Suzuki Roshi Transcripts

Saturday, December 01, 1962

Religious Activity

Published December 1962, Wind Bell #12

The more we attempt to manage religious activity, the more we lose our fundamental way. The more we study the teaching of Buddhism as if it were philosophy, the more we lose the original teaching.

The founder of Eihei-ji Monastery, Dogen-zenji, respected students who sincerely practiced zazen (cross-legged meditation) rather than intelligent or learned students. Dogen emphasized organizing everyday life as the practice of Zen. He felt that this was the proper activity for Buddhist. When he spoke of the basic teaching of Buddhism, the transiency of life, he stressed it as an MORE ...

Tuesday, January 01, 1963

Ummon Zenji and the Teaching Given by Shakyamuni (Blue Cliff Record #14, #15)

First Question:

A traveling monk asked Ummon-zenji: What is this first teaching? (the Teaching told by Buddha during Buddha's own lifetime).

Ummon replied: The teaching confronts each. (Model Subject No. 14)

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Friday, March 01, 1963

Gutei's Lifting Up One Finger (Blue Cliff Record #19)

Gutei lived in a small hermitage to be free from the fierce persecution of the first part of the ninth century, A.D. in China.

One day a nun named Jissai came to visit him, entering with her hat on her head and her pilgrim staff in her hand. She looked around the seat where Gutei was sitting and said, "I will take off my pilgrimage hat, if you give me a satisfactory statement." When he could say nothing, she started to leave. He tried to stop her, because it was late and dark out. Then she said, "If you can offer one word good enough to stop me, I will be happy to stay."

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Monday, April 01, 1963

Blue Cliff Record #20

Zen may be said to be the practice of cultivating our mind to make it deep and open enough to accept the various seeds of ideas and thoughts as they are. When this kind of perfect acceptance takes place, everything will orient itself according to its own nature and the circumstances. We call this activity the Great Activity. Reality can be said to be the bed that is deep and soft enough to accept everything as it is.

When you accept everything, everything is beyond dimensions. The earth is not great nor a grain of sand small. In the realm of Great Activity picking up a grain of sand is the same as taking up the whole universe. To save one sentient being is to save all sentient MORE ...

Monday, July 01, 1963

Blue Cliff Record #25

Introductory word:

Engo introducing the subject said, "If a man comes to a standstill at some stage, feeling spiritual pride in his enlightenment; he will find himself in a sea of poison. If he finds his words unable to astonish men of lofty spirit, then what he says is quite pointless.

If one can discern the relative and the absolute in the spark of MORE ...

Sunday, September 01, 1963

Joshu's Large Radishes (Blue Cliff Record #30)

There is no Introductory Word to Model Subject No. 30 from the Blue Cliff Records, but I will apply the following statement from a Buddhist Guide for the Layman by Sita Paulickpulla Renfrew (publisher: Cambridge Buddhist Association, Cambridge, Mass.) as an introduction.

"According to Buddhist ethics, no person or authority can ever impose upon another any code of conduct lower in morality or humanity than the individual himself wishes. Neither can anyone MORE ...

Friday, November 01, 1963

Cho-sha's "Strolling about Mountains and Waters" (Blue Cliff Record #36)

Attention! One day Cho-sha went for a walk. When he returned to the gate, the gate-keeper asked, "Sir, where have you bee walking?" Cho-sha said, "I have been strolling about in the hills." "Where did you go?" asked the gatekeeper. "I have walked through the scent of herbs and wandered by the falling flowers." said Cho-sha. The gatekeeper said, "Very much like a calm Spring feeling." Cho-sha said, "It transcends even the cold Autumn dew falling on the lotus stems."

Setcho, the compiler of the Blue Cliff Records, adds the MORE ...

