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Shunryu Suzuki Lectures on cuke     Shunryu Suzuki quotes and excerpts

The word Precept
as found in Shunryu Suzuki Lectures
Part I --- 63-01-00 - 69-10-20
go to Part II from

To read the lecture or greater context of these excerpts, go to links below entries to
Suzuki lectures blog on SFZC site or Shunryu Suzuki dot com-the whole archive
 Thanks Jenny Wunderly for preparing this series.

Comments by Jenny Wunderly   ---   Jenny Wunderly cuke page


San Francisco


During Ummon's time, so-called Daruma Zen (Bodhidharma's Zen) was becoming known as Soshi Zen (Patriarchal Zen): an esoteric school claiming special transmission outside the scriptures from Buddha to Mahakasyapa to Bodhidharma and the Zen Patriarchs. The school was popular in South China because of these claims of special transmission and because of the rough and whimsical methods of instruction used by the Zen masters of the period. Eventually this school slighted scriptures and ignored precepts on the ground of Buddha's reported statement that "words are not the first principle."


SFZC Shunryu Suzuki lecture blog link for this lecture



Lost Altos

We are studying now the sutra of the sixth patriarch, in the evening lecture, and PRAJNA (this is of course Sanskrit word) we mean, wisdom, but this wisdom is not intellect, or knowledge. This wisdom is so-called our inmost nature, which is always in incessant activity. Zazen practice is to….wisdom seeking for wisdom is zazen practice, if I use technical term. Wisdom seeks wisdom is zazen practice, and our everyday life is wisdom. Realization of our precepts is our everyday life. When wisdom…When our everyday life is based on wisdom we call it precepts. When we sit, we do not do anything; we just sit. There’s no activity of our mind. We just sit and all what we do is taking inhaling and exhaling. Sometimes you will hear some birds singing, but that is not actually….you are not hearing. Your ears will hear it. You are not hearing it. Just, you know, sound come, and you will make some response to it, that is all. This kind of practice is called “wisdom seeks for wisdom”.


When we sit we call it inmost….let inmost nature in it’s self, or activity…This is…we call self-use of inmost nature…Let it work. You don’t do anything, but let our true nature work by itself. This is Zen practice. Of course, even though you do not do anything, you have pain on your legs, or some difficulty to keep your mind calm. And sometimes you may think.. “Oh, my zazen practice is not so good.” What are you thinking for? Stop thinking. O.K. This is Zen, you know. When you do something, you know, it is a kind of morality is in it because you do something by your choice. But when you make decision to do something, your inmost nature will tell you, “That will not be so good. Why don’t you do it this way.” That is precepts.

When we have some choice in our activity… In zazen we have no choice. We just sit, and whatever inmost nature say, let it do it. I don’t mind. This is zazen. But when you have some….When you make some plan you are responsible for it too. And at that time you would listen to what your inmost nature will say. That is morality or precepts. Our inmost nature will tell you what to do. So if you understand this way, this is morality, or this is precepts. So the precepts actually is not only two or two hundred or five hundred. For female we have five hundred precepts. For males, two hundred. [He must have been a funny man.--JW] That is not so fair, but anyway, five hundred, or three hundred…it doesn’t matter. Whatever we do is precepts, because we have some choice. We have to make some decision.

I am responsible for what I should do, and when we make some decision we listen to the Buddha Nature….”Should I do that?” Here you have, in your everyday life, precepts, and you have freedom too. Whatever you do that is up to you. As long as you have freedom you will make some decision, so you should be responsible for that. You should not say that is….Buddha should be responsible for it. I don’t mind. I am not responsible for it. You cannot say that in your everyday life. So, in our everyday life, we should have precepts, we should observe the precepts, instead of leaving responsibility for Buddha. We should be responsible for that, but at the same time you have freedom. There is no need for you to be bound by precepts. Precepts is formulated by you own choice. As long as you take conscious activity, there is freedom, and at the same time, you should be responsible for that. This is freedom ….true freedom to leave all the responsibility to Buddha is not freedom. I don’t mind.

Someone may say whatever you do that is Buddha Nature. It doesn’t matter whatever you do. This is misunderstanding. But the morality without Buddha Nature is just moral code and you will be enslaved by moral code. That is rigid moral code in which you be enslaved, by which you will be enslaved. But if you become aware of Buddha Nature (innate nature) that is freedom, that is not rigid precepts. You will do it by your own choice, and you will do it by your true nature, according to your true nature. So, that is complete freedom. And that is also morality. So in this sense you have freedom. You are not enslaved by Buddha Nature, by moral code. And moral code is not always the same. It is not permanent. Strictly speaking, whatever….there is moral code whatever you do.

So we say, Zen and precepts is one. In everyday life we call it precepts, and in practice of zazen we call it Zen. So Zen and everyday life should be based on……should be the self use of our true nature. So in this sense, precepts and Zen is not different…is one. This is very important point. And we bow this morning nine times. Why we bow to Buddha is…it is…it is actually a kind of practice to get rid of our self-centered idea….to give ourselves completely to Buddha. Here I mean to give myself, or ourselves, means our physical functions and our intellectual functions, or life….physical and intellectual life to Buddha because it is based on Buddha Nature. So even though we forget all about it…still we have Buddha Nature here, so Buddha bows to Buddha. That is bow. This is one meaning.


Didn't find this lecture on the SFZC site. Here's the PDF from Shunryu Suzuki dot com.




San Francisco


Student I:  In the—in the manual for meditation that you in the hall, it says "Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth."

Suzuki Roshi:  Mm-hmm.

Student I:  Why is that?

Suzuki Roshi:  Usually you are doing like that, but, you know, beginner will wonder what should we do—should he do with their tongue, you know.  When you sit, you know, for the first time, your mouth will be full of water [laughs, laughter].  When your tongue is like this, your, you know, mouth will be filled with water.  But if—when your tongue is like this, it's all right.  If you do like this, try—what will happen to your mouth [laughs, laughter].  That is our pre- [partial word]—those are the idea of precepts.  If we say "250 precepts," or "500 precepts," you will say, "Oh, my!"  [Laughs, laughter.]  "What a rigid religion Buddhism is!"  But our precepts is something like that.  What you are do—we, you know, make it sure—assure the—our conduct by study, you know.  Actually, what you are doing is—what you are intuitively doing is our precepts.  We do not force anything to you. 





San Francisco


Purpose of practice is to have direct experience of buddha-nature.  That is purpose of our practice.  So whatever you do, it is—it should be the direct experience of buddha-nature. 

We say—in fifth precept we say, "Don't—don't—don't be attached"—not "attached," but—"don't be—don't violate even the precepts which is not here."  [Laughs.]  It is rather difficult to understand.  In—in Japanese it is not so difficult, but in English it is rather difficult to understand.  It means, anyway—we say when you sit, you say I have something—something occurred in your mind which is not so good.  Some image come.  Something covered your wisdom or buddha-nature.  When you say so, you have the idea of clearness, you know, because you have—you think you have to clear up your mind from all images; you have to keep your mind clear from various images which will come to you, or which you have already—you have—which you have already should be cleared up.  This—so far you understand it, but Dogen Zenji says:

Don't—don't even try to clear up your mind, even though you have something here.  Don't want to be pure.  If you want to be pure, it means you have attached in—to pureness—purity.  That is also not so good.  Don't attach to purity or impurity.

Do you understand?  So when you [are] bothered by what you have done, it means you—you are attached to purity.  This is not good. 

Our buddha-nature should be beyond pure or impure.  It means just to be aware—just to be aware of your true nature which is beyond pure or impure.  Do you understand?  Purity is not—to attach to purity is good, but buddha-nature is not pure or impure.  Do you understand this point?  If you understand this point, just to sit without thinking—without [being] bothered by something which will come, or even though you have something in your image, don't try to escape from it.  Just sit.  It will go.  And you are beyond it.  Those come and—come in and come out of the images.  This is so-called-it—you have—you are beyond intoxicating liquor. 

This is fifth precept. And interpretation to the fifth precept.  In fifth precept we say, "Don't take, don't sell, or don't buy intoxicating liquor."  Don't buy [laughs]—don't buy some images, or don't sell some images, some intoxicating liquor, some attachment.  Don't sell any attachment to anyone.  Or don't buy [laughs] any attachment from outside. 

And to this precept he said, "Don't be attached even to the purity, even to the evil which—which is not here.  To attach to the evil which is not here means purity."  You know, if there is no evil here, you are pure.  But don't be attached to even the state of mind you—you have in purity.  And even though you are not pure, don't try to be—escape from it.  If you try to escape from it, it means you are attached to the purity.  A small ego is working [laughs] still.  Your small ego is trying to push out the evil thought.  So still you are occupied by small ego as long as you are trying to get out of it. 

So the most important point is to acknowledge exactly what is buddha-nature.  The buddha-nature is not small ego; it is big ego which is observing what you do and accepting what you do always.  Whatever you do, he will say, "Ah, that's good."  [Laughing.]  "Nothing wrong with it," he—he may say.

So if you have—if you are always aware of the true nature, that is enlightenment.




San Francisco

Part 1:


Suzuki Roshi:  Do you have some question—some more question?

Student A:  Reverend Suzuki, would you please talk about what the Buddhists think about killing or about—maybe there's a precept or a doctrine—

Suzuki Roshi:  About killing?

Student A:  About killing. 

Suzuki Roshi:  Uh-huh.

Student A:  Because it's hard to understand, with all the killing that is happening in the world, why [2-3 words] stop.

Suzuki Roshi:  About killing.  What do you think it is "not to kill"?

Student A:  It's not to kill.

Suzuki Roshi:  Mm-hmm.  Not to kill.  What do—do we mean, you think?

Student A:  What—what do you mean? 

Suzuki Roshi:  Mm-hmm.

Student A:  Well, I've always thought that's just what it meant, not to kill, not to—trampling [?] down on, or maybe not even to think about it.  I don't know.

Suzuki Roshi:  This is very—maybe pretty difficult question to answer, not to kill.  The—"not to kill" means fundamentally it means not to be dualistic [laughs].  If I say so it's—it may not be the right answer to your question.  When we become dualistic, you know, we—we have precepts, you know, not to kill.  Not to kill means don't kill.  But actually there is nothing to kill [laughs], actually.  If everyone has Buddha-nature, you know, that Buddha-nature is something like what I talked about this time.  It is impossible to kill.  You can kill someone's body, but its true nature cannot be killed.  So not to kill means it is not matter of kill or not to kill.  Even though you try to kill someone, it is impossible.  If you know that it is impossible, no one will try to kill some—some other person.  Because you think it is possible, you kill someone.

Student B:  Reverend Suzuki, even though—even if we—even if to kill somebody else's body, does—don't they have to lend themselves to the act?  I mean, act- [partial word]—don't we actually assist them in their own desire for death, rather than taking out of our world someone [?] out of theirs?

Suzuki Roshi:  I couldn't follow you.  Excuse me.  Will you say it again?

Student B:  Well, the—the person that is killed, the one who decides, who has it in to kill [?]—the killer just lends himself to the mistake.

Suzuki Roshi:  To—to?

Student B:  Yeah, the killer just lends himself—

Suzuki Roshi:  Mm-hmm.

Student B:  —to the mistake. 

Suzuki Roshi:  Uh-huh.

Student B:  The person who is killed—

Suzuki Roshi:  Uh-huh.

Student B:  —is the one who decides to die. 

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah.

Student B:  He is the one who makes the mistake.

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah, who—the one who wanted to kill.

Student B:  How could he want [?] who is killed, also?

Suzuki Roshi:  Who is killed?

Student B:  Yes.  He chooses, you know, like the man who throws himself on the sword.  I mean, you know, he gives himself to the sword. 

Suzuki Roshi:  Uh-huh.

Student C:  Yeah, we give ourselves to the atomic bomb.

Student B:  Yeah.

Student C:  —when it's dropped wherever.

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah, that is a kind of suicide. 

Student B:  Yeah, yeah it is.  I think every person that dies commits a kind of suicide.  Otherwise it's performance. 

Suzuki Roshi:  When we kill—try to kill, there is mistake, you know, in understanding of our life.  Because we do not know it is impossible to kill, so we try to kill.  And—but your question or answer, I don't know what—

Student B:  When we die, there is the same mistake because we do not know it's impossible to die.

Suzuki Roshi:  Mm-hmm.  When you think you are dying, that is the same mistake.

Student B:  Same mistake.

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah.  It is impossible for us to die.  We do not die actually. 

Student B:  Right.  Right.  Right. 

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah, that is just maybe the same mistake.  So if everyone understand this point, no one will kill—try to kill anybody.  So not to kill is to realize our true nature.  That is the interpretation of the precepts not to kill.

Student D:  We should [1-2 words] violent acts to those too [or two].

Suzuki Roshi:  Increase?  Include?

Student D:  Include violence.

Suzuki Roshi:  Violence?

Student D:  Violence.

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah, violence, yes.  All the precepts—it include this idea of our true nature.  To realize our true nature includes all the precepts, not only not to kill or not to steal.  Not to steal is—there is nothing to steal [laughs], because you have it.  Don't tell a lie.  We cannot tell any lie [laughs].  Because you think it is possible you try to tell a lie, but it is impossible.  Even though you try to tell a lie—you know you are telling lie, and if you know that, everyone will know it.  So it is impossible.

Student E:  How can we avoid being angry—

Suzuki Roshi:  Angry?

Student E:  —or resentful or jealous or suspicious of other people?

Suzuki Roshi:  Uh-huh.

Student E:  How can we guard ourselves from dipping [?] into that kind of precept

Suzuki Roshi:  Anger is one of the most—one of the strongest, you now, evil desires:  greedy—greediness and anger and ignorance.  But all those things comes from ignorance.  When we [are] ignorant of our true nature, we become angry.  It is want of—it is want of subtle understanding.  That is anger.

Student E:  What I meant was how can we avoid when it's—when we can—when we know it's [1 word], when it starts to come up, or when—sometimes I feel angry toward a person, but I hold it back and just—

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah.

Student E:  —I know there's anger going on, but that—but it stills come back.  And I don't know—or sometimes I feel that I—I feel like criticizing someone else, and then I shut up.  But I still feel the—

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah, yeah.  Yeah, that's too late, you know [laughs, laughter].  So you must be angry.  That's all what you should do [laughs].  When you become angry, you—you should be angry.  That's all [laughs, laughter].  Don't criticize yourself, and just—you cannot be always angry, you know.  Anger just one or [2-3 words].  So that's all.  That's—when you notice it, that's too late.  So it may be better to be angry.  And after you realize that that was mistake [laughs], you have to try not to be angry again.  If you—this is the point.  If you think you should not be angry, you know—this is—it means you are caught by precepts.  "You should not be angry," that is not precept, actually.  When you keep it, that is precepts, but when you violate it that is not precepts anymore.  That is just mistake.  So we do not talk about anger which you—which came up already.  That anger is the anger—psychological anger, not religious anger.  Religious anger is our—before we become angry, that is religious anger.  So if you are really religious, you have no anger and you keep precepts.


65-07-29CV-part 2

Student F:  [4-6 words] this topic.  The only question maybe would be [4-6 words].

Suzuki Roshi:  [Aside.]  Would you shut the door?

Student F:  I was wondering about the killing of animals—the technical or superficial [1-2 words].   According to what little I know about monasteries, vegetarianism isn't opposed if you're on a diet because of the elimination of the killing of animals.  And I thought—I imagined if there weren't any killing of animals, it would be a [1-2 words] of animals living it up [laughs, laughter].

Suzuki Roshi:  Animals, you know—not only animals, but [laughter], you know, vegetable you eat is also living being, you know.  But if we talk about—this kind of discussion is, you know, not purely religious discussion.  But it is religious because if we do something, you know, wrong, that—it—that action create—will create another bad action or habit.  This is very important point.  If you do something wrong, that experience will create some other bad conduct.  That is why some people emphasize the experience is the origin of the conscience.

Student F:  In other words, this concept of "sinner" would be—sin?— would be any activity that causes one to fall short of enlightenment?

Suzuki Roshi:  Sin.  Sin and enlightenment is the two sides of the one coin.  Sin—when you said you are sinful, you have enlightenment.  Enlightened mind says you are sinful.

Student F:  Not "civil."

Suzuki Roshi:  Huh?  Sinful.

Student F:  Sinful.  Oh, sinful.

Suzuki Roshi:  Your mind—enlightened mind says you are sinful.  This is two side of the one coin.  Pure Land sect emphasize this side.  And they try to, you know, they try to—this side into—turn this side into the other side.  That is possible because it is two side of the one coin.  It—it is—it is the same thing, you know, actually the same thing.  Don't you think so?  Quite different thing?

Student F:  But in [a] sinner, one generally isn't willing to admit that he is [a] sinner.

