- an archival site on the life and world of Shunryu Suzuki and those who knew him.

check home for more links       what's new       Basic info on Shunryu Suzuki   Suzuki lectures donate to this site table of contents   bibliography     articles/excerpts      Cuke Sangha News   SFZC   Current Events  Thank You and OK!  links    comments         table of contents     links     and more if you look around 

DC MISC.        

dc misc. index

Another entry on Meister Eckhart

6-24-07 - Morning Zazen, the Four Vows, and Meister Eckhart

This morning I did the usual routine. Woke up, walked naked to the lou, peed, splashed cold water on my face a few times and rinsed my mouth - brushing will be later, got back in bed sitting upright atop some pillows, wrapped a Chinese pattern blanket around my bare shoulders, and sat there for a while. The length of the while is flexible. It can range anywhere from a couple of minutes to over an hour. That's my morning sit, zazen, meditation. I am not a deep meditator, an enlightened being coursing in samadhi. I Remember the "years of expensive Zen training gone to waste," joke that Zentatsu Baker made years ago. No matter. I plod along.

While I sit, various thoughts pass, and as they do, um - I basically let them come in and go out without entertaining them as Shunryu Suzuki advised. At some point I usually say thank you. I may say it once or may repeat it for some time with, say exhalations. This brings to mind Shinran and Jodo Shinshu's gratitude practice of reciting thank you to Amitabha Buddha, thank you that we're already saved - I think I've got that right. It brings to mind Meister Eckhart's saying, in German, that "if the only prayer you say in your life is 'thank you,' that would suffice."

Also, my old psychic mentor, Fred Kimball (more on him later), used to say that the best way to ask for something was to say thank you. He'd say to say thanks for all one has received and all one will like for instance a new car or whatever. This moves the gratitude and prayer over into the realm of acquisition. Often I run through a thank you for the things I want which are always included in this list: To save all beings, to awaken, to be healthy, to be wealthy. By this I mean to realize that there is no limited self but that all beings are one and already awakened, that there is nothing but the awareness of this, that body and mind are perfect, and that I want for nothing - all is provided, all is complete as is.

This brings to mind Meister Eckhart's admonition that the ultimate practice is to know nothing, want nothing, have nothing. See previous entry on this.

As if all this wasn't enough, this morning I ran through the four vows which I remember as:

Beings are numberless, vow to liberate them
Obsessions are numberless, vow to sever them
Dharma gates are boundless, vow to master them
Buddha's way is unsurpassable,  vow to attain it.

Here's another from the Paralumun site, whatever that is. Got lots of Zen on it.

Sentient Beings Are Numberless, I Vow to Liberate Them
Desires are Inexhaustible, I Vow to Put an End to Them
The Dharmas Are Boundless, I Vow to Master Them
The Buddha's Way is Unsurpassable, I Vow to Become It

I took the "vow to master them" from this. I don't like the "I vow to become it," on the last line, as used in the SFZC, though I feel somewhat responsible for its use these days as that's how, after having gone over it with some Japanese priests, I rendered it literally for Baker Roshi at Tassajara back in 1975 when he was working on a new translation. I just meant that that's a basic meaning of the character "jo," the last word in the chant. "To become" might  seem like the highest best way to say it and it's not goal oriented like attain, but it's sort of awkward to me, and anything that's said will be phenomenal and fall short and these vows are each unattainable in the relative sense - like we're really going to one by one liberate all beings. And the dharma gates are the gateless gate etc. So why not say attain as in attain that which is beyond attainment.

Here's from The Four Great Vows by Ven. Shikai Zuiko osho complete with dharma talk - on the website of the Ottawa White Wind Zen Community.

Shi Gu Sei Gan


All beings without number I vow to liberate.
Endless obsessions I vow to release.
Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to penetrate.
Limitless awakening I vow to unfold.

I like the word "obsession" for bonno. Bonno is the klesas - greed, hate, and delusion, the thieves of the mind, defilements, vices, negative tendencies - often just translated as desire. I just went back up to my version and replaced "desires" with "obsessions." Also really like that last line but don't use it cause it's sort of interpretational.

OK. Enough on that. Gotta move on. Get to the point. The whole reason I sat down to write.

So I was sitting this morning and hadn't really slipped into a luminous groove, so I went back to the four vows and saw them in terms of Meister Eckhart's three admonitions of know, want, and have nothing, his gates to knowing god, to awakening.


Beings are numberless, vow to liberate them - this is the culmination of the next three.

Obsessions are numberless, vow to sever them - this is "want nothing."

Dharma Gates are boundless, vow to master them - this is "know nothing."

Buddha's way is unsurpassable,  vow to attain it - this is "have nothing."


Nuff for now. Thank you.

What's New