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Autobiographical and some Historical Material
in Suzuki lectures - 1971

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Yesterday two teachers [laughs] came to me and talked about their experience, you know. I was very much interested in it. Both of them were good teachers. And what they said was sometime, you know, a student-- sometimes they find students, you know, very agitated [active?] (what was the word?) lazy-- lazience-- you know, in lazience, very responsive.


Kitano Zenji-- when I was at Eiheiji, the abbot of Eiheiji was Kitano Zenji. When he come, you know, to hatto [long pause], we had, you know, special feeling with our practice. He observed our ceremony very strictly with good spirit, but when he bow, you know, he is so old that when he bow it looked like it is impossible to stand up again, you know [laughs]. He had very difficult time to stand up again. He almost looks like sick person who is going to die. And when he stand up [laughs], and [not] showing any, you know, agony [laughs] with joy he stand up, but actually it was terrible effort for him. You know, that is very fresh, you know, very, you know, strong, you know, fresh activity. It is not just formality which is based on his, you know, spirit of Zen.

71-01-03: what is self. 


My friend [George] Hagiwara has very Christian-oriented mind. He criticize always, you know, people, scientists, who are trying to go to the moon, you know. Someday all of us will be, you know, must go to hell [laughs] by trying that kind of thing [laughs, laughter], he always says to me. At first I couldn't understand what he meant, actually. Now, you know, I have some clear understanding, you know, how he feels. He believe in, you know, Last Judgment of God.


71-01-23: Wherever I Go, I Meet Myself


When I was young, you know, many Zen masters says, “What is Buddha? Buddha is something which make bamboo bamboo [laughs], which make bamboo long [laughs], which make stone round.” That is [laughs] buddha-nature, they said. I couldn't understand [laughs] because I wanted to figure out what it is, you know [laughs], and I didn't feel so good if I cannot, you know, figure out what it is in usual sense: big or small, right or wrong, good or bad. But if you practice zazen, and, on the other hand, if you realize how foolish we are, you know, if you see yourself like animals in the zoo [laughs, laughter], then you will understand who you are. Each time I go to the zoo, you know, I think, you know, animals may be very much interested of human being, or American people who is black, white [laughs], yellow, and many Americans, you know. I am [laughs] American too, you know. “Oh, he is also American! [Laughs, laughter.] How strange American he is!”  [Laughs.] They may, you know, enjoy us, you know. Animals in San Francisco Zoo is very lucky, you know. [Finished sentence. Tape change.] If they are in Japan, you know, they always may see small [laughs, laughter] human being-- small and short leg [laughs, laughter]. Not so interesting at all [laughs, laughter].

71-02-05: Resuming Big Mind.


When I was young, or when I was at Eiheiji, Kumazawa Zenji, you know, Kumazawa Zenji-- at that time he was kannin. In sesshin he gave us a talk when we are tired out [laughs]. It was third day or fourth day. And he started to talk about something, and he said, “Suzume-- a sparrow,” you know, “sparrow has broken a torii.” Do you know torii? Shrine gate, you know, like this [gestures]. A sparrow [laughs] broke [laughs, laughter] torii made of stone [laughs, laughter]. And he started to explain how a sparrow did it [laughs]. But, in Japanese, you know, “Kosuzumega.” I still remember: “Kosuzumega ishi no torii o fumiotta.” And he said, “Do you understand?” [Laughs, laughter.] And he repeated several times, but no one laughed, you know [laughs, laughter], because he was so serious. But “fumioru” sometime means “funderu.” It is, you know, “stepping on the stone,” that is “fumioru-- fumioru-- funderu,” you know. It's “stepping-- stepping” you know, “on the stone,” and at the same time it mean “to break” [laughs]. How is it possible [laughs] for a sparrow to break a stone gate?

But we thought, “That is Zen story.” [Laughs, laughter.] What he means must be something deep, you know [laughs, laughter]. But he was just joking [laughs, laughter] with a serious, you know, manner like this. He was like this. [Gestures?] As he, you know, is trained very well by zazen practice, he is always serious, but he is always, you know, humorous at the same time. Not just serious, but some element of, you know, happiness or joy is in it. He is always relaxed. And, you know, maybe-- Recently I found out that it was a joke, you know [laughs, laughter], but not many people, I think, know that was joke [laughs, laughter]. Quite recently. We didn't talk about, you know, that story anymore.

As we were young, we did not like so ridiculous, you know, stories [laughs, laughter]. Fooling, you know, around serious students, you know. “Oh no! He is fooling us.” [Laughs.] We didn't like at all. So we didn't talk about it any more. But quite recently, you know, “Oh!” [Laughs, laughter.] “He was fooling us when we are practicing seriously.” [Laughs, delayed laughter.]

When he was dying, you know, do you know what he did [laughs, laughter]? For maybe ninety-six years he was fooling us [laughs]. You know, when he was almost dying, he stretched his arm for the, you know, water pitcher (what do you say? “pitcher”), and the jisha gave him the pitcher. And he swallowed the pitcher and said,

“KAAA!” [very loudly]. And he [laughs, laughter] was no more. He vanished from this world. [Laughter.]

No [laughter continues]. It is terrible [laughs, laughter], you know. And, you know, newspaper [laughs, laughter] reporters including, you know, famous Zen masters, you know, admired his [laughs] death, you know, but I think maybe he was fooling us [laughs, laughter]. You know, that was what he is doing, you know.

When he visited my hometown when I was in Japan five years ago, I, you know, tried to persuade him to come to America. And he asked, you know, about America, for pretty long time [laughs]. He make various questions about America. And he looks like, you know, he agreed. But after, you know, explaining maybe long long time, you know, he said, “Oh, that will be a good job for Takashina Roshi. [Laughs, laughter.] “Not for me.” [Laughs, laughter.] “Maybe Takashina Roshi.” He is always, you know, like that.

When, you know, the old old lady in Yaizu offered, you know, natsu melon (or what do you call?) melon, you know, very sweet and very expensive. She brought it to him. And he was watching it, you know. I was with her. “Oh, very good, very good, but I don't like it.” [Laughs, laughter.] “I would rather give it to my students,” he said. And he clapped his hand [laughs; Suzuki clapped hands twice] and [said], “Take it to your room!” [Laughs, laughter.] In front of her. But when he does it so, you know, so nice, so she couldn't be angry with him, you know [laughs].

So I don't know. It is pretty difficult to know what kind of, you know, mind he has [laughs, laughter]. He is always same, but what he does is always something different [laughs]. So I knew him pretty well, but recently, you know, I find out many things about him-- not new things, but something I find out, you know, what he was doing little by little. I think that is real comedy, I think.


Oh by the way, I have new glasses. So I must use this you know. And I have something to read here [laughs, laughter] [unfolds page]. Oh this-- [Laughs, laughter. Took out wrong piece of paper. Much laughter.] This is new one, yeah. Dogen Zenji said, you know [laughs, laughter]:

71-02-09: humor is more real than reality.


You are like a pig, you know. When I was young, as my father was very poor, he raised many pigs. And if you give pigs a bucket of food, you know, if you are not there he will eat it. As long as you are there, he will not eat it, expecting me to give more food [laughs, [pronoun mix] laughter]. So you must be very careful. And you-- if you put, you know, if you move, he will kick out the food from the bucket [laughs]. I think that is what you are doing, you know [laughs, laughter].

Just to cause more problem for you [laughs], you seek for something. But there is no need for you to seek for anything. You have plenty. And you have just enough problem. This is mysterious thing, you know-- mystery of the life. We have just enough problem: not too much or not too little. So there is no need to ask something for anybody-- there is no need to ask anyone's help if you are patient enough, if you are strong enough to accept it. But when you are not strong enough to accept you-- accept problem, or strong enough to sit calmly and peacefully, trusting Buddha. Yeah, I said “trusting Buddha,” you know [laughs]. I already give you the answer. Only way may be to trust Buddha, you know, to trust your being-- why you are here, how you are here, you know. Because you are helped, and because the way you are helped is perfect, you exist here. If it is too much, you will die. If it is too little, you will die. You are, you know, receiving something, you know-- as much as you need-- just as much as you need. So only way is, you know, to trust him, or to trust your being here. That is, you know, spirit of Zen.

