or you can see the truth, and you can practice zazen. You can accept the truth, whatever it is, you know. Whatever you see, that is truth. That is expression of the truth.

How you, you know-- we say our practice is to open up yourself for everything-- everything you see as a embodiment of the truth, as a bodhisattva, as a buddha-- to open up yourself and accept buddha. [A car pulls up outside the Buddha Hall, with its radio loudly playing “Baby I'm Yours.”] This is why we practice zazen and why, you know, everyone can join our practice and why this practice include every activity you have in your everyday life.

This kind of practice-- our practice is so-- not usual practice: cannot be, must not be usual practice which could be compare to various kind of practice as a means of, you know, attain something, to acquire something. By long, long experience of many people, you know, form we take and the way we take breathing, various instructions was accumulated-- human experience.

So it is, at the same time our practice can be accumulation of human experience as, you know, scientific knowledge is. But the difference between scientific knowledge and Buddhist wisdom is Buddhists put emphasis on more subjective side of the truth. Not-- objective-- it is not only objectively true but also subjectively it has, you know, point which could be, you know, everyone's point. Each one of us have had this point and have been practicing our way. That is why we say every one of us is Buddha, and this is how we transmitted Buddha's teaching to us all. It is not just, you know, paper transmission. Subjective side has been always with us, and this point was emphasized always without losing objective, you know, side of the truth. Sometime, you know, people ignore the objective side of the truth-- people who call themselves “spiritual” person who, you know, ignore the objective side of the truth. That is also a mistake.

But if we, you know, [are] caught by, you know, the objective side of the truth and rely on the truth, you know, with idle attitude, the objective truth will not help you, as we human being already start to experience, you know. Even though we can go to the moon, it doesn't help so much. As long as we rely on objective truth, scientific truth, you know, it doesn't help. Only when we, you know, each one of us feel the truth, appreciate the truth, and when we-- each one of us, you know, appreciate truth, accept the truth, and ready to, you know, follow the truth, it will work. Putting themselves outside of the truth and study the truth, you know, then when something happen to him, you know [laughs], he doesn't know what to do.

[Laughs.] Do you know the story of the dragon, you know? The Chinese person liked a dragon [laughs] very much. And he talked about dragon to his friend, and he painted [laughs] dragon, and he bought various kinds of, you know, dragon [laughs]. So dragon thought, “If I,” you know, “if real dragon like me visited him, he may be very,” you know, “happy.” So one day [laughs], the real dragon sneaked into his room [laughs, laughter]. He couldn't know what to do! Waah! [Laughs, laughter.] He couldn't even run away. He couldn't even stand up. Waah! [Laughs, laughter.]

For long, long time we have been like, you know, like him. That is not our attitude. We should be always dragon-- not only, you know, more than his friend, we should be always dragon himself. Then you will not be afraid of any dragon. But, you know, you may not know what is dragon [laughs] either [even?]. So that is another, you know [laughs], side of that, you know-- another difficulty, you know, because [laughs] it is difficult to appreciate, you know, dragon.

So from various angle, we should be ready to study our way. With this kind of, you know, understanding you will practice zazen. Zazen become zazen, and zazen become your own zazen, and you are buddha. And, you know, you can, you know, express your true nature in various way. That is freedom from the form of practice, you know. Whatever you do, you can, you know, express your, you know-- you will be really you, you know. Whatever you do, you know, you will be buddha in its true sense. The difference between this kind of practice with this understanding and, you know, the, you know, lazy practice with poor, superficial understanding of form and instructions and teaching, you know. There is big, big difference. After all, as Buddha said, you know, you should only rely on yourself. There is no one you can rely on. You should be relying on yourself. It means that you should be boss of everything. You should see, you should understand, you know, Buddha's teaching and our practice, you know, as your own, you know.

[Sentence finished. Tape turned over.]

-- or bad, you know. Don't stick to your own karma you created. You should be free from the karma, you know, and plunge into the practice on each moment. Then, you know, there is no karma, you know, who will control you. You are free from karma in our practice. And if your everyday life is based on this practice, then your life is not karmic life. It looks like, you know, the way of life of non-Buddhist and Buddhist [is the] same, but it is completely different. One is karmic life, and other is the life, you know, free from karma.

In short, you know, if you can say, “Hai” [laughs], at that moment you are free from karma. If you can say, “Hai! Yes I will!” you know, then there is no karma. When you say “bad” [laughs], nevertheless, wait a moment [laughs, laughter]. At that moment you will, you know, be bound by your own karma. Quite easy [laughs]. “Yes, I will,” you know. That is how you keep our precepts.

When you receive precepts, you know, I may say:

“Can you,” you know, “are you sure to keep this precepts?” you know [laughs].

If you think:

“Oh, 'Don't kill.' I may kill many things [laughs]. Better not to say 'yes,'” you know [laughs].

Then you cannot receive precepts. Anyway, you should say, “YES!” [laughs]. Then you can-- you are keeping precepts-- you kept precepts. When you keep precepts, at that moment, you know, whole world are keeping precepts in its true sense. You know, scientific mind will not accept what I say [laughs], but, you know, as Buddha said, as you accept it or not is, you know, my problem-- your problem [laughs, laughter], you know, so ideal [?] say, if you say, “Yes, I will,” you know, then you are free from karma.

Even though, you know, you shouldn't say-- even though you say “Yes,” you know, you don't mean “Yes” [laughs]. That will be-- someone may say, you know, but, you know, actually, if you say “YESSS” [laughs, laughter], if your mind is tender enough to say “YESSS” [laughs, laughter], I may look very, you know, look like, you know, children-like, maybe [laughs], but that is the way, you know, that is the way how you keep precepts.

