|Shunryu Suzuki Lecture|
Tony Artino's brief Shunryu Suzuki Lecture Notes from 1967 with a few quotes from Dainin Katagiri as copied by Milton Clapp and then lightly edited by Danny Parker. PDF files of Milton's notes will be posted later.
Tony Artino took notes of some Suzuki lectures in 1967. Milton Clapp wrote them all down years later and later still sent them to me. Danny Parker got hold of me in 2007 and asked if I knew about them. Danny interviewed Milton Clapp for cuke.com and typed out the lecture notes and edited them for readability. When I saw the dates I checked the archive and found them there, I saw I'd sent them to Jose Escobar ten years ago or so when he was entering all of Suzuki's lectures onto disk. And Bill Redican had entered them into the archive. Thanks to Danny for reminding me of this. Here are Danny's editings.- DC
Tony Artino dutifully took down the notes each day, but estimated that the result was perhaps 80% Suzuki and 20% Tony’s interpretation. Any quote marks in the text are direct verbatim quotes. Thanks to my good dharma friend, Milton Clapp for providing the raw lecture notes from which these transcripts are prepared and to David Chadwick for encouraging me to prepare these for posterity.
Lectures of Suzuki Roshi, old Bush Street Zendo
Wednesday, November 16, 1967
Zazen is to get to our true mind.
Many people mistakenly believe that Zen Buddhism– and other religions– are mystical. The practice of Zazen is not for gaining a mystical something. Zazen is for developing– or allowing– a clear mind... as clear as a bright autumn sky.
Zen practice is to get to our true mind, the mind not accessible to thinking. This mind cannot be consciously known by ordinary efforts. An unusual effort is necessary– this effort is called zazen.
If we give up our foolish measuring of our zazen, such as good or bad, then we can be free, and will attain Buddhahood. If we practice zazen in its true sense, we will know a clear sky– a clear mind.
We usually see with "dead eyes." In other words, we focus our mind on past thoughts or feelings or thoughts of past occurrences. We have to relearn to see things as they are. "Even without eyes we can see things as they are." "To empty the mind means only not to be distracted by trivial thoughts."
An experience under LSD may be psychologically similar to a "Zen experience," but the way the experience is regarded differs between the Buddhist and an ordinary view. Also, Zen Buddhism doesn’t attach to special experiences, but values equally all ordinary experiences. That is why Soto Zen doesn’t lay great emphasis on Kensho– enlightenment.
(Suzuki then suggested practicing with others to avoid "selfish zazen.")
As long as we are alive, we are attached to something and vice versa. Complete detachment doesn’t exist in this life. True mind is beyond the ordinary thinking faculty and also beyond the ordinary feeling and emotional faculties.
April 16, 1967
A teaching cannot be whole and perfect.
A teaching such as a sutra cannot be whole and perfect because it is- like a medical prescription- specific to certain people and circumstances. The Diamond Sutra is probably the closest to a universal teaching because it was a teaching the Buddha addressed to his own deep self.
May 28th 1967
True activity includes everything.
Questions to Suzuki on the difference between a "Monk" and a "Master."
To practice anything– and to do anything– we must know our own position. In true activity, there is no duality. This includes true thinking. True activity includes everything. We can’t say which occurs first: pure practice or egolessness. When one happens, the other is there also. There is no such thing as mind. There is no particular location for min. What is mind?
Question: The other evening, I looked at a picture of mountains for a long time. After a while, I felt the spirit of these mountains. But I don’t know if the spirit I felt was the mountains’ or my own. I do know there existed communication.
Suzuki: This is no answer to "what it is?" because nothing exists independently, but rather exists only through everything else. And who can understand everything else? It is impossible. But if we become one with the things, such as a cup, then we can understand it– and through it understand other things. According to Buddhism, any idea that arises is only tentative and specific. It does not apply to everyone. Any idea, therefore, is not perfect or true always. This includes Buddhist teachings.
Sunday November 20th 1967
Ordinary men carry a pre-conceived idea of the self into living, changing circumstances.
Wednesday, November 30th 1967
Give up gaining ideas and just sit.
Religion is just to be ourselves. We can’t be really religious for others. But neither can we help ourselves without helping others.
The point is to go beyond merely deliberate conscious behavior. To consciously help others is a self-centered activity. Correct helping is an activity without self-centered purpose, without self-conscious aim. Similarly, self-conscious zazen will lead to problems– self-created problems. Such problems are natural for beginners, but because they arise naturally is no reason to be acquiescent about them.
