Posts Tagged ‘Selflessness’

July 25th, 1971

Sunday, July 25th, 1971

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

Sunday Evening, July 25, 1971


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-07-25

Tonight I want to explain the outline of our practice.  As a monk and as a layman, without understanding of what is practice, it is rather difficult to make actual progress in your practice.  And what I will talk about tonight is a kind of universal practice for laymen and monks both, you know—which could be true for both laymen and priests.


We say, or you say [laughs] whatever you do, that is practice, our practice:  to drink tea or to eat or to sleep, to walk, or to sit down.  Whatever you do, that is practice, you know, we say.  But how you, you know—with—with what kind of understanding you do things is very important point.  Actually, whatever you do, if you do not do the point—that is true.  But if you miss the point, even though you look like [you are] doing a proper practice, actually it doesn’t work.  The point is, whether you do it for yourself or for the sake of the truth, or for sake of Buddha, or for sake of people—this point is a very important point.


I—I didn’t discuss or argue with you, but my way, you know, if there is many things in the basket, my way is to finish the fruit is—you know, start with—I st- [partial word:  “start with”?], eat the worst [laughs] one first.  I will make—eat best one first.  And why you eat best one first is—according to the people who eat best one first—if you eat best one first always, you will always eat best one [laughs].  The last one, you know, will be also best one [laughs].  If—if—we eat worst one first, you will always eat worst—worst one.  Last one is also worst one.


March 2nd, 1971

Tuesday, March 2nd, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, March 2, 1971

8 am Tuesday Morning

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-03-02


There are various kinds of religion, but why we have to [have] religion—this question is answered not only by religious leaders but also by psychologist.  So the understanding of religion nowadays become more and more deeper.  And I think—I don’t know not much about psychology, nowadays psychology, but so far I understand, as you know, just as purpose of religion is to save [solve] our difficulties, the psychologist is working hard to save or to solve the problems of our life.


Why we have, you know, so many problems in our life is, you know, because of, you know, our social structure, which is not so good, or human relationship, you know, which is not also good.  So that is why we have difficulties, and if the difficulties become too much, it will result [in] a nervous breakdown or some mental, you know, disorder.


But why we have this kind of, you know, problem in our society or in our individual life is, according to Buddhism, our problems is based on, you know, our structure of, you know, way we live, you know.  The foundation is something wrong [laughs]. Our way of living is something wrong.  That is so-called-it “leakage,” you know, leakage.  Or you may call it “break” or you don’t say “breakage” [laughs], but maybe, you know, something like that.  Something is wrong with our fundamental framework of life, you know.  Something is wrong.  This point is already pointed out by Buddha.  What is wrong is, you know, according to Buddha, because we have various desires, you know.  But that desires are limitless, you know, as well as Buddha’s teaching [laughs].  It is limitless, you know:  no limit in our desires.  But actually the things which will satisfy our desire is not limitless, you know.  It is limited.  So there is already, you know, big gap between your desire and things which will suffice your desire.  Even so, our way of life is, you know, based on our desires:  to, you know, to have complete satisfaction of our desire, which is not possible.


December 20th, 1970

Sunday, December 20th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, December 20, 1970

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-12-20


In my last trip to Japan I found out many things.  The feeling I had there was—they were—you know, Japanese people nowadays are trying very hard, but according to Uchiyama-rōshi,[1] you know—do you know him?  He is in Kyoto, and he is practicing with students.  And many Caucasian students were there.  And when I went there they asked me to speak something [laughs], so I just saw them and talked a little.


Japanese people now—group, group—bo-kei:[2]  group is group, but bo-kei means “lose themselves.”  Lose themselves in group.  That is Japanese life now.  Group bo-kei.  Japan is a big family or big group.  [Laughs.]  They lose themselves [laughing] in group, so they don’t know what they are doing actually.  I don’t say ma [partial word—”many”?] all of them, but most of people there lose themselves in group.


And, you know, some—some people who thinks themselves rid of Japan also has some confidence in their effort of making progress in every direction.  But still they were involved—they were lose themselves, they are lose themselves in group, and they don’t know.  It is difficult for them to know what is—what are they doing.  Even though they do not have any information from other countries outside of the countries, I think if their mind is calm enough to see, you know, to realize what they are doing [laughs], you know, it is not so difficult to see themselves.


February 23, 1970

Monday, February 23rd, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi 

Sesshin Lecture No. 1: 



Monday, February 23, 1970 

San Francisco 

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-02-23


In this sesshin I suggested to practice shikantaza.  For—anyway for beginner, you know, it doesn’t make much difference [laughs].  I am sorry to say so, but shikantaza or counting breathing—it doesn’t make much sense.  But anyway, you know, to have strong determination to sit, you know, for seven—six days is enough, you know.  If you have that much conviction in your practice I think that is pretty good.


So anyway, those who just started practice zazen, don’t give up, and [laughs] stay six days.  And it is also good to practice counting breathing, you know, whether you are counting, you know, like you count something, you know—1, 2, 3, 4—that is also good.  But I want to give you some fundamental understanding of teaching of Buddhism.


