Posts Tagged ‘Helping Self & Others’

August 8th, 1971

Sunday, August 8th, 1971
Suzuki-roshi and Okusan

Suzuki-roshi and Okusan

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, August 8, 1971

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-08-07

(The interchange with the last questioner is not included in the audio file)


Tonight I have nothing to talk about [laughs].  Empty hand.  No book.  I just appeared here [laughter].  But as Yakusan-zenji[1]  did, I wouldn’t go back to my room without saying anything.  If you ask some questions, I will answer.  In that way, I want to spend just one hour with you.  Okay?   If you have some questions, please ask me.  Ask.  Okay.  Hai.


Student A:  Rōshi, I notice that often when I wake up in the morning the first minute or so my mind is sort of unclear.  [Remaining 3-6 sentences unclear.]


Suzuki-rōshi:  It is because you are [at] Tassajara pretty long time, and you have not much problem to follow our schedule.  So you have, maybe—you have time to think [about] something else, you know [laughs].  That is, maybe, the reason.  At first, as we—as it is difficult to follow our schedule and to know exactly what we do in zendō.  First of all you think about [how?] to go to zendō anyway, you know.  That will be the first thing you think about.  But more and more, you feel as if you can do pretty well.  I think that is main reason.  I think that is not so good, but that is—anyway that will be the problem for the student who stay pretty long time here.  So if it is so, I must give you a big slap [laughs], but now I—I want to ask you—I have a question, you know.  Why do I give you a slap—because your practice is not so good?  [Taps stick several times.]  What will be the reason for—reason of the slap?


Student A:  It seems [1-2 words] to my mind, to—to wake me up right now.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.


Student A:  And I [4-8 words].


Suzuki-rōshi:  Mm-hmm.  When you just wake up, you know, you have—you don’t have, you know, so many things in your mind.  Your mind is clear.  And when your mind is clear, you have to come to zendō.  And our practice should be continuous view [?] of practice, but that is actually not so easy.  So—but if—if something appears already, it can’t be helped, you know.  You shouldn’t fight with it.  Even so, even [if] you have problem, [and] your mind is not clear, you should come.  That is what you should do.  To encourage that kind of practice, I give you slap or dōan or ino will, if you are still in bed, you know, for an instance.  Someone will go to—to bring you to the zendō.


August 3rd, 1971

Tuesday, August 3rd, 1971


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, August 3, 1971

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-08-03 Part 1

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-08-03 Part 2

I want to explain why we become Buddhist [laughs] or why I myself became a Buddhist.  Perhaps here in America, because you have some wish, you know, hope in your future life—future life of a—future—personally your own future life. and sociologically you’re concerned about your future society.  But to tell the truth, we Buddhists do not have any hope [laughs].  We do not have any hope for our human, you know, life because we understand this life is originally full of suffering.  That is, you know, how we understand our society.  From the beginning we understand that our world is world of suffering.  And we understand why we suffer, you know, is because we expect too much.  We always expect something more than you will obtain or acquire.


For an instance, everyone knows that we cannot stay young, but we want to be always young [laughs].  Once in a while, you know, when—even though you are young, once in a while you may feel, “Oh gee, I am twenty-five now [laughs].  Oh, I am not anymore young.”  [Laughs, laughter.]  You may feel in that way.  That is, you know, good evidence that you want to be always young.  But that is not possible, you know.  We want to experience what you have, but that is not also possible.


Things are changing always, so nothing can be yours.  So whatever you want—you want to be or you want to have, nothing can be possible for you to obtain or to have it.  That is actually how our human world is.  Actually it is so.  But still, we want to be fooled by [laughs] something.  That is maybe why we say human beings do not like something real.  But human being like something unreal.  That is very true.  You don’t like anything real.  So after, you know, give up all the hopes you have in mundane world, we become Buddhist.


