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Autobiographical and some Historical Material
in Suzuki lectures - 1969

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through 1968 - 1970 - 1971


Some of Japanese member, you know, thought because I am-- I am practicing always zazen, “He not-- he will not be catch cold. [Laughs.] He will not suffer from flu. But it was funny for him to stay in bed so long.” [Laughs.]

But purpose of zazen is to makes-- to make our-- to make ourselves physically strong or to make ourselves mentally healthy or strong, maybe to make our mind healthy and body healthy. But healthy mind is not just, you know, “healthy mind” in its usual sense, and weak body is not weak body in its usual sense. Whether it is weak or strong, when that weakness and that strength is based on so-called-it truth or buddha-nature, that is healthy mind and healthy body.


Nichimenbutsu is supposed to live for one thousand and eight hundred-- eight hundred years. And the moon-faced buddha lives only one day-- one-- one day, one night. That is the “one-faced buddha.”  So, you know, when I am sick, I may be the moon-faced buddha [laughs]. When I-- I am healthy, I am the sun-faced buddha. But “the sun-faced buddha” or “the moon-faced buddha” has no special meaning. It means that, whether I am ill or healthy, still, you know, I am practicing zazen. There is no difference. So you shouldn't worry about my health, you know. Even though I am in bed, you know, I am buddha. So don't worry about me.


When I was in Japan, I also had, you know, some Zen students. Some of them are very rich, and some-- and some of them are very influential people. And some of them [are] just, you know, students. Some of them are-- were carpenter, you know, and some of them were other workers. In Japan, you know, still we have some-- not, you know, class, but some, you know-- we respect, still, we treat some-- someone-- or mayor or teachers in some different way. We, you know, we have-- we use some special-- we-- we have some special way of addressing them and we have-- we have some way-- special way to talk with him. And we-- we have also special manner to them. As you say, “Yes, sir.” [Laughs.] That is a kind of thing you have. But nowadays I don't think you have this kind of difference in your way of communication. But I always, you know, told them, “If you want to-- if you are Zen students, you should,” you know, “forget all about your position, or work, or title, and you should be just,” you know, “Zen students, or else,” you know, “we cannot practice zazen in its true sense.”


my wife's favorite TV program is [laughs]-- start from 4 o'clock and 4:30. I don't know the-- what was-- is the title-- in Channel 7. Some ghost, you know-- problem. Some of them has, you know, has very, you know-- the monsters, the people who lived, you know, long, long time ago and appear in this world, and creating many problems for people, and creating problem for himself. [Laughs.] That is what will happen.



When I was at Eiheiji serving a teacher [Kishizawa]-- helping teacher-- my teacher, he was-- he did not tell us anything. But whenever we make mistake [laughs], he scolded. It is a rule-- a kind of rules to open left-hand-- right-hand side, you know, [of the] sliding door. This is usual way. Little bit-- you open little bit by the handle-- not handle, but by the hole which serve the-- which-- by which we open.

So I opened this way [probably gestures], and I was scolded: “Don't open that way-- that side.” So next morning I opened, you know, the other side [laughs]. Scolded again. I don't know what to do [laughs, laughter]. The next morning I-- but I found out that the day I open this side, his guest was this side. To open this side is a rule, you know. Left-hand side is the rule. But because-- at that morning his guest was there. So, you know, I should open the other side. Before I open, we should-- I should be careful and find out which side guest is.

And one day-- yeah-- the day I [was] appointed to serve him, I gave him a cup of tea. And it is rule-- almost rule to fill eighty percent of the cup. That is the rule. So I filled eighty percent or seventy percent [laughs]. And he said, “Give me hot,” you know, “hot tea. You should fill the cup,” you know, “with very hot tea.” So next morning I filled, you know-- next morning when there were some guests, I filled all the cups [laughs] with hot water almost ninety-nine percent and served them. [SR hits or slaps something.] I was scolded [laughs, laughter]!

There is no rule actually, you know [laughs, laughter]. He himself like hot-- very hot bitter tea filled in the cup. But almost all the guest doesn't like bitter hot tea. So for him I should, you know, give him bitter hot tea. And for the guest I should give-- I should have given her-- given them, you know, usual-- given them usual way. In this way, you know, he never tells [us] anything.

If I get up earlier-- or I-- when I get up twenty minutes earlier than the handbell come, I was scolded. “Don't get up so early!” [Laughs]. “You will disturb my sleep.” Usually if I get up earlier it is good, you know, but for him it is not good [laughs]. In this way when-- if you are trying to understand things better, without any rules or prejudice, then that means selflessness.



And because it is difficult, you want some guidance or teacher. Maybe when you have good teacher and when you are practicing with good teacher, you will be naturally not so selfish. Why our teacher is so hard on us is because of our selfish attitude. Whenever he see our selfish attitude he may point out-- or he may be angry with it.  Usually-- for an instance, you know, when I was a little boy, I was going [to] primary school at that time-- grammar school, you know. And I learned something about animal-- small animal and-- like, you know, some-- some-- some animal which live on fish['s] body. When we were working in the pond to clean the water from the muddy-- mud and worm in it, I, you know, picked up a small goldfish and found a small worm on the body. So that was the worm I studied at primary school. So I point out that worm and said: “This is”-- in Japanese-- ”mijinko!” You know, “This is mijinko!” Maybe I proudly, you know, pointed out that mijinko. And my teacher said: “Shut up!” [Very loudly. Laughs, laughter.]

I didn't know why he shouted at me, but now I know [laughs, laughter], you know, why he was so angry with me. You know, to encourage student by showing some example is the mercy, but [laughs] to shout at me when we proudly showing-- that is another mercy, another kindness. So whatever we do, he is watching us, you know, whether he-- we are selfish or not.

We small disciples would eat anything he-- he wants, you know. When guest come, if he has a good Japanese cake, he would put-- he would hide it from us, you know, because we eat always what he want to use [laughs]. Whatever it is, as soon as we find out, we would eat it [laughter]. At first, you know, we have not much, you know-- at first we cut a corner which-- [laughter-- probably demonstrating the technique] it is in the box, like this. And we would cut just a slice of it, four corner [laughs]. And next time a little bit more [laughs, laughter], until, you know, it is obvious we cut it. So when we realize that anyway he may find out what we did, so we cut [laughs, laughter-- probably demonstrating the technique] and divided, you know, between us. When-- but when we divide the cake and eat it, he was not so angry. But when he thinks some-- someone, you know, ate it all by himself, he became very angry.

Once he put a persimmon-- big persimmon-- a bitter one, in the rice so that it will be ripened. But someone-- it was just one-- someone ate it, you know. But I didn't know that when I-- and my master thought that we must have eat it. So he asked me who ate the persimmon. Because I didn't know who did it, so I said, “No, I didn't.” He became very angry, not with me, you know, but someone who ate it by himself without sharing it-- sharing it among us. And as soon as he found out who did it he was very angry. And, you know, I became very sorry for him, to say that I didn't-- I didn't eat it.

Any kind of selfish-- selfishness is strictly observed by our teacher. Selfish attitude create arrogance, you know, arrogance-- arrogant attitude based on selfish idea. Because he is selfish he became-- become arrogant. So this arrogancy is strictly observed by our teacher. This arrogance is sometime-- most-- when it is positive, it is easy to find out. But negative arrogance is rather difficult to see or to know. The negative arrogancy is the arrogancy when you say, “No, I cannot do that,” you know. But it means that-- what I mean by “I can do it” is to do it perfect, you know. Better. So he may say, “I cannot do, it but you do it,” he may say. And if he cannot do it as he expected, he may, you know, express arrogancy, you know. He said he can do it, but look at it, you know. Look at it, what he did. That is arrogancy.



Right now I am put emphasis on, you know, one side of the truth. But it is all right with you to have, you know, to enjoy your life moment after moment because you are not enjoy your life as something which is concrete and eternal. Our life is momentary, and, at the same time, each moment, you know, include its own past and future. Next moment will include its own past and future. In this way, our momentary and eternal life will continue. This is, you know, how we lead our everyday life, how we enjoy our everyday life, and how we get freedom from various difficulties. How we not suffer from difficulties and how we enjoy our life, moment after moment, is our practice, based on true understanding.

I was in bed for a long time, and I was thinking about those things, you know. I am just practicing zazen in bed [laughs, laughter]. I should enjoy my bed [laughs]. Sometime it was difficult, but [laughs, laughter] if it is difficult, I laughed at myself. “Why is it so difficult?” [Laughs, laughter.] “Why don't you enjoy,” you know, “your difficulty?” [Laughs.] That is, I think, our practice.

69-03-30: Ordinary Mind, Buddha Mind.


Kitano Zenji-- when I was at Eiheiji Monastery, head of the monastery was Kitano Zenji. He told-- he told us why he-- how he gave up smoking. He was inveterate smoker when he was a monk, and he told us about it. “I was,” you know, “very bad smoker.” But when he was traveling, he came across the pass-- Hakone Pass. It was misty weather. So, sitting on the rock on the top of the pass [path?], take out a pipe and started to smoke in misty weather. It is very good, as you know, to smoke in some damp, misty weather. It was so nice that he was struck by the, you know, by the taste of it, and he determined to give up [laughs, laughter] smoking. That was the last smoke, you know [laughs]. You know, wherever he is, you know, even he is resting on the top of the mountain after climbing up maybe eight miles, he was actually-- he didn't lose the conviction [laughs] of practicing zazen. “Oh!” [Laughs, laughter.] “I must give up!”