Zen practice is not training in the ordinary sense. Ordinary training is to improve ourselves; zen practice is to be ourselves. The practice of stopping our minds is not an end– an aim in itself. It is a precondition for perceiving reality. When the mind is stopped, reality is there. It is impossible, however, to completely give up yourself. Even when you consciously give up everything, something is left. What is it?
Real zazen is always with you. It is to give up the idea of attaining enlightenment. Real zazen is nothing. Correct practice is action when you give up the idea of enlightenment. Give up gaining ideas and just sit– enlightenment will come.
You are doing something impossible, like trying to become a Buddha. Buddha is Buddha and you are you. You cannot become what you are not. You can’t escape yourself. If you give up all conscious deliberations, then you are left with your true self. It can’t be otherwise since one can’t escape from himself.
Wednesday, May 31st 1968
True religion is within ourselves.
It is so that religion is a cultural and social phenomenon as well as a personal experience. But even if one is concerned with societal ills within religion or other aspects of social life, religion should be personal through and through. One should not follow the dictates of his culture like a docile sheep, but it is also unhealthy to feel disdain for one’s society and to just mouth noble platitudes while neglecting one’s own real problems. If a man acts upon his notions of the "correct society" without working to solve his own dilemmas, he adds his own and society’s problems.
True religion is within ourselves. Buddha-nature being the same in all of us, when various humans feel religion, we feel the same. If you feel in yourself the truth of Buddha’s teachings, that is live "inhaling" Buddhism. Exhaling Buddhism then becomes really possible, such as telling your friends of your feelings of the truth, of the reality and the reasonableness of Buddha’s teachings and so forth.
Nothingness is when we practice zazen in a concentrated, yet natural and easy manner. Nothing is being in perfect harmony with all of our activity. If we were walking, it would mean harmonious consciousness of the feel of the floor, the movement of limbs, breathing and so forth.
There is no inborn Buddha. There is no natural Buddha. Similarly, we humans cannot be "natural" without sincere practice. Also, you can’t have nothingness without practice. As long as we live, we cannot avoid being dualistic. So, on one side we are all fools. When we realize this, we are enlightened. When we make efforts in the face of this, we are Bodhisattvas.
Sunday, May 17th 1968
Correct zazen is your home.
"Will power is something you have always." Thinking power in zazen is not thinking anymore. It includes being in a thinking attitude, but without any object of thought. When you sit you should settle yourself as if you were never going to stand up again.
Usually our understanding of religious life is one-sided, emphasizing emotion or intellect or will– such as asceticism. This sort of understanding misses the unity of these aspects of consciousness. Dogen’s religion is called "wondrous" and develops about this unity. But Dogen’s religion did not develop apart from his historic and social circumstances. So, I believe some knowledge of his times and circumstances will be helpful to you in understanding his Zen– and Zen practice in America too.
Social circumstances account for 60 to 70 percent of religious life. For a Buddhist, it is very important to understand correctly the nature of one’s society and culture, however, it is not necessary to make a special study of one’s contemporary situation. Correct zazen will lead to discovering one’s place in society and also to a true awareness of the society’s makeup.
Even though many of you are young enough to copy with "the busy life," when you learn where you are and what you are doing, the difference will be great. Zazen can lead you to this "position"– this "home." Correct zazen is your home; it is where you came from and where you will go when you die. When you have a home and know where your home is, your problems have a place to go. And then they are not problems anymore. The only problem is when your problems have no place to go; that is why we suffer.
We come out from Buddha and we go back to Buddha nature. Your life is not so long, actually. It is very important for us to know where we are and in what direction we are exerting effort. To know our position we must be at one with the whole universe. Then, we will realize that we have no time to waste, and that what we have is our pleasure.
Some think that Dogen went to China to attain something, but actually he went there to be in harmony with his contemporary situation.
Sunday, March 26th 1968
When small mind finds itself in big mind, there is peace.
To transmit the Buddha mind is to transmit our practice. There is no small mind or small self. Our small self is included in our big self or big mind. When small mind feels it is big mind, we are troubled by its assertiveness. When the small mind finds its correct place in our big mind, then there is peace and everything is our large mind. "Transmission" of this big min occurs with no log "of even this speck of dust" by the master, and no gain "of even a thread" by the now awakened disciple. This is because everyone is already within this big self.