So after giving various precepts to you one by one in this way, and after you accept-- various priest, maybe 250 or 500 [laughs] you know, one by one, and what I should say after is, “You should keep our precept always in that way,” you know. The way we keep precepts should be like that, you know. You say our, you know, ceremony to give precepts is, you know, just form-- formal practice. It is not so. First of all, you know, I may say, if you receive precepts, you will be a son of Buddha and you will sit with Buddha. You will be sitting with the Buddha if you receive precepts. If you don't, you know, if you are always involved in, you know, karmic life with superficial understanding of subjective or objective side of the truth, you know, you are not Buddha. But receiving precepts or practicing zazen-- true zazen, true precepts-- and when you actually receive it from me, from teacher, then you are Buddha, and, you know, there is no difference between, you know, accepting precepts and practicing our zazen. There is no difference.

So, you know, your teacher may say, “You should,” you know, “keep our precept in this way.” So when you practice zazen, your teacher may say, “You are really Buddha.” It is so. And your teacher may say, “You should practice zazen always in that way.” That is the way you practice zazen. So it is not just form. It include, you know, truth, and attainment, and, you know, progress in your practice. You have, you know, all kinds of, you know, virtue in your practice.

That is the spirit, you know, you must have in your practice. Not difficult at all. If I say “spirit,” you know, “good spirit” or “bad spirit,” maybe someone like Eka can be a [laughs], you know, Bodhidharma's disciple. But everyone can be Bodhidharma's disciple, you know, without cutting [off] your arm [laughs].

Ahhh. Okay?

Ah? Maybe one hour? Okay. Thank you.

Thank you very much.



Stand Up by the Ground
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin, Second Night Lecture
September, 1969
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 139)

We have been talking about-- discuss-- discussing about reality, actually, and how we practice our way in our zazen and in our everyday life. And Dogen Zenji talked about the reality in-- by using the Japanese or Chinese word, inmo. Inmo means-- inmo has two meaning. It is-- it means like this, you know [probably gestures]-- and also it means question: “What is that?” Or it is, you know, “it,” you know. “It” means-- sometime it is question mark, and sometime “it” means-- pointing at something, we say, “it.”

In English, you know, you say, “It is hot.” That “it” is the same words-- same meaning when you say, “It is nine o'clock,” or “It is half-passed eight.” You know, it-- you use [”it” for] only time or weather, you know. Time or weather is “it.” But not only time or weather. Everything should be “it”-- can be “it.” We are also “it,” you know, but we don't say “it.” Instead of “it” we say “he” or “she,” or “me” or “I.” But actually it means “it.” So everything is-- if everything is “it,” you know, it is-- at the same time, question mark, you know. When I say “it,” you know, you don't know [laughs] exactly what I mean, so you may say, “What is it?” [laughs] you may ask.

“It” is not-- it does not mean some definite, special thing, as it does not mean when we talk about time, it is not-- it does not mean some special time, or meal time, or lecture time. We don't know. So “it” is-- it means also ques- [partial word]-- it may be question mark for everyone. If I say “it,” you know, you may say, “What time is it?” you may say.

So “it” or inmo means-- has-- mean, you know, has two meaning: definite-- some definite thing is “it,” and at the same time “it” may be a question. And this is very important for us to know. “It” has always-- maybe it has-- it means always-- it has two sides of it: “It is hot now,” but it-- it is-- it may be sometime cold,” you know [laughs]. “Right now it is hot, but it is not always hot. Sometime it will be cold.”

When we say-- when we talk about time, “it” means some, you know, some special time. But at the same time it means, you know, some continuous time. Time is always-- time is continuous thing, and, at the same time, time is some special, definite, discontinued [discontinuous] -- some certain hour. When we say it is half-passed eight, we point out at some certain time. At that time, time mean discontinue-- discontinuity. And-- but time, by nature, it is something continued-- continuous thing, so one words has two side: continuity and discontinuity. That is the nature of reality to us.

So we have been talking about things for tonight in term of discontinued-- some special discontinuous, specialized being which has form or color, you know. That is inmo. That was inmo.

But Dogen Zenji again talked-- talks about our practice in term of something continuous, not special-- something which is mixed up [laughs] with everything. If we are not ready to discuss things, we will not have a complete understanding of our teaching. As he says: “Those who,” you know, “fell on the ground should stand up by the ground-- by the earth.” I don't know if it makes some sense to you. What do you say? “To fell on the ground”-- ”to fell,” or--[?]

Student: Fall.

Another student: Fall on the ground.

SR: Hmm?

Student: Fall on the ground?

SR: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Like this [probably gestures]. Fall on the ground? Should stand up by the earth-- by the ground at that place. And he also says, “If you fall on the ground,” you know, “you should,” you know, “stand up”-- what should I say? It is rather difficult-- ”by emptiness [laughs], by nothing.” Actually we-- actually we stand up by the ground like this [probably gestures], you know, but he says we shouldn't stand up by the ground. What does it-- it means is if you think, you know, you can stand up by the ground always, it would be a big mistake. If you rely on, you know, ground, if you rely on the ground-- on ground and don't mind to fall on the ground, you know, you will fall on the ground quite easily. “It's all right. I can stand up by the ground.” [Laughs.] So he said you shouldn't-- you shouldn't think you can stand up on the ground-- by the ground.