No wonder he was such a spiritual character. Even though he is weak, you know, when he was more than ninety, you know, he was like this, you know. When he bow, we wondered-- or we worried whether he can get up again. [Laughing, laughter.] We all watched him. But he get up, you know. Again and again, he bowed. And, you know, to watch him is much harder than [being] him, we thought. Full of spirit.

That is, I think, a good example. I'm not, you know, convincing you to give up smoking, or something like that. But we have-- must have that kind of, you know, way-seeking mind. Then, you know, your practice will be pretty good.

69-04-19: Zen is not something to talk [about], and also it is something to talk [about].


For an instance, you know, my wife [laughs]-- every morning, when breakfast is ready, he hit, you know-- what do you call it?

Student: Clappers.

SR: Clappers? Yeah, clappers-- like this. If I don't answer for it [laughs], you know, I-- he-- she may continue to hit it [laughs, laughter] until I feel rather angry [laughs, laughter]. Why we have that kind of problem is quite simple. Because I don't answer, you know. If I say “Hai!”-- that's all [laughs, laughter]. Because I don't say “Hai!” she, you know, continue to-- she has to continue because she doesn't know whether I heard it or not [laughs].

Sometime she may think: “He knows but he doesn't answer.” Eei! [Probably imitates a mock attack by Okusan.] [Laughs, laughter.] That is what will happen. When I don't answer, you know, I am, you know, on the top of the pole [laughs]. I don't jump off from here. When I say “Hai!” you know, I jump off from here. Because I stay at the top of the pole, I am-- I have something to do-- something important to do [laughs, laughter]-- something important at the top of the pole: “You shouldn't call me! You should wait!” So before I say something I determined to shut up-- not to say anything. “This is very important! Don't you know that?! [S.R. and students laughing.] I am here [taps on stick], on the top of the pole! Don't you know that?” So she start to-- [Probably gesturing.] That is how we create problem.

So the secret is just to say “Hai!” you know, and jump up from here. Then there is no problem. It means that, to be yourself-- always yourself, without sticking to old self. When you say “Hai!” you know, you forget all about yourself and [are] refreshed into some new self. And before new self become old self, you should say another “Hai!” or you should work to the kitchen. So the point is on each moment, and to forget the point and to extend our practice, forgetting ourselves.

So, as Dogen Zenji says, “To study Buddhism is to study ourselves. And to study ourselves is to forget ourselves on each moment.” To forget ourselves is-- means to be yourself on each moment. Then everything will come and help you, and everything will assure your enlightenment. That is enlightenment, you know.  When I say “Hai!” you know, my wife will assure my enlightenment. “Oh, you are a good boy!” [Laughs, laughter.] But I stick to the “good boy”-- you know-- ”I am good boy.” [Laughs, laughter.] I will create another, you know, problem. “Oh, you are good boy. Then you have to help yourself,” she may say. So I shall not be good boy any more. I shall not be enlightened one.

69-04-29: how to take our bodhisattva's vow.


I don't know what to say. I am already 65 years old. Today I became 65. And I am-- in one way, I am very-- I feel very good to become older. And on the other hand, I regret, you know, for my past practice. Not regret-- I am not so regret-- regretful, but reason why I am not so regretful is we have now pretty sincere students here in America. That is big encouragement for me. Why I am regretful is-- on the other hand, why I am regretful is because I am not so good teacher for you, because of my past practice. I try to be sincere, but I find now that I was not sincere enough [laughs]. That is my feeling. So I don't know what to say [laughs].

But let us, anyway, have more sincere practice. Even though you think you are sincere, [you] may not be sincere enough. That will-- that will be how you feel when you become old.

You know Joshu, famous Zen master Joshu-- he joined-- or he attained enlightenment when he was eighteen, and he was practicing hard until he was sixty. And after sixty he started new practice, making trip to visit various famous Zen masters. And he never sit in perfect chair like this. His chair was always broken-- he sit always on broken chair, mending, you know, the chair by piece of wood and rope, like this [probably gesturing].

I think that is true spirit of Zen master or priest. The image of the priest you have and image of priest we have may be something different. For us, Fuyo Dokai or Joshu is the best example for us. With great spirit and with humble life, they strived for the truth.  So what I feel is I wish I could, you know, make a trip to visit various teachers. So far, I had so busy days when I was in Japan. I was too busy. In America, for a while I was not so busy. I enjoy [laughs] American life here. But now I feel pretty busy. So actually I have no time to visit various teachers.

To Tassajara I am lucky to have, but I am lucky to have good teachers visiting Tassajara. But if I could make a trip, you know, it may be much better: with-- as a unknown priest to visit-- unknown humble priest, you know, and to ask question and to receive instruction. In this way they studied.

Joshu said: “If someone is good I will study under him. If I am better, I shall be a teacher, wherever I go. Whether he is old or young is not point,” Joshu said. So we should be always equal, you know. If you know better than I, you should teach me. If I know something which you don't know, we should-- I should teach you. In this way, we should practice our way.

We have many teach- [partial word]-- students now. That is, I think, very good. But it is difficult for me to take care of you, because you are so many [laughs]. I don't know what to do with so many students.  I am thinking always [about] that point. And while I was in bed, what I thought was it may be better for us to be concentrated on more simple practice. The most-- I think the most simple practice is counting breathing practice: suzoka [?]. This is very old style of practice. That-- this practice was for Hinayana Buddhist and for Mahayana Buddhist and for Bodhidharma's zazen and for various teachers' practice. And which is very simple and-- but which is pretty difficult: just to count from one to ten, over and over. [Laughs.] That is practice.

From old time, many people tried this way. Just counting inhaling only, or exhaling only, or both inhaling and exhaling. Can you hear me? Inhaling and exhaling. So there are three ways. So you can try, you know, any of those three ways. I try-- I am practicing on counting exhaling only. And I want you to, you know, try this practice more. I think you started-- you have tried already, but before you can complete it [laughs]-- many people asked me, so far: “I tried counting breathing practice for one year. So may be the time to start-- how about just following,” you know, “our breathing, without counting? Just follow the breathing.”

So-- but I-- I always said okay. [Laughs, laughter.] But I think I was not so kind to you. I know he-- he couldn't, you know-- for-- even though he tried one year, he may not be able to, you know, to do it. Why he says is-- that is because he lose-- he forget to count [laughs], maybe, you know. So many times he forget counting, or he may go from ten, eleven, twelve [laughs, laughter], thirteen, fourteen-- and forget. Maybe forget sometime. So that is why he said-- that was the reason why he said: “It may be better just to follow our breathing” [laughs].

So I-- I said [it] be all right. But recently I don't think so [laughs]. We have to-- we should be able to do it. After you are able to do it, you should start another practice, one by one. In that way we should practice. That is very interesting. When you are too tired, you cannot do that. And when you are too much involved in something, specially, you cannot also do it. For an instance, at Tassajara, like Paul [Discoe?][yes] who is always thinking about building [laughs], his practice will be always, you know, building practice [laughs]. I think that is not so good. I-- I see something wrong, you know, with their everyday life when he is, you know, involved in something specially, forgetting all about our practice.

If we-- if we ignore this point, Tassajara will not go smoothly and you will not be friendly with each other. Someone may be, you know, involved in building. Someone may be completely involved in office work or kitchen work, and someone may be involved in pure practice. So there is no, you know, common practice for us. So we should not lose the fundamental practice. I noticed this point recently.


So let's start, you know, counting breathing practice, you know, with all of us. I-- I think I will go to Tassajara again next month-- first, maybe, fourth or-- third or fourth. We have two more weeks, so we will be concentrated on our counting breathing practice.

69-05-18: Suzuki's 65th Birthday.


While I was in bed for maybe two, three months, I found very difficult to put myself-- to put my body on my bed. I tried various way, but it was pretty difficult. To lie on bed looks like very easy thing, but actually, you know, if you stay in bed so long time it is not so easy.



Just to-- just to practice zazen, you know, will not be perfect enough. So more and more I want to make our rule strict and maybe formal and rigid, or else [laughs], you know, you will waste your time, I think. How should we establish our system of practice in San Francisco is-- will be our future subject.


For [laughs]-- for, you know-- for maybe ten days or more, I was completely involved in thinking, you know. In one thinking. I was concentrated, you know, how to-- what to-- what kind of-- which way we should take as a Zen Center group, you know. This way or that way. [Laughs.] I was completely involved in that idea. So I didn't know that I was completely involved in that thinking, but my wife told me many things. “You say [laughs] when you do something you should be completely involved in it, but look what you did! [Laughs, laughter.] What you are doing? What do you do-- when you go to restroom?! [Laughs, laughter]” But, you know, I didn't say anything. [Laughs, laughter.] I cannot say anything, because I have-- because I feel I have to go to restroom, that is why I went to restroom. But actually I didn't have any idea of going restroom, or where I was [laughs, laughter], you know-- restroom and dining room, you know, were same to me. But, you know, I was completely involved in one thing only.


So if you don't want waste your time, I think, you should establish some rules for American Zen student. It is very big problem for me and for you, and I was thinking about it for many and many days, until I forget [laughs], you know, where we-- where I was. Restroom or dining room-- I didn't know. I think-- I want you [to] join our, you know, problem: How we establish our way of studying Zen in America. It is not matter of Rinzai or Soto.



