Archive for April, 1969

April 29th, 1969

Tuesday, April 29th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday Morning, April 29, 1969

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-04-29

This morning I want to—to explain how to take our bodhisattva’s vow.  We say “bodhisattva’s vow,” but actually this is not only Mahāyāna Buddhist vow but also all the Buddhist vow.  When we say Mahāyāna, we also—it means that something—usually it means that the something superior teaching in contrast with Hinayāna.  But this is—may not be real understanding.  According to Dōgen-zenji, this is not right understanding, to say “Hīnayāna” or “Mahāyāna.”

From the beginning of—the Āgama-sūtra[1] is supposed to be the oldest sūtra—Buddhist sūtra, but even in Āgama-sūtra this kind of thought is there.  [It] says, Shujō muhen—“Sentient beings are numberless.  I vow to save them.”[2] Why Buddha, you know, come to this—came to this world is to save sentient beings.  Usually those who do not believe in Buddhism comes to come to this world because of karma.  But for Buddhist—for Buddha, he did not come to this world because of the karma.

In Āgama-sūtra, they say Buddha passed away by his own choice.  And because he finished his task, he—because he has nothing to do more in this world, he took nirvāna, it says.  When he finished, you know, his task he took nirvāna.  It means that already [the] purpose of his coming to this world is to save sentient beings or to help others.  So if that is, you know, the reason why he come to this world if he finish his task—when he finished his task, there is no reason why he should stay in this world.  So he took nirvāna.


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?


April 8th, 1969

Tuesday, April 8th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi wearing traditional monk's traveling clothes

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Tuesday, April 8, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-04-08

[Recently][1] I was talking about denial of, you know, desires.  This is very confusing, you know—may be confusing.  Our way is not asceticism, but actually, what we—if you read, you know, our precepts literally, there is no difference [laughs].  But what it means is completely different.  What is the difference is what I want to talk about tonight.  Or what is the difference between “to study” and “to listen to.”  “Go to the master and listen to what he says” and “to study.”  Or why you started to study Zen.  There must be some reason why so many people come and—come to Zen Center and practice Zen and study Zen.

I think this is because of the—because our culture—our civilization—came [laughs] already [to a] dead end, and if you realize that you cannot go any more—any further more.  So someone who notice—people who notice that this is the dead end may come to Zen Center [laughs, laughter] to find out some way to go further.  That is, you know, your feeling, you know, whether or not you understand what is dead end or why we came to the dead end.

The foundation of our culture is based on individualism.  And individualism is based on, you know, idea of self, you know.  And from the time of Renaissance, we awoke in our human nature, and we started to put emphasis on our human nature rather than, you know, something which is called “divine nature” or “holy nature.”  We put more emphasis [on] how—what we are and what is human nature.  And we wanted to express our human nature as much as possible.  But—and, you know, the human nature—holy nature, you know, or buddha-nature, were replaced by human nature.  And that human nature is not what we mean by buddha-nature.  This is, you know, starting point of mistake.  So whatever the—whatever sort may be—communism, or capitalism, or individualism—all those sorts are based on individual right, or individual power, or individual—supremacy of individual.