November 1964

Originally offered: November 1st, 1964 | Modified October 27th, 2009 by korin





November 1964

Engo’s Introductory Word

Introducing, he said: The true preaching of Dharma goes beyond preaching or not preaching (true preaching is not preaching). True listening to Dharma is not only a matter of listening or not (true listening is no listening). If the true word is beyond perception (true preaching is no preaching), it may be better not to speak. If true listening is something other than listening or not (true listening is not listening), it may be better not to speak.

However, to speak of Dharma without saying anything about it, and to listen to it without ideas about it are perfect ways to transmit right Dharma. This no-preaching and no-listening is all that is needed.

Well, you are in my monastery and listening to my words. But how can you avoid the difficulties to have perfect understanding of right Dharma by words?

If you have the wisdom to get through these difficulties, I will introduce you to an example to ponder.

Notes by Reverend Suzuki on the above translation.

1.  I gave a free but faithful rendering of the original text according to the instruction of my Master, Kishizawa Ian-rōshi.

Usually no is negative, but no at the same time is a stronger affirmative than yes. It means emancipation from yes and no. No word means right word under some circumstances, and at the same time, under other circumstances, it means that the connotation of the word should be denied. Saying no form, no color, should be understood in the same way.

2. Sentences in the parentheses are important parts which I translated literally.

3. At the same time, this no gives new life to dead Buddhist ivory-tower philosophy, and to rigid moral concepts and formal rituals. The constant practice of this no has been the history of Buddhism.

Main Subject

Attention! A monk asked the great teacher Ba-so: “I am not asking you about the Four (negative) Propositions, and the One Hundred Negations (of Nagarjuna). But please point out the intention of Bodhidharma’s coming to the West (China).

Ba-so said: Today I am very tired and I cannot explain it to you. Go get an answer from Chi-zo. The monk went to Chi-zo and asked him the same thing. Chi-zo said, “Why did you not ask the Great teacher?” The monk said, “I did, but he told me to come to you.” Chi-zo said, “Today I have a headache and cannot explain the matter to you. Go ask E-kai (Hyaku-jo). So the monk asked E-kai who said, “I do not have anything to answer in this realm.” The monk went back to Ba-so and told him the whole story. Ba-so said, “Chi-zo had a white head, and Hyaku-jo a black head.”

Notes by Reverend Suzuki on the above.

The Four Propositions and One Hundred Negations of Nargajuna are as follows:

1. Everything that is, does not come out from itself.  (singularity)

2. Everything that is, does not come from something else.  (plurality)

3. Everything that is, does not result from adding one thing to another.  (existence)

4. Everything that is, does not come out from nothing.  (non-existence)

About these propositions, four types of statements can be made: affirmative, negative, affirmative and negative, and the negation of both affirmative and negative.  (4 x 4 = 16)

About these sixteen, three kinds of statements can be made: past, present, future. (16 x 3 = 48)

And about these forty-eight, there can be two aspects: the actual (the real), and the potential (the ideal). (2 x 48 = 96)

Together with the original four propositions there are 100 negative propositions.  (96 + 4 = 100)

After all these efforts, still we cannot identify either ontological or phenomenal existence, and we cannot find any reason to be attached to some special metaphysical entity or to the phenomenal world.

However, in Note 1 of the Introductory Word, I have explained the true meaning of Buddhist negation. Negation after negation, we turn over and renew our perception and pre-conceived ideas: in other words, wiping out mirror-like mind in each moment, we can observe everything as it is.

Here everything as-it-is means everything means everything as-it-should-be, because everything as-it-is-in-the-usual-sense always should be negated, one thing after another-even though we are concentrated on one thing. The result of the practice of negating everything-as-it-is-in-the-usual-sense is what we mean by everything-as-it-is. The-way-everything-should-be should be accepted as the-way-everything-is. This acceptance should be the most important point in Nagarjuna’s Middle Way.

When we practice zazen in the right way, this acceptance takes place. In the realm of Zen-mind, transmitted from Buddha to Buddha, from patriarch to patriarch, there is no noumena or phenomena, no subjectivity or objectivity, no object to be criticized or subject to be critical. Here we come to the true understanding of the so-called non-attachment or oneness-of-duality. In its true sense the Middle Way, which is beyond the Four Negative Propositions and One Hundred Negations, is not different from the transmitted way of zazen. This is the so-called “Intention of Bodhidharma’s coming to the West” or “Shōbōgenzō Nehan-myoshin.”

But En-go presents us-his students-with a problem of whether this monk did understand the true meaning of the One Hundred Negations, when the monk asked his question. If he had had a true understanding of Nagarjuna’s One Hundred Negations and had asked about our traditional way of practice, his questions should have been at the same time an answer to his own problem. So En-go says: If I had been the monk, I would have bowed three times, as soon as Ba-so said something.

