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Shunryu Suzuki Lectures

Beginner's Mind


Chapter 10 - Limiting Your Activity

 See LIMITING YOUR ACTIVITY , p. 75 of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
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Limiting Your Activity

In our practice we have no special object of worship. If so, our practice is something different from the usual practice. If we say we have no purpose in our practice, you will not know what to do. If there is no purpose (no goal) in our practice we don't know what to do. But there is a way. Joshu said, "Clay Buddha cannot cross water; bronze Buddha cannot get through furnace; wooden Buddha cannot get through fire because it will burn away." So whatever object you have, if your practice is directed toward some particular object, like clay Buddha, bronze Buddha, or wooden Buddha, that practice will not work. So as long as we have some particular goal in our practice, our practice will not help you completely. Your practice will help you as long as you are directed to the goal, but when you resume to your everyday life it will not work. Then how to practice our practice without having any goal is to limit our activity, or be concentrated on what we are doing at that moment. Instead of having some particular object, we should limit our activity. If you limit your activity to the extent you can do it just now, in this moment, then you can express fully the universal nature, the universal truth. When you're wandering about you have no chance to express yourself, but when you limit yourself, when you limit your expression of the universal nature, then there we have the way to practice. This is our way.

So, when we practice zazen we limit our activity -- our practice to the smallest extent. Just to keep right posture and to be concentrated on sitting. This is how we express the universal nature, or true nature. Then you yourself become Buddha. You yourself express Buddha nature, or true nature, or universal nature. So instead of having some object of worship we concentrate our activity on some activity which we take. So when you bow you should just bow; when you sit you have to sit; when you eat you eat. If you do so, the universal nature is there. We call it "Samadhi on one act." "Samadhi in one act," or "one-act Samadhi." We say "ichigyo-sanmai." Samadhi is concentration. Ichigyo -- one-practice -- one-practice Samadhi.

Joshu's statement, "Clay Buddha, or bronze Buddha, or wooden Buddha," is some Buddha to which our practice is directed. That is "bronze Buddha." It will not serve your purpose completely. You have to throw it away sometime, or you have to ignore it. But this kind of Buddha will not serve your purpose. But if you understand the secret of our practice, wherever you go you are the boss. So wherever you go you cannot neglect Buddha because you yourself is Buddha. So that Buddha will help you completely. This kind of practice is the basic understanding of Buddhist literature or Buddhist art. So one stalk can be a Buddhist work. Just to sit or work is our practice. When you are satisfied with your activity, that is Buddha's activity.

I think some of you who practice zazen here may believe in some other religion, but I don't mind whatever you believe in. Our practice has nothing to do with some particular religious belief. And for you, there's no need to hesitate to practice our practice because there's nothing to do with Christianity or Shintoism or Hinduism. Our practice is for everyone. Usually when you believe in some religion your thought and attitude will more and more become sharp -- sharp angle, like this (demonstrating). But our way is not like this. Our way, you know -- the point of the sharp angle is here (pointing to himself). Not like this (pointing away from himself). So there's no need to worry about the difference of the religion you believe in.

One of my good friends did not feel so good to attend Buddhist ceremony because he believes in Shintoism. And when you attend Buddhist ceremony the priest (almost all the priests) treat him as if he is one of the Buddhists. So he has to bow exactly as they do. And so he always said, "It is not fair for Buddhists to force their way." I understand what he meant, but it has nothing to do with me. Even though you don't bow it is alright. When you sit you just sit. When you don't want to bow (demonstrating by folding his arms and scowling stubbornly) !! But if you know why we practice this kind of practice -- even though you practice some particular way -- it does not mean to bind yourself by the practice.- Shunryu Suzuki Roshi


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