Posts Tagged ‘Zazen’

July 24th, 1971

Saturday, July 24th, 1971

Suzuki-roshi at Sokoji

Shunryu Suzuki-rōshi

Saturday, July 24, 1971


Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-07-24


This evening I want to talk about Buddhist practice. In one of the fascicle of Shōbōgenzō there—there is fascicle about virtue of mountain and river.[1]   Virtue of mountain and river. This is very interesting and give us a great benefit to understand what is our practice. Virtue of mountain and river.


He [Dōgen] says usual people think mountain is solid, mountain does not move and permanent; but river flows. That is usual understanding of mountain and river. Mountain and river. It is exactly the same as—people say Rinzai practice or Sōtō practice [laughs]. And the Sōtō practice is such-and-such; and Rinzai practice is such-and-such. And it looks like Sōtō way is more rigid and Rinzai way is more free. But Sōtō way is not so strict, but Rinzai way is very strict. They may say many things about Sōtō or Rinzai because it looks like so. And there must be various arguments about what is Sōtō and what is Rinzai. But there are—there are not so many arguments [laughs] when we say: “Mountain does not move, but water flows, river flows.” And there’s not much [laughs] arguing about that.


But Dōgen-zenji or—no—no—but Daokai-zenji Master[2] said: “Mountains flow [laughs]; mountains—mountains goes but river doesn’t. Mountains flow. Or East Mountain flows over—over the—over the river. Mountain goes and river stays.” And about this statement, because it is difficult for us to understand, so people say—people say: “True Zen is beyond words [laughs]. It is not possible for us to say what is Zen practice actually. Zen practice is beyond words.” That is why Daokai-zenji said, “Mountain—East Mountain goes over the water.”


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.


July 2nd, 1971

Friday, July 2nd, 1971


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Thursday, July 2, 1971

City Center

“Real Precepts Are Beyond Words”

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-07-02


[Today I would like to][1]  … lecture about precepts.  I—when I say “precepts,” the first thing you will think of is something like Ten Commandment or ten grave prohibitory precepts.  But Zen precepts is not like that.  The Zen precepts is—to study Zen precepts means to understand zazen.  So it is—another interpretation of zazen is precepts.  Using words—word “precepts” we explain what is Zen actually.


The purpose of receiving precepts, observing precepts, is not just to remember what we should do or what we shouldn’t do.  And how we observe precepts is to practice Zen or to extend our practice to our everyday life.  So the idea of precepts is completely different from the usual understanding of precepts.


The precepts, you know, which is—or foundation of precepts or—true meaning of precept—precepts is various way of understanding of one reality, one reality which is always with you—reality, which cannot—which is not individable in three, or in sixteen, or in ten.  Tentatively we divide—we explain it from various angle, but that is just words.  Real, you know, precept is beyond word.  We cannot—if we talk about it, it is not real precepts already.  So if you think precept is just to observe some various rules is precepts, it is very different or very far away from the true understanding of the true prac- [incomplete word:  “practice”?]—precepts.


June 19th, 1971

Saturday, June 19th, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Sewing and Wearing the Buddhist Robes and

How It Relates to Our Practice

19 June 1971

San Francisco Zendō


Last Sunday I told you that, whatever religion you belong to, it doesn’t matter when you to come and sit with us.  That is because our way of sitting, of practice, is for you to become yourself.  Katagiri-rōshi always says, “to settle oneself on oneself.”  To be yourself.  When you become you, yourself, at that moment your practice includes everything.  Whatever there is, it is a part of you.  So you practice with Buddha, you practice with Bodhidharma and you practice with Jesus.  You practice with everyone in the future or in past.  That is our practice.  But when you do not become yourself, it doesn’t happen in that way.


So if you come here and sit with us, you’re not only sitting with us, but you are also sitting with everything, including animate and inanimate beings.  Dogen Zenji said, if your practice doesn’t include everything, that is not real practice.


It is not that after practicing for long time, you attain enlightenment and your practice includes everything, and you can practice with everyone.  When you join our practice, your practice includes everything.  And if you think that in two or three years, after your practice improves, that your practice will be perfect enough to include everything, that is a mistake.  Something is missing in that practice.  The sincerity is missing.


June 12th, 1971

Saturday, June 12th, 1971


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Saturday, June 12, 1971

San Francisco

[The audio of this talk is not currently available.]


We say “Zen Center student,” you know.  Or, we say “Zen Center.”  But it is—tonight—today—I want to make this kind of idea clear, you know, as much as possible.  Although, you know, I say, “You are Zen Center students,” and although you say, “You are Zen Center students,” you say, “I am Zen Center student.”  I don’t know!  [Laughs.]  I am not so sure who you are.  But to me, as long as you are here, you know, to me you are Zen Center students.  [Laughs.]  That’s all.  And if you go out from this building, I don’t know who you are.  [Laughs.]


