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Prajna Paramita in Shunryu Suzuki Lectures

Searched lectures at for prajna paramita, prajnaparamita, hannya (Japanese for prajna), heart sutra. Did not include use of prajna paramita when he was talking about the six paramitas of which prajna paramita is the sixth - except once to put it in that context. Did not include some incidental mentions. Below are excerpts and links to whole lectures.  - DC

On the First Sesshin

Certificate given participants in the First Sesshin of Sokoji



In the memory of the Buddha's Nirvana Day, we have Sesshin in the Sokoji Meditation Hall.


I did not expect to have Sesshin so soon. It is not one year yet since I came here. I am very grateful to the Zen students who will attend this Sesshin. This Sesshin will be called The First Sesshin of Sokoji.


It is very difficult to keep continuous effort for us, but we must continue it for ever.


May Shojin Prajna Paramita be always with us by the mercy of the Buddha.


Rev. Sunryu Suzuki

Sokoji Temple

San Francisco


February 21, 1960



note: Shojin - virya, diligence






Sojo was one of the four most famous disciples of Kumarajiva, who came to China in 401 from Kucina, near Tibet. Kumarajiva and Genjyo were epoch-making translators of Buddhists scriptures. Kumarajiva translated many of the Vaipulya1 scriptures and sutras of the Prajna Paramita group. The Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra (Shingyo), which is said to have been translated seven times, was also translated by Kumarajiva, but his translation is said to be lost.






The Traditional Way, Summary of Shunryu Suzuki's Sesshin Lectures

By Trudy Dixon

From the August 1964 Wind Bell


After bowing, the Prajna Paramita Sutra is recited three times: once to Buddha and his first disciples (Arhat); once to the Patriarchs, and once to our ancestors. The Prajna Paramita Sutra is the teaching which Buddha, after his Enlightenment, gave to his disciple, Sariputra, saying: "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form." One meaning of this sutra is that our ordinary perception and understanding of things is illusory. Usually we do not perceive things as they really are. We mistake for real and permanent what is actually constantly changing. This is true of human beings, too, when they are caught by the idea of self. This theory of the transiency of all things is one of the basic tenets of Buddhism, and an understanding of it is essential to follow the Traditional Way.



In the morning we say the Prajna Paramita Sutra the first time to Buddha and the Arhats (the first disciples). Part of the prayer that the priest or leader of zazen says at this time: May we attain sammyo rokutsu. Sammyo means the three powers of mind; rokutsu means the six powers of mind, the former contained in the latter. Power of mind means the power to fully understand sentient beings and our own human nature. The first power of mind is the capacity of sight and the second power is that of hearing. To understand someone, we must first see with our own eyes, and then hear what they say with our ears. The third power is the cognitive capacity to understand the words that we hear. The fourth power is to understand what is really meant by what was said. (Not just to understand the words, but to understand what the person means to say by them.) The fifth power is to comprehend the mind of the person speaking and to understand why he suffers. Finally, the sixth power is to perceive nature as it really is—as pure Buddha-nature itself.



There is an old Chinese story which illustrates the power of mind or understanding when one is truly free from any idea of self. A famous old Zen master, Esan was taking a nap, his face to the wall. His disciple, seeing that he was asleep, passed by very quietly to avoid awakening him. But Esan turned over and soon awoke. His disciple said: "Oh, did I disturb you? Why not sleep some more." But Esan only answered: "I had a wonderful sleep and dream; do you know what it was?" His disciple, at these words, left the room without replying and came back with a basin of fresh water and a towel. Esan washed his face saying: "That's wonderful!" Then a second disciple came into the room. Esan asked him the same question: "I had a good sleep and a wonderful dream; can you tell me what my dream was?" The second disciple left the room and came back with a cup of fresh tea! Esan was delighted with his two disciples. He said: "Why, my two disciples are even better than Sariputra!" Sariputra was one of Buddha's first disciples, a disciple of great Mahayana spirit, the one whom Buddha addressed the Prajna Paramita Sutra.)






