Archive for October, 1969

October 30th, 1969

Thursday, October 30th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Thursday Evening, October 30, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-30

(note: the audio speeds up as the recording goes along)


The print[1]—print you have got there is trans- [partial word]—mostly translated from Kumārajīva’s translation.[2]   Kumārajīva is Chinese famous translator, and his translation is famous for his—for his beautiful words.  And easy to understand.  That is why most people—most Chinese people liked his translation, and at the same time Lotus Sūtra became very popular sūtra.  It is not exactly literal translation, but because he was a great scholar, his translation is very correct and very easy to understand.  And as a literature, it is also good.


Kumārajīva’s father [Kumārayāna] was an Indian, and his father came to—I don’t know what you call—Kashmir—Kashmir?  Do you understand [laughs]?


Student:  Yes.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Kashmir.  Kiji—Kiji, in Chinese.  Kiji-koku.  And he—he [Kumārayāna] got married with emperor’s sister [Jīvaka].


And Kumārajīva was—when he was quite young he started study of Buddhism.  When he was seven, he already read scriptures.  And when he was nine years old, he started study of Mahāyāna already.  At first, under some teacher he studied Hīnayāna mostly.  And—and when he was twelve he went to some other neighboring country and studied more about teaching of Prajñāpāramitā group [of sūtras].  And when he came back to his country—his father’s country, his former teacher became his disciple [laughs].  He was so, you know, smart fellow.  And the teacher said, “You are my Mahāyāna teacher, and you are—and I am your teacher of Hīnayāna teaching,” he said.  And he studied under him [laughs].


We don’t know how long he was there.  But anyway, his mother went back to India.  Maybe his country became more and more weaker, and Chinese people more and more ready to invade his country.  Maybe that is why.  But he stayed [in] his father’s country and was teaching Mahāyāna teaching.


October 28th, 1969

Tuesday, October 28th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi with students near Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Tuesday Evening, October 28, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-28

(note: the audio speeds up as the recording goes along)


I think there must be many things to prepare before you understand—before you read Lotus Sūtra.  First of all, we say always, you know, “Mahāyāna” or “Hīnayāna.”  So what actually means by Hīnayāna or Mahāyāna is one of the many things which you should know.


Buddha originally left teaching some time for some special people.  But even so, people who listen to that—hear the Buddha’s teaching maybe [have] different understanding, according to the ability of the people who listen—who hear him.  So actually there are many various kinds of teaching in Buddha’s teaching.  We say, “Buddha’s teaching,” but—in one word—but there are many various kinds of teaching included.


But naturally, Buddha’s teaching was divided in two—as his disciple or his descendant naturally divided in two, you know, as it is so always.  They were divided in some logical student and some more conservative ones.  The conservative one was so-called-it Hīnayāna or Theravāda.  Even 100 [years] after—100 [years] after Buddha passed away, there is—there were some even [?].  Some radical students proposed to practice ten—ten more practice.  But some conservative students—Theravāda students—called him:  “He is heretic; he is not orthodox traditional—orthodoxical traditional students; that is not what Buddha said.”  In this was there was already some dispute.


And they had later a second meeting to—to—to unify Buddha’s teaching.  But, at the same time, some group had another meeting [laughs], you know.  In this way, there were Buddhist—Buddhists divided in two.  The conservative ones are mostly the ones who remembered Buddha’s teaching and who has—who had some record, and who had some complete traditional texts.  Radical ones more put emphasis on Buddha’s intention to leave his teaching:  why Buddha, you know, left this kind of teaching.  That was the most important point for the radical ones.  They didn’t, you know, stick to scriptures only.  And the conservative ones, you know, who wanted to oppose radical ones, more and more systematized Buddha’s teaching, you know, and analyzed Buddha’s teaching in various way.  That is so-called-it Hīnayāna teaching.


October 25th, 1969

Saturday, October 25th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Saturday Evening, October 25, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-25

(note: the audio speeds up as the recording goes along)


Last night[1]  I explained the most important part of this chapter [II], which runs:




This is another translation,[2]  translated from Chinese text[3]  comparing to Sanskrit original text.


“Shāriputra, the Thus-Come One—Thus-Come One can by a variety of distinction skillfully preach the dharma.  His word are gentle, gladdening many hearers.  Shāriputra, to take the—to take the essential and—to take the essential and speak of it.  As for the immeasurable and unlimited dharmas that have never been before, the Buddha has perfected them all.”


And here—this is most important part:


“Cease, Shāriputra.  We need no more speak.  Why is that?  As for the prime, rare, hard-to-understand dharma which the Buddha has perfected, only a buddha and buddha can exalt [exhaust?] the reality of the dharma—namely,

the suchness of dharma,

the suchness of their marks,

the suchness of their nature,

the suchness of their substance,

the suchness of their powers,

the suchness of their functions,

the suchness of their causes,

the suchness of their conditions,

the suchness of their effects,

the suchness of their retribution, and

the absolute equality of their beginning and end.”


And here there is important words.  Reality of these dharmas—reality of these dharmas—reality of these dharma I explained last night:  how things exist, and namely suchness of the dharma, and the suchness of their marks, and suchness of their nature, suchness of their substance.  But all those things in word [are] another version of “things changes and things has no self-nature.”  And things are originally organic:  one whole being, which makes one whole lives [life?].  That is the fundamental teaching of this sūtra.


