Beyond Consciousness

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Thursday, December 1, 1966

Los Altos


We should establish our practice where there is no practice or no enlightenment. As long as we practice zazen in the area where there is practice and enlightenment there is no chance to make perfect peace for ourselves. In other words we must firmly believe in our true nature. It is beyond our conscious realm -- conscious experience. There is good or bad or practice or enlightenment only in our conscious experience but whether or not we have experience of it what exists is actually there, exists. In this way we have to establish the foundation of our practice. To -- even it is good thing to have it in your mind is not so good. You may be -- it is a kind of burden for you. You do not feel so good. Even you have something good in your mind. So to have something in your conscious realm you do not feel, or you do not have, perfect composure. The best way is to forget everything. Then your mind is calm and your mind always wide enough or clear enough to see things and to feel things as they are without any effort.

To harbor some ill-will is maybe something better than to have something -- some idea which you should do or you ought to do. The Buddha says, ‘You should be like this. You ought to be like this.’ And to have what he says in your mind is not so good, but to have mischievous idea in your mind is sometimes very agreeable. That is true. So actually, good or bad is not the point. The point is to stick to it or not is the point whether you make yourself peaceful or not. The best way is not to think or not to have -- not to retain any idea of things, whatever it is. To forget all about it, or not to leave any trace of thinking, or not to have any shadow of thinking, is the best way.

But if you try to do -- if you try to be beyond your conscious activity or if you try to stop your mind that will be another burden for your mind. “I have to stop my mind in our practice but I cannot. My practice is not so good.” That is also wrong way of practice. So don’t try to stop it but leave everything as it is. Then there will -- things will not stay in your mind so long. Things go as they go. Things come as they come. That is -- this kind of things will go in your mind in that way. Then your clear, empty mind eventually last pretty long. So to have a firm conviction of empty mind in your practice is the most important thing. That is why in Buddhist scripture we use some astrological description. We describe the empty mind in various ways. Most of the time we calculate the big mind is some astrologically great number -- so great that we cannot count. It means to give up calculating. If it is so many you will lose your interest in counting it and you will eventually give up counting. But still the good thing for this kind of calculation -- you have some kind of help, a kind of adoration of the innumerable number will help you to stop the thinking of your small mind. But actually when you sit you will have the most pure, genuine experience of the state of mind -- that is not even a state of mind -- original or essence of mind which Buddha meant, or the 6th patriarch meant. Essence of mind or original mind or original face or Buddha nature, emptiness. Those words mean the absolute calmness of our mind. There is, you know how to take physical rest. You don’t know how to take mental rest. Even though you lie in your bed your mind is still busy. Even though you sleep your mind is pretty busy in dreaming something. Your mind is always in intense activity. This is not so good. So we should know how to give up thinking or busy mind and firmly believe in the perfect rest of our mind and resume to our pure mind. So we should know how to go beyond our thinking faculty. Dogen-zenji said, “You should establish your practice in your delusion.” Even though you think you are in delusion but there is your pure mind. So, if you realize the pure mind in your delusion that is practice. If your have the pure mind, the essential mind, in your delusion - delusion will vanish. It cannot stay when you say, this is delusion. He will be very much ashamed of it. He will run away. So you should establish your practice in your delusion. To have delusion is practice. “To attain enlightenment before you realize it.” So you will attain enlightenment before you realize it. Even though you do not realize it, you have it. So, when you say ‘This is delusion’ that is enlightenment. But when you try to expel the delusion it will stay and your mind will become busier and busier to cope with the delusion you have. That is not so good.

Just say, ‘this is delusion’. That is enough and don’t be bothered by it -- ‘oh, this is just delusion’. When you see delusion you have your true mind -- calm, peaceful mind. When you start to cope with it you will be involved in delusion. So, when you sit, whether you attain enlightenment or not -- just to sit is enough. When you try to attain enlightenment, then you have big burden in your mind. So your mind will not be clear enough to see things as they are. Moreover we always exist with two sides-- things as they are and things as they should be. So we should attain enlightenment. That is one thing. But as long as we have physical, as we are physical beings it is pretty hard in reality. That is how we are actually in this moment. Even though we are not good right now we want to be better. That is another side. We exist here in that way, as everything exists in that way. So if we start to attain something, the other side of our nature will be brought up as they are and as they should be. But if we have transcendental mind beyond the things as they are and the things as they should be there we have perfect, peaceful mind. Usually religion develops itself in realm of consciousness by beautiful building, by wonderful music or by perfect organization. Those are in realm, those are religious activities in conscious world. But Buddhism emphasizes the world of unconsciousness.

So how to study Buddhism is how to sit, or how to join the practice or to live in good Buddhist is the way to study. It is much better than to read some book or to study some philosophy of Buddhism. Of course it is necessary to study our philosophy because by studying it you will have a firm conviction in your religion but our philosophy is not only philosophy of Buddhism. It is philosophy in general. Those practices were built up to protect the true teaching. In the way people may discuss about Buddhism is the most common way, the most understandable way, for everyone. So the purpose of Buddhist philosophy is not to propagate Buddhism in some wonderful, mystic way, but to protect our way so when we discuss something about religion we should discuss the problem in the most common and universal way, so that is why Buddhist philosophy is so universal, so logical, but it does not mean to expand our way, to propagate our way by some wonderful philosophy---philosophical thought.

So in some way Buddhism is rather polemical and some feeling of controversy is in it because the Buddhist has to protect their way from some mystical or some magic understanding -- magical understanding of religion. So philosophical will not be so good unless we have some particular interest in discussion with some other religious people. If you want to be a sincere Buddhist the best way is to have some place to sit, or to see some Buddhist culture, heritage, may be the best way. Anyway, when we sit we have to sit. That’s how to study Buddhism. We are very fortunate to have a place to sit in this way. So, I want you to have firm, wide, imperturbable conviction in your zazen of just to sit. Just to sit. That’s enough.
Los Altos box transcript. Exact copy entered unto disk & emailed to DC by GM 01/26/2009. Note: “original” hand written top of first page.

File name: 66-12-01: Beyond Consciousness Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, p. 127, (Not Verbatim) Changed name from 66-11-30 to 66-12-01 , dc 4-22-17.

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