Great Prajna Paramita Sutra

Thursday, July 8, 1965

Los Altos





Great Prajna Paramita Sutra

Thursday, July 15, 1965

Los Altos







Some people asked Ryokan, “Do you have-- do you have-- in-- do you have Daihannya Kyo-- Great Wisdom Scripture? We have 600 volume of scriptures about the wisdom. Do you have Great Wisdom-- Scripture of Great Wisdom-- 600 volumes in your temple?” someone asked. And he asked him to write [laughs] Daihannya Kyo in Chinese character on his back. “You-- please write down Daihannya Kyo-- Lo-pya-kan—{?}here on his back. Thank you very much.” [Laughs, laughter.] “Here we have Great Wisdom Scripture-- Scripture of Great Wisdom, and today I-- I want to dry those 600 volumes of scriptures in the sun so that no worm can eat it. So he write down in the sunshine. Now today we have mushiboshi. Mushiboshi means, in Japan, once a year we spread all the scriptures in the sunshine when it is-- when it is fine and dry. “So tonight we will have party, so please join us,” he said [laughing]. It means if you cannot acknowledge, you know, my practice, may be better to write down big Prajnaparamita Sutra. “I am the big Prajnaparamita Sutra,” you know. “If you don't acknowledge me, please write down on your back so that you can acknowledge it.”






Student G: Will you tell us what the meaning of the first three words in the Heart Sutra are? The [1-2 words] says that-- or in Chinese Guan zi zai or Kan ji zai, means “look, see”-- or “look, perceive, present.” Or that is, am I-- what it really means is, “Look to see if I am here or not.” “Am I present at this moment?” Is that-- is that -- does it have that same meaning in Chi- -- in Japanese or is it lost in translation?


SR: Kan?


Student G: Kanjizai.


SR: Kanjizai. Jizai is “free”: freedom without any disturbance and without any form or color. Kan. Kan is not to-- not to observe form or color, but to understand full meaning of it-- full meaning of the color-- through color and form to understand its true meaning. Kan does not mean philosophy or science-- scientific knowledge, scientific viewpoint-- understanding from our sense organ or our-- by philosophical effort. To-- to penetrate into the true meaning of it, that is kan. Kan-- jizai-- when it-- the kan is fully in function, the function is jizai, free, without any disturbance.


Student G: Would you say that-- the last two sentences again [2-3 words]?


SR: If kan is perfect, that function of kan will be jizai. Jizai is free. No disturbance.






On the Great Prajna Paramita Sutra

Thursday, August 5, 1965

Los Altos





Beginner's Mind Lecture at Los Altos


Sho shin means beginner’s mind. If we can keep beginner’s mind always that is the goal of our practice. We recited Prajna Paramita Sutra this morning only once. I think we recited very well, but what will happen to us if we recite it twice, three times, four times and more? Then we will easily lose our attitude in reciting -- original attitude in reciting- the sutra. Same thing will happen to us. For awhile we will keep our beginner’s mind in your [blank space in transcript]. If we continue to practice one year, two years, three years or more we will have some [blank space in transcript] and we will lose the limitless meaning of the original mind.






Readiness, Mindfulness


Los Altos


From p. 113 of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. (no other version)






In the Prajnaparamita Sutra

Friday, January 21, 1966






God Giving

Thursday, March 3, 1966

Los Altos








So from this standpoint, the Buddha's teaching is something more than that-- more than which was just told by him. It is based on his [1 word] great mind. And that mind is not just Buddha's mind, but that mind-- the mind include everything, or big mercy, or big mind, or-- not only it is big, but also it is very subtle and intuitive mind.


So from this viewpoint there is no particular teaching. Particular teaching is just remedy for the people. So from this viewpoint there is no teaching. Some particular teaching is not fundamental teaching. So from this viewpoint there is no teaching. This is actually means Prajnaparamita Sutra group, like Hannya Shingyo-- this one [probably holding up sutra card]. “No five skandha or no-- no death or no word [?], no people or no buddha.” This kind of statement is-- belongs to Prajnaparamita group. But those two groups is not-- fundamentally it is not different. When we understand those two groups is not different-- taking su- -- taking superior viewpoint, that viewpoint is called middle way or superior way-- the viewpoint of Tendai school.


From this viewpoint, there is flower, there is weeds, and flowers and weeds is not different. And flowers and weeds comes out in spite of our discrimination. And our discrimination is good sometime, but when we attach to it, it is not good. So everything is, in one hand, it is good, on the other, it is bad. So both is right and both is not right. This is the third viewpoint. This is framework of whole Buddhism.