My teacher is not, you know, my father-- was not my father. But people said when I laugh, you know [laughs]: “You must be,” you know, “your teacher's,” you know, “secret boy” [laughs, laughter], because the way you do something, way you laugh, way you speak, and way you make your voice [are] exactly the same as your teacher. So your teacher must be your father,” they said-- some-- not every one of them, but some people said. That is more Soto way.

69-07-00: Rinzai Zen and Soto Zen.


Dick [Baker]-- the other day Dick wrote me [from Japan] saying: “I thought,” you know, “you are-- you are not-- I didn't know you are not so Japanese.” But when I came to America I thought many people like me, you know, in Japan. The more he understand Japanese people, the more he understand how, you know, difficult Japanese was. If I am, you know, among you, even though I-- if I don't wear this robe, I don't know, you know. You may-- you don't think I am Japanese. But if you go to Japan, seeing people like me [laughs], you will immediately realize, “Oh, he is Japanese”-- maybe especially you saw me from, you know, back. You know, “Oh, same figure is-- same figure as you see in Japan. You will find same figure, you know, you saw in Japan in me, you know. But even, you know-- I think that is the idea of Japanese, you know. If there is many people like me, you know-- if you see many people like me, you will have idea of Japanese. But if I talk personally with you, there is no idea of Japanese or American. And if we are just here, even though I am Japanese, when I am talking with you like this, I have no idea of Japanese. And I don't think you have any idea of Japanese.

So “Japanese” or “American” is just idea. “American way” or “Japanese way,” you say, but actually there is no such thing. There may be same, you know, people doing same thing, but it does not mean he is Japanese. People may say, you know, people may have some idea of Japanese, that's all. As Dogen Zenji said: “No one say,” you know, “he is-- he is Zen Buddhist or Soto Zen student. No one calls himself Soto Zen student-- teacher. But people may say he is Soto. But that does not mean we should call ourselves Soto students.”

So we-- when you make some excuse, you say: “This is-- we are American people who is raised in American cultural background.” I don't think that is proper-- that is right. Actually, for each individual there is no American way or Japanese way. That is his own way. So he should-- he is responsible for his own way of life and understanding.


Here at Tassajara what are you doing is not just American way or Japanese way. And we are studying what should be our human way, day after day. There may be many reasons why I came to American without knowing this kind of thing. When I came to America, you know, what I thought was: “Anyway, we are all human beings [laughs], so I think I can survive” [laughter]. That was what I knew-- only thing what I knew. I, you know, I didn't know where is San Francisco, even. Anyway I came to-- I bought a ticket [laughs, laughter], and I came to America. That's all. And, you know, I was rather angry if people say, you know: “He is Japanese” [laughs], you know. Why I am Japanese? You know, those who come to America is American people, you know. Whatever nationality he is, they are all American people.!

Some of them must have come a long time ago, but all of them, anyway, except Indian-- American Indian-- they are people who came from other country. Why they call me Japanese? And, you know, sometime: “That is Japanese way.” Why? I didn't know myself. But now Dick wrote me, “I find-- I found-- at last I found you typical Japanese,” you know. And I realize, “Oh, maybe so.” Because there are many people like me. It may take pretty long time to study the true relationship between various, you know, people-- various-- various kinds of people. But I think we should start to study our basic human nature.


A scroll given to me by my teacher says: “Piece of stone in the air. Piece of-- piece of stone in the air.” [Laughs.] “Piece of stone in the air.” It means that the created problem, not real problem. There is no stone in the air. There may be bubbles, you know, but there is no stone in the air. But we create-- we hit against stone in the air, always. “Oh!” That is what we are doing. If you know, you know, real, you know, problem, you will not hit against so many stones which doesn't exist, you know. Maybe-- sometime there may be stone in the air-- even in the air. But there-- there is-- I don't think there is so many stones in the air [laughs]. So if you know that there is stone, you know, but you know the way to go through the room even though several stones [are] in the air. But most people has many stones in the air, not only one piece of stone. That is, you know, the problems we have because we don't know ourselves.

Most-- most of the problem are the problem we create because we don't know ourselves. If you know yourself, you will have, you know, problem. But that is actual problem which will help you-- help your way of life. It is much better to have some problem than no problem. If you want to help others, the best way may be not to involve others in the problem you created [laughs]. Not only you have, you know, various problem created by yourself. You may involve many people in your problem, in your created problem. If you stop doing it, that may be great help, I think.

I may, you know, point out [laughs] something, you know, always, but it does not mean to criticize you. Because it may be difficult for you to-- to know your weak point, I may point out, you know, sometime. So don't be angry with me [laughs] too much, okay?

69-07-01: It is rather difficult for us to figure out why we started to practice zazen.


Now when I come to America, you know-- when I came to America, I didn't ask any information about Sokoji temple. And at that time, there was no Zen Center [laughs]. So I have no way to ask what is Zen Center, but I could ask, you know, “Where is San Francisco?” at least. But I didn't, you know, study anything about San Francisco because I accepted to go to San Francisco, wherever the city is. I thought: “If I go there [laughs], I will find out with my eyes [laughs] what is San Francisco and what kind of temple Sokoji is.



My friend is studying Chinese. After finishing his schooling, he started to study. Even he was at school he was very much interested in Chinese classics, about herbs and medicine. And he is still studying: collecting Chinese books about various therapy or medicine or herbs. According to Chinese classics we have two minds. One is here and the other is here [gestures]head and stomach?]. This mind is called yang mind, and this is yin mind. Yin and yang, two minds. And this mind is, you know-- the center of this mind is branch of this mind. According to-- he says, according to some American doctor, it is possible for us to be alive even [if] this mind of your[s] is cut off from the yin mind here. What do you call the center of, you know, nervous system in your-- ?



Eulogy For Trudy Dixon Given During Her Funeral Ceremony, Jul 1969



But if you understand yourself better, and if you know how to control your mind, it will be a great help to your physical condition. For an instance, you know, most people, when you are young-- when they are young, they have weak stomach, you know. When they become fifty or sixty [laughs]-- I don't know why-- they will not suffer [from] their stomach so much.  For an instance, I was very weak, you know. My tummy was very weak. And doctor told me to have operation on my tummy to cut off [laughs] a part of it. And my friend, you know, who live in-- near my temple had also bad stomach, you know, and he had operation. And he told me: “You should go and have operation. I-- He [the doctor] cut off half of-- one-third of my tummy, and I feel very good,” he said.

So I thought if it is possible for him to cut off one-third of his tummy, you know, [laughs], I thought tummy is not so subtle thing. Even though a doctor cut off, you know, one-third of the tummy, it doesn't matter for the tummy operation. If it is so strong, may be better not to be-- better not to have operation [laughter]. It doesn't make much difference, I thought. It means that, you know, our tummy is so strong.

So I didn't have operation, and the doctor I-- saw me whenever I was weak, you know. [He] was amazed, you know, why I, you know, why I am so-- why I have so-- why I could survive, you know, without having operation. I don't know why, but soon after that we started building our-- mending our temple, and I became so busy that I forgot all about my tummy problem [laughs]. And now, my tummy is not so strong, but I have no problem, you know, with my tummy. And-- but I-- I have problem of cough, you know [laughs, laughter].

So I, you know, I always tell them to tell people even though your tummy is so strong, you cannot give your tummy to other people after you-- you don't want-- when you don't need it, you know. In other word, after you die, you cannot give your tummy to other person. So if your tummy is strong enough, you know, to give you some nourishment, you know, until you die, it may be all right. So, you know, the natural-- some natural order is more important than to have some strong, you know, to strong-- to have some strong remedy for it. Leave it like that, you know. Let it survive as long as possible. So if our body is always in, you know, some harmony, I think it is good enough.



Nowadays-- when I came to America, you know, first feeling I had is-- I-- before I came to America I thought America may be the quite different country from Japan [laughs]. But when I came to San Francisco, I was amazed because San Francisco was not-- there was not much difference, you know, in Tokyo and San Francisco. I think if you make your trip all over the United States, still, you know, you will-- I don't think you will find out something different. You will not be interested in the way of life in different states.

And I remember one experience when Marian [Derby], you know, show me-- showed me a small stone. I like the stone very much. And she picked up the small-- not stone-- sand, actually. And she gave it to me. She gave it to me. “This-- those are very interesting stones [laughs],” she said. But that was just, you know, a pick of sand. And she asked me to see it through a glass, you know, small glass like this, which-- which you use to see jewels or something. And those small stones are not-- nearly-- nearly the same as interesting stones I have in office, you know, although the stone is-- stone I have in my office is big [laughs]. That is the-- difference is just the size of the stone. But I found much more interesting stones in the sand. And I think even though you go to the moon, the moon-- the rocks they will bring to us [laughs] may be the same, I think.


[Tubbs Island – Bill Lane lived there for a year helping to cement positive relationship with Huey Johnson of Nature Conservancy leading to ZC getting GG] Yesterday I went to see an island where there were many kinds of animals: birds and fish and maybe shells, which owned by-- which is owned by Natural Conservancy group. It was very, very interesting place, this place. If you live in that, you know, area and really start to see things-- see the plants and animals in that area, you will-- I think you will stay whole life. It is so interesting place. But we human beings, you know [laughs], what we do is hopping around or driving around the states, you know, by highway, losing [laughs] many interesting things. And that kind of trip will be extended to the moon and to the Mars [laughs, laughter]. It is rather foolish, you know. If you stay that place, you know, you will enjoy your life completely. Ev- [partial word: even?]-- that is more, I think, human life, you know.