Zazen practice, our zazen practice is based on—can you hear me?—based on the teaching of shūnyatā or emptiness.  If you do not have a thorough understanding of emptiness, even emptiness intellectually, I don’t think you can practice our way in its true sense.


February 8th, 1970

Sunday, February 8th, 1970

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, February 8, 1970

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 70-02-08


Each time we—we start lecture, we recite “an unsurpassed, penetrating Buddha,” and so on.  This is the essential—pointing at essential teaching of Buddha.  And it is not just opening of the [laughs] lecture.  It is—this gyātā[1]  itself is perfect dharma.


When we start—before we start lecture, or when you—when someone start lecture, and when you listen to it, and when we speak and listener start to study Buddhism, we—we must have this understanding—perfect understanding.  Only when we, you know, we give up the idea of “we,” you know, and when we have converted in—”we” in its true sense, this dharma, whatever it is, something which take place in this classroom will be the perfect dharma—will be understood as a perfect dharma.


Usually most people, you know, although you may understand the teaching of selflessness [laughs], but actually, you know, all what we do is deeply or firmly based on the idea of self.  You may think, “I am listening to—I have to study.  I have to understand what he says” [laughs].  That is already—the idea—strong idea of self and strong activity based on idea of self.


When we give up this kind of self and go beyond the idea of “you” or “speaker,” and understand you and speaker in only tentative being related with each other.  That is, you know, real classroom for us.  We are—relationship between I and you is not permanent one.  That is just tentative one.  Tomorrow, I don’t know [laughs].  Maybe if one of you speak, you know, I—I must be a listener, you know, or student.  So it is just tentative relationship.  And we are also tentative being.  So we cannot meet with—we cannot meet in this classroom in—with this relationship even one hundred thousand kalpas of time.  Never we can meet, you know, in this relationship together.  So we should not miss this moment.  That is actually what this sūtra means.  And this is very important point.


August 12th, 1969

Tuesday, August 12th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Tuesday, August 12, 1969

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-12 part 1

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-12 part 2

[I did not][1]  prepare for tonight lecture anything.  So I want you to ask some questions, and I will answer for the question, as I have nothing in my mind right now.  Hai.


Student A:  Of the two types of meditation, the counting and the shikantaza—the counting—do you think that has more to do with ego purification?


Suzuki-rōshi:  The counting—if you—it looks like different from—counting-breathing practice looks like different from the shikantaza.  But actually, if you, you know, practice it, [there is] not much difference.  Because purpose of counting-breathing practice is not, you know, to count.  No, it is quite easy to count your breathing, you know, if you try to count, just count.


Why it is difficult is—you have to—you have to have right posture, and you have to make—and all parts of your body should participate in the practice of counting breathing.  And your mind should follow the counting, and your arm, and mudrā, and legs, and spines, and, you know, muscles should join—participate [in] the counting-breathing practice.  And it is more than concentration to—it is more than to be concentrated on your counting.  Concentration usually means mental practice, you know, but counting-breathing practice is not just a mental practice but also physical practice too.  Then not much difference between shikantaza and counting-breathing practice.


Shikantaza means to practice zazen with your whole body and mind—that is shikantaza.  So maybe after you—you can practice counting-breathing practice pretty well, you can practice following-breathing practice—to just, you know, follow your breathing without counting.  Your mind is always in—on breathing, and your physical practice is participate [in] the breathing.  That is to follow the breathing.  And shikantaza, you know, is more than that.  You don’t even try to follow your breathing.  Maybe you can say more advanced practice.  Hai.


August 6th, 1969

Wednesday, August 6th, 1969

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Wednesday, August 6, 1969

San Francisco

 Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-06


I think you are facing actual problem in your zazen practice.  The worst one may be the pain of your legs, maybe.  It is some—not secret, but it is some certain way to sit in pain.  Because it is so direct that you have no time to—to think of some way, you know.  Before you think it comes, and you are involved in the pain.  But that is so-called-it, you know—that you are involved in the pain immediately means that your way, your way of life, or your attitude towards your life is not well-trained.


For an instance, if you—I think some of you must have this kind of experience.  If you are going to fell, you know, from, for an instance, from the tree to the ground, the moment you, you know, leave the branch you lose your function of the body.  But if you don’t, you know, there is a pretty long time before you reach to the ground.  And there may be some branch, you know.  So you can catch the branch or you can do something.  But because you lose function of your body, you know [laughs], before you reach to the ground, you may lose your conscious[ness].


But in zazen practice, first problem you face will be the pain.  Even for Japanese people who are sitting always on the floor, this problem of pain.  But how you endure the pain is, as I always say, to have—not to lose your power right here and free your legs, you know, from pain—having more strength here [possibly pointing to hara].  And this is—this kind of way—this way will be applied for various problem you have.  For an instance, when you are about to be angry, you know [laughs], you shouldn’t be involved in the anger immediately.[1]  You have time—you must have time before you become angry.  So we say count to ten before you are angry.  Your anger will not come while you are counting:  one, two, three, four [laughs].