Suzuki Roshi:  Yeah.  Is sinner.  When you think he is sinner, he is enlightened in another word.  The same thing.  He is [1 word] he is enlightened—he is enlightened his true nature.  He cannot be just, you know, enlightened.  If both sides is enlightened [laughs], he is not—not—he—it doesn't mean anything.  He even exist—does not exist.  There is no such a thing, no such a person.  Someone may say, "I am enlightened.  I don’t mind whatever I do."  That is [laughs] crazy.  He is crazy.  He lost his personality.  Don't you think so?  If he admits himself just sinful, and no hope to be enlightened, or no hope to be saved by Buddha or Christ, he is, you know, crazy too.  For a man it—it is impossible to think that way.  There must be some hope to live, some hope to be saved.  Even though he admits himself to be sinful, he has still hope to be saved or else he cannot exist.  At the same time, if he say, "For me, there is no sinful life.  I am quite safe.  Whatever I do, it's all right."  He is also crazy.  If you think if you are enlightened, after you're enlightened you can do whatever you like, that is big mistake [laughs, laughter]. 



Los Altos


As you know, in Buddhism there are many schools.  But you can classify Buddhism into Mahayana and Hinayana schools.  Almost all schools in Japan belong to Mahayana school.  Mahayana people called original Buddhists, old Buddhists or direct disciples of Buddha, called Hinayana Buddhists.  It means small vehicle while Mahayana is big or large vehicle.  But Mahayana school originated from Hinayana school.  Development of Buddhism take place and Mahayana school is supposed to be more advanced school.  But it is not exactly so.  Even in the time of Buddha there were many Mahayanistic disciples.  And it is pretty difficult to say which is better, Mahayana or Hinayana.  So in Soto school we do not say Mahayana is good or Hinayana is good.  Just the same, and from standpoint of Zen Buddha practiced Zen, and Hiragana Buddhists and Mahayana Buddhists have been practicing zazen.  So, if we become…if we discriminate the teaching which was told by him, or forms which he set up at the time of Buddha, or the rules which were set by some other disciples is based on his character, and his character is based on his practice.  And so, from this standpoint, for Zen Buddhists, there is no need to say Mahayana Buddhism or Hinayana Buddhism.

But original, direct disciples of Buddha were too much attached to the form and teaching which was set up by Buddha.  But Mahayana Buddhists emphasized his speech rather than teaching or precepts (observing precepts) or form of rituals.  And Hinayana Buddhists emphasized to save themselves, but Mahayana emphasized to save others as well as to save themselves.  To save themselves and to save others is principle of

Mahayana Buddhists.  For Hinayana Buddhists Zen practice is to save themselves, but Mahayana Buddhists practice is to save others.  In this practice we are supposed to save ourselves and others.  This practice is not just for ourselves.  It is actually to save others.  When we practice zazen, when we become one with others, there we have enlightenment.  When we have this enlightenment, this practice is for others too.




Los Altos

In beginner’s mind we have many possibilities, but in expert mind there is not much possibility.  So in our practice it is important to resume to our original mind or inmost mind which we, ourselves, even we ourselves do not know what it is.  This is the most important thing for us.  The founder of our school emphasized this point.  We have to remain always beginners mind.  This is the secret of Zen and secret of various practices….practice of flower arrangement, practice of Japanese singing and various art.  If we keep our beginner’s mind, we keep our precepts.  When we lose our beginner’s mind we will lose all the precepts and for Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic or not…we should not lose our self-satisfied state of mind.  We should not be too demanding, or we should not be too greedy.  Our mind should always be rich and self-satisfied.  When our mind become demanding….when we become longing for something, we will violate our precepts not to kill, not to be immoral, not to steal, or not to tell lie and so on.  Those are based on our greedy mind.  When our mind is self-satisfied we keep our precepts.  When we ourselves is always self-satisfied, we have our original mind and we can practice good and we are always true to ourselves.  So the most difficult thing is to keep our beginner’s mind in our practice.  So if you can keep your beginner’s mind forever, you are Buddha.  In this point, our practice should be constant.  We should practice our way with beginner’s mind always.  There is no need to have deep understanding about Zen.  Even though you read Zen literature you have to keep this beginner’s mind.  You have to read it with fresh mind.  We shouldn’t say, “I know what is Zen” or “I have attained enlightenment.”.  We should be always big enough.  This is very important.  And we should be very careful about this point.




San Francisco


The secret of practice is also true in observation of Buddhist precepts.  The dualistic idea of whether to observe or not observe the precepts takes place within your mind when you practice Zen.  There are no precepts to break and there is no one who is violating the precepts.  To make up your mind to make the very best effort to observe the precepts constantly, forever, whether your effort is complete or not, is Buddha's—Buddha-Mind's effort.  But if you put yourself outside the precepts or Buddha-Mind then there is no time to observe them completely.  If your activity is involved in Buddha's activity, whatever you do is Buddha's effort.  The even if it is not perfect, you are manifesting Buddha's mercy and activity.

Dogen Zenji was enlightened when he heard his master strike and say to the disciple sitting next to Dogen, "What are you doing?  You have to make a hard effort.  What are you doing?"  That effort is Zen.

That effort is to observe the precepts.  If we make our best effort on each moment with confidence, that is enlightenment.  When you ask whether your way is perfect or not, there is an insidious idea of self.  When you do your best to observe the precepts, to practice Zen, within the Big Mind then there is enlightenment.  There is no special way to attain enlightenment.  Enlightenment is not some certain stage.  Enlightenment is everywhere.  Wherever you are, enlightenment is there.  Whenever you do with best effort enlightenment follows.  This is very important for our Zen practice and our everyday life.  We should make our effort in our everyday as well as in practice of Zen.

In order to have this kind of practice in everyday life, you want your friend, you want your master, you want the precepts we have.  Some form is necessary because it is not possible to be concentrated on an uncertain way.  There must be strict rules to observe.  Because of the rules, of the way of sitting, of the way of practice, it is possible to be concentrated.  It is the same thing in your everyday life.  Without purpose or aim you cannot organize your life.

My master Kishizawa Roshi used to say that we had to have a vow or aim to accomplish.  The aim we have may not be prefect in its strict sense, but even so it is necessary for us to have it.  It is like the precepts.  Even though it is almost impossible to observe them, we must have them.  Without an aim in our life and the precepts we cannot be a good Buddhist, we cannot actualize our way.

We should be very grateful to the rigid formal way of practicing Zen and Zen precepts.  You may think these precepts are useless if we cannot observe them perfectly.  But they are the traces of human efforts based on the great mercy of Buddha.  The life we have now is the result of such useless effort.  From one-celled animals to monkeys.  I do not know how long, but we wasted much time, many efforts until we came to this human life.  The giant redwood trees of Muir Woods have annual rings or layers and we have these annual layers in our human life too, I think.  That is precepts in its wide sense.  You say we don't want them, but you have them.  As long as you do, you should sit, and thus you have to know how to continue your effort to have another annual ring.  In this way we will develop Buddhism more and more forever.

Strictly speaking we must have more precepts in America.  You think 250 precepts for men and 500 for women is awful and that it should be made simpler.  But I think you have to add some more to the precepts we have in Japan.  Actually, I think you will have more difficulty in practicing zazen in America than we do in Japan.  This kind of difficulty should be continued forever or we will not have peace in our world.  Without the precepts there can be no congenial life for human beings.  By reflecting on our human life and by respecting the precepts and rules of humanity, we will know the direction in which to make an effort and we will have the right orientation in our life.  This is how we practice Zen and how Buddhism has been developed.

Do you have any questions?

Student A:  You think we may need more precepts in the United States.  Can you suggest some?

Suzuki Roshi:  No, not now.  I do not want to disturb your practice.

Student B:  What is the basic difference between Rinzai and Soto Zen?

Suzuki Roshi:  Each has some characteristic differences.  We are concentrated on a fundamental way or traditional way originating with Buddha.  Rinzai emphasizes more its own characteristic way or "family" way.  Soto does not emphasize our family way so much.  We treat Zen as Buddhism itself—Zen and Buddhism are the same.

Student C:  What does it say over the door at the zendo?

Suzuki Roshi:  That was written by Takashina Zenji, the present Archbishop of Soto Zen.  It says, "To take refuge in the Buddha."  

Note: Takashina Rosen (1875–1968), 71st abbot of Eiheiji.




San Francisco


The artistic expression of Buddhism is also not perfect.  But that which is painted may be more real to us.  It is the same with our teaching, which is more human than actual human nature.  The precepts, which are most difficult to follow, are the ones, which appeal more directly to us, encourage us more, and help us more, than worldly rules, which it is possible to observe.

The usual meaning of rules and law is that we observe them to protect citizens for the benefit of society.  But Buddhist precepts are for each one of us and not for some one else.  The precepts, which look unreal and idealistic, are really more practical for each human being and better satisfy our inmost request.

It looks like a very impractical waste of time to sit here all day on your cushion; but if you understand yourself you will understand why we practice zazen.  The necessity of zazen and the precepts is within yourself and not outside. 

I am a priest and you are laymen.  You may say that Buddhism written in a book is for some particular persons; and you as laymen can ignore the precepts.  But if you realize that religion is for everyone and should be observed as our way of life, you will know that book-precepts that cannot be actualized, cannot be part of our everyday practice. 

When we are sincere about our everyday life and about the meaning of religion, we will not be able to live with precepts, which were set up for some other people.  We should have our own precepts.  In this way Hyakujo Zenji [720–814] established Mahayana precepts for the first time for Mahayana Buddhists.  Mahayana was introduced into China in the beginning of the first century; and over many hundreds of years they observed the Hinayana Indian precepts.  Probably just the priests observed the Hinayana precepts ignoring the life of the ordinary Chinese people.  The Zen Buddhists were very serious about their own and the people's way of life and they renewed the Indian Hinayana precepts.  In India the monks were supported entirely by the people, while in China the monks had to support themselves and so could not sit all day long.  Whatever they did they felt should be Zen.  So Chinese Zen was more practical.



Part 1

San Francisco

Sesshin lecture: A


Suzuki Roshi:  The next chapter which we will learn, is about precepts.  And this is pretty difficult one, so before we study how to recite it, and I want to explain it beforehand. 

The precept observation is very important for Zen practice.  If we eat too much, we cannot sit.  If we do not have enough sleep, we cannot sit.  So your--physically and mentally, you have to adjust your life so that you can sit.  This is very important point.  Zen or Buddhism is actually the way of life, and way of life is the precepts.  [Possible gap in recording.]  To live is how to observe precepts.  It is not some rules of 16 or 250 or 500.  There must be innumerable number of precepts.  And--so it is necessary for us to have full understanding of precepts and to make effort to observe precepts.  So whenever a great Zen master or religious hero appears, precepts observation is emphasized by him.  Or before someone appears--some great teacher appears, precepts observation always have been emphasized by many precedent masters.  Before Dogen, there were several famous masters who emphasized precepts.

[Section 11]  Next we should deeply respect the three treasures:  the Buddha, the teaching, and the Buddhist community.  In fair way or adversity, they deserve our respect. 

Excuse me, maybe they have to put in this way: 

We should yearn to respect them and make offering to them in fair way or adversity. 

This is literal translation.  But here it says: 

They deserve our respect and offering no matter where we wander from life to life. 

This is more maybe advanced, maybe--not literal but it takes--this express the meaning what he meant. 

We should yearn to respect them and make offering to them in fair way or adversity.  It was respect for Buddha--for the Buddha, the teaching, and the Buddhist community that was truly transmitted from India to China by the Buddhas and patriarchs.

Buddha and sangha--the Buddha and the sangha, and then Buddhist community is also precepts observation, you know.  Those are how we practice Buddhism.  So how we practice Buddhism is to keep our precepts.  It is--precepts is not just prohibitory precepts.  We have three refugees, and three corrective precepts, and ten prohibitory precepts.  This is three of the sixteen of Soto precepts or [1 word] precepts.

The three treasures is--has--should be--will be understood in three ways:  the manifested three treasures, the supreme one [?], his dharma, and his sangha.  This is manifested treasures--manifested three treasures.  And maintaining three treasures--Buddha's images, sutras, and precept--priests.  Those are meant--those are called "maintaining three treasures."  And one body, three treasures.  Essentially Buddha.  No body of Buddha.  The harmonious body of Buddha.  This is more philosophical understanding of three treasures.

Anyway, we have to take refuges in three treasures as long as we are Buddhist.  And--and then it says:

[Section 12]  If the unfortunate and virtue less cannot even hear to [of] the Three Treasures, how can they make refuge in them?  Do not take refuge in the spirits of the mountains or the ghosts of the dead, and worship not at heretical shrines.  Such refuge-seeking lead us away from salvation.  Let us instead quickly take refuge in the Buddha, the teaching, and the Buddhist community, seeking three--seeking there not only release from pain but complete enlightenment. 

When we take--when we observe our precepts, may I ask you with what mind [laughs] do you observe precepts?  This kind of, you know, story is everywhere in Zen koan.  "With what mind do you [laughs] observe those precepts?"  This is a kind of tricky [laughs] question.  With what mind?  If you say, "With this mind--with this kind of mind I--we observe precepts," then it means your mind is separated from the observation of the preceptsPrecepts is there, and you are here--your mind is here.  That is dualistic understanding.  It is same thing when we--will happen if you practice zazen with your mind.  Same misunderstanding will happen to you.

Zen practice is a practice, which happens within your mind [laughs]--within your big mind.  Precepts observation is the--how our life goes in its true sense.  That is precepts observation.  Precepts--your life goes in that way automatically.  That is precepts observation.  So if you think the precepts is some particular rules, which was set by Buddha, that is wrong understanding.  Precepts is the way of life recorded by tape recorder [laughs, laughter] or printed by film [laughs].  That is precepts, you know.  If you take a record someone--someone's speech, it will say something, you know, moment after moment.  That is precepts

So if you say, "Printed," you know, "[film] negative is precepts," that is wrong understanding.  "Recorded voice is precepts."  That is wrong understanding.  What I am saying, what I am doing, whatever it is [laughs], that is precepts.  So as a Buddhist, it is quite natural for them to observe--to respect Buddha or take refuge in Buddha and dharma and his sangha.  In this way, precepts should be observed.  In other words, it is sincere effort to--effort to make your life meaningful.  This is precepts observation in its true sense.

Do not take refuge in the spirits of mountains or ghosts of the dead, and worship not the heretical shrines. 

Because heretical understanding--according to heretical understanding, we take refuge in something, you know, which is different from your--yourself.  That is heretical understanding.  That is not our understanding.  According to our understanding, everything is within our mind.  Our mind includes everything, and in our mind many things will take place.  So when we do not lose this mind, whatever happens to us, that is precept observation.  When we are caught by dualistic or something objective existence or idea--objective existence and worship them, that is heretical understanding.  So the spirit of the mountain or ghost of the dead and to worship heretical shrines is not our way of observing precepts

            Such refuge-seeking leads us away from salvation.  Let us instead quickly take refuge in the Buddha, the teaching, and the Buddhist community, seeking there not only release from pain but complete enlightenment--to complete enlightenment. 

When we have enlightenment, many things happen within enlightenment, within big mind.  In this case, we call it--we call our activity "precepts observation."

            [Section 13]  To take refuge in the Three Treasures, we must come with pure heart or faith.  To take refuge in the Three Treasure, we must come with pure faith.  No matter when--or whether at the time of the Buddha's appearance in the world or after his disappearance--we repeat with clasped hands and bow head--bowed head:  "I take refuge in the Buddha.  I take refuge in the teaching.  I take refuge in the Buddhist community."  I take refuge in the Buddha because he is our great teacher.  I take refuge in the teaching because of its curative effect.  I take refuge in the Buddhist community because here we find wisdom and warmth--warmth--warmth.  To become followers of Buddhism, we must uphold the Three Treasures.  We must lay his foundation before receiving the moral precepts

We--before we--before the observation of moral precepts, we have take--we have to take three refuges.  And this is those observation of taking refuge in the Buddha, and the teaching--and his teaching, and his community is included in the sixteen precepts

            [Section 14]  The merit of Triple Refuge will always ripen when responsible [responsive] communion take place between the trainee and the Buddha.  Those who experience this communion--whether deva, dwellers in hell, and animals--or animals--will take this refuge.  The embodied merit increase--increases through the various stage of existence and ultimately leads to the highest right enlightenment.  Buddha himself confirmed the merit of the Triple Treasures as supremely valuable and inconceivably profound--profound.  All living beings should therefore take this refuge. 



Part 2

San Francisco

Sesshin lecture: A


            [Section 15]  Then next we should accept the three collective pure precepts--that embracing good behavior, and embracing good deeds, and that embracing all being and salvation--saving them.  We should then accept the ten grave prohibitions: 


                        Do not kill. 

                        Do not steal. 

                        Do not commit adultery. 

                        Do not lie. 

                        Do not sell liquors. 

                        Do not bring up the faults of others. 

                        Do not boast and blame others. 

                        Do not withhold material and spiritual possession. 

                        Do not become angry. 

                        Do not debase--debase the Triple Treasures. 


Those are ten prohibitory precepts.  "Do not kill." 