Do you know who you are?  [Laughs.]  Is there any particular, you know—do you belong to some particular, you know, religion?  Are you member of some particular church, or member, you know—do you strictly belong to some group?  I don’t know.  Perhaps not.  Most of you does not belong to any group in its strict sense.  But some of them [you] may belong to—strictly belong to Zen Center.  And if someone belong [laughs] to Zen Center in its strict sense, and some of you do not belong to any school and yet practicing our way in the same building, you know, how that is possible [laughs], you know?  How is it possible to practice, you know, same—some certain way, you know, with someone who strictly belong to some group.  How is it possible?  If that is not possible, you know, should I accept student who belong to Zen Center in its strict sense?  Should I do that?


Maybe some student thinks in that way, but, you know, I accept, you know, students from various religion.  Some of you may be Christian.  Some of you may be Rinzai students.  Some of you may be, you know—may, you know, still, you know, have some other teacher in your mind—always, maybe.  But still I accept them.  Why is it possible for me to accept students, you know, from various religion as a Zen Center student without any discrimination?  It’s, you know—we, you know—I or we (same thing [laughs])—if I say “we” [laughs] you will be very much concerned about word “we.”  If I say  “I,” it may be okay, you know, but if I say “we,” [laughs] it looks like, you know, there is some, you know, group, and so-called-it “Sōtō” or “Rinzai” group or, you know, Sōtō group.  So if we say “we,” you know, you may not feel so good, but to me it is same thing, you know.  “We.”  “I.”  Same.


June 9th, 1971

Wednesday, June 9th, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Wednesday, June 9, 1971

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-06-09


[I thought there was another day of sesshin, but today is our last day.][1]


I think you, you know, have understood—  (Can you hear me?  Yeah?  Not so well.  Okay?  Mmm?)  You have understood what is zazen as your practice.  But I didn’t explain how you sit—I didn’t give you instruction how you sit in detail, but I told you, you know, how I practice shikantaza—or zazen.  Maybe that is my way, so I don’t know how another teachers will, you know, sit, I don’t know, but that is anyway my shikantaza.


I started this practice, actually, maybe two—two years ago, after I went to [2-4 words unclear; one earlier transcript states, “cross the creek at Tassajara”] [laughs, laughter], not because I saw many good place to sit, you know.  There’s two [or] three caves where you can sit.  But not because of that.  Perhaps some of you were swimming, you know, with me at that time.  Some beautiful girl students [laughs, laughter] and Peter [Schneider?] was there [laughs, laughter].  And as you—I cannot swim, actually [laughs], but because they were enjoying swimming so much, so I thought I may join [laughs].  But I couldn’t swim.  But there were so many beautiful girls over there, so I tried to, you know, go there [laughs, laughter], without knowing I couldn’t swim [laughs], so I was almost drowned [laughs, laughter].  But I knew that, you know, I will not die, I will not drown.  I shall not be drowned to death, you know, because there are many students.  So someone will help [laughs].  But I was not so serious.


But, you know, feeling was pretty bad, you know.  Water is, you know—I am swallowing water [laughs].  So feeling was too bad, so I stretch my arm, you know, so that someone catch me [laughs].  But no one [laughs, laughter]—no one helped me.  So I decided, you know, to go to the bottom [laughs, laughter], to walk, but that was not possible either [laughs, laughter].  I was, you know, I couldn’t reach to the bottom, or I couldn’t get over the water.  What I saw is beautiful girls’ legs [laughs, laughter].  But I couldn’t, you know [laughs], s- [partial word]—take hold of their legs, you know.  I was rather scared [laughs, laughter].


June 7th, 1971

Monday, June 7th, 1971


Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Sunday, June 7, 1971

San Francisco 

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-06-07


Shikantaza, zazen, is—our zazen is just to be ourselves.  Just to be ourselves.  We should not expect anything, you know, just to be ourselves.  And continue this practice forever.  That is our way, you know.  Even, we say, even in, you know (what do you say?) [laughs], even in, you know [snaps fingers], [student:  “Snap of the fingers?”] [laughs, laughter], you know, in snapping your fingers there are millions of kalpasno, cetanās. [1]   The unit of time.  You know, we say “moment after moment,” but in your actual practice, moment is too long, you know.  If we say “moment,” you know, or “one breathing after another,” you still involved in—your mind still involved in, you know, following breathing, you know, to follow breathe.  We say “to follow breathe,” “to follow our breathing,” but the feeling is, you know, in each, you know—to live in each moment.


If you live in each moment, you do not expect anything.  With everything, you know, you become you yourself.  If you, you know, feel strictly yourself [your self?], without any idea of time even, you know, in smallest particle of time you feel yourself [your self?].  That is zazen.


