- Shunryu Suzuki Index  - WHAT'S NEW - table of contents

Suzuki and other quotes from Crooked Cucumber
sent by FF Miller April 2016

Excerpts and Quotes Main Page


Quotes from Crooked Cucumber by David Chadwick, 1999



Our mind should be free from traces of the past, just like the flowers of spring.  p. 3


Proverb:  If you love your child, send him on a journey. p. 15


When my master and I were walking in the rain, he would say, “Do not walk so fast, the rain is everywhere.”  p. 16


“I was lucky to be there (in the temple, Zoun-in with his master, Sogaku at age 11)  and was encouraged by them, but the difficult thing was to get up in the morning as they did.”  This was the first lesson Toshi (Shunryo Suzuki’s childhood name) learned at his new temple.  It took time, and nobody would help him, but eventually he discovered that he could do it if he jumped out of bed before he had a thought.  Once he knew how, he never stopped.  It became a lifelong practice and teaching of his.  “When the bell rings, get up!” p. 19


Karma can change into a vow.  p. 20


So-on arranged for his students to study with another teacher for a while, a Rinzai Zen teacher.  Before they left, So-on had some words of advice.  “Don’t forget beginner’s mind; don’t stick to any particular style of practice.  When you go to a Soto temple, practice theSoto way; when you go to a Rinzai temple, practice the Rinzai way.  Always be a new student.” p. 31


Even a mistaken approach is not a waste of time.  p. 39


Then he (Shunryo Suzuki) had a little epiphany:  if only he could go abroad and bring to foreign people not the worst of Japan but the best — something truly Japanese that could be applied to another culture.  The best way to do this would be to completely understand Zen first and then bring Zen to others.  Maybe, he thought, maybe I could do that.  p. 40


As soon as you intellectualize something, it is no longer what you saw.  p. 47


Whatever the teaching may be, the teaching confronts each in accordance with the circumstances.  p. 49


Regarding honoring a buddha statue:  He said that such a statue reminds us that the way is everywhere, and that we ourselves are buddha, so that when we offer incense to the statue we are recognizing our own true nature, the true nature of all that is.  The nature of our existence is not something we can know or remember so easily.  Buddha is not a god or a being who can be easily described.  You can’t put your finger on what buddha is, but Buddhism does have various teachings.  There is, for instance, the first principle of religion; the Sambhogakaya Buddha, the subtle body of rapture or grace, the fruit of practice, and the Nirmanakaya Buddha, the historical person who awakened under the body tree.  He was a person just like everyone else, who attained something wonderful that is possible for others to attain—women and men. … But to understand these bodies of buddha, or to deeply know ourselves, it isn’t helpful to think about it too much.  That’s why Buddhists apply themselves wholeheartedly to experience direct insight of the truth through meditation and other mindful practices like chanting and offering incense or tea to a statue of a buddha.  p. 57


This affair of (explaining) the Buddha statue was momentous for Suzuki, literally changing the course of his life.  He would later call it the turning point of his life.  “I felt very good.  I developed some confidence in our teaching and in the thought that I could help Western people understand Buddhism.  p. 58


At the age of 25, on April 10, 1930, Shunryo graduated from Komazawa University, second in his class, in Buddhist and Zen philosophy, with a minor in English.  His graduate thesis…

focused on the relationship between master and disciple (Dogen, Shobogenzo, Raihai Tokozui)…His teachers emphasized religion over philosophy, direct experience over systemization. p. 61


One falling leaf is not just one leaf; it means the whole autumn.  p. 63


He had arrived (at Eiheiji) in early September, 1930, at the age of twenty-six. …His father and mother could take care of Zoun-in indefinitely while Shunryu walked on Dogen’s path in the deep forest monastery.  p. 64


At Eiheiji - You had to walk and work slowly and silently; you shouldn’t speak much and then it must be softly.  In zazen, you didn’t move, not for pain, not for the mosquito on your face.  p. 65


…getting the physical practice down was …overwelming , and after the initial nervousness and bungling, gradually it became harmonious and invigorating. p. 65


