Posts Tagged ‘Lotus Sutra’

November 11th, 1969

Tuesday, November 11th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, November 11, 1969

San Francisco

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

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

Suzuki-rōshi:  If you—if you have some question, I am happy to answer for the question.  And in that way, if necessary, I will refer to the Lotus Sūtra.  Hai.


Student A:  What is “no outflows” mean in the Lotus Sūtra?


Suzuki-rōshi:  Hmm?  No?


Student A:  “No outflows.”


Suzuki-rōshi:  No outflows.  “No outflows” means, you know, by—because our practice is not, you know, sincere or not complete, there are many leakage [laughs] in your life and practice.  That [“no outflows”] is the opposite of to have many leakage.  It means mostly desires, you know:  to let your desire, you know, as it goes this way, that way.  That is leakage.  And to control our desires [is] like to build a big leather [?] ball [?] without any leakage.  That is “no outflow.”  It is more, you know, more arhat kind [of] practice:  very, maybe, negative practice.  Some other questions?  Hai.


Student B:  In the Lotus Sūtra they say the Buddha-seed arises from conditions.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Buddha’s what?


Student B:  The Buddha-seed—


Suzuki-rōshi:  Seed.  Uh-huh.


Student B:  —arises from conditions.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Uh-huh.


Student B:  Do you know what that means—what they mean there?


Suzuki-rōshi:  What—conditions—seed—if you, you know, sew a seed, seed will be the cause of—because of the seed, of course, plants comes out.  And it will have fruits—flower or fruits or branches.  But without aid of rain or manure it will not, you know, grow.  It means, you know, aid or things, you know, result by seed and by aid of something.  I think you—your culture put more emphasis on aid.  If aid is good, you know, result will be—you have good fruits.  And how to improve the social condition is the most important point in your culture.  But some other culture put emphasis on seed more, maybe like Communism.


November 7th, 1969

Friday, November 7th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi in the Buddha hall at City Center with Katagiri-roshi

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Friday Evening, November 7, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-11-07 part 1

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-11-07 part 2

In this sūtra in Chapter II, “Skillful Means,” he—he is correcting our misunderstanding about the vehicle of shrāvakas and vehicle of pratyekas.  You know, why we call pratyeka vehicle or shrāvaka‘s vehicle “Small Vehicle” is because their understanding is not right.  When you understand those teaching is the—just skillful means of Buddha, to suggest the only one Great Vehicle, which is the perfect teaching—so-called-it perfect teaching or teaching which Buddha had in his own mind before he, you know, explain it, that is the teaching which is complete.  And this is—development of the Buddhist thought is always concentrated on this point:  how to get approach to the perfect teaching.  The Mahāyāna Buddhist tried to treat the Buddha’s teaching which was told by him already, so that we can understand what he meant actually.  But as Zen student says, all those teaching are the finger to point at the moon.  And what will be the perfect teaching was the problem which we have had since Buddha.


May be better to explain it more complete way.  Although it is difficult to explain it, so accordingly for you it may be difficult to [laughs] understand what I say.  But—not only teaching but also this is the understanding of life and understanding of reality.  When you think there is something—in this chapter from Page 25[1]  is referring to this point.  When, you know, they think this is the final teaching, or when they think, “I understood completely what Buddha said,” or when they think they attained final stage, which is for arhat—the arharship, then that is not final stage because—just because he thinks this is final stage.  If he doesn’t think in that way, and if he [is] continuously striving for the final stage, he—he is said to be a good disciple of Buddha.  But when he said—when he say, “I attained arharship,” or when they think this is the complete teaching, you know—when you listen to four noble truths or eight holy paths, then that is already mistake.


And this is also true with Mahāyāna Buddhist.  Mahāyāna Buddhist thinks, you know, the—all the teaching is, in one word, emptiness.  A teaching of emptiness is the true teaching.  But if you think in that way, that is also wrong.  Then what is the real teaching is—real teaching is teaching which could be, you know, verbal teaching, and which could be teaching of emptiness, and which is not just verbal teaching, and which is not just teaching of emptiness.  That is real teaching [laughs].  You know, I—you—you already studied, “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form, and form is form, and emptiness is emptiness.”  That is real teaching.


October 30th, 1969

Thursday, October 30th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Thursday Evening, October 30, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-30

(note: the audio speeds up as the recording goes along)


The print[1]—print you have got there is trans- [partial word]—mostly translated from Kumārajīva’s translation.[2]   Kumārajīva is Chinese famous translator, and his translation is famous for his—for his beautiful words.  And easy to understand.  That is why most people—most Chinese people liked his translation, and at the same time Lotus Sūtra became very popular sūtra.  It is not exactly literal translation, but because he was a great scholar, his translation is very correct and very easy to understand.  And as a literature, it is also good.


