The Way-Seeking Mind
Shunryu Suzuki Transcript
Saturday, March 26, 1966
When we feel the evanescence of life, or when we have problem for ourselves, and direct feeling of the problem—of the fact you have to face—is how you arise the way-seeking mind.
When we study something, we usually set our everyday problem aside, and for a while we study something especially. That is how we study generally[?]. On Sunday you may go to—you will go to church, but to go to church and your everyday life is some completely different things—two completely different activity. But in your—in our every—everyday life we have to feel contradict—some contradiction, and eventually you will feel some uneasiness, without having nothing to rely on. This kind of feeling is the feeling when you have—when you arise the way-seeking mind.
When we are young, younger[?] —to act as we want, you can choose something good, ignoring something bad, and by working on something good, you feel good enough to spend your early year. But some uneasiness, some dark feeling is always follows in your life. Even though you try to appease your enthusiasm[?] by working hard and exhausting yourself on what you are doing, that kind of[?]—this kind of effort will [not] give you any conviction. So, without having any conviction, and to jumping around in this world may be the pitiful life. You will be pitied by someone who has strong conviction and deep wisdom about our life. So, we should be ashamed of doing something proudly, vigorously, with some ecstasy even, ignoring the other side of the world, other side of our life.
By nature, human being has good and bad side, half and half. When you want to do something good, at the same time you don't want to do it [laughs] something good. If you want to get up early, at the same time you say, you know, you say, “It’s comfortable, to stay in bed five minutes more [laughs]. It’s too early!” When at the time you want [laughs] to get up, you will say to yourself, “No, [laughs] yes, no!” “Yes” is fifty percent; [laughs] “no” is fifty percent. So [laughs] usually, we do good thing fifty percent, bad things fifty percent or more! Bad things sixty percent [laughter]; and good thing forty percent. And you became very conscientious more and more.
The more you reflect on yourself, the more you become conscientious. And because you became more and more conscientious, you feel as if you are doing ninety-nine percent bad things! [Laughs, laughter.] That is actually our human nature. It is not matter of what is good and what is bad. It is matter of our human nature. When we realize this fact in our everyday life, based on our human nature, you have to wonder what we should do. If you realize this fact, you will not be fooled by anyone. You may have some pleasure in a—or a theater or restaurants, but you cannot fool yourself completely. You cannot deceive yourself when you realize this fact.
Even though some people say, “If we have perfect social construction, we will not have this kind of difficulties in our culture[?].” As long as you have human nature, nothing will help you. In this way, as our human culture make some advancement, the more we’ll develop difficulties in each[?] life. Because—because of advanced civilization this contradiction will be accelerate more and more. When we realize this fact, we have to have way-seeking mind to work on ourselves instead of material—material world.
We become the people who—most people who are interested in Buddhism are more or less critical to [critical of] our social condition, expecting better social framework. Some people become disgusted with our human, but we cannot approve of those criticism fully. And because they have to—they have something to think more about our human nature. And this human nature is always same.
Some people say our spiritual culture should make some progress when material civilization made a strange[?] progress. But strictly speaking, as long as we have human nature, it is impossible to acquire or to obtain perfect idealistic spiritual culture in our human world. This point should be fully realized by us. Because of our uneasiness we are too anxious to achieve something perfect in spirit—spiritual world. Here we have some danger. Spiritual world is not same as material world. You cannot work on spiritual life as you do—or in materialistic world. Even though you will build a beautiful church, no measurement may be the same or may become worse. Even though you talk about, our spiritual sangham[?], it will not help you. So, it is necessary to know actually what is our human world, or what is our human nature. This is a very important point. If you fail to observe our human nature fully, even though you study Buddhism, what you acquire is not what Buddha meant.
For many years we have practicing zazen here in Zen Center. And we think it is—it may be the time when we make some progress. I think so. You think so too [laughs]. But when you thinks in this—when you feel this way, we should be careful not to make some mistake in our way. And we should know what is the way-seeking mind, what is human nature.
Some people may say, if [laughs] this human nature is always the same, then it will be useless [laughs] to practice zazen—to study Buddhism [laughs] will be useful. But our study is based on this fact. Our study is not improve this—this actual fact that we have good and bad, half and half, in human nature. We should—we should not try to improve this [laughs] actual fact. Even Buddha accepted this truth, and he started Buddhism based on this fact. He accepted this truth. If you try to change this truth, you are not Buddhist anymore.
So as he said, our human life is life of suffering. This is fundamental truth. Knowing this fact, having this deep understanding of human nature, to continue our life step by step is—is to help with each other. Because we have good and bad, half and half, we can help. If all of us is good, then it is impossible to help. It is good thing that we have good nature and bad nature—so we can feel better if we change our situation by one sheet of paper. It would be wonderful if what—if we can help one by one. So, no matter how or what kind of things we have, what kind of material, it doesn’t matter. If we have something to work on, it’s enough. Because we have good and bad, half and half, because we can find out some way to help others, by a sheet of paper, by a—a few words, we can enjoy our life.
