Posts Tagged ‘Form & Emptiness’

August 15th, 1971

Sunday, August 15th, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday, August 15, 1971

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-08-15


When—when wind stops, flowers fall.

When a bird sings, mountain become more calm.


That is a kind of Zen poem.  My translation is not so good.  [He recites the poem in Japanese, saying each line twice.]


                    Kaze yande hana mae otsu.

                    Kaze [Tori] naitei yama sarani yūnari.[1]


Kaze yande:  When wind stops, but still flower falls.  No—there is no wind.  If there is no wind, flower should stay, but flower—after, you know, there is no wind, still flower falls.  If a bird sings, it is not calm.  But if you hear a bird sing in the remoted mountain, you feel the calmness of the mountain more.  Kaze—Tori naitei yama sarani yūnari.


This is again—this poem again refers to the feeling of “there is” and “there is not.”  There is, and sometimes there is not.  And there is not, sometimes there is [laughs].  When a flower falls, why flower falls is because there is wind.  But when there is no wind, flowers still fall.  And when you see a flower fall, you feel the wind, more than wind is up [?].  When a bird sings, you feel the calmness of the mountain more than you—more than when you did not hear any sound.  That is true.  Isn’t—isn’t that true?


That is real feeling of “there is” and “there is not.”  That is actual feeling.  But usually we are involved in the idea of “there is” or “there is not.”  “There is not” means there is no wind.  “There is not” means there is no wind.  “There is no sound” means, you know, you don’t hear anything—that is, there is no sound.  But actually, when you hear sound you do not feel of actual feeling of no sound.  It is paradoxical, you may say, but that is much more true than your, you know, usual understanding of “there is” or “there is not.”  Much more true.  Kaze yande hana mae otsu.  Kaze [Tori] naitei yama sarani yūnari.  You cannot, you know—this is—you cannot say this is just poem.  This is actual reality.


March 8th, 1970

Sunday, March 8th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi



Sunday, March 8, 1970

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-03-08


[Recently my thought is concentrated on the idea of emptiness.][1]  Whatever I say, I am actually talking about what is emptiness, because this emptiness is something which we must understand literally and completely through experience.  But if it is difficult to experience it through experience, you can tentatively understand it as a kind of idea in comparison to your way of thinking or in comparison to the idea you have, [the] various idea you have.


And we classify our idea in two:  one is idea of emptiness, another is idea of being.  And when we say, usually, idea it is idea of being.  And the idea of—your way of thinking belongs to the idea of being, and idea of emptiness makes a pair of opposite with your idea you—ideas you have.  So whatever the idea may be, you can say those idea is idea of being.  So we should know that.


Besides the ideas about things you have, there is another—another ideas which is not same as—same—which is not same idea you have and which is not brought about in your concept.  Actually that is why we practice zazen, you know.  You cannot reach the idea of emptiness with your thinking mind or with your feeling as an conception.  And to practice—to actualize the emptiness is shikantaza.


This morning I want to point—I want to point out some points in our usual understanding what kind of mistake there is and how different idea Buddhists have.  We say emptiness is—in Japanese or Chinese is .[2]   is, of course, a noun, and it is—sometime we use it as a verb, kūzuru.  Kūzuru means—is verb and maybe—so you can say “empty”—you can use words “empty” in two ways.  One is noun and the other is verb.  “To empty.”  To empty is—to empty a cup is to empty, you know, maybe.


February 8th, 1970

Sunday, February 8th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, February 8, 1970

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-02-08


Each time we—we start lecture, we recite “an unsurpassed, penetrating Buddha,” and so on.  This is the essential—pointing at essential teaching of Buddha.  And it is not just opening of the [laughs] lecture.  It is—this gyātā[1]  itself is perfect dharma.


When we start—before we start lecture, or when you—when someone start lecture, and when you listen to it, and when we speak and listener start to study Buddhism, we—we must have this understanding—perfect understanding.  Only when we, you know, we give up the idea of “we,” you know, and when we have converted in—”we” in its true sense, this dharma, whatever it is, something which take place in this classroom will be the perfect dharma—will be understood as a perfect dharma.


Usually most people, you know, although you may understand the teaching of selflessness [laughs], but actually, you know, all what we do is deeply or firmly based on the idea of self.  You may think, “I am listening to—I have to study.  I have to understand what he says” [laughs].  That is already—the idea—strong idea of self and strong activity based on idea of self.


