Posts Tagged ‘Three Bodies of Buddha’

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 2nd Talk

Tuesday, October 1st, 1968

Juaki Ceremony at City Center

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Fall 1968

Zen Mountain Center

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

The point of my previous lecture was that since it may be difficult for you to understand the Lotus Sūtra, I wanted to clarify who is supposed to have told it.  The sūtras usually look like they were spoken by the historical Buddha himself.  But our Buddhist sūtras were not actually spoken by him.  So when you read a sūtra, if you think it was spoken by Buddha himself, you will be confused, because there are actually many elements in it which did not exist in Buddha’s time.  Afterwards, when the sūtra was compiled, it was interspersed with various thoughts that existed then.  Buddhist thought itself developed from the understanding of the direct disciples of Buddha to that of Buddhists several generations afterward.  So you will be very confused when you read the sūtra as if it was spoken by the historical Buddha.

Actually, the sūtra was told by so‑called Mahāyāna Buddhists several hundred years after Buddha passed away.  Buddhism had developed from the sravaka to the Mahāyāna understanding.  If I say Buddhism developed in this way, then you may think it developed or changed.  But in reality, it did not change or develop, but tried to resume the original understanding of Buddhism.  In this way, for many thousands of years, Buddhists have been trying to restore Buddha’s teaching.  It looks as if this effort changed Buddhism from the original way to some different teaching, but that is not so.  Do you understand what I am saying?  It is rather difficult, with my language problem, to explain this part.  This sūtra was told by someone who was a Mahā­yāna Buddhist.  It looks like the historical Buddha, over here, spoke this sūtra, but actually someone who was over here told it.  And Bud­dhism itself developed from here to here.  So you may say what is taught in this sūtra is not Buddha’s teaching, but a teaching which devel­oped from Buddha’s teaching.  So if you are attached to Buddha’s original teaching, you may be disappointed, you see?


October, 1968

Tuesday, October 1st, 1968

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


October 1968

Zen Mountain Center

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

I already explained the nature of the Nirmānakāya Buddha and Sambhogakāya Buddha.  The Nirmānakāya Buddha comes into this world with the vow that he will save all sentient beings.  Not by karma, but by vow, he appears in this world, practices the Bodhisattva’s way, attains enlightenment as Buddha did, and saves all human beings.  So he is called an incarnated body.  He changes his form in various ways, sometimes to a bodhisattva, sometimes to a buddha.  He takes on various forms to help people, so in the widest sense of the word, everything is Nirmānakāya Buddha.  But in the narrow sense, those who appear in this world by vow instead of by karma are called Nirmānakāya Buddhas.  The Sambhogakāya Buddha is the original source of the Nirmānakāya Buddha: it gives birth to the Nirmānakāya Buddha.  In order to explain the Dharmakāya Buddha, it is necessary to explain the Sambhogakāya Buddha more.  Then you will understand what the Dharmakāya Buddha is naturally.

The Dharmakāya Buddha is called the fundamental, undeveloped Buddhakāya.  In Buddhism, when we say the undeveloped, or fundamental, body, it means that it is the original source itself.  But there are two interpretations for one reality.  When we understand it as something which is very calm, which is not in activity, we call it the Dharma Body.  But the Dharma Body does not actually remain calm and inactive—it is always active.  When we understand it as activity, we call it Dharma Nature.  “Dharma Nature” means something in action, and “Dharma Body” means something which is not in activity, or which is not developed.  But the whole Nature exists in the Dharma Body as a potentiality.  So we have two understandings of one reality:  Dharmakāya [kaya = body] and dharma nature.


January 11th, 1968

Thursday, January 11th, 1968

Suzuki-roshi conducting a precepts ceremony at City Center

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Thursday Evening, January 11, 1968


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 68-01-11

I already explained about Maitreya Buddha when I explained about the three period—three period of Buddhism.  And in this occasion, I want to explain this—all of the Ten Buddhas which we recite [at] mealtime:

Homage to the pure Dharmakāya Vairochana Buddha.

I already explained Vairochana Buddha.

And to the complete Sambhogakāya Vairochana Buddha.

To the numerous Nirmānakāya Shākyamuni Buddha.

To the future Maitreya Buddha.

I explained already Maitreya Buddha.

To all buddhas, past, present and future all over the world.

To the Mahāyāna Saddharmapundarīka-sūtra.

To the great Mañjushrī Bodhisattva.

To the Mahāyāna Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.

To the great compassionate Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

To the many bodhisattvas, mahāsattvas.

To the Mahāprajñāpāramitā.

Here we have complete teaching of Buddha.  Dharmakāya Buddha, Sambhogakāya Buddha, Nirmānakāya Buddha.  This is Buddha.  And here we have Mahāyāna bodhisattvas.  And we have also the Mahāyāna Mahaprajñāpāramitā.  This is the teaching.  So we have here Buddha and sangha and dharma.  So to recite those names actually—if you recite those names with deeper understanding, it means you are repeating, you are practicing the Buddha’s way.


July 30 1965 3rd Talk

Friday, July 30th, 1965


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Friday, Thursday, July 30, 1965

Lecture D

Soko-ji Temple, San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 65-07-30 3rd Talk

Suzuki-rōshi: Do you have some question?

Student A: Sensei, D. T. Suzuki wrote that “Zen was religion of the will,” is what he said.  What do you think about that?

Suzuki-rōshi: Religion?

Student A: Of the will, he said.

Suzuki-rōshi: Oh.  I—I haven’t read it.  What does he say?

Student A: Oh.  He just said—I just remember this sentence.  He said Zen is the religion of the will.

Suzuki-rōshi: Will?

Student A: Will.

Suzuki-rōshi: I don’t understand.

Student: Willpower.

Suzuki-rōshi: Will?

Several Students: Willpower.  Will.

Suzuki-rōshi: Uh-huh.  Yeah, I know [laughs, laughter] what is.  Wheel.  No?

Student: No.

Suzuki-rōshi: Will.

Student: Will.

Suzuki-rōshi: Will.

Student: Yeah.

Suzuki-rōshi: Uh-huh.  [Laughs, laughter.]

Student: “I will do it.”

Suzuki-rōshi: Yeah.

Student: “I will.”  Willpower.

Suzuki-rōshi: Yeah.  It is—he may say [laughs] religion of will.  But willpower is not only power we have, you know.  Will, and emotion or feeling, and moral—morality.  Willpower may be the driving power, but in contrast with European religion, they say emotion is deepest.  They think it is—emotion is deepest, and willpower is not so deep.  And intellect is most superficial [laughs].

But Zen is not just willpower—religion of just willpower.  Sōtō is more—more, you know, maybe emotional.  And religious feeling is something like emotional, but just emotional power—emotion [is] blind.  The willpower is also sometime [laughs] blind.  So that is why we want rational power.  But rational power will correct the mistake of—will blind [blend?] or help blend willpower and feeling or emotional power.  I don’t exactly figure out why he said so, but because in practice we want big willpower.  Zen is religion of practice, so he must have said Zen is religion of will.  But I don’t think Zen is just will, religion of will.  [It is a] religion of whole mind.  Some more question?