Posts Tagged ‘Koan’

October 23rd, 1969

Thursday, October 23rd, 1969

Suzuki-roshi at the wind caves in the ventana forest near Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Thursday Evening, October 23, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-23


[The recording starts with Suzuki-rōshi reading from:  Saddharma-Pundarika or The Lotus of the True Law, translated by H. Kern, New York:  Dover, 1963 (an unaltered reprint of the 1884 edition of “The Sacred Books of the East,” Vol. XXI), Chapter II, “Skillfulness,”
p. 30.  He is continuing from approximately the point where he left off in SR-69-10-20.]



out things difficult to understand.


The mystery of Tathāgata is difficult to understand, Shāriputra, because when they explain the law (or phenomena, things) that have their cause in themselves, they—they—they do so by means of skillfulness, by the display of knowledge, by argument, reasons, fundamental ideas, interpretations, and suggestions.  By a variety of skillfulness they are able to release creatures that are attached to one point or another.  The Tathāgata, Shāriputra, have acquired the highest perfection in skillfulness and the display of knowledge; they are endowed with wonderful properties, such as the display of free and unchecked knowledge; the power; the absence of hesitation; the independent conditions; the strength of the organs; the constituents of Bodhi; the contemplation; emancipations; meditations; the degree of concentration of mind.  The Tathāgata, Shāriputra, are able to expound various things and have something wonderful and marvelous.  Enough, Shāriputra, let it suffice to say that the Tathāgata have something extremely wonderful, Shāriputra.  None but Tathāgata, Shāriputra, can impart to a Tathāgata those laws which the Tathāgatas knows—Tathāgata knows.  And all ways [laws], Shāriputra, are taught by the Tathāgata, and by him alone; no one but he knows all laws, what they are, how they are, like what they are, of what characteristic and of what nature they are.


And on that occasion, to set forth the same subject more completely [copiously], the Lord uttered the following stanzas:



This chapter is, for us Sōtō students, a very important chapter.  If you understand this chapter so far as I read, you will understand what is our transmission, what is our practice, what kind of life we have as a Sōtō Zen priest or Sōtō Zen children—disciples [laughs].  It is so important.  But usually they don’t think this chapter is so important, and the most explanation of this chapter is very superficial.  So I want you to, you know, read it over and over again [during] study period.  I will take time and Dick [Baker] one line after one line very deeply and very widely.


September 1st, 1969

Monday, September 1st, 1969




September 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-09-00 C


We are talking about our practice.  What is the practice, and what is enlightenment, and how we practice.  Someone who is practicing is a man in reality.  And the practice we practice is something in reality.  And place we practice—some place in reality.  And the time you practice is also time in reality.  So everything take place in realm of reality.  That is true practice.  So Dōgen-zenji says:  “If our practice does not include everything, it is not our practice.”  And not only practice, but also place you practice, and person who practice, and time to practice—include everything.  That is perfect practice.


So counting-breathing practice is not just to count, you know.  With all your—with all of your body and mind, you should count the—count your breathing.  If you do so, the counting-breathing practice covers everything.  So counting-breathing exercise include everything.  That is how we count our breathing in our practice:  not to count our exhaling mechanically, you know—one, two, three [laughs].  That is not our way.  When we count it with all of your effort, physical and mental, that is counting-breathing practice.


Some of you find it difficult—find some difficulty in counting-breathing practice.  Difficulties you may have is you tend to count your breathing just mechanically.  So naturally, you know, you count, you know—if you, you know, count something: one, two, three, four, five, you know, and again and again you count, and your count—counting will be faster and faster because it is easy.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten [laughs].  Just you, you know, recite Prajñāpāramitā-sūtraKAN-JI-ZAI-BO-SATSU-GYO-JIN-HAN-NYA-HA-RA—[starts slowly, then speeds up as he goes along] [laughs, laughter].  That is not our practice, you know, just to know how many times you count your breathing and how long you keep counting without mistake [laughs].  That is not our practice.  With your whole mind and body you should count.  How you do it is—you know, it is—how you do it is also how you take deep perfect breathing.  So by counting you will help, you know, good breathing, good, smooth, deep breathing.  So instead of saying some other thing like mu, you know, you count:  “one, two.”


August 21st, 1969

Thursday, August 21st, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Thursday, August 21, 1969


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-21

Suzuki-rōshi:  If you want, please come here.


