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

The Spirit of the Lotus Sutra

Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. 1
[Third Lotus Sutra Series]
Monday Evening, October 20, 1969
Zen Mountain Center

As many of you are the students who joined our training-- this training period, and perhaps many of you didn't join the last training period, so I think I must tell you about the spirit of the Lotus Sutra because it is rather difficult for someone who wants to read it as you read Bible or Confucianism. It is not some sutra like the chronicle of sayings or actions of great sages like Christ or Confucian. It is something like the Divine Comedy of Dante. Or it is something like a great music, you know. It is actually something to feel when you read.


So in Japan, whether or not they understand it, they repeat the Lotus Sutra over and over again until they get the feeling of the sutra. If you think it is great music, maybe, you will appreciate this sutra. If you read it chapter by chapter, you know, it doesn't mean anything. It is like seeing a big building part by part. Sometime you will see just strange, you know, foundation of the big building. Although it is something big, it is not so interesting. It may be a big big stone or concrete, but if you see the building from a distance, it may be a beautiful building. So until you read it over and over again and appreciate the whole structure of the building, it is not so interesting a sutra. It looks like a kind of mess which is written in great scale.


This is the difference between Hinayana-- I shouldn't say “Hinayana”-- maybe original Buddhism and more developed Buddhism. For an instance, you know: You are very much interested in Zen. But Zen is maybe a big mysticism in one way. When we put emphasis on enlightenment, and when we talk about enlightenment [laughs], you know, it is something beyond actually what we are saying. You will feel the spirit of it by koan or by story or by Shobogenzo. You will feel some burning-- some-- some-- something very hot inside. It is like a blue flame, you know-- it is very hot. And very direct. That is the characteristic of Zen.


Same thing is true with Mahayana scriptures. Unless you feel the hidden spirit in it, it is rather difficult to appreciate it. And it may take a pretty long time to understand it, because it is a pretty voluminous scripture. And for Zen student it takes a pretty long time. We say, “sudden enlightenment” [laughs], but actually after practicing very hard with with intensity and with firm conviction, you will understand the hidden spirit.

From  69-10-20]. For more go to this entry on the Suzuki lecture archive found on Shunryu Suzuki dot com. - Edited by DC, posted 1-08-15