Buddha is said to be the supreme world honored one. There are many names for him. We have ten names for Buddha. By Buddha we do not mean just Shakyamuni Buddha. At the same time we mean various Buddhas. So sometimes we say the Buddhas in the three periods of time: past, future and present. Namu sanze Shobutsu, we say: I take refuge in all Buddhas in the three worlds. Namu is to take refuge. Sanze means the three worlds. Shobutsu means all the Buddhas, or we say, Ji ho san shi I shi hu. Ji ho means ten directions. San shi means three worlds. I shi means all. Hu means Buddha. Ji ho san shi I shi hu, shi son bu sa mo ko sa means: Shi san is the supreme one, bu sa is Bosatsu, that's bodhisattva. Mo ko sa is great Bodhisattvas. That is actually Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Dharma is mo ko ho ja ho ro mi. Moko is maha or moka: great. Ho ja ho ro mi is Prajna Paramita. That is the teaching. So when we say ji ho san shi I shi hu, shi son bu sa mo ko sa, mo ko ho ja ho ro mi, that means that we are taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. That is why we say: Ji ho san shi I shi hu. That is the old Chinese pronunciation, but the meaning is the same.






GenjO KOan

Sunday, August 20, 1967

Morning Sesshin

Zen Mountain Center, Tassajara

Edited by Brian Fikes


(Note from Brian Fikes: The first portion of this lecture was not recorded. This is the first [sic]1 in a series of [three] lectures on the Genjokoan given during the sesshin ending the first training period at Tassajara.)




There are four ways of understanding the relationship of form and emptiness: form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is form, and emptiness is emptiness. “Form is emptiness” may not be so difficult to understand, but it will be misunderstood by some advanced, hasty people. “Yes, form is emptiness. There is no need for us to attach to some particular thing. Form is emptiness.” This looks very clear, and this view of life is better than attaching to some particular form or color, because in it there are actually many, many views of life. And this view of nonexistence is deeper than the view of seeing many things which actually look permanent and which look like they have some self nature. But as we explained already, and as you have already understood, there is no special self nature for anything, and everything is changing. As long as everything is changing, nothing is permanent. So this [form is emptiness] may be a more advanced view of life.


But “emptiness is form” is rather difficult to understand. The emptiness which is the absolute goal we will attain, which is enlightenment itself, is form. So whatever you do is enlightenment itself. This is rather difficult to understand, or to accept, because you think emptiness is some unusual thing. Something unusual is something very common. This is rather difficult to understand, especially when you practice zazen. Even though your practice is not perfect, that is enlightenment. This statement is very difficult to accept. “No, my practice is not perfect.” But when we understand form is emptiness, and emptiness is form, back and forth in this way, and form is form, and emptiness is emptiness, when emptiness comes, everything is emptiness, and when form comes, form is form, and we accept things as it is.


So when we come to the understanding of, “Form is form and emptiness is emptiness,” there is no problem. This stage, or this understanding, is what Dogen Zenji means by, “When the moon is in the water, the water will not be broken, nor will the moon be wet.” Moon is moon, and water is water. This is “form is form, emptiness is emptiness.” But here there is the possibility of the misunderstanding that there is no need to practice Zen. “Form is form, and emptiness is emptiness. If this is true, why do we practice zazen?” You will have this kind of misunderstanding. But each of the four statements also includes the other three, so there are four ways of understanding each statement. If it is not so, it is not true understanding. So all four statements are actually the same. Whether you say form is form or emptiness is emptiness, or form is emptiness, or emptiness is form, one statement is enough for you. This is true understanding of Prajnaparamita.






If you are wandering about, forgetting all about your place, it means you are deluded. You have no idea of practice, and you are losing your own practice. That is not our way. We should not put emphasis on our skill or the result of our work, but on knowing the meaning of the work more deeply. Then most of the difficulties in our monastic life will be solved.


Usually what we do is not so difficult. The problems which follow because of your imperfect understanding of work are more difficult. You will suffer from the useless problems, and you will lose the whole monastery. If the point of your work is lost, it is not a monastery any more. If you visit a monastery and everything is in order, the plants and vegetables are healthy, every place is clean, and the tools are well polished and sharp, that is sure to be a good monastery. But polishing your tools or raising your vegetables is not the main point of your practice. The main point is whether or not your effort is real practice. When there is good teaching and good practice, there is good feeling, and everything will grow. But the purpose is not just to get larger crops or to have a great amount of work. So even though you have some special ability, you will work on something you are not familiar with. But as long as you have something to work on, you should do your best in your position.


This is also what Prajnaparamita is. Although it may look like we are doing ordinary work, if you have right understanding of our work, the meaning is quite different.



A monastery is not some particular place. Whether you can make Tassajara a monastery or not is up to you. It may be even worse than city life even though you are in Tassajara. But when you have the wisdom of the Prajnaparamita Sutra, even though you are in San Francisco, that is the perfect monastery. This point should be fully understood.






