Posts Tagged ‘Materiality Vs Spirituality’

July 20th, 1971

Tuesday, July 20th, 1971

Shunryu Suzuki-rōshi


Tuesday Evening, July 20, 1971


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-07-20

I wanted to see you earlier, but I was too busy so I couldn’t come.

Can you hear me?  Can you hear me?

Student:  Yes.

Oh.  Okay.

Anyway, it is very good to see you and Tassajara, which has improved a lot since I left here.  Tonight my—I didn’t have any idea of giving talk, but I—as, you know, we have many guests and some of you may leave tomorrow, so I decided to talk a little bit—maybe I said ten minutes [laughs].  But it is rather difficult to say something in ten minutes, so I don’t know how many minutes my lecture last.

What I want to talk about tonight is something—some idea or some understanding of Buddhist which is not—may not be unfamiliar to you.

We observe things in two ways.  We understand things has two—two side.  One is phenomenal side; the other is, maybe, more ontological side.  Something—some—most of us, you know, understand things from the light of difference, like big or small, black or—black and white, material or spiritual.

Usually, maybe, spiritual—  If we say “spiritual,” usually it is something which is not material.  But, according to Buddhism, even though you say “spiritual” that is, you know, not much different from—different of physical or materialistic side.  “Spiritual” or “materialistic” we say, but those are, according to Buddhism, not much different.  It belongs to the understanding of phenomenal side of the reality—spiritual too, spiritual understanding too include phenomenal understanding.


January 31st, 1970

Saturday, January 31st, 1970

Suzuki-roshi with other priests in Japan

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Saturday, January 31, 1970

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-01-31


Our—our effort in our practice is quite different effort you make in our usual life.  This point should be very clear for you, or else, you know, you—your practice doesn’t work.


And spiritual effort is, at the same time, is very poisonous for us.  Spiritual attainment is very, you know—sometime like a—like—will result ecstasy or sometime will result arrogance.  And in this kind of, you know, spiritual arrogance or ecstasy is worse than materialistic arrogance, you know.  You can easily [be] fooled by people by talking about something spiritual—so-called-it “spiritual,” you know.  If you—”This is very spiritual thing.”  If you say so, that is already very powerful, you know.  And there is no need for you to give any evidence to it, you know.  “This is spiritual thing.”  If you practice zazen you will understand it, or else you cannot understand it.  I practiced zazen for many years, so I understand it.  But you may not understand it.  “But this is true!”  [Laughs, laughter.]


You know, this kind of, you know, danger is always with us.  So in Buddhism—Buddhist is very strict with this point.  That is why—maybe why we practice something difficult.


The usual materialistic world in our usual life—materialistic world, we have enough difficulties [laughs].  So sp- [partial word]—in spiritual world, there should be, you know, more difficulties because we have to—not only we have to make effort to make progress in our practice, but also we have to keep ourself from various pitfall [laughs]—various desire—danger.  So we have maybe much more difficulties in our spiritual effort.


July 1965

Thursday, July 1st, 1965




Translation and Commentary by Master Shunryū Suzuki


Ummon Bun’en (?-949) was a disciple of Seppō and founder of the Ummon School, one of five schools of Chinese Zen Buddhism (Rinzai, Igyō, Ummon, Hōgen, and Sōtō).

During the political confusion at the end of the Tang Dynasty all the major schools of Chinese Buddhism (Tendai, Hosso, Ritsu, and Shingon) were in decline, except Zen, which was strengthened by the persecutions and the difficulty in traveling to escape persecution and to visit various Zen masters.  The hard practice of Seppō and Ummon during that time has been and still is a good example for all Zen students.

Introductory Word:

Introducing, Engo said:  To control the world without omitting a single feather, to stop all the streams of passion without losing a single drop, this is the great teacher’s activity.  If you open your mouth (in a dualistic sense) in his presence, you will fall in error.  Hesitate and you will be lost.  Who has eyes to penetrate barriers of this kind?  Ponder the following.