It is very important in our practice to find ourselves within this practice. When everyone and everything has found its right home, we call it Nirvana of the "Tathagatha’s Way. But our own practice area is as wide as the universe, and until we find out own place in the universe, we have not yet arrived.
Ideas of good and bad, or ideals of right and wrong will not help. The most important point is to find your place in the widest sense. This requires experiences other than narrow egoistic or provincial ones. Before you can be a good master, one must become a good disciple. This means more than just knowing how to correctly perform a particular ceremony. One should be able to perform the activity without any dualistic conflicts.
People who are often very good are very egoistic. The big ego is not good, hence "people who are very good, are often not so good." Eka may have been first refused by Bodhidharma because Eka was too good. If possible, we should follow our way, but this isn’t for everyone. Some people have a very difficult time with our way, while some find it easy. But we cannot say which of these circumstances is good. So, one should just try to practice as he can.
Mu: "How can you grasp Mu? There is no way. Try to just let go for awhile."
When we are always looking for something very good, our minds constantly wander. But having religion is when we are willing to accept something common or bad or very bad. Ninety nine percent of common life is bad for us. No, I would say 100% is bad– when you are looking for something unusual or wonderful.
[In Dogen’s time], kitchen monks were so busy that they had no time for study. Dogen admired them saying that only a good disciple could correctly work in the kitchen. "If a man cannot see the four seasons in a plate, he cannot cook."
True religion is revealed by those who like something bad. Once we see the truth, its hard not to be Buddha. We have to be so.
Wednesday, May 22nd
The way to study Zen is to be aware of yourself.
Suzuki read a rendition of Joshu’s Mu. He said Joshu began serious study, including travel and visits to various masters, after the age sixty. Before that he spent most of is time caring for his old Zen teacher.
"Has a dog a Buddha nature?" Everyone knows that Buddha nature is everywhere and includes everything. It is so stated in a sutra. But if we all are Buddha, and if Buddha nature is everywhere, why practice zazen?
Consider the air. It too is everywhere, but until we use a fan, we are not aware of it. Zazen can be likened to fanning. However, awareness of Buddha nature, or the solutions to Mu are not our only problems. So there is no need to be narrowly and overly concerned with what "Buddha nature" refers to. You cannot strain too hard to know what Zen is. One cannot study Zen in the usual manner. The way to study Zen is to be aware of yourself. Awareness means that when reading– including Zen materials– you mind should not get caught by any idea. It should remain open. Similarly with sights and sounds... don’t allow your mind’s self-awareness to get lost or absorbed. In other words, remain conscious of what you are doing, of what is going on.
In all our activities, we should have "inward eyes." This is especially so during physical actions, because then our minds are full of activity. When we are reading or thinking, our minds are not as full of activity. When we’re involved in physical activity, then the mind is at full operation...it is open. When we’re thus attentive and one with our activity, we can deepen our understanding. When we practice this way, everything that happens is within our mind and everything we are involved in is in the context of our practice. Here, in body-mind, there is no duality. Body-mind arises when practice is within yourself. Zen conduct is occurring when there is no duality.
Though most people desire birth and avoid death, if death is included in our non-dualistic body-mind then it cannot be an outside occurrence which we need fear. Death is not something outside of us. If we pursue such practice continuously, action and non-action are not distinct phenomena.
When our mind is river, the whole world is river. When this "non-arising" of outside phenomena is attained, inflexibility is cast off. When we feel that phenomenon is outside of us, then the mind loses its flexibility– it becomes inflexible. When mind includes all things, such as rivers and mountains, then it is big and flexible. The various things we’re aware of are temporary forms and colors of our mind.
[From Dogen] Those who study Zen can gain awakening if they reflect on themselves at the halfway mark. And we should not stop when we have gained enlightenment. "Do not stop it when you have it." This means that when the mind is constantly active in various ways, and is always open, we are enlightened. The instant we believe or say the idea that we are enlightened– at that instant our mind stops, freezes and is no longer open. So we have it– an awakened open mind– as long as we open and seeking it. Thus, when we have it we should not stop or enlightenment ends and becomes a static impurity.
Even though we shouldn’t be caught by the ideas of Buddhism, there are plenty of good reasons for studying it. The Zen way is to know ourselves through and through, each moment to moment.
Buddhist understanding of body and mind is as two sides of one reality. Buddhism is not essentially a philosophy, and hence is not primarily concerned with questions such as the origin of the world, or what the soul does after death or when the end of the earth will occur and so forth. This is to be concerned as in the parable of the man shot with the poisoned arrow.