And this point is important, you know. It is like enlightenment. If you rely on enlightenment, you know, and practice zazen, it is someone who easy-- who easily, you know, make mistake or fall on the ground, relying on the help of the ground. Do you understand? It is rather-- do you understand? There is very subtle point. To stand up by the ground-- of course we have to stand up by the ground at the time, but if you stick to the idea of help of the ground all the time, you know, you lose the true meaning of fall on the ground. In other word, we should not make same mistake [laughs] many many times. Even though you make mistake-- you may think, you know, even though you make some mistake, it is all right. We know how to get up.

That is not what we mean when we say “reality.” Things happen-- things does not happen many times in the same way. Even it doesn't happen same way twice. But if we say, if you fell-- fall on the ground, you should stand up by the ground, then you-- you will have this kind of idea: “Okay, I know how to stand up, so it's all right, even though I fall on the ground by mistake.” With this kind of prejudice or easy idea, if we practice our way that is wrong practice.

You recite each time in lecture, you know, “Even one hundred kalpas of time, you cannot meet with the teaching.” That is the true, you know. Truth is-- exist-- truth is true only when you listen to, you know. And when you try to repeat what someone said, that is not truth anymore. When he said so, it is true. When someone said so, it is true because the ground is already-- has two meaning. It is, you know, at that time ground, but ground can be-- can be a stick sometime, can be a stone sometime, can be a water sometime.

Ground is “it,” you know. “It” means everything, not just ground. It means that you should renew your way of practice. Each time you practice, you have-- must have fresh new feeling. With fresh and new feeling, you should practice our way. Try not to have same experience, you know. Your experience of practice should be always new, and should be always “it.” It should not be some definite particular experience.

So there is nothing to rely on in our practice. But on the other hand, there is always something provided for you, always. According to the circumstances, you will have some aid to practice our way. You know, even pain in your legs is help, you know. By the pain you have, you should practice our way. The pain is “it.” It is, at that time, some definite experience or definite trouble or thing. But “it” can be drowsiness [laughs]; “it” can be hunger; “it” can be hot weather. So hot weather or cool weather-- nice and cool weather, or hunger, or mosquito [laughs], or pain in your legs can be a h- [partial word]-- aid of your practice by which you can stand up-- establish your practice.

Not only, you know, Buddha's teaching, but also everything can be aid of practice. So we say inmo. Inmoji. Inmoji means “things.” And those who practice zazen is also inmo-nin. -Nin means “person.” -Nin in Japanese means “person.” Inmo-nin-- ”someone-- someone practicing something.” That is reality. [Laughs.] Even though you are practicing actually, right here, but in its true sense you should understand “someone practicing something.” Or “someone doing something.” Not only practice. “Someone doing something.”

So if-- if it-- it is so, “doing” is not necessary, you know. “Someone” and “doing” and “someone” and “doing” and “something” is same thing, you know. Doing-- someone which will practice zazen, include everything. He cannot be separated from this world. And some action cannot exist without background of whole world. Something cannot be special thing from this world, so “something, something, something.” [Laughs, laughter.] Then, what is that? That is complete realization. So one thing, you know-- everything happens in that way. So if you understand-- stick to the idea of help or experience or enlightenment, that is already mistake.

As I am Soto [laughs]-- Soto-- I belong to Soto, if I say so: “Oh, he,” you know, “deny enlightenment experience.” [Laughs.] It is not so. We Soto student do not stick to one thing. We don't stick to anything. We should have always freedom. In Japanese we say shusshin-- shusshin-no-katsuro: complete freedom. Complete freedom of practice, complete freedom of expression. Our practice is expression-- a vivid expression of our true nature or reality.

So for us it is not possible to stick to anything. So one after another, we have to practice our way in a quite renewed area and quite refreshed way. And our practice should be independent from past practice and future practice. We cannot sacrifice our practice for future attainment, because all the buddha who passed-- attained enlightenment in this way, and all the buddha in future will attain enlightenment in this way. “In this way” means, you know [laughs]-- ”this,” means “not any”-- I do not, you know, mean Soto way or Rinzai way. Sometime Soto way. Sometime Rinzai way. Sometime some other school's way, according to the circumstances. The way we-- how we attain enlightenment will be different. Someone will attain enlightenment when he see some flower or hear some sound like bamboo. Or someone may attain enlightenment when they take hot bath [laughs, laughter] there.

And there were many kinds of people in Buddha's sangha. There was a twelve, you know, disciples who came from a rich family. And Bhadrapala Bodhisattva, who attained enlightenment in a hot bath, is [laughs] one of the boy who came from very rich family. And rich and poor may attain enlightenment in various way: in hot bath, in rest room [laughs]. There is no Soto way or Rinzai way, actually. So we say “it.” And “it”-- that “it” means-- and that “it” ha- [partial word]-- means two-- two side. “It” has two side: positive side and negative side.

In short, what do we mean? You know, we-- you know, we discuss very abstract way so that discussion include various way of practice. But in short, what it means is: whatever it is, we should accept. And by means of various things, we should practice our way. And there is no other way to attain enlightenment.

Do you have some question? It may be rather difficult to make question, you know [laughing], because, you know, it is like to catch fish by net, you know. We talk something, you know, in this way so that you cannot escape from it. It is lucky to catch a fish by net. After throwing net, you know: “Is there some question?” is-- doesn't mean much, but, you know, you escaped from the net. Okay.

Student A: When I fall down on the ground, who is it that makes effort to get up?

SR: You. Or Buddha.

Student A: I have a problem-- or it feels like it. Whenever I make effort, it-- it seems to come from some sense of “I,” maybe some pride or some very strong sense of self. Could you tell us about effortless effort?

