December 6th, 1967

Originally offered: December 6th, 1967 | Modified January 3rd, 2011 by korin

Suzuki-roshi conducting a Precepts ceremony in the Buddha hall at City Center

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Afternoon Sesshin Lecture

Wednesday, December 6, 1967


Lecture A

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 67-12-06

The mind which [we] will acquire or obtain by our pure practice is, as I said, something which is not graspable—which is beyond our words.  But at the same time, the mind will respond to everything.  So positively speaking, our mind is like a mirror which reflects various object on it.  But when there is no—no object, the mirror is something which you cannot even see.  This is the mind we will obtain by our pure practice.

This afternoon I want to make the relationship between our big mind and everyday activity.  In everyday life, how the big mind reveal itself will be the point I will talk [about] right now—or the function of—you may say the function of the great mind.

Dōgen-zenji explained this mind in his Tenzo Kyōkun.[1] Tenzo Kyōkun is the instruction for the monks who works in the kitchen.  Those who work in the kitchen must have this mind.  And work in the kitchen is the extended practice of zazen, or their way should be—their way working in the kitchen should be based on our pure practice or big mind.  Especially [for] those who work in kitchen, it is necessary to have big mind because they will have various difficulties.

Food is very important—to prepare food is very—may be the most important work in the monastery.  And usually we do not eat good food.  The food we will prepare will not please the monks in the monastery.  That is quite usual.  And monks—even though they prepare something good, they will not satisfy—will not be satisfied with it.  They will want something better [laughs], and there is no, you know, limit in their [laughs] desire.  So they will have always complaint, and what they will do in the kitchen will be always criticized.  Even though there is nothing to criticize, they will [be] suspicious [laughs, laughter] about the, you know—what they will do in the kitchen.  So to work in the kitchen is very difficult work.

And so, first of all, Dōgen-zenji says he must be a man of big mind to accept various criticism and complain with, you know, not smile, but [laughs] if you smile they will be more angry [laughs].  So you cannot even smile [laughs].  Just to accept what they say, and just to understand our human nature is only the way.

So—the first of all, Dōgen-zenji count the big mind:  the mind as great as a mountain and as wide as sea, or else you cannot—you cannot be responsible for the kitchen work.

And next thing is kind—kindness.  Even though the material is not so good, you should take care of food and vegetables and fruits with great care.  So he counts kind heart or kind mind.  He say—he says all—all the monks’ mind.

And third one will be to have always joy in his work.  I—the order [in the text] was not like this.  Joyous mind[2] is the first, and old ladies’ mind[3] is next—kindness, kindhearted mind.  And—and the great mind—the third one is the great mind.[4] The second one is kindness.  And the first one is joyful mind.

In Japan, you know, there—there are many fishermans and fish store.  There are many fish stores.  And besides so many fish store, we have some people who is carrying fish and selling it, you know.  Those people—you know, fish should be always fresh, so they are running on the street always with big flag [?], and they are always full of joy.  They looks very happy.  They are always active, you know [laughs].  If they are not happy, the fish look—will looks like old [laughs].  Even though fish [laughs, laughter]—is just more fresh if they carry with joy.  It looks like fresh [laughs, laughter].  When fish become old, the eyes, you know, turn to white from blue, you know.  Blue eyes is not anymore blue [laughs].  Even though [laughs] they carry white [laughs, laughter]—white-eyed fish, you know, if they carry with joy, you know, and if they are running [laughs, laughter], fish looks like very fresh, you know [laughter].

So if the—if a monk who is responsible for the kitchen work is not happy, you know, food tastes very bad, you know.  Even though it is good, it doesn’t taste too good.  So Dōgen-zenji said [laughs, laughter] they must be like a, you know, man is who carrying fish.  No, he didn’t say so, but [laughs, laughter] he means, you know—what he means [is] he should be always happy, you know.  If he is not so happy, you know, the all the monks will not be happy.  And the more—more complain he will have, and he will be criticized more.  So first of all, Dōgen-zenji says he should be always happy.

And next thing—next thing is to have old ladies’ mind.  Usually, by nature, old lady is very kind.  Or we say Buddha’s mind is—the mind of parents is Buddha’s mind.  Buddha’s mind is parents—mind of parents.  They raise children with great care, with great love, and they do not miss any expression of their baby.  And when it is cold, they will take off his own coat and cover the baby.  When it is hot, they will carry their baby in the cool side, exposing themselves to the sun.  In this way they raise their children.

So buddha-mind is—should be—must be like the old-ladies’ mind who raised children.  You may say that is our instinct.  Whether it is instinct or their—their act- [partial word]—kindness.  The mind they have is valuable.  Because of this everything grows.  Because of this we—we were so happy at—when we are at home, and you will not forget how you were raised in the family—in your family when you are young.  Even though you do not say “thank you,” but you cannot forget it.