If someone insists on a philosophical and metaphysical discussion, Buddhism does have concepts which have developed from its experiences. It can and will present such kinds of support for its views. There have been many such discussions throughout past ages. But after a certain point, Buddhists will say "we don’t know" and "your questions are beyond the limits of intellectual and verbal faculties."
In discussing truths such as life, Buddhists doe not limit themselves to so-called "objective facts," instead they always seek to include the subjective, the human– such as ourselves. This is in distinction to the general attitude of western science. However, segments of Western science are coming closer to Buddhist notions, such as paying more attention to subjective aspects of fact, of reality.
When movement stops, there is material. But, where movement exists, it cannot be really considered a thing, and hence cannot be caught. So, since we cannot catch it, we follow it."
"As long as we remain in idealism– ideas– or dualism, we cannot experience, we cannot learn."
"The truth was not created by Buddha. It existed previous to and after his life...But we usually are not aware of it, so we need the Buddha’s teaching of it. If a person puts 20 cents in a scenic-view telescope, the range of the vision remains the same. The rational mind has limits that rationality cannot override."
"When we act, we can see what we do."
"It may be that he– a law-breaker– must be kept in jail for the safety
of others in society. But since he is Buddha, he should be treated with
consideration. ‘Guilty’ is not a good word, karma is better."
Suzuki: There is no "more" or "less" enlightenment; water is the same for large or small fish. We must practice, in other words move in enlightenment before we can attain enlightenment (such as reach the end of our element– know what enlightenment "is") This means we must move in partial defilement while we start and try to practice. It is natural, though faulty, for people to try to know the limits of sky and water before moving in it."
March 12th 1967
We should sit in the middle of our problems..
The world of thinking is that of our ordinary mind. The world of consciousness is that of the Buddha-mind. Phenomenon in the world of thinking are constantly being named or labeled by our minds as we experience these phenomenon. The world of consciousness-mind does not label or name. It only reflects or perceives, hears, or feels and so forth.
The Buddhist way then of understanding phenomenon– which are also Buddha– is by accurate, unbiased observations followed by reflection of a similar nature. In the world of thinking, subject and object are two, are separate, and act thus upon one another. In the world of consciousness the subject and object are assimilated. Linguistically, the world of thinking links subject and object with a transitive verb; in the world of consciousness, the predicate is the subject, and linked to it by an intransitive verb– the predicate– object extends and clarifies the subject via a verb like "is."
Viewed from the world of consciousness, we as subjects, as Buddha-minds, include our objective world and our problems. Our problems are then no longer external, and cease to be problems in the usual sense. Now, there is no point in trying to escape them because, as a part of us, escape is not possible. Hence, the wisdom in accepting and yielding. Neither do we lose ourselves in our problems or in the world of objects because we are larger than– and include– them. We should sit in the middle of our problems and objects.
In the world of consciousness, sights and sounds are "meaningless," that is, not related to any other thing or idea. You may have already experiences such sounds while practicing zazen. Sometimes a noise occurs and we immediately think "car motor"– the world of thinking. But sometimes we are only conscious of the sound, that’s all– the world of consciousness; there is no recognition of the sound. The world of consciousness thus includes together the opposites of the world of thinking. In reflecting on our own problems, we should include ourselves together with the problems. Then we are reflecting from the perspective of the world of consciousness.
Wednesday, November 9th 1967
Wisdom is nothing but to be satisfied with what we have.
Suffering comes from desires. Zazen leads to the strength to cut off the root of suffering. When we are free from our suffering we are called Buddhas. But our "evil" desires are limitlessly deep. Hence it is impossible to totally cut off our human suffering.
For a while zazen will alleviate suffering, but zazen is not a complete remedy. (Suzuki emphasizes improving oneself little by little rather than by trying to cut off one’s suffering at a single stroke. "A little fire is still a little fire. It is not necessary to have a big fire."
In this world we live by constant effort. Even though gains are small, the act of sincerely trying to improve little by little is salvation– a way to transcend the problems of the world. If there were no troubles, for example desires, we could not have the occasion to make efforts at improvement. So even evil desires are necessary to the overall "scheme." The Buddhist way is the way of eternal effort. True eternity is not that which is contrasted with the moment. True eternity is the eternal present.
Satisfaction with our present life is the true way of emancipation. "So-called wisdom is nothing but to be satisfied with what we have. That is Buddha’s wisdom. That is Buddha’s wisdom." We shouldn’t be overly concerned with right and wrong actions and so forth.
