Archive for the ‘Not Always So’ Category

February 1st, 1970

Sunday, February 1st, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, February 1, 1970

City Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-02-01


How do you—how do you like zazen?  [Laughs, laughter.]  And maybe—maybe better to ask you how do you like brown rice?  [Laughs, laughter.]  I think this is better question, you know.  Zazen is too much.  [Laughs, laughter.]  Brown rice, I think, just right.  [Laughter.]  But actually not much difference.  [Laughter.]  Zazen has strong f- [partial word]—zazen is strong food like brown rice.  And I was very much interested in the way you eat brown rice.  [Laughs.]  I’m—I’m very much impressed, you know, the way you eat brown rice.


Can you hear me?


I think you, you know, naturally, when you eat brown rice, you have to chew it.  Unless you chew it, it is difficult to swallow, so you chew it very well.  Your mouth, you know, looks like a part of a kitchen [laughs].  You are cooking, you know [laughter, laughing], brown rice in your mouth and to be a very good food—tasty food.  While you are, you know, chewing, actually brown rice become more and more tasty.  So I think brown—your mouth—when you eat brown rice your mouth is kitchen.  But usually, you know, I realize that usually our mouth is not kitchen when we eat.  You know, we—no—when, for an instance, when we eat white rice, you know, we don’t chew so much.  We just, you know, put—put it in our mouth and without chewing so much.  And feeling is so good, so it naturally goes to our throat.  So we don’t chew it.


I think Japanese people, you know—at first I understand our ancestors who are eating brown rice.  But because white rice is easier to eat or taste good, so they become more interested in white rice instead of brown rice.  But actually when you, you know, accustomed to brown rice, the white rice is not, you know, so tasty.  We, you know—when you put it in your mouth, we think it is good, but that’s all.  No more, you know, variety or no more depth of taste.  But brown rice—at first it is not so good, and it is difficult to eat—swallow.  So while you are chewing, it become more tasty.  And when it become tasty, you know, you—you hesitate to s- [partial word]—even to swallow because it is so good [laughs, laughter].  Brown rice has that much, I think, taste in it.


January 25th, 1970

Sunday, January 25th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, January 25, 1970 

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-01-25


The difference between so-called-it Therāvada Buddhism and Sarvāstivādian or Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna is very important and directly, you know, concerned with our present problem.  We are supposed [laughing] to be Mahāyāna Buddhist, but I think most of us are Hīnayāna, actually.  There is not much Mahāyāna students.  Almost all of us may be Hīnayāna or sectarian Buddhists because we study Buddhism as something which is already given to us, like Hīnayāna Buddhist thought Buddha already gave us—have given us—the wonderful teaching.  So what we should do is to preserve his teaching as you like—as you put food in refrigerator [laughs].  That is Hīnayāna way.  And to study, you know, Buddhism is to take out food from refrigerator.  So wherever you want it, it is already there.  That is Hīnayāna way of understanding.


But Mahāyāna students rather interested in how to produce food from the field—from the garden.  So naturally Mahāyāna Buddhist, you know, put the emphasis on ground or garden which has nothing in it, you know, which you don’t see anything in it.  You know, if you see the garden, you don’t see anything.  But if you take care of seed, it will come out.


So we—Mahāyāna Buddhist make our effort to, you know, to see something come out from ground.  And joy of the Mahāyāna Buddhist is joy of take care of the garden.  That is Mahāyāna Buddhist.  So we—Mahāyāna Buddhist—that is why Mahāyāna Buddhist, you know, put emphasis on emptiness.  Emptiness is—is a garden where you cannot see anything.  But it is, actually, mother of everything from which, you know, everything will come out.


January 4th, 1970

Sunday, January 4th, 1970

Suzuki-roshi with students at Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, January 4, 1970

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-01-04


In our zazen practice, we stop our thinking and we must be free from our emotional activity too.  We don’t say there is no emotional activity, but we should be free from it.  We don’t say we have no thinking mind, but we should not be—our activity, our life activity should not be limited by our thinking mind.  In short, I think we can say [we trust ourselves completely, without thinking,][1]  without feeling anything, we—without discriminating good and bad, without saying right or wrong, we should trust our life activity.  Because we respect ourselves, because we trust completely, put faith in our life, we do not think, we do not discriminate, and we sit.  That is, you know, our practice.


Tentatively, this morning, my version of our practice is like this because I want to extend this kind of understanding to our everyday life.  Between —human relationship, for an instance, should be based on this kind of understanding.  If our love between us is not based on this kind of understanding, respect, and complete trust, we will not have completely peaceful life.