Sunday, December 01, 1963

Rikko's "Heaven and Earth are the Same Essence" (Blue Cliff Record #40)

Rikko is said to have lived from 764-834. He was a high official of the tang government in china. He was a disciple of Nansen Fugan. His writings and biography are in Koji-buntoruko. There were many famous lay Zen Buddhists during the tang Dynasty. The most famous of these lay Buddhists are:

Ho-Koji (Ho-un)--see Model Subject No. 42

Kak Rakten (Hak-Kyoi)--the most famous writer and poet of the Tang Dynasty.

Haikyu--Highest public official of the time. His teacher was Obaku (Huang Po).

Haykyu--Compiler of Obaku's Denshin Hoyo (a collection of MORE ...

Saturday, February 01, 1964

Blue Cliff Record #46

Attention! Kyo-sei asked a monk, "What is the sound outside the door?" The monk said, "It is the sound of raindrops." Kyo-sei said, "All sentient beings are deluded by the idea of self and by the idea of the world as subjective or objective (as permanent).


Kyo-sei has seen through the monk, who thinks he is not caught by the "objective" sound of the raindrops, but he who actually is caught by the sound of raindrops in his subjective world.

The monk said, "How about yourself?" (In other words, "I have MORE ...

Sunday, March 01, 1964

San-cho and "The Golden Scales" Escaping from the Net (Blue Cliff Record #49)

Introductory Word:

Engo introducing the subject said: Seven piercings and eight holes, snatching the drums and carrying off the banner (in war-time MORE ...

Wednesday, April 01, 1964

Joshu's "Donkeys Cross, Horses Cross" (Blue Cliff Record #52)

Jo-shu (Personal name: Sramanera) of this subject was a native of Northern China. When he was ordained (at quite a young age), he visited Nan-sen with his master. "Do you know the name of this monastery?" asked Nan-sen, who had been taking a nap in his room. MORE ...

Friday, May 01, 1964

Blue Cliff Record #53

Introductory Word by Engo

Introducing Engo said, "Obtaining the sole existing independent body, the total free activity takes place." (When you become one with an object, your activity is omnipresent, the activity of one existence.) "On each occasion, an enlightened mind is quite free from intercourse with the world." (This is called intuitive free activity.) "Only because he has no idea of self are his words powerful enough to put an end to ordinary mind." (Baso's powerful way in this main-subject.) Think for a while. After all, from what place did the ancients get the ultimate restfulness. Ponder about MORE ...

Monday, June 01, 1964

Seppo's "What is it?" (Blue Cliff Record #51)

Seppo was a good example of a well-trained Zen Master. "Three times a visitor to Tosu and nine times an attendant to Tozai," became one of the catch-words of Zen practice signifying Seppo's hard discipline.

He was born in 822 and died in 908 near the end of the tang MORE ...

Saturday, August 01, 1964

The Traditional Way

Summary of Reverend Suzuki's Sesshin Lectures by Nota bene.-Trudy Dixon

Zen Center's annual week Sesshin (concentrated period of meditation) was held this year from August 10 through August 15th. During the Sesshin, the main theme of the daily lectures given by Master Suzuki was The Traditional Way of Buddhism transmitted from Buddha down through the Patriarchs to the present day. His opening talks concerned the sutras and rituals which are part of the daily zazen practice in the zendo of Soko-ji Temple. The following is a rough paraphrase of some of what Master Suzuki said.

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Sunday, November 01, 1964

Baso's Four Propositions, One Hundred Negations (Blue Cliff Record #73)

Engo's Introductory Word

Introducing, he said: The true preaching of Dharma goes beyond preaching or not preaching (true preaching is not preaching). True listening to Dharma is not only a matter of listening or not (true listening is no listening). If the true word is beyond perception (true preaching is no preaching), it may be better not to speak. If true listening is something other than listening or not (true listening is not listening), it may be better not to speak.

However, to speak of Dharma without saying anything about it, and to listen to it without ideas about it are perfect ways to transmit right Dharma. This no-preaching and no-listening is all that is needed.