Yesterday, you know, I experienced-- I could see myself quite clearly when I went to the island where there is-- there were many birds, you know. Young people are very much excited [laughs], but I was not so much, you know. That is just because I am old [laughs].

Even though we see things, you know-- same things, the way-- the life we have is quite different. Even though I didn't enjoy so much, but I was not discouraged [laughs], you know. I know why I am-- I was not so much interested in it, you know. One of the reason is because I am old, you know.[always saying he was old] But that is not just one reason. There-- there must be many and many reasons. So I was not discouraged. And I think I had some other joy which is different from young people may have.

The life we have cannot be the same. The life I had yesterday is-- cannot be the same as my life today. And we-- we will enjoy completely new life in each moment. Before you become Buddhist, you know or-- most of us become Buddhist because we find out evanescence of life, and we seek for the life which is more stable or which is more meaningful.




A monk asked Tozan-- Zen Master Tozan--

“It is so hot,” you know. “How is it possible to go somewhere where it is not hot?”

Tozan asked to the monk: “Why don't you go,” you know, “somewhere it is not so hot?”

And Tozan said-- Tozan asked him-- told him, “Why don't you go somewhere it is not so hot?”

“But wherever I go, when it is hot, it is hot,” he said-- the monk said.

Tozan answered the question and said: “When it is hot, you should kill the hot; when it is cold, you should kill the cold.”

To kill cold or hot-- it-- I don't know how you understand it. Maybe for beginner it is pretty hard to sit when your legs are painful. I think it is more difficult for the-- for someone to sit with painful legs in hot weather. But how you, you know, practice zazen in such a difficulty-- with such difficulty, is something you should understand.

Whenever I had some pain in my legs I used to think about this koan, and I try-- try not to move, even though my legs are painful. When it is hot, I-- when I went to tangaryo-- entered tangaryo-- it was summertime. So it is very hard for me to sit, although I practiced zazen before I go to Eiheiji monastery. But still it was pretty hard to sit all day long in crossed-legged position. When it is very painful and when I felt very hot, you know, the big cryptomeria tree started to swing [laughs]. That is-- it is not the big tree that started to swing. My mind started to swing this way [probably gestures]. All the big trees started-- started to move like this. And I found out that I didn't-- I couldn't allowed to see my watch in tangaryo, but I-- I thought in every-- in ten-- every ten minutes, you know, peak of the pain comes [laughs], you know, like this. And-- and the cryptomeria trees start to move like this.

When the pain come to the peak of the-- peak, it, you know, start to calm down. Every-- maybe every ten minutes, you know, like wave it comes and goes. But pain in your legs doesn't hurt you, so it is all right, you know, even though you feel painful. This kind of practice is necessary. And if you try to sit, you know, you must have the strong confidence that you do not stand up or move. Even though what kind of difficulty you may have, you should try your best.


Without money, if you are happy, you know, then you will be a good example of people. The people may try to, you know, try to be like you if you have nothing to give him-- give them, or if you have no particular status. I think this is, you know, best way to help people. I think so, you know, because  I belong to Soto school [laughs]. But at the same time, it is not so easy. That is why I am wearing robe like this, always. I feel, you know, I feel always protection, you know, by my robe. I know that is not so good, but [laughter] as Soto priest I should be like Ryokan, you know, who-- who is-- who was almost a beggar. And yet he-- he was a-- a famous, you know, poet and scholar. But after, you know, he died, we found out he was so great. But when-- I think, when he was alive, no one, you know, knew that he was such a great person.


If you don't know, you know, what is real practice, you should have some teacher who knows what is real practice, even though he is not real teacher. But if he is striving for the ultimate attainment, he will be a good teacher and he will practice with you forever.  Or else I don't think I can be a-- I can be your teacher, you know [laughs]. I know what is right practice, but I know, at the same time, I am not, you know, perfect teacher. I know what is real practice, and I know I am not perfect. But I know how to help you and how to be a good friend of you. I think even though I am not perfect, I can be a teacher, you know, especially when a child of seven years old could be your teacher [laughs, laughter]. I am not making some excuse for me, [but] that is true, I think. That is why Dogen Zenji says: “There is no problem for us to study our lofty way. People may say 'lofty way,' but the-- our gate is widely open to everyone. Everyone could be a teacher.” Every one of us could be a teacher if we know what is real practice.


Hard practice in monastery is not so hard, but to practice our way in the city is much difficult. So I understand, you know, why you want strictness in your practice. I understand that. But if I am very strict with you, you know, I must be dead, you know, with you [laughs]. ? Maybe before-- before, you know-- in-- in-- maybe in one or two months, I will be dead-- trying to be very strict with you [laughs, laughter]. So let's, you know, make best effort, anyway [laughs, laughter]. Some other question? Hai.



Student B: Can you tell me what the root of that is and how to deal with it-- that anger?

SR: Maybe your confidence is not strong enough. That is why you become angry. You see, you have, you know-- I think most people, you know, try to solve psychological-- special conditions by psychology, you know, by knowing why, you know, and by knowing how to treat it, you know, like a mother treat their children, you know. But our way is a little bit different from that. Actually, you know, for an instance, I am very impatient, you know. But sometime I sh- [partial word]-- I may-- I shall be most patient person. Why is it? [Laughs] Same person, you know, sometime became-- become very patient, and sometime very impatient. When I think I should not be angry, I am never angry. [Laughs.]

That is possible, and that will not create any trouble-- psychological trouble to you. If-- if you have a kind of wisdom, you know, you do not-- I-- I'm not trying to control my anger, you know. But I know, you know, I shouldn't be angry, you know. My wisdom tell me, you know, you shouldn't be angry for one year or two years [laughs]. And it may be foolish to be angry. Then I don't be angry. And when you say it is difficult to control, to me it sounds like you-- you want some help, you know [laughs]-- help of psychology or psychiatrist or teacher. But he-- they will not help you. Buddhism will not help you [laughs]. You must help yourself. Hai.



This is the teaching, you know-- teaching of selflessness as a true law of the truth. And when we apply this teaching to our everyday life, it is also non-attachment-- teaching of non-attachment or teaching of emptiness. We studied about this for pretty long time: emptiness, emptiness, emptiness. “Emptiness is form, and form is emptiness.” And then put emphasis on this emptiness. And this is what we were study-- studying in hot weather [laughs, laughter] last night. And I was making my best effort, drinking so many-- so much, oh!-- so many cups of water.


For an instance, I am changing, you know, every day. So-- but I'm not anymore young. But I feel as if [laughs] I am quite young, and I expect you to treat me as a young boy [laughs, laughter]. But, you know, I am not young at all, and next year I shall be much older, you know. But I feel as if I am always young like this or like, you know, I was 40 or 45 years old. As I expect you to treat me, you know, as a young boy, or I-- as I expect me to be always young when I see my-- the mirror-- myself into the mirror, I shall be very discouraged. [Laughs, laughter.] That is suffering. [Loud laughter.] You don't know this kind of suffering because you are too young. But for you, there is particular suffering. That suffering is suffering because you have too much energy [laughs]. To have too much energy is also suffering.


We know that we should not ignore the truth, but still, you know, we ignore-- we are always trying to ignore the truth. Truth, we think, should be true without us, not with me. That is usually how I feel-- how we feel. The matter of birth and death is inevitable for human being. But we know the truth of birth and death. But we think as if that truth is for someone else, not with me, you know. With me, I feel as if I live forever. Even though someone die-- even though we see someone die-- someone is dying, we don't feel that matter of birth and death is universal suffering for us. And someone may feel, “Oh, this is terrible,” you know, when your friend die. “Oh, this is terrible,” you know, for you. But someone may not feel so seriously even though your friend died. But if your direct relative die, you will feel-- you will be shocked. But someone will not-- even your direct relative die, you may not feel so bad. But when you feel-- when you are dying, you will feel terrible. [Laughs.] That is the human way, and that is true for almost all human being. [death]


I have a scroll done by famous Zen master. It says, “a piece of stone in the air.” It say-- ”piece”-- ”a stone in the air.” [stone in the air] Actually there is no stone in the air, you know. You may find some electric bombs, but there is no stone in the air. But we see many stones. Something subjective, you know-- something which we-- we create, you know, in the air. That is something which we see. This is very true even though your scientific mind will not accept it, but actually there many things-- many difficulties which we create.

So I say “homemade” difficulty [laughs, laughter]: difficulties created by yourself. “This is the cookies I made. Please have it. This is very good.” [Laughs.] I don't know if everyone think that is good. At least you think this is very good. Maybe so, maybe not so. I don't know. That is very true.




As most of you know, this is Yoshimura Ryogen Sensei.1 Ryogen Yoshimura Sensei.p In Japanese way we say family name first, so Yoshimura Ryogen. But-- Yoshimura is family name. Ryogen Sensei, or Yoshimura Sensei. He was appointed-- he arrived at San Francisco as our teacher, or as our friend, March 27.

March 27. And mostly he was in-- he has been in San Francisco. I think he came here once? Twice?

Twice. So most of you know, I think, know him. But as some of you may not know him, so I think it is better to introduce him to you. Thank you very much.