SR: Effortless effort. Effortless effort means the effort, knowing that there is no “I” or no ground, you know, and then something which is going with everything is effortless effort. The effort you make is not your effort, because there is no “you,” you know. What is that effort? That effort is-- the effort comes out from-- from your mother body of whole being.

You, you know-- that you stand up means that everyone stand up, and everyone feel very good when you stand up. And when you st- [partial word]-- when you attain enlightenment, everyone attains enlightenment with you. So if the practice does not include everyone of us, it is not true practice, we say. It is tainted practice by the idea of self. And you may have this kind of doubt or-- after you do, after you do something as-- like you-- whether this is, you know, selfish, you know, things or not: “Why did I do this?” I think you will have this kind of-- some uncertain feeling about what you do or what you did. I suffered from it [laughs] pretty much.

Especially when you do something good, you know-- supposed to be good, you suffer more [laughs]. When you did some-- something by mistake, you don't suffer, you know. “This is by mistake, so I will not make same mistake again.” That's all, you know. But if you try to do something good, after-- or you did something which is supposed to be good, because you did something with some idea of good and bad, you suffer more. Especially by the idea of good, you suffer more [laughs]-- you should suffer more [laughs]. That is good experience. Okay.

Student B: Roshi, I'm walking along, and everything's intact [laughter], and then I--

SR: Walking?

Student B: I'm walking along, and everything seems to be okay, and then thud!-- I'm on the ground. I look around, and there's a small rock. So with a roar, I can pick up the rock and throw it off into the woods. But what if the rock is so big I can't lift it? So what am I going to do?

SR: [Laughing.] Rock is so big?

Student B: Yeah. It's stuck in the ground and I can't pick it up.

SR: Yeah. You-- no need to take it out. [Laughs, laughter.]

Student B: But I feel some need to take it out-- some strong need. [Loud laughter.]

SR: That's deep ego [laughing]-- too big. Your ego is too big. I thought if the rock is a great big one, it is more beneficial to, you know, stand up by it, you know. Small rocks will not help you so much, but if it is too-- so big, it is easy to, you know, stand up by it. If you stand up, you know, you should work [walk?] off the rock. And there is no need to take-- take it away.

Actually, you know, problem-- your problem is when you feel guilty, you know-- when you feel guilty is the point. After you did something, you feel, you know, selfish. But before you feel selfish, you didn't feel, you know, anything. But after-- after you did something, you start to feel bad. So when you did it, it was all right. But after you did it, and when you think about it, the way you think about it was not-- is not right. Do you understand? When you did it, you were not selfish. But when you think about it, you became already selfish. You expect something to be good. So don't think too much about what you did. Okay? If you think too much about what you did, it is-- most of the time, it is, maybe, conscientious thing, but it is sometime very selfish idea is involved in it. So one after another, you should continue your practice, you know, without thinking, without being involved in so much selfish idea or dualistic idea. Okay? [Sentence finished. Tape turned over.]

When I w- [partial word]-- I had-- I suffered a lot about it when I was at school, you know. And I was staying at dormitory, you know. And restroom was always dirty [laughs]-- dormitory restroom was always dirty. So I, you know, made up my mind to clean it, you know. But I didn't want to clean it when people, you know, see [laughing]. So I get up early in the morning before they get up so that no one can find out me in cleaning, you know, restroom.

It was pretty good, you know, for several days, but even though early in the morning someone get up [laughs]. I have very difficult time to hide myself [laughs, laughter] while doing this kind of thing, you know. Sometime, you know, our dean of the-- head of the college or university-- whatever it is-- Nukariya-- Nukariya is his name-- and he was very strict person. And he stayed in our dormitory with student [laughs]. And Saturday night was the night when he go home. He was so strict, in summertime when all the students went home, he would stay at dormitory, taking care of things. So most people who visited the dormitory to see-- to see him, thought he was a garbage man [laughs] on the dormitory. He was so, you know-- he was pretty good.

And sometime, you know, I saw a light in his room, you know. I was very much scared of [laughing] him getting-- coming to the restroom. So as soon as I saw the light in the dormitory, not only his room but also some room, I escaped from the restroom, and I was quite, you know, upset or, you know-- I don't know what to say, you know. I was very much mixed up. At first, I-- I felt very good, you know. And more and more, I had many things to think about. And I have too much to think about. So finally I-- I have to think whether I should continue it or give up.

But my nature-- I was pretty stubborn, you know. I didn't like to give up something so easily. So I wanted to continue it, but I-- I didn't want to have that kind of silly problems. But anyway I continued it. And I had-- I studied psychology, you know. And he-- the professor, you know, talked about our psychology, you know.

And he said it is not possible to have same experience again, you know. Even though you think you did this kind of thing, but what you think about it and what you have experienced is not same-- different, quite different. So actually you cannot have same experience again, in its strict sense. So it is not possible to, you know, to have same feeling again or same experience again. So I was enlight [?], you know. “Okay! It is not possible to think about it, so forget about it, and I will try-- I will continue to do it. Whatever happen, it's-- it is all right. And whatever they may say, that is all right.” I continued my practice in that way, for I don't know how long.

So don't think too much about it, you know. What you do is not selfish, but what you think-- that you think about it is maybe selfish. So if you can forget all about it, you are not so selfish. Hai.

Student C [Bill Shurtleff]: I think I understand what you mean when you say that what we do is not selfish, in the way that it affects other people.

SR: Uh-huh.

Bill: But it seems like there are some problems which cause us pain directly, and we think about them because they cause us pain directly, for example, during eating. And I have a problem that keeps happening again and again. And I think about it very often-- each time that it happens, and I can see it happening even before it happens. And it still happens. And it's a problem with eating-- like things-- there are certain things that if I eat them, I know they will cause me suffering.

