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Quotes from Shunryu Suzuki-roshi Lectures

collected and prepared by Bill Redican c.2002

Shunryu Suzuki Excerpts and Quotes


During zazen we stop our mind.  We do not put any consideration into our sensitivity or thinking.  Whatever image comes, we just accept it and let it go.  And whatever sound we hear, we let it come in and let it go out.  When you do not pay any attention to an outward object, you will find out your true nature.  —July 26, 1965

What is your inmost request?  What will appease your suffering or agitation or irritation?  —July 26, 1965

The purpose of religion is to find the true meaning of human nature. 
—July 28, 1965

Text Box:When you are bothered by what you have done, it means you are attached to purity.  This is not a good idea.  Our buddha-nature should be beyond pure or impure.  It means just to be aware—just to be aware of your true nature, which is beyond pure or impure. 
—July 29, 1965

Suzuki-rōshi and students at Tassajara, c. 1969.

 So-called good and evil are something that your small mind created.  For your true nature there is no good or bad.  Your true nature is something beyond good or bad, and for that reason it is valuable.  It is valuable because
you cannot figure out what it is. 
—July 29, 1965

When we are ignorant of our true nature, we become angry.  This is want of subtle understanding.  That is anger.  —July 29, 1965

Sin and enlightenment are two sides of one coin.  When you think you are sinful, you have enlightenment.  And the enlightened mind says you are sinful.  —July 29, 1965

Your conduct should not be based just on verbal teaching alone.  Your inmost nature will tell you.  That is the true teaching.  What I say is not the true teaching.  I just give you a hint, you know.  If you realize something in your heart, if you feel "This is it," that is the teaching.  What I say is just a suggestion.  "Have you something like this?"  I say to you.  And if you say, "Oh, yes, I have the same thing here," that is the true teaching.  —July 29, 1965

How can you catch your shadow?  If you try to step on your shadow, it will stay ahead of you.  If you go one step behind, your shadow will be one step behind.  It is impossible.  It is foolish to think "future" or "past."  Why don't you catch yourself in this moment?  —July 30, 1965
For religious mind there is no fear of death.  The fear of death exists in the realm of thinking or in the emotional realm.  When you attach to something, for instance, that is the beginning of fear of death.  When you attach to your body, that is fear of death.  And when you don't know what will become of you, you will become very uneasy.  That is fear of death.  —July 30, 1965

Sooner or later we may die, and we will go to the same place we go when we sit.  —July 30, 1965

Don't be bothered by your mind.  —July 30, 1965

There is no outside or no inside when you sit zazen.  Just one existence. 
—August 28, 1965

The purpose of practice is to accept ourselves.  Knowing that, all our efforts are to accept ourselves.  Whether we become a great man or not is not the point.  When we can accept ourselves, we are already one with all  existence.  When spring comes, we can enjoy the spring flowers.  When summer comes, we can enjoy the cool moonlight.  When autumn comes, we can appreciate the beauty of the foliage.  In winter we will appreciate snow.  When we can accept ourselves, we can accept anything.  There is no self in our mind.  What we have is big mind, big self.  We can treat our body as we treat others' body.  We will treat our own things as we treat others' things.  —August 28, 1965

When you are caught by something, you will try to sell it to others.  "Buddhism is such a wonderful teaching!  [Laughs.]  Why don't you join us?"  At that time you are already somehow intoxicated by it. 
—January 21, 1966

 

Suzuki-rōshi fending off a mock attack by his wife Mitsu at a wedding at Tassajara, 1970. 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We say "thirsty love."  Thirsty love means to crave for something and to attach to something.  We feel as if we cannot live without the attachment to some special thing.  Sometimes you may say it's much better to die if you lose this valuable thing.  That is suffering.  —March 13, 1966

There is no perfection in this world.  You are just attaching to the idea of perfection, and this is actually the cause of suffering.  —March 13, 1966

The secret of all the teaching of Buddhism is how to live on each moment.  Moment after moment we have to obtain absolute freedom.  And moment after moment, we exist in interdependency to the past and to the future and to other existence.  —May 25, 1966

Because you have, you know, the silly idea of self [laughing], you have a lot of problems.  —May 26, 1966

If intellectual understanding is not perfect, what kind of understanding is perfect?  Perfect understanding is the direct experience of your activity.  —June 19, 1966

When you are just as you are, through and through, there there is enlightenment.  —June 19, 1966

You cannot stop your life, you know.  You are always changing into something else.  Always.  Incessantly.  —June 19, 1966

