GENJŌ-KŌAN NO. 1 [3?]
Sunday, August 20, 1967
Zen Mountain Center, Tassajara
Edited by Brian Fikes
(Note from Brian Fikes: The first portion of this lecture was not recorded. This is the first [sic] in a series of [three] lectures on the Genjokoan given during the sesshin ending the first training period at Tassajara.)
There are four ways of understanding the relationship of form and emptiness: form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is form, and emptiness is emptiness. “Form is emptiness” may not be so difficult to understand, but it will be misunderstood by some advanced, hasty people. “Yes, form is emptiness. There is no need for us to attach to some particular thing. Form is emptiness.” This looks very clear, and this view of life is better than attaching to some particular form or color, because in it there are actually many, many views of life. And this view of non‑existence is deeper than the view of seeing many things which actually look permanent and which look like they have some self‑nature. But as we explained already, and as you have already understood, there is no special self‑nature for anything, and everything is changing. As long as everything is changing, nothing is permanent. So this [form is emptiness] may be a more advanced view of life.
But “emptiness is form” is rather difficult to understand. The emptiness which is the absolute goal we will attain, which is enlightenment itself, is form. So whatever you do is enlightenment itself. This is rather difficult to understand, or to accept, because you think emptiness is some unusual thing. Something unusual is something very common. This is rather difficult to understand, especially when you practice zazen. Even though your practice is not perfect, that is enlightenment. This statement is very difficult to accept. “No, my practice is not perfect.” But when we understand form is emptiness, and emptiness is form, back and forth in this way, and form is form, and emptiness is emptiness, when emptiness comes, everything is emptiness, and when form comes, form is form, and we accept things as it is.