Posts Tagged ‘Practice & Enlightenment’

July 6th, 1970

Monday, July 6th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

SANDŌKAI  LECTURE XIII:  “Don’t Spend Your Time in Vain”

Monday, July 6, 1970


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-07-06


[This lecture is concerned with the following lines of the Sandōkai:


Ayumi wo susumure ba gonnon ni ara zu,

mayōte senga no ko wo hedatsu.

Tsutsushin de sangen no hito ni mōsu,

kōin munashiku wataru koto nakare.

(Transliteration by Kazuaki Tanahashi.)


The goal is neither far nor near.

If you stick to the idea of good or bad,

you will be separated from the way

by high mountains or big rivers.

Seekers of the truth,

don’t spend your time in vain.

(Translation by Suzuki-rōshi.)]


Here it says:


Ayumi wo susumure ba gonnon ni ara zu,

mayōte senga no ko wo hedatsu.

Tsutsushin de sangen no hito ni mōsu,

kōin munashiku wataru koto nakare.


Ayumi wo susumure baAyumi is “foot” or “step.”  Susumure ba:  “to carry on.” Susumure ba gonnon ni ara zuGon is “near”; on is “far away.”  Ayumi wo susumure ba.  Ayumi is actually “practice,” you know.  Ayumi wo susumure ba gonnon ni ara zu.


“There is no idea of far away from the goal or nearer to the goal.”  This is very important.  When you [are] involved in selfish practice, there is, you know—you have some idea of attainment.  And when you have—you strive for to attain enlightenment or to reach the goal, you have naturally, “We are far away”—you know, idea of, “We are far away from the goal.”  Or, “We are almost there,” you know.  Gonnon:  “near” or “far away.”
But if you really practice our way, enlightenment is there.  Mmm.  Maybe this is rather difficult to accept [laughs], you know.  When you practice zazen without any idea of attainment, there is actually enlightenment.  Or you may understand in this way like Dōgen-zenji explained:  In our selfish practice there is enlightenment and there is practice.  Practice and enlightenment is two—a pair of opposite idea.  But when we realize—when we understand our practice and enlightenment as an event in realm of great dharma world, enlightenment and practice is two event which appears in a great dharma world.  The both practice and enlightenment is also events, you know, which will have—which many events in our life or in our dharma world.  When we understand in that way, enlightenment is one of the event which symbolize the dharma world, and practice is also an event which symbolize our big dharma world.  So there is—if both symbolize or express or suggest the big dharma world, you know, actually we sh- [partial word], there is no need for us to be discouraged because we do not attain enlightenment or why we should be extremely happy with our enlightenment.  Actually there is no difference.  Both has equal value.


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.


August 18th, 1969

Monday, August 18th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Monday Evening, August 18, 1969


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-18

Suzuki-rōshi:  Tonight I want to discuss about our way to attain liberation or enlightenment.  When you study Buddhism through teaching or reading scriptures, it looks like Buddhist has some special way of thinking by which we attain liberation.  If we understand Buddhism, and if we take the Buddhist standpoint or Buddhist way of thinking, that is the way to attain liberation.


Do you hear me?


Various Students:  Yes.


Suzuki-rōshi:  Okay?  [Laughs.]  Most people may understand in this way.  If so, there will not be—no need to practice zazen.  But—but it is necessary.  And why it is so is the point of my talk—discussion tonight.


When the Sixth Patriarch attained enlightenment, his teacher Kōnin[1]  thought it may be dangerous for him to accept disciples because of the situation of the world at that time—situation of the country at that time when China was culturally divided in two:  South and—North and South, and partly because the Sixth Patriarch was unknown, you know, unknown disciple.  He was just one of the many disciples, while Jinshū[2]—the head of the group—was very famous.  And if people know that the Sixth Patriarch is Jinshū—[corrects self] [that] Hui-neng received the transmission from the Fifth Patriarch and become Sixth Patriarch, people—some people may [get] angry with him.