SR: Mm-hmm. Yeah. [Laughs.]

Bill: And every time that I eat them, I suffer. I get sick. There is an “I” afterwards who says: “You should never, ever eat that again [laughter] because every time that you've eaten it you've suffered and gotten sick.” And yet, another “I” sees himself approaching that plate of food, and he can say eat it anyway [pervious six words are a guess-- obscured by laughter]. And then afterwards, the other “I” comes along and says, “Now, you see!” Twenty times-- the same thing happens every time. And every time I think about it, and think about it, and think about it.

SR: That is karma. [Laughs, laughter.] Yeah, we are-- we have that kind of problem always. We know that this is not good. But-- I don't know why, but, you know, something makes me doing something wrong. But, you know, some people may say that is a kind of destiny-- fate, or, you know-- it is not so. You can improve it little by little. We have no idea of, you know, fate or karma in-- karma in that way.

Bill: You emphasize accepting it, and my emphasis always seems to be on improving, and not doing it next time, rather than accepting it this time [student laughs].

SR: Yeah. But before, you know, you try to improve yourself, you have to accept it, you know, or you have to see it clearly, you know. If you have idea of improvement first, you will miss the clear sight of the reality. So you have to see it first and try to improve it. Hai.

Student D: I get the feeling, after sitting here for the last few days [1-2 words unclear]-- a habit of sitting. And as I sit, I forget about it more. So it becomes a new habit. Maybe-- maybe then that's sort of like an answer to Meg's question and Bill's question.

SR: Yeah.

Student D: It becomes a habit-- a new habit. And you don't think about your habits.

SR: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Habit. Yeah. That is-- that is habit. But habit is very important, you know, in our practice. That is why, you know, we do same thing over and over again: to make some good habit. But difference between the habit, in usual sense, and our habit-- good habit is we, you know, we are trying to make something a habit, you know. That something is, you know, the way to attain liberation. Usually habit is, you know, habit of smoking, habit of drinking [laughs]-- something, you know-- some habit directed to the other way.

So our habit is to be free from things, we have this kind of practice. By practicing, we will have habit of being relieved from everything, to have more freedom from everything. This kind of habit is-- the nature of habit is different. Do you understand? We, you know, bow to the Buddha. We observe ceremonies in the same way over and over again. But this habit will result complete freedom from-- for you. Zazen practice will give you the power of being free from things. So we-- if I use “habit” in usual sense, we practice our way to destroy various, you know, habit in its bad sense. Okay?

Student D: Sesshin seems to break some of my habits-- thinking in the past of, say, my habit of overeating.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student D: And sesshin comes and I just cut it off, and it's gone for seven days. And-- but at the end, there's always-- I-- I guess the longer I practice, the more I will be faced with this choice between keeping the habit broken or over-reacting, you know. I think, “Well, seven days of not overeating! Wow!” [Laughs, laughter.] [2-3 words unclear.]

SR: Yeah. Right. Yeah, that is very true. We say, “One hundred lecture [laughs] end in,” you know, “one poo.” [Laughing, laughter throughout rest of paragraph.] What do you call it? After giving you one hundred times of lecture, and you make big poo-- big one, you know! That's worse-- make me worse. If I haven't given-- gave lect- [partial word]-- given lectures, you know, to you it was all right. Because I gave lecture, you know, to-- to make poo is very-- makes me worse. That is not actually laughing matter [laughing].




Just Enough Problems
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sesshin Lecture, Lecture 7: Page Street Apples
Friday Morning
February 12, 1971
San Francisco
(title from book: Not Always So, p. 143)

This is the seventh day of the sesshin, and you came already too far. So you cannot, you know, give up [laughs, laughter]. So only way is to stay here. And I feel I had a very good crop [laughs]. You may feel you are not yet ripened. But even though you are still ripening, but if you stay in our storehouse anyway, it will be a good apples [laughs]-- Page Street apples, ready to be served [laughs, laughter]. So I have nothing to worry [about], and I don't think you have any more worry about your practice.

Perhaps some of you started sesshin because you have too many things to solve, or some of you must have thought if you come and sit here, maybe your problem will be solved. But, you know, the problem which you-- which is-- any-- whatever problem it may be, something which is given to you could be solved anyway because Buddha will not give you anything-- any more than you can solve and you need. Whatever it is, whatever problem it may be, the problem you have is just enough problems [laughs, laughter] for you.

So I think you should trust him, you know, just enough-- not too much. And, you know-- and his-- if it is not too much, Buddha is ready to give you some more problems [laughs, laughter] just to survive, you know, just to appreciate problems. Buddha is always giving you something, because if you have nothing to cope with, you know, it may be terrible life-- as if you are, you know, it is like-- problem without life [life without problems] is to sit in this zendo for seven days without doing anything.

But, you know, I think you have had many problems to cope with in this zendo, or maybe more problems than you had in the city. You think it is easy to solve problem in zendo than in the city, but actually it is not so. You will find out more problems which you have had. But why you didn't feel so is you are fooled by something, and because of that you couldn't find out the problems you had. And if you do not, you know, know what kind of problem you have, the result will be terrible, you know. Unexpected problem will appear, you know, but it is not something which you didn't have, you know. Nothing will happen-- no problem will happen if you do not have, you know-- originally if you do not have problems. Because you had problem, only result came out when you did not expect it. So it is better to, you know, find out problems earlier-- as soon as possible.