My cough is, you know, same thing. You know, if I have, you know, some strength here [possibly pointing to hara], I don't cough. Even though I cough-- not so bad. But when I laugh or when I am excited-- in other word when I have no preparation in my tummy, you know [coughs] [laughs, laughter], I immediately cough.  My doctor said: “Nothing wrong with your,” you know, “throat. Maybe that is some,” you know, “nervous cough.” So I-- I was very ashamed of [laughing] being so nervous, you know, as a Zen master [laughter]. So I decided to conquer the cough. Before I didn't matter so much, but after doctor said: “Nothing wrong with your throat. If you cough, let your wife collect ten time-- ten cents each time.” He said so.

So I am-- I am trying, you know, to have always some power here [possibly pointing to hara], but when it comes, you know, it comes so suddenly, so I have no time to prepare for it. My cough is good, ex- [partial word]-- good practice for me.


You sh- [partial word]-- you cannot ignore the truth. But you should not be caught by it.  The way is just I wear such a troublesome robe [laughs]. This is karma. Because of karma I have to wear [laughs] long-sleeve-- sleeved koromo like this [laughs]. And without taking off the koromo, you know, to have freedom from koromo is the way. Do you understand?



Student N: Do you dream at night?

SR: I? [Laughter.] I don't remember so well, but-- yes I do.

SR: Yeah, maybe. [Laughter.] But I don't remember so well, you know, because I don't-- it is-- maybe I have this kind of trouble always, so it is not so important to remember things one by-- one after another, you know. I may laugh at me if I dream of something.



As I have, you know, now in my room three mats. At first, to enjoy spacious room of three tatami. I slept this way, using all three mats [laughs, laughter]. I felt I am a giant, you know. Like a giant I slept using all three tatamis. But if I do so, I have to sleep east and west, like this. And someone tell me-- someone-- someone tell me that is not so good. You should sleep this way, south and north, you know [laughs, laughter]. So I change my way of sleeping. Last night, you know, I got up all of-- this is my habit, you know-- if alarm or if I get up, immediately I wake up, I get up, and [laughs] I lost my place [?]. Usually if I get up and walk this way [laughing, laughter], that is my rest room. But last night, I, you know-- learning to [where it was]-- by lamp, that was not so good, but-- you know, this kind of habit, you know, is-- usually it is good, but sometime it is not so good.

Without hesitation, you know, you must have-- you must be able to do something without hesitation. Even though it is cold you should be able to get up and sweep the garden or clean the garden if you have to. If-- when the garden is very frosty, you know, you may hesitate, you know, to work on the garden without tabi or without sandal. In wintertime [laughs] we do not, you know-- we small disciples do not use sandal [I think he means tabl with sandal - dc]. But summertime we use something. We have to wear something. But nowadays we don't, even in monastery. But we do not wear tabis. Why we do so is to have some habit of doing something without hesitation.



Student D: When we moved rocks with you today--

SR: Uh-huh.

Student D: -- this-- and then we talked philosophically-- ”But these aren't always rocks.” Or we put them in one form, but they can go in another form. I sometimes experience this difficulty of what I experience everyday and yet trying to be detached from that at the same time. Do you know what I mean?

SR: Yeah. I-- I know what you mean, but there is no special way, you know. There is no secret [laughs, laughter]. That is why, you know, we practice with you and we practice zazen. Even though you try, you cannot, you know-- something which you cannot. Or it is not something which could be done by trying to, you know, do so. It is something which will come to you or which will happen to you. So anyway, you know [laughs], the only way is to come to Tassajara [laughs, laughter]. [2-3 words]. That way-- that is the secret [laughs, laughter].

69-08-21: some questions


Oh! [Laughs.] I brought my watch just to set it [laughs, laughter]. If I set it, I feel very good without seeing it.

69-08-23: twelve links of causation.


SR: [Laughs, laughter.] The feeling-- I think when you-- you are at Tassajara, you know, you don't find anything special [laughs]. But if you come back, you know, from city you will have-- you will find Tassajara something quite different from city. I had same feeling when I came back to Eiheiji Monastery after staying outside of the monastery for maybe one or two days. When you are here, you know, you don't feel anything special. But, you know, even [if] you feel something special when you come back to Tassajara, if you compare, I think proper understanding should be like this: Tassajara should be like water, you know. That you feel something special about it [is] to see the wave on the water. So even though you feel you have some special feeling about Tassajara, but that is not true Tassajara. It is-- you feel very good, but Tassajara should be greater than that. The wave is, you know-- wave you see is, according to Dogen Zenji, you know, the wave is a part of-- a part of-- part of water, or-- or one-- many ways of observing one of the feature of water.


But anyway, you know, if you come back from city you will feel wonderful, you know. Maybe Tassajara is more than your home, I think. That is how I felt [when I came back to Eiheiji monastery after staying outside for a month].1 I think you must have had same feeling. Hai.


Student V: Is-- is there any way, or does a way develop to keep your back straight without tension?

SR: More easily? You can do it quite easily if you are-- how long have you been sitting?

Student V: About three years.

SR: Maybe not enough, you know [laughter]. You know, some kind of effort is always necessary, you know.  As I am 65 years old, you know, my back tend to be like this [gestures].2 And my mother was like this [laughs, laughter], and so I-- I have to make always some effort to keep my back straight. It is not-- I don't feel so bad, you know. I rather feel better. But I am trying always keeping-- to keep my back straight.



If I-- if you see me, you may ask, “Is there lecture tonight?” Maybe I'm very smoky kerosene lamp [laughs]. I don't want, you know, to give lecture. I-- I-- what I want is to-- just to live with you, moving stones, having nice hot-spring bath [laughs], and eat something good [laughs, laughter].

Zen is there, you know. When I start to talk about something, it is also smoky-- it is already smoky kerosene lamp. As long as I [must] give lecture, I have to explain it in term of right or wrong: “This is right practice. This is wrong. How to practice zazen.” It is like to-- to give you recipe [laughs]. Recipe doesn't work. You cannot eat recipe [laughter]. Maybe after having a long, long practice in hot summer weather, it may be good to enjoy to say something [laughs] and to listen to something. This is, you know, our [a?] purpose of practice.


And Zazen practice is very subtle thing. When you are working, you know, something which you do not realize will mentally and physically will-- will be realized if you practice zazen.  You know, I have been moving stone pretty [?] [laughs]-- for a long time, and I didn't know that I was tired. And I didn't realize my muscles, you know, were tired. But, you know, today, as I, you know, sit in this way calmly, so I realized, “Oh! [Laughs.] My muscles are in pretty bad condition.” I felt some pain all over. Here [probably points], and in my arm, not in my back so much, but here [sounds like he is rubbing an area]. I have not much flesh here, so I haven't not much muscles to be painful. But my bone is painful, maybe [laughs, laughter].



As I am Soto [laughs]-- Soto-- I belong to Soto, if I say so: “Oh, he,” you know, “deny enlightenment experience.” [Laughs.] It is not so. We Soto student do not stick to one thing. We don't stick to anything. We should have always freedom. In Japanese we say shusshin-- shusshin-no-katsuro: complete freedom. Complete freedom of practice, complete freedom of expression. Our practice is expression-- a vivid expression of our true nature or reality.


You, you know-- that you stand up means that everyone stand up, and everyone feel very good when you stand up. And when you st- [partial word]-- when you attain enlightenment, everyone attains enlightenment with you. So if the practice does not include everyone of us, it is not true practice, we say. It is tainted practice by the idea of self. And you may have this kind of doubt or-- after you do, after you do something as-- like you-- whether this is, you know, selfish, you know, things or not: “Why did I do this?” I think you will have this kind of-- some uncertain feeling about what you do or what you did. I suffered from it [laughs] pretty much.


When I w- [partial word]-- I had-- I suffered a lot about it when I was at school, you know. And I was staying at dormitory, you know. And restroom was always dirty [laughs]-- dormitory restroom was always dirty. So I, you know, made up my mind to clean it, you know. But I didn't want to clean it when people, you know, see [laughing]. So I get up early in the morning before they get up so that no one can find out me in cleaning, you know, restroom.

It was pretty good, you know, for several days, but even though early in the morning someone get up [laughs]. I have very difficult time to hide myself [laughs, laughter] while doing this kind of thing, you know. Sometime, you know, our dean of the-- head of the college or university-- whatever it is—Nukariyap-- Nukariya is his name-- and he was very strict person. And he stayed in our dormitory with student [laughs]. And Saturday night was the night when he go home. He was so strict, in summertime when all the students went home, he would stay at dormitory, taking care of things. So most people who visited the dormitory to see-- to see him, thought he was a garbage man [laughs] on the dormitory. He was so, you know-- he was pretty good.

And sometime, you know, I saw a light in his room, you know. I was very much scared of [laughing] him getting-- coming to the restroom. So as soon as I saw the light in the dormitory, not only his room but also some room, I escaped from the restroom, and I was quite, you know, upset or, you know-- I don't know what to say, you know. I was very much mixed up. At first, I-- I felt very good, you know. And more and more, I had many things to think about. And I have too much to think about. So finally I-- I have to think whether I should continue it or give up.

But my nature-- I was pretty stubborn, you know. I didn't like to give up something so easily. So I wanted to continue it, but I-- I didn't want to have that kind of silly problems. But anyway I continued it. And I had-- I studied psychology, you know. And he-- the professor, you know, talked about our psychology, you know.