First Shosan Ceremony


From Suzuki's introductory remark:


The main point of practice is to listen to your teacher and to practice zazen. We have you practice zazen and study the Prajna Paramita Sutra. I someone ask me: What is Prajna Paramita? I will answer: practice of zazen. If someone asks again: What is the practice of zazen? I will answer: To open Buddha’s eating bowl and to take bath in evening. If someone who understands what I said right now, come and express your way to me in the form of question and answer.




Question 24: A definition, Roshi. I would like to answer your question before I ask mine. You say, Prajnaparamita, same as zazen and same as Buddha's bowl or Buddha's head. Emptiness is form, form is emptiness. Now I'd like to ask my question. If we live in suffering, for to live is to suffer, and we seek Buddha nature, or Buddhahood to end reincarnation of suffering, Buddha is emptiness, the Bodhisattva suffers just a little more. Why must we seek the absolute?


SR: We--understanding what we seek for the absolute is opposite. Absolute reveal itself as form. When we try to seek for the absolute, that absolute is not true absolute because the absolute cannot be object of training--of practice. If it is object of our training, that is not absolute any more. So the only way, only approach to the absolute is through form. That is Bodhisattva. Through Bodhisattva's practice, the absolute will reveal itself, and absolute will be on the back of Bodhisattva. So Bodhisattva is form, and Bodhisattva is--although it is absolute, but when Bodhisattva act as Bodhisattva, he is also Buddha. So actually Bodhisattva and the Buddha is no different. But whenever we do something, that is form and that is Bodhisattva. That maybe some other Buddha. So there is no need to seek for it.


#24: I am deeply grateful.






Reflections on the Prajna Paramita Sutra

Thursday, August 24, 1967







No Dualism

Thursday, November 2, 1967

Los Altos






Meal Chant

Thursday Evening, January 11, 1968



I already explained about Maitreya Buddha when I explained about the three period-- three period of Buddhism. And in this occasion, I want to explain this-- all of the Ten Buddhas which we recite [at] mealtime:


Homage to the pure Dharmakaya Vairocana Buddha.


I already explained Vairocana Buddha.


And to the complete Sambhogakaya Vairocana Buddha.

To the numerous Nirmanakaya Shakyamuni Buddha.

To the future Maitreya Buddha.


I explained already Maitreya Buddha.


To all buddhas, past, present and future all over the world.

To the Mahayana Saddharmapundarika Sutra.

To the great Manjushri Bodhisattva.

To the Mahayana Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.

To the great compassionate Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.

To the many bodhisattvas, mahasattvas.

To the Mahaprajnaparamita.


Here we have complete teaching of Buddha. Dharmakaya Buddha, Sambhogakaya Buddha, Nirmanakaya Buddha. This is Buddha. And here we have Mahayana bodhisattvas. And we have also the Mahayana Mahaprajnaparamita. This is the teaching. So we have here Buddha and sangha and dharma. So to recite those names actually-- if you recite those names with deeper understanding, it means you are repeating, you are practicing the Buddha's way.






Q: Roshi, when we chant the Maka [Hannya Haramita] Shin Gyo, in what sense is there merit? And can we give this merit to others?


R: Yes, to help. When you become familiar with the Shin Gyo, what you will do will naturally explain your understanding, your attitude. Even though you don't realize it, there is a big difference between the people who can recite sutras and those who cannot. So, of course, that you can recite sutras will help others. From my cabin, when I am resting, I can see out of the window in front of my sink. Before you enter the restroom, you bow. And I think you are just doing it, you know, like this, maybe, because you get accustomed to it. But I thought, if people saw someone bowing to that place, what kind of feelings would they have? The people might not know what it meant, but I think you would give them some feeling. You just do it, you know. And that's a very valuable thing. This is the same thing as reciting the sutra.


Buddha's disciples converted many learned scholars to Buddhism, like Sariputra, who converted when he saw a monk walking on the street with a very steady feeling. So, we say that each one of the 250 characters of the "Prajna Paramita Sutra" is a bodhisattva, is Buddha. This is more than just how we understand it. That is this merit for us and for others.