I am sorry I haven’t prepare anything for lecture—for this lecture.  So I should be very happy if you have some question and—so that I can say something about it.  Do you have some questions?  Hai.


Student A:  Rōshi, you speak about the relationship of conditioned origination and free will and our everyday life?  Is it possible to say anything about that?  [Laughter.]


Suzuki-rōshi:  Condition of?


Student A:  The relationship of conditioned origination or the—


Suzuki-rōshi:  Origination?


Student A:  —the chain of causation and free will—free will to determine our own actions in our daily life.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Free will?  I don’t—you know—what will—conditioned origination, what is it, do you think?


Student A:  The twelve-fold chain of causation?


Suzuki-rōshi:  Hmm?


Student A:  The twelve-fold-chain of causation—


Suzuki-rōshi:  Oh, oh I see.


Student A:  —and free will—the relationship of those two things.


Suzuki-rōshi:  That’s deep.  [Laughs, laughter.]  Do you know twelve links of causation?  Twelve links of causation.  The—our life originated from—started from ignorance.  We came out of ignorance.


Excuse me.  I have something in my mouth still [laughs, laughter].


Do you know something about it?


Student A:  No.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Why we came, you know, this world is because of ignorance.  Ignorance is the origin of—not “species,” but origin of being, maybe.  Yeah.  Why we say so is because we think we exist here with some self-nature.  So—but actually there is nothing to be called as self-nature.  So that we think, “I am here with some self-nature” is actually not right.  Why we have this kind of imperfect understanding of being—not only our self but also all being.  Mis-[partial word]—not “misunderstanding,” but a kind of delusion.  To see something which does not really exist is delusion.


August 18th, 1969

Monday, August 18th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Monday Evening, August 18, 1969


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-18

Suzuki-rōshi:  Tonight I want to discuss about our way to attain liberation or enlightenment.  When you study Buddhism through teaching or reading scriptures, it looks like Buddhist has some special way of thinking by which we attain liberation.  If we understand Buddhism, and if we take the Buddhist standpoint or Buddhist way of thinking, that is the way to attain liberation.


Do you hear me?


Various Students:  Yes.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Okay?  [Laughs.]  Most people may understand in this way.  If so, there will not be—no need to practice zazen.  But—but it is necessary.  And why it is so is the point of my talk—discussion tonight.


When the Sixth Patriarch attained enlightenment, his teacher Kōnin[1]  thought it may be dangerous for him to accept disciples because of the situation of the world at that time—situation of the country at that time when China was culturally divided in two:  South and—North and South, and partly because the Sixth Patriarch was unknown, you know, unknown disciple.  He was just one of the many disciples, while Jinshū[2]—the head of the group—was very famous.  And if people know that the Sixth Patriarch is Jinshū—[corrects self] [that] Hui-neng received the transmission from the Fifth Patriarch and become Sixth Patriarch, people—some people may [get] angry with him.


So he segregate himself in seashore, and he worked with fisherman.  And when he appeared for the first time in some temple, there were several disciples were discussing seeing the flag, you know, whether the green—thin flag—what do you say?  Flapping?[3]


July 26th, 1969

Saturday, July 26th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi at Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, July 26, 1969


 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-07-26


A monk asked Tōzan—Zen Master Tōzan[1]—can you hear me?—


“It is so hot,” you know.  “How is it possible to go somewhere where it is not hot?”[2]


Tōzan asked to the monk:  “Why don’t you go,” you know, “somewhere it is not so hot?”


And Tōzan said—Tōzan asked him—told him, “Why don’t you go somewhere it is not so hot?”


“But wherever I go, when it is hot, it is hot,” he said—the monk said.


Tōzan answered the question and said:  “When it is hot, you should kill the hot; when it is cold, you should kill the cold.”


To kill cold or hot—it—I don’t know how you understand it.  Maybe for beginner it is pretty hard to sit when your legs are painful.  I think it is more difficult for the—for someone to sit with painful legs in hot weather.  But how you, you know, practice zazen in such a difficulty—with such difficulty, is something you should understand.