Stop comparing this world to the other world, this moment to the next moment.  We should live in the eternal present.  Here we have eternal life in its true sense.  —June 19, 1966

This is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism:  Everything changes moment after moment.  —August 15, 1966

Ordinary people adore something holy instead of something common.  This is the difference between Buddhism and most religions. 
—August 18, 1966

If you want to study Buddhism, you should, you know, enter the room.  You should not stay at the edge of the teaching.  Even though you enter our room, you will not have any restriction, you know.  You are quite free, but you should enter our teaching.  Don’t try to understand it just intellectually or by means of experience only.  Experience, of course, is important, but a more important thing is the confidence to believe in yourself.  And you should be faithful to what you feel and to what you think. You should not fool yourself, you know.  It is quite all right to say, "I cannot agree with you," or "I cannot accept the teaching."  That is all right.  That's how we make our understanding deeper and deeper. 
—August 18, 1966

If your understanding is not deep enough, I will tell you it is not deep enough.  Not "wrong."  There is no wrong view of life.  It's not wrong, but maybe it's one-sided or not deep enough.  So we should make our understanding deeper and deeper and deeper.  That is how we practice Buddhism.  —August 18, 1966

What you have done is already over.  And you are doing something quite new.  So there is no reason why you should be discouraged.  And what you have done is already over [laughs], so why are you proud of what you have done?  If you have this kind of understanding, your mind is always wide open like a mirror.  Then you always have composure without being disturbed by anyone or by the past or future.  This is, you know, our understanding as Buddhists.  —August 19, 1966

When you do something it is different from what you do in the next moment.  That is why we should not waste our time.  Not to waste time is doing something appropriately, not wasting even a grain of rice, and doing something when you should do it—not too late or too early.  At Eihei-ji Monastery, where I was a student, if you get up ten or fifteen minutes earlier than others, you will be scolded [laughs].  You should get up just when they get up.  That is enough.  You should not be an especially good student.  —August 19, 1966

As long as we live or as long as we have this body, it is not possible to get out of suffering.  So the point is how to change our suffering into the true joy of life.  This is how to help others.  —April 22, 1967

Which one is the stronger person?  It is easier to beat up someone, or is it easier to be patient while being beaten by someone?  —September 1967

If you want to go back to nature, you should go back to the rocks on the top of the mountain.  Be a rock.  And sit forever, without being moved by rain, or snow, or storm.  Weathered by rain and snow, rocks will tell us many stories.  You may say that is just a rock.  But buddha-nature, in its truest sense, reveals itself on weathered ancient rocks on the top of the mountain.  —December 1, 1967

When your life energy is burning in perfect combustion, you cannot catch it.  That is zazen.  —December 4, 1967

When you cling to some object, it means you are clinging to yourself at the same time because that object is the projected self.  That attachment will result in some fear.  Because you attach to it, you try not to lose it.  But nothing is permanent.  Everything is changing.  So even though you cling to it, that object will change.  —December 5, 1967 

In our mind, there is no star, no earth, no sun—nothing whatsoever. Everything will arise from that nothingness.  So even though we die, if we know that all of us came from this nothingness, to die is to come back to the source of life.  —December 5, 1967

Right now, the most important thing is to find out what is the most important thing.  —December 7, 1967

Student:  But what happens if something happens to you, and you can't be our teacher any more?
Suzuki-rōshi:  That cannot be happen.  I am always with you forever.
Student:  Thank you very much. 
—December 7, 1967

"Just to sit" zazen means don't depend on intellectual understanding.  But use the intellectual understanding.  This is our way.  —January 11, 1968

Just do it.  That is our way, you know.  —January 12, 1968

And you should know why you suffer right now.  There must be some reason you suffer.  And if there is some reason to suffer, it is not possible [laughs] to escape from it.  The only way is by changing the function of karma from bad to better.  That is the only way.  You can do that only when you are very attentive or when you know the nature of karma very well.  There are some ways to make the power of karma weaker.  The best way is, you know [laughs], to make karma work on the voidness of the air, where it will not harm anybody.  But that is difficult for us because of the idea of self.  As long as we have the idea of self, karma has some object to work on.  If you have no idea of self, you know, karma doesn't know what to do!  "Oh, where is my partner, where is my friend?"  —March 3, 1968

You will become more angry because you are not just you.  —July 24, 1968

In its wide sense, everything is a teaching for us:  the color of the mountain, the sound of the river, or the sound of a motorcar.  Each one is a teaching of Buddha.  —August 25, 1968

