Posts Tagged ‘Just being yourself’

July 2nd, 1971

Friday, July 2nd, 1971


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Thursday, July 2, 1971

City Center

“Real Precepts Are Beyond Words”

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


[Today I would like to][1]  … lecture about precepts.  I—when I say “precepts,” the first thing you will think of is something like Ten Commandment or ten grave prohibitory precepts.  But Zen precepts is not like that.  The Zen precepts is—to study Zen precepts means to understand zazen.  So it is—another interpretation of zazen is precepts.  Using words—word “precepts” we explain what is Zen actually.


The purpose of receiving precepts, observing precepts, is not just to remember what we should do or what we shouldn’t do.  And how we observe precepts is to practice Zen or to extend our practice to our everyday life.  So the idea of precepts is completely different from the usual understanding of precepts.


The precepts, you know, which is—or foundation of precepts or—true meaning of precept—precepts is various way of understanding of one reality, one reality which is always with you—reality, which cannot—which is not individable in three, or in sixteen, or in ten.  Tentatively we divide—we explain it from various angle, but that is just words.  Real, you know, precept is beyond word.  We cannot—if we talk about it, it is not real precepts already.  So if you think precept is just to observe some various rules is precepts, it is very different or very far away from the true understanding of the true prac- [incomplete word:  “practice”?]—precepts.


April 20th, 1969

Sunday, April 20th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday Lecture

Sunday, April 20, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-04-20

It’s—it is pretty difficult, but I will try—try to speak about purpose of our practice.

Before I try to explain our practice, I think I should explain why we practice, you know—why we should practice Zen when we have buddha-nature.  And this is the great problem Dōgen-zenji had.  And he worked for this question before he went to China and met with Nyojō-zenji.[1]

And this is not, of course, so easy problem, but if you understand what do we mean when we say everyone has buddha-nature, and everything has buddha-nature.  What does it mean?  And he explained very carefully in Shōbōgenzō, on the—in the first chapter.

When we say “buddha-nature,” you know, you may think buddha-nature is some innate nature, you know, because we say nature.  In Japanese we use same words—nature—buddha-nature.  But actually it is not nature like nature of human being or nature of plant—or nature of cats or dogs, you know.  It is not, strictly speaking, it is not that kind of nature.

“Nature” means something which is there whatever you do.  Whatever you do, there is nature.  Nature is not something which is there, you know, before you do something.  When you do something, you know, at the same time, nature appears.  That is nature, you know.  What he meant.

You know, you—you think, you know, we have buddha-nature within ourselves or innate—as a innate nature.  And because of this nature, you do something, you know.  That is usual understanding of nature [laughs].  But that is not his understanding.  Or it is not like some seed, you know, which is there before plant come out you know.  “That is not the nature which I mean,” Dōgen-zenji said.  That kind of understanding of nature is, you know, heretic understanding of nature [laughs].  It is not correct understanding of nature.


March 30th, 1969

Sunday, March 30th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday, March 30, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-03-30

[The point of][1] … my talk is just to give you some help in your practice.  So it is just help, you know.  So there’s, as I always say, there is no need for you to remember what I said as something definite, you know.  I’m just trying to help you, so it is just support of your [laughs] practice.  So if you stick to it, it means that you stick to the support—not, you know, tree itself.  You know, a tree, when it is strong enough, it may want some support.  But the most important one is the tree itself, not support.

I have, you know, I am one tree, and each one of you are a tree of itself.  And by itself, you should, you know, stand up.  And when one tree stand up by itself, we call that tree a buddha.  In other word, when you, you know, practice zazen in its true sense, you are really buddha.  So buddha and tree is one, in that sense.  It may be sometime we call it a tree; sometime we call it a buddha.  “Buddha” or “tree” or “you” is many names of one buddha.

When you sit, you know, you are independent from various being, and you are related to various being.  And when you have perfect composure in your practice, it means that you include everything.  You are not just you. You are whole world or whole cosmos, and you are a buddha.  So when you sit, you are ordinary man, and you are buddha. So in this sense, you are both ordinary man, ordinary man, and buddha.  So you are not just ordinary man—ordinary man.  Before you sit, you know, stick to the idea of “you” or idea of self.  That is sheer [fear?] old [?] ordinary man.  But when you sit, you are both, you know, ordinary man and buddha.  So you are not the same being.  When you sit you are not same being before you sit.  Do [laughs] you understand?  Because, when you sit, you are ordinary man and buddha.