But in our practice, there is no need-- you don't have to worry what will happen to us, because Buddha will give you, you know, just enough problems. I think that is, you know, to-- to sit-- we Soto students sit, you know, facing to the wall-- in other word, facing to Buddha with your back-face [laughs]-- back-front face and back-face [laughs]-- I don't know how to say-- how to express it, you know. You-- you sit, you know, like this. Buddha is there [behind you], and [you are] trusting him, you know. If you make some mistake, Buddha may say [laughing], “turn over.” It means that you are involved in some dualistic problem, you know. You have some problem in the-- in sense of duality, you know. So Buddha says, you know, “turn over.”

And you should listen to him, you know [laughs]. But usually, if you trust him completely, you know, there is no need to face the Buddha. This is the attitude of complete trust, you know. Your enemies or some problems, you know, will, you know, come through the back, not from the, you know, the front. So to expose your back to the Buddha means to express the complete trust with Buddha.

And even though you have problem which you-- you don't need, which you feel you don't need, or too much-- which you feel [are] too much [of a] problem-- problems, but trusting him, you should sit with problems. And, at the same time, you should be ready to refuse it if it is too much. But this will not be necessary, you know. There will not be no need to refuse it, because more and more the problems you think [are] problem will change into something you need.

So you know that, “If I refuse problem, I may regret. So I must keep-- anyway I must keep this because I am not so sure if this is real problem or Buddha's help,” you know. [Laughs.] “Maybe better to keep it.” And you sit in this way, you know. “Okay. [Laughs.] Anyway, it will-- we will understand what Buddha give-- gave us.” And Buddha may say, “If you really don't need it, any time I will accept it. [Laughs.] Give it back to me.” But if Buddha say so, you may think, you know, “Oh, may be better [laughs, laughter] to keep it. There may be some meaning,” you know, “in this problem. Oh, better to keep it.” And you should sit. If you sit in this way, you will find various problems as a kind of valuable treasures which is indispensable for you and especially indispensable for Zen students.

So before you sit, before you accept yourself as you are, and before you-- so-- before you accept the problem you have, your position, you cannot sit in its true sense. But if you fix your mind, trusting him, and sit, then in it-- there is no confusion or problems any more.

What you should do is to wait. Be patient enough and wait until the problem will make some sense to you, until you can appreciate your being here and your being-- your position, whatever it is. That is how you practice zazen.

So if you only practice zazen, there is no need to expect Buddha to help you. Buddha is always helping you. But usually what we are doing is refusing Buddha's offer. For an instance, if you, you know, ask help-- ask some special help from special person, you know, it means that you-- you are refusing, you know, Buddha's offering and asking for some other things which is not here yet. So you are refusing him. You are refusing what you have already. And you are refusing to accept treasures you have.

You are like a pig, you know. When I was young, as my father was very poor, he raised many pigs. And if you give pigs a bucket of food, you know, if you are not there he will eat it. As long as you are there, he will not eat it, expecting me to give more food [laughs, laughter]. So you must be very careful. And you-- if you put, you know, if you move, he will kick out the food from the bucket [laughs]. I think that is what you are doing, you know [laughs, laughter].

Just to cause more problem for you [laughs], you seek for something. But there is no need for you to seek for anything. You have plenty. And you have just enough problem. This is mysterious thing, you know-- mystery of the life. We have just enough problem: not too much or not too little. So there is no need to ask something for anybody-- there is no need to ask anyone's help if you are patient enough, if you are strong enough to accept it. But when you are not strong enough to accept you-- accept problem, or strong enough to sit calmly and peacefully, trusting Buddha. Yeah, I said “trusting Buddha,” you know [laughs]. I already give you the answer. Only way may be to trust Buddha, you know, to trust your being-- why you are here, how you are here, you know. Because you are helped, and because the way you are helped is perfect, you exist here. If it is too much, you will die. If it is too little, you will die. You are, you know, receiving something, you know-- as much as you need-- just as much as you need. So only way is, you know, to trust him, or to trust your being here. That is, you know, spirit of Zen.

Zen master-- you may think Zen master is-- all the Zen master is very tough. [Thumps the ground and laughs.] It-- he looks like very tough, you know, when you need him to be tough. [Thumps the ground and laughs.] But, you know, he is not tough-- so tough. He is just tough enough for you, that's all! [Laughs, laughter.] Actually, you don't need your master if you really-- if you know how to practice zazen.

It is already, you know, the last day. Perhaps if you have this kind of understanding, I think if you have problem still, you know, if you are blue apple yet [laughs]-- blue or green apple-- not blue [laughing, ongoing laughter]-- after being red, you will be blue. That is [?] too late. Maybe better than green-- to stay green. If you feel you are still, you know, green, but, you know-- even though you feel you are still green, you want-- maybe you want to continue this sesshin more, I think [laughs]. I am so sure about it.

Last day will be the day for-- to-- to have-- to make our practice meaningful, you know. How to make our practice meaning[ful] will be the-- will be our schedule. So I want you just to sit, you know, and to be ready to go to market [as ripe apples], for-- to be ready to be served for Zen students.

That is all what I wanted to say this morning. So let's, you know, sit more and-- to have full appreciation of our practice.



Sun-Faced Buddha, Moon-Faced Buddha
Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Sunday, March 9, 1969
Sokoji, San Francisco

I am glad to see you from here [laughs]. My organ [?] may not be so good yet, but I am-- today I'm testing, you know, just testing. [Laughs, laughter.] I don't know if it works or not. Whether it works or not, or if I speak or not, is not such a big problem for us. Whatever happen to us, it is something which it should happen-- which should happen. So purpose of our practice [is] to have this kind of complete composure in our everyday life.