There is no need to remember what I said, as something definite.  I'm just trying to help you.  —March 3, 1969

I feel very sorry for you that I cannot help you so much.  But the way you study true Zen is not through some verbal things.  You should open yourself, and you should give up everything.  And whatever it is, you should try—anyway, you should try, whether you think it is good or bad.  This is the fundamental attitude to study.  —March 15, 1969

When we limitlessly try to extend our true nature, instead of a selfish, limited self, then Buddhism is there.  —April 8, 1969

Zen is not something to study, like you study science or philosophy.  Zen is something to listen to.  "Listen to" means, you know, with an empty mind, to accept the truth without seeking for what your teacher says.  Just listen to it with an empty mind.  Then the teacher's words will penetrate into your mind.  So whether you understand it intellectually or not is not point.  We say if you attend a lecture, even though you are sleeping, it is all right.  [Laughs, laughter.]  It is all right because the teaching will come right into your home, through your nose or skin.  So there is no need to listen to your ears.  This is enough.  So to listen with an empty mind is very important as you practice zazen.  —April 19, 1969

So the secret is just to say "Hai!" [Yes!] when someone asks you to do something.  Jump up from your seat.  Then there is no problem.  It means you will be yourself—always yourself, without sticking to an old self.  When you say "Hai!"  you forget all about yourself and are refreshed into some new self.  And before the new self becomes an old self, you should say another "Hai!" or you should go to work in the kitchen.  So the point is on each moment.  We must forget ourselves and extend our practice.  —April 20, 1969

In our practice if we have a smallest gap, we will fall into hell.  —April 20, 1969

Suffering exists actually in our happiness.  And so if you seek for happiness, you know, what you will get will be the suffering, not the happiness.  When you suffer, you should find out true happiness in your suffering.  That is how you seek for true happiness.  If you try to find out what is real suffering, you should seek out happiness [laughs].  Then you will find out what is suffering in its true sense.  —April 23, 1968

There is nothing to stick to.  There is nothing to care for, in its true sense, because everything is changing.  That is, you know, the Buddha's most important teaching.  —June 17, 1969

If you have a lot of suffering in your everyday life, you will actually feel the most important teaching of Buddhism—that everything changes, and that there is nothing to stick to.  —June 17, 1969

We should continue our practice forever.  How we continue our practice is to be involved in what we are doing right now.  —June 17, 1969

If you can enjoy your life in its true sense, even though you lose your body, you know, it is all right.  If you are not conscious of your mind, it is all right.  Even if you die, it is all right.  When you are encouraged by everything, and when you realize that everything is always helping you, then there is no difference whether you are dead or alive.  It doesn't make any sense.  It is all right, quite all right [laughs].  That is complete renunciation.  —June 22, 1969

I think we should not try to propagate Zen in America, you know.  That is not Dōgen-zenji's way.  One by one is enough.  —July 1, 1969

Buddha is very fair to everyone.  You cannot escape from what you have done.  —July 15, 1969

If you are ready to accept the result of what you have done, that is the only way to be free from what you have done:  to go beyond the idea of good and bad.  —July 15, 1969

Even though we are strictly observing our way, at the same time we should be completely detached from rituals and robes.  Do you understand?  —July 26, 1969

Even though I think it is right at this moment, tomorrow I don't know what I will say.  That is very true.  If we know that everything is changing, even though I think, "Here is a cup like this" [moves a cup across the table and takes a sip], this cup cannot always be like this.  Moment after moment, the cup is changing.  If someone breaks it I shall be disappointed.  But if I know that this is always changing, I shall not be discouraged so much because I know some day it will be broken.  —August 1, 1969

If you expect something always to be the same, it will be the cause of suffering.  —August 1, 1969

Because things change, we should concentrate on each moment. 
—August 1, 1969

The secret of Sōtō Zen is just two words:  "Not always so."  Oh—oh—three words [laughs, laughter] in English.  In Japanese it is two words.  "Not always so."  This is the secret of the teaching.  —August 7, 1969

We should practice zazen like someone who is almost dying—with nothing to rely on, nothing to depend on.  When you reach this kind of situation, you will not be fooled by anything because you don't want anything.  —August 7, 1969

When you are fooled by something else, you know, the damage will not be so big.  But when you are fooled by yourself [laughs], it's fatal.  There is no medicine for that.  We should know whether we are being fooled by ourselves or not.  I think most of you students here are fooled by yourself [laughs]:  by your ability, by your beauty, by your confidence, or by your outlook.  —August 7, 1969