This kind of mind is the mind of parents.  And big mind, great mind should be like this, he says.  And the great mind—he says great mind is the mind of mountain and—or the sea.  If you do not have great mind, you cannot take responsibility.  Because we don’t know when he will give up his—when he will quit his responsibility, we cannot rely—we cannot trust him.  Especially a man who is responsible for kitchen quit his work, you know, you—all the rest of the monks cannot eat.  That is why this mind is necessary.

By this explanation, I think you must have understood what do we mean by buddha-mind or big mind.  Although our mind is something graspable—something ingraspable, its activity is so great, and so warm, so clear, and full of joy.  This are—this is the interpretation of the buddha-mind or great mind by Dōgen-zenji.

Because we are too intellectual and so, too difficult to put faith in something which you do not know exactly, so some explanation is necessary.  Some intellectual explanation or interpretation is necessary.  So we have to talk [about] something very intellectually and logically.  But actually there is no other way to appreciate than to practice our way, knowing the purpose of practice with right understanding of our way.

Here is the brief translation of the three mind by Dōgen:[5]

The sole [soul?] mind as expounded in Zen differentiate itself into three minds:  the joyful mind, the kindly mind, the generous mind.  They are the three function of the three mind—sole mind—the sole mind.  The joyful mind means the joyful frame of mind.  A man of joyful mind is contented with his lot, even in adversity.  He will see bright light and value, and never grumbles or complains.  He finds some of the Buddha’s grace in difficult circumstances.  He feels pleasure even in—when even in painful conditions, and always rejoices.  Seven hardship will disappear at—at once, and seven kinds of happiness will come at once.  In this way, he can experience the spiritual joy and realize that the world of birth and death is the world of nirvāna.

The joyful mind is volitional aspect of the Zen mind—volitional aspect of Zen mind or mentality.

Seven[6]—seven hardship—seven hardship—seven hardship, yeah—seven hardship is, you know, are the hardship when you have—you are born, you know.  We don’t remember—I don’t remember, but [laughs, laughter] it must be pretty hard [laughs] to come out.  And to the old age, you know—we become older and older—that is hardship, and sickness, and death.  Those are—here we have four.  And we count three more.  One is to have too much energy [laughs].  That is hardship too [laughs].  So that is why you don’t eat, you know, so strong stimulus food in the monastery.  It will create a hardship [laughs].  That’s very true [laughs].

And even though you expect something, almost all the—all the expectation will not be fulfilled in this world because by nature we expect too much.  So it is [laughs] impossible to appease your, you know, desire.  That is another difficulties.

And the third one is to depart from someone who [whom you] love.  And to be with someone you do not like [laughs, laughter].  This is [laughs, laughter] hardship we have in this world.  This is very true [laughs].  But if you have joyful mind, you know, all the friend will be, you know—all the people will be your friend.  And all the—if you are healthy, the more you are healthy, the more you can enjoy your life.  And birth should be happy occasion, and death is also—should be happy.

In this way, all those seven hardship, all at once, when you have joyful mind, change into happy mind or happiness.

The joyful mind means joyful frame of mind.  A man of joyful mind is contented with his lot.  Even in adversity, he will see bright light and value and never grumbles or complain.  He finds some of Buddha’s grace in difficult circumstances.  He feels pleasure even in painful condition, and always rejoices.  Seven hardship will disappear at once, and seven kinds of happiness will come at once.  In this way, he can experience the spiritual joy and realize that the world of—world of birth and death is the world of nirvāna.

The joyful mind is the volitional aspect of the Zen mind.  The compassionate mind is the affectionate mind of the parents.  Parent always think of the growth—growth and welfare of their children to the neglect of—neglect of their own circumstances.

A Buddhist scripture says the Buddha’s mind is the mind of great compassion.  One of the lotus—excuse me—one of the [1 word] three treasures is compassion that allows courage.  These are nothing but the kind mind.  The kindly mind is the emotional function of Zen mind.  The magnanimous mind is as big as a mountain and as deep as a sea.  A man with the magnanimous mind is impartial.  He walks the middle way.  He never attach to anyone.  He—he is never attached to any one side or aspect of things.  The magnanimous mind works—walks justly and impartially.  It denotes the intellectual function.  The bodhi [body?]—the holy mind is the harmonious unity of intellect, emotion, and volition, and [is] equipped with the intelligence, benevolence, and compassion.  The function of the great mind may be limitless.  According to the circumstances you will—various virtue will appear from this great mind.

In this way—that is why we should not attach to any particular practice.  Whatever the practice may be, we should practice it with big mind.  If we know the fundamental purpose of our practice, you can practice our way even in your work—walking or sitting or stopping or lying down.  So we should open up our mind without clinging to some particular thing.  This is how we practice our way.