71-02-12-A: Just Enough Problems. (title from book: Not Always So, p. 143)


It is more than six months [laughs] since-- Is it working?

-- since I came to Tassajara, and I was very much impressed, you know, of your practice at this time. And I am now thinking about, you know-- not thinking about-- but actual feeling I have now, you know, and some, you know, prospect for the future-- future life of Tassajara. I feel something right, and I want to talk, you know, a little bit about my feeling and my hope.

I don't know if you have actual feeling of true practice. I don't know, because, you know, why I say so is because I didn't know [laughs], you know, when I was practicing zazen.  Even though I was practicing zazen when I was young, I didn't know exactly what it was. But although I had some feeling of practice, but, you know, it was pretty difficult to talk about the feeling I had. But now, you know, the feeling I had makes some sense right now for me, right now [laughs]. But at that time, it doesn't make much sense, although I had some feeling, and sometime I was very much impressed by our practice at Eiheiji or some other monasteries. Or when I see some great teachers, listening to their teisho, I was very much impressed.

But it was difficult to organize that kind of experience-- to put some order in those experience. Maybe because I wanted to put some order, you know, it was not possible. This way is to have full experience and to have full, you know, feeling in every practice. Then that is, you know, that was our way. But maybe it is true with you.

Why we couldn’t satisfy our practice is one reason I didn't. I thought I did my best, but I didn't, you know [laughs], [make] enough effort for our practice. That is why. And another reason was because, you know, I wanted to put order, you know. People say “stepladder [laughs] stepladder Zen,” you know. Actually, we are talking about, you know, enlightenment and practice is one, but still, you know, actually, my practice, at least, was stepladder practice, you know: “I understand this much, and next year,” I thought, “I understand a little bit more, little bit more” [laughs]. That kind of, you know, practice doesn't make much sense. Maybe after you try, you know, stepladder [laughs] practice, you may realize, you know, that that was mistake.

This morning, you know, when [Sotan Ryosen] Tatsugami Roshi was, you know, giving dokusan when we are practicing zazen. I cannot explain you literally what he said, but, you know, our zazen is-- If we don't, you know, feel some actual feeling of practice, some warm, you know, big satisfaction in your practice, that is not practice. Even though you sit, you know, with right posture, trying to have right posture, following your breathing, you know, and following all the instruction which was given to you, but maybe still, you know, it is, you know, empty [laughs] zazen.


And, yeah, you know. I have to go. I have to leave you this afternoon. Take care of your practice. Take good care [laughs] of practice and to be very kind with yourself.

71-02-23: Be Kind with Yourself


Kitano Zenji-- you know, when I was at the monastery, Eiheiji Monastery, Kitano Zenji was the archbishop of the Eiheiji Monastery. When he was young, you know, he was making trip, takuhatsu. And when he reach to the, you know-- he was an inveterate smoker [laughs], you know, and when he reached to the, you know, top of the pass, you know, and he took a rest there, sitting on a stone, and, you know, take out cigarettes or I don't know what it was, but-- took out his pipe. And seeing the, you know, down, you know, he will arrive on that evening, you know, he took a cigarette. And it was wonderful, you know [laughs]. It was so wonderful, you know, to have a, you know, puff, you know.

So, you know, so it was so wonderful that he gave up. He stopped smoking at that time [laughs]. How about that [laughs, laughter]? You know, it must be, you know, foggy, you know. Through mist, you know, he could see the town. And he thought it may not be so difficult to, you know, arrive at that city, and so he must kill his time little bit more, and he was smoking. It was so nice that he stopped smoking. He knew, you know, what is, you know, real desire or what is desire exactly.

[Laughs.] This is another, maybe, story. I think here in San Francisco you don't have so [such] cold weather. At Tassajara, maybe, it is pretty cold, but in wintertime when you have a lot of snow, in wintertime you will have, you know, “frostbite?” or, you know, frostbite. Before spring come, you know, it will become very itchy [laughs]. You will scratch [scratches himself], you know. And there is, you know-- I think there will be no more agreeable thing than to scratch your [laughs] itchy, you know, frostbites. This is the time of the year when we scratch, you know [laughs], frostbite. So you will do, you know, and more you do it, more the frostbite become itchy [laughs, laughter], and you cannot stop it. You know, you know, that is not so healthy, you know, thing to scratch it. And you know this is not wholesome, you know, condition of your skin. So no one try to be, to, you know, to have more frostbites [laughs]. No one want to have it, you know.

He knows, you know-- Kitano Zenji knows this is not so very good [laughs], but, you know, it is not something, you know, he should desire so much, you know, he should attach so much, like, you know, like frostbite. So he didn't-- no one try to have more snow-- frostbite, but many people will be interested in that kind of joy or agreeable feeling, you know.

71-02-27: Why we cannot have enlightenment.


Lecture: Reed College, Portland, Oregon, March 12, 1971



[Suzuki receives Okesa made by Yoshida]

[The tape begins with Tenshin Sensei(cut Sensei) not Sensei yet) Reb Anderson reciting the verse attributed by Shakyamuni Buddha, quoted in the fascicle “Kesa-kudoku,” in Dogen Zenji's Shobogenzo. The translation may have been by Suzuki.]

Today, at last, I could receive the proper-- right okesa, properly made. I don't think-- I don’t think it is too late for me to receive this okesa. I don’t think so. I'm still think I am very lucky to receive it, you know. You may think “He is-- ” you know, “We thought he is a great Zen master, but he just received okesa today.” [Laughs.] You may think you-- you are fooled by me. But, you know, my spirit is always aiming at one thing-- one truth, which can be true with everyone: layman and priest, Japanese and American, and Indian people and European nation. We are in just one truth. That is why I always say it is not so easy thing to achieve Buddha's way. It cannot be so easy as long as our cultural background is different, as long as our way of life is different, our language is different, it cannot be so easy.


I am so happy to have Yoshida Roshi here in Zen Center to introduce the real practice for us. I met Yoshida Roshi's teacher and master [Eko] Hashimoto Roshi at Eiheiji only once.  But I heard of his sincere practice for long, long time. And he is no more. So Yoshida Roshi is as a successor of Hashimoto Roshi, striving for the study of okesa and continue Hashimoto Roshi's spirit. I don’t know how to express my gratitude for her and for her teacher Hashimoto Roshi. Hashimoto Roshi was a good friend of my teacher Kishizawa [Ian] Roshi and also my master [Gyokujun So-on Roshi] who helped Kishizawa Roshi.

71-06-06: Okesa Ceremony.


I think you, you know, have understood-- (Can you hear me? Yeah? Not so well. Okay? Mmm?) You have understood what is zazen as your practice. But I didn't explain how you sit-- I didn't give you instruction how you sit in detail, but I told you, you know, how I practice shikantaza-- or zazen. Maybe that is my way, so I don't know how another teachers will, you know, sit, I don't know, but that is anyway my shikantaza.

I started this practice, actually, maybe two-- two years ago, after I went to [2-4 words unclear; one earlier transcript states, “cross the creek at Tassajara”] [laughs, laughter], not because I saw many good place to sit, you know. There's two [or] three caves where you can sit. But not because of that. Perhaps some of you were swimming, you know, with me at that time. Some beautiful girl students [laughs, laughter] and Peter [Schneider?] was there [laughs, laughter]. And as you-- I cannot swim, actually [laughs], but because they were enjoying swimming so much, so I thought I may join [laughs]. But I couldn’t swim. But there were so many beautiful girls over there, so I tried to, you know, go there [laughs, laughter], without knowing I couldn't swim [laughs], so I was almost drowned [laughs, laughter]. But I knew that, you know, I will not die, I will not drown. I shall not be drowned to death, you know, because there are many students. So someone will help [laughs]. But I was not so serious.