When we give up this kind of self and go beyond the idea of “you” or “speaker,” and understand you and speaker in only tentative being related with each other.  That is, you know, real classroom for us.  We are—relationship between I and you is not permanent one.  That is just tentative one.  Tomorrow, I don’t know [laughs].  Maybe if one of you speak, you know, I—I must be a listener, you know, or student.  So it is just tentative relationship.  And we are also tentative being.  So we cannot meet with—we cannot meet in this classroom in—with this relationship even one hundred thousand kalpas of time.  Never we can meet, you know, in this relationship together.  So we should not miss this moment.  That is actually what this sūtra means.  And this is very important point.


February 1st, 1970, 2nd talk

Sunday, February 1st, 1970

Suzuki-roshi and Katagiri-roshi (I think at the Mountain Seat Ceremony of Zentatsu Baker)

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, February 1, 1970

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


Sesshin is almost—sesshin has almost completed.  In this sesshin, we have learned many things.  I want to—can you hear me?—I want to, you know, say something about what I noticed.


Here we are—each one of us is a cook.  In turn we work in the kitchen, and here, you know, in zendō we take care of this zendō by ourselves mostly.  Right now, we carrying our stick in turn, and I want—I explained, you know, how to eat brown rice, you know.  The more you chew it, you will have the taste of the brown rice.  And in zendō, you are food [laughs].  You are rice and vegetables from various states, and we must cook ourselves [laughs], you know, some way.  That is what actually we are doing.


I haven’t realized how important the—to carry the stick is.  I think that is actually not only carrying the stick, but carrying the stick is, you know, how to, you know, cook ourselves.  It is actually to chew ourselves.  But effect is more strong—stronger than just to chew.  And as a, you know, at the moment you get slap, you know, you, you know, you—you die, you know, in past life and appears in new world.


We say, you know, “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.”  And Yoshimura-sensei,[1]  the other day, explaining about soku ze—form—soku ze ku.[2]   Soku ze means, he explain, that is “conversion”—the conversion, you know, without changing anything to convert one to the other.


Another thing is soku ze:  when you get slap, at that moment big, you know, conversion take place in your practice.  You will be—your experience of practice—your practice will change at that moment.  You have—anyway, you that kind of feeling, you know, when—before—when you get stick, when you sleepy [laughs] you will wake up.  That is, you know, conversion.


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.


November 13th, 1969

Thursday, November 13th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi 

Thursday Evening, November 13, 1969

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-11-13 part 1

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-11-13 part 2

Tonight I am supposed to explain “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.”  In—last night, we came to the point to make to clarify especially “emptiness is form,” which is rather difficult to make it clear.  But actually, form is so-to-say “big mind”—no, emptiness is “big mind.”  And big mind as sky, which contains—which doesn’t—air or sky, empty sky.  But—”empty sky,” we say, but everything grow—when plants and everything grow into the sky, sky doesn’t care, you know.  And the sky is always ready to accept things in it.


And—but our mind is not—should be like a sky, you know, our big mind.  We should accept things as it is, and we should not discriminate things, as the sky doesn’t discriminate things in which many ex- [partial word]—in which many things exist.  Various being is quite free in the big sky.  But our mind is not so.  “I like this.  I don’t like this.  This is beautiful.  But this is not so beautiful.  I like him, but I don’t like him.  I like this part of him, but the other part is not so good.”  In this way, our small mind always discriminate things and sometime reject things.  That is small mind.  So small—in the realm of the small mind there are many objects, there are many beings, and that beings exist as if they have self-nature, good nature or bad nature—a beautiful nature or ugly mean nature.


But Mahāyāna—in this way, even though Theravādan teaching accept the teaching of selflessness, their way is more like small-mind way—small-minded way because they acknowledge things, various being which has—which is not empty.  Dharma[1]—when we say dharma, you know, it include our sense organs and mind.  So we have six—five sense organs and mind.  That is six.  And sense object, object of thinking and objects of our sense organs.  And the world which sense organ and sense objects create—get [?] with and create some world—world of sight, world of sound, world of taste, world of feeling.  In this way, each sense organs has world, its—their own world.


July 9th, 1969

Wednesday, July 9th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi in a gathering including Katagiri-roshi, Maezumi-roshi & Kobun Chino-roshi.