August 3rd, 1969

Sunday, August 3rd, 1969

Suzuki-roshi in a gathering of Buddhist teachers include Master Hsuan Hua

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday, August 3, 1969


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-08-03

As most of you know, this is Yoshimura Ryogen-sensei.[1]   Ryogen Yoshimura-sensei.  In Japanese way we say family name first, so Yoshimura Ryogen.  But—Yoshimura is family name.  Ryogen-sensei, or Yoshimura-sensei.  He was appointed—he arrived at San Francisco as our teacher, or as our friend, March 27?


Off-mike:  Yes.


March 27.  And mostly he was in—he has been in San Francisco.  I think he came here once?  Twice?


Off-mike:  Twice.


Twice.  So most of you know, I think, know him.  But as some of you may not know him, so I think it is better to introduce him to you.  Thank you very much.


Last night I talked about the teaching of selflessness and the teaching of suffering too—not completely, but briefly about what is our suffering.  May be better to explain about the selflessness more, because that is very important teaching which is directly related to the teaching of Zen.


We practice zazen so that we attain selflessness.  This is very, you know, important and very subtle thing, the matter of self.  We don’t know where is ourself, but it is very tenacious one, as you know [laughs].  Even though you think you are pretty well, but it is not so.  Why selflessness means, you know—why we say “selflessness” [is] because each one of us is not substantial being.  You think you are here, but there is no such thing as “you” exist here.  You are not ghost, but [laughs] at this moment, at this place, you exist here, but you don’t exist here so many times.  It is just, you know, just tentative being which is always changing.  We know that by here [possibly pointing], you know, but it is almost impossible to get rid of this idea of self or feeling of self.


March 16th, 1969

Sunday, March 16th, 1969


Gyokujun So-on-roshi, Suzuki-roshi's ordination and early training teacher

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sunday Morning, March 16, 1969

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 69-03-16

Our practice should be based on the idea of selflessness.  This selflessness is very difficult [to] understand.  If you try to be selflessness, you know, that is already selfish idea.  [Laughs.]  We don’t know what to do, what—how to cope with it.  Perhaps you may—you must have tried various way, but selflessness is not something which you can try, you know.  It—selflessness should—should be there when you do not try anything.  Selflessness is not something which you can be aware of.  But for us, we have to—it is necessary to try and to know—it is necessary to know how difficult it is.

And because it is difficult, you want some guidance or teacher.  Maybe when you have good teacher and when you are practicing with good teacher, you will be naturally not so selfish.  Why our teacher is so hard on us is because of our selfish attitude.  Whenever he see our selfish attitude he may point out—or he may be angry with it.  Usually—for an instance, you know, when I was a little boy, I was going [to] primary school at that time—grammar school, you know.  And I learned something about animal—small animal and—like, you know, some—some—some animal which live on fish[‘s] body.  When we were working in the pond to clean the water from the muddy—mud and worm in it, I, you know, picked up a small goldfish and found a small worm on the body.  So that was the worm I studied at primary school.  So I point out that worm and said:  “This is”—in Japanese—”mijinko!”  You know, “This is mijinko!”  Maybe I proudly, you know, pointed out that mijinko.  And my teacher said:  “Shut up!” [Very loudly.  Laughs, laughter.]


June 28th, 1968

Friday, June 28th, 1968

Shunryu Suzuki Lecture – 68-06-28

Esalen Institute

First of two lectures

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-06-28

I find it’s difficult to keep contact with you when I, whenever we talk, I talk, especially when I think of difficult…very difficult to talk with some because I [several words unintelligible due to tape problems] our own study? students? but anyway I try to communicate.

First of all I am supposed to talk about our teaching.  Zen is, Zen is, for you, some special teaching.  But, for us Zen is, Buddhism is and not special teaching from the other schools of Buddhism. So, if you ask me to talk about our teaching I have have to, what I will talk is mostly teaching of Buddhism started by Buddha and developed by their teachers in India, China and Japan.

Buddha’s teaching put the emphasis on selflessness because even Buddhism it’s, is not special culture heritage.  It is part of Indian thought.  And so before Buddhism there must be some similar teaching or some opposite teaching which form a pair of opposites with Buddhism.  As you see in Upanishad there are many similar teaching based on selflessness.  Why, I think, why he put the emphasis on selflessness is because people at that time had very difficulty because of the strong idea of self, ah self.

So Buddha on the contrary put emphasis on selflessness so that there you have more balanced understanding of our life.  And for the people who find, who were trying to find out something a pleasure of life in this actual modern world, he put the emphasis on suffering so that they can understand their life from both sides.  So naturally even so his purpose of sitting or his teaching is through or form some harmonious teaching.  So, sometime he put emphasis on self, you know, instead of put the emphasis on selflessness.  He sometime rather emphasis on self.