But, you know, feeling was pretty bad, you know. Water is, you know-- I am swallowing water [laughs]. So feeling was too bad, so I stretch my arm, you know, so that someone catch me [laughs]. But no one [laughs, laughter]-- no one helped me. So I decided, you know, to go to the bottom [laughs, laughter], to walk, but that was not possible either [laughs, laughter]. I was, you know, I couldn't reach to the bottom, or I couldn't get over the water. What I saw is beautiful girls' legs [laughs, laughter]. But I couldn't, you know [laughs], s- [partial word]-- take hold of their legs, you know. I was rather scared [laughs, laughter].

At that time I realized that we will never have good practice, you know, unless we become quite serious, you know. I knew that I was not dying, you know, at that time, so I was not so serious, so I-- because I was not so serious, you know, I, you know, had very difficult time. I thought if I, you know, knew I was, you know, anyway, I was dying, you know, I will not struggle anymore. What I could do is to stay still, you know [laughs], if I am dying, you know. Because I thought I had, you know, another moment, so I couldn't become so serious.

Since then, you know, I started shikantaza expecting, you know, another moment, moment after moment I tried to sit, you know, as if I am dying, you know, in the water. That helps a lot, you know. Since then my practice improved a lot. That is why, you know, and I tried so long time, and I think I am quite-- I have good confidence in my practice, so I told you, you know, how I sit my shikantaza.

It was very interesting experience, you know. I was, you know, I was among beautiful girls [laughs], you know, and that sort of thing, you know, reminded me of Buddha's overcoming demons, you know [laughs, laughter]. I am sorry, you are not evil, but, you know, beautiful [laughs] demons [laughs, laughter]. But if I am dying, you know, those beautiful girls will not help, you know. If I am really dying, not because of water, but because of my, you know, sickness or something, it will not help.

So we can sit, you know, with demons and beautiful girls, and, you know, or demons or snakes. You know, snakes is okay, you know [laughs]. When I am dying, you know [laughs], it will not hurt me, you know. Anyway, I am dying, so it is okay. And they are with me. They will be happy to be with me, and I am very happy to be with them. In that situation, everything is with us, and, you know, we are happy to be with them, by not being hurt or helped or disturbed. But usually it is difficult to feel in that way because we have always involved in gaining idea, expecting something in future. So usually it is very difficult. But when you-- at least when you practice zazen, you should not be caught by, you know, you shouldn’t be involved in gaining idea.

The most important thing is to confront with yourself and to be yourself. Then naturally, you know, you can accept things as they are, and you can see things as they are. You will have perfect wisdom at that time. That is why I told you my way of zazen.


So far as I know, Oka Sotan Roshi, you know, was the-- all the source of-- source of all the teachers, you know-- source of power of all the teachers. Tatsugami Roshi, you know, studied under Harada Roshi. Harada Roshi's, you know, teacher was Oka Sotan. My teacher was Kishizawa Roshi, and my master was Suzuki So-on, and their teacher was, you know, Oka Sotan Roshi. Yoshimura Roshi's teacher, you know, is Hashimoto Roshi. Hashimoto Roshi's teacher is Oka Sotan Roshi, you know.

At Komazawa [University] there were, you know, good scholar of Buddhism-- Eto Sokuo.p He was my classmate-- my teacher's classmate-- master's [Gyokujun So-on's] classmate when they were studying at Komazawa. At that time, Oka Sotan Roshi was head of Komazawa.

So if we, you know-- things didn't happen, yeah, to Zen Center just by chance. If we don't know what to do, if we study, you know, Oka Roshi's teaching, Kishizawa Roshi's teaching, or [Kodo] Sawaki Roshi's [?] teaching, you know. Answer is there.

-- you know, came from one source. He was a really great, you know, teacher. Not only he was a great teacher for his disciples, but also for laymen who studied under him he was a great, you know, teacher.

I wanted to tell you, you know, something about how to extend our shikantaza to your everyday life, you know, today, right now. But-- and I-- I, you know-- I take out the interpretation of precepts by Oka Sotan Roshi. And I read, you know, preface of it [laughs], preface, which was written by Kishizawa Roshi. And in the introduction of, written by Kishizawa Roshi for Oka Sotan Roshi's interpretation of precepts, he referred to Oka Roshi's, you know, precepts lineage, which was wrong [laughs]. Which was wrong.

Kishizawa Roshi knew, you know, under the, you know, many-- after many years study under Oka Roshi, what is right lineage. Lineage should be like this, he knew-- Kishizawa Roshi knew what-- how it should be. But Oka Roshi's, you know, his teacher's lineage was wrong because Dogen Zenji's lineage consist of two lineage: Rinzai and Soto. And came to Dogen Zenji one from Nyojo-- [from the] Soto lineage. Another is from Myozen-- Rinzai master, disciple of Eisai.

But his lineage is just Soto, you know-- Oka Roshi's. So, you know, Kishizawa Roshi have to ask him why. “Why is this, you know? It is wrong,” you [he] said, “But your lineage is wrong” [laughs]. “What is that?” you know. When he asked him, you know, Oka Sotan Roshi, you know, his face changed, and tears came down from his eyes. “Yes, it is wrong.” And he started to talk about his lineage.

When Oka Roshi was young, he wanted to go to Komazawa University-- Komazawa College-- you know, to study Buddhism. He wanted to go there. But his master Tokenp did not allow him or could not afford to send Oka Roshi to school, so he didn't say yes so easily. So, you know, he said, you know, “I want to study hard and become a good teacher and give precepts, you know, jukai-- ojukai-- having ojukai-e and precepts to many people, so let me study more.” And his master Token was pleased: “Okay, then you can go.”

But after he finished schooling, he came back. At that time he was making, you know, wood print, you know, for lineage, you know, to make, you know, lineage paper, okechimyaku. Some of you already received my okechimyaku when you received, you know, rakusu. His master was making which is wrong, so Oka Roshi explained, you know, in detail, it should not be like this, you know. It should not be just lineage of Soto, it should be Rinzai and Soto.

His teacher agreed: “Okay, maybe I was wrong, but,” you know, “this lineage is the lineage which Kankei Zenji p had”-- also famous teacher-- ”Kankei Zenji had. So according to Kankei Zenji's lineage, my lineage is not wrong. But if Dogen Zenji's lineage is like that, it should be like that,” you know, he said. So-- and then-- and he said, “I will make another wood print.”

But Kishizawa Roshi-- you know, when he came back and saw him-- when Kishizawa Roshi-- Oka Roshi saw him again, he, you know, he had-- he was making-- he finished half of it already, which was quite good. And his-- Token-- his teacher—Sotanp Roshi's teacher went to some specialist to make it and studied how to make it and, you know, tried to do it again.

But as Oka Roshi came back, you know, he made it although it was not complete. But he made it. And show it to him. At that time, you know, Oka Roshi ag- [partial word] now-- his face changed again, and tears came down, especially when he said, “This is the okechimyaku,” you know, “lineage paper for you when you have big,” you know, “ojukai-e. This is for you.” When he said so, he almost cried and teacher and disciple cried, you know-- what do you say-- hugging and cried.

And then teacher said-- Oka Roshi said, “This lineage paper is okay, although it is not,” you know, “exactly [as] Dogen Zenji had it. It is okay. As long as,” you know, “this wood last, I will use it.” So that is why Oka Roshi's lineage paper is wrong. Because it was wrong, Kishizawa Roshi accused [him], you know, why [that] it is wrong. So when he was accused, again he [Oka] cried. Oka Roshi was that kind of person. It is not usual, you know, scholar or usual great Zen master. Not usual at all-- very unusual. When, you know, why we say Dogen Zenji is so great is not because of Shobogenzo maybe, but because of his sincere practice, not only as a Zen master but also as a man, you know, as a human. He was the most sincere student of Buddhism. Oka Roshi was that kind of teacher, you know.

