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Excerpts from Shunryu Suzuki lectures - 2014-5
[laughs] = Suzuki laughs [laughter] = students laugh

Suzuki tells a Kumazawa Story
From the ending part of 68-00-00-B, audio in problem set

Kumazawa was the abbot of Eiheiji

Maybe before I finish my lecture I'll, talk more about Kumazawa. I was rather angry with him! [Laughs] because I was fooled by him for maybe more than thirty years! [Laughs]. And I found out that I was fooled by him some thirty years ago.

He told a Zen story during sesshin. We were sitting in a cold, cold zendo for seven days at Eiheiji – deep snow. And we were very serious in our practice. Of course, we were so young! [Laughs].

One morning the late Kumazawa Zenji - at that time he was Kanin, director of Eiheiji monastery – came to the zendo and gave us a Zen story.

He said, "Do you understand this story? A sparrow broke a big stone gate." Ishi no torii. A big gate built of stone. As thick as this [gesturing]. I don't know how big. But, a sparrow broke it. I don't know how – maybe by stepping on it! [Laughs].

And he said, "Do you understand?" We thought that it is some koan we must solve during the seven-day sesshin! And he started to talk about it, in very serious mood.

I didn't like that kind of story. Zen story. So-called Zen story. Whenever I read or heard that type of Zen story, I felt as if I was being fooled by it [Laughs]! Not giving much reason for it, talking about something funny.

So because I didn't like it, I remembered what he said. I still remember it. But the other day when I thought about what he said, when I repeated it, ("Ko suzume ga, ishi no torii wo fumiota). What does it mean? Of course, in Japanese, I'm sorry. It is Japanese. Fumiota means to step on and break it. But another meaning may be fundeita. [Laughs]. A sparrow was stepping on the stone gate – fundeita. [Laughs]. For me, always one meaning is to break and the other meaning is stepping on it.

So, [laughs] he was, seriously talking about it as if a sparrow had broken the big stone gate. But before he started to explain that koan, he repeated, "Did you understand?" [Laughs]. Did you understand! You know, no one could understand that is was joke! [Laughs]. Because we were too serious! [Laughs]. No one talked about his joke, or his koan after sesshin because no one could understand what he meant! [Laughs]. Or, no one could understand that was just a joke! [Laughs].

That is another side of serious practice. That is, if we could know that was just a joke – we were practicing very good practice – not too much effort, but not too little! [Laughs].

Maybe we were wasting our effort, making some excessive effort, too much effort – so we adjusted our usual thinking mind. That is how we obtain our true practice. He was a really great Zen master. That is how you'll solve problems.

If the governor of the United States is like him there won’t be much problem! [Laughs]. Even though someone is very mad at him, they'll treat him just right. Not too strong or not too soft. That is not something which we can attain by a skill, by repeating things. But if you just know what is real practice, then, you can do things just right.

Thank you very much.

REVISED 4-11-2020: After listening to the audio, realized this was actually about Kumazawa, not Kishizawa. DC edit of 12-17-14 in progress. This is from the end of a lecture entered into the archive a couple of years ago. Just realized it was a story about Kishizawa while reading through Suzuki transcripts. Transcriber couldn't understand Suzuki saying "Kishizawa" and had written "Komozawa??" and in preparing for the archive I had just looked it over quickly and not realized what was there.Check the original on to see what this came from. Listen to the audio. Any suggestions in editing welcome. - dc

Source: 68-00-00-B (year only known) digital audio archive from DC. Problem set. Thanks to audio work by Angus Atwell, transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Work in progress. More editing and transcription by CM end of October 2012 using the enhanced audio.