July 22nd, 1971

Tuesday, June 22nd, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday Evening, June 22, 1971

San Francisco 

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-06-22


I don’t know where to start, you know, my talk, but anyway what I want to discuss with you tonight is how to, you know, apply our practice in your—to your everyday life.  That will be the point of my talk.


Whether you are a layman or priest, you know, we are all bodhisattvas, you know.  We are taking bodhisattva vow and we are practicing bodhisattva way.  And as you know, bodhisattva way is to help others as you help yourself, or to help others more—before you help yourself.  That is, you know, bodhisattva way.  We put so much emphasis on helping others.  This point is very important when you try to figure out what will be your everyday life, you know, what will be the relationship [between] zazen practice and your everyday life.  Because you forget this point, you cannot extend your practice to everyday life.


Because, you know, as a Buddhist we should see things-as-it-is, you know [laughs], to see things-as-it-is, to observe things-as-they-are—that is the most important point.  When you practice zazen, you know, actually you don’t see anything, you don’t think about anything.  But even though you do [are] not aware of what you are doing, you are actually one with everything; even though you don’t see, but you are actually with everything.  So you knows everything.  You see things, you know, not with our naked eye, but our true eyes, you know.  Even though we don’t hear, but [laughs] actually we are with everything.  We are practicing with everything, you know, actually.  When you don’t think, when you [are] one with your practice, you know, at that moment, even though you don’t see, you are already with everything and you are actually seeing things, you know, and you have perfect understanding of everything.  That is our practice.  And we feel in that way when we don’t think.  I said “feel” but [laughs] maybe “to feel” is not correct word.  That is, you know, our practice.


February 7th, 1971

Sunday, February 7th, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


February 7, 1971

Sunday Afternoon or Evening

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-02-07


This morning I said you must find yourself in each being.  That is actually what Tōzan [Ryōkai]-zenji said:  Don’t try to seek yourself.  Don’t try to figure out who is you.  “You” found out in that way is far away from real you.  He is not anymore you.  But if I go my own way, wherever I go, I see myself.  You know, if you, you know, take your own step, it means bodhisattva way.  Wherever you go, you will see yourself. You will meet with yourself.  And, he says, the image you see in the water when you want to figure out who is you is not you, but actually just what you see in the water is you yourself.


In Sandōkai we have same statements:  You are not him, and he is you, you know [laughs].  It is paradoxical, you know.  It is to catch your mind, they use some paradoxical, you know, statement like this.  You are not him, but he is you.  It means that when you try to figure out who is you, even though you see yourself in the mirror, he is not you.  But if you just see your, you know, figure in the mirror, without any idea of, you know, trying to figure out what is you—  Why it is not you when you figure out who is you [laughs] is, you know [laughs], because of your self-centered mind, you know, limited mind, you cannot see.


A self-centered, you know, practice doesn’t work [laughs].  You know, if you try to attain enlightenment, or if you want to be some great Zen master, you cannot be actually great Zen master.  When you don’t try to be so, you know, or before you try to do so, or before you practice our way, you are buddha.  But because of your limited practice, self-centered practice, even though you practice your way, you cannot have real practice.  You will miss, you know, yourself, lose yourself in small, self-centered practice.


August 25th, 1970

Tuesday, August 25th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi



Tuesday, August 25, 1970

[No audio.]

I am so grateful to have this ordination ceremony for you, our old students.  This is actually the second time … the second ordination ceremony for Zen Center.  Because why we didn’t have lay ordination ceremony more often was because I didn’t want to give you some special idea of lay Buddhists.  Bodhisattva way, according to Bodhisattva teaching, every … actually every sentient beings are Bodhisattva, whether or not they are aware of it they are actually disciples of the Buddha.  As this is our conviction, we didn’t I didn’t want to give you some special idea of lay Buddhists, but time has come for us to strive for more sincerely to help others.