It is all right, you know, to feel some resistance to this Buddhist way of life, but we shouldn't be lost in a fight, in resistance.  Do you understand?  If you are deeply involved in resistance or fighting, you will lose yourself.  As you are a human being—not so strong and very emotional—you have not so much reason.  You will be easily lost.  Even though you are young, you will be lost.  You will lose your strength, and you will lose your friends, and you will lose your parents.  You will lose everything, and you will feel lonely.  And what will you do?  You will lose the brightness of your eyes.  —August 7, 1969

Actually, you know, to take something rigidly is laziness, because you want to understand it before you do something difficult.  So you are caught by some words.  But if you are brave enough to accept your surrounding without saying which is right or wrong, then a teaching will help.  —August 7, 1969

When you eat you should eat.  When you sleep, you should sleep [laughs].  That is the big mind.  That is selflessness.  And the best way to get rid of our small mind is just, you know, to sleep when you should sleep.  And just get up when you should get up, without hesitation. 
—August 18, 1969

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 if you have to.  When the garden is very frosty, you know, you may hesitate to work on the garden without tabi [socks] or without sandals.  In Japanese monasteries we do not wear tabi.  We want to create a habit of doing something without hesitation.  —August 18, 1969

This kind of practice is based on the teaching of doing something with people without self-centered ideas or discrimination.  Then your manner will change, and your countenance will change, and your face will change.  We say when you are young your face was given to you by your parents.  But after forty, you know, your face will be given to you by your practice.  If you continue a good practice you will have a generous, happy face.  If you don't practice our way, you will become more and more nervous [laughs].  You will be a very mean father or mother, you know.  That is why we practice our way—to be a good father or good mother or good teacher.  —August 18, 1969

Rules are not the first, you know.  Just to observe our rules is not the most important thing.  I cannot say so literally, but I put more emphasis on natural activity with good concentration, and with a tender mind, or with a soft mind—not a rigid mind.  We should not use a very sharp knife—maybe a big dull knife instead.  Most of the time that is better because there is no danger, you know, of cutting your fingers.  A sharp knife is necessary.  Of course it is necessary.  But to use it always is not so good.  —August 18, 1969

We feel some need of being smart, but it is not actually so.  Everyone knows what we should do and what we shouldn't do.  And for us it is not necessary to be so smart and so clever, especially to understand Buddha's way.  —August 18, 1969

Why we suffer, you know, is because we expect something that we shouldn't expect, and we want to gain something that we cannot have.  —August 21, 1969

The purpose of practice is to completely devote ourselves to the thing we are doing.  When you don't, or when you do it carelessly, then your mind is not there.  When you completely devote yourself to what you are doing there is no separation.  —August 25, 1969

To be caught by a concrete idea is ignorance.  —August 25, 1969

The point of zazen is to live on each moment in complete combustion, like a kerosene lamp or like a candle.  The point of the teaching and practice is how to live in each moment, how to become one with everything, and how to attain oneness of the whole universe. 
—September 1969

Things that exist are imperfect.  Nothing is perfect.  Whatever we see, whatever we hear.  Things are not perfect.  But in those imperfect things there is a perfect reality.  This is true intellectual understanding.  Intellectually it is true, but in the realm of practice it is also true.  It is true on paper, you know [laughs], but it is true also with our body. 
—September 1969

We are all deluded people, and before we attain enlightenment we should establish our true practice in our delusion.  —September 1969

If you make some mistake, you know, you should establish your practice thereby.  There is no other place for you to establish your practice. 
—September 1969

Student:  Where is our intuition?
Suzuki-rōshi:  Intuition?  If you know where it is, that is not intuition. 
—September 1969

Enlightenment will be attained in easy times and in adversity.  Wherever you are, enlightenment is there.  And if you stand upright where you are, that is enlightenment.  Try to stand upright.  There is our practice.  It means to accept things as it is, to accept yourself as you are. 
—September 1969

If you have false confidence or an unreal self, I shall be very strict with you because you are in danger.  —September 1969

We should be grateful before we have something.  —September 1969

The virtue of endurance is greater than the merit of asceticism. 
—September 14, 1969

Student:  Is it possible to love without attachment?
Suzuki-rōshi:.  I don't think so.  What we should strive for is how to love someone in its true sense without fooling someone.  Then the way you love someone will be nearly the same as a buddha loves someone.  That is actual detachment, not the teaching of detachment.  —October 14, 1969

