Archive for August, 1967

August 31, 1967

Thursday, August 31st, 1967

Dated 67-08-31, Thursday

Rev Suzuki

September 1, 1967

Los Altos, Calif.

Zen story or Zen koan is very difficult to understand before you understand what we are doing moment after moment.  But if you know exactly what we are doing moment after moment it is not so difficult to understand.  There are many and many koans.  Recently I talked about a frog (several times).  Whenever I talked about a frog they laughed and laughed.  When you come and sit here you may think you are doing some special thing while your husband is sleeping you are here practicing zazen.  And you are doing some special thing and your husband is lazy.  That is…maybe your understanding of zazen.  But look at the frog.  A frog also sits like this but it has no idea of zazen.  And if you watch what he does…if something annoys him he will do like this (making a face).  If something to eat comes he will eat (imitating a frog snapping at an insect) and he eats sitting.  Actually that is our zazen.  We are not doing any special thing.  We should think that we are doing some special thing.


August 24th, 1967 Shosan

Thursday, August 24th, 1967



August 24, 1967


INTRODUCTION:  [Opening sentences missed.]

… teaching of Dōgen-zenji.  The main point of practice is to listen to your teacher and to practice zazen.  We have you practice zazen and study the Prajna Paramita Sutra. If someone ask me:  What is Prajna Paramita?  I will answer:  practice of zazen.  If someone ask again:  What is the practice of zazen?  I will answer:  To open Buddha’s eating bowl and to take bath in evening.  If someone who understands what I said right now, come and express your way to me in the form of question and answer.

Question 1 (Dick): For the Big Mind, the bridge flows.  If everything has such independence, how can we find our own responsibility?

Roshi: Your responsibility is under your own feet.

Dick: Thank you very much.

Roshi: [LOUD]  Ehhhhhh!  What is that?  What is that is the question and at the same time the answer.  That is what.


August 24th, 1967

Thursday, August 24th, 1967

Student offering incense at a Jukai (receiving the precepts) ceremony


Thursday, August 24, 1967

Z.M.C.  Sesshin Lecture

Zen Mountain Center, Tassajara

Edited by Brian Fikes

(Again, the opening sentences were missed.  According to Dick [Baker], they were something like:  “This is the last lecture of sesshin.  We have talked of form and emptiness, but have not understood it well.”—B. F.)

…  She was a part of the world, and whatever she said from the top of the mountain was in her mind.  She felt an unusual warm feeling even for mountain range after mountain range, but at the same time, she felt very lonely.  Something is missing in that understanding.  What is it?  What is it?  Today, for my last lecture, I want to qualify this point.

Do you know the famous story of Gutei’s one‑finger Zen?  I think everyone knows it.  Gutei Osho lived in a small hut deep in the mountains.  One day a nun called [Jissai] came to the hut.  As soon as she arrived, she went around and around the altar with her hat on her head.  Gutei Osho said, “Why don’t you take off your hat?”  She said, “If you can say something good to me, I will take off my hat.”  But he couldn’t say any­thing, so he was very ashamed of himself.  He left his an, his small temple, and started visiting famous Zen masters.  First of all, he thought he must see Tenryu Osho.  And before he said anything, Tenryu Osho held up one finger, like this, and Gutei was enlightened.  You understand?


August 23rd, 1967

Wednesday, August 23rd, 1967


Wednesday, August 23, 1967

Sesshin Lecture No. 4 [sic]

Zen Mountain Center, Tassajara

Edited by Brian Fikes (Not Verbatim, the tape is no longer available)

Buddhism is not any special teaching, and enlightenment is not any particular stage that you attain.  When you understand your life completely, that is enlightenment.  So though the approach to it is not the same, as long as you study sincerely, you will reach the same goal.  You may think you have discovered a new teaching, but almost all the teachings we discover have already been discovered by Buddhist teachers.  You may say Buddhism is the accumulation of our human experience.  So whatever you make effort on, there is the way.

Some people are always trying to discover some particular way for themselves.  That is not the true way to study; this kind of idea is utterly wrong.  So we say, “Don’t seek for any particular enlightenment.”  Enlightenment is not something particular.  When you start to study Buddhism, thinking that it is good to expect that Buddhism will give you some particular teaching, if you cannot satisfy your expectations, you will give up.  This is not how we study.


