June 12th, 1971

Originally offered: June 12th, 1971 | Modified August 20th, 2014 by korin


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, June 12, 1971

San Francisco

[The audio of this talk is not currently available.]


We say “Zen Center student,” you know.  Or, we say “Zen Center.”  But it is—tonight—today—I want to make this kind of idea clear, you know, as much as possible.  Although, you know, I say, “You are Zen Center students,” and although you say, “You are Zen Center students,” you say, “I am Zen Center student.”  I don’t know!  [Laughs.]  I am not so sure who you are.  But to me, as long as you are here, you know, to me you are Zen Center students.  [Laughs.]  That’s all.  And if you go out from this building, I don’t know who you are.  [Laughs.]


Do you know who you are?  [Laughs.]  Is there any particular, you know—do you belong to some particular, you know, religion?  Are you member of some particular church, or member, you know—do you strictly belong to some group?  I don’t know.  Perhaps not.  Most of you does not belong to any group in its strict sense.  But some of them [you] may belong to—strictly belong to Zen Center.  And if someone belong [laughs] to Zen Center in its strict sense, and some of you do not belong to any school and yet practicing our way in the same building, you know, how that is possible [laughs], you know?  How is it possible to practice, you know, same—some certain way, you know, with someone who strictly belong to some group.  How is it possible?  If that is not possible, you know, should I accept student who belong to Zen Center in its strict sense?  Should I do that?


Maybe some student thinks in that way, but, you know, I accept, you know, students from various religion.  Some of you may be Christian.  Some of you may be Rinzai students.  Some of you may be, you know—may, you know, still, you know, have some other teacher in your mind—always, maybe.  But still I accept them.  Why is it possible for me to accept students, you know, from various religion as a Zen Center student without any discrimination?  It’s, you know—we, you know—I or we (same thing [laughs])—if I say “we” [laughs] you will be very much concerned about word “we.”  If I say  “I,” it may be okay, you know, but if I say “we,” [laughs] it looks like, you know, there is some, you know, group, and so-called-it “Sōtō” or “Rinzai” group or, you know, Sōtō group.  So if we say “we,” you know, you may not feel so good, but to me it is same thing, you know.  “We.”  “I.”  Same.

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June 9th, 1971

Originally offered: June 9th, 1971 | Modified August 1st, 2014 by korin

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Wednesday, June 9, 1971

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-06-09


[I thought there was another day of sesshin, but today is our last day.][1]


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].

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June 7th, 1971

Originally offered: June 7th, 1971 | Modified July 23rd, 2014 by korin


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, June 7, 1971

San Francisco 

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-06-07


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 kalpasno, cetanās. [1]   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.

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June 6th, 1971

Originally offered: June 6th, 1971 | Modified July 16th, 2014 by korin

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, June 6, 1971

San Francisco 

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-06-06

[The tape begins with Tenshin-sensei Reb Anderson reciting the verse attributed by Shākyamuni Buddha, quoted in the fascicle "Kesa-kudoku," in Dōgen-zenji's Shōbōgenzō.  The translation may have been by Suzuki-rōshi.]

Tenshin-sensei:  I will read now a translation of the sūtra we just chanted:

Listen carefully, Chiko Bisshu,[1]  to the ten precious virtues intrinsic to the garment of the great field of blessedness.  While common clothing encourages the growth of delusion, the Buddha’s garment of the dharma, the okesa, is by no means like that. 

          The okesa enables one, first of all, to achieve the completion of clear conscience.  The okesa covers the dishonorable conduct.  It is worthy to be called “the field where perpetual blessedness grows.” 

          Secondly, the okesa enables one to rest in the ultimate repose, eliminating discomfort from cold and heat or a poisonous insect with the preserving way-seeking mind. 

          Thirdly, the okesa enables one to be free from greed in the homeless life of a monk and eradicates the five false views.  It directs one’s effort towards the right practice. 

          Fourthly, the okesa enables one to elicit the same blessedness as King Brahmā by paying homage on one’s knees to the okesa like a banner woven with gems. 

          Fifthly, the okesa enables one to enjoy happiness in heavenly and human worlds under no influence of sinfulness, always in the belief that wearing the okesa identifies itself with the worship of a stūpa

          Sixthly, the okesa enables one to realize that as a true monk wears and reveres the okesa, made by the three proper methods and arrangement of its materials, color, and measurement, all his conduct is uncontaminated by upward attraction. 

          Seventhly, the okesa enables one to realize that all the buddhas admire its virtues and call it the fertile field, because to wear it is the best way to confer benefit on all beings. 

          Eighthly, the okesa enables one to cultivate the root of the enlightened mind and to practice under the inspiring influence of the okesa.

          Ninthly, the okesa enables one to realize that the germ of the religious awakening is like a spring seedling—that it is growing, and the surpassing result of the enlightened mind is like an autumn fruit. 

          Tenthly, the okesa enables one to be unspoiled by the poisonous arrow of delusion due to wearing the indestructible armor. 

          The Buddha has, as mentioned briefly above, admired the ten precious virtues of the okesa which surpass all description, even if one were to spend an incredible time to describe it. 

          A dragon with even a thread of the okesa is able to escape the hazard of falling prey to the garuda,[2] king of birds. 

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June 5th, 1971

Originally offered: June 5th, 1971 | Modified July 12th, 2014 by korin
Setting up for zazen at Sokoji

Setting up for zazen at Sokoji

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, June 5, 1971

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-06-05


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.

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March 12th, 1971

Originally offered: March 12th, 1971 | Modified June 24th, 2014 by korin

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Not Verbatim                                          

March 12, 1971

[No Audio Source]


It is not so easy to say what actual practice is, what Zen is. But anyway, I want to try. First of all, why we practice Zen may be the question most of you have. As you know, Buddha’s first teaching is the Four Noble Truths. According to him, our life is a life of suffering. And if you know the cause of suffering, you will know how to go through our suffering, and you will attain Nirvana or enlightenment.