Our mind should always be subtle enough to adjust our conduct to our surroundings.  p. 69


My master, Kishizawa-roshi, used to say that we had to have a vow or aim to accomplish.  The aim we have may not be perfect but even so it is necessary for us to have it.  It is like the precepts.  Even though it is almost impossible to observe them, we must have them.  Without an aim or the precepts, we cannot be good Buddhists, we cannot actualize our way.  p. 79


Things are always changing, so nothing can be yours.  p. 81


The loss of Miss Ransom and his wife and the deaths of both his father and his master gave meaning to the age-old Buddhist teaching that everything changes and life is suffering.  p. 83


To understand Buddhism is not to waste your time.  If you do not understand Buddhism, you are wasting your time.  p. 83


He was beginning to see that he couldn’t organize his practice, his life, the teachings he was receiving, and the lessons he was learning.  He had to let go of all that and leave it to ripen on its own.  He had to adjust minute by minute.  He was getting a glimpse that the way to have a complete experience with full feeling in every moment, not to use each moment to think about the past or the future, trying to make sense of it all.  p. 83 


Now that he had lost so much and been so changed, it was easier for Shunryu to give up his systems and beliefs and just be in the world, walking step by step with no person, thing, or idea that he could depend on permanently.  p. 84


Because things don’t actually go as you expect, there is suffering. p. 84


The only way you can endure your pain, is to let it be painful.  p. 89


To live in the realm of buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment. p. 104


Regarding WWII - I cared more about the fundamental way of thinking that causes war…. I put the emphasis on studying what was actually happening in the country, in the army, and in the political world.  p. 120


Moment after moment we should renew our life.  p. 121


Noiri (a younger disciple of Shunryu’s teacher) was struck by Shunryu’s bearing, by the way he carried himself, moved, and handled his bowing cloth.  His tempo was just right…Noiri saw a profound stillness in Shunryo.  p. 123


All beings have buddha nature and all life is precious.  We are nurturing Buddh’s children and we should do so with Buddha’s compassionate mind.  We shouldn’t see some as sharp and others as dull.  By treating all children without discrimination, we enable them to see all beings as equal.  We should perceive things with our fundamental eye, not only with our consciousness that makes the distinctions of daily life.  That is the eye of wisdom—to appreciate things and people “as they are” and live our lives fully in the universe that is “as it is”.p. 130


The practice of zazen makes you capable of dealing with a situation in the best way, on the spot.”  p. 131  (The Fifth Rank)


Our human destiny is to have suffering.  p. 142


Our way has no end and no beginning, and from this way we cannot escape.  p. 145


Our practice means to have sincere, concern for people.  Our practice is based on our humanity. p. 147


We must educate ourselves about the ways and languages of other peoples…We must think globally and not be limited by national boundaries, in order to achieve world peace.  p. 148


Teach Buddhism for world peace.  If I could do that my life would be fulfilled.  p. 149


In many ways Shunryu had a full and useful life, but it wasn’t fulfilling enough for him.  He could not be satisfied unless he was practicing and teaching the way of the many great teachers he had met and studied with.  He had to pay his debt of gratitude to them, pass on the torch he had received, and engage with people in a deeper way.  p. 152


The idea of going abroad was always in my heart, even though I’d given up.  I thought I’d given up, but I hadn’t.  p, 152



Crooked Cucumber Quotes pp. 153-261


In your life, if you come to a great difficulty, like a big mountain in Nepal that looks like it has no passageway, you know there is a way to get through. p. 153


“How is it going in America?  Surely you have found someone by now,” Shunryu asked Gido.  “No,” said Gido…”I’ll do it,” Shunryu said.  “Yes you know English.  You would be perfect.  Too bad you can’t get away.”  “I’ll do it,” said Shunryu.  …Gido was truly amazed.  “You mean really do it?  You’re joking right?”  “No, I’m serious….I can leave in six months.”  p. 154


Do not say too late.  p. 158


May 21, 1959 - Shunryo Suzuki boarded a plane for San Francisco.