We say the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path are teachings for the sravakas, and the Twelve Links of Causality is a teaching for pratyekas, but according to recent results of scholarship, Buddha actually taught both of those teachings without separating them: sometimes the Four Noble Truths and the holy Eight fold Path, sometimes the Twelve Links of Causality. And if you analyze those two teachings, they are two different versions of the same teaching. What he meant was the same. So it is no wonder that in this Lotus Sutra those two teachings are mixed and are supposed to be for the disciples. Here it says "disciples", but the Chinese rendering says "the disciples of words [or disciples of the worlds?]". It looks like sravakas, but it may be better to say "to the disciples of words". Then the meaning becomes clearer. It is said that the original text says "disciples of words", and it includes both sravakas and pratyeka buddhas.


"...and to the Bodhisattvas he preached the law connected with the six Perfections, and terminating in the knowledge of the Omniscient, after the attainment of supreme, perfect enlightenment." So far the teaching was for sravakas and pratyekas, and now the teaching is for the bodhisattvas. For the bodhisattva, Buddha gave the teaching of the six paramitas. I think I explained them already. Dana Paramita, bestowing of material and teaching; Sila Paramita, keeping the precepts; Ksanti Paramita, the practice of patience; Virya Paramita, zeal and progress (shoji [?] paramita); Dhyana Paramita, the practice of meditation; and Prajna Paramita, wisdom paramita, the power to discern truth or reality.






We have been studying same thing [laughs], you know, over and over again-- sometime by Prajnaparamita Sutra, sometime by five ranks, sometime by ten powers. But actually, that is various explanation of zazen power. And if you extend our understanding, you will understand everything in the most meaningful way-- the most adequate way. That adequate way is called “middle way,” you know. The most appropriate way. And you will do something which is necessary when it is necessary, in the most adequate, appropriate way [laughs]. This is very difficult, you know. This is very difficult practice. This is-- someone who can do this kind of activity, this kind of-- who can observe-- who can do things in this way is good priest [laughs], good student.






The earliest Mahayana sutra is supposed to be the small Prajnaparamita Sutra, or Shobo -- [?]. In that sutra they do not say “Mahayana” or “Hinayana”. Instead of using the word “Hinayana”, they use “Shravakayana” or “people who hear.” I don't know Sanskrit, but sravaka means “hearer”, or those who studied under Buddha. “Bodhisattva” means one who studied the Bodhisattva way. The so-called “Bodhisattva way,” or “Mahayana way,” was originated by the assembly who met outside of the cave. The cave was the place where the synod was held to compile Buddha's teaching. In that cave, all the famous disciples assembled and compiled the scriptures.


But there were many disciples who did not join that meeting. They are called daishubu-- I don't know the Sanskrit word. Daishu means “public,” a more public assembly. And, of course, they compiled some other sutras. Maybe the small Prajnaparamita Sutra was compiled by those people. But even in that sutra, they do not use shravaka or “Hinayana” or “Mahayana.” At that time, “Buddhism” meant that which was taught by Buddha, or which was compiled by those famous disciples. They were the shravakas, but maybe we should call them the original Buddhists instead of Hinayanists.


It looks like there is Hinayana and Mahayana, but it is not so. All those Prajnaparamita Sutras are more like Mahayana, so they are all attributed to Shariputra, who was a great disciple of Buddha. He was actually both [Hinayana and Mahayana?]. His understanding was wider and deeper than the rest of the disciples, so all the sutras are attributed to him. If we say, “Shariputra told this story,” it is more like traditional Buddhism.






And this is-- in temple at end of the year we have ceremony to read Prajnaparamita Sutra-- 600 volumes of Prajnaparamita Sutra. But actually we cannot read 600 pages of sutra, so the priest conducting the ceremony read one-- one volume of the 600 sutras. Then we have one volume, one of 600-- [inaudible]-- just to turn it instead of reading. And so the most important volume will be recited by the priest who is conducting, and we-- and you receive this kind of prayer card from the temple. That is what we do.






But as Prajnaparamita Sutra it said, “Doesn't,” you know, “increase, doesn't decrease. It doesn't be tainted, or it doesn't be-- it will not be pure, or it will not be impure.” And this is, you know, actually-- there are two ways of listening to the lecture. One is to listen to it as a exercise of your thinking mind, and the other is, you know, to know-- to-- to know our practice precisely, you know. How much we, you know, we have-- how much freedom we have from thinking mind.




I had, of course, very difficult time at my teacher's temple. I was too young, you know, to follow the training of that temple. When I was there, when I arrived at my teacher's-- my master's temple, one hundred days of training was going on. There were seven or eight monks, and they have-- they had their special training, getting up pretty early and reciting-- practicing zazen, reciting sutra.