And relationship between ourselves and nature should be like this.  We should respect everything, especially something which we are related directly.  This morning when we were bowing, you know, in zendō, we heard big noise here, you know, because everyone fling chair [makes noise by moving a chair along the floor] like this, you know [laughs].  I thought this isn’t—may not be the way how we should treat chairs [laughs]—not only because it may cause disturbance to the people who are bowing in the zendō, but also fundamentally this will not be the way to—how we should treat things.


September14th, 1969

Sunday, September 14th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi and Richard Baker at Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, September 14, 1969


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-09-14

Sunday school—a Sunday-school girl saw me in sitting, and she said:  “I can do it.”  And she crossed her legs like this [gesturing], and then said, “And what?  [Laughing, laughter.]  And what?”  She sit like this and said, “And what?”  I was very much interested in her question because many of you have same question [laughs, laughter].  You come every day to Zen Center and practice Zen.  And you ask me, “And what?  [Laughs.]  And what?”


I want to explain this point a little bit.  I cannot—I don’t think I can explain it fully because it is not something to be—to ask or to be—to answer.  You should know by yourself.  We—why we sit in some formal position is through your body you should experience something, you know, by doing—by formal sitting—something you yourself experience not by mind—by teaching, but by physical practice.


But to be able to sit in some form and to attain some state of mind is not perfect study.  After you have full experience of mind and body, you should be able to express it in some other way, too.  That happens quite naturally.  You don’t stick to some formal position anymore, but you can express same feeling—same state of mind, or you can convey your mind to others by some way.  And even though you do not sit in some certain form—for an instance, in chair, or in standing position, or in working, or in speaking, you can—you will have same state of mind—state of mind [in] which you do not stick to anything.  This is what you will study through our practice.  That is the—what you will, you know—that is the purpose of practice.


September 1st, 1969

Monday, September 1st, 1969

Suzuki-roshi at Rinsoin (1940s)



September 1969


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


We have been talking about—discuss—discussing about reality, actually, and how we practice our way in our zazen and in our everyday life.  And Dōgen-zenji talked about the reality in—by using the Japanese or Chinese word, inmo.[1]   Inmo means—inmo has two meaning.  It is—it means like this, you know [probably gestures]—and also it means question:  “What is that?”  Or it is, you know, “it,” you know.  “It” means—sometime it is question mark, and sometime “it” means—pointing at something, we say, “it.”


In English, you know, you say, “It is hot.”  That “it” is the same words—same meaning when you say, “It is nine o’clock,” or “It is half-passed eight.”  You know, it—you use [“it” for] only time or weather, you know.  Time or weather is “it.”  But not only time or weather.  Everything should be “it”—can be “it.”  We are also “it,” you know, but we don’t say “it.”  Instead of “it” we say “he” or “she,” or “me” or “I.”  But actually it means “it.”  So everything is—if everything is “it,” you know, it is—at the same time, question mark, you know.  When I say “it,” you know, you don’t know [laughs] exactly what I mean, so you may say, “What is it?” [laughs] you may ask.


“It” is not—it does not mean some definite, special thing, as it does not mean when we talk about time, it is not—it does not mean some special time, or meal time, or lecture time.  We don’t know.  So “it” is—it means also ques- [partial word]—it may be question mark for everyone.  If I say “it,” you know, you may say, “What time is it?” you may say.


September 1st, 1969

Monday, September 1st, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


“I Don’t Know Zazen”

September 1969


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


In our practice, the most important thing [is] to—to know—to know.  “To know” is that we have buddha-nature.  Our practice—real practice happens when realization of buddha-nature take place.  Intellectually we know that we have buddha-nature, and that is what was taught by Buddha.


But to know buddha-nature—when you know that we have buddha-nature, at the same time you will know that even though we have buddha-nature, you know, it is rather difficult to accept it.  At the same time, we have various evil nature.  And buddha-nature is something beyond good and bad, but our everyday life is going [on] in realm of good and bad.  So there is—there is two—twofold of duality.  One is duality of good and bad, and the other is duality of good and bad—realm of good and bad, and realm of the world where there is no good and no bad.


And our everyday life is going [on] in realm of good and bad—the realm of duality.  And buddha-nature or our absolute nature is found in the realm of absolute where there is no good and bad.  Our practice is to go beyond the realm of good and bad and to realize the one absolute world—to enter the one absolute world is our practice.  If I say in this way it is rather—it may rather difficult to understand.