Holding in one hand a large, flat package wrapped in brown paper, a git from the old temple for the new one, and waving a bouquet of flowers held high in the other, Suzuki laughed and clowned as he approached the airplane parked on the tarmac.  A happy man, dancing and laughing, was off to America.  p. 162


When I came to America I was determined to turn over a new leaf.  p. 165


You may say that things happen just by chance, but I don’t feel that way.  p. 171


Della Goertz said of Suzuki, “There was something about his bearing, a look in his eye that made me feel that whatever he said was something I could trust.  He was a rare person.”  

p. 175


Zazen was physically difficult, and toward the end of …practice periods…most people’s legs were in pain.  But day after day, the stillness of Suzuki’s sitting filled the room with confidence and encouraged the others to persist.  p.  177


It is important to work for future generations, for our descendants.  We must be proud to do something, even though people do not usually know its value.  p. 177


Buddhism has many annual layers, like a big tree.  It is our tradition to respect those efforts that our ancestors have made for more than twenty-five hundred years.  When this temple was founded, there were not many priests in America, and the founder worked so hard…. This was an important effort, but its is nothing compared to the effort and devotion of our ancestors in India, China, and Japan in preserving and developing Buddhism.  We should continue these efforts generation after generation forever.  p. 178


People came and sat with Suzuki and each other in candlelight and silence, chanted a sutra, maybe stayed for tea afterward, and then went on about their lives.  Those who continued day after day, week after week, began to feel a change in themselves.  Suzuki did too.  He was no longer frustrated with how his life was going.  p. 181


When there is freedom from self, you have absolute freedom.  p. 187


We put more emphasis on a physical point, rather than on an intellectual one.  p.  191


Each person who stayed (at Zen Center) added something, figured out something about how to be there, what the possibilities were for working with Suzuki or working on themselves within Suzuki’s sphere.  p. 193


In later years, the hours of session were longer and the schedule more demanding, but for some this was the most powerful event of their lives.  In the prolonged stillness the students noticed their chattering minds grow calm, their sense of identity shift and expand.  p. 199


Bowing is very important practice for diminishing our arrogance and egotism.  It is not to demonstrate complete surrender to Buddha, but to help get rid of our own selfishness. p. 200


“Bowing is second only to zazen,” he said before the morning service one day  “It is Buddha bowing to Buddha.”  p. 201


Life is like a stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink. p. 202 (!!)


Every week when the boys’ band played this song (Japanese song Sakura), he thought of Mitsu.  Rain blew against the windowpanes, Suzuki sat in a hard wooden chair in the kitchen, looking into the darkness toward the balcony over the auditorium, tears running down his cheeks.  p. 204  


If you want to study, it is necessary to have a strong, constant, way-seeking mind.  p. 205


All he (Graham Petchy) had to do was face the wall and follow his breath —no faith, nothing to hold on to, just the nagging question to solve for himself under the guidance of this marvelous, dignified little man.  p.  209


Sitting in a metal folding chair in Sokoji’s kendo, Richard (Baker) was transfixed by Suzuki.  It was as if one of the great chinese masters from the books he’d read had come alive.  It wasn’t so much what Suzuki said as the unity ofhis speech and being.  Here was a man of deep thought in the classical sense, who knew that thought had its limits and strove for a goal beyond thought.  p. 210


So when we find the joy of our life in our composure, and when we don’t know what it is, when we don’t understand anything, then our mind is very great, very wide.  Then our mind is open to everything.  p. 219


Whether or not your zazen is painful or full of erroneous ideas, it is still Buddha’s activity.   p. 222


She (Jean Ross) was still coming to Sokoji only three days a week, but she had persevered through a number of weekend sesshins and passed the initiation of the week-long sesshin in August, 1961.  That the of tenacity can’t be faked.  p. 224


The practice of zazen is not for gaining a mystical something.  Zazen is for allowing a clear mind - as clear as a bright autumn sky.  p. 224


In August, 1962 Suzuki and his students had their third annual week-long sesshin. …The students endured pain in their legs and backs, boredom and restlessness.  Thirty people sat at least some of the sesshin, and over half as many stayed for the whole thing.  p. 225