You are very much interested in Zen.  But Zen is maybe a big mysticism in one way.  When we put emphasis on enlightenment, and when we talk about enlightenment, you know, it is something beyond what we are saying.  You will feel the spirit of it by a kōan or by a story or by the
Shōbōgenzō.  You will feel some burning—some—some—something very hot inside.  It is like a blue flame, you know—it is very hot.  And very direct.  That is the characteristic of Zen.  —October 20, 1969

To be completely one with something is our practice.  When you eat, you should be completely involved in eating.  If you work, you should work.  You should be fully devoted to your every moment.  That is our practice.  —October 23, 1969

To be you yourself on that moment completely is how you have enlightenment.  So whether you realize it in terms of consciousness or not, that is real enlightenment.  So just to be satisfied with yourself on that moment is the real practice.  At that moment, you know yourself, not in terms of consciousness, or good or bad, or enlightenment, or delusion.  —October 23, 1969

Without realizing it you already went too far away, you know, from reality.  So to pull you back to the present, I have to say many things.  That's all.  —November 11, 1969

Because of our thinking  mind we push ourselves in an unnatural way.  That is actually what human beings do that plants and animals do not.  —November 11, 1969

When plants and everything grow up into the sky, the sky doesn't care, you know.  And the sky is always ready to accept things.  Our mind should be like the sky, you know—our big mind.  We should accept things as it is, and we should not discriminate between things, as the sky doesn't discriminate between the many things that exist.  Various beings are quite free in the big sky.  But our mind is not so.  "I like this, but I don't like this.  This is beautiful, but this is not so beautiful.  I like him, but I don't like him.  I like this part of him, but the other part is not so good."  In this way, our small mind always discriminates between things and sometimes rejects things.  That is small mind.  So in the realm of the small mind there are many objects, there are many beings, and those beings exist as if they have self-nature:  a good nature or a bad nature, a beautiful nature or an ugly mean nature.  —November 13, 1969

What is way-seeking mind?  To practice something without any gaining idea.  We should not practice our way for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of others, not even for the sake of Buddhism.  For the sake of practice we should practice.  That is a famous statement—a very impressive statement, isn't it [laughs]?  —November 13, 1969

I am sure—I am quite sure most people are ill, not healthy at all.  But when you do not think you are sick, you are healthy.  When you think you are sick, you are sick.  [Laughs.]  That's all.  You may have some opposition to this kind of statement, but it is very true.  —November 16, 1969

If you become too serious, you will lose your way.  —November 22, 1969

To accomplish something is difficult.  And, you know, the difficulty you have moment after moment, which you have to work on, will continue forever [laughs].  —December 2, 1969

To you it is an unfamiliar ceremony.  But it is the blood of our ancient teachers.  —December 4, 1969

When we respect something, we will find the true life in it.  When we respect plants, there we will find the real life power of the flower and the real beauty of the flower.  So love is important, but more important elements are respect, and sincerity, and big mind.  With big mind, and with pure sincerity and respect, love could be real love.  Just love separated from those factors will not work.  —January 4, 1970

Because Buddha's understanding of people was good, he loved people, and he enjoy helping people.  And that was why Buddha was great. 
—January 25, 1970

Even though you do not practice zazen, when you chew brown rice, if you accept it and chew it over and over, and if you find the true meaning of emptiness in each chew, then, you know, that is real practice.  That is real zazen.  —February 1, 1970

So the moment you enter the zendō [meditation hall], you should forget everything and be ready to start a new life.  —February 1, 1970

We say, "Establish yourself on yourself, not on your delusion."  But without delusion we cannot live, we cannot practice.  So delusion is necessary.  But delusion is not something on which you can establish yourself.  It is like a stepladder, you know.  You can use it, but you shouldn’t stay on the stepladder [laughs].  But without it you cannot climb up.  —February 1, 1970

As a Buddhist, the most important thing is to realize the evanescence of life.  —February 8, 1970

To do something in a flash of light is the secret.  That is non-duality.  If you hesitate, you know, more and more you will be caught by sticky ideas, and you cannot move about.  —February 25, 1970

Buddha went to the bodhi tree where he attained enlightenment.  We say, "He attained enlightenment," but it may be better to say, "He forgot everything completely!"  [Laughs.]  He had nothing in his mind at that moment.  And then he saw the morning star rising up from the east.  That is, I think, the moment of his enlightenment.  I think that was the first thing he saw coming out of his empty mind.  He shared the feeling with the morning star. 
—March 3, 1970

It is not necessary to be a great man, but we should be good enough to help our neighbors.  —March 28, 1970

