July 30 1965

Originally offered: July 30th, 1965 | Modified November 3rd, 2009 by korin


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Friday, July 30, 1965

Lecture B

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 65-07-30

Tape operator: The sentence about “your mind”[1] was in the meditation before breakfast, and beginning here is the instruction at nine o’clock Friday morning.

Suzuki-rōshi: I have to give the conclusion to my talk for this sesshin.  The science or philosophy is like a dissection.  It is possible to analyze what we did after we did something [1 word].  But it is already dead corpse [laughs]—dead corpse of our practice.  So even though you analyze what you have done, it will not work.  It will not help you so much.  It is nearly the same as to count your lost child’s age [laughs].  So we cannot help counting our lost boy’s age.  It is our nature, but actually it will not help us so much.

So the most important thing is to understand our true mind or inmost nature in our practice.  How we understand our actual mind is the most important point—should be the most important point.  That is why Zen emphasize to live on each moment.

Bodhidharma said—Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch of Chinese patriarch—he is 28th patriarch from Buddha, and in China he is the First Patriarch—and he said, “If you want to see a fish—if you want to see a fish, before you see a fish, you have to watch water.”  Do you understand?  If you want to see a fish, you have to watch water before you see the fish.  If you want to see the buddha-nature, you have to see your small mind before you see buddha-nature.  Actually, when you see water, there is true fish.  Don’t you think so?  Here, by “fish” he meant “true nature.”  If you want to see the true nature, when you see the water, there is true nature.  The true nature is watching water.  You are watching water.  At the same time, true nature is watching water.

As Decartes says, “I think, therefore I am.”  What does it mean?  Here, “therefore I am”:  I—that “I” is not just small mind.  He could not deny that “I” which thinks, which watch water.  That someone, who is watching—you—who is watching water is true nature itself.  You think fish is true nature [laughing], but it is not true nature.  You—you are watching water.  And that “you” cannot be denied.  That is ultimate existence.  And at the same time, that is universal existence.  That is your “I” and at the same time it include everything.

Anyway, when you watch water, there is actually—actual fish is in the water.  Before you see the wa- [partial word]—fish, there is fish.  Before you see the buddha-nature, you see your mind.  You watch your mind.  When you watch your mind, when you say, “My zazen is very poor [?] zazen” [laughs], here you have true nature.  But you, you know, fail to realize—do not realize that is true nature.  You ignore it on purpose.  This is a silly mistake.  There is immense importance in the “I” when you watch your mind.  That “I” is not big “I.”  That “I” is always incessant activity.  That “I” is always acting.  That “I” is always swimming.  That “I” is always fly[ing] through the vast air with wing.  Here I mean by “wing,” thinking and various activity.  That “I’ is flying through the vast sky.

In this case, the vast sky is his home—is my home.  There is no bird or no air.  Air and bird is one.  So Dōgen-zenji says, “Fly—bird flies like a bird; fish swims like a fish.”  Water is his home.  And when she swims—when it swims in the water, it is water and a fish are—a fish—there is nothing but fish.  The all the water belongs to him.  And when he can swim everywhere, it means he can think.  That thinking is right thinking.  Logical thinking, after you did something, or analytical thinking is not true thinking.

So in your practice, whether or not that practice is good or bad, perfect or imperfect, when this kind of mind is at work, your practice is practice of enlightenment.  Your practice include everything, within and without.  Whole world is your home, and everything belongs to you.

So that you can understand this short statement:  “Fish swims like a fish, water—bird flies like a bird,” I—not denied, but I explained what is logic, what is philosophy, what is science.  Because you are firmly believing scientific truth, and you are caught by scientific way of life, you have no idea of what is true mind.  You are always watching shadow of the—chasing after the shadow of the mind.  Philosophical interpretation or psychological interpretation of your mind is just a shadow of the mind, and you are firmly believe in it.  So you mistake enlightenment for drugs, LSD [laughs].  If the Sixth Patriarch is here, what he will say [laughing]?  “With such a people I cannot talk,” he may say.

We have shadow.  It is inevitable to have shadow for us.  But to try to step on your shadow [laughs] is impossible.  How can you catch your shadow?  If you goes—if you try to step [on] your shadow, shadow will be ahead of you [laughs].  If you go one step behind [laughs], shadow will be one step behind of you.  It is impossible.  It is foolish to think “future” or “past.”  Why don’t you catch yourself in this moment?  When you are doing something, you are there.  You are too much attached to visible things.