It is not--those rules is not manmade--is not supposed to be manmade precepts like social rules, or customs, or rules of some special countries.  It is something more than that.  It is not manmade one, but based on the truth--a universal truth of universe.  If so, it does just mean not to kill.  Strictly speaking, we cannot kill anything [laughs].  You think you can do it, but it is impossible.  When we realize this, we will not kill anything.  We will not try to kill anything because it is impossible.  This is one way of observation--observing the precepts "Do not kill."  So "Do not kill" is not just matter of--matter of forcing something to others or--or empower a person to do something, or formality observation.  It is not--it is something more than that.  If you realize this fact, that you cannot kill anything, then you will be free from dualistic activity of killing or not killing. 

So "Do not kill" means ex- [partial word]--to extend our life activity or our life.  "Do not kill" means [refers to?] sometime lazy attitude, you know, lazy way of life.  If you--when you are lazy, or when you are not sincere enough in your practice you are killing [laughs] Buddha.  Buddha will not manifest itself.  You are keeping Buddha within yourself without doing anything [laughs].  That is actually to kill Buddha or to kill something.  "Not to kill" means to do something with sincerity.  That is fundamental way of observing precepts.  So precepts observation is to do something with your utmost effort.  That is how you observe those ten prohibitory precepts.

So negative precepts and positive precepts observation is not different.  This is the most important precept

"Do not steal."  When you find out you cannot kill anything, how is it possible to steal something from others?  When you have everything, there is no need to steal something from others.  When you have no idea of others, when you understand your life [is?] something which is happened--which happens is in your mind, it is not possible to steal anything.  That is actually a practice of zazen.  When you practice zazen, you practice zazen with big mind--the mind which is not matter of big or small [laughs] [and] with your true mind.  That is our practice of zazen.  So the practice of zazen is not different from--to--from observation of the precepts

"Do no steal.  Do not commit adultery."  You will not attach to what will be within your, you know, capacity.  When you think--when you have some object of adultery, you think you can--you will become--you commit adultery.  But when--when you do it as if you--as if you--as if your eyes breaks [laughs], that is not adultery.  This--there is no need to be caught by some unchaste act. 

"Do not lie."  You cannot tell lie, you know.  Whatever you do, it expresses your true nature.  So you cannot tell lie. 

"Do not sell liquors," or, you may say, "drugs."  "Liquor" means something, you know, some intoxicating medicine or intoxicating teaching.  Those are liquors.  Even the Buddha's teaching--even Buddha's teaching, if you sell it [laughs], that is liquor.  If you are caught by it, that is liquor.  So not only wine or drugs, but also you should not sell anything [laughs].  Do you understand?  You should not sell.  It should be your life in its true sense.  This is very important precepts for us, and subtle understanding is necessary.

We call--Japanese people call sake--do you know sake?  Japanese wine made from rice.  We make Japanese wine from rice.  That is--another name for sake is "best medicine of all the medicine" [laughs].  If you do not intoxicated by it--if you take not--if you do not take too much, that is the medicine of all [laughs].  But when you are intoxicated, that is sake which you should not take or sell. 

We say "sell."  This is very subtle.  "Don't take" is not, you know, adequate enough.  "Don't sell" mean--when you yourself [are] intoxicated by something, you know, by--by some gaining idea to make profit from it, or--or you are--when you are caught by something, you will try to sell it to others.  "Buddhism is so wonderful teaching!  [Laughs.]  Why don't you join us?"  At that time you are already somehow intoxicated by it.  So "don't sell" is very subtle expression.  But it means also "do not take it." 

But even though--you can take it if you do not [get] caught by it.  You can do it.  But precepts observation--why we emphasize precepts observation is it will protect yourself from bad habits.  Precepts will protect yourself, as our human nature is--has some weak points--so many weak points we have.  So it is necessary for Buddha to protect us from evil habits by setting up some rules for us. 

But if we are alert enough, we should--wise enough, we should take care of ourselves with alert--with alertness.  Not to fell into the pitfall of human nature.  We have many danger in our life, and sometime we know it and sometimes we do not know it.  So it is necessary for us to have some rules to protect ourselves.  And actually, precepts observation is difficult way, but actually it is easy way, you know.  Not--difficult way is to--to be--to behave like Buddhist without precept, without any rules.  This is very difficult.  But if we have some precepts, it is easy for us to observe our way.  How do you think [laughs]?  Do you think this is just, you know, some--some good explanation of precepts?  It is not so.

When I was young, I wanted to remain celibacy.  You know, I wanted to--I didn't want to get married, because I know myself so much, I know--I knew what will happen to me if I get married.  So I thought I'm not so, you know, good.  I know pretty well.  So I thought it may be easier to remain alone--to be a Buddhist.  This is easy way.  But some people may think to get married, to remain Buddhist, may be easier because his life will help him [laughs].  So it may be easier.  Yes, in some way it is easier, but it makes--makes us--makes him more difficult--more difficult to be a good priest.

So precepts observation is very--we should be very--we should be very grateful to the precepts.  It is mercy of the Buddha.  If you think the precepts will be a bandage for your life, or precept is the rules of your life, that is big misunderstanding.  It means your effort is not--you are not sincere enough.  You don't know yourself, and you do not make your effort enough to be a Buddhist.  When you become Buddhist, you will find the true meaning of those precepts.

And so, the Buddhism is not some knowledge or some philosophy--something to talk about.  Buddhism is for yourself.  And to study Buddhism is to help you yourself in its true sense.  So all the teaching is just within yourselves, not without.  The spirit that started Buddhism is the spirit to solve everything as your own problem.  That is how to study Buddhism, as Dogen Zenji says:  "To study Buddhism is to study yourself."  It--from beginning to end, it is study of our life.  No one help you.  If you expect someone's help, it means you have--you lost your step, and you lost your true mind.

[Section 15, cont.]  The Buddha have received and kept the Triple Refuge, the three collective pure precepts, and the ten grave prohibitions.  [Repeats.]  The Buddha have received--the Buddhas--excuse me--the Buddhas has--have received and kept the Triple Refuge, and the three collective pure precepts, and then the ten grave prohibitions. 

To transmit Buddhism is--to receive transmission means to become successor of a Buddhist, you know.  So succession of Buddhist life is to receive transmission.  So, of course, to receive transmission is to receive Triple Refuge, the three collective pure precepts, and the ten grave prohibitions.



Part 3

San Francisco

Sesshin lecture: A


            [Section 16]  By accepting the precepts, you will attain supreme enlightenment--the indestructible Buddha hood realized or to be realized by the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.  Would any wise man reject this goal?  To all living beings, the Buddhas have shown that when they accept the moral precepts, they attain Buddha hood--the rank equal to the Great Enlightenment --that--and that they are truly the children of the Buddha. 

When you become successor of Buddha's life, you are children of Buddha. 

[Section 17]  All the Buddhas dwell here and embrace everything in their infinite wisdom.  All the Buddha’s dwell here and embrace everything in their infinite wisdom. 

All the Buddhas are in your life, you know, in its true sense--should be within your life.  If so, within your life there should be precepts.  And that is, at the same time, practice of zazen.

[Section 17, cont.]  When all beings dwell here and embrace everything in their infinite views see no distinction between subject and object--when this happens, all things--whether earth, vegetation, fence post, brick or pebbles--take grace of the Buddhas.  The resulting wind and fire, fanned by the profound influence of the Buddhas, drive us to intimate enlightenment.  This is the merit of non-doing and non-striving--the awakening of the wisdom mind. 

This is, you know, description of our life as a Buddhist. 

[Repeats.]  All the Buddhas dwell here and embrace everything in their infinite views.  When all things dwell here and embrace everything in their infinite views, see no distinction between subject and object--when this happens, all things--whether earth, vegetation, fence post, brick or pebbles, take grace of the Buddha.  The resulting wind and fire, fanned by the profound influence of the Buddha, drive us to the intimate enlightenment.  This is the merit of non-doing and non-striving--and the awakening of the wisdom mind.

--awakening of perfect wisdom, which has no within or without.  We call it limitless wisdom--activity of one mind.  Here he said "intimate enlightenment."  This is something new, you know.  You--always you say "great enlightenment" or "highest enlightenment," but Dogen Zenji says "intimate enlightenment"--"intimate enlightenment."  Most intimate one is enlightenment.  Most intimate one to you is enlightenment.  Do you understand?  Enlightenment is something within you, or--you cannot say "within you."  If I say "within you," it is not intimate enough to you.  It is [laughs] hiding within yourself.  So--if so, it is not intimate.  Of course, if it is something beyond you, that is not intimate.  Even--if it is something to attain it, it is not intimate one.  He says "intimate enlightenment."  This intimacy to the enlightenment is our practice.

When you sit, just sit, you know, with big mind.  That is intimate enlightenment.  It is so intimate that you do not realize [laughs, laughter] enlightenment.  That is what he means.  Shitashii--shitashii--in Japanese, shitashii.  Shitashii--"friend, good friend."  We say "good friend."  Shitashii--shito--shitashii--person who is intimate to--to you is shitashii--shito.  It means, you know, "intimate friend."

And we say also, Shitashii naka ni mo rei ni ya, you know.  Even though man and wife is intimate, you know, but there must be some rules between them.  That is our way.  You may say if it is intimate relationship, there is no need to have some rules [laughs].  That is wrong understanding, because relationship between them is so intimate that it is necessary to set up some rules.  So our rules is based on intimate relationship--not to make some harmony between us, but to make--to make our life more meaningful we set up some rules.  It is--to observe rules is to be appreciative of the intimate relationship.  That is rules, you know.  If there is no rules [laughs]--there is no--to enjoy within--within our relationship.  If we want to feel something, then we should have some rules, or at least we should be appreciative to the intimacy.  Do you understand?  This is precepts.

So within our relationship between man and man, or man and woman, or man and nature, there is rules based on the intimate relationship.  So in observing rules, there is no trace of a rule.  Even though there is rules, there is no need to be caught by it, because it is the expression of the intimate relationship.  It is expression of it.  It is not something to--necessary to set up because of some unharmonious relationship. 

So when--in our practice, there is no trace of practice, and there is no shadow of the rules.  No trace of the rules and no shadow of rules.  To have shadow of rules means, "I must do this."  That is shadow [laughs].  Sometime [laughs] you [are] scared of the shadow of yourself [laughs].  That is shadow.  We should not have shadow of the rules.  Until you do it, that is not rule.  When you do it, that is rule.  When Buddha did something, that is rule.  There is no shadow for the Buddha, or there is no obligation for Buddha.  So we should not shadow of the rules or trace of rules.  If you do it, that's all.  That is the real Buddha.  We sh- [partial word]--we should not be caught by what we did, even though it is right.  We shouldn't say, "What I did was right [laughs]."  We should do in the same way.  That is--that means you leave the trace of the teaching or trace of the precepts.

So Dogen Zenji said, "Fish swim like a fish [laughs].  Bird flies like a bird [laughs]."  That is Buddhist life.  Fish swims, but there is no trace.  Birds fly, but there is no trace of bird.  There is no setup, you know, or trace for birds. 

In original Japanese, "this bird" is beautiful sentence [laughs].  This translation is very good, but--and at the same time it is rather difficult to understand. 

But in your practice, we, you know, repeat lecture after lecture, you know, talking [about] some advantage of zazen practice [laughs].  So naturally you will be--naturally it means I am selling some [laughing] drugs or sake to you, and you are buying it, and you are taking it [laughter].  This is not so good.  So, you know, actually it is better to do it, you know, without listening [to] anything--just by the suggestion of the teacher.  That is best way.  And you should just stick to the teacher [laughs] with patience.

So pure mind is--interpretation of pure mind is purity of the mind and patient mind--patient mind.  It should be, when you study Buddhism, the patience, you know--endurance is absolutely necessary, because we do not talk about--too much about the advantage of Buddhism.  Until you find out [laughs], we--we will wait.  If so, both for the teacher and student, the most important thing is endurance--to wait for the chance to--which will become between us.  If you give up, you will have no chance to understand it in its true sense because Buddhism is not something--some knowledge or intellectual understanding.  That is why we say do not sell [laughs] Buddhism.  Do not sell anything.  Do not take anything.  Cover your ears and eyes and mouth [laughs, laughter], and wait for the chance, which will come to you [laughs].  Do you understand?

I cannot talk [said as he was covering his mouth with his hand] [laughs, laughter].  You cannot listen [laughs, laughter].  You cannot smell, even.  That is how you study Buddhism.  That is observation of precepts.  So whatever the religion is, the most important thing is a kind of austerity.  This element is very important for every religion.  I don't know other religion, but the austerity is very important.  "Let alone" [?] is not good.  When you limit your life to certain extent, it is easier to find out the truth.  If you do too many things [laughs], you will be lost in your activity.  But if you limit your activity, you know, you can see.  That is why we observe precepts.  The precepts observation is very important. 

Thank you very much.




Los Altos - dc


The precept today is giving, the joy of giving.  Everything is something which was given; every existence in nature, every existence in human world, every cultural work we do 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.



Part I

May Sesshin Lecture

San Francisco


The secret of all the teaching of Buddhism is how to live on each moment.  Moment after moment we have to obtain the absolute freedom.  And moment after moment, we exist in interdependency to past and future and other existence.  So in short, to practice--if you practice zazen, concentrating yourself on your breathing moment after moment, that is how to keep precepts, how to have the actual understanding of Buddhist teaching, and how to help others, and how to help yourself, how to attain liberation.  Why we call true Zen the capital city of religion is we have actually m- [partial word]--gist of teaching and secret of practice--to understand various religion and various way of practice through and through.

As I said this morning, we do not aim for or emphasize some particular state of mind or some particular teaching.  Even though it is perfect and profound teaching, we do not emphasize the teaching only.  We rather emphasize how we understand it, how we bring the truth into practice.  And this practice also does not--does not mean some particular practice.  When we say "Zen," Zen includes all the activity of our life.  

This morning, Reverend Katagiri explained our monastic rules.  And Dogen Zenji said, our practice--we are like a water and milk.  When we, each one of us practice--are concentrated on this practice of Zen, we are not anymore each separated being.  Oneness of the all the students or monks is there.  When you live in each moment, each one of you are independent being.  And at the same time, each one of you [is] obtaining absolute independency.  You attain the same buddhahood that Buddha attained, that various patriarchs attained.  So having--living in each one's absolute freedom, we attain same attainment. 

So we are--each one of us is independent in the same realm.  When this realm is understood, there are student, there are teacher, there are someone who serve tea, there are someone who drink tea, and there are independent being.  And we are practicing the practice which was started by Buddha--buddha-sangha.  In this way, Buddhism was carried out by Buddhist. 

So although Buddha was born 2,500 years ago, but Buddha is right here when we practice his practice.  Buddha lives in our age with us.  But Buddha is Buddha, and we are a student.  So you may say there is student and teacher, but we are all the same--we are all practicing the same practice exactly the same way as he did--as they did at their time.  Actually, we are practicing same practice with them.  If so, whatever we do, that is Buddha's practice, and this is how we kept practice--precepts

In Buddha's day, there were--their way of life--in China there was Chinese way of life, in Japan there is Japanese way of life.  But when we live in that day, in that age, in this way, although the way of living is different, but actually what we do does not different from what Buddha did because we--there we express absolute freedom.  There is no two absolute freedom. 

So when in China--when they are too much interested in Buddha's--Buddhist philosophy, they ignored how to live in Buddha's way.  In other word, they ignored how to keep precepts.  To keep precepts is not to keep Indian way of life.  When you eat here, you should eat here.  You cannot [laughs] eat in India all the time [laughs].  Strictly speaking, if you want to keep precepts literally, you have to go to India [laughs].  Then you can keep the--keep precepts completely. 

Eisai Zenji[1]  referred to very interesting story in his work.  There was some Chine- [partial word]--some monk from India [laughs].  When he came to India--China, he could not observe Indian precepts because the custom is different.  So he returned to India because he was very much afraid of breaking Indian precepts [laughs]. 

So if you--misu- [partial word]--do not know how to observe precepts, or if you emphasize just written precepts without knowing how to keep it [laughs], then Buddhism will die immediately [laughs, laughter].  But if you know how to keep our precepts, Buddhism will continue and will develop as Zen developed in China.  Various Mahayana school was lost in China except Zen because, you know, they--they were too much interested in the philosophy of Buddhism without knowing how to actualize the teaching.  So eventually they ignored precepts, but they may say they did not ignore.  "Zen student ignored it," they may say, because Zen student did not observe it literally.  But Mahayana schools observed it as Indian Buddhist did.  And they thought this is Buddha's way.  So Buddha's way eventually separated from their everyday life.  But Zen student understood precepts as a--as their way of life.  So they do not mind the formal way of life--formality.  And they were so sure that their way of practice was how to actualize Buddha's teaching.  And how to actualize Buddha's teaching is, in short, to live on each moment.  And that is the conclusion of Mahayana philosophy--how to live in this moment, how to attain enlightenment.  How to be Buddha is how to attain perfect freedom.  How to attain perfect freedom is how to live in--in this moment. 


Myoan Eisai, Yosai, Senko (Zenko) -kokushi:  1141-1215.  Japanese Zen master of the Oryo lineage.  Dogen practiced at his monastery, Kenninji.