And to have this kind of understanding—view of life, view of nature—is the Buddha’s wisdom.  And, in this chapter—in this sūtra they—Buddha put emphasis on this point.  And I refer to the—and I refer to Shōbōgenzō:[4]   “Only dharma—only buddha and buddha can exalt [exhaust?] the reality of these dharma.”  “Only buddha and buddha can exalt [exhaust?] the reality of dharmas.”  This is very important.


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.


October 20th, 1969

Monday, October 20th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series][1]

Monday Evening, October 20, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-20


As many of you are the students who joined our training—this training period, and perhaps many of you didn’t join the last training period, so I think I must tell you about the spirit of Lotus Sūtra because it is rather difficult for someone who want to join—who want to read it as you read Bible or Confucianism.  It is not—Lotus Sūtra is—can you hear me?—okay?—is not some sūtra which—like chronicle of great sage—chronicle of saying or actions of great sage like Christ or Confucian.  It is like—something like Divine Comedy.  I don’t know how you call it:  Divine Comedy of Dante, you know.  Or it is something like a great music, you know.  It is actually something to feel when you read it.


So in Japan, whether or not they understand it, they repeat, you know, Lotus Sūtra over and over again, and—until they get some—until they get the feeling of the sūtra.  It is, you know—if you think it is a good—great music, maybe, you will appreciate this sūtra.  So if you read it chapter by chapter, you know, it doesn’t mean anything.  It is like a—to see the big building, you know, part by part.  Even—sometime you will see just strange, you know, foundation of the big building.  It is not so—although it is something big, but it is not so interesting.  It may be a big big stone or a concrete, but if you see the building from distance, it may be a beautiful building.  So until you read it over and over again and appreciate whole—whole structure of the building, it is not so interesting sūtra.  It looks like a kind of miss which is written in great scale.


This is the difference between Hīnayāna—I shouldn’t say “Hīnayāna”—maybe original Buddhism and more developed Buddhism from original so-called-it Hīnayāna Buddhism.  For an instance, you know:  You are very much interested in Zen.  But Zen is maybe a big mysticism in one way.  When we put emphasis on enlightenment, and when we talk about enlightenment [laughs], you know, it is something beyond actually what we are saying.  You will feel the spirit of it by kōan or by story or by Shōbōgenzō.  You will feel some burning—some—some—something very hot inside.  It is like a blue flame, you know—it is very hot.  And very direct.  That is the characteristic of Zen.


So it is—we say it is something beyond world—after we talked about Buddhism—after Mahāyāna Buddhist expressed their spirit by—in big big scale, Zen, you know, started to express Buddhist spirit more direct way and completely different way.  But it is not usual—it is very difficult to understand anyway what does it mean, actually.  What kind of spirit is hidden in it is difficult.  That is why kōan is difficult—kōan study is difficult.


October 14th, 1969

Tuesday, October 14th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi talking to a park ranger

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, October 14, 1969

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-14 part a

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-14 part b

Suzuki-rōshi:  Since I resigned from Soko-ji Temple, I—my mind become more busy than before.  It is ridiculous, but actually it is so.


Physically I am feeling much better.  But mentally [laughs]—I’m not confused, but I’m reflecting on what I have been doing for ten years.  And as I do not stay with you so long time when our members [are] increasing a lot, I feel a great distance, you know, between you and me.  That is another problem for me.  Anyway, I think we must find our way.  And I think it is a time for us to find out some way to develop our buddha’s way.


As I have nothing to talk about tonight, so I want you to give me some question.  And I want especially new students to give me some questions.  Whatever it is, that is all right.  So please give me some questions.  Hai.


Student A:  I just finished reading something that said everything in life is necessary.  Do you agree?


Suzuki-rōshi:  Excuse me?


Student A:  I just finished reading something that referred to everything in life as necessary:  the actions, the things that happen, are all necessary.  In other words, the war, peace, love, hate, they’re all necessary in life.  Is that right?


Suzuki-rōshi:  Necessary.  You mean there is some reason for everything to happen?  Or—


Student A:  I guess you could call it that, or something that—no matter what happens, it’s the individual that counts.  It doesn’t matter what’s happening in the whole.  It’s just the individual that will eventually count in the end.  That’s what I’m referring to—that you can’t do anything about the whole but you can do something about yourself.


Suzuki-rōshi:  That’s pretty big question.  It is—I think you are asking me about Buddhist view of life—human life.  Is it?


Student A:  I guess I’m asking a question about the way I’ve felt in the past months—the way I look at things.  And it seems as though when I look at things in this way, everything seems to have fallen in place.  Everything seems to have meaning.  It doesn’t seem to trouble you at all.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Meaning.  Yeah.  When we say—you know, you—your question, I think, more than, you know—actually what you mean—that question may be the question of why we practice zazen, you know, or why is it necessary to set up some rules or why is it necessary for human being to have some certain culture.  The meaning of life—when we say “meaning,” it is already problem of—question of some certain view of life.  When you see or when you understand our life from some certain viewpoint, we say, “It is meaningful,” not “It does not mean anything.”  But when you say, “Everything is meaningful,” maybe it means we should have a wider viewpoint without sticking to some certain viewpoint.  Then everything will have some—will have meaning.  Everything which happens in our human life or in nature has some meaning—has meaning.