At that time I saw famous a Zen master-- Oka Sotan-- and his disciple Oka Kyugaku,18 and those famous teachers were there. I was fortunate to see them, even though I-- I didn't know they were so famous. But training was very strict.


The-- Oka Sotan Roshi was a-- did not become a archbishop, but under him we have many noted scholars and monks and Zen masters. He is, maybe, the-- one of the most important person in our Soto history in Meiji period. Yasutani Roshi's, you know, grand-teacher is Oka Roshi. And my-- of course, my master's teacher is Oka Roshi. And Eto [Sokuo]-- Professor Eto's teacher was Oka Roshi. And there is numberless powerful teacher under him-- appeared under him. So I think I was lucky to be there. And I was encouraged by-- by them.


But difficult thing is to get up-- as I get up. Although they didn't say “You should get up,” because I was so young-- so they-- they didn't say “You should get up.” But I tried to get up anyway. Sometime I was too sleepy, so [laughs] I was listening to their reciting sutra in bed, you know: Kanjizai Bosatsu -- [laughs] That is-- was-- that is the first sutra I learned by heart, you know [laughs, laughter]: Kan ji zai bo satsu gyo Hanya Haramita.


It is quite easy to recite sutra if you listen to it when you are quite young. You don't need any instruction, as you haven't [laughs], you know-- you don't-- you don't have-- without telling you how to recite Prajnaparamita Sutra, almost all of you can recite it.






The Hinayana teaching, in one word, [is] the teaching which-- Hinayana teaching in one word, we say, in Japanese, Sanzejitsu-u-hottai-gou. It means that: sanze is three [worlds]-- past, present, and future is sanze. And hottai is the teachings-- teachings analyzed our mind and-- our mind and body, or subjective world and objective world in various way, like five skandha, you know, five skandha, or-- do you know the teaching of five skandha? In Prajnaparamita [it] said, “Five skandha is empty-- are empty.” That five skandha or six mind, or seventh mind, or eighth mind-- that is how they analyzed our subjective and objective world. And those, you know, elements were called dharma. And, in China, they counted in 75 or 100. And those, you know, elements supposed to be some-- [are] supposed to be substantial things. The Hinayana students thought in that way. And it is always exist in that way.


But, you know, it is-- originally, you know, those elements were result of the-- result of our analyze, you know. We-- they analyze our mind-- how we-- our mind works, you know. And they counted up the-- in 75 [dharmas] or something like that.


As you know, you know, Buddha's teaching originally-- the most important teaching for Buddhist is-- everything changes is the most important teaching [laughs]. It is rather difficult, maybe, but if you hear it over and over again, naturally you will understand-- eventually you will understand. Everything changes is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism, as you know. Nothing has self-nature. But when conservative Theravada students [were] interested in more and more analyzing Buddha's teaching, and trying to authorize his teaching [as] something which was given to them, and because the teaching are something valuable, they wanted to protect it. While they are doing-- making effort in that way, they-- after all those effort, they set up something which does not change [laughs], you know-- teaching-- teaching does not change! Teaching-- “dharma” mean sometime “teaching,” and sometime “various being,” and it-- it sometime it means “various element produced by analyze.” And they-- they put-- they s- -- after all they said, those teaching does not change, and, at the same time, those elements which teaching denote does not change. And there is actually some elements-- some entity.


But that is not anymore true, you know. That is not true. We say “mind,” but where is mind? [Laughs.] Mind is not-- is not some substantial thing. We say “eyes,” you know. Eyes-- when we-- when I was learning psychology, we started to learn how our-- it was like physics, you know. Teacher draw, you know, what do you-- what do you call it-- “eye”?


Student: Eyeball?


SR: Hmm? No. This.


Student: [Unclear]?


SR: Round one [laughs]. Eyebulb? [Laughs.]


Students: [Several suggestions at once.]


SR: Eyeball? Eyeball is like [laughs, laughter]. Nerve-- the-- he, you know, draw nerves. This connect to brain, you know-- something like that [laughs]. But we say “eyes,” you know. “Eyes” is actually a part of skin [laughs]. And nose is also a part of skin. And ears, to, you know. So you may say, “This is eyes,” you know. But strictly speaking, all those eyes and nose and mouth and everything is part of our skin. Even our tongue is a part of skin. But we tentatively, for convenience sake, [say] “This is tummy; this is eye; this is nose.” That's all, you know.