As we have so many students here, inside and outside of Zen Center, we need more help.  And I decided to have Lay Ordination for you just to help others but not to give you some special idea of lay Buddhists, because all of us are Buddhists actually.  This is not conceited idea, this is idea of spirit transmitted from Buddha to us.  Accordingly, our way is like Avalokiteshvara Buddha, Bodhisattva.  When he wants to save ladies, he took, he takes the form of ladies; for boys, he takes form of boys; for fisherman, he will be a fisherman.  More sophisticated Chinese expression is to be like white bird in the snow—white bird in the snow.  When people are like snow, we should be like snow.  When people become black, we should be black.  And being always with them without any idea of discrimination, and we can help others in its true sense without giving anything, any special teaching or materials, this is actually Bodhisattva way.


And now … how we actually … this kind of freedom from everything, and this kind of asking, and this kind of soft-minded spirit is to practice our way.  You may think we are forcing you in same form, forcing some rituals on you or forcing some special teaching on you and forcing you to say, “yes, I will.”  But, those things are provided for you just to be like a white bird in the snow.  When you go through those practice, and when you practice zazen in this way, you have point of zazen and point of practice and point of helping others.  This is why we had ordination ceremony today, all of us, including various great teachers. It is not at all easy to be like white bird in the snow.


August 23rd, 1970

Sunday, August 23rd, 1970


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, August 23, 1970

San Francisco



Tape operator (possibly Yvonne Rand):  First part of Rōshi’s address here is inaudible on the original tape.




… and obtain similar to result according to [1 word unclear] like our [1-2] bodhisattva way.  [2-3] bodhisattva spirit.  [3-4] of our practice.  And how you, you know, actually practice may be in [1-2].  You say “Hai!”  That is the point of practice.  When you say “Hai,” you are one with your “hai.”  One with your Zen.  One with your [1].  And one with your [1].


So when you say Hai!—or when you say “Yes, I will!”—then there is true mind of helping, you know.  And if you cannot say “Hai!” from the bottom of heart, with all of your strength, that practice doesn’t work.


[5-7] start with this practice of “Yes, I will!”  That is the fundamental practice of bodhisattva practice.  And to have complete perfect understanding of how important it is to say “Hai” is your whole life’s practice.


August 4th, 1970

Saturday, August 8th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Tuesday Evening, August 4, 1970

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-08-04

In—in everyday life, to observe precepts and, in our practice, to continue our zazen looks like different, but actually it is same.  In actual zazen, whether—even though your practice is not perfect, if you practice our way, there there is enlightenment because originally, you know, our practice is expression of our true buddha-mind.


Because you—your—because of your discrimination, you say your practice is not good.  But if we do not, you know—if we do not discriminate [in] our practice, that is really the expression of the—our true nature, which is buddha-nature.


And in our everyday life, if we observe precepts even for a moment with this—with our mind—with our mind which is changing always, then the momentous change—on the momentous changing mind, real, you know, moon of the buddha-mind will appear:  bodhi-mind will be there.  So actually there is no difference.


May 10th, 1970

Sunday, May 10th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, May 10, 1970

City Center, San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-05-10


This morning I want to reflect on our long, long practice, which we started maybe more than ten years ago.  The purpose of Zen Center is, as you know, to provide a Zen meditation hall or whatever it is, you know:  some place to practice zazen, and practice with some teacher, was the original intention of Zen Center.  And with this purpose we organized non-profit organization.  And now, here, when we, you know, acquired this building, we named this building Mahābodhisattva Zendō.  It is—reflecting on our practice that was, you know, nothing but the bodhisattva way:  to help others and to help ourselves.


In the meantime we had Tassajara zendō because we needed some place where we can practice our way, putting everything aside and being completely involved in our practice—not—maybe not completely, but [laughs] more completely [laughs]—almost completely.  For a human being this “almost” is always necessary [laughs], or else we cannot survive.  “Almost” is, you know, actually the secret of practice.


