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Shunryu Suzuki Lecture Transcripts 2012 --- INDEX

Working with the most difficult tapes in the Suzuki tape archive

Thanks to Judith Gilbert for transcription and AW for Audio work - DC, 4-05-12

Yellow words are ones where Judy guessed.

Shunryu Suzuki Lecture
Audio Problem set
JG's first pass - see CM's 2nd pass

Devoted in Japan since Tokugawa or late Tokugawa period or first part of Meiji period in Japan, is the study of … theoretical study or historical study of Buddhism, accumulated by European scholars who had... Buddhists who had, who found many Buddhist literature in India.

And we, Japanese people realized the necessity of -- the importance of the study of all these literature, because Chinese Zen dialog is from Sanskrit. So, without understanding of Sanskrit literature, we thought it is difficult to know – to figure out the original Buddhism. But … so, Japanese scholars devoted the study of Indian literature through Pali or Sanskrit. And we have achieved a great attainment, and we all completed comparing all those sutras with many commentaries.

Important as all this study is, this is not a true study of Buddhism.

So, there is no wonder than in America, there are many psychologists and scholars who started to study from various angles – like psychology, or philosophy or comparative religion.

And we also started how to understand from the viewpoint of modern science. In scientific viewpoint. But it is fitting that we didn't realize – or most of people didn't realize how important it is to practice Buddhism.

They just try to apply original teaching of Buddhism to your everyday life through science … like comparative religion or psychology or ethics.

But this kind of study, will not help you in these true sense, because Buddhism, the purpose of Buddhism is to attain liberation. And liberation in its true sense is not just psychological one, or just physiological one. It should be both psychological and physiological attainment.

So here, there is reason why we must study Zen. But some Zen masters carefully thought freedom, or practice, practice Zen just to attain some psychological power or attainment. Psychological statement. But this is not true understanding or true Zen.

Why we started Zen – zazen – is because we couldn't satisfy with that philosophical study … study of this. And many schools who accomplished to some certain expense to satisfy with their attainment. And each school of Buddhism has its own canon. Canon is … we call it kyosohanjaku. This means why some scripture – some special scripture is so important among all of our scripture. And they organized systematically all of our scripture from some certain viewpoint.

And after those efforts, Zen appeared, and people started to realize how important it is to practice Zen. Some instruction or some approach through understanding of Zen or through experience of Zen, That is why we sit in cross-legged posture.

But, if you think about – if you understand the true meaning of Zen, you should study our teaching; like fundamental teaching. Like teaching of Four Noble Truths or teaching of interdependency or teaching of everything changes or teaching of emptiness or teaching of Middle Way.

Those teachings will give you some intellectual understanding of our practice.

So, practice is first, and intellectual study is next. But you can be nice person, but in its true sense, if you understand directly what is Buddhism, it is necessary for you to practice Zen path, and study intellectually some fundamental teaching through various scriptures.

But, in Japan, accumulated from European study of Buddhism, we were so busy in theoretical study,

some people got … even though you go to Japan, there's not much study, because there are not many good Zen masters. Maybe true – maybe true. But it does not mean there are no good Zen masters at all. There are many – pretty many good Zen masters.

But if you understand what you have, what we have achieved in the theoretical, you will understand what we have been doing for 100 years.

But anyway, this morning I want to give you some instruction or suggestions on how to practice zazen.

If you want to practice zazen, the most important thing is to do things – to practice it with your whole mind and body. You should be involved in the practice completely. You practice zazen just to practice zazen – not to attain something. You should be completely involved in it: in the posture you take, the way you take breathing, and with your calm, [j g1] friend, well-concentrated mind.

The posture we take – there is two kinds, or three kinds. One is pure water in which we drop our legs perfectly – like this. Right foot on your left thigh, and left foot on your right thigh. This is full, but it may be difficult for most of you to sit in cross-legged position, so maybe better to first go in half-lotus. Half-lotus is you cross … you put your left foot on your right thigh. Or you can sit in this way if it is impossible to try.

This is, you know, my sit or you sit this way – whichever you like.

At first, for everyone, for even Japanese, most of Japanese, it is difficult to sit in half-lotus position, even. This is very difficult. In this case, your knee and ankle should touch to the floor. Okay? This way. If it is difficult, you can put something under the knee.

Can you hear me?

And if you do for one or two months every day, for about … more than thirty minutes, eventually your knees get closer to the floor. This is how you cross your legs.

The more important thing is to put strength here … to have power here. To … if you want to have power here, you have to bring your hip as far back as you can. Most of you sit on your seat like this. (Giggles) Like when you are driving your car. A very bad posture for Zen students, because you have no strength here. So even though, even when you drive your car, you should take this posture, because your legs are long enough to reach your brake. So please take this posture.

It is so when you read if you read in this posture, you will be tired, get tired quite soon. If you take this posture, it is not [j g2] sleeper. Please try which is better. To put some strength here, and to keep your back straight, and pulling your hips as far back as you can, like this. Even when you sit in your chair, even when you eat, you should be careful not to lose your nice posture. This is very, very important.

And your mind should be concentrated on your breathing. This is to attain one of physical and mental activity.

Breathing activity or exercise is both mental and physical. So if you take hold of this point, you can control both mind and body. This is why this is the best way to attain oneness of physical and mental good state. Even though you have – your mind is on your breathing, you may hear the sounds and you may see something, because mostly we sit with our eyes open. And we, you know, you see something, and you hear something, and sometimes sounds, image will come.