Heavy rain may wash away the small seed when it has not taken root.  p. 227


When small mind finds its correct place in big mind, there is peace.  p. 230


An important aspect of the training of almost all Japanese Zen Buddhism is learning to sit calmly with physical pain.  “You must welcome the pain,” said Suzuki.  “Go with it.  It is your teacher.”  p. 232


From the Blue Cliff Record, Case 46:  Kyosei said, “Even though it is not difficult to be free from the objective world, it is difficult to express reality fully on each occasion.”  Suzuki wrote in hand, “It Is Difficult To Express Reality Fully On Each Occasion!!!”  Commenting on the difficulty for him to teach Buddhism - and in English…p. 239


When you say, “Wait a moment,” you are bound by your own karma.  When you said “Yes I will,” you are free.  p. 249


Establishing Buddhism in a new country is like holding a plant to a stone and waiting for it to take root.  p. 252


Suzuki’s experience at Yosemite:  At the highest waterfall I saw the water coming down like a curtain thrown from the top of the mountain.  It doesn’t come down swiftly, as I expected, it comes slowly.  And it comes down in groups.  I thought it might be a very hard experience for each drop of water to come down such a high mountain from top to bottom.  I thought our life is maybe like this.  We have many hard experiences in our life.  But at the same time, I thought, the water is not originally separaged. It is one whole water.  So we say, “From emptiness everything comes out.”  One whole body of water, or one whole mind, is emptiness.  When we reach this understanding, we find true meaning to our life.  When we reach this understanding, we can see the beauty of the flower—the beauty of human life.  Before we realize this fact, all we see is just delusion.  p.  254


Mel Weitzman encountering Suzuki for the first time in the zendo:   It’s been said, in Zen parlance, that your first enlightenment experience is when you decide to practice.  It’s the first turning.  “This is it,” Mel thought.  p. 260


Mel watched Suzuki closely and found that he taught as much with his body as with his words.  Suzuki’s body reminded Mel of Gandhi’s agile and light.  He taught by example how to stand, walk, breathe, and sit in a chair.  Suzuki’s rhythm  and movement deeply impressed Mel the musician.  “He had the feeling of being completely within the activity of the moment….He harmonized and merged with whatever he met….He always took the time to do everything.  That’s being in time.  The way he sat down was being in time.”  p. 260


Silas Hoadley:  It was the physicality that attracted him.  In his studies of psychology and philosophy he’d never run into anyone who said that it all starts with the body — being aware of the body and the breath.  Silas was already a disciplined and serious person, and he had no particular difficulty making the shift to sitting zazen once or twice a day at Sokoji.  p. 261



Crooked Cucumber Quotes, p. 263-344


In the evanescence of life we can find the joy of eternal life.  p. 263


When Sawaki (Head of Antaiji in Japan) died in December 1965 at the age of eighty-five, Grahame (Petchey) joined the forty-nine day memorial session in his honor.  Sesshins usually last a maximum of seven days, but Grahame sat at Antaiji for forty-nine days from before sunrise till after sunset, in honor of this great sitter….His mind gradually became calm and clear.  Sitting day after day, Grahame forgot about cultural differences, language barriers, doubts, and above all, his nagging question.  He gave himself completely to zazen….He was filled with gratitude for his years with Suzuki and for having found Antaiji.  p. 264




Tassajara is exceedingly isolated and incomparably beautiful, a narrow creek-lined valley cut through a rough, wooded wilderness, with a waterfall visible from a ridge.  p.  265


True religion cannot be obtained by seeking for some good; that is the way to attain something in a material sense.  The way to work on spiritual things is quite different.  Even to talk about spiritual things is not actually spiritual but a kind of substitute.  p. 268


The goal of Buddhism is to bring about right human life, to to have the teaching, or teacher, or sentient beings, or Buddhism, or Buddha.  But if you think that without any training you can have that kind of life, that is a big mistake.  p. 281