Part 2

May Sesshin Lecture

San Francisco


So in China they established Buddhist--Zen Buddhist established new precepts, which is called pure rules.  New precepts for themselves.  For other Buddhist, precepts is some rules Buddha observed, but for them precepts is their own way of life:  how to live on this--in this moment in that place.  When we are not so sincere about our practice or about our way of life--about ourselves, you may say there is teaching.  "I am priest," you know, "but they are layman" [laughs].  "I am priest, and Buddhist teaching is written in the book--in some particular book." 

So if you understand Buddhism in this way, they can ignore the preceptsPrecepts is written in the book, and precepts is for some particular person.  But if you realize the religion is for everyone and should be our way of life, you know, the some certain precepts, which is written in some particular book, cannot be actualized--cannot be bring into practice--everyday practice.  So when we become sincere about our everyday life and the meaning of religion, we cannot live in old precepts which was set up for some other person.  We should have our own precepts.

So in this way, Hyakujo Zenji established Mahayana precepts for the first time in eighth century.  Mahayana Buddhism introduced in China in, maybe, four[th] century.  For many years, they observed Indian precepts.  It is impossible, you know.  They say they observed it [laughs] but no one can believe [laughs]--no one can trust them.  It is impossible for Chinese people to observe Indian precepts [laughs].  It is ridiculous.  If they think they observed it, they are very selfish people.  They observed it just for himself, for priest only, ignoring how--what kind of life usual, ordinal [ordinary] people have. 

Excuse me, if you--if your car is in front of the door, will you [laughs] move it [laughs, laughter]?

So Zen Buddhist was very serious about their way of life and people's way of life, so they established--they renewed precepts--Indian precepts.  So in India, you know, they practice zazen to attain--maybe they could practice zazen all day long if--it--it was possible as a group, even, because the monks were supported entirely by people.  After they finish their household life, they became monks.  And their boys and girls supported them.  So [laughs] for them it was possible.  But for Chinese monks who must support themselves, by themselves, cannot sit all day long.  And whatever they do, it should be Zen.  So they developed the practice more to everyday life.  So Chinese Zen was more practical.  They knew how to apply the--apply Zen in everyday life.

And how to apply in everyday life is not difficult, because if we live on each moment, that is Zen.  Whether you are sitting or working, when you live on each moment as you practice Zen, that is how to practice Zen.  So Zen is in our everyday life.  So you may say Indian way was rather lazy way [laughs], not active enough.  So eventually--naturally Indian Zen emphasized some state of--some mysterious state of mind, but in China they emphasized more the attitude or way to have direct experience of various experience.

In this way, the Buddhist philosophy actualized in Zen practice.  And oneness of the practice--zazen practice and everyday activity was brought to our society.  So Zen is the source of the philosophy, and source of art, and source of various religious life. 

In--in Genjo-koan, at--in first paragraph he--Dogen Zenji gives us the whole pattern of Buddhist way:

            When all things are Buddhist phenomena--

--when all things are Buddhist teaching, you may say--

            we have enlightenment and ignorance--

--something to study or something to observe--precepts, or sutras, or problem of philosophical discussion of life and death, or enlightened one, or the ignorance--ignorance. 

When all things are without self, we have no ignorance, no enlightenment, no buddhas, no people, no life, and no--no death. 

When all things are without self--when all things--all what we do is done in realm of selflessness, like milk and water, there is no water or no milk.  When the whole textile is woven completely in various colorful thread, you know, what you see is not piece of thread, what you see is one whole textile.  Do you understand?  So [laughs] there is no need to say "this is water" when you drink milk.  Do you say this is water and this is milk [laughs]?  You drink just milk, and there is no water or no milk. 

So he says:

When all things are without self, we have no ignorance, no enlightenment, no Buddha, no people, no life and death. 

Buddhist way is beyond being and non-being.  Buddhist way--we know each colorful thread, and we know also the one whole woven textile.  We know both side--both way--we observe things in two ways without any contradiction.  But when we are not sincere enough, you may say, "This is Buddhism [laughs], and this is other religion.  We are monks, and they are layman, that's all."  So they don't understand the whole beautiful textile.

But Buddhist way is beyond being a thread or a textile--beyond thread or textile.  Therefore we have life and death, ignorance and enlightenment.  Still we see the various color in the woven textile, and we appreciate the color of the--the textile.

So he says: 

We have life and death, ignorance and enlightenment, people and buddhas.

--and so many interesting colors on the piece of--one whole piece of cross--cloth. 

However, flowers fall with our attachment and weeds grow with our detachment. 

However, even though we are Buddhist, we live with people seeing the flower fade--fading away day by day.  With our attachment, the thing that we--bring out the weeds day after day with our detachment. 

            That we move ourselves--

--he explained more about it.  Here in the second paragraph, there are many--various idea and various practice, not only Zen but also Pure Land school--way of Pure Land school and various way of religion.  But those are, for him, one beautiful textile.  So it is--so that is why his teaching is called the source of all religion--not "source," but [laughs]--not source but, you know--each religion makes sense, you know.  Thread does not--a piece of thread is not useful.  When you make beautiful cloth with it--it, you know, it is--it become useful--it become perfect religion.

So each schools of Buddhism and various religion find its own meaning in big religious--human religious life.  It makes sense.  It means to weave a beautiful cloth with thread.  Each religion is just a piece of thread.  Maybe it is colorful, you know, maybe it is beautiful, but if you weave something with it, you can use it as your beautiful dress.  In this sense, his teaching is called--not "source," but [laughs]--sometime we say capital city--not "cap-" [partial word]--because various road come to the center. 

Anyway, in this sense our way has two faces.  One is as a secret of the religion:  how to find the meaning--true meaning of religion.  And, on the other hand, we remain as one of the school of Buddhism or one of the various--one of the many ways of practice.

So we have two face [?].  We are actually--we--I belong to Soto school.  I am a just a--I am just a piece of thread [laughs].  But we know how to, you know, how to make ourselves a piece of useful material.  This is Soto way.  Without knowing how to make ourselves useful, to observe some lofty way of acting [?] does not make much sense, you know. 

So in the second paragraph he says: 

            That we move ourselves and understand all things is ignorance. 

He give the definition of various thread--this is red thread, this is pink, this is blue--like this.  "That we move ourselves and understand all things is ignorance."  Then what is enlightenment?  Enlightenment is:

That things advance and understand themselves--that is enlightenment.  It is buddhas who understand ignorance.

Who is Buddha?  Buddha is someone who understands ignorance.  Who is people?  People are ignorant of enlightenment.  So he says:

It is people who are ignorant of enlightenment.  Further, there are those who are enlightened about--above enlightenment--

--like Soto school-- 

            and those who are ignorant of ignorance--

--like Pure Land school. 

When buddhas are truly buddhas, they are not necessarily aware of themselves as buddhas.  But they are enlightened ones and advance in enlightenment.

I--we are not necessary--necessarily be just Soto priests, you know.  We are one of the Buddhist [laughs].  But we cannot practice all the ways of practice.  Although we practice just Soto way, but we are--nevertheless, we are Buddhist [laughs].  That's all.

So here you will find out how important it is to live in each moment.  This--our way to live--to live on each moment makes everything possible--makes precept observation possible, makes attaining enlightenment possible, makes to attain absolute freedom from various sectarianism possible.  And, first of all, this practice makes us possible to attain perfect, complete satisfaction in our life.

Thank you very much.



San Francisco 

[The following section is compiled from Suzuki Roshi's sesshin and Sunday lectures to complete the discussion of Buddhist precepts.]

The secret of the entire teaching of Buddhism is how to live each moment.  Moment after moment we have to obtain absolute freedom, and moment after moment we exist interdependent with the past, future, and other existences.  In short, if you practice zazen concentrating on your breathing moment after moment that is how to keep the precepts, to have an actual understanding of Buddhist teaching, to help others, yourself, and to attain liberation.

In India there was an Indian way of life, in China a Chinese, and in Japan a Japanese.  To keep the precepts is not to keep an Indian way of life.  When you are here, you should eat here.  You cannot eat in India all the time.  If you want to keep the precepts literally you have to go to India.  There is a story about an Indian monk who came to China, but who had to return because he could not keep the Indian precepts in China where the customs were different.  If you know how to keep the precepts, Buddhism will continue to develop as Zen develop in China.

Time is originally one with being.  Twelve hours is the duration from sunrise to sunset.  The sun needs twelve ours for its rising from the east and setting in the west.  When your mind follows your breathing, it means your mind drives your breathing as water follows waves.  Your breathing and mind are one.  Here we have absolute freedom.  We become one independent being.  We should not say firewood becomes ash.  Ash is ash, firewood is firewood.  But ash includes firewood with everything and firewood includes ash with everything.  So one breath after another you attain absolute freedom when you practice, when you are concentrated on each exhale and inhale.

When Dogen speaks about the evanescence of life, he speaks of exhaling and inhaling.  After all what is inhaling and exhaling?  When you are completely absorbed in your breathing there is no self.  What is your breathing?  That breathing is not you, nor air.  What is it?  It is not self at all.  When there is no self you have absolute freedom.  Because you have a silly idea of self you have a lot of problems.  So I say your problems are homemade.  It may be very delicious.  That is why you like them On the other hand, if you like them, as long as you like them, it is all right.

Dogen Zenji says, "It is specifically taught in Buddhism that life does not become death.  For this reason life is called no-life.  It is also taught that death does not become life.  Therefore death is called no-death."  It is not a matter of life or death.  When death is accepted through and through, it is no death anymore.  Because you compare death with life it is something.  But when death is understood completely as death, it is no death anymore; life is not life anymore.  Dogen Zenji says, "Flowers fall with our attachment and weeds grow with our detachment."

In the Genjo Koan Dogen says, "When we first seek the truth we are far away from its environs.  When we discover that truth has already been correctly transmitted to us, we are ourselves at that moment.  If we watch the shore from the boat, it seems that the shore is moving.  But when we watch the boat itself directly, we know that it is the boat that was moving.  If we examine all things with a confused body and mind, we will suppose that our self is permanent.  But if we practice closely and return to our present location, it will be clear that nothing at all is permanent.  Life is a period of itself and each is a period of itself.  It is like winter and spring.  We do not call winter the future spring, nor spring the future of summer."  So when you practice zazen even for a moment, the whole universe is reflected in you as the moon in a drop of dew in the grass.  This is a fact you may say.  The period of reflection long or short will prove the vastness of the dewdrop and the vastness of the moonlit sky.  Dogen says, "When the truth fills our body and mind, we know that something is missing.  For example, when we view the world from a boat on the ocean it looks circular and nothing else.  But the ocean is neither round nor square, and its features are infinite in variety.  It is like a palace.  It is like a jewel."

You say you attained some stage in your practice.  But that is just trivial event in your long life.  It is like saying the ocean is round, or like a jewel or palace.  For a hungry ghost the ocean is a pool of blood; for a dragon the ocean is a palace; for a fish it is his house; for a human being it is water.  There must be various understandings.  When the ocean is a palace it is a palace.  You cannot say it is not a palace.  For a dragon it is actually a palace.  If you laugh at a fish who says it is a palace, Buddha will laugh at you who say it is two o'clock, three o'clock.  It is the same thing.

Eternity is in mortality.  When you become a mortal being through and through you will acquire immortality.  When you are absorbed in sheer ignorant practice, you have enlightenment.  So in order to be a true Buddhist, you must find the meaning of life in your limited activity.  There is no need for you to be a great man.  In your limited activity you should find out the true meaning of yourself.  If you pick up even a small stone you have the whole universe.  But if you try to pick up the tail of a comet you will be crazy.  People will sympathize with you.

For this limited activity we need such precepts as:  "Do not kill.  Do not steal.  Do not commit adultery.  Do not lie.  Do not sell liquor.  Do not bring up the faults of others.  Do not boast and blame others.  Do not withhold material and spiritual possessions.  Do not become angry.  Do not debase the Triple Treasure."

I cannot explain them all at this time, but I will explain a few.

Do not kill means to realize our true nature.  It does not mean just to have mercy.  It is deeper than that.  Of course it does mean we should not kill even an insect or an ant, but that is not the real meaning.

Do not steal.  When we think we do not possess something, then we want to steal.  But actually everything in the world belong to us so there is no need to steal.  For example my glasses.  They are just glasses.  They do not belong to me or to you, or they belong to all of us.  But you know about my tired old eyes and so you let me use them.

Do not commit adultery means not to be attached.  The precept emphasizes especially our attachment to particular things as we attach to a woman or man.

Do not sell liquor means not to boast or emphasize the advantages of things.  Liquor may be medicine if taken in the right way, but we should take into consideration that by nature we are very susceptible to temptation.  If you boast about he profundity of Buddhist teaching, you are selling liquor to the people.  Any spiritual teaching by which we are intoxicated is liquor.  Do not sell liquor means absolute freedom from all teachings.  We should keep the precepts and yet not be bound by them.  That is our way.

"When a fish swims in the water there is no end," says Dogen Zenji.  It is very interesting that there is no end.  Because there is no end to our practice is good.  Don't you think so?  Usually you expect our practice to be effective enough to put an end to our hard practice.  If I say you have to practice hard for two years, then you will be interested in our practice.  If I say you have to practice your whole lifetime then you will be disappointed.  You will say, "Oh, Zen is not for me."  But if you understand that the reasons you are interested in this practice is because our practice is endless, that is true understanding.  That is why I am interested in Buddhism.  There is no end.  If there were an end, I would not think Buddhism was so good.  Even if human beings vanish from this earth, Buddhism exists.  Buddhism is always imperfect.  Because it is not perfect, I like it.  If it were perfect someone would do it.  Many people will be interested and there would be no need for me to work on it.  Because people are very much discouraged with Buddhism, I feel someone must practice Buddhism.

A while ago when we had Wesak service with all the Buddhists in the First Unitarian Church I thought it might be better to bow in the way we usually do at Zen Center.  But someone said if we bow in that way people may be discouraged.  It is true, very true.  I know people will be discouraged.  I know we are causing a lot of discouragement for American people when we bow nine times, when they bow only three times in Japan.  I know that very well.  So I bow nine times here in America.  Buddhism needs our continual effort eternally.  Until you are interested in this point you cannot understand Buddhism.

Mortality makes eternity, eternity makes mortality.  Enlightenment makes practice, practice makes enlightenment.  Dogen Zenji says, "Birds make the sky, and the sky makes the birds.  Fish make birds, birds make fish.  In this way there must be further and further analogies to illustrate our practice."  In short, if you do one thing with sincerity that is enough.  There is no need to try to know the vastness of the sky or the depth of the sea.

You may say, now realization of the truth takes place through my activity.  But it is not so.  Or you may say it is a process of self-realization.  It is not so.  For you, the realization of the truth you have now is the absolute realization of truth.  You cannot compare your realization with other things.  Each one who realizes this fact and who practices in his own way has absolute freedom.  This is how we live each moment, moment after moment.  Thus all things are made possible: the observation of the precepts, the attainment of enlightenment, freedom from the various sects, and perfect satisfaction in our life.  Your realization of the truth is the same as Buddha's realization of the truth.  There is no difference at all.

Excuse me, it is too late.

Thank you very much. 



San Francisco

Part 1


Last time I explained the ten prohibitory precepts:  


Do not kill.

Do not steal.

Do not be immoral.

Do not lie.

Do not sell intoxicating liquor.

Do not speak of other's shortcomings.

Do not praise yourself or blame others.

Do not grudge giving to charities material or spiritual.

Do not be angry.

Do not speak ill of the Triple Treasures. 


Those precepts looks like quite common precepts and nothing—nothing special.  It is not [laughs] quite usual, and almost all the people know it.  But this is pretty difficult to observe it.  This is well-known fact.  It is quite simple, but it is quite [laughs] difficult to observe it.

So in this point there is some reason why we have to emphasize those ten precepts.  And those precepts is in Buddhism—have special meaning because our precepts is not to attain some special achievement mentally or spiritually.  To be a good citizen [laughs] is just why we have to be a Buddhist, you know.  There will not be no need for us—for all of us to be a—to be sages [laughs].  If we are good enough to be a good citizen, that's enough.  If we are quite good as a citizen of America, then I think we will [not?] have any more war [laughs] because we are too good.  That is why I think we have to fight.  If we are just good, common citizen, there will not be no need to fight.  This point is very important for us.  Our precepts should be so very common and should be very usual. 

And those ten precepts may be, you know, well-understood custom among human being.  And it will be unwritten rules, but sometime those ten commandments [are] set up as a law.  Here—here we have—because it is difficult for us to observe it, we have law.  So when it become—when those precepts is—are understand as a law of the country, someone may think it may be permissible to some extent to do something wrong—will be permissible if some attorney will say you can do as much as is [laughs]—to some extent it is good.  That is precepts when they are understood as a law.  And sometime it may be understood as a moral rules.  In morality—it is some rules which we should observe.  So it—in morality we emphasize the negative sense of the precepts.  We—"You should do this; you should not do this" is morality.