Great Zen masters are monks who had a difficult time in their early life.  —March 28, 1970

We are liable to ignore some duty that is dirty, that is not pleasant.  We are liable to ignore cleaning the corner of the room.  If everyone ignores cleaning the corners of the room, the room will be filthy pretty soon. 
—March 28, 1970

We are very much afraid of death.  But death is something that should happen to us when we are mature enough.  When you are young, maybe, you will be very much afraid of death.  And if you die when young, that is terrible thing [laughs].  Yes it is so.  But if I die, it is not such a terrible thing to me and to you too, because I have matured enough to die. 
—March 28, 1970

We have limitless suffering because we have limitless desires. 
—March 28, 1970

We do not, you know, clean the restroom just because it is dirty.  Whether it is clean or not, we should clean the restroom until we can do it without any idea of clean or dirty.  If so, that is actually our zazen practice.  —March 28, 1970

When you say, "Yes I will!" there there is Buddha's voice.  When you hesitate, you are always saying nothing happened to you.  Only when you say, "Yes I will!" and feel how you feel when you say "Yes I will!"—you fix your mind to do so, no matter what happens.  —April 28, 1970

If you practice zazen, you should pay full respect to the people who are not sitting, who are busy in their work.  When you think about what they are doing, you know, you cannot goof off.  This is my favorite expression.  On your cushion, you cannot waste your time, you know.  When you have this kind of respect, you can practice real zazen.  —May 2, 1970

Without any hesitation in thinking about it, or choosing the way, without concerning negative or positive—just do it.  —May 5, 1970

We should always be equal, you know.  If you know better than I, you should teach me.  If I know something that you don't, I should teach you.  In this way, we should practice our way.  —May 18, 1960

Maybe so, but it is not always so.  —May 27, 1970

Try not to hear the sound of the stream.  That is impossible.  So let your ear hear it, let your mind think about something—but without trying to think, without trying to hear, without trying to stop it.  That is our zazen practice.  —May 27, 1970

The great sky doesn’t care.  —May 27, 1970

Sometimes you should shut your eyes.  —May 27, 1970

So actually there is no dull person or smart person.  Both have difficulty.  For instance, a so-called dull person must study hard, and he must read the same book over and over again because he is not smart.  But the smart one forgets quite easily, you know.  He may learn it very quickly, but what is learned does not stay so long in a smart people's mind.  For dull ones it takes time to remember something, so we read it over and over.  If we read it over and over and remember it, it will not go away so soon.  So, you know, it's maybe the same thing.  —May 30, 1970

Someday what I study will help students.  I don’t know when. 
—June 3, 1970

Excuse me, but our eyes unfortunately open toward the outside [laughs], so we cannot see inside of ourselves.  It means that we are liable to be concerned about another's practice or another's life, and we will be very critical with others.  —June 6, 1970 

When you are sad, you should be completely involved in sadness without caring for something happy.  When you are happy, you should just enjoy the happiness.  Why we can do so is because we are always prepared for everything.  Even though the circumstances change all of a sudden, you know, you don't mind.  Today we may be very happy, and the next day we don't know what will happen to us.  When we are ready for things that will happen tomorrow we can enjoy today completely.  —June 10, 1970

If you are ready to be weak, you are very strong.  —June 25, 1970

Unless you can endure the bitterness of the defeat, you cannot be really strong.  —June 25, 1970

No one likes suffering, but our destiny is to have suffering.  That is human destiny.  And how we suffer is the point.  No one enjoys suffering, but we should not be completely caught by suffering.  We should know how to suffer our human suffering.  —June 27, 1970

That is the most important thing for me:  to stand on my feet and to sit on my black cushion.  I don't trust anything but [laughs] my feet or my black cushion.  These are my friends, always.  My feet are always my friend.  When I am in bed, my bed is my friend.  There is no Buddha, or no Buddhism, or no zazen.  If you ask me what is zazen, my answer will be:  "To sit on this black cushion is zazen," or "To walk with these feet is zazen," or "To stay at this moment on this place is zazen."  There is no other zazen.  —July 6, 1970

After you become a real Buddhist, you know, then you should forget that you are a Buddhist.  Even though you wear a robe, you should forget all about what you are wearing.  —July 19, 1970