The most important point is to follow the schedule….p. 284


**Now they were all in harmony - Suzuki, Richard, Philip, Bill, Silas, a number of older students, and many new ones:  following their breaths, counting their breaths, just sitting, looking, with no props and no beliefs, some sleepy, some with chattering minds, some with legs already aching.  No hurry.  Sit zazen and compulsive thinking and dominating emotions will be eroded as a mountain is-smoothed over in time by wind and rain.  p.  285


….Up to seven hours of the day would have been spent in the zendo….This was the Tassajara schedule, the heart of Tassajara life.  It was formidable, and no one could do it without earnest intent.  p. 286


“Just follow the schedule,” they were told….It was waiting patiently like a hunter, not moving for hours.  It was sitting with pain or with subtle feelings of deep pleasure.  Bubbling up from people’s minds came anxiety, confusion, fear, joy, giggling.  In time, moments of clarity and satisfaction started to appear in the hearts and minds of Suzuki’s diverse students as they followed the schedule together, taking the first step in establishing Dogen’s way in the California wilderness.  p. 287


Just to be there in the corner of the garden is enough.  p. 287





Our rules are based on a warm, kind mind.  It is not so important to follow the rules literally. 

p. 289


In April of 1967 before the official opening, a crew was preparing Tassajara for the first practice period, and Suzuki came down from San Francisco for a week to join his young, hard-working students.  He followed the schedule, sitting zazen early, doing physical labor during the days — stonework, sweeping, and cleaning.  In the evenings he’d lecture, and there would be questions.  A lot of the discussion had to do with the demands of the new round-the-clock communal situation.  p. 290


What I want to talk about now is how to orient your mind in practice.  For the beginner it is inevitable that there will be hard discipline, the observation of some rules.  Rigid rules are not our point.  But if you want to acquire vital freedom, it is necessary to have some strength, some discipline in order to be free from one-sided dualistic ideas (discriminations).  So our training begins in the realm of duality or rules: what we should or should not do.  p. 292


When we practice our way, we should forget everything and try to find oneself in our everyday life.  That is why we must be strict, we must have strict rules.  Our human nature is very sneaky.  Without some strict way we will go this way and that way.  p. 293


The countercultural credo of the time was “do your own thing” …. Now they were getting up in the dark, practicing zazen in full or half lotus, chanting together in an ancient, unfamiliar language, wearing robes, eating in silence, working hard, and making every attempt to follow a life far more structured than the ones they’d rejected.  p. 293


Our practice will not take you away to somewhere better.  Just stay here and follow the schedule with others, not trying to be too good or to understand Buddhism too well.  p. 300


Suzuki had great respect for the difficulty of changing one’s course, for the tenacity of habit, the addictiveness of thoughts and beliefs, the power of delusion.  He  was always teaching the importance of developing good habits so as not to become lost and confused, the importance of not wanting too much — this was called following the precepts.  “Make your best effort,” he said.  But still he cautioned not to try too hard, saying that we would naturally follow the precepts if we just relaxed within our practice.  p. 301


You know, I don’t want to teach anything so much.  I’d rather not even give lectures.  I’d just like to sit zazen with everyone, take a bath, eat simple food, and work.  That should be enough.  

p. 301


After anger at weakness and complaining, Suzuki said, “I understand you.  You think that pain is bad, that suffering is bad.  You think that our way is to go beyond suffering, but there is no end to suffering.  When I was young I felt very bad for all the suffering that people have.  But now I don’t feel so bad.  Now I see suffering as inescapable.  Now I see that suffering is beautiful.  You must suffer more.”  p. 303


About the problems of the Japanese temple system Suzuki said that only a return to the ancient Chinese basics would save Zen.  p. 304


If you want to be a circle, you must first be a square.  p. 306


Your life in the hippie-age is very different.  I think it is very Buddhist-like.  Maybe that is why you like Buddhism.  But if you become a Buddhist, your life will change more—you will become a super-hippie, not a usual one.  Your lifestyle looks Buddhist, but that is not enough.  When you have a strict practice that doesn’t ignore the weak points of your practice, then eventually you will have good practice.  More and more you will understand what Zen masters have said, and you will appreciate their lives.  p. 307