So, the way-seeking mind take[?] for this, not only our idealistic world, but also our actual world including flowers and stones, and stars and moon. The true way-seeking mind will be realized—will be actualized in deep scale, where there is human being, where there is sun and stars, and land and ocean, and fish and grass and birds. Without this big, big area where we can live, where we can have various problems problems, we cannot survive in this world. But forgetting the big area where we have absolute freedom, we just seek for something for sake of just ourselves, just for a human being. So, we have to suffer our nature, which has good and bad, fifty-fifty. If we realize—if we aware of the big-mind, which include everything, and where we live, and where everything is completely involved in, then you have big, big mind and big, big trust. And you are—you have perfect eternal freedom within this big realm.
So actually, the way-seeking mind means the conviction to fly as a bird that fly in the air, to enjoy our being in this vast world of freedom—enjoying our nature as a part of it. There we have no anxiety because we don't know where we go, and we know there is nowhere to go. Life and death is not our problem anymore. Our nature of good and bad is not blocked anywhere. We attain enlightenment in this big realm. We suffer in this big realm. We are ignorant of the limit of this big world. This is ignorance, but this is at the same time enlightenment because it is—we know what—isn’t impossible to know--know the limit of this vast world of seeing problem[?]. So, if here, we have even the problem of attaining enlightenment.
Ignorance is good, enlightenment is good; zazen is good; to stay at home is good. Every activity will take place in this. Our human effort, our human culture should be based on this kind of imperturbable conviction. Our effort should not be limited to ourselves. This is what I mean by the small mind.
When Dogen Zenji attained enlightenment, he said he forgot all about his body and mind. He means he found himself in this big world. So, our activity should be limitlessly small and at the same time should be limitlessly great. And there is no difference in greatness of our realm and trivial small activity. It has same value. So, our pleasure and enthusiasm[?] will be fully supported by this spirit. In this way we practice zazen every day. We should strive for enlightenment, of course. We should try to calm down our mind. But it is impossible to do it, to attain enlightenment, to calm down the mind, without realizing this fact. If you don't realize this fact, it is the same thing to have: which is mother hen or eggs? [laughs]. But the time you became a hen, you are already [laughs] eggs of your mother. And we don’t know which is which.
That we appear in this world means we should disappear from [laughs] this world. If you were not born in this world, there would be no need to die. So, to be born in this world is to die, to disappear. That we can do something good means that we can do something bad. It is true. Don’t be bothered by it. Such a foolish—don’t be fooled by it [laughs], this kind of self-contra—this kind of contradiction, homemade contradiction [laughs]! You made it, some contradiction in your life[?].
Our so—study, our effort or practice, should be firmly supported by Buddha's wisdom. You will realize how true Buddha's teaching is to our—to the circumstances we—under which we suffer. And if you realize how much his teaching is true to us, you will start your practice. Our practice is the same—our study is the same as your practice.
When you are jumping from one theory to the other, these are to stay same place [laughs] which is different to teach you how to practice, in order[?] with—. Anyway, for the beginner, it is difficult to sit. Anyway, it is difficult. While you are—you are practicing, continue your practice some part[?], you will find out your own posture—your method[?]. Then you can say, you’ll begin to—to put some more strength when make yourself[?] your view[?] further[?] your back[?]. That you have some posture—some—your own posture is at the same time maybe bad habits [laughs]. But without bad habit, you [laughs] cannot improve your posture! It’s [laughs] necessary to have bad habits [laughs].
But you ask me, what is right posture? [laughs]. You know, that is also mistake. Whatever you do is right. Nothing is wrong with what you do. But some improvement is necessary. Some—something should be done with what you have attained. Even though you attain enlightenment like Buddha, something should be done to human[?]. That is his enlightenment. So, the point is, whether your posture is right or—is not whether your posture is right or wrong—the point is constant effort or way-seeking.
I think I shouldn’t talk too much [laughs]. The more you practice zazen, the more you find out the true, deeper meaning of our practice. So anyway, we should be more friendly and more frank and straightforward. And we should be more free, and we should accept an instruction. This is our way[?].
This transcript is a retyping of the existing City Center transcript. It was not verbatim. The City Center transcript was entered onto disk by Jose Escobar, 1997. It was reformatted by Bill Redican (10/30/01). Verbatim version by Peter Ford and Wendy Pirsig 8-2022 based on Engage Wisdom audio. With revisions by Shundo David Haye 11-2022.
The Way-Seeking Mind
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