And he said it is not possible to have same experience again, you know. Even though you think you did this kind of thing, but what you think about it and what you have experienced is not same-- different, quite different. So actually you cannot have same experience again, in its strict sense. So it is not possible to, you know, to have same feeling again or same experience again. So I was enlight [?], you know. “Okay! It is not possible to think about it, so forget about it, and I will try-- I will continue to do it. Whatever happen, it's-- it is all right. And whatever they may say, that is all right.” I continued my practice in that way, for I don't know how long.

So don't think too much about it, you know. What you do is not selfish, but what you think-- that you think about it is maybe selfish. So if you can forget all about it, you are not so selfish. Hai.[that’s the point]



Sunday school-- a Sunday-school girl saw me in sitting, and she said: “I can do it.” And she crossed her legs like this [gesturing], and then said, “And what? [Laughing, laughter.] And what?” She sit like this and said, “And what?” I was very much interested in her question because many of you have same question [laughs, laughter]. You come every day to Zen Center and practice Zen. And you ask me, “And what? [Laughs.] And what?”

On Zen Center History, Personal History, and Nona Ransom, Sep 1969



Interview of Suzuki by Peter Schneider, Sep 1969



Suzuki’s Curriculum Vitae, Sep 1969



Why I Came to America, Sep 1969



SR: Since I resigned from Sokoji Temple, I-- my mind become more busy than before. It is ridiculous, but actually it is so.

Physically I am feeling much better. But mentally [laughs]-- I'm not confused, but I'm reflecting on what I have been doing for ten years. And as I do not stay with you so long time when our members [are] increasing a lot, I feel a great distance, you know, between you and me. That is another problem for me. Anyway, I think we must find our way. And I think it is a time for us to find out some way to develop our buddha's way.


Maybe Buddhist food practice is one extreme, but very spiritual. We emphasized spiritual side. You know,  when I came to America-- I think some of you already knows about it-- about what I am going to say-- talk about-- you know, there is-- there-- there is Toyo market, you know. Before my wife came, that market-- that store was opened, and she had not much customers. So naturally, they haven't fresh vegetables or fruits because she hasn't not much customers. And she had to throw [away] a lot of fruits and vegetables. I didn't ask her to give me the vegetables, you know, which she put them in garbage can. But I-- I-- I would. I couldn't help taking old, you know, apples or old-- the most, you know, old green onions because I was, you know, I-- it is a kind of habit, you know, to use something old first, leaving something fresh for next meal. This kind of-- this is, you know-- most-- some people told me that is very foolish way. If you, you know, take the best one you will have best one always. So to use worst one is the most foolish way.

I thought I agree with him-- I agreed with him. But actually [laughs], you know, I use-- I would use something old first. My master would told me, “Your father,” you know-- my master was my father's disciple and I went to my master when I was thirteen years old. And he would-- told me, “Your master always-- your father always picked up some vegetables in the-- in the stream.” Maybe some farmer up a river throws [away] some old vegetables. And my father-- he said, “Your father would pick up old vegetables. That is our way,” he said.

I think this is-- I don't think this is best way, but we rather emphasize the spiritual practice rather than physical practice-- which food has more power, or which food is more rich or stronger. I think this side should not be forgotten. How to make best use of food will be the point, without throwing away-- without-- with some respect for our food will be the most important point. Hai.


Student E: Roshi, while you were gone, back here there was an earthquake here.

SR: Earthquake, yeah. Mm-hmm. That morning I came back.


Student E: No. I guess I was reflecting. What is the meaning of our practice if at any moment we can die, as a community or as a person. It occurred to me that there was nothing protecting us from death--

SR: Ah. [Laughs, laughter.] I think that is why, you know, I don't firmly believe in our next life or, you know-- I'm sorry I have to say so, you know. I have to confess [laughs], you know. I have-- I haven't very strong belief in next life.  But some people, you know, believe in it very firmly. And those people, you know, has-- mostly, those people has good practice. I envy their practice. But at the same time, to believe in that kind of belief extremely strong, that may-- that will be-- that will not be so good belief.


Student K: Could you say something about Zen and marriage?

SR: Zen and what?

Student K: Marriage.

SR: Marriage? Oh. [Laughs, laughter.] That was a problem I had suffered [laughter], but-- for me, you know, at that time when I got married, you know, I was thirty-- thirty-one. At that time, you know, that was not the problem of marriage. That was a problem whether I should be a priest or a layman [laughs]. I thought if I get married I will not be a priest anymore, or monk anymore. So I have to think a lot. But-- so I don't have actual-- that was not, you know-- my problem was not the problem you may have, perhaps.

SR: Yeah. I think if you get married your life, anyway, will be more difficult. If you don't marry, your life will not be so difficult anyway. So that is also true with priest or monk. To have family is a great-- we will have, anyway, great difficulty. So I don't think that is just problem of monk or you, but problem of everyone. If you don't-- if you get married, your life will be more difficult in one sense. But on the other hand [laughs, laughter], you will have some advantage. That is how our human life goes. Always not sweet [laughs, laughter].

I think Buddha-- what-- when Buddha said, “Our life is life of suffering,” that is very true, I think. Anyway, we have suffering. As long as we seek for something good, you know, we have suffering.


Student L: Yeah. I'm getting attached to transmission of mind from you, because you came and sat down beside me, like, and I knew it before you were going to do it, and I'm attaching to it. And I find that I am one of the [1-2 words]. What should I do?

SR: Yeah. Just try hard [laughs]. That is very true. Sometime the more you make effort, you know, the more you will be far away from the goal. So-- but even so, we must make our effort. It is almost a kind of fight [laughs] between teacher and disciple. [Taps stick on table three times, laughs.] Not, you know-- we don't fight physically or-- but we shouldn't give up.  And experience I have-- I had-- the experience various-- my teacher had and maybe Buddha had. You will reach this kind of conclusion. Buddha suffered in this way, and my teacher had same experience as me. Then you have transmission already. Actually, there is nothing to transmit [to] you [laughs]-- what you have-- something you have will be found out by your effort.


Student N: Do you think it would help our practice if there were more opportunities to have private interviews?

SR: More opportunity to what?

Student N: Private inter- [partial word]-- dokusan?

SR: Yeah, I think so. But, you know, we are try- [partial word]-- I am-- at least I am trying my best to have more time. But as we have too-- maybe too many students, so that is pretty difficult. So maybe in this way, in this kind of occasion, you know, to-- when I give lecture, sometime this way to ask question will be helpful, I think.

69-10-14: new students questions.


The same thing is true in studying Lotus Sutra.  My mother, you know, always recited this sutra. When I was young-- when [s]he was taking care of me, [s]he was-- sometime [s]he was reciting Lotus Sutra, so I know very well, you know, how to recite it. And [laughs] when I become 12 or 13, I, you know, I thought this is very-- I couldn't understand, you know. When I could understand what she was saying, “If you like-- ” when she says, “If you-- even though you tossed off the cliff of some high mountain, you will-- you will-- you will be the sa- [partial word]-- you will be safe.” Or, “Even though you jump into a fire, a flame, you will not be burned.” Or, “If you drift about-- if you drift on the black storm-- black stormy sea, you will not be-- you will be saved.” Something like that. If someone want to kill you by a sword, sword will broken in piece.” Something like that, you know. I [laughs]-- I was-- when I could understand what she was saying, I doubt, you know. I though he-- she is v- [partial word]-- my mother is very superficial-- superstitious person. I though I would-- I wouldn't hear-- I didn't like to hear mother recite-- mother's reciting.

But I-- I cannot forget [laughs] her attitude-- her way of reciting sutra. And it was a kind of encouragement for me always, when I think of my mother reciting Lotus Sutra.

In monastery also we recite this sutra at some certain period, over and over again.

When I went to East Coast this time, I-- I-- I was almost-- all the time I was in-- in Vermont. And I went to Vermont first and then Rochester. And I stayed [in] New York just two days and came back. I saw beautiful mountains and beautiful old stone-- deserted stone wall in Vermont. And I felt, you know, as if I were some old old country. And I-- my mind-- I was dreaming about many things. Sometime I felt as if we have big big monastery in [laughs] deep mountain. My trip was a kind of dreamy trip [laughs]. And even-- I met many people, but I was-- I think I was not so practical, you know [laughs]. Maybe I am talking about some dream-- dream of Zen Center or something like that. But I didn't feel I am talking about my dream, you know. It was-- to me it was very practical and very realistic things to have some beautiful zendo in Tassajara or to have beautiful building in the center of San Francisco. It was not dream any more after I saw many mountains.

And, you know, they-- I saw many-- I saw owner of the property, and most of them-- most of them who I met want us to build some zendo in Vermont or in East Coast. So I thought if-- if we fix our mind, they may give us some property [laughs], but, you know, maybe that is my dream, but it was very actual-- very realistic to me at that time.

If someone say it is, you know, “He is daydreamer,” maybe I am daydreamer. But if you have some confidence in your-- in realizing your ideal, that is not-- I don't think that is a dream. Even though you have a small, you know, monastery, it will be a big big monastery if you have a Buddhist spirit. It is not actually the matter of big or small. That's-- if you-- if we express our spirit in big scale, it may be a Lotus Sutra. If we express our spirit in, you know, one word or very simple word, it may be toilet paper [laughs] or three pounds of hemp or piece of rice or grain of rice. If you say what is our spirit, if you say, when you [are] asked what is our spirit, “three pounds of hemp,” that is Zen. If you say-- if you say-- recite Lotus Sutra, that is Mahayana teaching. So it is necessary for you to have some spirit to appreciate the spirit of the-- hidden spirit of the Mahayana teaching when you study Lotus Sutra.