Tonight maybe it is better to explain why we suffer. Suffering includes various kinds of confusion or fears we may have because of our lack of understanding of our life. The reason we suffer, according to the Buddha, is because we have desire. Desire cannot be broken, because we have too much desire-there is no limit to our desire. That is why we suffer-because we have interest in strong desire. So our suffering will be limitless, deep and long. The suffering you feel is as deep as a night when you cannot sleep is long. When you cannot sleep, the night maybe very very long for you. That is why we suffer. The root of desire is so-called “ignorance” or “darkness.” Ignorance means ignorance of our life, ignorance of human nature. If we know human nature and how we live in this world as a human being, then we will know why we suffer and how to go through suffering. I don’t say that you will go beyond it, or that you eliminate suffering. But if you know the cause of suffering, which is ignorance of our life, then maybe this knowledge will be a great relief for you. Moreover, you will find out how to cope with our suffering. For instance, if you sit in a cross-legged position like this, at first you will have pain in your legs, as some of you must have experienced already. It is not so easy to deal with the pain you have in your legs as you sit. If some of you sit thirty or forty minutes, without any instruction, you will know how you can deal with suffering. The way to deal with, or to overcome your suffering is actually the precepts which the Buddhists observe. But the precepts still will not be good enough, because you don’t know how to limit your original ignorance. So to work on the source of suffering and also to hunt the many big branchings of suffering is the true way to cope with the suffering you have. That is actually zazen practice. Through the practice of zazen you can cope with original sin, original ignorance, or darkness, and with the weaker branchings of suffering. I think the everyday lives of all of us are actually involved in this kind of suffering which originates from the source of ignorance.

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March 9th, 1971

Originally offered: March 9th, 1971 | Modified June 17th, 2014 by korin
Suzuki-roshi and Katagiri-roshi in the City Center Buddha Hall

Suzuki-roshi and Katagiri-roshi in the City Center Buddha Hall

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, March 9, 1971

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-03-09

(Note: the audio file only covers the first half or so of the transcript)


One day a Chinese famous Zen master was making a trip with a—with his disciple.[1]   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.

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March 2nd, 1971

Originally offered: March 2nd, 1971 | Modified June 11th, 2014 by korin

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, March 2, 1971

8 am Tuesday Morning

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-03-02


There are various kinds of religion, but why we have to [have] religion—this question is answered not only by religious leaders but also by psychologist.  So the understanding of religion nowadays become more and more deeper.  And I think—I don’t know not much about psychology, nowadays psychology, but so far I understand, as you know, just as purpose of religion is to save [solve] our difficulties, the psychologist is working hard to save or to solve the problems of our life.


Why we have, you know, so many problems in our life is, you know, because of, you know, our social structure, which is not so good, or human relationship, you know, which is not also good.  So that is why we have difficulties, and if the difficulties become too much, it will result [in] a nervous breakdown or some mental, you know, disorder.


But why we have this kind of, you know, problem in our society or in our individual life is, according to Buddhism, our problems is based on, you know, our structure of, you know, way we live, you know.  The foundation is something wrong [laughs]. Our way of living is something wrong.  That is so-called-it “leakage,” you know, leakage.  Or you may call it “break” or you don’t say “breakage” [laughs], but maybe, you know, something like that.  Something is wrong with our fundamental framework of life, you know.  Something is wrong.  This point is already pointed out by Buddha.  What is wrong is, you know, according to Buddha, because we have various desires, you know.  But that desires are limitless, you know, as well as Buddha’s teaching [laughs].  It is limitless, you know:  no limit in our desires.  But actually the things which will satisfy our desire is not limitless, you know.  It is limited.  So there is already, you know, big gap between your desire and things which will suffice your desire.  Even so, our way of life is, you know, based on our desires:  to, you know, to have complete satisfaction of our desire, which is not possible.

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February 27th, 1971

Originally offered: February 27th, 1971 | Modified June 4th, 2014 by korin


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Saturday Morning, February 27, 1971

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-02-27

The purpose of our practice is, of course, to maybe to have full enlightenment.  Why we cannot have enlightenment is because of our, you know, delusion or mumyō,[1]  we say.  Or—because we are not—we don’t have clear picture of this world, or we do not have eyes to see, you know, clearly, to see clearly, or to have clear understanding of this world.  That is, you know, so-called-it called mumyōMumyō is delusion.  Mu is “no.”  Myō is “clear.”  “No clear light.”


We are—maybe we are—we Buddhist or we student or someone, you know, who do not have clear eyes to see, you know, what is the true way—which way to go [laughs].  So naturally you are wondering about, you know, to find out some truth, or to have—because you are wondering about, so you want to have some clear map, you know, which way to go.  And that is why you must have teacher who, you know, give you some map or some instruction or which way to go.


Even though you have map, if you have a map or, you know, and you have teacher, there is still, you know, difficulty in your practice.  The difficulty may be, you know, you have no—if you have—if you—as long as you trust your teacher, you know, you don’t have to worry about the way, you know, you take.  But because you have, you know, no worry, you know, you, you know, you are liable to, you know, to see something else, you know, because you have—you don’t have to, you know, try to find out which way you should take.  So you just follow [laughs] your teacher.  When he goes fast, you go fast, and when he goes slow, you go slow.

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February 23, 1971

Originally offered: February 23rd, 1971 | Modified May 27th, 2014 by korin

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, February 23, 1971


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-02-23


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 Eihei-ji or some other monasteries.  Or when I see some great teachers, listening to their teishō, 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.

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