Bad situations are not so bad, but "good" situations are dangerous. Bad situations have a bottom; bad ones that look like good ones are bottomless. "In such ‘good’ situations you are in danger of floating down the river with a smile on your face!" If you don’t lose your composure, there is no bad situation.
If someone has lost his ways– lost his self– it is very hard to truly help him. He can be aided, but the help is only temporary, for example, by a kind listener when he is distressed. "Sometimes we won’t tell him the truth so as to temporarily help him."
Perhaps this is related to the culture of Japan, but if you don’t ask for others’ help, there is the chance to be helped by others. (Suzuki emphasized the person making sincere efforts on his own behalf and not relying on others.)
Real help is more than temporarily improving the situation. A person should determine the limits of his circumstances, and himself improve them. What I am speaking about this evening, is the right attitude towards religion. True religion does not add to one’s helplessness. But you should not expect to gain from a religion, because if is not of things, or worldly. For example, Buddha’s wisdom does not produce anything. Wisdom sees the world and things as they are, but wisdom has no form or color. Hence wisdom is not something to rely on.
Our power is innate, so when we have wisdom, we have everything. Wisdom equals right seeing and with right seeing you will know what to do. Knowing what to do is your power. Using or having this power and wisdom, there are no bad situations. A bad situation is not unique to an individual. If someone else were there, he would be in a bad situation instead of you. So, a bad situation can be gotten out of.
People get married to each other. So, if my boy marries a beautiful, healthy, rich woman, then he is not a Buddhist. My boy should marry someone whom he can help– leading to a relation of mutual help. So, I told him he should marry a girl he likes, even if the villagers think she is plain or dumb and so forth. He shouldn’t consider appearances, such as this handsome priest of this handsome temple should have a handsome wife.
When we lose our way, we help those who don’t need it, and ignore those who do. Right now I have to ignore those who are mentally ill and suffering and go in the opposite direction. But someday I will have learned how to help them.
Many people are suffering and do not know it. We who know it, are happy and lucky.
Sunday, April 2nd 1967
Our pockets are full of treasure right now.
We originally were and are Buddha nature. But the instant we attach to something, we "lose" our nature. As analogy, consider the transparent nature of my eyeglasses. Attachment is like pasting images on them; in such a case they cannot function according to their true and original nature.
When we retain our transparency and do not attach to ourselves, we are Buddhas. When we attach to something– most commonly our "selves"– we are ordinary people.
When we are Buddhas, we manifest the sunshine. That is, because we are objects or obstacles to sunshine; the sunshine "is" or means something. If we did not exist, sunshine would be a meaningless concept. Still, even though it is ourselves– as objects or obstacles– which allows Buddha nature to be meaningful, we should not become attached to ourselves.
When we were little boys, we were all Buddhas; even when we were 16 or 17 years old we were still innocent and Buddha. But Zen can be dangerous to innocent minds. They easily tend to view Zen as something good or special by which they can gain. Such an attitude is misleading and can lead to trouble. We should not regard Zen so, because such a perspective is the same as attaching to Zen. If we attach to Zen, we go swiftly to hell even though we think we are good and innocent. Thus, a younger person can become careless of his Buddha nature– his original innocence and attach to his learned idea of his innocence and create more problems for himself.
We all have lost our Buddha nature because we were so careless about it. This is the human predicament existing in Buddha’s time and existing now. When we now practice, it should be with a beginner’s real innocence– devoid of ideas of good or bad or gain or loss. As long as we have a beginner’s mind, we have Buddhism. Our original nature being unchanged, we should be in our innocent mind; at the same time we should be aware of slipping into hell though attachment to this idea.
We should be very careful of half-baked enlightenment, especially of taking pride in our enlightenment. If we do make this error of pride, we lose our enlightenment and plunge straight into the bottom of hell.
Dogen: "Those who study the Way do not understand if the Way is open or closed." This means that to study the Way with the idea of gaining something we need, as if we were poor beggars, means that we don’t know if the Way is opened or closed. But the truth is that we are not beggars and the Way is wide open. To seek for something special is to ignore what we have. Zen teaches us that our pockets are full of treasure right now and that Zen will not add anything to what we already have.