Some of Japanese member, you know, thought because I am-- I am practicing always zazen, “He not-- he will not be catch cold. [Laughs.] He will not suffer from flu. But it was funny for him to stay in bed so long.” [Laughs.]

But purpose of zazen is to makes-- to make our-- to make ourselves physically strong or to make ourselves mentally healthy or strong, maybe to make our mind healthy and body healthy. But healthy mind is not just, you know, “healthy mind” in its usual sense, and weak body is not weak body in its usual sense. Whether it is weak or strong, when that weakness and that strength is based on so-called-it truth or buddha-nature, that is healthy mind and healthy body.

As you know, there is a koan in Blue Cliff Record. It was the third koan in Blue Cliff Record and 30-- maybe 35 in Shoyu Roku. Soto use mostly Shoyu Roku, and Rinzai use mostly Blue Cliff Record, but subjects we find is same. We find same subject in a different order, with different commentary.

Anyway, the story is the-- Baso-- Baso-- Zen master Baso, the grandson of the Sixth Patriarch-- Baso Doitsu-- the Sixth Patriarch Eno and his disciple-- his-- one of the two main disciple is Nangaku, and Nangaku's disciple is Baso. So the other-- the other important disciple is Seigen. Those are the most important lineage from the Sixth Patriarch because, under those two disciples, Zen Buddhism flourished, and we have many and many good, famous Zen masters under two-- those-- two of those teachers: Seigen and Baso-- no, Nangaku.

Nangaku's disciple is-- was Baso. Baso was a big-- physically he was very strong and great-- a man of great physique, like this, you know [draws in air the figure of a large man]. 1 And when he speaks, his tongue covered [laughing] his nose. Maybe he was very fluent speaker [laughs, laughter]. But he was-- once he was, you know, ill, so temple acolyte or temple master, who take care of the temple, asked him, “How are you, recently? Are you well or not?” And Baso said, “The sun-faced buddha and the man-- the moon-faced buddha. The sun-faced buddha and the moon-faced buddha.” Nichimenbutsu gachimenbutsu.

Nichimenbutsu is supposed to live for one thousand and eight hundred-- eight hundred years. And the moon-faced buddha lives only one day-- one-- one day, one night. That is the “one-faced buddha.” So, you know, when I am sick, I may be the moon-faced buddha [laughs]. When I-- I am healthy, I am the sun-faced buddha. But “the sun-faced buddha” or “the moon-faced buddha” has no special meaning. It means that, whether I am ill or healthy, still, you know, I am practicing zazen. There is no difference. So you shouldn't worry about my health, you know. Even though I am in bed, you know, I am buddha. So don't worry about me.

And this is quite simple, you know. This is actually what we are doing every day, you know. But the difference between Baso and we ordinal [ordinary] people are-- is for Baso, you know, whatever happen to him, he can accept things as it is, as it happens. But we, you know, we can not-- we cannot accept everything. Something which you think is good, you may accept it. But something which you do not like you cannot-- you don't accept it. And you compare one to the other. And you may say, “this is the truth; this is not true.” And “he is a true Zen master; and he is not a true Zen master.” And “he is good Zen student; but I am not.” That is quite usual way of understanding. With this kind of understanding you cannot, you know, figure out what kind of-- with what kind of idea we can-- we sit every day.

To attain enlightenment means to have this kind of complete composure in our life, without any description-- discrimination. But, at the same time, if we stick to this kind of attitude of non-discrimination, that is also a kind of discrimination, you know. So how we practice zazen-- how we attain this kind of complete composure-- is the point, you know, you should have when you start our practice.

First of all, you should know that with ordinal [ordinary], you know, effort you cannot practice our way. When I was in Japan, I also had, you know, some Zen students. Some of them are very rich, and some-- and some of them are very influential people. And some of them [are] just, you know, students. Some of them are-- were carpenter, you know, and some of them were other workers. In Japan, you know, still we have some-- not, you know, class, but some, you know-- we respect, still, we treat some-- someone-- or mayor or teachers in some different way. We, you know, we have-- we use some special-- we-- we have some special way of addressing them and we have-- we have some way-- special way to talk with him. And we-- we have also special manner to them. As you say, “Yes, sir.” [Laughs.] That is a kind of thing you have. But nowadays I don't think you have this kind of difference in your way of communication. But I always, you know, told them, “If you want to-- if you are Zen students, you should,” you know, “forget all about your position, or work, or title, and you should be just,” you know, “Zen students, or else,” you know, “we cannot practice zazen in its true sense.”

When we-- actually, when you sit I say, “Don't think,” you know. “Don't think” means don't treat things in term of good or bad, you know, or heavy or light. And just, you know, accept things as it is. So even though you do nothing, you may hear, you know, and the moment-- usually the moment you hear, your reaction is, “What will it be? Yeah, that is a motor car, or that's very noisy,” you know. “That may be the motor cycle.”

But in zazen you should not, you know, react in that way. You should just, you know, hear the big noise or small noise, and you should not be bothered by it. It looks like impossible, you know, for you, for especially for a beginner, because the moment you hear, you know, some reaction follows. But if you practice zazen-- if you try-- if you continuously try not to do so, just accept “things as it is,” you can do it eventually.

Of course it is difficult. That difficulty is not some difficulty to-- like to carry some heavy things, or to work on mathematics, you know. That difficulty is that very [?]-- wants some special effort. How you can do it is to be concentrated on your posture, or breathing, or perfect physical practice. That is the only way to-- to have right reaction.