But this understanding of the rules of human being does not work properly, because under the moral rules we feel some—we do not feel freedom—we have no freedom in moral realm.  But in religious realm, we have two side of the interpretation of the—our rules.  One is prohibitory meaning.  One is more positive meaning—we have to do it or we want to do it instead of we should do it.  When we say we should do it, that is moral precepts.  But when we say I cannot help doing so, or I have to, you know—no, no—I want to refrain from doing something bad, that is religious understanding of our rules.

So in this realm, we have freedom.  But here religious faith is wanted.  Without faith or without finding out your inmost request, you cannot obtain this kind of freedom.  Because you—when you find out your inmost nature or buddha-nature, you don't want to do something wrong, and you want to do something good.  Here you have negative sense—you understand precepts in negative and positive sense.  This is why we have to have precepts.

So here precepts is not just contact between people or between countries, or it is not the law of the country or law of the society.  It is—this contact will be—bring into the relationship between Buddha and sentient being.  So there we have no chance [laughs] to break it, you know, because we want to do it.  When you want to do it, there is no chance to break it. 

So here, again, you come back to the—to animal stage.  Animals do not [do] anything wrong.  What he—what they do is always right.  But human beings have some ability or [laughs]—I don't know what to say—freedom to do something good and bad.  So in human realm, we have to have some conduct between us.  So that we might not get into confusion [laughs] there is some rules.  And we have two chances:  to do something good and to do something bad.  Morality is for human being.

So, as Buddha said, human being has some destiny to, you know, fight or—not "fight," but to struggle with himself and with others.  That is the nature of human culture.  But when our human culture is emancipated to the stage of religious culture, we have perfect freedom.  In this sense, we emphasize precepts.  Even though we—the difference between asceticism and Buddhism is this point:  We acknowledge our human nature one hundred percent [laughs].  We are one hundred percent good.  We accept it.  Whether someone say good or bad, we have human nature.  We have to accept it, and as long as we are human nature, we cannot be a god in—in Christian sense.  We cannot be a god.  We are human being through and through.  When we are human being through and through, we are, you know, buddha.  But how to be buddha—buddha must not have—must be—must obtain perfect freedom.  So when we find out our true nature, we are buddha.  And for us there is no chance to do anything wrong.  That is why we should observe our precepts.



Part 2

San Francisco

So we do not observe our precepts by any gaining idea.  Just to be human being is the purpose of observing precepts.  There is no other purpose.  Just to observe the precepts because we want to do it.  That's all.  That is the precepts.  Ten prohibitory precepts

So ten prohibitory precepts may be the Three Refuges—or no—three corrective precepts, "the precepts which enjoin us to complete good behavior—the precepts which enjoin us to complete good deeds—the precepts which enjoin the completion of benevolence or loving kindness to all beings." [Note: Sounds like he's quoting someone]   Here we emphasize positive side of—side of the preceptprecepts.  And here, in three corrective pure precepts, we emphasize both negative side and positive side.  So when we—oneness of the positive and negative side is attained, we—we say pure.  By "pure" we mean oneness of the duality always.


So here it is—here we say the "three corrective pure precepts" because this precepts express the oneness of the negative and positive attitude of observing precepts.  And whether those positive and negative attitude of observing precepts will be attained when we realize our true nature and take refuges in Buddha and law—Buddha, law, and sangha.  That is why we have sixteen precepts

The first Triple Treasures means our fundamental nature to take refuge in Buddha, or the truth, or the sangha.  And this—when we realize our true nature, that—it means we have the—both negative and positive way of observing precepts in everyday life.

But as we have some human nature which is special to human nature, we have to emphasize more—more negative, prohibitive side of the precepts, you know.  It is more, you know, suitable for human being to emphasize the negative side.  When we realize our true nature, we—naturally we will emphasize—we will have some—not [2 words] but negative understanding of life.  Because when we realize our true nature—before we realize our true nature, we emphasize rather positive [laughs] side until you are completely caught by [laughs]—caught by your positive side of the activity:  ignoring not to kill, not to steal, or not to be immoral, not to lie, you know.

It is quite true when Dogen Zenji says human being like something wrong [laughs].  That is quite true.  And ignoring something true [laughs].  We are not so interested in something right, something true.  If we start to [be] interested in something true—always all of us [are] interested in something which is completely right, then all the social activity will be stopped [laughing].  There will be no newspaper, no magazine, no movie, no traffic, no airplane, no trip to the moon [laughter].  Our world—human world will be completely blocked up.  That is true [laughs].  We—we should know that.

So it is quite—Buddha was quite wise to accept both [laughs] sides [laughs].  Half and half.  And for—for his—because of his mercy, he emphasized the negative side with little more—more than positive side [laughs].  There is no need for us to emphasize the positive side.  We are quite positive anyway.  This is the structures of the precepts

So precepts eventually goes so far as the formality or behavior or demeanor which no moral rules or law of the country cannot reach, you know.  Whatever you do you have, to some extent, you have freedom.  Even though you do not behave like a good citizen, you should not be put in jail [laughs].  So you have to have—you have some—to some extent, you have freedom.



Sesshin Lecture 


Part 1

We should revere the three treasures and make offerings to them.  Venera­tion of the Buddha, the law and the priesthood is in accordance with a precept handed down from the Lord Buddha in India to the patriarchs of China.  These are the most important precepts handed down from Buddha to us.  We should not worship a genie of the mountains, or call upon the spirit of death for any reason whatsoever, nor should we pay homage to any heretical religion or religious edifice.  Such worship does not lead to emancipation.  The Three Treasures are not just an idea invented by someone.  They are the universal framework of all the advanced religions, not just the framework of the Buddhist religion.  But some hasty person, who usually does not pay any attention to religion, finding himself in some difficulty, may worship something like the god of fire, or god of water or some powerful natural spirit without any idea of what the teaching is, what god is, or true practice.


We take refuge in the Buddha because he is the great teacher.  We take refuge in the Law because it is our medicine and points the way.  We take refuge in the Sangha because the members are our wise friends.  Although the Three Treasures are one, the understanding, or the way they help us is different.  It is through this triple adoration that we become the disciples of Buddha.  Without the Triple Treasure, or if one of them is missing, we cannot be a disciple of the Buddha.  It is on the basis of this adoration that all the moral precepts of Buddhism rest.


To take refuge in the Triple Treasure it is necessary to have pure faith, whether it be in the time of the Tathagata or after his disappear­ance from the world.  We should repeat this formula with clasped hands and bowed head.  D. T. Suzuki's translation is:  "I take refuge in the Buddha, the incomparable honored one.  I take refuge in the Dharma, honorable for its purity.  I take refuge in the Sangha, honorable for its harmonious life.  I have finished taking refuge in the Buddha.  I have finished taking refuge in the Dharma.  I have finished taking refuge in the Sangha."

In Japanese it is simpler:


                        Namu kie Butsu,

                        namu kie Ho,

                        namu kie So. 


                        Kie Butsu myo sam,

                        kie Ho rijin sam,

                        kie So wago som. 


                        Kie Bu kyo,

                        kie Ho kyo,

                        kie So kyo. 

But if we translate it into English, we cannot arrange the words in this way.  Anyway, whether in English or Japanese, we have to repeat those precepts.



Sesshin Lecture


Part 2


Here he [Dogen] says, "We take refuge in the Buddha because he is the great teacher.  We take refuge in the Law because it is our medicine and points the way.  It is law or rule.  We take refuge in the priesthood because its members are our wise friends.  It is through this triple adoration that we become disciples of Buddha.  We should respect the Three Treasures before we receive any further precepts.  This is the fundamental precept, since it is on the basis of this adoration that all the moral precepts of Buddhism rest, from beginning to end.  Buddhism starts from these three refuges and ends with these three refuges.


This is not some particular experience when we realize our true nature or some occasion.  So here we emphasize the universality of the three refuges.  Here he just emphasizes the precepts, but precepts and Zen are not different.  Both Zen and precepts are the expression of our true nature; the experience of finding or realizing our true nature.  In this sense there is no difference.  So the way to practice Zen is the way we take refuge in the precepts.


It is not just joy.  It is something more than joy.  It may not be possible to experience enlightenment just in terms of consciousness.  But what you do experience is much deeper.  This point should always be remembered.  If you remember this point, all the precepts are there.  You will not be attached to some particular experience; you will not be caught by the dualistic experience of good or bad, or myself or others.  When we violate the precepts, we attach to some particular experience.

When you have something, you will have some joy of possession.  To do that is, you know, to break the precept of not stealing, (laughs) or not being greedy about giving either spiritual or material help to others.  So when those three precepts are kept in the right way, all the precepts will be kept.  In short, when you do everything as you do zazen, then all the precepts will be there.  We say that we have to just sit.  Our mind is clear.  You have no experience whatsoever.  Maybe the only experience you will have is sleepiness or pain in your legs [laughs].  No particular experience.


Namu in Japanese means "to plunge into something."  We say, "you cannot skim over the water in a basket."  But if you dip the basket in it, the basket will be full of water.  That is the way.  As long as you are making (laugh­ter) a dualistic effort, you cannot do anything because you are a basket.  You are full of holes.  Holes are you.  We say, muro-chi.  Muro-chi means "no-hole wisdom."  [Laughter.]  Our wisdom is hole wisdom.  Wisdom with holes.  Muro-chi means "no-holes wisdom."  But for us, no holes wisdom is just dipping a basket in the water.  Then there is no hole [laughter].  That is taking refuge, and that is how we practice zazen.  This is the interpretation of precepts and the under­standing of our zazen.




San Francisco (most likely)


We explained--we studied about already the three--the three refuges which is fundamental precepts for Buddhist and we have sixteen precepts, three refuges, triple treasures and ten commandments or ten prohibitive--prohibitive precepts. And the three refuges and the three, the triple treasures are basic precepts. And before we take triple treasures, we take repentance.

So repentance and triple treasures and the three corrective precepts and ten commandments. This is our rules to take refuge or in Buddha or Dharma or Sangha. As we briefly studied the three triple treasures, so, today we will study about the three corrective precepts. Next--next we should accept the three corrective pure precepts: that embracing good behavior, that embracing good deeds and that embracing all being and saving them. We should then ... we should then accept the 10 grave prohibitions.

So before we take 10 prohibitive precepts we take three corrective pure precepts. The precepts embracing good behavior, the precepts embracing good deeds and that embracing all beings and saving them. Those are the three corrective pure precepts. Our life is based on, of course, based on our instincts, instincts and desires and usually religious life is based on some pure mind which is completely different from those worldly desires, that is usual understanding.


If we do not take care of those desires we will be--eventually we will be disgusted with our true nature, with our instincts and with our desires. As--as--ascetic religion say sooner or later, if we do not take care of those desires we will be left in depravity or we will left [?] some destruction or fight. Nothing good will result from it.

But it does not--even so--so, it does not mean our original nature is bad. It is good, but that--but that we don't take care of it, that is our fault and that is our lack of consideration. This is why we have this three precepts. So with our original desires or instincts we have, we should have desires to take care of it and to take care of myself--ourselves and we have to take care of others. That is our vow as a Buddhist. To take care of myself, to take care of our desires and instincts and to take care of other's life. This fundamental meaning of the three corrective pure precepts. That embracing good behavior. That embracing good deeds. That embracing all beings and saving them.



Part 1

It is a pretty long time since I saw you all. But if we sit with you in this way

I don’t feel so…I feel as if I were in San Francisco or Los Altos, always. When I was in Tassajara I think about San Francisco or Los Altos, I feel as if many things to talk about, but in this way when I meet you I have nothing to say. This is very funny. Nothing to say at all. This is…but this is the way it should be. When we have something to talk about that is not so healthy, sometimes, but when we have nothing to say, that is very healthy situation…especially when I see young people I lose my…I lose every thing…I forget everything. And sometimes I am ashamed of preaching to them. It’s much better not to say anything. That is how I feel, actually.

This is also how to keep our precepts. When we do not…when we are not keeping our precepts we have precepts, but when we keep all most all the precepts, the precepts: do not kill, do not steal…Perhaps if you do not know what is your law…lawyer might be annoyed but almost all of us do not know what is law. But we do not…almost…when we do not know what is precepts, we are keeping them. And even though you have problem that problem will vanish when your practice is healthy. In the fifth precepts…do not sell liquor, or do not take liquor (this is nearly the same). Do not sell liquor the precepts says. Do not sell liquor…liquor is not intoxicating…Intoxicating liquor does not mean just sake and wine. Some teaching will intoxicate you is also intoxicating liquor…not liquor but teaching. So Dogen Zenji explained this precept; don’t be intoxicated, or do not violate this precept; even before the intoxicating liquor comes. How is it possible to violate precepts…to violate the precepts of not selling liquor when you have no liquor? Do you understand? When you have nothing to sell how can you sell it? But he says do not sell liquor when you have no liquor. But we are selling liquor which we haven’t got. I am very ashamed of myself, sometimes I sell liquor. Because of being priest, when I come to Los Altos I think I must say something. So Dogen Zenji says do not sell liquor when you haven’t any. This is a wonderful interpretation of the precept, of the fifth precept. So actually when…try not to drink liquor when you have it…that is too late. If you have it here you will drink it. But the most important point is do not create the idea of liquor when you haven’t.

People create the problem when they do not have it actually. When you are afraid of some problem, or when you are too much concerned about yourself you create problem which you haven’t. Originally you haven’t but you create problem for yourself, and you suffer from it. Mostly our problem…the problem we have is home-made problem. You make delicious problems to eat or you can make various liquor. This is how we live with problem. But if you realize this point you may realize how important it is to practice Zen. To practice Zen…when you practice Zen there is no problem and you will have some bright light within yourself… within and without. Bright light. So when the light comes there’s no problem. In the darkness there is problem. So even though you try to work for problem in the dark you cannot do that. When the light comes various problems will be dissolved. Because it is dark you have problem. If it is not dark there is no problem. There may be big tree and small tree. Under the big tree there is small tree and you will think the small ones are suffering under the big tree. It looks like a problem. Even in nature we see many problems. But if you see the root of the trees…small trees and big trees you will understand how they survive. How the small tree survive under the big tree. But if you do not see the root it looks like the small tree has always difficulties under the big trees. But if you understand how the root goes under…how the root of the small tree goes under the big tree you will understand how the small tree survives. You know, usually big trees had big hole around the trunk and actually big tree takes its nourishment from far away…four, five, maybe more than fifty feet away, and under the big tree there is many leaves and decayed root and small tree is taking their food under the big tree because the big tree gives them always nourishment for them. And by the time the big tree dies the small tree takes its place. That is how they survive. But before you do not see this fact it looks like problem for them. So this is the same with our practice. When you have wisdom…true wisdom, which is not just limited understanding you have no problem. The problem itself has some meaning for the problem and for yourself and for others. And you will understand the true meaning of the problem. And you will have the power to understand the nature of the problem. So we say our practice is scare-crow practice. If you just sit there are no sparrows around you. Even though you do not try to scare them they are scared of you and they do not come to you. So if you practice zazen there is no problem and there are no precepts to observe. So there’s no need to observe them. You are observing them. And you have wisdom. In this way we should keep our precepts and we should cope with our problems. Before we have problems we should observe our precepts. It may be too late to try to keep the precepts when you have liquor. Dogen Zenji said do not violate precepts, do not take or sell intoxicating liquor before it comes. And if you want to keep the precepts keep it before it comes. Before food or intoxicating liquor comes. This is very appropriate advice for us.



Part 2


Buddhism is always in this world and it wants to--we want some balance always. In this sense we respect Sangha which keeps harmony in their society. And the balance should be in person should not be like this or like that, it should be always level. It is--it should be always pure, pure truth. So, that is why we take refuge in Truth or Dharma. And the truth should be manifested in this actual world, that is why we take refuge in Buddha who manifested the truth who--in this world who realized the truth as a human being. Pause. Next we should accept the three corrective pure precepts that embracing good behavior, that embracing good deeds, that embracing all being and saving them. This is not, you know, prohibitive precepts. This is vow rather than precept.

And we should--and then we should accept the ten great prohibits. And more in detail, more accurately speaking, this is--those three corrective pure precepts will be briefly set up in ten commandments. One, do not kill. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Those are the precepts about our body, body activity. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Do not lie. Do not sell liquor. Do not bring up the faults of others. Do not boast and blame others. Do not boast yourself and blame others. Those are about our word or mouth. Do not withhold material and spiritual possessions. Do not become angry. Do not debase the triple treasures. Those are about our minds--mind.

"Do not kill" means, in another word--do not kill means do--do realize our true nature. It doesn't mean just to kill some insects or it does not mean just to have mercy. It is deeper than that. Of course, do not kill is, we should not kill even an insect pr any. But that is not the real meaning of do not kill. Do not steal.

Steal--when we do not realize we possess everything we want to steal, but everything in the world is--belongs to us anyway. So, there is no need to steal. Someone should take care of it [Laughter]. So, there is no need to steal it, that is do not steal.