The world of thinking is that of our ordinary dualistic mind.  The world of pure consciousness or awareness is that of buddha-mind.  Phenomena in the world of thinking are constantly being named or labeled by our minds. The world of awareness does not label or name; it only reflects.  The world of pure consciousness thus includes the opposites in the world of thinking.  p. 311


Arthur Deikman asked Suzuki how to maintain the state of mind he’d attained on retreat.  “Concentrate on your breathing, and it will go away,”  Suzuki said.  p. 313


If you are dissatisfied with your zazen, it shows you have a gaining idea.  p. 313


Asked about consciousness, Suzuki said,  “I don’t know anything about consciousness.  I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”  p. 314


There will aways be war, but we must always work to oppose it.  p. 314


Regarding his years in Japan during WWII, Suzuki said, “I didn’t oppose the government.  I just expressed ideas — like if there were peace, that the country and also the government would be stronger.  And I encouraged others to think about careless assumptions.”  p. 314


Regarding discussions with FBI agents concerning conscientious objectors doing service at Tassajara, Suzuki explained that Buddhism sought accommodation rather than conflict, was fundamentally pacificist, and that it was better for monks not to become soldiers.  p. 316


Suzuki was interested in establishing a way of life that created peace, working on the root cause of war rather than on railing against the symptoms.  p. 317


The teachings given by Shakyamuni Buddha during his lifetime was accommodated to each disciple’s particular temperament and to each person’s particular circumstance.  p. 320


In a talk that Trudy Dixon, a philosophy student,  attended, Suzuki compared the practice of Zen with the study of philosophy, expressing one’s truth with one’s whole body and mind instead of thinking and being curious about the meaning of life.  p. 323


Later while fighting cancer, Trudy Dixon described a meditation experience, “My self, my body is dissolved in phenomena like a sky’s rainbow caught in a child’s soap bubble.”  p. 324


When Trudy Dixon died, Suzuki, referring to her long effort and dedication, cried and said, “I never thought I’d have a disciple this great.  Maybe I never will again.”  In her eulogy he said, “You have completed your practice for this life and acquired a genuine warm heart, a pure and undefiled buddha mind, and joined our sangha.  … Because of your complete practice our mind has transcended far beyond your physical sickness, and it has taken full care of your sickness like a nurse.  A person of joyful mind is contented with his lot.  Even in adversity he will see bright light.” p. 324-325


One purpose of our practice is to enjoy our old age.  But we can’t fool ourselves.  Only sincere practice will work.  p. 335


Suzuki’s way was not to latch on to the highs (of meditation) but to accept every moment of life as it comes, step after step.  p. 339


If you are enlightened, the whole universe tells the truth to the whole universe.  p. 339


If our practice doesn’t include every one of us, it is not true practice.  p. 340


In the year when the Pope declared priestly celibacy to be a fundamental teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, Suzuki acknowledged the success of women and men practicing together at Tassajara.  p. 340


….Here is my friend; there is the mountain; there is the moon.  That is a dualistic way of observing things, not actually the Buddhist way.  We find the mountain, or San Francisco, or the moon, within ourselves right here.  That is our understanding, the so-called big mind.  p. 342


When you become a stone, that is our zazen practice.  p.  344




Crooked Cucumber Quotes p. 345-409



That summer (1970) was a high point in Suzuki’s life — hard-working, early-rising season of energy and harmony.  Tassajara was good, the city was good.  Suzuki seemed healthy and strong, and his dream was tangibly unfolding before him.  p. 345


The secret of Soto Zen is just two words: not always so.  (Two words in Japanese.) p. 345


There is nothing absolute for us, but when nothing is absolute, that is absolute.  p. 345


He talked about enlightenment, but said, “Enlightenment is not any particular stage that you attain.”  p. 345


Of the teaching, “not always so”, Suzuki said it couldn’t be grasped.  It was a paradox, he said, that could only be understood through sincere practice and zazen.  The point of his talks wasn’t to tell the truth as he saw it, but to free minds from obstacles so they might include contradictions.  p. 345