I didn't know actually, you know, what we should do with our old okesa after, you know, Yoshida Roshi show us which-- how should be right traditional okesa, you know. I didn’t know what to do. But, you know, when I took out [Oka Roshi's book on the precepts], I didn’t know idea of solving this problem, you know, by Oka Roshi's help. But when I, you know-- I wanted to know what will be the interpretation of precepts not to act [do] unchaste act, you know. So I wanted to know about it. But what I found out is that, you know, preface [by Kishizawa Zenji], you know, I haven't read that part. It was just, I thought, it is just introduction [laughs]. But, you know, when I need it, you know, it appears in front of me like that. You may say that is just by chance, but I don't feel in that way [laughs]. If you say things happen just by chance, you know, all the things happen just by chance [laughs]. When we don't know, we say, “Things happen by chance.”

71-06-09: Freedom from Everything. (title from book: Not Always So, p. 12)


 When Oka Sotan Roshi was young boy [laughs], his teacher, Token Roshi, told him to buy bean curd, you know. So he went to the store. On the way, he saw, you know, picture for advertising acrobatic [laughs] theater, and he was standing, seeing the various picture in front of the building. And while he was watching it [laughs], he heard, you know, bell of his own temple. It was sign of meal time [laughs]. He was supposed to come back to the temple with bean curd and cook [laughs]-- finish cooking before meal time, but he was watching the picture so long time without knowing what time it was. Hearing the bell, he noticed, you know, his duty-- what was his duty. So he, you know, dashed in the store. “Give me tofu!” [Laughs.] As soon as old [laughs] man gave it all to him, he dashed back. But on the way what he noticed was he left his hat [laughs] in the store. So he ran back again to the store. “Give me! Give me! Give me!” And the old man said-- old woman said, “What?” “Give me!” He didn't s[ay], you know-- he meant his hat, but, you know, he was so-- his mind was so busy [laughs, laughter] and the word “hat” didn't come out. “Give me! Give me! Give me!” “What? What? What?” [Laughs, laughter.] And at last he could say “my hat.” “Oh, your hat is on your head! What is matter with you?” [Laughs, laughter.] Again he dashed back to his temple with his hat. That was the story, you know [laughs].

71-06-12: Precepts as Original Nature. Edited version in Wind Bell, Vol. 35, issue 1, 2001


You may ask me, “Why do you wear this kind of robe all the time? Why do you sit in the same way all the time?” Tomorrow we will start a sewing sesshin, an okesa or rakusu sewing sesshin. You may think we are wearing some special robe but actually it is not so. The way Buddha made this robe was, as you know, that he collected the various materials on the street, or at a graveyard, and he collected material which was thrown away by the people. There were big pieces and small pieces, so after cleaning and purifying them, he sewed them together in this way.


Because I am Japanese, I am doing things the Japanese way. That is the only reason that I behave like a Japanese. I don't say the Japanese way is the best way of all. If you think that way, that cannot even be the Japanese way. When a Japanese person becomes Japanese, then he is really Japanese. He can be understood wherever he goes. There's no need for me to change my way. If you really want to make an okesa or rakusu, it will be Buddha's robe. If you feel as if you are imitating Buddha's robe, then that is not Buddha's robe.

Student: No. Roshi, you said there's no contradiction, but you just said that robes are only worn to be a disciple of the Buddha and not to propagate Buddhism. But just before that you said you wear the robe to express your understanding so that the people can tell--

SR: Not to propagate Buddhism, but to help them understand what each person's way should be. That's the difference. A non Buddhist may think I am a Buddhist, but I don't think I am a Buddhist. If it is necessary for them to call me something, or to call myself something, maybe, for the sake of convenience, I can be a Buddhist. That's okay. I am happy to be a Buddhist.

[Another question not intelligible. Clarified by someone in the audience as: “If you don't think you're a Buddhist, Roshi, what do you think you are?”]

SR: You need your name, so it is okay to have a name, but it is not necessary to stick to my name just for the sake of convenience. In Zen Center we have some rules. On the one side, the rules are to guide our practice, and on the other side to encourage our spirit. Often, people want to be someone special: “I am Buddhist,” or “I am Zen Master.” [Laughs.] So to discourage us from sticking a label or name on ourselves, we practice zazen and we have rules and rituals. Unfortunately, people may think they are practicing the Soto way, and, therefore, the Soto way is pretty good. We may become very proud of the Soto way. That is the danger, so, I must have a big stick!


Student: What do you think we are?

SR: I don't know. If you say that I am Suzuki, that makes me think more. Something like, “That is Suzuki's name,” [laughs] so maybe it would be better not to have any name. But I don't feel good if you think, “he's so great, and I'm so small.” Small Suzuki and -- [laughs] Great Suzuki. Perhaps it's better not to think about it so much. Actually, that is practice, you know. You asked me, “What do you think you are?” but I am trying to forget who I am! [General laughter.] Maybe that is a pretty interesting discussion. You get the point.


71-06-19: Sewing and Wearing the Buddhist Robes and How It Relates to Our Practice.


This sesshin-- we call it “sewing sesshin”-- sesshin and, actually, rakusu sewing-- okesa-sewing sesshin. Our okesa is not just-- just symbol of our teaching, but it is actually dharma itself. But unless you have proper understanding of it, the rakusu is something which you wear as a symbol of Buddhist. But that is not proper understanding.

transmitted robe-- ”Den-e.” He refers to ten names of okesa or funzo-e. Funzo-e means, you know-- fun is dung or dung. Fun [is], you know, something dirty. Zo is to “rubbish” or “dust.” E is robe.


Student C: Actually, Roshi, that-- that was-- what I meant though was that, like, you just go down to the basement of this building in the laundry room, there is a [one word unclear: “corner”?]--

SR: There are a lot!

Student C: -- where everybody throws away their clothes.

SR: That is-- that happens only in America! [Laughs, laughter.]

Student C: But there's-- there's enough material down there for about at least five okesas. And it wouldn't take very long to put it together.

SR: You do it! [Laughs, laughter.] You just do it, you know? When you can do it, you know, when you know how to exactly-- after learning, you know, exactly how to do it, you can do it. You see? But to learn it already very difficult, you know. Unless you don't use new material, you know, it is almost impossible how to teach you, you know. When someone-- when you teach how to sew rakusu some other people-- there's maybe paper [pattern] is much better-- best, you know, when you take pattern, when you learn how to measure. Old-- buy old material, it is not possible.

So in some way, your practice is very luxurious. I feel in that way. You are, you know, children who were born in rich family. Whatever you want to do, you can do it. But that doesn't happen [laughs] in some poor country. American cannot be always rich, you know. It is not fair! [Laughs, laughter.] You-- you lose; you do not notice this point. So I am afraid, you know, if you could be a real good Buddhist. I am stuck-- I am, you know, I am thinking [about] this point a lot. That is my worry.

So maybe [laughs] that is-- that is reason why I couldn't support okesa sewing in the practice so much before, you know. It is too luxurious practice. Only in Japan-- only [in] Heian Period and people who were born in noble family could do this. They did it before Kamakura Period, but because of that, Buddhists were lost in their practice, because it was too aristocratic practice, you know. Even though you gather old material and spending, you know, a lot of time in each stick-- stitch, aft- [partial word: “after”?]-- when you make one stitch they bow many times and took up the needle and, you know, sew okesa stitch by stitch in that way. That was good practice, they thought, but because of that, Buddhists were lost. How about that! [Laughter.]


Anyway, we are born-- you are born in this country, and this is your motherland. You shouldn't be-- you should not be lost from this motherland. I am not nationalist [laughs]. I feel terrible, you know, if you-- if you are lost from this world. Okay [laughs]? That is, you know, my feeling.

71-06-20: sewing sesshin.