In zazen practice, the point is to be free from the thinking mind and to be free from emotional activity.  In short, that is the practice of selflessness.  And the point of rituals is to be free from selfish ideas.  The practice of rituals is the practice of selflessness.  First of all, when you enter you bow.  The bow means—we say gotai tōchiGotai is "our body."  Tōchi is "to throw away our body."  It means, in short, the practice of selflessness—to throw away our physical and mental being.  We offer ourselves to Buddha.  That is our practice of bowing.  When you bow, you lift your hands.  That means to lift Buddha's feet, which you hold in your palms.  You feel Buddha on your palms.  So in this way, when you practice the bow, you are supposed not to have any idea of self.  You give up everything.  —July 28, 1970

Moment after moment, you should say, "Yes—yes I will."  [Laughs.]  Moment after moment.  —August 4, 1970

Beginner's mind is everything.  —August 4, 1970

You do not know yourself so much, and you don't know what you are doing to others so much.  But you know what others are doing to you.  About this you know very much [laughs].  And, actually, you are doing the same thing to others [laughs, laughter].  If you realize that, you know, you will think.  —August 4, 1970

There are no words that mean something without there being an opposite idea.  So if you stick to one side, you will cause trouble.  When you are in a position that includes both sides, or when you have an understanding that includes both sides, that is how to be free from suffering. 
—August 4, 1970

You say "Hai!" ["Yes!"]  That is the point of practice.  When you say Hai!—or when you say "Yes, I will!"—then there is the true mind of helping.  And if you cannot say "Hai!" from the bottom of your heart, with all of your strength, that practice doesn't work.  —August 23, 1970

Our life is not so busy here at the monastery.  So you have time to feel something from the bottom of your heart.  —December 13, 1970

Our practice is a practice of settling oneself on oneself, which means to always have a new, fresh experience with your true self.  —January 3, 1971

Our goal is to practice with the mountain, and with the river, and with trees, and with stones—with everything in the world and in the universe—and to find ourselves in this big cosmos.  In this big world we should intuitively know which way to go.  —January 10, 1971

To be just you is enough, you know.  —January 10, 1971

As long as you are trying to improve yourself [laughs], having some core idea of self, that is a wrong practice.  That is not the practice we mean.  —January 23, 1971

Wherever you are, the place you are is your zendō.  Whatever you are doing, that is your practice.  —Feb. 13, 1971

Just to follow your breathing doesn't make sense.  If you are very kind with your breathing, then, one after another, you will have, you know, a refreshed warm feeling in your zazen.  And when you have a warm feeling in your practice, that is a good example of the great mercy of Buddha.  —February 23, 1971

If you practice zazen, you will feel very warm.  Even though it is cold, you should feel some warm feeling in your practice.  The warm feeling we have in our practice is, in other words, enlightenment or Buddha's mercy or the buddha-mind.  —February 23, 1971

When you really take care of yourself, you will have a mother-like mind.  —February 27, 1971

If you can say, "Yes I will"—at that moment you are free from karma. 
When you say, "Wait a moment"—you are bound by your own karma. 
—June 5, 1971

The most important thing is to confront yourself and to be yourself.  Then naturally 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.  —June 9, 1971

In your everyday life, you always have a chance to have enlightenment.  Whatever you do.  If you go to the restroom, there is a chance to attain enlightenment.  If you cook, there is enlightenment.  If you clean the floor, there is enlightenment.  —June 9, 1971

We should sit on our black cushion without moving, so that we can grow upright to the sky.  That is how to practice zazen.  —June 9, 1971

The real point is to become one with what you do—to become one with your practice.  —June 20, 1971

So there is nothing new, you know, for us to study.  But Buddha's teaching will give you some light to know yourself.  So in this sense we have dharma [teaching].  The light by which we can see ourselves like a mirror is Buddha's teaching.  —July 6, 1971

You can criticize Buddhism from various angles.  That is necessary.  If it does not seem necessary for you, it will still help someone else, even though [laughs] you end up in your criticism.  It will help someone else.  For your own sake, and for other's sake, you should criticize Buddhism.  —July 6, 1971

Even though you attain enlightenment, you will have the same trouble [laughs].  You cannot flee from your difficulties.  If you know the meaning of the difficulties you have, the difficulties will help you.  If you do not know the meaning of them, they do not help.  Same thing with zazen.  If you do not know the meaning of everyday practice, even though you do not attain enlightenment, then zazen will not help you.  —July 21, 1971

You may have young boys and girls, maybe, and if you think what you think is always right, it doesn't work.  You should think with them.  You should listen to them with calmness of mind.  If you listen to them like this, they will listen to you.  That is the actual practice we must have.  There is no absolute way for anyone.  —July 21, 1971

