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Beginner's Mind

Chapter 2 - The Joy of Giving

 See GOD GIVING, p. 65 of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
See 66-03-03 in for Verbatim (unverifiable)

Beginner's Mind Chapter Index

Marian Derby's original manuscript that led to Zen Mind,
Beginner's Mind

from the 1965-66
Shunryu Suzuki talks
at the Los Altos, California, Haiku Zendo

Shunryu Suzuki Lectures

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The Joy of Giving

The precept today is giving . . . the joy of giving. Everything is something which was given; every existence in nature, every existence in the human world, every cultural work we create is something which was given to us, or which is being given to us, relatively speaking. But actually everything is originally one. So it may be better to say we are giving out everything. It is the same thing. Relatively speaking everything is something given to us, but actually we are giving everything . . . giving out . . . or expressing out. Moment after moment we are creating something . . . moment after moment. This is the joy of our life. But this "I" which is always giving out something is not "small i." It is "Big I." Big I or Big Self is giving out various things. This is actually our joy, when we become one with the Big Mind. Even though you do not realize the oneness of the Big Mind, when you give something you feel good because, first of all, at that time, you are one with it . . . (that may be; we don't know). Anyway, when we give something we feel very good; better than when we take something. So giving and taking are not different. Relatively speaking you take something, but originally it is the act of giving.

We say, "Dana Prajna Paramita." This is to give. To give is one of the six ways of living . . . Dana Prajna Paramita. Then there is Sila Prajna Paramita, or precepts; Kshanti Prajna Paramita, or endurance; Virya Prajna Paramita, zeal or constant effort; Dhyana Prajna Paramita, or Zen; and Prajna Paramita, or Wisdom. Those are the six ways of living. But actually the six Prajna Paramitas are one, but we observe the one from various sides, so we count six Prajna Paramitas. Dogen-zenji says, "To give is non-attachment." Not to attach to anything is to give. Although the things we have are originally ours there is the truth "to give." To give the treasure of a penny or a piece of leaf is Dana Prajna Paramita. To give out the teaching . . . one line of teaching, or one word of teaching, is Dana Prajna Paramita. The material offering and the teaching Dana offering are not different. And Dogen-zenji says, "To produce something and to participate in human activity is also Prajna Paramita. To provide a ferry boat for people or to make a bridge for people is Dana Prajna Paramita."

Of course every existence in nature is something which was created or given to us, according to Christianity. That is perfect giving. But, according to Christianity, we are also created by God, and so the created thing has some ability to create something which was not given. For instance, we create airplanes and freeways. We create many things, but when we repeat, "I create, I create, I create," soon we will forget who is the "I" which creates the various things. We will soon forget about our God. This is the danger of our human culture. So, to create is actually to give. It is not to create and own something; it is actually to provide something for people, to create something for people as everything was created by God. This point should not be forgotten. But because we forget all about who is creating and what for, we become attached to the material value, or the exchange value; but this kind of material value is of no value . . . absolutely no value in comparison to the absolute value which was created by God . . . no value at all. But even though it has no value to each one of the small individuals, it has absolute value in itself. So we say, "non-attachment to material value." But in order to be aware of absolute value, everything we do should be based on the awareness of absolute value, not on material or selfish, self-centered idea of value. This is Dana Prajna Paramita, to give.

When we sit in the cross-legged posture we resume our fundamental activity of creation. There are, perhaps, three steps in creation. The first step is to be aware of ourselves after we finish zazen. When we sit we are nothing; we are just sitting. We do not even realize what we are; we just sit. But when we stand up we are there! That is the first step in creation . . . you are there! When we are there everything is there; everything is created all at once. When you act you give. When you create something -- food, or tea, or coffee (which we will have soon) this is the second kind of creativity. The third kind is to create something within ourselves, such as education, or culture, or artistic creativity, or to provide some system for our society. These are cultural creations. So there are three steps. But if you forget the most important one [he holds up three fingers and then hides one] these [the two remaining fingers] are children who lost their parents. Your creation means nothing. Usually everyone forgets zazen. They don't practice zazen. They forget all about what is God. The God is someone who helps these two children. Yes, they are creating, but the God does not help the activity. How is it possible for Him to help when He does not realize who He is? That is the problem. That is why we have so many problems in this world. It is exactly like children who do not know what to do when they lose their parents. So these three steps are said to be done by Dana Prajna Paramita . . . to give, or to create . . . perfect creation.

So if you understand Dana Prajna Paramita you will understand how we should live in this world, and how we create many problems for ourselves. Of course, to live is to create some problems. That we are born into this world is the first step of creation. If you do not appear in this world your parents have no difficulty. Because you appear in this world you create some problems for your parents. But that is all right. That is all right. Everyone is creating some problems. That is quite all right. But those problems should be solved, or dissolved.

When we die everything is over. Even though we do not die, day by day we should forget what we did. This is non-attachment. And we we should do something new. To do something new we should know our past and future. This is all right, but we should not keep anything which we did. We should only reflect on what we did. That's all. And we must have some idea of what we should do in the future, but the future is the future; the past is the past; now we should work on something new. This is our attitude; and this is how we should live in the world. This is Dana Prajna Paramita, to give something, or to create something for ourselves. So to do something through and through is to resume our true activity of creation. This is why we sit. If we do not forget this point everything will be carried on beautifully. But once we forget this point the world will be filled with confusion.- Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

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