So he segregate himself in seashore, and he worked with fisherman.  And when he appeared for the first time in some temple, there were several disciples were discussing seeing the flag, you know, whether the green—thin flag—what do you say?  Flapping?[3]


July, 1969

Tuesday, July 1st, 1969

Suzuki-roshi with students at Tassajara

Shunryū Suzuki-Roshi

July 1969

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-07-00 




In—in America, between Rinzai Zen and Sōtō Zen there—there must be some clear understanding of—of the two, or relationship of the two.  Dōgen-zenji’s, you know, problem of, or kōan was, “If we have buddha-nature,” you know, “why we should practice zazen?”  That was his, you know—that is why he went to China.  All—all—in all the scriptures say that everyone has buddha-nature.  If so, why we should practice zazen?


And Sōtō more put emphasis on the statement that we have buddha-nature.  And Rinzai put emphasis on practice to attain enlightenment, you know.  If we have buddha-nature, like Sōtō student says, why is it necessary [laughs] to attain enlightenment?  And usually, you know, people understand that “we have buddha-nature” means that potentially we have buddha-nature.  We have buddha-nature within ourselves, but that nature—buddha-nature is covered by many things:  many evil desires.  Or because of the bad karma we cannot, you know, reveal—we cannot realize buddha-nature.  But if we practice zazen, or if we get rid of evil nature, the buddha-nature, which is innate nature, will reveal itself.  Usually people understand in that way.  But, as the Sixth Patriarch said, that is annihilism [nihilism?].  But anyway, people understand in that way to explain why we must practice zazen.


But this understanding is not true understanding, even according to usual understanding of sūtra.  There are many, you know—we try to understand Buddhism just our ordinal [ordinary] way of thinking—ordinal [ordinary way].  That is maybe why we cannot understand what—why Dōgen has to go to China to understand that point.  If he understand in that way, you know, it is—for him it was not—there was no need for him to go to China.  You know, if—by practice, by our practice, by stopping all sort of evil desires, and we will attain enlightenment, and we will have no trouble, you know, and our buddha-nature reveal itself because there is no evil desires which covers our innate nature.  If he understand in that way, there was no need for him to go to China.


December 17, 1966

Saturday, December 17th, 1966

Suzuki-roshi waving goodbye at the airport on his way to the US

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

December 17, 1966


Lecture A

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 66-12-17

Tape operator: This is the one o’clock lecture on the Saturday, December 17th sesshin.

Suzuki-rōshi: In the first instruction of ten instructions in Gakudō-yōjin-shū,[1] Dōgen-zenji emphasize to arise the way-seeking mind.  And way-seeking mind, according to him, is the mind to—the mind to—to have direct feeling of evanescence of life.  When we feel the evanescence of life directly, we will not have any more ego-centered idea.  And our practice will be quite pure and strong.  And on each moment, we will do our best in our practice.  That is the most important point in our way.

And in the second instruction, he emphasize the immediate respond [response] to the teaching.  And according to him, even listen to the teaching is the practice—not only zazen practice.  It is not actually—after you hear the teaching and practice zazen and attain enlightenment.  The attaining enlightenment and to practice zazen and to hear the instruction is one, and three takes place simultaneously.  That is his understanding of to here.


September 16 1965

Thursday, September 16th, 1965

Suzuki-roshi in the dokusan room at City Center

September 16, 1965

Rev. S. Suzuki

Thursday morning lectures


The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transcendence or change.  Everything changes is the basic teaching.  And this truth is eternal truth for each existence.  And no one can deny this truth.  And all the teaching of Buddhism will be condensed in this teaching.  This is the teaching for all of us and wherever we go this teaching is true.  This teaching is also interpreted as the teaching of selflessness because our self nature of each existence is nothing but the self nature of all existence.  There is no special self nature for each existence.  And this teaching is also called teaching of nirvana.  When we realize this truth and when we resume, when we find our composure in the everlasting truth which is everything changes, we find ourselves in nirvana.  Or if we cannot accept this teaching, that everything changes, we cannot be in composure…perfect composure.