And our practice will be—should be refer to how treat things—how to make friends and how to study our teaching.  Respectively there are some teaching told by Dōgen-zenji.  Anyway, our way is limitless.  So without satisfying or without stopping our effort, we should express the big mind.  This is the life of we Buddhists.


Source:  City Center original tape.  Verbatim transcript by Adam Tinkham and Bill Redican (4/4/01).

[1]  Eihei Dōgen, Instructions for the Tenzo, 1237.  The tenzo is the head cook in a Zen monastery.

[2]  ki-shin (Jap.):  the mind of gratitude or joy.

[3]  ro-shin (Jap.):  the mind of kindness, the aged, or parents.

[4]  dai-shin (Jap.):  the great mind.

[5]  The three minds are mentioned in Tenzo Kyōkun, but Suzuki-rōshi’s translation or commentary does not follow the available translations of Tenzo Kyōkun currently available in English.

[6]  The traditional list includes eight hardships of human existence (as listed by Suzuki-rōshi himself in Lectures SR-68-10-00-F and SR-68-10-00-G):  (1) birth; (2) old age; (3) illness; (4) death; (5) to be separated from those who are dear to us; (6) to meet those who are not dear to us; (7) not to obtain what we desire; and (8) difficulty of guarding our possessions.  (See also Garbhāvakrānti-sūtra in H. V. Guenther, trans., The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Rider & Co., 1959, pp. 63-69.)

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One Response to “December 6th, 1967”

  1. korin Says:

    Here is the section from Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions to the Cook) on the three minds (Tanahashi & Kotler translation):

    In performing your duties along with the other officers and staff, you should maintain joyful mind, kind mind, and great mind.
    “Joyful mind” is the mind that rejoices. You should think: “if I were born in the realm of gods, I would be attached to pleasure and would not arouse the aspiration for enlightenment nor have the opportunity to practice. Then how could I cook food to offer to the three treasures?” The most excellent of all things are the three treasures. Even Indra’s virtue cannot be compared to them, nor can that of a wheel turning king.
    Regulations for Zen Monasteries states, “Respected in the world, quiet and secluded from daily affairs, pure and unconditioned these qualities belong most of all to the community of monks.” We are fortunate to be born in the human realm and even beyond this we have the good fortune of cooking meals to be offered to the three treasures. Is this not a great causal relationship? We should be most grateful for this.
    You should also think, “If I were born in hell, in the realms of hungry ghosts, beasts, or demons, or if I were born in the eight difficult situations, I could not with my own hands cook pure meals to offer to the three treasures, even if I were to use a monk’s miraculous power. This is so because it would be my destiny to be a vessel of suffering, with body and mind bound up.”
    But since you are cooking pure meals in this lifetime, this is a life of rejoicing and a body of rejoicing. It is a wholesome cause from limitless eons, it is merit that does not erode. I hope you will do your work and cook the meal this very day, at this very moment, with this body, the fruit of myriad births and thousands of lifetimes, thereby creating merit for myriad beings. To penetrate this is joyful mind. Even if you become a wheel turning king, there will be no merit if the meal you cook is not an offering to the three treasures; your effort will be like bubbles or vanishing flames.
    “Kind mind” is parental mind. Just as parents care for their children, you should bear in mind the three treasures. Even poor or suffering people raise their children with deep love. Their hearts cannot be understood by others. This can be known only when you become a father or a mother. They do not care whether they themselves are poor or rich; their only concern is that their children will grow up. They pay no attention to whether they themselves are cold or hot, but cover their children to protect them from the cold or shield them from the hot sun. This is extreme kindness. Only those who have aroused this mind can know it, and only those who practice this mind can understand it. Therefore, you should look after water and grain with compassionate care, as though tending your own children.
    The great master Shakyamuni Buddha gave the final twenty years of his life to protect us in this age of the decline of learning. What was his intention? He offered his parental mind to us, without expecting any result or gain.
    “Great mind” is a mind like a great mountain or a great ocean. It does not have any partiality or exclusivity. You should not regard a pound as light or a ton as heavy. Do not be attracted by the sounds of spring or take pleasure in seeing a spring garden. When you see autumn colors, do not be partial to them. You should allow the four seasons to advance in one viewing, and see an ounce and a pound with an equal eye. In this way, you should study and understand the meaning of great.
    If the tenzo of Mt. Jia had not studied the word great, he would not have awakened senior Fu by laughing at him. If Zen master Guishan had not understood the word great, he would not have blown the unlit firewood three times. If priest Dongshan had not known the word great, he would not have taught a monk by saying, “Three jin of hemp.” You should know that these great masters all studied the word great over hundreds of matters. Thus they brought forth the great shout of freedom, expounded the great principle, penetrated the great question, trained a great student, and In this way completed the single great matter.
    The abbot, officers, staff, and other monks should never forget about these three kinds of mind.

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