But anyway, we can practice our way almost completely putting everything aside.  That was the purpose of Tassajara zendō, and that we have that—this special zendō means at the same time to—we can understand actually what is Zen—Zen practice in more traditional way, or else, you know, or else we do not know what we are doing here—unless we know some background of our practice.  In here, it is difficult to, you know, have—to have full understanding of our practice here and with—what we are doing here.


It is something like to know your family, you know.  When we know your friend’s family, you will know your friend, you know, much better.  Even though your—you know your friend—you think you know your friend, if you do not know the background of your friend, you—sometime it is difficult to understand your friend.


May 3rd, 1970

Sunday, May 3rd, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sesshin Lecture No. 3


Sunday, May 3, 1970

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-05-03

To have—to have sincere practice means to have sincere concern with people.  So our practice is actually based on our humanity.  So Dōgen-zenji says to accomplish humanity is to raise—to hold up Buddhism and help people.


So what is the way to establish humanity?  That is the way to establish humanity is tao or practice, he says.  By practice we can establish humanity, and our practice is based on humanity, so human being practice true human nature is our zazen.  And he says the way is not something which was established by Buddha or some particular patriarch.


We must have spirit to attribute various good things to others, and accept various evil or mistake as your own.  That is the spirit.  With this spirit, we should establish our human way.  And how to establish our human way is how to practice zazen.  So you may understand zazen practice is not some special practice for special person.  And this is the only way to accomplish or to establish our human way in this actual world.  If you want to seek for the way for human being—if you try to seek for the way for human being some other way, it is almost impossible.


And so Dōgen-zenji was very strict, you know, with our human way.  That is why his way is called it menmitsu no kafu,[1]  you know.  He doesn’t, you know, ignore even a drop of water, like a well—well-made rice paper.  And—and he, you know, is always asking us, you know, “Your way is like this, and—do you—can you accept that kind of way as your own way?”  [Laughs.]  And he criticize, you know, our weakness and our darkness or carelessness in our everyday activity—treating things, treating your friend, receiving teaching from your teacher.  And after all, what he will say is, “practice zazen.”  That is only way [laughs] to polish up your everyday life, and to do it without making so much effort.  That is the only way.


May 2nd, 1970, second talk

Saturday, May 2nd, 1970
Suzuki-roshi and Kendo Okamoto at Zoun'in

Suzuki-roshi and Kendo Okamoto at Zoun’in

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sesshin Lecture, No.  2


Saturday, May 2, 1970

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-05-02 2nd talk

First of all, a sincere—our practice—sincere practice—our sincere practice is not, you know, practice just for himself.  This is not so difficult to understand.  Bodhisattva practice is not just to help himself, but to help others.  We put more stress to help others.  That is bodhisattva practice.


I think because you are not so considerate in your everyday life, you have that question:  you know, why we have to practice zazen, or what is sincere practice?  If you find out how difficult it is to help others, with bodhisattva mind, with mind of selflessness, you may, you know, imagine how difficult it is to practice to help others.  And actually, all the problems we human being has [are] caused by our carelessness, careless activity, or selfish activity.  That is, you know—those small careless activity one by one accumulated will cause a big trouble for our society.  If we realize this point, you know, we find out the reason why we must practice zazen.


I think you have—you must have read—some of you must have read Zuimonki.[1]   You know, in Zuimonki, Dōgen-zenji is discussing about this everyday problems we have, and he, you know, explain what is bodhisattva mind.


Last night, Yoshimura-sensei,[2]  you know, was asked to help someone’s schedule of trip [laughs], and he had to sit up until half past twelve [laughs].  [Laughter.]  He knows, you know, of course, we have sesshin, you know.  Even though he may sleep, you know, today—today’s sesshin, knowing that he has to help someone who [is] making trip—this is, you know, already a big problem to discuss, you know:  whether he should help others, sacrificing his sesshin, or whether he should refuse—refuse it because practice of zazen is more important than making a trip.