Do not commit adultery [laughs]. Do not commit adultery. It--it means attachment, you know, some extreme--this precept emphasize especially our attachment to some particular thing. But it does not mean to--not to attach to other sex [laughs]. But we attach to things--to some particular thing as we attach to the other sex. As you attach to girlfriend or boyfriend. That is very true. So, if you, you know, if you keep yourself from being attached to--if you are able to do it when it is necessary it means you are able to refrain from various attachment. Do not commit adultery.

I was scolded by my master many times: "You are committing adultery!"

[Laughter.] In my temple, Zoun-in, there was no female. But still he said, "Don't commit adultery!" [Laughter.] He was right, I think [laughter]. Do not lie. This precept belongs to, you know, world, but, he said, even though I don't say anything, don't lie [Laughter]. Your eyes telling lie, your countenance telling lie. It is true, very true.

Do not sell liquor. Do not--this is very important precept [Laughter]. Do not sell liquor. Nowadays you should add one more here, something, do not sell liquor--"do not sell" means, you know, to boast or, you know, to take some advantage of liquor, you know. This is medicine. If you take it in the right way it will be benefit. This is kind of, you know, breaking precept because we have nature, you know. Our nature is very weak to the temptation. We should, you know, count this point when we take liquor.

So "do not sell" means, very--meaning is very deep, sell. Do not sell liquor. If you boast about the profundity of Buddhist teaching you are selling a kind of liquor to the people. If some religion, if you say this--the religion is wonderful you are selling some liquor. So, not only, intoxicating liquor but also all the, you know, teaching--spiritual teaching or material by which we will be intoxicated is liquor. So, if you take those precepts literally, you know, it is a kind of selling liquor.

We should have always freedom to the teaching and precept. We should take them in consideration always. We should not forget it. But we should not, you know, be bound by the teaching or precepts. That is how we keep our precepts. That is why we have the fifth. The fifth one means absolutely--absolute freedom from all the teaching. Do not sell liquor, this is very deep. Do not bring up the fault of others. When we talk about someone's faults, it means you are talking about your own fault. Almost all the time it is so. A mother who have--in Japan, this is in Japan, not in America--I don't know in America--but in Japan if he, if a mother has--when a mother has his own son who has--who start to have some concubine, you know, some secret relationship with some, you know, girlfriend having his wife, the mother talks about concubine--talk--talks about someone who has a concubine. So, what--when some old lady start to talk about concubine, I thought something must have happened to her baby. [Laughter.] That is very true.

When you talk about someone's faults, it means you have same faults, and you are aware of it. So it is good thing to talk about it [laughter]. But if there is no need to talk about it, it is much better. Do not bring up the faults of others. Do not boast and blame others. Do not boast yourself and blame others. When you boast yourself and blame others it means you are very, you have very small self.

Do not withhold--withhold material and spiritual possessions. People talks about material or spiritual possessions especially but to talk about it--If you want to keep this precepts in its true sense, it is necessary for you to talk about possession. Whose possession? It doesn't matter for you who has how much money, doesn't matter. So we should not be concerned about others' property or money. We should not count others'. It is busy enough to count your money [laughs]. So, we should not concerned about others' possessions. This is actually what we mean, do not withhold material and spiritual possessions--possession--possessions.

Do not become angry. This is very difficult. Nearly all the Zen masters--Zen masters are very short-tempered but we--we couldn't say do not become angry to our masters. [Laughter.] So it may be better to recite this part--"do not become angry"--before our master. If he--if he say do not become angry we should say DO NOT BECOME ANGRY.

Do not debase the triple treasures. I thought this is very, you know, funny precept for Buddhist to set up this precept. They are protecting--it looks like Buddhist, Buddhist protecting themselves by setting up this precept. And this one supposed to be the most fatal, important precept. If you break it [laugh] you will be expelled. I thought so this is rather, you know, unfair to set up this kind of precept. "Don't kill" is good, "don't be angry is very good" [laughter], but don't be blasphemous with triple treasures is very selfish precept.

Moreover, if you commit this precept, you know, you are supposed to go down to the bottom of the hell [laughter]. If you kill someone ... [laughter] you will ... you will ______________ you will _________________ even you kill someone. This is very funny. This is our system [laughter]. Very good system. Very good system to me but not to you [laughter]. But those who commit those--ten--the last commandment or precept is supposed to be--supposed to be very intelligent one, he is very hopeful. That is why we put very strict and heavy duty to them. The system of hell is not punishment, you know, it is training [Laughter].




And in Hinayana Buddhism, their--the sutra was--were not so philosophical--the teaching was not so diffic- [partial word]--philosophical. But in Mahayana Buddhism we have three--we call it "three baskets" The Tripitaka, the Buddhist canon. In present usage, "baskets" is quite common. of [laughs]--not "baskets," but--three kinds of scriptures: philosophical one, The Abhidharma-pitaka: Buddhist psychology and philosophy. and something told by Buddha as a teaching, The Sutra-pitaka: The discourses of Shakyamuni Buddha. and scriptures about precepts--precepts observation. The Vinaya-pitaka: Monastic regulations as well as a history of the Buddhist sangha. And philosophy--philosophical aspects of understanding of teaching developed in Mahayana school or Mahayana Buddhism.



The Soto way is always double…has double meaning, positive and negative. And our way is also Hinayanistic and Mahayanistic. I always say our practice is very Hinayanistic. Hinayana practice with Mahayana spirit is Soto way. And rigid formal practice with informal mind. This is our practice. Our practice sometimes looks like very formal, but our mind is not formal. Our mind is very informal, but we practice with people who have some clinging idea. So we…according to the situation we practice our practice in various forms and various ways. As long as we do something it is already…we already have…..should be some form. But that form should not be always the same. But there’s no reason why it should not be always different.

We practice zazen every morning in the same way, but because we practice zazen in the same way, there is no reason why to practice zazen in the same way is formal practice. It is not a matter of formal or informal. Formal or informal is not in our practice. Inside of the practice there is no formal or informal. But your understanding, your discrimination makes it formal or informal. So if you have Mahayana mind, there is no formal or informal…something people call formal may be informal. Something people call informal may be formal. So we say the Hinayana…observing the precepts in Hinayana way is violating the precepts in Mahayana way. So even though you observe our precepts in some certain way, because of your observing it in formal way…in formal way, it cannot be always observing precepts in Mahayana spirit. So before you understand this point, you have always have problem. Whether you should observe our way literally, or we should not concerned about the formality which we have. But if you understand our way completely there is not such problem because whatever you do that is practice, and as long as you have Mahayana mind, there is no Mahayana or Hinayana practice. Or there’s whatever you do that is observing the practice. Even though you looks like violating precepts it is observing…you are observing precepts. The point is whether you have the big mind or the small mind. In short, when we do everything without thinking this is good or bad, and when you do something with your mind and body…whole mind and body, then that is our way.

In Zuimonki, Dogen Zenji says, "When you say something to someone, someone, sometime may not accept it, but try not to …try not to make him understand it intellectually, and try not to argue with him and just listen to his objections until he finds something wrong with his objections". This is very interesting. Try not to force your idea but to think about it with some one. And if you…after discussing something with people, if you feel you won the discussion, that is wrong. That is wrong attitude. Try not to win in the discussion, in the argument…just to listen to it. But it is also wrong to behave as if you lost. That is also wrong. Usually we say something we are apt to sell our teaching or force our idea but between Zen students there is no purpose…no special purpose in speaking or in listening. We just listen to it and sometimes you just talk…that’s all. Like a greeting, ‘Good morning’. But in communicating …in this kind of communication we can develop our way. Just as you eat your meal…your food in meal time. Not to say anything may be good enough, but there’s no reason why we should be always silent. Whatever you do, or even including non-doing, that is…those are our practice. Those are expressions of our big mind. So the big mind is something to express, but is not something to figure out. Big mind is something which you have but is not something to seek for. So big mind is something to talk about or to express by our activity or something to enjoy. If so, in our way of observing precepts there is no Hinayana way or Mahayana way. Hinayana way is Hinayana way because of their gaining idea. We have problem because of our gaining idea. The problem we have is a kind of appreciation of big mind that is not problem any more. Because we have big mind and sometimes it is very complicated…complicated big mind…that is our problem. Sometimes simple…too simple big mind to figure out what it is. That is also big mind. But because you try to figure out what it is…because you want to simplify the complicated big mind, that is problem for you. So whether you have problem in your life or not is up to the way you have so there is no problem in your understanding because of the double nature of the truth or paradoxical nature of the truth. This kind of mind will be obtained by your true zazen.





Our way of life should be more stable, and more wide, and more open to everyone.  Keeping something just within yourself is one of the violence [violations]--violence of one of our precepts.  What--whether it may be material or spiritual, not to open up for others is the violence of the precepts.  Our mind should be open to everyone.  If you want to open up your mind, you should resume your true mind or essence of mind--some essence of mind, according to the Sixth Patriarch.






Student J: Is our community here different from the original Buddhist community? Or is it the same?

Suzuki Roshi: I don't know exactly [laughs, laughter]. This is a big subject to study, you know. Anyway, in Buddhist community there were four: layman, and laywoman, and monk, and nun is four. We count four. We have, you know, four kinds of disciples or--in our community we have few or no nun yet [laughs]. But laywoman and layman.

We will have precepts too, you know, more and more. "You should respect the Buddhist or Buddhist thought," and, "You shouldn't trip based on Buddha." This kind of precepts we will have--new precepts [laughs, laughter] created by you. If Buddha says, "Don't do that," that is one precept [laughs]--precepts. After they have household life, they became a Buddhist, you know, at that time. This is the typical [?] thing [?] But there are many young disciples of Buddha. So may be the same.



Esalen Institute

Part 1

Last night I talked about construction of teaching and our practice in one word, how to, you know, organize, organize, this realistic, you know, teaching or this paradoxical teaching into our actual life.  It’s the purpose of practice, zazen practice.  In zazen practice, as I explained symbolically what does it mean to put this leg here and this leg here. [Demonstrates?]  This is supposed to be our activity, this is.  More or less this is openness, this is calmness of mind and this is activity. If this is wisdom this is practice.  And when we put one leg, left one, on the right side, it means we don't know which is which. [laughs] So here we have, you know, already oneness, symbolically.  Here this side is, you know, already activity and wisdom and hand and our posture. Our posture is vertical without tipping right or left back or forward.  This is also expression of the perfect understanding of teaching, which is beyond duality of the teaching.

I want to explain this kind of idea into our rituals and/or precepts.  When we extend this kind of practice into relationship between teacher and disciple naturally we have there precepts, idea of precepts, how to observe our precepts and what is the relationship between teacher and disciple.  This is also extended idea of, extended practice of zazen practice.  Zazen, this posture, is not only, not originally maybe a kind of training or something but it is not just training it is more the actual way of transmitting Buddha's way to us.  Through practice we can actually transmit Buddha's teaching because words is not good enough to actualize its teaching. So, naturally how we transmit it through activity or through contact, through human relationships. Here we have relationship teacher, between teacher and disciple.  Disciple, of course, can, will, must choose his teacher.  Teacher should accept disciple when he wants job, when he's job should accept him as a disciple.  This is sometimes teacher may recommended some other teacher for, you know, disciple.  Or else, you know, human relationship will not be perfect.  So if a teacher think, think his friend is maybe more perfect teacher for him, he may recommend him as a teacher. But, between teacher there's there should not be any conflict.



Esalen Institute

Part 2


Through rituals we communicate in its true sense and we transmit the teaching in its true sense. That is the meaning of ritual. And we have many precepts. Precepts of the relation is also based on this idea of relationship between teacher and disciple or between disciple and disciple. Rituals, true of all ritual or precepts its to understand our teaching in it's true sense. We put the emphasis on selflessness so teacher and disciple, as long as they have their observation of rituals or precepts it's, is not selfless then that is not true ritual. For instance, when we observe one thing together, we should forget, you know, our own practice, we should practice when we, when we practice something with people it is partly each individuals practice and it is partly it is also, it is also others practice. So, we say, for instance, when we recite sutra, we say, recite sutra with you ear, really?, you know, to listen, you know, to some other chanting. So with my mouth we practice our practice and with my ear we practice, we listen to other's practice. So, this kind, here we have the complete egolessness in it's true sense.

Egolessness does not mean to annihilate or to give up our own practice, you know, individual practice. Egolessness, you know, true egolessness should forget egolessness too. So as long as you understand my practice is egolessness, then it means you stick to, you know, ego too, ego practice too, you know, practice of giving up ego center practice. So, When you practice your own practice with others true egolessness happen. That egolessness is not just, you know, egolessness, it is also maybe ego practice. And at the same time it is practice of egolessness. So this egolessness is beyond ego or egolessness [laughs]. Do you understand?

This is also true in observation of precepts. If you observe precepts you know, that is not true observation of precepts. When you, when you observe your precepts without trying to observe precepts, then, you know, that is true observation of precepts. So, we say, in observation of true precepts there is positive way of observation and negative way of observation. And true (two?) of that and not true (two?) of that, there must be, you know, for our ways. But those ways, should be, should not be different. To observe precepts should be, not to observe precepts at the same time. Not to observe precepts means not just observing precepts but when you do not try to observe it then there you have both observation of truth and not observation, not observing precepts. So, one is positive and one is negative. Looks like so, you know, but in its true sense, anyway we have to observe it and our inmost nature, you know, help us to observe precepts.

So, when we understand our precepts from our, from some point of inmost nature that is not observation of truth precepts it is, you know, the way as we want, or way as it is and there, there is not precepts, you know. Precepts is not necessary. So, we are not observing any precepts. But, on the other hand, inmost nature is so, but we have on the other hand, the opposite nature, we are double nature, so on the other hand we want to observe precepts or we, we fear we have to observe it, you know, and we fear the necessity of precepts which will help us, you know.

So when we are helped by precepts that is the coming of the, the blossoming of the, blossom of the true nature. And when we understand precepts in a negative sense, spiritually, as a, spiritually sense that is also expression of true nature but that is negative way of expression of our inmost nature. So precepts observation has two sides, one is negative and the other side positive. And we have choice, you know, to observe it and not to observe it. This is some of the different way of analysising the way of observing precepts.

When we cannot observe, ten or more precepts, then we have to choose some precepts which is possible to observe. And we have this choice, it doesn't mean precepts observation is not some set up, is not ruled, set up by someone, you know, it is the expression of our true nature. And so if something wrong with our expression of the true nature, you know, Buddha will say that is not the way. That is wrong way. Then you have precepts.

So, rules is not path, but the actual event or ? so this the nature of precepts, so we have chance to choose, you know, our precepts. If you go this way, you know, you will have some precepts and if you take the other way you will have some other precepts. So weather you go this way or that way is up to you. So if you go this way you have some if you go the other way you have some other precepts, because precepts is not something set up is not set up rule by Buddha. So, this is actually the extended practice of our zazen practice.

Not rules, in its true sense. When we say rules, rules is for everyone. But our precepts is not for everyone. It is the precepts is his own way of observation of practice. This is a characteristic of Buddhist precepts.

We have chance to choose, you know, choose precepts. And precepts observation is both negative and positive. Both expression of our true nature. And it has prohibitory meaning too. To prohibit, you know, some conduct is up to your teacher. Teacher, you know, knows whether his way is good or bad, which way is more appropriate to him (you?). Before you are not familiar with our way you should depend upon your teacher, [laughs] that is the best way. So, in this case we have prohibitory precepts. But when you become familiar with your way you have more positive, you have more positive observation of precepts.

If we start to talk about precepts I think we have to explain our, you know, sin or guilty conscious too. This guilty conscious or idea of sin is, I don't know, Christian way of how you think about things, but Buddhist thinks our by nature as we say Buddha Nature, Buddha Nature is birth? a nature to everyone, that is more good nature, not sinful nature. That is our understanding of our nature. And, in its true sense it is not either good or bad, that is complete understanding. But, in its usual sense it is more good nature rather than bad nature.



Esalen Institute

Part 3


And we have, we understand Buddha as the ideal, as a perfect, you know, one. At the same time we understand him as one of the human beings, you know, although we have ideal there is no need for us to be bound by ideal. The same thing is true with rituals and precepts. There is no need to be bound by precepts and there is no need to be bound by, to observe, you know, our rituals as some formality.

And in Soto practice, you know, we do not put too much emphasis on enlightenment, you know. When we say enlightenment I. we mean something perfect, perfect stage, you will have, you will attain. But actually [laughs] that is not possible, you know.

As long as you experience it in term of good stage or bad stage, high or low stage. That is not perfect enlightenment. So we do not you know expect anything perfect, but we do not reject it. We have it, always have it, but ideal is ideal and reality is reality, and in our practice we have to have both side again. This is original nature of Buddhism.

It may be necessary to talk about repentance when we start to talk about precepts. Repentance you know or teacher you know... let’s understand in this way...teacher will point out you know some mistake of a student. The way he point out the student mistake is very difficult one, you know, how he points out...uh... its mistake ..because teacher does not understand that is his mistake you know. If a teacher something what his student did is mistake he is not a true teacher. He should understand on the hand it is the expression of his true nature, so we should respect. If we respect our student’s true nature we should be careful how to point out. In scripture five points is pointed out.