Why we say so is if we are involved in idea of time, various desires will, you know, start to act some mischiefs [laughs]—they will become mischievous, you know.  So—but if you, you know—when you have no idea of time, with everything, you know, you bec- [partial word]—your practice will go on and on.


February 13th, 1971

Saturday, February 13th, 1971

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi

Saturday Morning, February 13, 1971

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-02-13

Good morning.

We have been practicing sesshin, so I feel I didn’t see some of you for a long, long time.  We actually—”sesshin” means, you know, to, in one sense, to calm down, to have more calmness of mind in our activity and in our practice.  But what does it mean, by “calmness of your mind.”  It’s maybe pretty difficult for you to understand.


The calmness of mind is, you know, for instance, you may think if you seclude yourself in some remoted mountain or seclude yourself in zendō, you know, and practice without saying anything, without taking some good food or some food which will give you some pleasure or excitement [laughs], or without hearing someone’s, you know, opinion, in this way you will have calmness of your mind.  But that will help, but it is not the calmness of mind which we mean, because real—if, you know, that is calmness of mind, you will have worry to lose the calmness of your mind, you know.  When you feel so, calmness of your mind is not already there.  If you think—if you afraid of losing the—or being disturbed by someone, you know, that is not already calmness of your mind.


So real calmness of our mind is, you know, as I told you in sesshin time, to have, you know, oneness of the mind with your surrounding.  That is real calmness of your mind.  You are not, you know, you are—  You are not him, but he is you, I said, you know, as Tōzan-zenji—  I referred to Tozan-zenji’s words, you know.  “You are not him,” you know, when you say, “I am,” you know, when you say, seeing yourself in the mirror when you say, “This is me,” you know [laughs].  But that is not you, because that is not you in its true sense because you think, “This is,” you know, “This I me.  This is me.”  Dualistic.


February 12th, 1971, Second Talk

Friday, February 12th, 1971
Suzuki-roshi in the City Center courtyard

Suzuki-roshi in the City Center courtyard

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Friday Evening

February 12, 1971

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-02-12 second talk

[Note: The audio for this lecture starts at 23:50 of the mp3 file.]


The Sixth Patriarch[1]  said:  “To dwell on emptiness and to keep calm mind is not zazen,” he said.  Or he said, you know:  “Just to sit in squatting—sitting position is not Zen.”  But we say, you know, you—you have to just sit [laughs].  If you don’t understand what is our practice and stick to those words, you will be confused.  But if you understand what is real Zen, it is quite usual warning, you know—a kind of warning for us.


Now our sesshin is almost [at an] end.  But—and some people, maybe, you know, go back to their home and participate or involved in previous everyday activities.  But if you practice—if you have been practicing true zazen, you will not, you know—you may be happy to go back to your everyday life.  You may be encouraged, you know, by our practice to—in going back to your everyday life.  But if you feel, you know, if you feel hesitate [hesitant] to go back to your or—go back to your city life or everyday life, it means that, you know, you will still stick to zazen.


So that is why the Sixth Patriarch said:  “If you,” you know, “dwell on emptiness and stick to your practice, then that is not true zazen.”  When you practice zazen, moment after moment, you accept what you have now and what you have in that moment, and satisfying with everything you do, and you don’t—you do not—you don’t have any complaint because you just accept it, then that is zazen.  Or even though you cannot do that, you know what you should do.  Then sitting zazen will encourage you to do some other thing.  Just as you accepted your painful legs, you accept difficult everyday life.  Because city life may be more difficult than your zazen practice, so zazen practice will encourage you to have more difficulties.


February 5th, 1971

Friday, February 5th, 1971
Suzuki-roshi in a gathering of Buddhist leaders

Suzuki-roshi in a gathering of Buddhist leaders

Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi


Friday, February 5, 1971

San Francisco

Listen to this talk: Suzuki-roshi 71-02-05


Purpose of sesshin is to be completely one with our practice.  That is purpose of sesshinSesshin.  Sesshin means—  We use two Chinese characters for setsuSetsu means to treat or, you know, like you treat your guests or like a teacher [student?] treat his teacher, is setsu.  Another setsu is “to control” or “to arrange things in order.”  Anyway, it means to have proper function of mind.


When we say “control,” something which is controlled is our five senses and will, or mind, Small Mind, Monkey Mind which should be controlled.  And if—why we control our mind is to resume to our true Big Mind.  When Monkey Mind is always take over big activity of Big Mind, you know, we naturally become a monkey [laughs].  So Monkey Mind must have his boss, which is Big Mind.


And when we say “Big Mind,” then while we practice zazen, it is the Big Mind controlling the Small Mind.  It is not so, you know, but only when Small Mind become calm, the Big Mind, you know, start to start its true activity.  So in our everyday life, almost all the time, we are involved in activity of Small Mind.  That is why we should practice zazen and we should be completely involved in this kind of practice.