[Laughs.] By the way, we like bamboo very much. We Japanese like bamboo [laughs]. Someone said, you know, when I came to America, “That is Japanese bamboo bonsai.” I couldn't figure out what did he meant, you know. “That is Japanese bamboo bonsai.” Anyway, most people knows we Japanese like bamboo. Actually, what he means-- Japanese bonsai is very expensive [laughs]. That was what he meant. “Oh, that is Japanese bamboo bonsai.” [Laughs.] But for us, bamboo is not something very expensive, you know. Bamboo, first of all, has very good nature. If you want to cut it in two, it will be-- you know, if you-- before you cut it [completely], you-- it will split in two. Ffft! You know. If you want cut it [in] four, it will exactly split in four. And, you know, even though bamboo is ten, maybe thirty feet long, you can split in just-- you can split just in two, you know, from the root to the [laughs] top. It will go in that way. No other plant can be spread-- split so nicely, you know. That is, you know, nature of bamboo.


SR: Without being sage you can, you know, you can do many things before you become sage. You know, if you are trying to be a sage [laughs], what will you do if you couldn’t? You know, in my--  when I was young, people worked hard to get some money to help others [laughs]. You know, if he cannot earn money to give somebody, what he will do, you know? Before, even though he has no money, there is-- there are many ways of helping people, you know. It is not just after you have money you can help others. Before you, you know, have a lot of money, you can help others. And with this spirit, if you practice continuously, maybe you will be sage, you know, some day, I don't know [laughs].


71-06-22: Purely Involved Helping Others


That is the point, you know: to know how important practice it is just to be yourself. When I couldn't read Zen book in English, you know, Alan Watts said, you know, “When a stone is completely stone [laughs], that is real stone,” he said, you know. That is what he put, you know, our-- that-- Zen into word. When a stone is really stone, that is, you know, when a stone is stone through-and-through. That is really a stone.  [watts]

Not only that is really stone, or when it is really stone, the stone include everything.

71-07-02: Real Precepts Are Beyond Words


Student : Yes. A change of pace: Why do you carry that wooden appendage?

SR: This? Yeah. Uh-huh. When you find it difficult to understand me, I whack you! [Laughs, laughter.] Okay, I [probably making gesture; laughs, laughter]-- it's much better not to have this, you know. I am very short-tempered [laughs, laughter], so I may rely on this too much, you know. When I cannot express myself-- whack! [Laughs, laughter.] If I haven't this, I must try hard to make verbal communication. So it may help without this, but as I am pretty old, I must have-- depend on this a little bit.

Student K: Does anyone ever hit you with it?

SR: [In a whisper.] Don't ask me. [Laughter.] I [am] ashamed of myself [laughs, laughter]. Hai

71-07-06: manifested three treasures.


I'm drinking water now, but it is not sweet. It is very plain: no taste at all. But why I drink it? Because something [is] wrong with me-- my, you know, throat is not so good.  So when I-- or when I am very thirsty, to drink something common is very meaningful. So for-- for-- for us, you know, human being which is very egoistic [laughs], egoistic, [it is] necessary to have very common-- to have very common liquor [liquid] like this. This is Buddhism. Before Buddha, actually, people interested in something unusual-- unusual power or magic power or mystic being. And more and more they lost the ground they were standing on. As someone said, “Religion is opium.” [Laughs.] It is very true. [Laughs, laughter.]

SR: “Truth,” you-- we say; but truth usually, maybe, usually is one-way, you know, street. “Go! Anyway, go this ways”-- that is truth, usually. But the truth-- when we say “truth,” truth can be, you know, various truths. So if you try to follow, you know, some direction only, or if you always depend on the, you know, sign, you will not find out the-- your own way to go. So the best thing is to have eyes to read the sign.

I have this kind of experience when I was in Manchuria at the end of the war. The sign said, “We will not sell ticket. And there is no boat to Japan” [laughs]. That was sign. When I read it, there is ticket, we can buy a ticket [laughs], and there is a boat. [Laughs, laughter.] I understand in that way. [Laughs, laughter.] So I-- because I didn't depend on, you know, railway transportation only, or some line or some company only, there is boat. I am quite sure about it. But the boat which does not belong to special line or -- [2 words unclear], or some special line. So whatever it is, it will give you some information. I rather rely on the carpenters' information who is working in harbor. “Is it dangerous to go to Japan right now? And how many-- how many ships were, you know, damaged, and how long does it take until it get repaired?” They know much better than officers in station-- railway station.

So whatever it is, you know, it will give you good information. But if you depend on something, some special thing only, and depend upon something which usual people may depend on, it means that as long as you, you know, you are not strong enough to go by yourself, you cannot find out your way.

71-07-17: why then is it necessary to accept precepts.


Anyway, it is very good to see you and Tassajara, which has improved a lot since I left here. Tonight my-- I didn't have any idea of giving talk, but I-- as, you know, we have many guests and some of you may leave tomorrow, so I decided to talk a little bit-- maybe I said ten minutes [laughs]. But it is rather difficult to say something in ten minutes, so I don't know how many minutes my lecture last.


This, you know, standard of society-- this society-- our people have some kind of moral standard. Tentatively we have some moral code and say “this is good” and “this is bad.” But it may change. If the moral code or standard of judging which is good and which is bad, then someone which was bad may be-- may be good, and which-- someone who is bad can be good tomorrow [laughs] or in one or two years. It is as you must have experienced. So our world is changing rapidly.

When I was young there were many moral codes, many idea, you know, [of how] we are involved in good and bad, idea of good and bad: “You shouldn't do this or do that.” But more and more we have less moral code. As Dogen Zenji said, “There is-- actually there is no good or no bad. There is no good and no bad. No good or no bad. No good; or, good is up to the time. Time makes-- makes things good or bad; but things itself is-- things-- things themselves is not good or bad,” he said.


When I was flying back from the east the other day, I saw beautiful sunset. Sunset lasts pretty long time if you fly from the east. If you leave, for an instance, New York or Boston six o'clock, you will arrive at here nine o'clock, up in the air more than three-- you know-- 13 or 15,000 or more-- sometime 30,000 feet high. You know, when people think it is dark and there is no more sun. But still, if you are flying high up in the air, you have still sunset and you can see beautiful clouds. It is wonderful to see. But someone may feel very lonely, you know. But if you think you are-- wherever you are, you are one with cloud and one with the sun and one with the stars you see, even though you jump out from the airplane, you don't go anywhere else. You are still with everything. That is very true. More than I say-- more true than I say, or more true than you hear.

71-07-20: One with Everything. (title from book: Not Always So, p. 120)


Okay. After we clean up zendo and our rooms and everywhere, we observe san-pachi-nenju. San means three; pachi means eight. And every three days-- three and eight days: the third, the eighth, thirteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty eighth before [1-2 words] -- four and nine day. Four and nine day is the day we have no dokusan-- my holiday [laughs, laughter].

But if you understand that that four and nine day is-- are the day when we have no schedule. But strictly speaking, hosan means no dokusan. San is dokusan-- san. No dokusan on four and nine day. Nowadays we do not have not much zazen practice, but we can practice zazen if you like [laughs]. But most people understand four and nine days is the day when we have no schedule; but it is not right understanding. Dokusan means to see-- to see a student personal. Doku means personal, or alone, or independent. Doku. San is to visit teacher. Dokusan.


Before maybe when I was young, maybe thirty or forty years ago, Buddhist didn't-- people didn't think Buddhist teaching is so helpful teaching or Zen, because they were involved in the second principle, teaching small dualistic way of life. And they were so interested in materialistic invention [?], so they have no time to study Buddhism. But recently the situation is like this [?]-- more and more-- many people started to [be] interested in what is ultimate reality. That would be-- that should be our life actually. More and more, people put the first principle, put more emphasis on the first principle. If you know what is the first principle, the second principle could be the first principle too. In that way, you know, you can help people without giving any arrogant with him [?] or without giving any fancy talk. If you talk about why things exist, what kind of nature we have, and what is the difficult point in your practice, what kind of effort you should make, then that is the only way to help people in its true sense. [Sentence finished. Tape changed.]