Kumārajīva’s father [Kumārayāna] was an Indian, and his father came to—I don’t know what you call—Kashmir—Kashmir?  Do you understand [laughs]?


Student:  Yes.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Kashmir.  Kiji—Kiji, in Chinese.  Kiji-koku.  And he—he [Kumārayāna] got married with emperor’s sister [Jīvaka].


And Kumārajīva was—when he was quite young he started study of Buddhism.  When he was seven, he already read scriptures.  And when he was nine years old, he started study of Mahāyāna already.  At first, under some teacher he studied Hīnayāna mostly.  And—and when he was twelve he went to some other neighboring country and studied more about teaching of Prajñāpāramitā group [of sūtras].  And when he came back to his country—his father’s country, his former teacher became his disciple [laughs].  He was so, you know, smart fellow.  And the teacher said, “You are my Mahāyāna teacher, and you are—and I am your teacher of Hīnayāna teaching,” he said.  And he studied under him [laughs].


We don’t know how long he was there.  But anyway, his mother went back to India.  Maybe his country became more and more weaker, and Chinese people more and more ready to invade his country.  Maybe that is why.  But he stayed [in] his father’s country and was teaching Mahāyāna teaching.


October 28th, 1969

Tuesday, October 28th, 1969

Suzuki-roshi with students near Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Tuesday Evening, October 28, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-28

(note: the audio speeds up as the recording goes along)


I think there must be many things to prepare before you understand—before you read Lotus Sūtra.  First of all, we say always, you know, “Mahāyāna” or “Hīnayāna.”  So what actually means by Hīnayāna or Mahāyāna is one of the many things which you should know.


Buddha originally left teaching some time for some special people.  But even so, people who listen to that—hear the Buddha’s teaching maybe [have] different understanding, according to the ability of the people who listen—who hear him.  So actually there are many various kinds of teaching in Buddha’s teaching.  We say, “Buddha’s teaching,” but—in one word—but there are many various kinds of teaching included.


But naturally, Buddha’s teaching was divided in two—as his disciple or his descendant naturally divided in two, you know, as it is so always.  They were divided in some logical student and some more conservative ones.  The conservative one was so-called-it Hīnayāna or Theravāda.  Even 100 [years] after—100 [years] after Buddha passed away, there is—there were some even [?].  Some radical students proposed to practice ten—ten more practice.  But some conservative students—Theravāda students—called him:  “He is heretic; he is not orthodox traditional—orthodoxical traditional students; that is not what Buddha said.”  In this was there was already some dispute.


And they had later a second meeting to—to—to unify Buddha’s teaching.  But, at the same time, some group had another meeting [laughs], you know.  In this way, there were Buddhist—Buddhists divided in two.  The conservative ones are mostly the ones who remembered Buddha’s teaching and who has—who had some record, and who had some complete traditional texts.  Radical ones more put emphasis on Buddha’s intention to leave his teaching:  why Buddha, you know, left this kind of teaching.  That was the most important point for the radical ones.  They didn’t, you know, stick to scriptures only.  And the conservative ones, you know, who wanted to oppose radical ones, more and more systematized Buddha’s teaching, you know, and analyzed Buddha’s teaching in various way.  That is so-called-it Hīnayāna teaching.


October 25th, 1969

Saturday, October 25th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Saturday Evening, October 25, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-25

(note: the audio speeds up as the recording goes along)


Last night[1]  I explained the most important part of this chapter [II], which runs:




This is another translation,[2]  translated from Chinese text[3]  comparing to Sanskrit original text.


“Shāriputra, the Thus-Come One—Thus-Come One can by a variety of distinction skillfully preach the dharma.  His word are gentle, gladdening many hearers.  Shāriputra, to take the—to take the essential and—to take the essential and speak of it.  As for the immeasurable and unlimited dharmas that have never been before, the Buddha has perfected them all.”


And here—this is most important part:


“Cease, Shāriputra.  We need no more speak.  Why is that?  As for the prime, rare, hard-to-understand dharma which the Buddha has perfected, only a buddha and buddha can exalt [exhaust?] the reality of the dharma—namely,

the suchness of dharma,

the suchness of their marks,

the suchness of their nature,

the suchness of their substance,

the suchness of their powers,

the suchness of their functions,

the suchness of their causes,

the suchness of their conditions,

the suchness of their effects,

the suchness of their retribution, and

the absolute equality of their beginning and end.”


And here there is important words.  Reality of these dharmas—reality of these dharmas—reality of these dharma I explained last night:  how things exist, and namely suchness of the dharma, and the suchness of their marks, and suchness of their nature, suchness of their substance.  But all those things in word [are] another version of “things changes and things has no self-nature.”  And things are originally organic:  one whole being, which makes one whole lives [life?].  That is the fundamental teaching of this sūtra.


