Archive for the ‘Not Verbatim (But Has Audio Source)’ Category

October, 1968 3rd Talk

Tuesday, October 1st, 1968

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Fall, 1968

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-10-00 D

What is told in this sūtra is the view of the Dharmakāya world, Sambhogakāya world and Nirmānakāya world.  We say shoho jisso [the real state of all elements or dharmas].  Shoho means various dharmas or various beings.  Jisso is reality.  So this is the right view of life and the world, in which various famous disciples of Buddha and arhats and various Sambhogakāya Buddhas and Dharmakāya Buddhas and Nirmānakāya Buddhas would appear.  I think it’s better to start little by little.

The first chapter is an introduction to the whole sū­tra, and it describes the scale of the sūtra.  “Thus have I heard.”  All sūtras are started with these words.  Nyoze gamon [evam maya shrutam], “Thus have I heard.”  At the meeting of the compilation [of the sūtras] after Buddha passed away, the leading disciples decided on [the correct form of] Buddha’s words.  So they started with, “Thus I heard.”  All the sūtras are supposed to have been spoken by Buddha, but it is not actually so.  It is a kind of formal way of starting sūtras.


October, 1968 2nd Talk

Tuesday, October 1st, 1968

Juaki Ceremony at City Center

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Fall 1968

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-10-00 C

The point of my previous lecture was that since it may be difficult for you to understand the Lotus Sūtra, I wanted to clarify who is supposed to have told it.  The sūtras usually look like they were spoken by the historical Buddha himself.  But our Buddhist sūtras were not actually spoken by him.  So when you read a sūtra, if you think it was spoken by Buddha himself, you will be confused, because there are actually many elements in it which did not exist in Buddha’s time.  Afterwards, when the sūtra was compiled, it was interspersed with various thoughts that existed then.  Buddhist thought itself developed from the understanding of the direct disciples of Buddha to that of Buddhists several generations afterward.  So you will be very confused when you read the sūtra as if it was spoken by the historical Buddha.

Actually, the sūtra was told by so‑called Mahāyāna Buddhists several hundred years after Buddha passed away.  Buddhism had developed from the sravaka to the Mahāyāna understanding.  If I say Buddhism developed in this way, then you may think it developed or changed.  But in reality, it did not change or develop, but tried to resume the original understanding of Buddhism.  In this way, for many thousands of years, Buddhists have been trying to restore Buddha’s teaching.  It looks as if this effort changed Buddhism from the original way to some different teaching, but that is not so.  Do you understand what I am saying?  It is rather difficult, with my language problem, to explain this part.  This sūtra was told by someone who was a Mahā­yāna Buddhist.  It looks like the historical Buddha, over here, spoke this sūtra, but actually someone who was over here told it.  And Bud­dhism itself developed from here to here.  So you may say what is taught in this sūtra is not Buddha’s teaching, but a teaching which devel­oped from Buddha’s teaching.  So if you are attached to Buddha’s original teaching, you may be disappointed, you see?


October, 1968

Tuesday, October 1st, 1968

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


October 1968

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-10-00 B

I already explained the nature of the Nirmānakāya Buddha and Sambhogakāya Buddha.  The Nirmānakāya Buddha comes into this world with the vow that he will save all sentient beings.  Not by karma, but by vow, he appears in this world, practices the Bodhisattva’s way, attains enlightenment as Buddha did, and saves all human beings.  So he is called an incarnated body.  He changes his form in various ways, sometimes to a bodhisattva, sometimes to a buddha.  He takes on various forms to help people, so in the widest sense of the word, everything is Nirmānakāya Buddha.  But in the narrow sense, those who appear in this world by vow instead of by karma are called Nirmānakāya Buddhas.  The Sambhogakāya Buddha is the original source of the Nirmānakāya Buddha: it gives birth to the Nirmānakāya Buddha.  In order to explain the Dharmakāya Buddha, it is necessary to explain the Sambhogakāya Buddha more.  Then you will understand what the Dharmakāya Buddha is naturally.

The Dharmakāya Buddha is called the fundamental, undeveloped Buddhakāya.  In Buddhism, when we say the undeveloped, or fundamental, body, it means that it is the original source itself.  But there are two interpretations for one reality.  When we understand it as something which is very calm, which is not in activity, we call it the Dharma Body.  But the Dharma Body does not actually remain calm and inactive—it is always active.  When we understand it as activity, we call it Dharma Nature.  “Dharma Nature” means something in action, and “Dharma Body” means something which is not in activity, or which is not developed.  But the whole Nature exists in the Dharma Body as a potentiality.  So we have two understandings of one reality:  Dharmakāya [kaya = body] and dharma nature.