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Tuesday, December 01, 1964

Blue Cliff Record #75

Introductory Word:

The treasure sword always is present (beyond oneness and duality). It is a life-taking sword and yet a life-giving sword. Sometimes it is here (in the teacher's hand) and sometimes there (in the student's hand); but this make no difference. gaining or losing it and its positive and negative use are at each other's disposal. Just consider! How do you make good use of the Treasure Sword without attaching to the idea of host and guest, or integration and disintegration?

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Monday, February 01, 1965

Dai-Ryu's Immutable Law-Body (Blue Cliff Record #82)

Introductory Word:

Introducing En-go said; Only a man with open eyes knows the catgut line of the fishing rod. Only an advanced mind catches the true idea of the extraordinary procedure. What is the catgut line of the fishing rod and the extraordinary procedure?

Main Subject:

Attention! A monk asked Dai-ryu, "The physical body is disintegrating, but what about the immutable spiritual body?"


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Thursday, April 01, 1965

Yu-Ma's "The Doctrine of Attaining Non-Duality" (Blue Cliff Record #84)

This Model Subject is about the Yui-ma-kyo (the Vimalakirti-nirdesa Sutra). This sutra is as famous as the Sho-man-gyo (the Srimala-simha-nada Sutra). Both sutras relate stories reputed to have taken place during the MORE ...

Thursday, July 01, 1965

Blue Cliff Record #86

Unmon Bunen (?-949) was a disciple of Seppo and founder of the Unmon School, one of five schools of Chinese Zen Buddhism (Rinzai, Igyo, Unmon, Hogen, and Soto).

During the political confusion at the end of the Tang Dynasty all the major schools of Chinese Buddhism (Tendai, Hosso, Ritsu, and Shingon) were in decline, except Zen, which was strengthened by the persecutions and the difficulty in traveling to escape persecution and to visit and to visit various Zen Masters. The hard practice of Sep-po and Un-mon during that time has been and still MORE ...

Monday, July 26, 1965

Sesshin Lecture

San Francisco

My talk is always-at the conclusion of my talk is always why we should practice zazen. Now this is not-my talk is not just cordial talk and, basically, my talk is based on Shobogenzo. Fortunately we have a system of-we have complete system-how to understand true religion. The true religion cannot be understood by philosophical way or scientific way. The only way to understand or to realize our true nature is just true practice. Without true practice it is impossible to realize our true nature. Of course, what we do, whether we are aware of it or not, what we do in our everyday life is based on true-our true nature. True nature drive MORE ...

Tuesday, July 27, 1965

Sesshin Lecture

For a long time after Renaissance, you have forgotten the value of religion. You try to exchange religion for, you know, science and philosophy. You-you are Christian [laughs], but actually what you have been doing is to replace [laughs] science to religion-to exchange science. And you wanted to establish, you know, human culture, which is quite free from [laughs] authority of religion. You have quite good reason [laughs] in your effort to try to exchange or try to reform your culture before it is too dark MORE ...

Friday, July 30, 1965

Sesshin Lecture

San Francisco

Tape Operator: This is the beginning of the 1 pm lecture, Friday.

Suzuki-roshi: If you have a question, please give me. I want to answer about what I told you during sesshin.

Student A: Sensei? I'd like to refer to a question someone else asked a couple of mornings ago, about helping other people. At that time you said that unless a person were enlightened, it wouldn't do much good to help other people. It seems to me that that would mean that probably most people in this room should not do anything for anyone else. I doubt we're all MORE ...

Saturday, August 28, 1965

One-Day Sesshin Lecture

San Francisco

Tape operator: This is the beginning of the-it will be that we missed this morning's lecture at 9, which was a good one, and this lecture is at-will be at one o'clock, and it's the-this is a one-day sesshin, August 28.

