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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

Once more, I think, I hope that people will become more honest and direct. That is really the root of the problem.

Q: If you say it's so simple to be honest and direct, why is it so hard? Why does it take so many years?


Why it is so hard is because we are trying to escape from. We should suffer more, maybe. We will not lose in suffering, but if we try to escape from it, you will be caught by it.

Q: Isn't that right? How did it get started that we try to escape from suffering? When I have the courage to face it but.... it works out fine.

Uh huh.

Q: Seldom can I do that, though. How did it get so popular to run away from things?

You know, we have many, many ways of escaping – very advanced! We can now escape from this Earth to the Moon, maybe! (Giggles) We have many, you know, ways of escaping trouble.

And we are, you know, we have not much courage, you know, to face or to satisfy with such a cup of water, you know. We are trying to put sugar in it, and to sell something, you know. Putting something … you know. And it is not just exactly what I want. Maybe I want a cup of plain water more!

But I have to drink … because we, you know, we try to escape from something, or we rely on something – we want to make ourselves happy, you know, without, you know, making ourselves really happy.

But we … because we want to … ah, you know, we want to satisfy or  – not satisfy – we want to, maybe we want to … we want to be fooled by something, you know. To escape actual suffering, if we are honest enough, you will say, “I like brand-new car.” But if your car serves some sweet, like this, you don't say, “I like, but ….”

Many things … many words is going with things – to sell something, we force something or not, on us.

So, in our everyday life, we find this kind of dishonesty. So we are … if we become very frank and honest … you know, if we try to be honest, as much as we can, and if I want to have something, something for ourselves, you know, then various problems will be solved.

So, it is not possible to change our way of life, you know, all at once, because our … this kind of effort has been going for many hundreds of years. After Counter-Reformation, maybe .. or Industrial Reformation [Revolution].

This is current of our thought, I think. And we are deeply involved in it, and we like to enjoy it still, you know.


Q: Could you say something about practicing zazen alone, and practicing it then?

Practicing zazen where?

Q: Alone.


Q: Practicing zazen alone, and practicing it in a group?

If you really want to practice zazen, naturally you may need some advice, you know.

Practice should be for your own, you know – must be your own practice.

So it is necessary for some advice, or instruction is necessary.

So, after you start, you know, after you know pretty well about your practice, you can do it alone … maybe.

If we start to talk about this kind of thing, it is endless, actually. You can do it alone, but always you should be … you should have cross-contact with, you know, more mature practice.

Because there is no definite, concrete way of practice.

No more question?

Is that okay?

So Dogen Zenji said … says, “to practice zazen, and to ask advice from your teacher.” This two are … point is very important for practice.

Q: Here, I have something that … a question that has come up in talking about Western religious quests versus Eastern religious quests, and one thing that I've heard people say is that Zen is more interested in the individual alone, and not so much in the society. … On the other hand I have Bodhisattvas say – “I'll quest until all beings are ...”


Q: Really, what is Zen's concern with society as a whole?

Society, as a whole?

Q: You know, or all of the people in the country. Or all of the people in the world.... Is it only a thing that is so difficult that maybe just the people can do such an individual thing? Or is there some hope of …

What, banned books? That is the problem, you know.

Q: You said that during practice, a student can do … must be careful not to do too little or too much.


Q: If I do too little, I might fall asleep. What do you mean by too much? How is it possible to do too much – you are trying too hard?

Too hard. Too hard....

Q: What would be doing …

To get up, you know, too early, before other students in bed, you know.To get up early and to sit – that is not good practice.

Our rules is not so rules, you know. Our rules are, you know, just right. If you try to do more, you will be exhausted. You cannot keep your practice for seven days – eventually you will give up. That is the result.

So, you know, this much care is necessary on the part of the teacher or leader.


The great teachers are doing, you know, just enough, and not too much. Sometimes they wear, you know, gorgeous okesa, and beautiful hat, and long staff, you know. Beautiful sandal, and beautiful whisk, you know.

You may think, “That is too much!” But actually, maybe too much!

Maybe too much, but the reason why they do so is people like it! (Giggles)

So [j g1] Innen said, “Even though I wear gorgeous robes, this is just right for the people.” For, you know, people, contemporary people. He may say.

Maybe before I finish my lecture, let me talk more about [j g2] Kumaza Zenji. I'm rather, you know, angry with him! Because I was fooled by him for maybe more than thirty years! (Giggles)

And I found out that I was ruled by him, you know … some thirty years ago.

And he gave us … some Zen story during sesshin time. We are sitting in cold, cold zendo, for seven days, at Eiheiji. In the snow. And we are, you know, very serious practice. Of course, we are so young!


One morning, Kumaza, late Kumaza Zenji … at that time he was Kannin – he was Director of Eiheiji monastery – came to zendo and give us a Zen story.

He said, “Do you understand this story?” He said, “As a sparrow, a sparrow broke, you know, big stone gate – torii. Ishiino Torii means big gate built by … built of stone. As think of this, I don't know how a sparrow break it. I don't know how – maybe by stepping on it! (Giggles)

And he said, “Do you understand?” And we thought that is some koan, you know. We must solve during seven-day sesshin!

And he started to talk about it, in very serious mood.

I didn't like, you know, that kind of story, you know. Zen story. So cold a Zen story. I feel as if, whereever I read or hear Zen story, I feel as if I was fooled by it! Some result not giving so much reason for it is soft – they talk about something funny.

Because I didn't like it, I remembered what he said. I still remembered it.

But the other day, you know, when I, you know, think about what he said – when I repeat it, what he said, “Ko suzume ga – ko suzume ga, ichi no torii ii o fumiotta. Ko suzume ga ichi no torii ii o fum[j g3] iotta.”

What does it mean? Of course, i is  Japanese, I'm sorry. It is Japanese. Fumiotta means to step on it and break it and it is so  as mirror. But another meaning may be “[j g4] funde itta” (Giggles) A sparrow was stepping on the, you know, stone – “funde itta!” You know!


What stepping on the stone has some force. “Furnde amo” – one meaning is break, and the other meaning is only stepping on it – the other meaning.

So what he said, the other meaning was serious – seriously talking about it – as if the sparrow was breaking, you know, the big stone of the big stone gate!

But when he … before he start to talk about it, to say something: to explain that koan.... He defeated, “Do you understand?” (Giggles)

You know, no one could understand that is was joke! (Giggles) Because we are too serious! (Giggles)

No one talked about his joke, or his koan … after, you know, that sesshin.

Why? Because no one could understand what he meant! (Giggles)  Or no one could understand that was just a joke! (Giggles)

That is another side of the serious, you know, practice.

That is, if we could … if someone could, you know, that was just joke – we are practicing very good practice – not too much effort, but not too little! (Giggles)

Maybe we are wasting our effort, doing … making some excessive effort.

Too much effort – so we are just in our usual thinking mind.

That is how we obtain, you know, our true practice.

He was a really great Zen master.

That is, you know, how you solve the problem.

If every, you know, governor of the United States is like him – not much problem! (Giggles) Not our life. Even though someone is very mad at him, you know, they treat … they are treating him just right.

Not too, you know – not too strong and not too soft.

That is not something which we can attain, but a skill – by repeating things.

But if you know, just what is real practice, then, you know, you will have … you can do things just right.

Thank you very much.

 [j g1]18:40

 [j g2]19:21

 [j g3]23:42

 [j g4]23:58



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