Hashimoto-rōshi,[1]  the famous Zen master who passed away last year or 1967, I think, explained this point.  “It is”—I think I told you once—”It is like a—to—to prepare a food,” you know.  We prepare food—various food—you separate:  rice is here, and pickles are here, and soup is in middle bowl.  We don’t cook like a gruel all the time [laughs]—soup and rice and everything in one bowl.  Even though, you know, to cook—to prepare food separately, you know, in each bowl is the—our usual world—world of seeming.  And—but when you eat it, you know, in your tummy, you know, soup and rice and pickles and everything—goma-shio[2]—and everything [gets all] [laughs] mixed up and you don’t know what is—which is goma-shio or rice.  That is the world of absolute [laughter].  As long as goma-shio is goma-shio, and separately prepared on the plate, it doesn’t work—like your intellectual understanding of Buddhism.  It doesn’t work.  [Laughs, laughter.]  That is book knowledge.


August 7th, 1969

Thursday, August 7th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi at Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Thursday, August 7, 1969

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-07


[In][1]  Buddhist scripture, you know, there is a famous story.  Water is same, but—water is, for human being, is water [laughs], and for celestial being—for celestial being it is jewel.  And for fish it is their home.  And for people in hell or hungry ghosts it is blood or maybe fire.  If they want to drink it, the water change into fire.  So they cannot drink it [laughs].


Same water [laughs, laughter], you know, looks like very different.  But you may—you may say, you know, our understanding of—of water is right.  It—it should not be “home” or “house” or “jewel” or “blood” or “fire.”  It should not be so.  Water should be water.


But Dōgen-zenji says, you know:  “Even though you say ‘water is water,’ it is not quite right.”  [Laughs.]  It is not right.  I think most people think water should be water, and that is right understanding of water.  “It—it cannot be anything else.  Water is something drink [laughs], not to live in it.”  Or, “It cannot be fire,” you know.  But he says that is not right—quite right.  He doesn’t say it is wrong, but he says, “Not quite right.”


I think we practice zazen, you know, and this is right practice, and the attainment we will acquire is something right and perfect.  But if you ask Dōgen-zenji, he may say, “Not quite.”  [Laughs.]  This point should be—this is, maybe, good kōan for you to work on two more days or three more—two and a half days more.[2]


July 20th, 1969

Sunday, July 20th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday, July 20, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-07-20

If you go to some library you will see many books.  And those—in those books, we will find out our achievement, our human knowledge, which is almost impossible to study out.  And now we are going to arrive to the moon.[1]   And [laughs] actually I don’t know anything about, you know, how they reach to the moon and what kind of feeling they may have when they arrive at the moon.  To me it is not so interesting a thing.


When I reflect on myself, especially when I feel, on this occasion, I have to speak about the moon trip [laughs, laughter], I have no time to study about those things.  So if I try to speak about it, it is nothing but to tell you how foolish I am, you know.  That is what I can do, you know.  If I talk about the moon trip you may think, “Ah, he is so ignorant about [laughs, laughter] the moon trip.”  And I think I may see many people today or tomorrow to speak about the moon trip as if he knows everything about it [laughs].  When I hear them speak about the moon trip, you know, how I feel is—maybe because I don’t know or he has—he is interested, actually really interested in the moon trip, you know.  And because I know that, I may not respect him so much.


The first—even the first one who may arrive at the moon—I don’t think, you know, if he is very much proud of his achievement.  How I feel is I cannot think he is a great hero.  I don’t know how you feel, but I don’t feel he is a great hero.  But on television, you know, he may be, you know, for some time, a great hero.  At least he will be treated like a great hero.


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.


March 30th, 1969

Sunday, March 30th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday, March 30, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-03-30

[The point of][1] … my talk is just to give you some help in your practice.  So it is just help, you know.  So there’s, as I always say, there is no need for you to remember what I said as something definite, you know.  I’m just trying to help you, so it is just support of your [laughs] practice.  So if you stick to it, it means that you stick to the support—not, you know, tree itself.  You know, a tree, when it is strong enough, it may want some support.  But the most important one is the tree itself, not support.

I have, you know, I am one tree, and each one of you are a tree of itself.  And by itself, you should, you know, stand up.  And when one tree stand up by itself, we call that tree a buddha.  In other word, when you, you know, practice zazen in its true sense, you are really buddha.  So buddha and tree is one, in that sense.  It may be sometime we call it a tree; sometime we call it a buddha.  “Buddha” or “tree” or “you” is many names of one buddha.

When you sit, you know, you are independent from various being, and you are related to various being.  And when you have perfect composure in your practice, it means that you include everything.  You are not just you. You are whole world or whole cosmos, and you are a buddha.  So when you sit, you are ordinary man, and you are buddha. So in this sense, you are both ordinary man, ordinary man, and buddha.  So you are not just ordinary man—ordinary man.  Before you sit, you know, stick to the idea of “you” or idea of self.  That is sheer [fear?] old [?] ordinary man.  But when you sit, you are both, you know, ordinary man and buddha.  So you are not the same being.  When you sit you are not same being before you sit.  Do [laughs] you understand?  Because, when you sit, you are ordinary man and buddha.