So it is not so easy problem you know, uh, to be a teacher, to be a student, is, is not at all easy and we cannot rely on anything, even precepts. We should make our utmost effort to help with each other. And in ritual observation ritual too this is also true. We do not observe our precept just to, uh, for sake of precepts, for perfection of rituals. There were famous Zen master maybe about 70 years ago he passed away...maybe fifty..maybe...umm forty years ago , and he had very good disciples and they were so sincere students that when he lived with students in poor monastery in near Odara city near tokyoohdihara city is not so big city and they were very poor, but disciples wanted to buy bell you know to chant and asked him to buy some bell for the temple and he was very angry when his students asked him the bell. Why. What is the intention of reciting the sutra. It looks like you recite the sutra because people in the town may appreciate our practice. If so, that is not my way. We have to practice for our sake not for others. So if you can only chant sutra that is enough. There is no need to buy bell so some others can hear it. That is not necessary. But by rules. We have some rules in our chanting. Without bells that is not perfect ceremony. But if our intention is not right, even though form is perfect it is not our way. There is rules but actually there is no rules. Rules is like precepts. We have precepts, but no precepts. Precepts should be set up according to the circumstances. That is why we chance to choose our precepts in small monastery there is suitable precepts for the monastery. So you may say our way is very formal, but there is some reason why we should be so formal. It is not just formality and even though we have 250 or 500 precepts it doesn’t mean we should observe one by one all of them. This is our way of observation, our way of practice.




Zen Mountain Center

Yesterday I told you about Ajñata-Kaundinya, one of the five earliest disciples Ajñata-Kaundinya, Ashvajit (Assaji), Bhadrika, Mahanama, and Vaspa. of Buddha. As I told you, when Buddha gave up the practice of asceticism, they continued practicing asceticism at the Deer Park. After Buddha attained enlightenment, he came to the Deer Park. At that time he told them about the four noble truths, dana-prajña-paramita, and shila-prajña-paramita. Instead of saying you will attain enlightenment if you practice shila-paramita, he said you will have a good future life. This means that, at that time, he applied some religious understanding of the common people of India when he taught his own teaching. According to Buddhism, you practice precepts, not to have a good future life, but because we attain enlightenment in this life. This is actually Buddha's teaching.


In Mahayana dharma practice, bodhisattvas have six practices. One is dana-prajña-paramita, to give things, material things and teaching, or to help people. The second is precepts, [shila]-prajña-paramita. The third is to be patient [kshanti-paramita], to wait, not limiting ourselves, but extending our practice in two directions, past and future. That is why we say sentient beings are in us (endless?), and our desires are inexhaustible. When we extend our practice, that is the practice of patience. Fourth is the practice of constant effort [virya-paramita]. This practice should [also] be extended in two ways. The fifth is to have good meditation [dhyana-paramita], and the sixth is to have wisdom [prajña-paramita]. Those are the bodhisattva's six practices.




Zen Mountain Center


Upali, who belonged to the Sudra class, is famous for his precepts observation. Not many events are told about him, but after Buddha's death, as you know, they had a synod or compiling conference. At that time, Upali decided [recited?] the precepts.


I must tell you one more thing about Aniruddha, who became blind from not sleeping. As you know, in India the summertime is the rainy season. When it was difficult to travel around to different parts of India, the members of the order stayed in a certain place with Buddha and practiced with him. But when there was clear weather, they went for a journey. Usually Buddha told them to make the journey alone. He said, "You should always be quiet, trust people, and treat people as your friends wherever you go." This is Buddha's way.

So Aniruddha, the blind priest went for a journey, and he had to stay at a woman's home where there was nobody but her. That woman started to like him too much. She loved him, but as he was a priest, he said, "You shouldn't do that." [Much laughter throughout this story.] After he came back to Buddha, he told him what had happened to him. So Buddha set up a precept at that time, that monks should not stay in some woman's home alone. If you want to stay, you should stay with someone else. If there is no one to stay at her home with you, you should always recite the sutra and always think of Buddha. "Buddha, Buddha, Buddha." That is one of the precepts. Aniruddha is famous for helping Buddha to set up one of the precepts.


But at that time, "original Buddhism" or "true Buddhism" was the Shravakayana. According to the shravakas, Buddha was so great that we cannot be like him, but at least we can be an arhat. Next to Buddha are the arhats. After following diligently Buddha's precepts and observing Buddha's teaching with perfect understanding, annihilating all our evil desires, we will obtain buddhahood [should be arhatship?]. This is the shravaka understanding and so-called "original Buddhism."




Zen Mountain Center


And Devadatta, the Buddha's disciple, also wanted to take over Buddha's seat. Devadatta was also from the family of Shakya. Shakyamuni Buddha's family. So he wanted to take over Buddha's seat. And Devadatta helped Bimbisara to kill his father, and ... not Bimbasara, Ajatasattu kill Bimbisara, and Bimbisara, after he became king, helped Devadatta to kill Shakyamuni Buddha. But he couldn't do so. Anyway, there is many stories, but he, Buddha get injured, his toe only, when Devadatta and his men throw a stone on the street when Buddha was passing the path. He is anyway famous for his, you know atrociously bad notion to kill Buddha. That is one of the worst violations of the precepts.

Ananda is Buddha's jisha--jisha for more, maybe 20 or more years. Twenty five. Some say twenty five, some say twenty. Anyway, for a long time. One day Buddha asked him--asked jisha, only one jisha without changing, because he was, became so old that he wanted to have someone always help him. And Ananda was--became a jisha at that time when he said, "I will take care of various people who come from remote countries to meet Buddha. I will introduce them without fail if they come from remote country. And I will remember all what Buddha say. If Buddha say something when I was not with him, I will ask him to tell it again."

Buddha was very pleased and he became his jisha. And there were some more things which he told him. "What I get from people is yours; and I will not take anything which was given to Buddha," or something like that. But the most impressive, most important point, maybe two points: he will remember what he said, and that he will be very good for the people who want to meet Buddha.

And Mahaprajapati Buddha's aunt and who after his mother passed away, raised Buddha. Mahaprajapati and Yasodhara, Rahula's mother, along with her train. And this sutra is described as if Buddha himself told this story, but actually it is not so. And this, as I said before, this sutra is told in such a from as Buddha himself told it, but actually two, maybe two, three hundred after Buddha passed away, this scripture was told by someone, we don't know who. But the thought is based on Mahayana teaching. And Buddha who is telling this story is actually Sambhogakaya Buddha, not Nirmanakaya Buddha. But here it says the are still under training; "along with her train; further, with eighty thousand Bodhisattvas." Bodhisattva is Mahayana, who practice Buddhism with Mahayana spirit, to help others rather than to help themselves. "Bodhisattvas are unable to slide back." Unable to slide back means if you really understand something, you know, you cannot forget it. What you attain, in its true sense, you know, you cannot lose it. Real attainment cannot be lost. So we say, "no slide black." "All unable to slide back, endowed with the spells of supreme, perfect enlightenment." This is so called dharani. Do you know mantra? Dharani. A kind of spell--holy word which has mystic power. Or it means essence of the teaching, essential, you know--essential teaching. Chinese translation of it is sogi. So means "good merit," and gi means "to observe precepts." It means, anyway, the essence: essential teaching.



Zen Mountain Center

[The Lotus Sutra] ... which was told by a historical Buddha. But some people may be disappointed who believe in historical Buddha. This is not a characteristic of any religion except Buddhism. Only Buddhism went through a long history before having a complete understanding of the historical Buddha. It took a pretty long time for us to understand who he was.

At first his disciples were attached to his character, or to what he said and did. So his teaching became more and more static and solid. His teaching was transmitted by socalled Hinayana Buddhists, or shravakas, because they were the disciples, or followers, who tried to preserve his teaching by memory and discussion or meetings. No one is sure when this kind of meeting was held, but it is said that seventy-five years after his death they had a meeting where they chose various good disciples to compile his teaching.

When they discussed the precepts, Upali was the head of the group, and he recited what Buddha had said. When the Sutras were discussed, Ananda, who was Buddha's jisha, discussed what Buddha said. In that way, they set up some teaching: "This is what Buddha told us, and these are the precepts Buddha set up." Naturally, they became rigidly attached to the teaching, and, of course, those who studied this kind of teaching had a special position among Buddhists. Buddha's disciples were classified in four groups: laymen, laywomen, nuns, and priests. And the distinction between laymen and laywomen and priests and nuns became more and more strict. Buddhism at that time already had become a religion of priests, not ordinary people or laymen.

But when the meeting was held in the big cave, there were many people who did not join it. And there were many good disciples and followers among the people who did not join the meeting. Those people naturally got together and formed a group. That is the origin of the Mahayana School. So Buddha's followers divided themselves into Theravada or Joza-bu [or Sthavira] and the common followers, called Daishu-bu in Japanese [or Mahasamghika]. Daishu means "assembly," a group of people or followers. Among them were many good teachers. One century after Buddha passed away, this group established an understanding of Buddha and his teaching. At that time the difference between the Jozabu and the Daishubu was not so great. But later, after Mahayana Buddhism was established, the other group acknowledged the more traditional and more fundamental teaching of Buddha. That is actually Mahayana Buddhism.




[Recently] The first word or two was missing on tape. "Recently" was added by the transcriber, based on usage in other lectures I was talking about denial of, you know, desires. This is very confusing, you know--may be confusing. Our way is not asceticism, but actually, what we--if you read, you know, our precepts literally, there is no difference [laughs]. But what it means is completely different. What is the difference is what I want to talk about tonight. Or what is the difference between "to study" and "to listen to." "Go to the master and listen to what he says" and "to study." Or why you started to study Zen. There must be some reason why so many people come and--come to Zen Center and practice Zen and study Zen.

I think this is because of the--because our culture--our civilization--came [laughs] already [to a] dead end, and if you realize that you cannot go any more--any further more. So someone who notice--people who notice that this is the dead end may come to Zen Center [laughs, laughter] to find out some way to go further. That is, you know, your feeling, you know, whether or not you understand what is dead end or why we came to the dead end.




San Francisco


To take vow is very important. To believe in Buddhism means to take vow. If you don't take vow, life will be life of karma. Only when we take vow, we--our life is life of Buddhist. And how to take vow is with--should be ex- [partial word]--may be the most important point. How to take vow.

Another reason Mahayana Buddhist denounce Hinayana--so-called-it Hinayana Buddhist is they are rigidly caught by precepts or teaching or what was told in scriptures. And they have no freedom from precepts or teaching. That is another reason why we denounce--why Mahayana--so-called-it Mahayana, Buddhist denounce Hinayana Buddhist.

But when Buddhism [was] started by Buddha, there was Maha- [partial word]--there were--there was not much difference between--actually, Buddhism was Mahayana. So if I dare to say, that was Mahayana. And why Maha- [partial word]--so-called-it Mahayana Buddhist arise was mainly Buddhist teaching of Buddhism or teaching of Buddhism became more and more concrete or caught by concrete idea of some particular teaching or some precepts. And they rigidly try to stick to the teaching. At first it was they respected the teaching too much and preserved--tried to preserve teaching, and that was the purpose of the priest especially. And this kind of effort result [in] very rigid understanding of precepts or teaching. So when, for an instance, they had--they--at first, Buddha did not have no idea of setting up precepts. And some--when someone do something wrong, Buddha just said, "That is not right. Why don't you do it this way?" That was the precept--the original precept. So there was no precepts in term of "Don't do--this is a precepts all the Buddhist should keep."

But when we count precepts in--like Ten Precepts--Ten Prohibitory Precepts, it is, you know--we feel as if we--if we fail to observe those Ten Precepts, you know--if you miss--if you cannot [if you violate] even one of the ten, you will not be the good Buddhist. So the purpose of precepts, receiving--taking vow or taking precepts is just to, you know, observe those things literally. That is maybe the usual way of understanding of precepts. But a true purpose of precepts is not just to observe precepts so that you can attain enlightenment.

Why we observe precepts or why we take vow is to actualize Buddha's spirit--Buddha spirit. So to take vow I, you know, this is the way: "Sentient beings are numberless. I vow to save them." The sentient being are numberless, you know--if it is numberless, you know, how is it possible to save them? [Laughs.] Same thing will be true with keeping precepts, you know. We should not kill: We should not take life without reason. "Without reason" is, you know, extra, you know. Without reason--we shouldn't say "without reason." We should just say, "You should not kill." [Taps table four times.] That is enough, you know.

When you fell into the idea of more usual, you know, secular understanding of precepts, you should say, "without reason" [laughs], if it means that if there is some reason, we can kill. By saying so we are making some excuse to kill. But why we have to make this kind of excuse is because you think the purpose of keeping precepts or taking vow is to attain enlightenment. And if you do not kill, or do not observe precepts, or do not take vow, you will not be a Buddhist or you will not attain enlightenment.

But purpose of--if you understand the purpose of observing the precepts is--precepts is to arise buddha-mind, then when you say "I will not kill," at that moment you have buddha-mind. There is no need to think, "I have to keep or observe precepts or vow forever." Even though--actually we don't know what we will do in next moment [laughs]. It is very difficult to know, to be sure about our future. But even it is so right now "I will not kill!" That is enough to arise buddha-mind. Even though it is not possible to save all sentient beings, but moment after moment if you say, "I must save all sentient being"--then you have buddha-mind.

So to arise--to be a Buddhist, moment after moment, we take vow. So it is not necessary to think about whether this is possible or not. When you take vow or when you keep precepts in this way, your way is already is not Buddhist way. You are fell into the superficial practice of "you should do" or "you should not," or "you should take vow" or "you shouldn't take vow." To take vow is to observe our way. So this is one of the way--many ways to practice our way, like zazen practice.

So "Sentient beings are numberless": Maybe, you know, it means that sentient beings are numberless. I vow to save them moment after moment, continuously. But "moment after moment, continuously" is not necessary. "I vow to save them" is strong enough and good enough. "I vow to save them." If the sentient beings are numberless, we will take this vow numberless times, that's all [laughs]. In this way, we feel another, you know, quite--feeling of quite different quality. We feel the eternal practice of our way, of our Buddhist way. So that it is--"Sentient beings are numberless" means that our practice is--will continue forever.

"Desires are inexhaustible. I vow to put an end to them." The second line of the four-line vow traditionally chanted after lecture. If our--the purpose of keeping precepts is to annihilate our desires. This vow is con- [partial word]--not possible, contradiction. But if the purpose of vow is to arise our buddha-mind, then it makes sense. The "inexhaustible" is some--gives us some encouragement, and we can continue our practice forever. And we--we will have firm confidence in our practice which continue forever. So we will be encouraged by this vow forever.

"The dharma is boundless. I vow to master them." The third line of the four-line vow traditionally chanted after lecture. Here it says also "boundless," the boundless dharma. I vow to master it. So our vow will continue forever, and we--we can believe in our boundless dhamma. Suzuki Roshi used the Pali pronunciation.

"The Buddha's way is unsurpassable. I vow to attain it." The fourth line of the four-line vow traditionally chanted after lecture. The same thing will be true with this vow.

In this way, we should take vow and we should keep our precepts. When you receive precepts, you know, you say, "I will," you know, "keep it," you say. When I give you precepts, you say, "I will keep it." It is not even promise. When you say, " I will do it," by words that is how you keep precepts. "I will do it." That's enough.

But you [laughs]--you may think, you know, when you don't know, you can [how can you?] keep the precepts. To say "I will keep it" is, you know, not so conscientious, you may say. When you take the precepts in that way, or when you receive precepts in that way, you are not receiving precepts in its true sense as Buddha expected. Why don't you say, "Yes, I will do it." [Hits table several times.] That is what Buddha wanted you to say. That's all. And whether you can keep it, you know, in next moment or next day is not the point. Do you understand? So it not so--it is not difficult at all to receive precepts. We say so--so we say, to receive precepts is to arise buddha-mind. To receive or to give precepts is to arise buddha-mind at that moment. It is not matter of keeping precepts literally or not. To arise buddha-nature, buddha-mind [we say], "I will do it!"--you know. That's enough.

You know, when you say "I will not say so because I don't know whether I can do it or not," that is maybe a kind of arrogance, which is the enemy of Buddhist. People may say, you know, people who is not so conscientious may say, "I will do it." But a person like me who is very conscientious will not say [laughs], "I will keep it." You see? Big arrogance is there [laughs]. Anyway, you know, you say--when you say, "I will keep it!"--you know, there is no arrogance. There is soft mind, which we Buddhist expect is there when you say, "I will do it. At least I try to do it." And "try to do it" will not be so good, you know. "I will DO it!" [laughs], you should say. "I will try to do it" is you are hesitating. "I will do it" is like to jump into the ocean. "I will do it!" Then there is no trouble.