But don't be bothered by them. Let them coming, and let them go out. Usually, if you do not entertain them, it will not stay. But not, in the most case, you give them a cup of tea (giggles) or encourage the to stay. That is why they stay and bother you. Don't be bothered by it. Let them coming and let them go out.

That is the kind of thing which you gain by your stomach here. When your mind is here or here, it means you are entertaining. If your mind is here, you are not concerning – concerned too much about the image you have in your mind.

Try to keep right posture, with some power in your stomach.

And when you sit, your practice should be [j g3] band with the spirit, like if someone tell you to stand up, you will not stand up, forever. Until someone tells you to stand up, you stand up.

[j g4] 

This much confidence is necessary.

It means you sit right in the center of the power of the world, of the universe – whatever it is. Once you are right in the point of zazen, in dharma. If you have some idea of space or time, that practice is not true practice. You should always be sitting in the cross point of space and time. That is true practice. And this is very important. Because this practice of … this practice is beyond the idea of time and space.

According with the true teaching of Buddhism, to reach on this moment, on this point, moment after moment, is to actualize our teaching. So when you sit in this way, there you have the true teaching of Buddhism.

This is the teaching, the fundamental teaching. Here you have the oneness of teaching and practice; oneness of enlightenment and practice.

So this much, at least, this much confidence is needed. When you fix your mind, and practice our way, there you have renunciation. You have the true teaching of Zen. This practice, when you practice in this way, we say you remove your original face, or original nature.

I already started to explain the direct experience of Zen, in our way of understanding of the original teaching. But the purpose of my lecture today is not to talk about our fundamental teachings. But just to explain how to sit.

Now we have crossed our legs and we understood how to keep our spine straight. Now we have to pull our neck, like this – so that your spine can be straight in any case. And your tongue should be on your upper jaw and your teeth [j g5] support with each other.

And your hands fold together. It should not be like this or like that. Here you have one – what do you call it? You have veins here,  to join neck, third right. There you have perfect mudra. And your both thumbs support with each other. Don't press, actually, and don't leave loose, like this. They should be just support with each other, as if you have a piece of paper in between. If you … if there is some circle between first electricity and … mind has electricity. It is here. It is not like this. If it is like this, there will be no circle – spark. No spark.  If it is like this, you will have no spark, either.

Q: Richard – they naturally touch.

Yes, touch. Actually it's touch that you feel. They feel supported with each other.

This is very true to what you hear in sitting, or what you see.

And your arms … your arms should not be too tight to your body or should not be too loose. And your pair touch to your tummy. So naturally, your arms open – this way. Your arms stand outward – little bit. This is just seeing, it should be, you know, exactly right. But maybe this is according to the personality. Someone who is too open should be this way, and someone who … who is – what do you call it? Inward nature, I don't remember this word. Person who is too open, and person who is …. Oh yes, extrovert and introvert. The mind is always working into yourself, you know. Too much critical to yourself. This kind of nature or character. … He has the opposite.

But anyway, if you stand your arms this way, and keep your vertical line with your … someone pointing to personal level,


Just to have focus in the area four or five feet ahead. In this way you practice seven, and it is necessary for you to practice it with strong confidence, and it is necessary to continue the practice, to spend forty minutes a day with the practice is not at all a waste of time for you.

So whether you are Buddhist or not, it is better to practice in this way. And if you want to study Buddhism, you know, with this experience, you will understand the meaning of our practice intellectually. And it will help your intellectual understanding of … the philosophical study of Buddhism, or understanding from various angles. Now Buddhism is open to science and philosophy and intellectual study, and emotional activity. So from various angles you can study Buddhism, This is one of the characteristics of Buddhism.

You do not say, “This is not the right practice.” Or “That is the right practice.”

You know, we say, “Gateless gate.” Gateless gate is our gate. That we have no gate is true gate. We have no special gate.

From various angles you can study Buddhism, but it is necessary to practice Zen. The practice is not easy like this. It is center of the teaching. That gate. So, from the center you may go out from various directions.

So we say, practice is first, and understanding is next.

So, for usual study, there may be some approach, and some people may attach to some special way for the investigation. That is not our way.

Zen practice should not be compared with some other approach.

If you want to practice Zen, it's inevitable for you to do it. Maybe without teacher, at home, we can do it. But if you understand what does it mean by practice, or what is attained by practice, you must have … you must have teacher. And with teacher, or with friends, you have deeper and deeper understanding of our practice.

With that kind of understanding, you encourage your practice. And your practice will promote your intellectual understanding.

Thank you very much.


Source: digital audio archive from DC. Problem set. Transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Work in progress. Further preparation to post by DC

 JG notes:

 [j g1]17:46

 [j g2]23:06

 [j g3]28:02

 [j g4]29:16

 [j g5]33:40



Source: digital audio archive from DC. Problem set. Thanks to audio work by AW, transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Work in progress. Further preparation to post by DC

Shunryu Suzuki Lecture Transcripts in Progress

Working with the most difficult tapes in the Suzuki tape archive

Thanks to Judith Gilbert for transcription and AW for Audio work

Suzuki lectures blog on SFZC site or Shunryu Suzuki dot com-the whole archive

Shunryu Suzuki Lectures on cuke