Taking up again the thread of the subject, the monk who thought he knew what the One Hundred Negations were, did not have a true understanding of them at all. And he asked, “What is Bodhidharma’s zazen?” Ba-so who knew that this monk was not prepared to listen to the right Dharma, did not answer the question. He only said, “Today I am very tired so I cannot explain it to you. Go ask Chi-zo.”

True expounding of Dharma is not done only by preaching. In everything we do at the monastery we should express the true Dharma. The true study of Buddhism is not studied by mouth and ears. To stay at a monastery without knowing one is always amidst the Dharma is quite useless. To seek for Dharma without knowing one is always exposed in the voiceless voice of Dharma was what the monk was doing. Ba-so and his two disciples Chi-zo and Hyaku-jo wanted him to stay out of this kind of delusive study of Zen. This why Ba-so said, “I don’t feel well.  Go get an answer from Chi-zo.”

When Chi-zo found the monk coming from Ba-so, in spite of Ba-so’s kind instruction, he must have felt helpless and said: “Today I have a headache and cannot explain it to you. Go ask Hyaku-jo.”

So the monk went back to Hyaku-jo who, not liking to expose the true way in useless discussion, said, “No understanding is my understanding in the realm of reality.”

The monk then went back to Ba-so, the Great Teacher, and told him the whole story. Ba-so said: Chi-zo the white-headed, and Hyaku-jo the black-headed.

I visited the Cambridge Buddhist Association. In Cambridge there is a Cambridge Buddhist Association; in San Francisco there is Zen Center. There is one and yet two, two and yet one, as they should be, as everything is under some particular situation.

Bodhidharma’s intention in coming to the West cannot be understood by people who seek Buddhism without knowing Buddhism is everywhere. Salt is white chemical, nearly the same as sugar in appearance. If we do not know which is which, we try a little on some food. We do not take the salt alone, but always with food, as something other than a white chemical, as, maybe, the most important seasoning in our actual life. It is in oceans, rivers, plants, trees, in everything. It is in every food we take. Without salt nothing exists. We say a pickle is salty and that cake is sweet, but in cake there is salt, it makes the cake more sweet.

This is why Ba-so said, “Chi-zo the white head-geared, and Hyaku-jo the black head-geared.”

Without the spirit transmitted from Bodhidharma, there is no black-hatted Chi-zo or white-hatted Hyaku-jo. Chi-zo should be Chi-zo and Hyaku-jo should be Hyaku-jo.

Our traditional way of understanding is not different from being concentrated on the actual fact which we face on each moment.


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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One Response to “November 1964”

  1. korin Says:

    Here is the Cleary & Cleary translation of Case 73 of the Blue Cliff Record (which is also Case 6 of the Book of Serenity):

    Yuanwu’s Introduction:
    In explaining the Dharma, there is niether explanation nor teaching; in listening to the Dharma, there is niether hearing nor attainment. Since explanation neither explains nor teaches, how can it compare to not explaining? Since listening neither hears nor attains, how can it compare to not listening? Still, no explaining and no listening still amount to something.
    As for all of you right here, listening to me explain here, how will you avoid this mistake? For those with the eye to pass through the barrier, as a test, I’m citing this old case: look!

    Main Case:
    A monk asked Grand Master Ma, “Please, Teacher, going beyond the permutations of assertion and denial, directly point out to me the meaning of the coming from the West.”
    Master Ma said, “I’m tired today and can’t explain for you. Go ask Chih Tsang.”
    When the monk asked Chih Tsang, Tsang said, “Why didn’t you ask the Teacher?” The monk said, “The Teacher had me come here to ask you.” Tsang said, “I have a headache today and can’t explain for you. Go ask Elder Brother Hai.” When the monk asked Elder Brother Hai (Pai Chang), Hai said, “At this point, after all, I don’t understand.”
    When the monk related this to Grand Master Ma, Master Ma said, “Tsang’s head is white, Hai’s head is black.”

    Xuedou’s Verse:
    “Tsang’s head is white, Hai’s head is black.”
    Clear-eyed patchrobed monks cannot understand.
    The Colt has trampled everyone on earth to death–
    Lin Chi isn’t yet a thief who can steal in broad daylight.
    Going beyond the four propositions and cutting off their hundred negations–
    Among gods and humans only I know.

    Shobogenzo means “Treasury of True Dharma Eye(s)” and Nehan-myoshin means “The subtle mind of Nirvana” as quoted in Case 6 of the Gateless Barrier (Aitken translation, a different version of the same story appears as Case 2 of the Transmission of Light):
    Once, in ancient times, when the World-Honored One was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he twirled a flower before his assembled disiples. All were silent. Only Mahakasyapa broke into a smile.
    The World-Honored One said, “I have the eye-treasury of right Dharma (shobogenzo), the subtle mind of nirvana (nehanmyoshin), the true form of no-form, and the flawless gate of the teaching. It is not established on words and phrases. It is a special transmission outside tradition. I now entrust this to Mahakasyapa.”

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