So Buddha said [laughs], “There is no eyes.” No such thing as eyes. Tentatively, you know, this part of skin you may call it-- call them “eye.” This part is nose. And this part is ear. Actually, we-- we have, you know, nose and mouth and everything, but it is not any particular thing. There is some difference. So we-- we-- we-- we may say, “There is eyes,” but at the same time, even though it is different from other part, but originally it is a part of it. There is no borderline between your nose and eyes or ears. From where [laughs] is it, you know, belongs to ear? And from where your nose start? No one knows. Maybe someone may say “from here” [laughs], someone may say “from here.” All your way from your tummy to-- it will come to here.


Student A: What-- what smells when you [1-2 words unclear]?


SR: That is function-- function of the-- some particular part of skin [laughs, laughter].


Student B: [Entire question unclear.]


SR: Skin.


Student: Skin.


SR: I'm just-- right now I'm-- maybe you can hear it as a-- a kind of joke. But it is true, you know. We understand, you know, our-- in Mahayana teaching, we understand things from various angle, and standpoint we take is very free, you know. This way and that way. Someone-- if someone say yes, someone say no. And yes and no they discussed until yes and no become same. That is more Mahayana way.






form is emptiness, and emptiness is form

Thursday Evening, November 13, 1969






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






My master, you know, for an instance, had-- didn't have so many students. But he did not give me any suggestion [laughs], and he didn't give us any, you know, lecture. What he did was-- when he become impatient he scolded us, that's all [laughs, laughter]-- only when he become impatient. So we, you know, we liked his scolding voice very much because we-- we, you know, we know immediately what I should-- we should do.


It is very embarrassing, you know, to-- to be with him without [laughs] knowing what to do, especially when we visit someone’s home, you know. For an instance, when we have-- when we visit to observe memorial service for someone, you know, and when many visitors are there following him without knowing what to do [laughing]: where to sit, how to recite sutra, or how to hit bell, you know. Anyway in front of us there-- there is-- there were bell or mokugyo, you know, although we don't know what to do with it [laughs, laughter]. And, you know, if we don't know, you know, how to start, how to say, “Maka-hannya-haramita-shin-gyo,” he himself will start it [laughs]: “Maka-hannya-haramita-shin-gyo,” he says, you know, he started, and look at us [laughs, laughter]. “What are you doing?!” We don't know how to, you know, manage bell or mokugyo. And if I don't he [probably gestures] [laughs, laughter]-- very impulsive, you know. If no one watching us, it-- it is-- if it is only, you know, my teacher-- our teacher and us, it is all right. Between us, that is usual routine, so it was all right. But if many people are watching us, you know, it is very embarrassing. But he didn't mind at all [laughs, laughter]. If I can-- if we cannot do it: “Give me bell and mokugyo!” He hit by [probably gesturing [laughing]-- just sitting behind him.






Sandokai Lecture III


So here, you know, this five characters [Reigen myoni kottari] means ri, which is beyond words, something which is stainless. In Prajnaparamita Sutra, [it says] “no taste, no,” you know, “no eyes, no,” you know, “ears, no nose,” you know. That is actually this one [the character ri].






Student B: Is ego mean “the bird is the whole world,” and fuego means “the bird is just the bird?”


SR: Mm-hmm. Bird is just bird. Shiki, you know, in Prajnaparamita-Hridaya [Heart] Sutra we say, Shiki soku ze ku, ku soku ze shiki, you know.3 That is-- Shiki soku ze ku, ku soku ze shiki is ego. And Shiki-- ze shiki-- ku soku-- ku is fuego. [Knocks on table with stick.] This is fuego [laughs]. You cannot say, you know-- it is difficult to say what it is. [Knocks again. Laughs.]






Shiki moto shitsuzo wo kotonishi. Shiki moto shitsuzo wo kotonishi. Shiki is, you know, in Prajnaparamita Sutra. Shiki soku zeku. Shiki. Same character as shiki. Shiki moto shitsuzo wo kotonishi. Shiki means, you know, “form and color.” It has two meanings: form and color. Things which-- form and color. Shitsuzo wo kotonishi, sho moto rakku: Sho [is] in Prajnaparamita Sutra. We have many [of] this character-- sho, voice, which is the object of, you know, ears.






EkO Lecture 1

The First Morning Eko

(chanted after the Heart Sutra

Wednesday, July 8, 1970



[This is the first in a series of six lectures by Suzuki on the four ekos chanted at the conclusion of morning services at San Francisco Zen Center and other Soto Zen temples and monasteries.







