Shunryu Suzuki Lectures
Chapter 9 - Flashing
See THE QUALITY OF BEING, p. 104 of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
See 66-01-20U in shunryusuzuki.com for Verbatim (unverifiable) talk
Beginner's Mind Chapter Index
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from the 1965-66
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The purpose of zazen is to attain the freedom of our being, physically and mentally. According to Dogen Zen-ji every being, every existence, is a flashing into the vast phenomenal world, and each activity of the being, each existence, is another understanding or expression of the quality of the being. I saw many stars when I was in the car this morning. The stars I saw were nothing but the light from the heavenly bodies which traveled many miles, but for me all the stars are not speedy beings, but calm, and steady, and peaceful beings. So we say, "In calmness there should be activity; in activity there should be calmness." Calmness and activity are not different; they are the same thing. It is just a different interpretation of one fact because in our activity there is harmony. Where there is harmony there is calmness. And this harmony makes the quality of the being; but the quality of the being is nothing but the systematic speedy activity of the being. Because there is some harmony in the speedy activity there is some quality.
When we sit we feel very calm and serene, but actually we don't know what kind of activity is going on inside our being. But because there is complete harmony in our physical systematic activity we feel calmness in it. So for us there is no need to be bothered by calmness or activity, stillness or movement. Movement is nothing but the quality of the being, and the quality of our calm, steady, serene sitting is the quality of our immense activity. When you do something you fix your mind on the activity with some confidence so the quality of your state of mind is the activity itself. So when you are concentrated on the quality of your being you are prepared for the activity.
"Everything is just a flashing into the phenomenal world," means the freedom of our activity, or our being. So if you sit in the right manner with the right understanding you attain the freedom of your being, even though your being is just a temporal existence. This temporal existence does not change, does not move, and is always independent from other existences. In each moment we may change to something else, and strictly speaking, there is no connection between I-myself yesterday and I-myself in this moment; there is no connection whatsoever. Dogen Zen-ji says "Charcoal does not become ashes. Ashes have their own past and future, and red hot charcoal has its own past and future." Charcoal and red hot fire are quite difference existences. Ashes are ashes and they are independent existences because they are a flashing into the vast phenomenal world. So charcoal is independent and red hot charcoal is also independent. Ashes are independent; firewood is also independent; everything is independent of each other. So where there is black charcoal there is no red hot charcoal.
Today I am sitting in Los Altos. Tomorrow morning I shall be in San Francisco. There is no connection between I in Los Altos and in San Francisco. I am quite different being. Here we have the freedom of existence -- absolute perfect freedom. That freedom will be acquired by the idea of Dogen's that each existence is a temporal flashing into the phenomenal world. And there is no quality in between you and me; when I say "you" there is no "I"; when I say "I" there is no "you." You are independent and I am independent too, but each exists in another quite different realm, quite different moment. But this does not mean we are quite different beings. We are the same being but we are the same and different. It is rather paradoxical but it can't be helped. It is very paradoxical but actually it is so. Because we are quite independent beings, each one of us is a flashing into the big, phenomenal world. So when I am sitting there is no other person, but this does not mean I ignore you. I am completely with every existence in the phenomenal world. So when I sit, you sit -- everything sits with me. When you sit, everything sits with you. That is our zazen. And everything is just a quality of your being. I am a part of you, I am a quality of you yourself -- your being. So in this practice we have absolute liberation from everygthing else. If you understand this secret there is no difference in Zen practice and in your everyday life. You can interpret everything as you wish.
A wonderful painting is a result of the feeling in your fingers. If you have the feeling in the brush, the feeling of the thickness, of the ink, in your brush, the painting is already there before you paint. When you dip your brush into the ink you know the result of your drawing -- or else you cannot paint. So before you do something the being is ehre, the result is there. Even though you sit -- you look as if you are sitting quietly, all the activity is included, the result of your sitting is there already. You are not resting at all. All the activity is included within you. That is your being. So all the results of your practice are included in your sitting. This is our practice, our Zazen. Dogen Zen-ji became interested in Buddhism when he saw the smoke from the incense stick and he felt the evanescence of our life. The feeling of the evanescence of life resulted in the deep philosophy and he later attained enlightenment. He said, "There is no body or no mind." When he said "no body or no mind," all his being in that moment became a flashing into the phenomenal world. He felt the evanescence of life; he felt lonely when he saw the smoke from the incense stick, but that lonely feeling became stronger and stronger, and that feeling resulted in his understanding of existence which is just a flashing into the phenomenal world and which includes everything, which covers everything, which has immense quality in it. Even though it is just a flashing into the phenomenal world it includes all the phenomenal world, and it is an absolute independent existence. That was his enlightenment. So, starting from the lonely feeling of the evanescence of life he attained the most powerful experience of enlightenment. He said, "I have dropped off my mind and body." Because you think we have body or mind, we have lonely feelings, but when you realize that everything is just a flashing into the vast universe you become very strong, and your existence becomes very meaningful. This was his enlightenment and this is our practice.- Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
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