When I went to Eiheiji monastery, food at that time-- recently Eiheiji food is-- I had pretty good, you know-- but before, it was very poor food. Morning time gomashio and gruel-- rice, white rice, gruel, and pickle. That’s all. And at lunch we had rice mixed with meat, you know. That is pretty good food. But no-- not much vegetables, but seaweed-- seaweed, miso soup, and pickle. And dinner, you know [laughs laughter], what we had was rice soup again and soybeans. That's all. And pickles, sometimes. So most of the time soybean and rice soup. That's all. So we thought-- [laughter]-- how is it possible to survive with such a poor food? So, what we did is to have a lot of it-- it was always, you know, “more, more, more”! And supper generally is a lot of, you know, rice. But meat? Rice soup can be like this [laughs], but as much as possible [1-2 words unclear], you know, to feel more. In my monastery almost all the student went to hospital [laughter]. Almost no exception; it was normal [laughs]. And after that, we gain food-- we gain weigh. Much more-- we weigh much more than when we were in the city. One more size [?]. So food is not complete.

If your mind is very calm, then food helps you better, I think. So it is a kind of superstition, you know, or kind of delusion [?] to think you can fish-- [1-2 words unclear] fish steak, good, will help you. It is a kind of superstition, I think. When I was young, I already-- I could go beyond this kind of superstition. I can eat anything, you know, as [that] someone, you know, eat. If someone eat, I can eat anything. It is true [?]. And if you taste it, you know, everything is pretty good, you know. Every food has its own taste. Because you add too much salt or too much seasoning or sugar, it ruins its own flavor and taste. If you just eat it, you know, like a medicine, or more [?], or when you take medicine you-- [laughs]-- that is the way. [3-4 words unclear]. If you taste it carefully, it is pretty good. And when-- I think when you feel it, it is good. It will help you. Maybe that is superstition too [laughs, laughter].

71-07-22: San-Pachi-Nenju.


When I was young, I didn’t like bow, you know. Teachers or monks just bow to Buddha. It look like without any speech [feet?] [laughs] they are doing. It looks like very superficial practice. If you do very visibly, you know, it looks like you-- he is doing it if he is fall asleep [?]. But if you-- if your back [?] like this, you know, as if he-- your front [?] is doing something [laughs, laughter]. You will not feel so good. You will not-- And you think that is very superficial practice, that is just habit. And some people may think, you know, especially young [one word unclear] may think that is, you know, a kind of profligate-- profligacy.  But there is, you know-- it looks like so, but after long, long time-- difficult practice, you will attain that kind of practice. You will have that kind of practice, but natural, usual practice for you.


Student A: [Repeats question. Many words unclear.] Well say-- say, for example, say for example you have a basket of fruit -- very last piece, and I think, well instead of -- I'll take -- fruit next week. And I think, “Oh, how good I am! You know, “I'm so unselfish! You left the last fruit.” And then I think because I'm being like a-- well, because I'm thinking I won't take this fruit, then -- you know, something special like that.

SR: That is selfish thought. That is not the practice I mean. When-- When-- When I was young, my teacher [Gyokujun So-on?] would say, “If you,” you know, “do not waste-- if you are not wasteful-- if you are wasteful, so wasteful, eventually you are,” you know, “you will exhaust your practice [purpose?]” you know, “special practice.” So you shouldn’t be wasteful. Or-- if you-- you must accumulate virtue, you know, accumulate virtue by doing good things. Then you will have-- eventually you will have-- you will be a good person or a good priest or something.

I have spend-- When I was in dormitory, I would get up forty minutes before my friends get up and clean the restroom-- our restroom-- to make them happy, that’s all. But why I do it-- why I’m doing some selfish, you know [laughs]-- I am involved in selfish practice, and I feel very bad, and I almost stopped my practice because I felt very bad because sometime head of the school-- head of the school get up because he was old man-- an old man, so he closed the restroom [laughs] before we get up. So when he get up-- when I hear him coming to the restroom, I hide myself [laughs]. It is a ridiculous practice, you know (laughs, laughter). I didn’t know what I had-- what I was doing, you know. Very complicated feeling. When I’m doing something right, you know, there is no need to hide myself. If I do not hide myself, I feel as if, you know, he may like me or something like that. That is also selfish practice.

71-07-25: Universal Practice for Laymen and Monks


As you know, at Tassajara Ryaku Fusatsu-- Ryaku Fusatsu may be observed as we observe it at Eiheiji. I want to talk about Ryaku Fusatsu tonight and maybe tomorrow night, if I have time. I want to continue the spirit of practice of Ryaku Fusatsu.

Ryaku Fusatsu is one of the most interesting practices at Eiheiji. I haven't, since I left Eiheiji it is almost thirty-seven-- or seven-- maybe almost forty years [laughs]-- so-- but still, I have the impression now-- a feeling of, you know, observing Ryaku Fusatsu.

And the history of Ryaku Fusatsu is very long, even before Buddha. In India, there were same kind of observation. And in Japan too we have still very primitive, you know, custom or annual ceremony or observation in some part of Japan.

In Japan, as I remember, January 14th is the day when we gather the old memorial tablets or old symbols of shrine. And childrens or boys go something holy-- some equipment we need to observe something holy. And when it is very smoky, you know, because at that time we burn-- we burned firewood, kerosene lamps, or things in [throughout] one year. Things become very dusty and smoky. [Aside:] Smoky? Smoky? No.

And so in January-- of course, New Year's Day, we renew all the decorations, so old ones we carry old ones to the shrine, which is always waiting for those things. Old, old small shrines, or just stone-- not [2-3 words] but stone deity called-- called a dosojin. Most of the days we do not know even there is dosojin. But on New Year's Day, or from New Year's Day to January 14th, old-- old symbols and ornaments will be there. People, you know, take-- take them to the old shrines.

So at that time, we realize that, “Oh, here is shrine.” On January 14th we make pretty big shrine, maybe six feet high, with straw. And when it is dark, we set fire on it and burn it. And people-- children come with rice, rice balls. Rice ball is made on New Year's Day and it is-- we put it-- we put it on the branches of the tree-- a kind of tree-- and we decorate it in front of altar. And on January 14th, children take all the small rice balls dango-- dango, and bake it-- bake it in that-- in that fire we made by the old decoration. Some people knows why we do and some don't.

My mother told me the story of why we do. All the year round, you know, dosojin-- that god go-- lived in various part of the village, and [knows] who observe good precepts and who don't. He has-- he is supposed to keep the record, as ino also does [laughs], in Tassajara zendo or City zendo [laughing]: who attend zazen and how many times someone didn't come. He has that kind of responsibility. So he is supposed to have all the records, and on January 15th is the day when that-- you know, when some god come and check the-- his note. And when someone didn't observe, you know, maybe evil deity come-- evil spirit come and check the record. And if someone didn't observe good precepts, then that evil spirit will visit his home [laughs].

That was the idea, but dosojin is very good deity-- good god. So before he come he burned, you know, the records. And he may say: “Yesterday evening we had a big fire [laughs], so I have no more records. It was burned away, so I haven't-- I am sorry,” he may say. So wherever the evil spirits goes, many deities, you know, will say “dosojin,” they say. And “I'm sorry. We have big fire, and we have no records. So [laughs] I am sorry. Next year I will be very careful. Please come next year.” [Laughs.] So evil spirits doesn't know where to go, so all the villagers-- villagers will be protected from the evil spirit. That is the story.

That kind of, you know, story-- legendary stories-- were also in India. That story came from India to Japan, and in some part of Japan we are still observing it. It-- fourteenth is the, you know, fourteenth some days-- sometime fourteenth-- sometime the fifteenth; it is according to the moon, you know. Full moon will be sometime fourteenth and sometime fifteenth. Before full moon it is-- we call it white-- white days, white nights, and after full moon we call it black-- black days. Moon is, you know, more and more become black.