Suzuki-roshi: Confucius said the most visible is the something invisible. There are many proverb-Oriental proverb the same kind in Japanese: "A firefly, without voice, burns its body with enthusiasm, rather than cicada, which is noisy."[1] This is the same-same meaning. Firefly burns itself by its enthusiasm, rather than noisy MORE ...

Friday, January 21, 1966

Sesshin Lecture: Shusogi: Sections 11-17

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Tape operator: Sesshin lecture in January 20th-21st, I think, one o'clock.

Suzuki-roshi: The next chapter[1] which we will learn is about precepts. And this is pretty difficult one, so before we study how to recite it, and I want to explain it beforehand.

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Friday, February 18, 1966

KPFA Radio Interview with Elsa Knight Thompson

KPFA/KPFB Studio, Pacifica Radio, Berkeley, CA

Elsa Knight Thompson:[1] ... by telling us something more about our guest, Suzuki-roshi.

Richard Baker: Shunryu Suzuki-roshi came to America about six years ago, and he was only going to stay for a year or two and [2 words]. Many Americans came to meditate with him. He kept postponing leaving and finally there was such a large group meditating with him in San Francisco [1 word] no more room and there wasn't an opportunity to study with him as well as if we had MORE ...

Sunday, March 13, 1966

Sesshin Lecture: Genjo Koan, Paragraphs 1-3

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Good morning. This lecture is for advanced student in his practice, but I think this lecture will help you even though you haven't advanced practice. And at least some day you will understand this lecture. This is the gist of Dogen's teaching, and various offshoot are the 95 fascicle of-fascicles of his work. This is basic teaching-basic teaching of Dogen.

And we have finished the first paragraph, anyway:[1]

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Sesshin Lecture: Shusogi, Section 1

Lecture B[1]

Soko-ji, San Francisco

Tape operator: Recorded March-March 13, 1966, Soko-ji Zen Temple, a lecture by Reverend Suzuki on the Shoshoji [sic]. Huh?

Second voice: Shushogi.

Tape operator: Is it? A lecture on the Shushogi. [Laughter.]

Suzuki-roshi: We started to recite MORE ...

Saturday, March 26, 1966

The Way-Seeking Mind

When we feel the evanescence of life, or when we have problems for ourselves, and direct feeling of the problems-of the fact you have to face-is how you arise the way-seeking mind.

Usually when we set ourselves to studying something, we put our everyday problems aside, concentrating our attention for a time on something of particular interest. That is how we study generally. On Sunday you may go to church, but to you going to church and your everyday life are two completely different activities. Eventually, however, you will feel some contradiction in your everyday life, and some uneasiness, feeling you have nothing to rely on. It is this feeling which gives rise to the way-seeking mind.

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Wednesday, May 25, 1966

Sesshin Lecture: Genjo Koan, Paragraphs 1-2

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco[1]

The secret of all the teaching of Buddhism is how to live on each moment. Moment after moment we have to obtain the absolute freedom. And moment after moment, we exist in interdependency to past and future and other existence. So in short, to practice-if you practice zazen, concentrating yourself on your breathing moment after moment, that is how to keep precepts, how to have the actual understanding of Buddhist teaching, and how to help others, and how MORE ...

Thursday, May 26, 1966

Sesshin Lecture: Genjo Koan, Paragraphs 5-13

Thursday, May 26, 1966[1]

Sunday Morning

Page 2:[2]

Firewood turns into ash, and it does not turn into firewood again. But do not suppose that the ash is after and the firewood before. We must understand that firewood is at the stage of firewood, and there must-and there we find-there we find its before and after. And yet with this past and future, its present is MORE ...

Wednesday, June 01, 1966

Evening Lecture, Summer 1966

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Buddhism has many annual layers like a big tree. It is our tradition to respect those efforts which our patriarchs have made for more than 2000 years. There has been a great effort, we have made a great effort to develop Buddha's way. This is a very important point for Buddhism as a religion. Without appreciation for the efforts of our patriarchs it is difficult to have a religious feeling in Buddhism.

