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Excerpts from Shunryu Suzuki lectures - 2014-5
[laughs] = Suzuki laughs [laughter] = students laugh


Was just reading Brian Victoria's latest piece on Japanese Zen priests' enthusiastic encouragement of militarism and incredibly convoluted rationalizations of the precepts to justify killing people. Here are a couple of excerpts about the precept not to kill, showing the positive and negative sides to the precept. - DC

[Suzuki is speaking on the] ten prohibitory precepts. “Do not kill.” Those rules are 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 but based on the truth-- a universal truth of universe. 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 observing the precepts “Do not kill.” So “Do not kill” is not just a matter of forcing something on others or formality observation. 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 to extend our life activity or our life. “Do not kill” refers sometime to a lazy attitude, you know, lazy way of life. 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.

- from 66-01-21-A


Student C: Is it ever permissible to help others by killing?

SR: By killing?

Student C: I mean, would it be possible for a bodhisattva to be a soldier?

SR: No, I don't think so. Because human life is absolute-- has absolute value.

- from 65-07-30-C

Peace and War page

For more go to this entry on the Suzuki lecture archive found on Shunryu Suzuki dot com. - Edited by DC, posted 1-12-15