To correctly study Buddhism we should: 1) Believe in Buddhism, in other words believe fundamentally that we have not lost our way, that we’re not upside-down and that we still have our treasure. We should stand on this faith and practice remaining aware of it. 2) We should beware of dualism towards our practice and ourselves– such as judgments of good or bad or right or innocent and so forth. Dogen said: "Try to cut off the function of the small mind – limited consciousness and discursive intellect. If you do this, you will surely see the Way."
Dogen is very clear here. There is no reason for us not to follow his directions. But we should not practice with the idea of gaining something good. In this world, there is nothing which is just good; when we have a "good," a "bad" is already there. We should just keep a beginner’s mind; we should avoid being greedy and feeling that what we have– including practice– is not enough.
Patience. We should practice and live with patience. In this way, we can control our lives– but "control and so forth" does not mean to gain or achieve something. It means to appreciate and constantly enjoy our life as it is.
April 26th 1967
Our human nature and that of the Buddha are the same.
(Suzuki began by reading a letter written to him by an American student. The writer mentioned that her mind was "like a babbling monkey" and asked "What should I do while sitting?")
This question cannot be answered directly. But anyway, your Buddha-nature exists whether you do zazen or not. Anything you do is an expression of your Buddha-nature, not someone else’s or a demon’s and so forth. This is so, whether you realize it or not.
However, though anything you do is of your own nature, you misunderstand this occurrence. The purpose of zazen is to correct this misunderstanding. Such misunderstanding includes judging one’s self as being angry or kind and so forth. Actually, it is not so. We practice zazen so as to learn to accept our true nature as it really is– in other words to be able to accept without putting labels– such as anger– to it.
Dogen said, in our true nature there is no reason to practice zazen. But when even a hair of delusion exists, the gap between true and misunderstanding is as between heaven and earth. Mind and body are two understandings of the same nature.
The student, whose letter I read has good practice, but her understanding of it is not correct. When your mind pervades all parts of your body, that is good practice. In such practice body and mind are one; neither "is" apart from the other. For example, in good practice, one’s mudras will not be slack nor will one’s mouth or hand open and so on.
You will have problems in your practice if you have doubts about it. Trying to "control" your mind is only a superficial effort, and the effort will be in vain and endless.
Dogen’s mother’s family lost much status during one tumultuous period in Japan. Then his mother became ill and died while Dogen was still young. These events, including his mother’s dying words, led Dogen to his Buddhist life. His study started from human calamity, not from academic interest.
Religion develops in a manner different from the way in which science progresses. In the overall relations of culture, religion is the driving force of the other aspects of the society. Religious effort is based upon our true human nature, which does not change from culture to culture or generation to generation. Our human nature and that of the Buddha are the same. However, although their true nature doesn’t change, our particular and changing circumstances lead to changes in how we variously live.
In our life, there are three elements: intellectual, emotional and will. Buddhism does not emphasize intellectual understanding. But Buddhism doesn’t ignore the intellect– and the intellect develops because of this lack of emphasis.
Zen Buddhism puts emphasis on the emotional faculties. That’s why Zen emphasizes practice. Because we are so much "made" of emotions, we need a practice to study and discipline them. Our emotions are deeply rooted to our true nature. Therefore, to correctly study our emotional problems, we need to understand our deeper selves.
Religion is supported mainly by emotional power. On the surface, emotions may seem very changeable, but that is only appearances. The depths of our emotional powers are stable. Through practice, we should understand the true nature of our emotional power. By this understanding, we . In should give up concern with our superficial emotional levels. Understanding the true nature of emotional power should lead to a transmutation of this power into will and the way-seeking mind. Thus, what was once described as anger toward others, becomes anger at one’s own stupidity and increased will-power.
Its relationship to emotional power is the most important part of our practice. Our practice should be directed towards our basic emotional problems, not towards our superficial emotional concerns and hang-ups.
In this way, religion develops within a culture, giving the culture direction and drive of a fundamental and human character. Buddhism as a religion of many sects is not characterized by conflict among these sects, this is because Buddhism has developed a balance and understanding towards the three elements of human life: intellect, emotions and will.
I’ve discussed this because Dogen’s religion is different from that of other Zen Masters. Dogen’s religion is deeply rooted in emotional problems, and his full teaching is full of true human sentiment. Dogen is different from other Japanese and from Chinese Zen Masters. Some people even say that he wasn’t really enlightened because what he says is too human! But although his teaching is very human, his life as lived was very pure.
Dogen said that it is useless to try to escape from one’s emotional problems– for instance in a remote mountain heritage In such a place, for example, such problems become worse instead of better.
