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.

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[2]—Yoshimura-sensei said—no—Tatsugami-rōshi[3]  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 Nirvāna Day,[4]  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.[5]

 

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:  Rōshi?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.]  … [whether it is Buddhist][6] 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 “Sōtō way,” but there is no difference between Rinzai or Sōtō.  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”?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Excuse me?

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Stop?

 

Student C:  To stop to take care of—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Stop?  [Laughs.]

 

Student C:  —some minor problem.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Oh, I—

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh-huh.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student D:  Does it mean something like that?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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].

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student E:  —about any little thing—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student E:  —and I’ll—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.

 

Student E:  —lose my temper or—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student E:  —be very—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.

 

Student E:  —irrational—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.  But—

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi: [Laughs.]  Yeah.  That is very much so.

 

Student E:  —for a half hour—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm

 

Student E:  And I was wondering what—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student F:  Sometimes we speak of good practice.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

 

Student F:  Are they the same, exactly?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.]

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.  [Laughs, laughter.]  Some other questions?

 

Student G:  Rōshi?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Hai.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  No.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  No.  [Laughs, laughter.]  That is not possible.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

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

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Two things or one thing.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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:  Rōshi?  Sometimes there is “do not waste time”—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student I:  —and other times it’s “to be patient.”

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student I:  But—and they seem as if there’s two different ways.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh-huh.  Yeah.

 

Student I:  But shouldn’t one—shouldn’t they be the same?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  “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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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:  Rōshi?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Hai.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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].

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  [Laughs.]  Ahh [like a sigh].

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  C- [partial word]—appearance.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  [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—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  [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.]

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh-huh.  Yeah.

 

Student L:  The world still appears—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yes.

 

Student L:  —as time to time [?].

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh-huh.  Yeah.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?[7]  [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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student M:  He said that you should examine you—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  You should examine yourself?

 

Student M:  —examine in close.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Closely.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  To examine?

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

Student M:  —I see myself.  It’s impossible to lose, you know.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.  [Laughs, laughter.]

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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 mudrā 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, Rōshi?  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—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Out of building.

 

Student O:  Yeah.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh-huh.  Uh-huh.

 

Student O:  —as part of my practice.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh huh.  Yeah.  Uh-huh.

 

Student O:  Is that a bad practice?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  [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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh-huh.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.]

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  [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:  Rōshi, you said that if something was wrong that we should stop and fix it.  And in my life, if I feel something is wrong—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.

 

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

 

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

 

Student R:  Two years.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Hmm?

 

Student R:  Two years.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.]

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  You don’t understand—do you know why?  [Laughs.]  Do you know why?

 

Student S:  No.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  From—from practice of zazen.

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.  Many—

 

Student T:  —zazen isn’t necessarily the way—

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.

 

Student T:  —for that individual?

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  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.

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Looks like.  [Laughs, laughter.]

 

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

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Yeah.  Oh, I see.  Yeah.

 

Student T:  [2-3 words unclear.]

 

Suzuki-rōshi:  Okay.  Thank you very much.

 

____________________________________________________________________

Source:  City Center transcript entered onto disk by Jose Escobar, 1997.  Transcript checked against tape and made verbatim by Bill Redican (11/30/01).


 [1]  Case 53 of The Blue Cliff Record.  The teacher was Jiangxi Mazu Daoyi (Baso Dōitsu):  709-788.  The disciple was Baizhang Huaihai (Hyakujō Ekai):  720-814.

 [2]  Ryogen Yoshimura-sensei:  Sōtō monk who came from Japan to San Francisco in 1969 to help Suzuki-rōshi.  (See Wind Bell, 1970, Vol. IX, No. 1,
p. 30.)  He died at a young age after returning to Japan.

 [3]  Sōtan Ryosen Tatsugami-rōshi:  Sōtō Zen master and ino-rōshi at Eihei-ji monastery in Japan for many years.  A teacher or master of Jean Ross, Grahame Petchey, and Philip Wilson (all students of Suzuki-rōshi) while they attended Eihei-ji.  He visited Tassajara to help establish monastic forms and practices, and he was head of training at Tassajara for the Spring and Fall 1970 practice periods.

 [4]  Nirvāna Day is the observation of the traditional Mahāyāna date of Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, usually falling on the second Sunday in February, which in 1971 was February 14.

 [5]  This verse is from the Dhammapada, Verse 49.  Literally:  “As a bee without harming the flower, its colour or scent, flies away, collecting only the honey, even so should the sage wander in the village” [Dhammapada, trans. by Nārada Thera Vajirārāma, 1963, p. 53].  Suzuki-rōshi is probably translating from a Chinese text (see p. 3).  This verse is also commented upon in SR-71-08-03.  The source(s) of the other quotes is not yet known.

 [6]  Text in brackets is from note on back of original tape case.

 [7]  Chögyam Trungpa, Meditation in Action.  London:  Stuart & Watkins, 1969.

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One Response to “March 9th, 1971”

  1. korin Says:

    An edited version of this talk entitled “Changing Our Karma” was published in Not Always So (page 21).

    There is a slightly different version of the opening story of this talk, Case 53 of the Blue Cliff Record (Cleary & Cleary translation):

    Once when Great Master Ma and Pai Chang were walking together they saw some wild ducks fly by.
    The Great Master asked, “What is that?”
    Chang said, “Wild ducks.”
    The Great Master said, “Where have they gone?”
    Chang said, “They’ve flown away.”
    The Great Master then twisted Pai Chang’s nose. Chang cried out in pain.
    The Great Master said, “When have they ever flown away?”

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