EkO Lecture 2

The Second Morning Eko, Part 1 of 3

(chanted after the second recitation of the Heart Sutra)

Friday Evening, July 10, 1970







EkO Lecture 3

The Second Morning Eko, Part 2 of 3

Friday Evening, July 11, 1970







Supported from Within

EkO Lecture 4

The Second Morning Eko, Part 3 of 3

Sunday, July 12, 1970







This morning you repeated Prajnaparamita Sutra three times. That is very encouraging. We should repeat, you know-- for ourselves we should, I think, practice zazen with silence, with calmness of our mind, with empty mind. But maybe for others, you know, let them know what is Prajnaparamita Sutra-- what does it mean to us, over and over again, until they understand what is Prajnaparamita Sutra-- and how important it is to practice zazen for us, for human being. It is our practice now. It cannot be just for Zen Buddhists. It should be for all human being. And this is not religion any more; this is something we should do. Even though it may be too late, but we should try our best. If we really awake-- if you-- we are really awaken, it cannot be too late. I think we must have more positive, you know, practice too for people. Let us sit with people and let us recite Prajnaparamita Sutra with all human being.






Now you are listening to my lecture; or you may, to study Buddhism, you will read many books. The books you read is not Buddhism itself but explanation of this, you know, truth. “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” If we explain it like this, it is Prajnaparamita groups-- study of Prajnaparamita group-- sutra of Prajnaparamita group. If we put emphasis on how to be buddha, why we are buddha, then that is study of Lotus Sutra. What is the-- if we study koan, what do we study? What you study by koan is what is the relationship between our practice and the reality. How we, you know-- why we-- how we have a glance of the truth or enlightenment or Buddha, which is always one, which is not dividable, which cannot be explained in words. That is, you know, how you study koan. Through koan, or through koan practice, you will have a glance of the truth. “Oh, this is reality!” That is koan practice. Whatever you say, whatever you write, it is a kind of way-- it is one of the way to put the reality into words. If you are an artist, what you work on is how to, you know, convey your understanding of the truth.






Whatever you have in your mind, you shouldn’t be curious about it. “What does it mean? I had a wonderful experience in my zazen.” Or: “I-- I had many images of Buddha in my zazen. What does it mean? Oh! [Laughs, laughter.] Where-- where do they come from?” That is not zazen, you know, even though various snakes or, you know, spider-- black spider come: “Oh, that is black spider-- spider. And that is snake.” In that way, if you sit, it means you are sitting in dark room. You see but you don’t see. You are not bothered by it. That is to sit in dark room. Even though you see, you don’t see. Okay? That is true. Actually such a dragon or snake doesn’t exist, you know, doesn’t come; but you think it come. It is okay to think, to see various image in your zazen. It’s okay. It means that something wrong with your breathing or something. That is why you see some fantasy in your practice. But you shouldn’t be curious about it. That is to sit in darkness. It is emptiness, emptiness of your mind.


We-- we talked about this kind of thing from various way, for an instance Prajnaparamita Sutra: “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” Emptiness is dark room. And dark room there is form-- various form. But at the same time it should be empty. It is tentative color or form of big being.


It looks like I am always talking about some philosophy. But philosophy-- it is not philosophy; it is actual practice of each one of us. I am talking about your practice not-- not just the philosophy. It may be philosophy, but-- it should be-- but why we think-- observe things in that way is because we have experience of-- actual experience of this kind of philosophy. It is not just, you know, talk but actual experience of our practice. So it means that you must practice zazen [laughs], in short, with right understanding. Or else you be lost!


Thank you very much.






Student D: Roshi, often when I'm chanting [2-4 words] I'm sitting zazen, when it [6-8 words] particularly the Heart Sutra in English. And it started out different-- the meaning of the words. Is this thinking of the meaning of the words [6-8 words]?


SR: Meaning of the words-- yeah, if you chant in English, naturally, you know, you will think of-- think about the meaning too. But it is not actually-- it is something which-- which we-- appears or which come to your mind immediately. You see the characters, or immediately you say something. It is not just sound.


The Prajnaparamita Sutra is-- the meaning of the sutra is about emptiness, you know. So each word suggest [to] you the reality of the emptiness. So, especially when you chant Prajnaparamita Sutra, it is just words which suggest [to] you the emptiness. It is like you cross your legs, and to have your mudra, and you take breathing. Same thing.


Maybe before you understand the meaning of the sutra, you know, then you may be wondering in your mind, “What does it mean?” Then that is not, you know, zazen. That is reading. Do you understand? The chanting sutra is something which you can do after you know the meaning. It is not reading. It is expressing your understanding through words. Do you understand the difference?