Archive for March, 1971

March 12th, 1971

Friday, March 12th, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Not Verbatim                                          

March 12, 1971

[No Audio Source]


It is not so easy to say what actual practice is, what Zen is. But anyway, I want to try. First of all, why we practice Zen may be the question most of you have. As you know, Buddha’s first teaching is the Four Noble Truths. According to him, our life is a life of suffering. And if you know the cause of suffering, you will know how to go through our suffering, and you will attain Nirvana or enlightenment.


Tonight maybe it is better to explain why we suffer. Suffering includes various kinds of confusion or fears we may have because of our lack of understanding of our life. The reason we suffer, according to the Buddha, is because we have desire. Desire cannot be broken, because we have too much desire-there is no limit to our desire. That is why we suffer-because we have interest in strong desire. So our suffering will be limitless, deep and long. The suffering you feel is as deep as a night when you cannot sleep is long. When you cannot sleep, the night maybe very very long for you. That is why we suffer. The root of desire is so-called “ignorance” or “darkness.” Ignorance means ignorance of our life, ignorance of human nature. If we know human nature and how we live in this world as a human being, then we will know why we suffer and how to go through suffering. I don’t say that you will go beyond it, or that you eliminate suffering. But if you know the cause of suffering, which is ignorance of our life, then maybe this knowledge will be a great relief for you. Moreover, you will find out how to cope with our suffering. For instance, if you sit in a cross-legged position like this, at first you will have pain in your legs, as some of you must have experienced already. It is not so easy to deal with the pain you have in your legs as you sit. If some of you sit thirty or forty minutes, without any instruction, you will know how you can deal with suffering. The way to deal with, or to overcome your suffering is actually the precepts which the Buddhists observe. But the precepts still will not be good enough, because you don’t know how to limit your original ignorance. So to work on the source of suffering and also to hunt the many big branchings of suffering is the true way to cope with the suffering you have. That is actually zazen practice. Through the practice of zazen you can cope with original sin, original ignorance, or darkness, and with the weaker branchings of suffering. I think the everyday lives of all of us are actually involved in this kind of suffering which originates from the source of ignorance.


March 9th, 1971

Tuesday, March 9th, 1971
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.


March 2nd, 1971

Tuesday, March 2nd, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, March 2, 1971

8 am Tuesday Morning

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-03-02


There are various kinds of religion, but why we have to [have] religion—this question is answered not only by religious leaders but also by psychologist.  So the understanding of religion nowadays become more and more deeper.  And I think—I don’t know not much about psychology, nowadays psychology, but so far I understand, as you know, just as purpose of religion is to save [solve] our difficulties, the psychologist is working hard to save or to solve the problems of our life.


Why we have, you know, so many problems in our life is, you know, because of, you know, our social structure, which is not so good, or human relationship, you know, which is not also good.  So that is why we have difficulties, and if the difficulties become too much, it will result [in] a nervous breakdown or some mental, you know, disorder.


But why we have this kind of, you know, problem in our society or in our individual life is, according to Buddhism, our problems is based on, you know, our structure of, you know, way we live, you know.  The foundation is something wrong [laughs]. Our way of living is something wrong.  That is so-called-it “leakage,” you know, leakage.  Or you may call it “break” or you don’t say “breakage” [laughs], but maybe, you know, something like that.  Something is wrong with our fundamental framework of life, you know.  Something is wrong.  This point is already pointed out by Buddha.  What is wrong is, you know, according to Buddha, because we have various desires, you know.  But that desires are limitless, you know, as well as Buddha’s teaching [laughs].  It is limitless, you know:  no limit in our desires.  But actually the things which will satisfy our desire is not limitless, you know.  It is limited.  So there is already, you know, big gap between your desire and things which will suffice your desire.  Even so, our way of life is, you know, based on our desires:  to, you know, to have complete satisfaction of our desire, which is not possible.