August 21st, 1967

Monday, August 21st, 1967

Suzuki-roshi and Lama Govinda

GENJŌ-KŌAN NO.  2 [1?]

Monday, August 21, 1967

Zen Mountain Center, Tassajara

Edited by Brian Fikes

There is a slight difference between your usual activity and the activity in our monastery.  Of course, we do our best in our everyday work in order to support our activity.  The work you do should be done with your very best effort and to the best of your ability.  But you should not be too attached or take pride in your ability.  Forgetting all about your ability and the result of your effort, you should still do your best in your work.  This is how you work in a monastery as a part of practice.

And everyone has their own responsibility.  We should work within our responsibilities; we should not invade someone else’s responsibility.  This is also the teaching of “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” We are working on something right now, and we do not know what we will work on tomorrow.  But right now, what you are working on is your practice, and when you work, just work in your position.  In your posi­tion and in your work there is meaning.  So each one’s responsibility or position is very important for us.  If this is the case, we should not invade someone else’s work.  Each of us should work on our position.  When you do so, there is our practice.  Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.  When you work on the form which is your responsibility, which is your work, there is empti­ness.  But the form, or the position, you have right now is not a permanent one.  Right now you are working on it, and right now you should work on it.  Through your position, you can attain your own enlightenment.  We should work in this way.


August 20th, 1967

Sunday, August 20th, 1967

GENJŌ-KŌAN NO.  1 [3?]

Sunday, August 20, 1967

Morning Sesshin

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][1] 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.


August 14th, 1967

Monday, August 14th, 1967

Suzuki-roshi with students at Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Monday, August 14, 1967

San Francisco [?]

Our study will be concentrated for a while on the statement:  “The mind itself is Buddha.”[1] It is pretty difficult to study, to listen to our lectures or our teachings.  Usually when you study something, and even when you are listening to our lecture, I think that what you understand will be an echo of yourself.  You think you are listening to me, but actually you are listening to yourself, so no progress will result.  You always understand our lecture in your own way.  Your understanding is always based on your way of thinking.  So I think that you hear my voice and see my face, but actually you see yourself, and what you hear is nothing but an echo of yourself.

My study was like that for a long time.  I think this is often the case when we study Buddhism.  If you want to study Bud­dhism, you have to clear your mind.  You should not have any prejudice.  You should forget all you have learned before.


August 2nd, 1967

Wednesday, August 2nd, 1967

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

August 20, 1967 (evening)

Zen Mountain Center

Edited by Brian Fikes

[The first part of this lecture was not recorded.  Suzuki-rōshi was talking about the four stages of belief, intellectual understanding, practice, and enlightenment.  This transcript begins somewhere in the third stage.]

… when you have a new experience, at first you may form a greater belief. And you may even cry over this new experience because it is so different from the experiences you have had, and because it is too real to you. That is because your practice is still lacking. In other words, you have to practice until you become accustomed to new experiences and can digest them and act properly according to them. This kind of understanding is necessary.

Before you become afraid of it or before you wonder what it is, you should practice more under the new experience, following the new ex­perience. This is also very important. If you see your teacher when you have a new experience, he will say to practice more with the new under­standing. I don’t think all of you will always be able to practice our way with a teacher. Some of you will have to go to your own home and practice alone. In such a case, when you have a new experience, you should continue your practice following the new experience within yourself, and act bravely according to it. This kind of make-shift will be necessary for you. We should never be bound by the same old way. We should always be ready for new experiences. You may say it is kensho, but whatever you say, it is quite a new experience, both intellectually and emotionally.


August 1st, 1967

Tuesday, August 1st, 1967

Suzuki-roshi carrying the kyosaku during zazen at Sokoji

Rev S. Suzuki

August 1967

It is a pretty long time since I saw you all.  But if we sit with you in this way

I don’t feel so…I feel as if I were in San Francisco or Los Altos, always.  When I was in Tassajara I think about San Francisco or Los Altos, I feel as if many things to talk about, but in this way when I meet you I have nothing to say.  This is very funny.  Nothing to say at all.  This is…but this is the way it should be.  When we have something to talk about that is not so healthy, sometimes, but when we have nothing to say, that is very healthy situation…especially when I see young people I lose my…I lose every thing…I forget everything.  And sometimes I am ashamed of preaching to them.  It’s much better not to say anything.  That is how I feel, actually.