And to have this kind of understanding—view of life, view of nature—is the Buddha’s wisdom.  And, in this chapter—in this sūtra they—Buddha put emphasis on this point.  And I refer to the—and I refer to Shōbōgenzō:[4]   “Only dharma—only buddha and buddha can exalt [exhaust?] the reality of these dharma.”  “Only buddha and buddha can exalt [exhaust?] the reality of dharmas.”  This is very important.


October 23rd, 1969

Thursday, October 23rd, 1969

Suzuki-roshi at the wind caves in the ventana forest near Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series]

Thursday Evening, October 23, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-23


[The recording starts with Suzuki-rōshi reading from:  Saddharma-Pundarika or The Lotus of the True Law, translated by H. Kern, New York:  Dover, 1963 (an unaltered reprint of the 1884 edition of “The Sacred Books of the East,” Vol. XXI), Chapter II, “Skillfulness,”
p. 30.  He is continuing from approximately the point where he left off in SR-69-10-20.]



out things difficult to understand.


The mystery of Tathāgata is difficult to understand, Shāriputra, because when they explain the law (or phenomena, things) that have their cause in themselves, they—they—they do so by means of skillfulness, by the display of knowledge, by argument, reasons, fundamental ideas, interpretations, and suggestions.  By a variety of skillfulness they are able to release creatures that are attached to one point or another.  The Tathāgata, Shāriputra, have acquired the highest perfection in skillfulness and the display of knowledge; they are endowed with wonderful properties, such as the display of free and unchecked knowledge; the power; the absence of hesitation; the independent conditions; the strength of the organs; the constituents of Bodhi; the contemplation; emancipations; meditations; the degree of concentration of mind.  The Tathāgata, Shāriputra, are able to expound various things and have something wonderful and marvelous.  Enough, Shāriputra, let it suffice to say that the Tathāgata have something extremely wonderful, Shāriputra.  None but Tathāgata, Shāriputra, can impart to a Tathāgata those laws which the Tathāgatas knows—Tathāgata knows.  And all ways [laws], Shāriputra, are taught by the Tathāgata, and by him alone; no one but he knows all laws, what they are, how they are, like what they are, of what characteristic and of what nature they are.


And on that occasion, to set forth the same subject more completely [copiously], the Lord uttered the following stanzas:



This chapter is, for us Sōtō students, a very important chapter.  If you understand this chapter so far as I read, you will understand what is our transmission, what is our practice, what kind of life we have as a Sōtō Zen priest or Sōtō Zen children—disciples [laughs].  It is so important.  But usually they don’t think this chapter is so important, and the most explanation of this chapter is very superficial.  So I want you to, you know, read it over and over again [during] study period.  I will take time and Dick [Baker] one line after one line very deeply and very widely.


October 20th, 1969

Monday, October 20th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Third Lotus Sūtra Series][1]

Monday Evening, October 20, 1969

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-10-20


As many of you are the students who joined our training—this training period, and perhaps many of you didn’t join the last training period, so I think I must tell you about the spirit of Lotus Sūtra because it is rather difficult for someone who want to join—who want to read it as you read Bible or Confucianism.  It is not—Lotus Sūtra is—can you hear me?—okay?—is not some sūtra which—like chronicle of great sage—chronicle of saying or actions of great sage like Christ or Confucian.  It is like—something like Divine Comedy.  I don’t know how you call it:  Divine Comedy of Dante, you know.  Or it is something like a great music, you know.  It is actually something to feel when you read it.


So in Japan, whether or not they understand it, they repeat, you know, Lotus Sūtra over and over again, and—until they get some—until they get the feeling of the sūtra.  It is, you know—if you think it is a good—great music, maybe, you will appreciate this sūtra.  So if you read it chapter by chapter, you know, it doesn’t mean anything.  It is like a—to see the big building, you know, part by part.  Even—sometime you will see just strange, you know, foundation of the big building.  It is not so—although it is something big, but it is not so interesting.  It may be a big big stone or a concrete, but if you see the building from distance, it may be a beautiful building.  So until you read it over and over again and appreciate whole—whole structure of the building, it is not so interesting sūtra.  It looks like a kind of miss which is written in great scale.


This is the difference between Hīnayāna—I shouldn’t say “Hīnayāna”—maybe original Buddhism and more developed Buddhism from original so-called-it Hīnayāna Buddhism.  For an instance, you know:  You are very much interested in Zen.  But Zen is maybe a big mysticism in one way.  When we put emphasis on enlightenment, and when we talk about enlightenment [laughs], you know, it is something beyond actually what we are saying.  You will feel the spirit of it by kōan or by story or by Shōbōgenzō.  You will feel some burning—some—some—something very hot inside.  It is like a blue flame, you know—it is very hot.  And very direct.  That is the characteristic of Zen.