Student C: It sounded like your mother had-- had faith in the Lotus Sutra.

SR: Uh-huh.

Most, you know-- all the Buddhist priest had very, very difficult time at that time, you know. That is the-- that was the second part of Meiji Period. The policy of Meiji government, you know, penetrated all over Japan. And so Buddhist, you know, Buddhist temple almost, you know-- Buddhism were almost dying at that time. And priest had very difficult time. And people are very much interested in Western civilization. And Meiji government-- policy of Meiji government is to encourage Shintoism, and to make Japan stronger by army and believing in Shintoism, and study-- to have hard study of Western culture, you know, to catch up [with] advanced countries, and to make country stronger. That was the policy of Meiji government.

So Buddhist, you know, had very difficult time at that time. When, you know [laughs], when they-- my parents-- when it rains, my parents, you know, used umbrella inside [laughs] and boiled tea. The roof was leaking badly [laughs, laughter]. And the temple was bec- [partial word]-- financially they had very difficult time. So little by little they had to sell the property, you know, little by little. But when-- my father's time there was no property at all at that time, because my father's-- the priest who was in that temple before my father, you know, sell almost all the property. They have no money. The people didn't support temple. So there is no way to mend roof or building. Tatami is almost, you know, broken. I remember exactly.

So I-- I have-- when I go to school, I was small hippy [laughs, laughter]. But my head is always shaved by him [laughs]. When we have ceremony, you know, at school, they wear hakama, you know, usually. But I had no hakama [laughs]. I didn't like to attend, you know, some festival or ceremony at all, because I couldn't dress up as my friend did. So that-- I-- I didn't mind so much as my mother did, you know. I can imagine how she felt. She had always that kind of feeling or problem. So she was just reciting sutra [laughs]. Ahh.

But I criticize him when-- criticize her when I became-- when I could understand what she was reciting. I think that is-- maybe for her that is a kind of prayer, you know. He was-- she was reciting the Chapter 25 always, where is says-- it repeats come miraculous power of saving people-- power of Avalokitesvara in saving people.

My teacher, you know, Kishizawa Roshi had big, you know, hard skin here.[on forehead] He was bowing always, maybe-- I don't know how many times he bow to Buddha. I think that was a kind of prayer. He wanted to be a good-- good Zen master, you know, Zen priest. But he had too strong ego [laughs]. He was too stubborn. And he called himself “one-legged priest,” you know, or-- what do you call [it] if you-- if you cannot walk, you know, without stick? When he write some calligraphy, his sign is “one-legged priest.”

SR: [Laughs.] “Lame,” maybe. “Cripple-- cripple priest.” He-- you know, so to conquer his ego he bowed to Buddha until he has [laughs] the skin [callous] here. Because of that he was scolded by his teacher always. I think that is a kind of prayer. [Laughs.] Even though you know this is right, but your mind doesn't [laughs] follow sometime. There is no other way to make prayer.



I always refer to my friend when I talk about this kind of thing. You know, my friend who is barber, you know, always teach his, you know, his boy how to sharpen the razor like this, you know [probably gesturing]. “Do it naturally!” he says always [laughs]. “Do it more natural-- like this.” [Laughs, laughter.] But slightest, you know, mistake will cut the razor. The natural way is not so natural in its usual sense. Before we become completely natural, we must try hard to be natural or to follow some way. When you are able to follow some way, you are good enough to be natural. Then you may say, “That is not naturalness.” But actual naturalness exist in that way. We are, you know, organic being. We are natural-- originally natural. But if I am careless for one hour, I may catch cold if I don't wear-- if I don't wear one more underwear I will catch cold. Not so, you know, easy to be natural.

69-10-23: Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. 2: Chapter II.


In Japan, when we have funeral service-- funeral procession, we have four banners. In one of them it says, “Death”-- or “Death and extinction.” “With death and extinction, we enjoy”-- or, “We enjoy death and extinction.” So [laughs] some people may think Buddhists like death and extinction. They [may say]: “Buddhism is very-- very, very negative,” you know. “Buddhist has very negative attitude.” But jaku is “calmness,” and metsu is “extinction.” The calmness as dead person. And extinction of all the desires, like dead person. And we enjoy this.

But it-- it does not mean to annihilate all our desires, you know. It means to go beyond those desires, or to go beyond even the extinction of all desires, or Buddha, who-- or arhatship. That is real extinction of everything.

69-10-25: Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. 4: Chapter II.


Student I:  How do you feel, then, when you always ask us, “Do we understand?” [Laughter.] It always seems so tongue-in-cheek, like-- like you don't want us to understand, and that's understanding. And it's like-- it's like a-- something chasing its tail. And-- and I always try to push that out of my mind when you ask that.

SR: [Laughs, laughter.] You know [laughter], what I am saying is very logical, you know. So I say, “Do you understand? Do you agree with me?” you know. So far, nothing wrong with my statement. That is what I am saying. You see? And the conclusion is you don't-- it is not possible to understand the essence of mind. That is my conclusion [laughs, laughter]. And when I say, “Do you understand?” means, “Is there any,” you know, “mistake in my,” you know, “way of thinking?”

69-11-07: Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. 7: Chapter II.


Miss Ransom was teacher of conversation, Nov1969



So I wanted to practice our way for sake of practice. I started the practice, you know. That practice was to get up thirty minutes earlier than other student. I was in dormitory at that time. And before they get up to clean, you know, restroom so that they may not notice me cleaning restroom. But as I was cleaning, you know, many things happens actually. I had many times some people coming to restroom. I saw many room lit up, you know. “Oh, he may come,” you know. “Because he [laughs]-- he get up, he will come pretty soon.” So at first I escaped, you know. I hide myself somewhere so that they may not notice me. But even so, you know, while I'm hiding myself, funny feeling [laughs]. I didn't know what kind of practice I am practicing [laughs], you know, hiding myself from people [laughs, laughter], so that they may not notice me, you know. Very strange feeling, you know. If I'm doing something good, there will not be no need to be afraid of anything. But I was very afraid of people at that time. I couldn't solve this problem, you know. And I didn't know whether I am practicing, you know, my prac- [partial word]-- our practice for sake of practice. The conclusion was, anyway, this kind of practice cannot be a real practice. But at the same time, I couldn't give up, you know. I was rather obstinate. So once I determined to do it, I must do it.

But the practice I am practicing is very awkward. I didn't know what I was doing. At that time, when I was-- we have to study-- we have to take some unit of psychology. And Professor Iriyap once told me-- told us that if you-- it is impossible to actualize your past experience again. If you think about it, it is already-- it is not already actual experience you experienced. And it is not psychological state which you had. That word struck me:

“Oh. I shouldn't think about my practice anymore. I shouldn't think about my,” you know, “state of mind or my experience. I shouldn't criticize my experience. Maybe whatever happened it doesn't matter, so if I do it because I have to do it, that's all, you know. You shouldn't say-- I shouldn't say my practice is pure or impure, or for sake of others or for [laughs] sake of Buddha or sake of practice.”

That is useless thing to think about, so I gave up to think about my practice.

Since then I didn't mind [laughs]. Whoever come, I clean. “Just a moment, I'm cleaning this,” you know, “this place. So you should go that way. You should go the other restroom.” So when you, you know, when you think about-- when you feel as if you are doing something, you know, at the same time you are accept[ing] it. You projected “you” outside of yourself, and you are criticizing “you” which is outside of yourself. It is not true you. True you is on your side always, which cannot be criticized [laughs]. It is foolish, you know, to criticize yourself. I had that kind of, you know, enlightenment at that time. [Claps hands together.] “Okay!” [Laughs.]

That is what-- exactly what Mahayana Buddhist started to think about. To name various elements, you know, eighteen or seventy-five, it is maybe very foolish thing. Whether that is empty or not empty [laughs] is very far away from our actual life. And when you think in that way, you are involved in that kind of thinking, far away from the buddha-mind. Some more question?

69-11-13: form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.


Opening Lecture at Page Street Zendo: American Precepts

I am so grateful with you to have chance to practice zazen in this, maybe, magnificent [laughs] building. I think we must be very grateful for Buddha and our successive patriarchs.



SR: I am very happy to be with you. I am rather tired, and pinch hitter1 hit a home run [laughs, laughter]. So maybe at the end of the ninth inning. So game was [1-2 words unclear], and we won. So [laughs, laughter] I am sorry I have no chance to, you know, to play for this evening.

I think it is almost one year since I caught Hong Kong or Asian flu. Right now, in spite of heavy work, I feel very good. So I think I am almost all right if I have a cup of water when I give you lecture [laughter]. I think I'm quite all right.

But, as I said, we won the game, so [laughs] only thing we should do is go home and go to your bed and have a nice sleep [laughs, laughter].

1Earlier, Katagiri Suzuki referred to himself as a “pinch hitter” for Suzuki until the latter arrived.

69-11-25: pinch hitter.


When I was-- when I was studying at Komazawa [University], I was-- at that time I was studying, you know, [with] Takada.p Professor Takada taught us education-- what is formal education and what is real education. And his, you know, understanding of formal education is opposite, you know, to-- for an instance, to read scripture without anything-- without knowing what it is, like you recite Prajnaparamita Sutra. That is real, you know, approach-- real education. And to, you know, to explain what is the meaning of the sutra and let them understand what it is-- is according to him, that is formal-- or that formal education he says. [Laughs].