So when the Second Chinese Patriarch[2] see Bodhidharma, and confessed his shameful mind, he [Bodhidharma] said, “Bring me a shameful mind [laughs].  Catch the shameful mind.”  He [Eka] said that—he said, “I cannot catch it.”  Of course [laughs], no one can catch it.  If you try to catch it, that is shadow, you know.  How can—can you catch the shadow of your hand [laughs]?  So you [he] said, “I cannot catch it.”  And Bodhidharma said, “The confession is over.”[3] [Laughs, laughter.]

So accurate—what they point out is so accurate, you cannot move back and forth.  There is no need even to read one page of a book.  There is no need even to listen to it.  It is here [thumps] [laughs].  Before fish comes, there is fish [laughs].  In Sandōkai [?] said, “Before the night is here—when—even—before night has not gone, the dawn is here.”  When you watch—when you waiting for dawn, dawn is here; you are there, right there.  Your true mind is that right there.  When you wondering, the true mind is right there.  When you are suffering, the true mind is right there, with suffering.

Science cannot solve this problem.  Even [4-5 words].  The true activity will stop—true activity of your life is no more.  So if you do not catch it, when you are active, how can you catch it?  And there is a way to catch it.  That is our practice.  That is sesshinShin is mind.  To catch our true mind is sesshin.  This mind cannot be caught by thinking—thinking mind, or feeling.  It is too late.  So moment after moment, to watch your breathing, to watch your posture is to dwell on your true nature.  There is no secret beside this point.


Source:  City Center original tape.  Verbatim transcript by Judith Randall and Bill Redican (6/15/01).

[1]  “Don’t be bothered by your mind.”  [SR-65-07-30-A]

[2]  Dazu Huike (Taiso Eka):  487–593.

[3]  This exchange probably took place shortly after Bodhidharma accepted Huike as his disciple (see, e.g., Andy Ferguson, Zen’s Chinese Heritage, Boston:  Wisdom, 2000, p. 20).

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One Response to “July 30 1965”

  1. korin Says:

    From the “Wake-Up Sermon” by Bodhidharma (Red Pine translation):
    “Without the Buddha there is no mind. Likewise, without water there’s no ice, and without ice there is no water. Whoever talks about leaving the mind doesn’t get very far. Don’t become attached to appearances of the mind. The sutras say, “When you see no appearance, you see the Buddha.” This is what’s meant by being free from appearances of the mind. Without the mind there’s no Buddha means that the buddha comes from the mind. The mind gives birth to the Buddha. But although the Buddha comes from the mind, the mind doesn’t come from the Buddha, just as fish come from water, but water doesn’t come from fish. Whoever wants to see a fish sees the water before he sees the fish. And whoever wants to see a Buddha sees the mind before he sees the Buddha. Once you’ve seen the fish, You forget about the water. And once you’ve seen the Buddha, you forget about the mind. If you don’t forget about the mind, the mind will confuse you, just as the water will confuse you if you don’t forget about it.”

    In Shobogenzo Genjo Koan, Dogen teaches (Tanahashi & Aitken translation):
    “A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once. Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. It is possible to illustrate this with more analogies. Practice, enlightenment, and people are like this.
    “Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others’. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now. Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it; doing one practice is practicing completely.”

    Case 41 of the Mumonkan (Robert Aitken translation):
    Bodhidharma faced the wall. The Second Ancestor stood in the snow, cut off his arm, and said, “Your disciple’s mind has no peace as yet. I beg you, Master, please put it to rest.”
    Bodhidharma said, “Bring me your mind, and I will put it to rest.”
    The Second Ancestor said, “I have searched for my mind, but I cannot find it.”
    Bodhidharma said, “I have completely put it to rest for you.”

    Suzuki-roshi attributes, “Before the night is here—when—even—before night has not gone, the dawn is here,” to Sandokai, “Harmony of Difference and Unity” by Shitou. This may be referring to the following passage from Sandokai (SFZC translation), “In the light there is darkness, but don’t take it as darkness; In the dark there is light, but don’t see it as light.” The Hokyo Zanmai, or Jewel-Mirror Samadhi, includes: “It is bright just at midnight, it doesn’t appear at dawn.”

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