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Shunryu Suzuki Lectures

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Beginner's Mind

Chapter 13 - Nothing Special

 See NOTHING SPECIAL, p. 46 of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
See 65-10-14U in for Verbatim (unverifiable) talk

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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read the story of the creation of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

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Nothing Special

I don't feel to speak after zazen. I feel the practice of zazen is enough, but if I should say something, I think what I shall talk will be how wonderful it is to practice zazen in this way. Our purpose is just to keep this practice forever. This practice is started from beginningless time, and it will continue for endless future. Strictly speaking, for human being there is no other practice than this practice. There is no other way of life than this way of life, because Zen practice is direct expression of our true nature. Of course, whatever you do, it is the expression of our true nature, but without this practice it is difficult to realize what is our life. As long as you think, "I am doing this, I have to do this, or I must attain something special," actually you are not doing anything. When you give up, or when you do not want to, when you do not do anything, you do something. Actually what you are doing is not for sake of something. You feel as if you are doing something special, but actually it is the expression of true nature, or that is the activity to appease your inmost desire. It is our human nature to be active always. To do something is our human nature, and it is universal nature for everyone -- every existence. So, in this way, just to practice zazen is enough. But so long as you think you are practicing zazen for sake of something, that is not true practice.

If you continue this simple practice every day you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is some wonderful power, but after you attain it, it is just power; it is not something special. It is just you yourself, nothing special. As Chinese poem says, "There is nothing special. If you visit there, there is nothing special. However Rosan is famous for its misty mountains, and Sekko is famous for its water." This is Zen. There is nothing special. If you go there, there is nothing special. But people think Rosan is wonderful. It is wonderful to see the range of mountains covered by mist; to see the misty mountains in Rosan is wonderful. And people say it is wonderful to see the water covers all the earth. It is wonderful, they may say, but if you go there, you see just water, and you see just mountain. There is nothing special. But it is a kind of mystery that for the people who have no experience of enlightenment, enlightenment is something wonderful; but if they attain it, that is nothing. Although it is nothing, it is not nothing. Do you understand? For some person -- for the mother who has children, to have children is nothing -- nothing special. But if she lose her children, what will she feel? That is zazen. So, if you continue this practice we don't know when you will acquire the power, but more and more you will acquire something. Not special, but something. You may say, universal nature, or Buddha nature, or enlightenment; you may call it by many names, but for the person who owns it, it is nothing; and it is something.

So I cannot express my joy to practice zazen with you here, once a week. And while you are continuing this practice, week after week, year after year, your experience becomes more and more deeper, and the experience you obtain will cover everything you do in your everyday life. The most important thing is when you practice zazen, it is necessary to forget all gaining idea, all dualistic idea. In other words, just practice zazen in certain posture. This is a very good point. Don't think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without thinking, without expecting anything. Then you or true nature will resume to its own nature, and eventually you will resume to your own nature. You resume to your true nature when the true nature resumes to its own nature. The monk, the disciple of the Sixth Patriarch, told Basso, "When a vehicle or cart does not go, which do you hit, the horse or the cart?" Which do you hit? He couldn't answer, and Nan-Gaku said, "If you try to hit your cart, your cart will not go. If you hit the horse, the horse will be angry. What will you do?" he asked. When you resume to your true nature -- when your true nature resumes to its true nature, you resume to your true nature. Do you understand? When horse become horse, cart will go. When cart become cart, horse will go. The horse and cart is not two. Horse and cart is one. So when horse start to pull the cart, the cart will go. Usually -- but usually we think our true nature and you yourself are something different, so there is problem always, but actually you are the cart itself. Horse is cart and cart is horse. Without horse there is no cart. Without cart there is no horse. Horse is something to pull cart. If there is no cart, horse may be a wild beast. He is not a horse. Because he pulls the cart, horse is horse.

When we express our true nature, we are human being. When we don't, we don't know what we are. We are not animal, because we walk by two legs. We are something different from animal. But if we are not human being, what are we? We may be ghost, or we don't know what to say. There is no such thing exists. That is delusion. We are not any more human being. We exist. When Zen is not Zen, nothing exists. What I am talking about is not intellectual understanding. Intellectually my talk makes no sense, but you will understand what I mean. So in Pari-Nirvana Sutra Buddha says, "Everything has Buddha nature." But Dogen reads this way, "Everything IS Buddha nature." There is difference. "Everything has Buddha nature." If you say, "Everything has Buddha nature," in everything is Buddha nature. So Buddha nature and everything is different. But "Everything IS Buddha nature," is everything is Buddha nature itself. When there is no Buddha nature, everything is not everything. It is just delusion, which do not exist. It may exist in your mind, but actually such thing does not exist.

So even though you do not do anything, you are actually doing something. You are expressing yourself. You are expressing your true nature. Your eyes will express; your voice will express; your demeanor will express. So the most important thing is to express our true nature in the most simple way, in the most adequate way, and to appreciate the true nature in smallest existence. This is the most important thing. -Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

The End

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