71-07-29: Ryaku Fusatsu Lecture.


[Long pause, during which pages are turned. SR then appears to read a quotation.] “Our self-nature is pure and clear. There is dharma of non-attachment. Do not have attachment. Do not cling to anything. There [?] is called not to be sexual.” Do you understand? “Self-nature is pure and clear. In dharma world, there is nothing to attach to.” Without ar- [partial word: “arising”?]-- do not arise. Let it arise cleanly. Mind is-- the precept of not to be (difficult [to translate])-- or not to be sexual.

When I was making trip-- not trip, but takuhatsu, I-- I did forty-- more than forty days takuhatsu. And I came across with a gentleman. I was alone, and he is alone. And so we talked a long, long time in a small boat [?]. He asked me whether we have some experience of, you know, geisha-- geisha-- geisha-kai. Geisha-kai means to pay someone to enjoy geisha. That is geisha-kai or prostitution. He asked. So I said, “No, I haven't.” He said, “Then you are not qualified teacher.” [Laughs, laughter.] “You are not qualified teacher. Why don’t you stay,” you know, “with me tonight? I will take you some-- somewhere, some good place. Why don't you follow me?” I said, “You-- you want me to study [laughs] something, but I don’t think I can study [it], you know. We study Buddhism, you know. Maybe-- maybe good monk, if it is a purpose of going to geisha-kai house is study of Buddhism, it is not geisha-- geisha-kai, you know, service-- geisha-kai house enjoyment, you know. We can-- I cannot enjoy if that is for study of Buddhism.” And he said, “Oh, that's right. It is not-- that is not my way of going-- your way of going. It is different. So maybe better for you not to come with me,” he said.

There is some difference. Looks like same. Not exactly the same. And the same is-- difference is big-- huge difference. One is, you know, to study how-- how not cling to, you know. And other is how to enjoy clinging to geisha-kai. [Laughs.] Big difference. Study of non-attachment and who will enjoy attachment: big difference. We don’t have to study about those things. Naturally, you will study [2-4 words] okay [laughs]. Instead you should practice zazen. That is much better. Okay? [Laughs.] I don’t encourage you to study something-- something like that. Hai.

71-07-30: to attain the perfection of human practice.


-- there is nothing to -- . But you have something to settle that is the -- of self -- and practice of selflessness, that is Zen practice. -- that kind of practice is -- practice. But it is actually-- If you [complain] with your problem of -- unless you are very strong person you cannot see, even see how perfect you are. -- , you know, -- if you realize, actually realize there is actually no self you would, you know, cover your ears or eyes. When you -- if you are told by your doctor you have a cancer here, cancer here, what will you do? -- -- your cancer. Because you are so self-centered really -- . It's a invitation that you -- cancer -- . Can be tried -- . But even if you can see-- if you can-- if you do not [lose] even though you know you have cancer; even though you know your body is -- . You may be pretty strong person. What kind of strength is your real strength? If it's easy to fight, to win something but if it's difficult to -- when you -- it is, you know, easy to go ahead. But it is difficult to be-- to remain -- your group. It is easy to be first person, always but it is difficult to remain last person, always. Not so easy. -- can be last person in our society and the world. So if you are always trying to be the first, you know, you will become weaker and weaker. You will lose real, special part. -- you have materialistic path which doesn't work so well.

71-08-01: At the time of Yakusan.


I want to explain why we become Buddhist [laughs] or why I myself became a Buddhist. Perhaps here in America, because you have some wish, you know, hope in your future life-- future life of a-- future-- personally your own future life. and sociologically you're concerned about your future society. But to tell the truth, we Buddhists do not have any hope [laughs]. We do not have any hope for our human, you know, life because we understand this life is originally full of suffering. That is, you know, how we understand our society. From the beginning we understand that our world is world of suffering. And we understand why we suffer, you know, is because we expect too much. We always expect something more than you will obtain or acquire.


Actually, excuse me, I was-- I became a good friend of hummingbird [laughs], you know. The hummingbird-- relationship between me and the hummingbird [laughs]-- not much relationship, actually [laughs, laughter], but whenever I come out they come-- sometime two. And they won't to be disturbed by me [laughter]. What unusual birds. “Here-- he is always here, and he don't makes me-- makes me any harm,” you know. “There is no need to be afraid of him, but whenever he come out, I feel uneasy-- it is [2-3 words] what he will do. Let's go and he will come.”



When I was, you know, young, my master was very strong person [laughs]. So wherever, you know-- as long as I am in [2 words] I could do anything I like, you know. I could say anything I want to say. Whatever they say, it was okay with me because strong master is there-- was there. And if I do something wrong, my master will scold me, but not my neighbors. If I am wrong-- ”Tell my master what I did,” I said. “My master will scold me if I am wrong. And tell my master exactly what I did.” You see? Exact-- exactly what I did. You don't have to protect him. If I am wrong, my master will scold me. I am quite sure about it.

So as long as I say something from bottom of my heart, it was authentic [?]. It was [2 words] because he is responsible for what I did-- what I do. And if I am wrong, I should say “excuse me,” you know. And I should say, “Excuse me” to-- to him-- to him. That's all.

71-08-05: good confidence in your practice.


When I was young-- maybe I was fifteen or sixteen-- I-- I came back from memorial service of our member with my teacher and his-- several of his disciple. It was already almost dark. Until you-- until we go back to my temple, there were-- there were not one mile but pretty long-- we had to walk through the woods and through the trees, and it was a kind of slope. And at this time of the year there are poisonous snakes sometimes apt to appears. And waiting for us-- not waiting for us, but they come out because it is too hot. They have to cool themselves and come out from the tree, and roadside they are waiting. It is rather dangerous sometime. When we came to the bad [?] tree-- trees, my master said: “You guys are wearing tabi,” [laughs] “so why don't you go first. I will follow you.” [Laughter.]

So we-- we-- we thought we are pretty brave monks to go first, and moreover we are wearing tabi. So do what he say, we thought [laughs, laughter]. And we said “Hai!”-- and leaving teacher behind, we went first, and we came home. And teacher, as soon as we sit down [said], “Oh, why don't you sit here-- sit there? I have something to tell you.” [Laughs, laughter.]

We realized something is happening [laughs] because he said-- sit, he says, sit down, you know. When he says “sit down,” something, you know, happens. We know that. So [laughs] what will it be? Anyway, we sat down. He said, “I know you-- you boys are not so alert, but I didn't know you are so dull boys,” he says, first of all. This is what-- what he said. Still we couldn't understand, you know, why he is so angry. We did exactly what he told us: wearing tabi and came back. We walked fast [first?] and came back to the temple. That is what we did. He said, “When I am not wearing tabi, why did you wear tabi?” [Laughter.] That is something which we didn't, you know, notice. Our teacher didn't wear tabi.

Long long time ago he, you know, took off his tabi-- tabi and put-- put them in sleeve and walked, but we didn't notice them [laughs]. We carried a lot of goodies. We-- we happily came back wearing tabi. It is very-- I was-- we were very-- very much ashamed [laughs]. What we do? We couldn't-- we didn't notice that he didn't, you know, wear tabi. Moreover, when he said, you know, go ahead, he didn't say, “I am not wearing tabi.” He was very [laughs]-- you know, I don't know how to say, but he didn't [1 word] us he didn't say, “I am [not] wearing tabi, but you are wearing tabi so go ahead.” Then we must have noticed, you know, but because he didn't say anything about his own tabi, so we couldn't notice. We-- we could have-- we should have noticed that-- at that time we should have noticed that he didn't wear tabi. This, you know, kind of communication is pretty important in practice of Zen. Zen is not just intellectual understanding, you know.