That is why, you know, Zen and samurai, you know, is not-- in Japan samurai practiced zazen to master, you know, sword martial art. Martial art is not just physical things. It is, you know, the matter [of] whether he k- [partial word]-- he is lose or win. So [laughs]-- so long as you are-- you are afraid of losing their life [laughs], they-- they will be-- their, you know, ability-- they cannot act in his full ability. When-- only when he is free from “to kill or to be killed,” you know, and only when he react [to] his enemy's activity, he will-- that is only way to win. If he try to win, he may lose. [Laughs.] So, you know, if he-- how he can act without this kind of fear, which will-- which will keep himself in limited activity is the most important thing. Because they had this kind of problem, they practiced Zen very hard. It is matter of, you know [laughs], whether he can survive or he cannot in battlefield. So he fought his fight in zendo, not in battlefield [laughs].

But we have not much, you know, need in our every day life, so we don't feel the necessity of this kind of practice. But our human problem we have in this world is created-- are created this kind of-- want of [desire for?] this kind of activity. Because we make our effort just to achieve something in its materialistic sense, or spiritual sense, we cannot achieve anything. We must achieve nothing [laughs], so that is the real meaning of nothingness.

So at first, I think, you should observe, you should understand your own everyday activity in two ways. And-- and then you should be able to understand or react in one way without problem. One is, you know, dualis- [partial word]-- to understand our life in dualistic way: good or bad, right or wrong. We should be-- we should try hard to understand things in term of good or bad. And sometime you should unders- [partial word]-- you should be able to ignore the understanding from the viewpoint of good or bad. “Good” or “bad” is just superficial understanding. But when you understand things, everything is one. Everything is one. Or all things are one. Then that is the other understanding: understanding of oneness. The understanding of duality.

At first you should be able to understand-- accept things in two ways, but this is not enough. It is still dualistic. So you should be able to understand in one of the two ways without thinking, “This is one of the two understanding.” So it-- here you come back from starting point, but actually it is not starting point because you have freedom from-- from one to the other. So you will not be bothered by it. And whatever you do, that is the great activity of the practice.

The sun-faced buddha is good; the moon-faced buddha is good. So whatever it is, that is good-- that all things are Buddha. And there is no Buddha, even. But usually [when] you say “no Buddha,” [laughs] it means that you stick to one-- only one of the three understanding: that is, you know, “no buddha,” the opposite of “buddha.” [1] Buddha, [2] no buddha, and [3] no buddha and buddha or buddha or no buddha. Whatever you say, it is all right. If you have complete, you know, understanding of it, whatever you say, it is all right. Only when you are not-- you don't understand buddha, you know, you concerned about if I say there is no-buddha. “You are a priest,” you know, “why-- how you can say there is no buddha?! And why do you chant? Why do you bow to buddha?” [Laughs.]

To bow to buddha is “no buddha” for us. There is no buddha, so we bow to buddha. [Laughs, laughter.] If you bow to buddha because there is buddha, you know, that is not true understanding of buddha. So whatever you say, it is all right. If you say, “The sun-faced buddha, the moon-faced buddha”-- Nichimenbutsu gachimenbutsu-- no trouble. [Laughing.] Whether I am [at] Tassajara or Sokoji, that's no trouble. [Laughs.] Should not be any trouble. Even though I die, with me it is all right, and with you it is all right. And if it is not all right, you know, you are not Zen student. [Laughs.] It is quite all right. That is buddha.

If I, you know, when I die, the moment I am dying, if I suffer, that is all right, you know. That is suffering buddha. [Laughs.] No, you know, confusion in it. Maybe everyone will struggle because of the physical, you know, agony or spiritual agony too. But that is all right. That is no-- that is not problem. We should be very grateful to have limited body like me, you know, or like you. If you have limitless life, it will be a great problem for you. [Laughs.]

I'm, you know-- my wife's favorite TV program is [laughs]-- start from 4 o'clock and 4:30. I don't know the-- what was-- is the title-- in Channel 7. Some ghost, you know-- problem. Some of them has, you know, has very, you know-- the monsters, the people who lived, you know, long, long time ago and appear in this world, and creating many problems for people, and creating problem for himself. [Laughs.] That is what will happen.

And we are almost reaching to the moon now, but we cannot, you know, create human being in its true sense. We can create robot, but we cannot create human being. Human being is human being. We can enjoy our life only with our limited body and limited life. This limitation is vital element for us. Without limitation nothing exist, so we should enjoy the limitation. Weak body, strong body; man or woman. We should-- the only way to enjoy our life is to enjoy the limitation which was given to us.

Whatever it is, you know, the limitation has some meaning-- not some meaning-- it has absolute meaning in it. It-- that is most important point: for us to know [the] limitation. So, “the sun-faced buddha, the moon-faced buddha” does not mean, “I don't care the sun-faced buddha or the moon-faced buddha.” It means that the sun-faced [hits table with stick] buddha, the moon-faced [hits table with stick] buddha, you know. We should enjoy the sun-faced buddha, the moon-faced buddha. It-- it is not indifference. It is the more than attachment-- strong, strong [laughs] attachment to the moon-faced Buddha or the sun-faced buddha. But usually our attachment-- we say “non-attachment.” When our attachment reach to the non-attachment, that is real attachment. So if-- if you attach to something, you should attached to something completely [laughs]. The sun-faced buddha, the moon-faced buddha! “I am here,” you know, “I am right here.”

This kind of confidence within ourselves is important. When you have this kind of confidence in yourself, in your being, we can practice true zazen, which is beyond perfect or imperfect, good or bad.

Thank you very much.