This temple was founded in 1934. At that time there were not many priests in America and the founder made a great effort to MORE ...

Afternoon Lecture, Summer 1966

Most of you are beginners, so it may be rather difficult for you to understand why we practice zazen or meditation in this way. We always say "just to sit." And if you do, you will find out that Zen practice-just to sit-is not easy. Just to sit may be the most difficult thing. To work on something is not difficult; how to not work on anything is rather difficult. When we have the idea of "self," we want some reason why we work on something. But if you do not have the idea of self, you can remain silent and calm whether or not you work on something. You will not lose your composure. So to remain silent and calm is a kind of test we receive. If you can do it, it means you have no idea of self. If your life is based on MORE ...

Sunday, June 19, 1966

Genjo Koan: Paragraphs 1-11

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Suzuki-roshi: Someone has my-my paper.[1]

Student: [4-6 words unclear.] Wednesday night-[6-8 words]-Wednesday night.

Suzuki-roshi: Wednesday?

Student: Yeah. Finish the whole thing.

Suzuki-roshi: Hmm?

Student: Wednesday night we finish the whole thing.

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Genjo Koan: Paragraphs 7-9

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco[1]

[Now it is specifically taught in Buddhism that life does not become death.] [2] For this reason, life [is] called "no-life." It is specifically taught in Buddhism that death does not become life. Therefore, death is called "no-death."

Life is a period of itself; death is a period of itself. They are like winter and spring. We do not call winter the MORE ...


Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco[1]

Last time I explained the ten prohibitory precepts:

Do not kill.

Do not steal.

Do not be immoral.

Do not lie.

Do not sell intoxicating liquor.

Do not speak of other's shortcomings.

Do not praise yourself or blame others.

Do not grudge giving to charities material or spiritual.

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Genjo Koan: Paragraphs 11-13

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco[1]

When the truth-

-the last paragraph in Page 2.[2]

When the truth does not fill our body and mind, we think that-we think that we have enough. When the truth fill our body and mind, we know that something is missing. For an example, when we view the world from a boat on the ocean, it looks circular and nothing else. But the ocean is neither round nor square, and its MORE ...

Monday, August 15, 1966

Genjo Koan

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Suzuki-roshi: The second paragraph [of the Genjo Koan]:

That we move ourselves and understand all things is ignorance. That things advance and understand themselves is enlightenment. It is Buddha who understand ignorance. It is people who are ignorant of ignor- [partial word]-enlightenment. Further, there are those who are enlightened about enlightenment, and those who are ignorant of ignorance. [Recording stops.][1]

Tape operator: Uh, what would you like me to say into the MORE ...

Lunch Lecture

[mic noise}-cannot appreciate our teaching in its true sense. When you listen to the teaching, our teaching, we should accept it, but if you have some prejudice, you cannot accept the teaching. So do

sound problem

Intellectual Understanding

For us to think everything out or else we-we find it pretty difficult to have firm conviction in our understanding and practice Zen. Originally Zen is not some practice based on some particular intellectual teaching or understanding. But Buddhism is one of the religions which is highly intellectualized. So for us, especially for us who are much intellectualized, even though each one of us is not so highly intellectualized, but you read and what you hear is based on some highly intellectualized thought.

So what we talk about, what we read is based on some intellectual-intellectual, deep understanding of-of our life and MORE ...

Sesshin: Lecture

The first day of the sesshin is almost finished. In the first day, I wanted you to establish a good posture. It is rather-it was not appropriate to give you some-something to work on intellectually, but as you have been physically worked so hard, so for change I'll give you some intellectual problems in Buddhism.

We are now coping with the problem of causality. This-I think [2 words] must have told you something about this, I think. But this problem is very big problem. So big that it covers all the area of Buddhist philosophy. The one of the philosophy which suggest us MORE ...


Verbatim transcripts of lectures by Shogaku Shunryu Suzuki, Roshi, 1962-1971

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