Whenever I had some pain in my legs I used to think about this kōan, and I try—try not to move, even though my legs are painful.  When it is hot, I—when I went to tangaryō—entered tangaryō—it was summertime.[3]   So it is very hard for me to sit, although I practiced zazen before I go to Eihei-ji monastery.  But still it was pretty hard to sit all day long in crossed-legged position.  When it is very painful and when I felt very hot, you know, the big cryptomeria[4]  tree started to swing [laughs].  That is—it is not the big tree that started to swing.  My mind started to swing this way [probably gestures].  All the big trees started—started to move like this.  And I found out that I didn’t—I couldn’t allowed to see my watch in tangaryō, but I—I thought in every—in ten—every ten minutes, you know, peak of the pain comes [laughs], you know, like this.  And—and the cryptomeria trees start to move like this.


April 20th, 1969

Sunday, April 20th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday Lecture

Sunday, April 20, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-04-20

It’s—it is pretty difficult, but I will try—try to speak about purpose of our practice.

Before I try to explain our practice, I think I should explain why we practice, you know—why we should practice Zen when we have buddha-nature.  And this is the great problem Dōgen-zenji had.  And he worked for this question before he went to China and met with Nyojō-zenji.[1]

And this is not, of course, so easy problem, but if you understand what do we mean when we say everyone has buddha-nature, and everything has buddha-nature.  What does it mean?  And he explained very carefully in Shōbōgenzō, on the—in the first chapter.

When we say “buddha-nature,” you know, you may think buddha-nature is some innate nature, you know, because we say nature.  In Japanese we use same words—nature—buddha-nature.  But actually it is not nature like nature of human being or nature of plant—or nature of cats or dogs, you know.  It is not, strictly speaking, it is not that kind of nature.

“Nature” means something which is there whatever you do.  Whatever you do, there is nature.  Nature is not something which is there, you know, before you do something.  When you do something, you know, at the same time, nature appears.  That is nature, you know.  What he meant.

You know, you—you think, you know, we have buddha-nature within ourselves or innate—as a innate nature.  And because of this nature, you do something, you know.  That is usual understanding of nature [laughs].  But that is not his understanding.  Or it is not like some seed, you know, which is there before plant come out you know.  “That is not the nature which I mean,” Dōgen-zenji said.  That kind of understanding of nature is, you know, heretic understanding of nature [laughs].  It is not correct understanding of nature.


April 19th, 1969

Saturday, April 19th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi (with Ryogen-sensei)

Afternoon Sesshin Lecture

Sunday, April 19, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-04-19

(The first 20 minutes of the audio is Yoshimura Ryogen-sensei which is not transcribed below.)

Ryogen-sensei: Good afternoon.  Are you very tired in sesshin?

Suzuki-rōshi: [Whispers 1-2 sentences in Japanese, presumably to Ryogen-sensei.]

It is already 3:30.  I have twenty minutes more.  [Laughs.]  Twenty minutes more.

Actually, Zen is not something to talk [about], and also it is something to talk [about].  [Laughs.]  If you understand Zen in that way, your understanding will be perfect.  If someone ask you, “What is Zen?” you may say, “Whatever you say, that is Zen.”  [Laughs.]  And you may say, at the same time, “Whatever you say, it is not Zen.”  [Laughs.]  Both is true for us.

So this kind of paradoxical statement could be understand just by your tummy [?] [making a gesture—possibly rubbing his stomach], you know, by your zazen, or else you don’t understand.  That is, you know, how we com­municate with each other, without sticking to words.  You should directly communicate with each other, not by words.  This is very important.

So Zen is not something to study, maybe, you know, like you study science or philosophy.  Zen is something to listen to.  “Listen to” means, you know, to—with empty mind, to accept the truth without seeking for what your teacher says.  Just, you know, listen to it with empty mind.  Then his words will penetrate into your mind.  So whether you understand it intellectually or not is not point.  We say if you attend a lecture, even though you are sleeping, it is all right, we say, you know.  [Laughs, laughter.]  It is all right because, you know, the teaching will come right into your home, through your, you know, through your nose, or—what do you call, you know?


March 10th, 1969

Sunday, March 9th, 1969

At Sokoji: Suzuki-roshi seated, on the right, Katagiri-roshi.

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Nansen’s “Everyday Mind Is Dao

Monday Morning, March 10, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-03-10

(first part of the talk is Katagiri-roshi speaking which is untrascribed. The transcription below begins at 2:48 in the audio file).