There are two ways of considering the individual regarding religion. In the first, he finds his place in the big religious world or in the second he leaves the religious world and extends its truth and character into the non-religious world.
Student: "What is an example of emotion that is not superficial?"
One fundamental emotion is our desire to support our life. One should not try to create an intellectual excuse for an emotion and its problems. Most people don’t know what deep emotional powers or problems are. Most people are conscious only of superficial emotions.
Though it may seem that rationality is stable and emotion is unstable, the reverse is the truth. Deep emotion is much more stable than rationality. Although the personal is the most important element in religion, the social element is also evident and important.
In Soto Zen, even children practice Buddhism though bowing correctly to Buddha. Bowing is a very important practice for everyone. Bowing is a fundamental practice which children can do. Bowing seems simple, but involves various techniques.
To find composure is to find our selves in nothing– true nothing. This means forgetting everything including– or even especially– our ideas of Nothing. Observing rituals is observing your own position. It is knowing who you area and what you do
Student:"What about breathing?"
(Suzuki told of four ways to breathe). Two are shallow breathing; and two are deep breathing for deeper meditation. Of the two deep abdominal breathing ways, one is force strength into the abdomen in accord with its in-and-out movement. The second way is to put strength opposite to the natural in-and-out movement of the lower abdomen.
Practice first; understanding comes afterward. During zazen, one’s mind and body should be unity. This includes keeping one’s mudra in its correct shape, no letting one’s month slack open and so forth.
Wednesday, April 5th 1967
Give up all preconceived ideas and feelings .
A lecture here in the Zendo is meaningful in a way quite different from that of an ordinary public lecture. Here you are students; there you are members of an audience. The difference in attitude, and probably in attentiveness is significant. If you realize the difference between listening as a student and as an audience member, you’ll know how to study Buddhism. Mr. Watts did a good job at his lecture. In an ordinary public situation is very difficult to speak of Buddha-nature.
The correct way to listen to my lecture is to listen with just the right amount of effort. Do not listen with a dualistic frame of mind. The correct is just to listen– in an accepting attitude. This is different from listening with the intention to ask questions. Asking questions is to merely develop your preconceived ideas. You must give up all preconceived ideas and feeling of "good" or "not-good." If you listen to your teacher with the attitude of a disciple, you will learn of Buddhism in the right way. You should listen to the lecture as if you were discovering some truth within your own mind.
(From Dogen’s instructions) "There are two ways to put your body in order."
1. Practice under a teacher’s directions even if he doesn’t speak to you;
2. Practice zazen
If you want to think about this: you cannot practice zazen correctly unless you have a teacher. I do not say this to emphasize Suzuki. Dogen said you cannot proceed in your study if you omit either the teacher or zazen.
Dogen: Everyone has a body; although conduct varies from strong to weak, types of actions vary and so forth. Yet, through this body we directly enlighten the Buddha and attain enlightenment. This is called "receiving the teaching."
Suzuki: This means that if you practice under the right teacher, whatever you do is correct practice and you will attain enlightenment.
(Dogen): It is not necessary to change your present body and mind. It is only necessary to follow the enlightenment of a good Zen teacher.
Our practice is not to just follow your teacher’s way, nor just to create your own. Right practice includes both...stretching your arms and legs as far as possible under the guidance of a good teacher. Your practice should not be only one or the other. This is also how your culture should develop, neither slavishly following the old ways nor totally ignoring them. For example, a plant does not develop apart from its origin. Zen is the same in this way as the other aspects of culture.
You cannot correctly study Buddhism if you have a "gaining" idea or attitude. Trying to "gain" something is a form of attachment; and if you attach to something, you lose everything else. If you give up everything else, you gain everything. The short-cut way to correctly realize Buddhism is to physically follow our way– which is to seek for everything within yourself, within your big mind.
You should do what you should do. There is no need to worry, in its true sense. Whatever you do is enlightenment– is zazen. But if you attach to something you are doing (pride for instance) you go straight to the bottom of Hell. For example, it is awful for you to believe you understand Zen and feel proud of this understanding. That why you need a teacher– because the teacher is always watching you!
When your intellectual mind finds its place within your larger mind, it is no longer dualistic.
Student: What about getting attached to one’s teacher?
Suzuki: "You’ll never attach to your teacher because he is usually mean!"
According to Dogen, the first step toward the Way-seeking mind when you feel lost– with nothing to rely on, solely on your own. This leads to the Way-seeking mind’s becoming active– without any thoughts of gaining anything. Realizing that there is nothing in particular which you can rely on, you cannot be fooled or led by anything, however enticing. Only truths will suffice you and your Way-seeking mind.