June 29th, 1968

Saturday, June 29th, 1968

Suzuki-roshi and Yvonne Rand at City Center

Shunryu Suzuki Lecture – 68-06-29

Esalen Institute

Second of two lectures

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-06-29

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.


June 28th, 1968

Friday, June 28th, 1968

Shunryu Suzuki Lecture – 68-06-28

Esalen Institute

First of two lectures

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-06-28

I find it’s difficult to keep contact with you when I, whenever we talk, I talk, especially when I think of difficult…very difficult to talk with some because I [several words unintelligible due to tape problems] our own study? students? but anyway I try to communicate.

First of all I am supposed to talk about our teaching.  Zen is, Zen is, for you, some special teaching.  But, for us Zen is, Buddhism is and not special teaching from the other schools of Buddhism. So, if you ask me to talk about our teaching I have have to, what I will talk is mostly teaching of Buddhism started by Buddha and developed by their teachers in India, China and Japan.

Buddha’s teaching put the emphasis on selflessness because even Buddhism it’s, is not special culture heritage.  It is part of Indian thought.  And so before Buddhism there must be some similar teaching or some opposite teaching which form a pair of opposites with Buddhism.  As you see in Upanishad there are many similar teaching based on selflessness.  Why, I think, why he put the emphasis on selflessness is because people at that time had very difficulty because of the strong idea of self, ah self.

So Buddha on the contrary put emphasis on selflessness so that there you have more balanced understanding of our life.  And for the people who find, who were trying to find out something a pleasure of life in this actual modern world, he put the emphasis on suffering so that they can understand their life from both sides.  So naturally even so his purpose of sitting or his teaching is through or form some harmonious teaching.  So, sometime he put emphasis on self, you know, instead of put the emphasis on selflessness.  He sometime rather emphasis on self.


September 8th, 1967

Friday, September 8th, 1967

Suzuki-roshi doing rock work at Tassajara (with Phillip Wilson)

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Friday, September 8, 1967


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 67-09-08

Tonight I want to give you a correct idea of Buddhism or Zen.  In a word, Zen is the teaching or practice of seeing “things as it is” or accepting “things as it is” and of raising things as they go.  This is the fundamental purpose of our practice and the meaning of Zen.  But it is, actually, rather difficult to see “things as it is.”  You may say you are seeing “things as it is,” but actually, you do not see “things as it is.”  I don’t mean that it is a distortion of sight, such as when something of one shape looks shorter than something of another shape.  I mean that, as soon as you see something, you already start to intellectualize it.  As soon as you intellectualize something, it is already it is not just what you saw.


December 8, 1966

Thursday, December 8th, 1966

At Zoun-in, c. 1930. (Left to right) Shunryu's father Butsumon Sogaku, Shunryu (squatting), Hino-san (Tori's husband), Shunryu's sister Tori Hino and baby, temple caretaker, and Shunryu's mother, Yone.

Rev. S. Suzuki lecture

December 8, 1966

I am very glad to be here the day Buddha was born … when Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.  When he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree he said, “It is wonderful to see Buddha nature on everything and in each individual.”  What he meant was when we practice zen…zazen we have Buddha nature and we are all Buddha himself.  By practice he did not mean just to sit under the Bodhi tree or to sit in cross-legged posture.  Our cross-legged posture is the basic posture or original posture for us…most fundamental way of being here.  But what he meant actually was that mountain is or trees are or flowing water or flowers and plants and everything as they are is the way Buddha is.  (more…)

March 26, 1966

Saturday, March 26th, 1966

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, March 26, 1966

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 66-03-26 (Note – noise problems in audio)

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.


December 11 1965

Saturday, December 11th, 1965

Suzuki-roshi in traveling monk garb

Suzuki-roshi in traveling monk garb

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, December 11, 1965

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Lecture A

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 65-12-11

[Not Verbatim]

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 the usual idea of self, what you will do will not be successful in its true sense.  There will be success in one way, but in another you are digging your own grave.  So to work without the idea of self, is a very, very important point.  It is much more important than making a good decision.  Even a good decision based on a one-sided idea of self will create difficulties for yourself and others. (more…)