August 31, 1967

Thursday, August 31st, 1967

Dated 67-08-31, Thursday

Rev Suzuki

September 1, 1967

Los Altos, Calif.

Zen story or Zen koan is very difficult to understand before you understand what we are doing moment after moment.  But if you know exactly what we are doing moment after moment it is not so difficult to understand.  There are many and many koans.  Recently I talked about a frog (several times).  Whenever I talked about a frog they laughed and laughed.  When you come and sit here you may think you are doing some special thing while your husband is sleeping you are here practicing zazen.  And you are doing some special thing and your husband is lazy.  That is…maybe your understanding of zazen.  But look at the frog.  A frog also sits like this but it has no idea of zazen.  And if you watch what he does…if something annoys him he will do like this (making a face).  If something to eat comes he will eat (imitating a frog snapping at an insect) and he eats sitting.  Actually that is our zazen.  We are not doing any special thing.  We should think that we are doing some special thing.


August 28 1965 Second Talk

Saturday, August 28th, 1965

Suzuki-roshi in Japan in traveling monk garb

Suzuki-roshi in Japan in traveling monk garb

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, August 28, 1965

Lecture B

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 65-08-28 2nd Talk

Tape operator (Richard Baker): This is the end of the one o’clock lecture.  There may be another lecture later, which will follow immediately if there is.

[Recorder stopped and restarted.]

Suzuki-rōshi: [Laughs.]  I have nothing in my mind.  [Laughs.]  I don’t know about what should I talk.  So will you give me some topic—topics to talk about?  Or question?

Student A: You say that we shouldn’t be critical of our practice.  But you say that if all of us [3–4 words] the part of us that desires to express our buddha-nature is the part that we should [1 word] on.

Suzuki-rōshi: Um-hmm.

Student A: Well, I don’t know how to say it, but [laughs].  When—when we’re learning to be practicing [?], we’re not supposed to be critical of our own practice, right?

Suzuki-rōshi: Mm-hmm.

Student A: But, at the same time—

Suzuki-rōshi: Yeah.

Student A: —it’s the part of us that is critical—

Suzuki-rōshi: Uh-huh.

Student A: —that is the—that’s what makes us practice.


August 28 1965

Saturday, August 28th, 1965

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, August 28, 1965

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 65-08-28

Tape operator: This is the beginning of the—it will be that we missed this morning’s lecture at 9, which was a good one, and this lecture is at—will be at one o’clock, and it’s the—this is a one-day sesshin, August 28.

Suzuki-rōshi: Confucius said the most visible is the something invisible.  There are many proverb—Oriental proverb the same kind in Japanese:  “A firefly, without voice, burns its body with enthusiasm, rather than cicada, which is noisy.”[1] This is the same—same meaning.  Firefly burns itself by its enthusiasm, rather than noisy cicada [laughs].  Do you know insect cicada?

This kind of idea is very Oriental.  You say Japanese culture—shibui.  Shibui means “not conspicuous,” just common, and not colorful.  And it express deep taste.  I think those idea is originated our practice.  Any tradi- [partial word]—if you want to keep the tradition or culture or heritage, this point is very important.  We say this kind of effort is to accumulate unknown virtue or unknown merit:  to do something where nobody notice it; to do something fundamental; to devote ourselves mostly [to] the fundamental work.


June 1962

Friday, June 1st, 1962



(published June 1962, Wind Bell #7)


While you do zazen you will come to understand yourself completely and realize that there is no such thing as an “I” which exists.  Still, in this moment, there is something participating in cosmic activity.  In this moment, something exists as a part of cosmic activity, or as a part of temporal existence and in this way “I” has an absolute value in itself.

If you think, “I practice zazen,” that is a misunderstanding.  Buddha practices zazen, not you.  If you think, “I practice zazen,” there will be many troubles.  If you think, “Buddha practices zazen,” there will be no trouble.  Whether or not your zazen is painful or full of erroneous ideas, it is still Buddha’s activity.  There is no way to escape from Buddha’s activity.

Thus you must accept yourself and devote yourself to yourself, or to Buddha, or to zazen.  When you become yourself, zazen will become zazen.


January 1962

Monday, January 1st, 1962



(published, January, 1962, Wind Bell #2)

If you want to meditate you must have instruction of right teacher, especially when you want to meditate at home. It will take at least six months before you get your own right posture. Everyone has their own right posture but without instructions you cannot find it.

For it to be your true posture, there must be spirit which is called Essence of Mind. Without spirit it cannot be your own.

So we say, “When you become yourself then Zen becomes Zen.”


Checked by Gordon Geist 1999