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Wednesday, July 9, 1969



 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-07-09

In our previous lectures we have studied the relationship between—relationship between real and seeming, or emptiness and forms.  [By] “real” we mean something beyond our thinking.  This is, you know,—there is no way to—whatever, you know, we say about it, it is the expre- [partial word]—just suggestion, you know, not real or emptiness itself.  It is something beyond our thinking mind, so we call it “emptiness.”


It is not actually something which we can understand in term of good or bad, real or not real.  And seeming and all—whatever it is—all what we say, you know, everything what we say or what we see is forms.  And we actually live in the world of forms and color, you know.  And we don’t know, actually, what is emptiness itself.  Even—we call it “emptiness,” you know, there is some rules, you know, how emptiness takes various form.  So according to some rules, emptiness take its form and color.  And we are explaining about the relationship between emptiness and form which we can see.


Right now we have been mostly discussing rather philosophical way, but tonight may be better to explain it more psychological way or physical way.  According to Buddhist psychology, you know, of course, we have five senses, and thinking mind, and to—some faculty to lead our thinking mind in false, you know—to make our thinking mind mistake, you know.  That kind of faculty we have.  And there is also some faculty to point out the mistake of the seventh mind, you know.  Five senses and thinking mind, that is six.  Seventh one is, you know, to make our mind made—make mistake.  That is the sixth one—the seventh [corrects self] one.  That is the mind which let our thinking mind stick to something, you know.  There is [laughs] no need to stick to something, you know, actually.  But seventh mind, you know, make sixth mind to stick to something.


July 3rd, 1969

Thursday, July 3rd, 1969

Suzuki-roshi officiating at a priest oridnation ceremony at City Center

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Thursday, July 3, 1969


 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-07-03


I have explained the poem about “Emptiness is form,” or shōchūhen.[1]   Shō is reality and hen is “form” or “seeming” [?].  Shōchūhen.  And the next one is henchūshō,[2]  the opposite.  And chū means, you know—chū or soku—means some activity in which—not activity—some—not relationship, but something in which everything appears—every event, you know, appears.  What will it be [laughs]?  Something in which, you know, appears.  Maybe say a little bit more [laughs]:  something in which everything appears—something in which always appears—that is the present moment, right now.  You know, right now, you know, things happen, not in past or present.  So practice should be the practice of “right now.”  That is chū or soku.


When we, you know, catch things, you know—how you catch it, you know?  You cannot—you cannot catch past or future, you know.  You can catch just present moment, right now.  If you want to catch someone, you know, you—you should catch him right now, not past or not in future.


So if you want to practice zazen, you know, you should practice it right now.  That is chū.  Shōchūhen or henchūshō.  Or Shiki soku ze ku,[3]  you know.  Ku soku ze shiki [4]  is, you know—is—means “right now

there is being,” you know.


August 20th, 1967

Sunday, August 20th, 1967

GENJŌ-KŌAN NO.  1 [3?]

Sunday, August 20, 1967

Morning Sesshin

Zen Mountain Center, Tassajara

Edited by Brian Fikes

(Note from Brian Fikes:  The first portion of this lecture was not recorded.  This is the first [sic][1] in a series of [three] lectures on the Genjokoan given      during the sesshin ending the first training period at Tassajara.)

There are four ways of understanding the relationship of form and emptiness: form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is form, and emptiness is emptiness.  “Form is emptiness” may not be so difficult to understand, but it will be misunderstood by some advanced, hasty people.  “Yes, form is emptiness.  There is no need for us to attach to some particular thing.  Form is emptiness.”  This looks very clear, and this view of life is better than attaching to some particular form or color, because in it there are actually many, many views of life.  And this view of non‑existence is deeper than the view of seeing many things which actually look per­manent and which look like they have some self‑na­ture.  But as we explained already, and as you have already understood, there is no special self‑nature for anything, and everything is changing.  As long as everything is changing, nothing is permanent.  So this [form is emptiness] may be a more advanced view of life.

But “emptiness is form” is rather difficult to understand.  The empti­ness which is the absolute goal we will attain, which is enlightenment itself, is form.  So whatever you do is enlightenment itself.  This is rather difficult to understand, or to accept, because you think emptiness is some unusual thing.  Something unusual is something very common.  This is rather difficult to understand, especially when you practice zazen.  Even though your practice is not perfect, that is enlightenment.  This statement is very difficult to accept.  “No, my practice is not perfect.”  But when we under­stand form is emptiness, and emptiness is form, back and forth in this way, and form is form, and emptiness is emptiness, when emptiness comes, everything is emptiness, and when form comes, form is form, and we accept things as it is.