So it is—we say it is something beyond world—after we talked about Buddhism—after Mahāyāna Buddhist expressed their spirit by—in big big scale, Zen, you know, started to express Buddhist spirit more direct way and completely different way.  But it is not usual—it is very difficult to understand anyway what does it mean, actually.  What kind of spirit is hidden in it is difficult.  That is why kōan is difficult—kōan study is difficult.


October 21st, 1968

Monday, October 21st, 1968

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Monday Morning, October 21, 1968

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-10-21

[The Lotus Sūtra] …  which was told by a historical Buddha.  But some people may be disappointed who believe in historical Buddha.  This is not a characteristic of any religion except Buddhism.  Only Buddhism went through a long history before having a complete under­standing of the historical Buddha.  It took a pretty long time for us to understand who he was.

At first his disciples were attached to his character, or to what he said and did.  So his teaching became more and more static and solid.  His teaching was transmitted by so‑called Hīnayāna Buddhists, or shrāvakas, because they were the disciples, or followers, who tried to preserve his teaching by memory and discussion or meetings.  No one is sure when this kind of meeting was held, but it is said that seventy-five years after his death they had a meeting where they chose various good disciples to compile his teaching.

When they discussed the precepts, Upali was the head of the group, and he recited what Buddha had said.  When the Sutras were discussed, Ananda, who was Buddha’s jisha, discussed what Buddha said.  In that way, they set up some teaching:  “This is what Buddha told us, and these are the precepts Buddha set up.”  Naturally, they became rigidly attached to the teaching, and, of course, those who studied this kind of teaching had a special position among Buddhists.  Buddha’s disciples were classified in four groups:  laymen, laywomen, nuns, and priests.  And the distinction between laymen and laywomen and priests and nuns became more and more strict.  Buddhism at that time already had become a religion of priests, not ordinary people or laymen.


October 20th, 1968

Sunday, October 20th, 1968

Suzuki-roshi in the dokusan room at City Center

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


[Second Lotus Sūtra series in 1968]

Sunday Evening, October 20, 1968

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-10-20

This sūtra titled Saddharma-pundarīka-sūtra was supposed to be told by Buddha, but actually this sūtra appeared maybe after two or three hundred years after Buddha passed away.  So historically we cannot say Buddha spoke this sūtra.  If you ask if all the sūtras were spoken by Buddha, the answer may be that only parts of them were spoken by him.  And they will not be exactly as he said them.  Even the Hīnayāna sūtras were not handed down by Buddha’s disciples exactly as he told them.  Since even the Hīnayāna sūtras were not told by Buddha, the Mahāyāna sūtras could not have been told by him.

But some aspects of Buddha developed after the historical Buddha passed away.  The historical Buddha is not the only Buddha.  He is the so‑called Nirmānakāya Buddha.  We also have the Sambhogakāya Buddha and Dharmakāya Buddha.  So Buddha was understood more and more as a perfect one.  When Buddha was still alive, this point was not so important because Buddha himself was their friend and teacher and even god.  He was a superhuman being even when he was alive.  He was their teacher or master, so there was no need for them to have some superhu­man being like a god.  But after he passed away, because his character was so great, his disciples adored him as a superhuman being.  This idea of a superhuman being is a very impor­tant element for promoting the understanding of Buddha as the Perfect One.


October, 1968 9th talk

Tuesday, October 1st, 1968

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Fall 1968

Zen Mountain Center

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-10-00 N

Page eight. “Then rose in the mind of the Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Maitreya this thought: Oh, how great a wonder does the Tathāgata display! What maybe the cause, what the reason of the Lord producing so great a wonder as this? And such astonishing, prodigious, inconceivable, powerful miracles now appear, although the Lord is absorbed in meditation! Why, let me inquire about this matter; who would be able here to explain it to me? He then thought: Here is Manjushri, the royal prince, who has plied his office under former Ginas and planted the roots of goodness, while worshipping may Buddhas.”

Ginas is another … one of the names for Buddha. And here … “worshipping.” Worshipping it is not just worship, this is … it means, in Sanskrit, pradikara. It means alms-giving and offer of business [?] care. To prepare food for him; or to make a robe for him; or to mend his roof or room; and to take care of the people who may come; or to prepare medicine for him, or bed or [sounds like dress or breath]. Those are, you know, not just worshipping, but to take complete care of. So original meaning is some … to take some authority. Not authority but to take care of him. Or to take care of business or service. And those words are important ones. Here, there is some …