At that time, you know, we had to, you know-- we have to note whatever he says [laughs]. When I was, you know, taking note, I thought it is funny. Maybe my, you know, misunderstanding that it looks like opposite [laughs], I thought. But anyway, I came home and checked up my note again, but in my note and my friend's note was same: “Formal education is to explain, you know, what it is-- what it means. And more actual education is to, you know, to let them read whatever it is [laughs] without explaining it.” “That is,” he said, “that is more actual, you know, education.” [Laughs.] I couldn't understand, but because I couldn't understand I remember it still [laughs]. What I could understand [laughs] I forgot, but only what I couldn't understand I remember. And now I think after I started zazen, I could understand what he meant [laughs].

69-11-29: Way-Seeking Mind, Part I.


My teacher, Kishizawa Roshi, always after clean-- after we clean the room, he come and [Suzuki gestures as if looking for dust-- hmm!-- laughter]. You know, the shoji screen has many, you know, frame, you know, and it is rather difficult to clean up each of the-- each of the frame. So sometime we miss it. So he come [laughs]. He doesn't say anything [laughs]. Ichigu wo terasu, you know: “to shine the one corner of the room.” In Lotus Sutra also, there is a famous bodhisattva who used to bow to everyone he met-- [laughs] everyone. He bowed to everyone. You may think that is very foolish [laughs], but that is bodhisattva-mind.

I think if you want to accomplish something in this land, you must have unusual mind to go beyond the usual way of life. And there you will have, you know, great mind, joyful mind, and true kind mind which is buddha-mind. So if you don't do anything, you don't have any mind. When you do it, then there you will have joy, and strength, and kindness.

So that is why it is necessary for us to have vow-- bodhisattva's vow. And I think you must, you know, each one of you must have his own-- your own vow-- vow for only for yourself. My vow is, you know-- [laughs] do you th- [partial word]-- what do you think [laughs] my vow is? My vow is to scrape off the, you know, maybe [laughs]-- the smoky pan [laughs]. You know, in the kitchen there are many black smoky pan. When I was young [laughs], there were-- we did not use gas. We, you know, boiled things by wood. So bottom-- pan is always-- the bottom of the pan is always black and full of, you know, smuts. So it was very h- [partial word]-- it is very difficult to boil something by it. So unless you take off those black smuts, you cannot boil anything.

So Buddhism has a lot of smuts outside [laughs] of the pan, so it is difficult to boil anything. So first of all is necessary to, you know, take off those black smuts. That is my vow: to take off, you know, black smuts of the pan so that you can boil something by it. If you take turn, you know, and cook, you know, some lazy person will left the pan, you know, with smuts. And next morning [laughs], someone-- someone must clean it, you know, or else the pan will have more smuts until [laughs] someone clean it up. Someone must do it. I think, you know, when they feel very bad-- when someone feel very bad with boiling by-- receiving the black pan for-- for someone who-- who was in turn yesterday. But I think-- I feel some joy of cleaning it, and I-- I have some joy of, you know, boiling it by cleaned up pan.

69-12-01: Way-Seeking Mind, Part III


The purpose of life is not, actually, to accomplish something, but to continue our buddha way. So to continue our buddha way forever is to accomplish our way. “To accomplish” does not mean to reach some stage where we don't need to work anymore. So the most important point and most difficult thing is to continue our way and to have good successor for us who may, you know, succeed our way. That is the meaning of the transmission.

Transmission-- we say “transmission,” but there is nothing to transmit. But if we say there is something, that is the spirit of practice, to find someone who may, you know, continue our way. You know, my teacher, when he mend the one of the building, he didn't mend the main building, but he just mend kitchen and zendo. And he-- at that time he said: “If I try I can do it, but I must leave something for my disciples to do” [laughs].

I couldn't understand what he meant exactly. You know, to-- it-- the purpose of mending building or building something is not just to have some facility for us. The most important thing is to continue that kind of practice and to have successor who may take our responsibility, who may share our responsibility.

The point is, you know [laughs], somewhere, you know, which you don't expect. If you understand this point, you know, you will understand what kind of life you should have and what kind of rules you have to observe. To have rules is not just for yourself, it-- but, you know, for your friends and for your disciples who may succeed our spirit. You know, as a bodhisattva it is a pleasure to have something to work on, to have-- we bodhisattvas should welcome difficulties, and if there is-- so if you are very kind to your followers-- successors, you should leave something for themselves [laughs]-- some difficulties [laughs] for your descendant. Then, as a bodhisattva, he may be very glad to have something to work on. So not only, you know, your lifetime, but also forever for our descendant we should welcome the difficulties.


My master [So-on] just said, you know, “This is-- this main building is for you to mend it-- for your disciples to mend it.” That is what he said. I didn't take it so seriously. “What does he mean?” [Laughs.] Because of it I couldn't come to America, you know, until my age of 54. When I made up my mind to go to America, it was the year I accomplished-- I made up my mind to come to America in October, and I finished my work of main building April.

So when I-- when I made up my mind to go to America, I said to my members-- one of my members, if I could go to America ten years, you know, before-- ten years ago, I had-- I could have many things. I had-- I-- I think I can many things-- I think I could [have done] many things, but maybe it is too late. I cannot-- I forgot almost all the English. Even though I have some spirit, it will not work properly [laughs]. I-- I regret.

But on the other hand, I thought, if I-- if I had gone to America ten years before, I wouldn't have, you know, this much understanding of Buddhism. So maybe it was good thing for me to stay in Japan, doing something which was told by-- by my master.

69-12-02: Practice Should Not Be Perfect, So Descendants Have Something To Do.


Perhaps I may be too friendly with you, you know. Maybe I was Americanized quite a lot [laughs, laughter]. I think that is maybe good, and sometime it is not so good. And as you want me to be more strict and to be more like Zen master, you know [laughs, laughter], I'm happy to be strict. But, you know, I cannot be strict when you don't understand, you know. It is rather difficult.

I feel as if I am playing game with you [laughs]. Maybe I am playing game with you. But it should not be like this. We should not waste this valuable time, especially when we have-- with a great effort when we have build up some spirit so far.

I am very grateful for your effort. And with mutual trust I think we will have good concluding ceremony for this training period.

69-12-04: Winter Sesshin Lecture No. 6


Since I moved in this building, people ask me how do you feel [laughs]. But I haven't find myself in this building. I don't know what I am doing here [laughs, laughter]. Everything is so unusual to me. So actually I haven't [laughs]-- not much feeling. But I am thinking about now how to adjust myself to this building. And first of all, what I felt seeing people, you know-- seeing our students bowing in this way or cleaning our building, I found special meaning of putting-- our putting hands together like this.


Maybe it is rather difficult to stand up from the floor. This is rather difficult. And it may be easier to eat with table rather than take everything up to, you know, to your mouth, maybe. But this is-- but even though it is difficult, we Eastern people trying to find our way without changing our surrounding, without using some special tools.

When I was sitting here reciting sutra, seeing those chairs in front of me, I thought, “Oh [laughs, laughter], very convenient thing, to us here.” But, you know, if we can live without, you know, chair, our life will be more simple. And even though we use our physical power-- physical strength in standing up, but we will have eventually more and more physical strength and physical power to suit our surrounding.


I want, you know, [to make] best effort to adjust myself [laughs] to your culture, instead of, you know, changing my way of bowing, you know-- instead of bow to shake hand or something like [laughs] that-- instead of doing that kind. But by some fundamental, you know, way, you know, will have something wonderful, I think.

I haven't-- I di- [partial word]-- I haven't study, you know, Dogen's work on this point yet in its true sense. Of course, what we are doing at Eiheiji is based on Dogen's instruction about our life. But if we study it in America, I think we will have something new meaning to it, as he was very careful about our life and view of life and way of life. I will ask someone to study it from-- with some new viewpoint.

69-12-21-A: Fundamental Buddhist Point: To Adjust Ourselves To Our Surroundings.


When-- after-- when I came to America, I found very, you know -- I found -- special, some special food for me and I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it very much-- that was potato. Potato was delicious to me, but I don't know if it is so for you or not. I don't know what kind of nourishment potato has. I haven't studied anything about potato, but I like it very much. The reason why I like it is-- I don't know why-- when I was in Japan of course I liked it, but I didn't think I liked potatoes so much! But after I came to America, having very-- various foods and I haven't not much chance to eat potatoes, maybe once a month or so. When I was invited for Thanksgiving, I had mashed potatoes. That was delicious. But usually I haven't mashed potatoes, or even baked potato.

At Tassajara I told Ed I like potato [laughs]. Sometimes-- as we have various food, various kinds of food, so Ed cannot give me always potato. So only once in a while I had potato. As soon as I come back from Tassajara I go to the grocery store and buy three or four potatoes. And as it takes pretty long time to cook it, I cut it and fry it. My boy doesn't like it, but I like it. My wife doesn't like it much. So I cook it just for myself. Do you know why? Potato was-- when I was young I-- my home town produced a lot of potatoes, so I was eating potatoes always when I was a boy. So that is why I like it. When I was eating I didn't like it so much because I had it almost not everyday, but four times or more a week. This kind of experience characterized our character.

69-12-21-B: True Happiness and Renewal of Practice at Year's End


Autobiographical and some Historical Material
in Suzuki lectures -  1969 --
through 1968 - 1970 - 1971