The other day I told you about to climb up the top of the pole and to jump off the top of the pole. From Ts'ung-jung lu (J. Shoyoroku, E. Book of Serenity), Case 79: "Changsha Advancing a Step": "Climb one step beyond the top of the hundred-foot pole. The whole world in the ten directions is revealed." See also SR-69-04-20 and SR-69-06-17. We say--usually we say to climb up the top of the pole is easy but it is difficult to jump off from it. I don't think this is true [laughs]. To climb up, you know, to the top of the, you know, pole is difficult, but to jump off from it is not difficult. The way is just so say, "I will do it!" [Laughs.] When you think which is easier, you know, to climb up to the top of the pole or to jump off from the top of the pole, which is easier? [Laughs, laughter.] When you--because you are thinking that way, it is difficult. When you don't think, when you trust Buddha, and when you say, "I will do it!" that is way--easy way.

We are liable to be caught by something we see or something we experience, and we liable to compare one experience to the other and say which is difficult. So you say to climb up, you know, to the top of the pole is difficult--too easy in comparison to jump off from the pole [which is] not so difficult, but to jump off is very difficult. But you shouldn't say so [laughs]--or because you say so, because you think so, because you compare the experience of jumping off from the pole to the experience to climb up, you hesitate to do so. So how you keep this--those--how you keep precepts or how you take vow, four vow, is to--to do it, you know, without being involved in some idea of vow or practice or precepts.

In Japan, Buddhist receive precepts--we say jukai--and everyone says, "I will keep it." [Laughs.] And when I was young, you know, I thought this is nonsense. [Laughs.] How they keep precepts, you know? When they go home have to eat eggs, meat, even they eat rice, that is living being. They are killing everything as long as they live. How is it possible to say, you know, "I will keep it. I will not kill"? But later, you know, I was strucked by them when they say, "I will keep it." [I thought], "Oh, that is the way," you know, "to keep precepts."

In this way, we should take vow--Mahayana vow. This is the way the Buddha's disciples--direct Buddha's disciples took vow. Later, you know, Buddhism became more and more idealistic or more rigid, and we lost the important point. Those things is not something which we should be told. Actually we are doing--we are leading our life in this way. If you observe carefully our everyday life, we are actually doing so--doing in this way. When we understand our life in some sophisticated way [laughs], you get into trouble.

So if you want to study our way, we must not forget this point. It is necessary to study, of course, but in your study if you lose this point, your knowledge or your study will not work. You cannot own your knowledge in its true sense.



San Francisco


We have precepts: "Don't be angry," you know [laughs]. And Dogen Zenji's explanation to it is: Anger will be the beautiful cloud in the sky, or beautiful, you know, waves of water. When the sun lights or the moon lights, you will--we will have, you know, water in the sea, in the wa- [partial word]--moon in the--on the water. The anger is something like that.

So according to him, there is no need to suppress it because it is so beautiful [laughs]. But when you say it is so beautiful it is not so beautiful. When you [are] just angry, you know, like a boy, like a naughty boy, it may be very beautiful. That kind of humbleness is more important, and if we practice our way you will understand how difficult it is to be humble. So maybe better to be just honest. Whatever you do, you know--we should know that whatever you do or whatever you did is not perfect, so you should say, "Oh, excuse me" [laughs]--whatever you do, "Excuse me."




San Francisco


Student D:  Could you talk about guilt? 

Suzuki Roshi:  Guilt?

Student D:  When I'm listening to you--when I'm not listening to you, I--when my mind wanders off, I feel bad about it.  And then my mind wanders off to my feeling bad about it, and then I think I shouldn't feel bad about it, and the "shouldn't" itself makes me feel guilty.  I know what I am supposed to think, but I can't think that way.

Suzuki Roshi:  [Laughs, laughter.]  Yeah.  You cannot think that way.  That is, you know, when you feel bad, you know, about it, it is already, you know, you--you are out of practice, you know.  You are not practicing true way, you know.  You are just thinking about it. 

Sometime you are making some excuse, you know [laughs].  You know, to feel bad about it, you know, means at the same time [laughs] you--you are finding some good excuse, you know.  The same--same activity--no, no--different activity based on same, you know, impulse.  You don't want to be bad [laughs], so you feel bad.  So, you know, in that way you cannot solve--you cannot find out your own way just by finding out some reason why you did it or some teaching to justify your--what you have done.  You are far away from the prac- [partial word]--real practice.

So anyway what you have done will create some effect, you know.  That--it is inevitable, you know, for some acts to create some result.  So it is not matter of bad or good, you know [laughs].  Anyway, you will have the result of it.  So, you know, Buddha is very fair to everyone.  You cannot escape from what you have done.  So it is more than to say you did something bad [laughs], you know. 

If you, you know, accept--if you understand your life in that way, there is no more--no idea of good or bad already.  You may feel very bad about it, you know, but it doesn't make much difference.  You may feel--sometime you will find out some excuse for it, but it doesn't make any difference [laughs].  Do you understand?  That much is very true, I think.

If so, what you should do is--will be the next question.  So naturally you will be very, very careful what you will do.  Not because people say--people may say something--people may be critical with you or not because we have various precepts.  If you make that kind of effort, you know, people will have very good feeling ab- [partial word]--with you, I think.  And you may feel very good when you accept the truth of cause and effect completely.  If you are ready to accept the result of what you have done, that is the only way to be free from what you have done--to go beyond the idea of good and bad.  Hai.





As a Buddhist, of course, the most important precept is to--to believe in Buddha and his teaching and his disciples. Buddha, you know, for us is someone who attained enlightenment--not only historical Buddha but also Buddha's disciples who attained enlightenment is buddha. And still this is its--in its narrow sense. In its wider sense, whether we attain enlightenment or not we are buddha--not only human being but also various beings, animate and inanimate. Even something like stone is buddha, in its wide sense. So everything is buddha in its wide sense.






And we, you know, offer some money to Buddha and to have--to improve our health, you know [laughs]. "Buddha help me. I--I will offer a million dollar to you. [Laughs.] So please help me." But it cannot be--we cannot be helped in that way because the cause of--course of cause and effect is wrong. So only way to get free from suffering is to know real cause of suffering and to get--to get rid of the--no, knowing what is the cause of suffering, trying not to do something which will cause suffering. That is the only way to get out of the suffering, according to Buddhist. So we have no miracle at all [laughs] because we believe in the truth of cause and effect, and we are strictly observe true course of cause and effect. And if we mix--mix up the cause--course of cause and effect, that is so-called-it "to violate the--one of the precepts," kaigon suke.






What is, then, wrong livelihood? To cultivate the land or to cultivate land for a monk is not right livelihood. But in China, you know--this is like a kind of precepts for Indian monks. There are the people who enter religious life after finishing their family life. And they are supposed to be supported by people--not only his family but also people in the town--in his the town.




San Francisco


Do you know the koan of Hyakujo Hyakujo Ekai (Baizhang Huaihai): 720814. Chan master of the Tang period. Dharma successor of Baso Doitsu. --"Wild Fox and Hyakujo"? Mumonkan (Wu-Men Kuan, Gateless Gate), Case 2. Hyakujo was a famous--famous Zen master, as you know, who established special precepts for Zen monks. Before Hyakujo, Zen monks were practicing at some other temple--some temple which belongs to mostly Precepts School. Precepts master were lead [?]. There they were practicing zazen as you have been practicing zazen at Sokoji [laughs], because they have--they haven't their own temple. And they observed mostly Indian precepts. But Hyakujo established a monastery and they--he set up monastic rules, like Buddhist--like we have precepts--like Buddha set up precepts.

And he--one day--everyday he was giving lecture. The one old man always came and listened to the lecture. But one day he didn't leave after--after lecture. So Hyakujo asked him: "Why do you--why don't you go back to your room?" And the old man said: "I--in many hundreds of years, before you come to this temple, I was a resident priest of this temple. And I--when I was asked, 'Is it possible to be free from the truth of causality?'"

If you do something good you will have good result. If you do something bad you will have bad result. This is rules of causality in morality. And there must be various truth or theory. And--or you may say this is truth of karma.

"Is it possible to be free from karma or to be free from the truth of causality?" someone asked him. And he said: "Yes. It is possible." And that answer was not, you know, proper. "So [laughs] I reincarnated in fox, and I reincarnated [as a] fox again and again, about five hundred times, maybe," he said. "And I cannot--now I cannot be--I cannot get free from the karma because I did--I said something wrong."

And the old man asked--the fox actually, in disguise of fox asked, you know: "What will be the right answer?" And Hyakujo said: "Right answer will be, 'You will not--you cannot be free from karma.' That will be the right answer." And at that time the fox attained enlightenment.




Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Tuesday, August 12, 1969
San Francisco


Student F: Is it important for us as Zen Buddhists not to eat meat or fish? And if so, why?

Suzuki Roshi: Zen Buddhist--because we didn't, especially in Asian time, they didn't eat fish or, you know, meat because it is directly related to the first precept of non-killing, you know. "Don't kill." Directly related to the precepts of not--don't kill. And it is the most brutal, you know, way of killing animals, you know. So we didn't.

But, you know, our, you know, feeling or emotional life is more complicated right now, you know. And even though we know that--even though we don't kill animal, to eat rice or vegetables may be the same thing. We understand that, so we don't know, you know, to eat meat or fish is so bad or not, you know, anyway--because anyway we have to kill something when we eat something.

So our understanding or our understanding of precepts, you know, changed little by little. And in China, you know, the Sixth Patriarch, you know, when he received the transmission from his master, he lived for a long time in fishing village. And he mixed--the people, you know, would eat fish, but he ate soup [?] [laughs]--soup and the fish. Fisherman must have eaten the meat, and he mixed his soup with rice and ate. That may be actually violence [violation?] of the precept.

So precepts, you know, according to the time and place, changed little by little. And especially in Zen precepts we take--we observed precepts [in a] more positive sense. Without saying "not to kill," we say "help," you know, "living being in some way." For an instance, to raise, you know, to be kind to animal, or to be--to help to raise vegetables. This is more positive way of observing the precepts of not to kill. The best way of observing the precepts of "not to kill" is not to kill buddha-nature is the highest way of observing precepts.

So to practice, you know, zazen and to have more meaningful life is the way to observe our precepts. So we don't understand precepts in term of fish or, you know, meat. But I think to--I'm sure meat is not so good food for us. I think so. If so, we should not eat meat so much. Not because it is violence [violation] of the precepts, but because of, you know, because fish or meat is appropriate food for us or not appropriate. Hai.

Student G: It says that you need faith, doubt, and determination. What kind of doubt?

Suzuki Roshi: Doubt. Doubt means, you know, try to understand completely is doubt, you know--to accept teaching in its true sense. When you, you know, when you don't--when you find something difficult to believe in, you know, then you should, you know, try to accept it until you can accept it. That is doubt.

Student G: Well, if you accept it but you have doubt or true [1 words] as to what you're seeing while you practice it--or what you are going [1-2 words]--

Suzuki Roshi: Still--still that doubt should go on and on until you, you know, completely get over the doubt. That is a kind of--that is a way of studying our way. To continue doubt, that is very good practice. As a Buddhist it is good. The doubt should be very big and [laughs] and very wrong, you know. Then you--what you attain is greater.

Student H: Someone began as a student and doubted all rituals.

Suzuki Roshi: Mm-hmm.

Student H: How do you speak to him [SR laughs, laughter]? Would you ask him to do it and put his doubt aside? Or would you ask him to not do it and exercise his doubt?

Suzuki Roshi: That's--that is just intellectual doubt, you know. I mean doubt [laughter], you know, physical doubt and everything [laughs, laughter]. "If you have doubt, why don't you try it? If that is true or not?" Okay? [Laughter.]

Some question?

Student I: Could you explain to us some of the ceremonies that are used in the Buddhist funeral service and what they mean, please?

Suzuki Roshi: Uh-huh. In Buddhist funeral, you know, if he hasn't received precepts, we give precepts first of all. And then as a Buddhist, you know, we say farewell to them in some way, you know, in some traditional way. That's all, you know, but, you know, what we--

Student I: There is something in the service about forgiveness of sin.

Suzuki Roshi: Sin?

Student I: Yes. [4-6 words.] Possibly referring to "All your ancient twisted karma ... is now released." In the context of the service, could you explain that part?

Suzuki Roshi: We, you know, before we accept, you know, precepts, we make confession, you know, and receive precepts, and become Buddhist. And as a Buddhist I--we say, you know, last words to them or, you know, we, according to some traditional way, you know, as we say goodbye to our friend, we say goodbye to him.


Student N: You said that Buddhism is to live with our desires but not be ruled by them, if I understand you. Can you still say the vow, "I vow to put an end to them"?

Suzuki Roshi: Yeah.

Student N: Wouldn't it be more accurate, if I'm standing here teaching, wouldn't it be more accurate that we vow--

Suzuki Roshi: Yeah.

Student N: "I vow to understand them." [SR laughs, laughter.]

Suzuki Roshi: You continue--it means that you continue this practice, you know, forever because it is--our desires are, you know, inexhaustible. If so we [laughs, laughter]--there is no end in our practice.

Student N: Should I even try to put an end to them?

Suzuki Roshi: Yeah.

Student N: To our vows [?] I should try to put and end to them. But as I understand you, I should sort of make an effort to limit them, if I understand [3-4 words].

Suzuki Roshi: No, we don't mean that. Moment after moment, we should make best effort to put an end to the desires [laughs]. But desires--because desires is endless, so our effort will--may be endless. That is why, you know, Buddhist exist forever. You know, if--you know, if we put an end to every desires, you know, there will not be any need for Buddhist to [laughs] practice our way.






People say I am very patient, but actually I am very impatient character, you know. My inborn character is very impatient. But while I am working on my forgetfulness, now I don't try to [laughing]--to correct it. I gave up. But I'm--I don't think I--my effort was in vain, because I studied many things. I have to be very patient [laughs], you know, to correct my habit. And I must be very patient when people criticize me, you know, about my forgetfulness. "Oh! He is so forgetful. [Laughing.] We cannot rely on him at all. What should we do with him?" And teachers scold me, you know, every day: "This forgetful boy!" [Laughs, hits stick on table several times.]

But I didn't like to leave him, you know. I want--just I wanted to stay with him. I--I was very patient whatever--with whatever he says--he said. So I'm--I think I am very patient with some others' criticism about me. You know, whatever they say, I don't mind so much. I am not so angry with them. Actually, if you know how important--how important it is to train yourself in this way, I think you will understand what is Buddhism. And this is the most important point in our practice.

As Buddha said: Nin--nin is patience, endurance, virtue of endurance--is greater than virtue of observing all the precepts we have. The virtue of endurance is greater than the merit of asceticism. That was what Buddha said. I think this point is very important for our practice, especially, I think, for American students.




Zen Mountain Center

So Mahayana Buddhist do not understand things literally. For an instance, you know, when--we have precepts like "Don't kill." So for Theravada or Hinayana Buddhist, to kill some bugs is, you know, violence of the scripture--the precepts, because they stick to the moral code. But for Mahayana Buddhist, you know, if he stick to the word--if he understand precepts literally and stick to it, it is the violence of the precepts of--Fifth Precepts: "Don't be intoxicated by sake." Sake also is not just wine. Even though the teaching--if you stick to it, and if you are intoxicated by it, that is wine also. [Laughs.] So way of observing precepts [is] also very different.

Same thing is true in understanding of those scriptures. The five, for an instance--five--fifth--Fourth Precepts is not to tell a lie, you know. But in Lotus Sutra, Buddha, when he was bodhisattva he tell a lie to his family. And he said "I am--I shall--I am going to die." Oh, no no--he said, "I want to go--I want to make a trip. Perhaps I may not come back." So the children--some of the children who--who is not poisoned by--who is not spoiled completely by his father thought, "Oh, now there is--my father is not here, and he will not come again. So we must study hard." And they--some of them started [to] study hard. But some of them who are not--who [were] completely spoiled by his father did not start--did not study hard. But when he--when they learn the father is no more, then he--then they--they were awakened. And that is--"Who"--and scripture says, "Who criticize this father who tell a lie to--to his children?" It is because he told a lie to make them awake and to study hard. That was why he told a lie. This kind of, you know, story is everywhere.



The word Precept
as found in Shunryu Suzuki Lectures

Comments by Jenny Wunderly

To read the lecture or greater context of these excerpts, go to links below entries to
Suzuki lectures blog on SFZC site or Shunryu Suzuki dot com-the whole archive
 Thanks Jenny Wunderly for preparing this series.

Shunryu Suzuki Lectures on cuke


A U in this file name means un-verbatim, that there was no tape to check against or that it wasn't checked against the audio. Usually this means an older transcript of which the audio is lost. A V at the end of a lecture file name means verbatim. If there is neither it just means it was taken off when the file name was entered here. One could check against the data base list of all lectures at Shunryu Suzuki dot com for the present official lecture name. - dc

8-10-12 - This excerpt project has been most revealing of the constant emphasis Shunryu Suzuki placed on precepts and how to understand and implement precepts in one's life and practice. Want to repeat a comment from April: Amazing how much of the entire lecture archive is in these excerpts. I remember Niels Holm (RIP) saying once, "Suzuki Roshi taught precepts, his whole teaching can be seen that way." - dc