… it was very, very cold.  It was November?  I don’t remember exactly.  November or—he said [?]—I told you [him], you know:

“Don’t wear so—so much clothing.  Even though we wear many clothing, you will not be so warm.  And if your practice is sincere enough, even though you do not wear so much, you will not be so cold.  If you are involved in intense practice, you know, actually you don’t feel so cold.”

And so he appeared in zendō [with] only one thin shirt [laughs, laughter].  And he practiced.  I said to him, “It may be too thin.  You have to wear little bit more ” [laughs, laughter].

But he say, “It’s all right.”  And he sits [with] just one shirt on his body.  Why I, you know, talk about his experience is because I want to talk—talk about one kōan:  the famous kōan of Nansen[1]—between Nansen and Jōshū,[2] Nansen’s disciple.  “Everyday—Everyday Mind Is Dao.[3] I think you may know that kōan.

Kōan is not something to—something to explain.  Why we talk about is to give some suggestion, you know, about how you practice zazen.  It is suggestion.  We don’t talk about what kōan means directly.  We give you just suggestion, and you, according to the introduction or suggestion, you work on kōan.  That is how we explain kōan and how you listen to kōan.

So you don’t—you must not think—if I, you know—if you remember what I said or if I—if you understand what I said, you—that is—there is no need for you to solve the kōan, you know.  So I am not trying to explain what is everyday mind or what is dao, but through this kōan—by this kōan, I want you to—I want to give you some suggestion how you practice shikantaza.


March 9th, 1969

Sunday, March 9th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday, March 9, 1969

Sōkō-ji, San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-03-09

I am glad to see you from here [laughs].  My organ [?][1] may not be so good yet, but I am—today I’m testing, you know, just testing.  [Laughs, laughter.]  I don’t know if it works or not.  Whether it works or not, or if I speak or not, is not such a big problem for us.  Whatever happen to us, it is something which it should happen—which should happen.  So purpose of our practice [is] to have this kind of complete composure in our everyday life.

Some of Japanese member, you know, thought because I am—I am practicing always zazen, “He not—he will not be catch cold.  [Laughs.]  He will not suffer from flu.  But it was funny for him to stay in bed so long.”  [Laughs.]

But purpose of zazen is to makes—to make our—to make ourselves physically strong or to make ourselves mentally healthy or strong, maybe to make our mind healthy and body healthy.  But healthy mind is not just, you know, “healthy mind” in its usual sense, and weak body is not weak body in its usual sense.  Whether it is weak or strong, when that weakness and that strength is based on so-called-it truth or buddha-nature, that is healthy mind and healthy body.


October 12th, 1968

Saturday, October 12th, 1968

Suzuki-roshi monitoring Zazen at Sokoji

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Shikantaza, Tenryū’s One Finger

Saturday, October 12, 1968

Soko-ji, San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-10-12 1st Talk

I want to explain our way—our way of zazen.  Do you know—you know the famous story of Gutei?[1] When Tenryū[2] pointed up one finger, Gutei attained enlightenment.  And do you—what do you think [about] this one finger?  He [Gutei] attained enlightenment, you know, and said:  “I received Tenryū’s one finger, and—which I have been using for—for my lifetime,” when he became pretty old he said.  “What do you think this is?”  [Laughs.]

There is another—I will tell you another story.  Yakusan—Yakusan Igen,[3] the disciple of Sekitō, one day as he was asked to give lectures to the monks, he just appeared on the altar [took the abbot’s seat],[4] and while—while he was sitting, and came back to his room.

The director of the temple went to his room and asked him, “You didn’t give me—give us lecture for a long time, so I asked you to give us lecture [laughs].  But as soon as you appeared on the altar, you came back to [laughs]— to your room.  Why is that?”

Yakusan said, “There are many teachers.  Some of them are teaching Buddhist precepts, and some of them are giving lectures on sūtras, and I am a Zen master.”

That was his answer.  What do you think that is?

If, you know—in other word, then I may ask you, “What have you been doing today?”  [Laughs.]  I think you have—some of you must have been very sleepy, and some of you must have had pain, terrible pain on your legs, and some of you must find it difficult to stop your monkey mind [laughs].  So I suspect quite few people, or maybe three or four people who are sitting, and rest of the people [laughs] couldn’t practice zazen in its true sense—in its usual sense.  You may understand in that way.