July 1963

Originally offered: July 1st, 1963 | Modified October 27th, 2009 by korin





July 1963

Introductory Word:

Engo introducing the subject said, “If a man comes to a standstill at some stage, feeling spiritual pride in his enlightenment; he will find himself in a sea of poison. If he finds his words unable to astonish men of lofty spirit, then what he says is quite pointless.

If one can discern the relative and the absolute in the spark of a flint stone, and can apply the positive and negative way in right order, then one is said to have acquired the stage that is as stable as fathomless cliffs.

Main Subject:

Attention! The hermit of Lotus Peak took up his staff and said to the crowds, “Look at my old staff, What was the intention of the Patriarchs of former days in using their staffs?”

Since the crowds had no answer, he himself answered, “They did not have to depend on their staffs.”

Then asking them what the supreme goal was, he answered for them again, “Carrying my palm-staff on my shoulder, without any compassion, I immediately enter the thousand, ten thousand peaks of the mountains.”

Appreciatory Words:

With dusty eyes and dirty ears this strange old hermit did not even want to stay at the top of a lofty peak. Where is he now; in a beautiful garden full of flowers? By a flowing stream?

If you wonder with twinkling eyes, he is already beyond your sight.


It was not right for the ancients to be attached to their staffs (practice), or to be the top of a mountain (result of practice-enlightenment). For more than twenty years this hermit gave instruction about non-attachment with his staff.

For those who understand this secret, a life of non-attachment, it may be quite an interesting problem. Yet, for one who does not understand this way of life, the question may be a difficult one. Even if a student has a good answer for it, the answer may be as difficult for him as gold dust in his eyes.

Therefore, one day, the hermit himself answered for his students, “Because they did not have to depend on their staffs.”

In these circumstances, what is non-attachment?

Once upon a time celestial nymphs poured down many kinds of beautiful flowers on Bodhisattvas and other Buddhists who were listening to Yui-ma’s lecture. The flowers which felt on the great Bodhisattvas fell from their robes. However, some of the flowers remained on the robes of the other disciples, no matter how hard they tried to remove them.

One of the heavenly beauties asked these disciples why they were annoyed with the kind of gift of flowers. Sharihotsu said to her that beautiful flowers should not be on the robes of disciples who live in simplicity. It is beautiful to put ordinary fragrant flowers on a Japanese yukata, but it is not so good to have a pink flower on a priest’s robe.

At this the heavenly maids became quite angry saying, “Whatever your liking may be, a flower is a flower and is beautiful. If the flower is good or bad, it is because of your discrimination and not because of the flower.”

This statement made all the disciples except the great Bodhisattvas feel very ashamed of their narrow view.

When one keeps his pure mind on some object or movement, leaving its true nature to the object itself, the oneness of subjective and objective occur. Here exists one sole independent activity. Flowers should be left to their own colors and their own graceful movement.

The hermit should use care for his staff; yet he should neither depend on it, nor ignore it. He should treat the staff the same way he treats his breath in zazen.

In our Zazen our mind must always be kept on our breathing: the breathing should not be too long, short, heavy, or light. It should be natural. We say our exhale does not come out of the world, and our inhale does not stay in our five skandhas.

This way, when we sit, we become one with one whole world. Here the great activity takes place: the absolute independence comes true. That is why the hermit said they didn’t have to depend on their staffs.

Setcho says in his Appreciatory Word on this subject, “In the beautiful garden or by the flowing stream, the hermit does not stay. He is already beyond your sight.” This is the way we Buddhist should be.


This transcript is a retyping of the existing City Center transcript (thought to be based on notes by Baker-rōshi).  It is not verbatim.  No tape is available.  The City Center transcript was entered onto disk by Jose Escobar, 1997.  It was reformatted by Bill Redican (10/27/01).

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2 Responses to “July 1963”

  1. korin Says:

    Here is the Cleary & Cleary translation of Case 25 of the Blue Cliff Record:

    Yuanwu’s (J. Engo) introduction:
    If your potential does not leave (its fixed) position, you tumble down into the poison sea. If you’re words don’t startle the crowd, you fall into the streams of the commonplace.
    Suddenly, if you can distinguish intiate from lay in the light of sparks struck from stone, if you can decide between killing and giving life in the light of a flash of lightning, then you can cut off the ten directions and tower up like a thousand fathom wall.
    But do you know that such a time exists? To test, I’m citing this old case: look!

    Main Case:
    The hermit of Lotus Flower Peak held up his staff and showed it to the assembly saying, “When the ancients got here, why didn’t they consent to stay here?”
    There was no answer from the assembly, so he himself answered for them, “Because they did not gain strength on the road.”
    Again he said, “In the end, how is it?” And again he himself answered in their place, “With my staff across my shoulder, I pay no heed to people–I go straight into the myriad peaks.”

    Xuedou’s (J. Setcho) Verse:

    Dust and sand in his eyes, dirt in his ears,
    He doesn’t consent to stay in the myriad peaks.
    Falling flowers, flowing streams, very vast.
    Suddenly raising my eyebrows (to look)–where has he gone!


    The story about the falling flowers is from the Vimalakirti (J. Yuima) Sutra. Here is Robert Thurman’s translation of the passage from Chapter 7, The Goddess:

    Thereupon, a certain goddess who lived in that house, having heard this teaching of the Dharma of the great heroic bodhisattvas, and being delighted, pleased, and overjoyed, manifested herself in a material body and showered the great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas, and the great disciples with heavenly flowers. When the flowers fell on the bodies of the bodhisattvas, they fell off on the floor, but when they fell on the bodies of the great disciples, they stuck to them and did not fall. The great disciples shook the flowers and even tried to use their magical powers, but still the flowers would not shake off. Then, the goddess said to the venerable Sariputra, “Reverend Sariputra, why do you shake these flowers?”
    Sariputra replied, “Goddess, these flowers are not proper for religious persons and so we are trying to shake them off.”
    The goddess said, “Do not say that, reverend Sariputra. Why? These flowers are proper indeed! Why? Such flowers have neither constructual thought nor discrimination. But the elder Sariputra has both constructual thought and discrimination.
    “Reverend Sariputra, impropriety for one who has renounced the world for the discipline of the rightly taught Dharma consists of constructual thought and discrimination, yet the elders are full of such thoughts. One who is without such thoughts is always proper. Reverend Sariputra, see how these flowers do not stick to the bodies of these great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas! This is because they have eliminated constructual thoughts and discriminations. For example, evil spirits have power over fearful men but cannot disturb the fearless. Likewise, those intimidated by fear of the world are in the power of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, which do not disturb those who are free from fear of the passions inherent in the constructive world. Thus, these flowers stick to the bodies of those who have not eliminated their instincts for the passions and do not stick to the bodies of those who have eliminated their instincts. Therefore, the flowers do not stick to the bodies of these bodhisattvas, who have abandoned all instincts.”

  2. AchieveAlign — If a man comes to a standstill at some stage, feeling spiritual pride in his enlightenment; he will find himself in a sea of poison. Says:

    […] good work that reaches culmination or fruition … that is worthy of personal pride.  the idea that somehow this must be “extracted” or “stopped” is a misunderstanding of the talks given by the Roshi in July 1963 | Suzuki Roshi Dharma Talks. […]

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