The point of Dogen’s (Dogen Zenji thirteenth century Soto Zen Master) zazen is to live each moment in total combustion, like a kerosene lamp or a candle.  p. 346


We should understand everything both ways, not just from one standpoint.  p. 346


Buddha’s great light shines forth from everything, each moment.  p. 348


We get no letters from the world of emptiness, but when you see the plant flower, when you hear the sound of bamboo hit by the small stone, that is a letter from the world of emptiness.  p. 351


The prologue to Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, carried this quote from Suzuki:  “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”   p. 351


Buddhism is transmitted from warm hand to warm hand.  p. 352


About Richard Baker receiving Zen Buddhist transmission, Suzuki said, “Don’t make too much of it.  It means he has a good understanding.  A good understanding and a complete commitment.”  p. 358


Zen practice is to get to our True Mind, the mind not accessible to thinking.  This mind cannot be consciously known by ordinary efforts.  An unusual effort is necessary.  This effort is zazen.  

p. 358


How can you practice zazen?  Only when you accept yourself and when you really know you exist here.  You cannot escape from yourself.  This is the ultimate fact, that “I am here.”  p. 362


This is the true meaning of settling oneself on oneself.  Even though you are in this modern society, you should not lose your fresh experience moment after moment.  We should not be caught.  We should know the fresh vitality within ourselves.  p. 363


To understand birth and death is the main point of our practice.  p. 363


But the goal is to practice with mountains, trees, and stones — with everything in the world, in the universe — and to find ourselves in the big cosmos, this big world.  p. 363


Naturally you are wondering how to find the truth, and you want to have some clear map of which way to go.  That is why you must have a teacher who gives you a map or some instruction on which way to go.  p. 364


In March, 1971 Suzuki had become ill and underwent surgery on his gallbladder.  p. 364-365


To understand Buddhism, direct experience, direct practice is necessary.  If you want to do it, you have to be very straightforward and open, ready for anything that might happen to you.  

p. 364


The way you study true Zen is not some verbal thing.  You should open yourself and give up everything.  p. 367


How not to be lost in our problem is our practice.  p. 367


After Suzuki’s surgery, the doctor told the Suzukis that Shunryu’s gallbladder was cancerous, which was surprising because gallbladder cancer is very rare.  For awhile, the cancer was kept a secret.  p. 367


Our way is to see what we are doing, moment after moment.  p. 371


Because emptiness has no limit and no beginning, we can believe in it.  Isn’t this so?  This is very important.  I am not fooling you!  Okay? If you really understand this tears will flow.  p. 375


To accept some idea of truth without experiencing it is like a painting of a cake on paper which you cannot eat.  p. 376


Speaking of his illness, Suzuki said, “When I am dying…everything is with us, and we are happy to be with everything without being hard or harsh or disturbed.  Usually it is difficult to feel that way, because we are always involved in gaining ideas, expecting something in the future.  The most important thing is to confront yourself and to be yourself.  Then naturally you can see and accept things as they are.  You will have perfect wisdom at that time.” p. 377


Later Suzuki said, “But things, you know, teach best when they’re dying.: p. 377


A garden is never finished.  p. 377


Suzuki was a regular dynamo that summer.  He was following the whole schedule — zazen, service, silent breakfast with oryoki bowls, seeing students for dokusan, giving lectures almost every night.  He worked in his garden in the mornings and afternoons with one or two students at a time.  p. 378


It had been over five years since Shunryu Suzuki had first traveled the winding, dusty road to Tassajara…in April of 1966.  In that time he had come to know intimately the stones in the creek and the plants and trees on the hillsides.  He had delighted in the natural setting:  stopping on Hogback Train to gaze across the valley at the waterfall and breathe the clean wilderness air, soaking in the large mineral-water plunge.  Suzuki savored the sights, sounds, and smells of his hidden paradise, but he was only there because of the people who had joined him and helped him to establish his way.  p. 384


Tassajara represented everything he loved:  a place to listen to the birds, to move rocks, to sit zazen with his Buddhist friends, and to extend that zazen everywhere endlessly.  Tassajara was Suzuki’s reward and at the same time his gift.  p. 384