As far as other people– for instance those close to you who are engaged in vain pursuits– sometimes it is better to withhold speaking until they have learned their bitter truth through and through.
Student: "What about pain in zazen?"
Suzuki: "Pain intensity does not remain at the same level. It may increase to a particular level, and then begins to diminish again– usually just when it seems intolerable."
Buddha spoke of both eternal and situational truths. The situational truths were those concerning living in India during this time. The eternal truths are those concerning the nature of human existence everywhere, such as consciousness.
The orientation of Buddha’s teaching is toward applying the truths of life to human affairs and human living...how we may apply universal truths toward our human mind’s development and functioning.
May 17th 1967
Zen emphasizes the simplest way of practice.
You may think that the various religions of the world will, as a natural course of events, tend to become unified, until a single religion answers to the whole world. But this is not so, because such a tendency towards unity is not the natural way a religion develops. In Buddhism for example, there are many different sects or schools. These differences in the same teachings arose because of the differences in the way of life, in other words "the national character" of those who studied the Buddha’s teaching. In this way the one religion of Buddhism of the Buddha’s time developed into the range of schools existing since then.
It is not possible for a true religion to be limited to one school; when one school develops it is at the same time the beginning of further divisions. This is not surprising since each one of us is unique, and religion strictly speaking, is for your self.
Realizing the naturalness of different schools and so forth, there is harmony among the various sects of Buddhism. My school is the Soto School. The Soto School does not depend on any particular teaching or idea. It follows Dogen’s way, which is to resume our natural relationship with out essential mind. His way is not to follow any particular teaching or practice– but still, his way itself is very formal and deliberate. In his guidance to disciples, he gives specific directives as to conduct on the toilet, for instance which hand to wipe with and so forth.
So even though Dogen’s way is not based on a particular formal Buddha authority it is still very particular. But Dogen’s "particular-ness" is not based on any abstract religious or moral principals; his detailed teachings on behavior are based on practical considerations in everyday life as learned from experience by him and various other Zen masters.
Although the Soto school developed around Dogen and his way, he himself didn’t want to be called a "Soto" priest. He wanted to be only regarded as a disciple of Buddha. Another reason he didn’t want to form another school was because he saw that, strictly speaking, each one has his own way.
The Zen sect emphasizes the simplest way of practice, and the simplest styles of life– including temples and other religious artifacts. The Shingon school is a completely Japanese school started by the great Kobo-daishi. It was a virile school which in time lost its spirit and became popular with the ruling class, gain wealth and so forth. Dogen was one of the men who arose in the face of this "fancy" Buddhism– teaching instead simplicity by example and teachings.
The Japanese Soto way is quite different from the Chinese "Soto" way. But Dogen was not the only one who taught such a way.
Student: "What about bowing?"
Suzuki: "Bowing is a very important practice." (Suzuki then demonstrated "feet of Buddha" bowing). "Bowing is a very important practice for diminishing our arrogance and egotism. It is not to demonstrate complete surrender to Buddha. This practice is to help get rid of our own selfishness." (Suzuki’s teacher bowed so often that an area on his forehead became somewhat callused. In his old age, Suzuki’s teacher said, "Before I was a lion; now I am a cat.")
(On Mudras) Soto Zen mainly uses two mudras, and considers also that the whole body is a mudra when it is in the proper sitting position. In the Shingon School, mudras are much used. Shingon also recognizes a basic scripture upon which Shingon functions. This scripture is called the Diamond Sutra, considered to be the only "perfect" sutra because it was Buddha addressing himself.
In Soto Zen, there is no particular Sutra upon which the school rests. It is felt that Buddha’s essential teaching was– and is– to see into our own true nature; and the best way to see into our own nature is to practice zazen.
If we live together there is actually not much need to speak to one another. We will understand. Enlightenment is not the same for each person– although it is similar from person to person. Ten enlightened people have ten similar, but different enlightenments.
Student: "Can enlightenment be lost?"
Suzuki: "No, an actual experience of your life cannot be lost– thus enlightenment cannot be lost. However, enlightenment is only the entrance to the way. In Soto, we do not put much emphasis on ranks within the Soto hierarchy.
The most important point is selflessness. That is the most important thing to give or to attain. If selflessness is reached, everything else will follow naturally.
"Everything will be taken care of."
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