Because we are changing moment after moment, I don’t exist. 
—July 24, 1971

Composure cannot be gained by drugs or wine or some intoxicant, including various teaching [laughter].  "Buddha said so, so I must do this."  That is a kind of intoxicant.  —July 24, 1971

When you eat the best thing first, it means that you discriminate the best one from not-so-good ones.  You choose the best one.  That is a kind of discrimination.  And it means that in your attitude, the idea of self goes
first.  If you eat in that way, you will be involved in trouble.  —July 25, 1971

If you choose bad practice, you will have more difficulties, that’s all. 
—July 25, 1971

It is very silly of you, you know, to do something because people may admire you.  It is your practice, not their practice.  So you should be very independent.  [Laughs.]  July 25, 1971

To share the joy of freedom with people is our purpose in life. 
—August 3, 1971

When you know yourself, you have enlightenment.  —August 3, 1971

If you continue to extend your small desires, more and more your life will be confused, your suffering will increase endlessly, and you will be lost in suffering.  —August 3, 1971

If your tendency is—I don't know how to say this, but—if your tendency is to be helpful to someone too much, then even though you want to help people, they may not like it if.  You should help them as much as they need you.  —August 3, 1971

Idealists should stick to the single life.  —August 4, 1971

Our practice starts from the actual problems we have.  —August 4, 1971

You have big freedom [laughs].  Bigger is waiting for you.  —August 5, 1971

Actually, if you are a Zen student, then you should always be alert.  How to be alert is to be attentive to your surroundings without having personal preferences or without being involved in your own feelings.  That is a very important point.  —August 7, 1971

It is not emotion that is bad.  Because you make it bad, emotion is bad.  Because you are spoiled by it, emotion is bad.  If you are not spoiled by it, emotion is good.  —August 7, 1971

If you cannot get up the moment you hear the wake-up bell, it means that it is difficult for you to die.  If you can get up quite easily, it means that when the time comes to die you can die quite easily.  Big problem and small problem—it does not make much difference.  People think that to die is a big problem [laughs].  They think that to get up the moment you wake up is a small problem.  But it is not so.  —August 7, 1971

The problem of communication is a problem of viewpoint or ego.  If you stick to your ego, communication is not possible.  Or it takes a long, long time.  It may be a waste of time sometimes.  So one of the two should give up his own viewpoint and feel sympathetic toward the other.  That is the only way to communicate.  —August 8, 1971

Our mind is very sticky.  We easily stick to something—some idea, or speciality or equality, or man or woman, or teacher or disciple.  We easily stick to some idea.  You may think, "I am a disciple," you know.  But you are not always a disciple.  A teacher is not always a teacher.  A teacher could sometimes be a student.  So we shouldn't stick to the idea of teacher or disciple.  That is real freedom.  —August 13, 1971

I feel as if you are always trying to feel good [laughs].  But I am not, you know.  —August 17, 1971

Buddhism is not any special teaching.  Actually, Buddhism is our human way.  —August 17, 1971

As soon as your mind become calm, you may realize how many bubbles you have in your bottom of your heart.  The real practice, you know, starts from that kind of practice.  —August 21, 1971

Someone who fell on the earth, maybe by stumbling on a stone, will stand up again by the same earth.  Because of the earth you stumbled and you fell.  The earth was the problem.  Because of the problem, you hurt yourself—you hit against the earth.  But because of the earth you can support yourself again, and you can stand up by the same earth.  So what is delusion, what is enlightenment?  When you are deluded of the truth, that is delusion.  When you fell, it felt like it was because of the earth.  That is delusion.  When you were enlightened of the earth, that is enlightenment.  When you stand up by the earth, that is enlightenment.  So you have a chance to attain a great enlightenment when you have a problem.  —August 21, 1971

Buddha's mercy is so deep, so clear, and so wide.  We selfish human beings always want something good to eat, something good to hear, or something good to see.  So if someone gives you something to hear or eat or see, most human beings will stay.  Knowing this fact, Buddha became more and more strict with us [laughs].  It is something that you must think about.  And when you study or when you want to learn religion, you must learn something more than this.  Just to solve our everyday problems is not the purpose of studying Buddhism.  —August 21, 1971

Mitsu:  "Hōjō-san!" she yelled in Japanese. "Working out here in your garden on a hot August day with a shovel taller than you are!  You are cutting your life short!"
Suzuki-rōshi:  "If I don't cut my life short, my students will not grow." 
—August 1971, his last summer at Tassajara

To make our best effort in each moment is Zen.  —n.d.

 

 

 

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