When Suzuki left Tassajara for the last time, the Volvo slowly crossed the wooden bridge over the small creek, passed the narrow stretch below the upper garden and above the stone kitchen and kendo, curved up the dirt road past the shop and the screened junkyard, drove under the room of the gatehouse and up the bumpy road in a cloud of dust, Tassajara disappearing behind.  p. 385


Drive the wave; ride the wave.  p. 386


Our practice should go to that level, where there is no human problem, no buddha problem, where there is nothing.  To have tea, to have cake, to make a trip from one place to another is his (Nakagawa, a Zen teacher) practice.  He has no idea of helping people.  What he is doing is helping, but he himself has no idea of helping people.  p. 387


Shunryu Suzuki concluded his last public lecture by saying, “To solve our human problem doesn’t cover all of Buddhist practice, and we don’t know how long it takes for us to make the buddha trip.  We have many trips:  work trips, space trips, the various trips we must have.  The buddha trip is a very long trip.  This is Buddhism.  Thank you very much.”  p. 387


If you are not born in this world, there would be no need to die.  To be born in this world is to die, to disappear.  p. 390


In October, 1971, he called his senior students and successors and said, “I myself selfishly feel good, but on the other hand, I am very sorry for you.  But I think Buddha will take care of everything, so I won’t worry too much.  How long I’ll live I don’t know.  No one knows actually.,,,I think I can live one more year for sure, I feel that way.  I don’t feel so discouraged or weak.  So maybe I want you to allow me to be a lazy monk, that’s all.  I shall be a very bad example, but instead, you should be a good example.  Okay?  That’s all that I want you to do — to prepare.  Most things you can decide among yourselves.  If necessary, I can join your discussions.  Physically, I get tired quite easily.  Thank you very much.  p. 391


This cancer is my friend, and my practice will be to take care of this sickness.  p. 392


Suzuki said to Dr. Stunkard, a friend who was a physician, “So many of these young people are afraid of dying.  I can show them that you don’t need to be afraid of dying.  It’s a wonderful teaching opportunity.  “I wish you were doing some other kind of teaching”, Stankard said.  

p. 393


Yes, I don’t want to die.  I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I die.  Nobody knows what that’s going to be like.  But when I die, I’ll still be a buddha.  I may be a buddha in agony, or I may be a buddha in bliss, but I’ll die knowing that this is how it is.  p. 393


Zen is the practice of all existence with everything else — stars, moon, sun, mountains, rivers, animate and inanimate beings.  Sometimes the pain in our legs practices zazen.  Sometimes our sleepy mind practices zazen on a black cushion, on a chair, or even in bed.  p. 396


Nirvana is seeing one thing through to the end.  p. 397


I will become American soil.  p. 400


“The bond between children and parents in never lost,”  he told his daughter who was visiting from Japan.  p. 400


The most important point is to continue our way.  p. 401


During the Mountain Seat Ceremony in which Richard Baker was to be installed as chief priest, Baker said, “Although I don’t know how I came, through your heart teaching, I am always here.”

p. 402


Drawing from Suzuki’s own Mountain Seat Ceremony at Sokoji in Japan in 1965, Baker said:


This piece of incense

Which I have had for a long long time

I offer with no-hand

To my Master, to my friend, Suzuki Shunryu-daiosho,

The founder of these temples,

There is no measure of what you have done.

Walking with you in Buddha’s gentle rain

Our robes are soaked through,

But on the lotus leaves

Not a drop remains.  p. 403


So far Suzuki’s instructions were not about practical matters, but about dying with dignity.  It was tragic for his students to see the deteriorating physical condition of their dear teacher, yet at the same time it was marvelous to witness his composure, and see how undiminished he was at heart.  p. 405


The ancient bodhisattvas were not afraid of, but found joy in failure, poverty, and death — and in doing small things.  p. 407


Richard Baker came every day to visit.  One day when Suzuki could hardly hear, he asked, “Where will I meet you?”  Suzuki drew a circle in the air, and bowed into it.  Richard bowed in return.  p. 408


That we are here means we will vanish.  p. 409