To polish up our mind, to be alert enough to communicate with others always, you should be very-- not careful, but you should be attentive always. Even though you are sleeping, you know [laughs], you should be attentive. That is Zen student's way.  My teacher would talk about one good ino. He-- he was-- because they get up so early every morning, in daytime he-- they became sleepy. So he-- they, so they -- when they start chanting, even when they are chanting, they [laughs] become drowsy. And that ino always-- even though he was ino, he was sometimes sleepy. But when you should strike the bell, he wake up: gong [laughs]. You know, chin, chin, gong [laughs, laughter]. He-- he doesn't miss. He never miss. That kind of alertness is something-- not only-- that is not only he knows very well but also a kind of alertness. There are many stories like that, even, you know, nowadays. I don't know nowadays, but when I was young, or when I was in monastery, there are many interesting stories something like that.


For an instance, here we have not much mosquito, you know. In Japan, while we are sitting, mosquito will bite us. But still we-- we cannot move as long as we are sitting. Mosquito will help our practice a lot [laughs]. It is, of course, disturbance, but because of that disturbance we will have good strong practice [laughs]. That is pain, or a kind of an emotion. You may not like, you know [laughs], that kind of practice, but actually it helps.

71-08-07: Zen is actually, in short, maybe, communication.


You should be always, you know-- you should feel as if you are carrying umbrella, you know, for the people [laughs] to-- to stay away from the heat or rain. It is rather difficult, you know, to take hold of an umbrella, but still that is Buddhist giving. And without umbrella, they don't feel good, actually. It is not arrogant-- arrogancy, but it is-- actually it is so, because we are too much involved in self-centered practice, self-centered life.

For an instance, you know, Buddhists sometime go-- go out for takuhatsu. At war-time, sometime I went to takuhatsu. And if they are making ditch-- you know, ditch?-- for shelter from the bomb, I helped them [laughs]. I am not so strong, but I could help them. And I transplanted cucumber or eggplants [laughs] around the ditch, because we get, you know, good dirt from the, you know, from the trench, and planted cucumber around the trench. So sometime I helped in that way. If you do not need ditch-- even though you do not-- you may not use the trench, you may-- you can eat cucumber [laughs]. So I-- I prepared, you know, cucumber-- vegetable garden and trench. I dug this [probably gesturing] and here was [laughs] vegetables above.

So wherever you go, you will-- if you have this kind of attitude or this kind of feeling, you know, you can help people quite easily. And sometime people are, you know, sleeping, exposing their belly in the sun-- many people [laughs]. So sometime I help them to cover their belly. And they are very happy, you know, to see you, and they will help you too. If you have that kind of feeling, you have no trouble. And you can help people quite easily, without anything. With-- with empty hand you can help people, and there is no need to give lecture like this [laughs]. That will be how you can help. Some question? Hai.

71-08-08: Questions and Answers.


Since I came to America, I noticed many Japanese customs, you know, which is very different from American way. When I was [in] Japan, I think that [those customs] was quite usual, but if you see Japanese custom from America, it is-- what they are doing in Japan is very, you know, special and maybe interesting, you know. But it is, maybe-- it is very difficult to apply it.

Anyway, we have Obon festival. We start from-- from [for] tomorrow I start-- I studied little bit about Obon. When-- in China it was started [in the] fourth year of Emperor Wu or Butei,p and in Japan [in] 1266 it was started.

And [it is] about, you know, Indian old custom, to be very much concerned about future generation.


So purpose of-- most important point of practice is to experience things directly, one by one. And one experience should be whole universe. To experience one-- one right now-- to experience one right now on this moment is to experience whole world. So this is the only approach to the emptiness. This is very important point. That is why we practice. This is the point of practice. Okay? Very important point. Maybe you-- you must think about it over and over, you know, over again [laughs]. It is comparatively easy to realize things are one. It is comparatively easy, or easy to accept, you know.

Maybe I-- when I was maybe about twenty-six-- -seven years old, you know, I had some discussion with my master about this point. At that time, I could accept that things are one. But it is, for me, it is very difficult for me to treat everything different [laughs]. That was very difficult practice for me. To treat things one by one, and to-- to treat one thing means to treat everything-- all the rest of things. That much care should be paid when you treat one thing.


So even though you sit, you know, and watching something like sunflower [laughs]-- someone was looking, you know, in front of sunflower-- watching the sunflower in hot sun, and I tried. It was wonderful, you know. I feel whole universe in the sunflower. That is my, you know, experience, but I don't know how someone [else] experienced sunflower meditation. [Laughs.] Whole universe is there in-- in the sunflower. It is not so simple [laughs]-- very, you know, wonderful, wonderful complicated feeling. You can see whole universe in a small flower. If you say, “Oh, this is sunflower which doesn't really exist” [laughing], that is not our zazen practice.

71-08-12: Obon days.


After making many lectures, almost every evening, I found out that you didn't-- some of you didn't understand what I meant. Most people like Zen because Zen has no idea of things or no idea of good or bad, you know. That is why people like it [laughs]. But we are pretty strict with our practice-- maybe very strict. Even though, you know, we are very strict, we do not seriously cope [?] with the problem in our practice-- actual practice, which-- we have always smile, you know, even though the way we practice is hard. You know that that is the second principle. It is something to help us. Even though, you know, your teacher is angry, you do not take it so seriously [laughing]. That is trouble [speaking more quietly] [laughter]. You know that that is the second principle, not first principle. So when I say something, mostly about rules, I say it with smiling, so you don't take it so seriously [laughs].


71-08-17: why we must have rules.


San Francisco

Excuse me. [Laughs.] I feel rather stiff. Maybe I worked too hard.  [health]

Yesterday I saw Soen Nakagawa Roshi.p And he was going to-- I-- I thought he is going back to Japan, but he was going to-- what-- the place-- Elsahem?p [Esalen - no]-- what do you-- how you pronounce, you know, when-- where Christ was born? Hmm? [Answers from students: “Bethlehem.”]p [Israel] Yeah. He was going to that place. Why is he going to there [laughs]? I think that is buddha-mind, you know, something more than this, something more than to enjoy his enlightenment. He is going somewhere else again. He looks like very much interested in helping people. Maybe so. But that is not, you know-- helping people-- without helping people he may not feel so good, so that is why he is going. But his going is not just to satisfy his personal feeling. He is mo- [partial word]--

You know, at the end of the sesshin [laughs] we bow maybe more than thirty times, calling many buddhas' name. Among the buddhas, they, you know, they call some special names: Nam- [partial word]-- Sunshine-- Sunshine Buddha, or Moonlight Buddha, or Dead Sea Buddha [laughs]. I don't know-- because he-- he has his disciple who started zendo at Dead Sea. That is why he bowed-- he called the name of Dead Sea Buddha. And Good Practice Buddha. Many buddhas appeared. And [we] bowed and bowed and bowed [laughs]. That is something, you know, which is beyond our understanding. And he also bow-- when he bow to all those buddha, the buddha he bowed to is something beyond his own understanding. Again and again he did it.

And he gave us, you know, macha he made himself, you know, and gave us macha. What he was doing, I don't know, and he doesn't know, maybe [laughs]. Anyway, he did it, and he offered. And he-- he didn't-- he looks very happy, but that happiness is very different from the happiness we usual people have.

Our practice should go, you know, that level, where there is no human problem, or no buddha problem, where there is nothing. And to have tea, and to have cake, and to make a trip from one place the another-- that was his, you know, practice. And he has no idea of helping people. What he is doing, he is helping, but he himself has no idea of helping people. So to solve [?] our human problem is not all the-- doesn't cover all our practice-- Buddhist practice. Hmm.

We don't know how long it takes for us to make, you know, buddha trip. [Laughs.] We have many trips: work trips, you know, various trips-- space trips [laughs]-- various trip we must have. Buddha trip is very, you know, very long trip. That is Buddhism.

71-08-21: Wherever you are, we have Zen way of practice.


Talking To His Disciples About His Illness

Sunday, October 9, 1971

In His Room, City Center, San Francisco



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