become more honest and direct

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

SR: Once more, I think, I—I hope people will become honest and more direct, you know. That will be the, you know, root of the problem.

Student: Can you say that's—it's so simple to be honest and direct, why is it so hard?

SR: [Laughs.]

Student: Why do you think so many years?

SR: Yeah. Why it is so hard is because we—we are trying to escape from it. Yeah. We should suffer more, maybe. We will not lose in suffering, but if we try to escape from it, you will be caught by it.

Student: And that's—Isn't that right? And why did—how did it get started that we try to escape suffering so, because...

SR: Why?

Student: ...while I have the courage to face it, why it works out fine.

SR: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Student: Seldom can I do that, you know? How did it get so popular to run away from things?

SR: You know, we—we have many, many, you know, ways of escaping it—very advanced, and [laughs, laughter]. We have—we can now in escape from this Earth to the Moon, even! [Laughs.] You know, we have many, you know, ways of escaping trouble. And we are, you know—we have not much courage, you know, to face or to satisfy with a cup of water, you know. We are trying to put sugar in it, and, you know, and to sell something, you know. Putting something—you know. And it is not just exactly what I want, you know. Maybe I want a cup of plain water more. But I have to drink it, you know, because we, you know—we try to escape from something, you know, or we rely on something. We want make ourselves happy, you know, without, you know, making ourselves real—really happy.

But we—because we want to—ah, you know, we want to satisfy or—not satisfy—we want to, maybe we want to be fooled by something, you know. To escape actual suffering. If you—you—we are honest enough, you may say, “I like plain water.” But, if beautiful girl [laughs] serves some, you know, sweet, like this, you don't say, you know, “I like water.” Many things—many words is going with things to sell something, to force something on our—on us. So, in our everyday life, we find this kind of dishonesty. So, we are—if we become very frank and honest, you know, we—if we try to be honest, as much as we—we can, and if I want to have something—something for ourselves, you know, then various problem will be solved.

So, it—it is not possible to, you know, to change our way of life, you know, all—all at once, because our, you know—this kind of effort has been going for many hundreds of years. After—after Counter-Reformation, maybe, or Industrial Reformation. This is current[?] of our thought, I think. And we are deeply involved in it, and we like to enjoy it still, you know. Hai.

Student: Will you say something about practicing zazen alone, and practicing it at the Zen Center?

SR: Practicing zazen where?

Student: Alone.

SR: Alone.

Student: And practicing in a group?

SR: If you, you know, really want to practice zazen, naturally you may need some advice, you know. Practice should be for your own, you know—must be your own practice. So, it is necessary to—some advice, or instruction is necessary. So, after you start, you know, after you know pretty well about your practice, you can do it alone, maybe. If we start to talk about this kind of thing, it is, you know, endless [laughs], actually. You can do it alone, but always you should be—you should have cross-contact with, you know, more matured practice. Because there is no definite, you know, concrete way of practice. No—no more question? Is that okay? [Laughs.] So Dogen Zenji said—says, you know, “Two—two important thing is to practice zazen, and to ask advice from your teacher.” This two—point is very important for practice. Hai.

Student: Yeah, I have something that—a question that has—has come up in talking about Western religious quests, you know, versus Eastern religious quests, and one thing that I've heard people say is that Zen is more interested in the individual alone, and not so much in the society…

SR: [Laughs.]

Student: …as a whole.

SR: [Laughs.]

Student: You know, on the other hand I hear, you know, bodhisattvas say, you know…

SR: [Laughs.]

Student: …“Not rest until all sentient beings are saved.”

SR: Yeah.

Student: What—really, what is Zen's concern with society as a whole?

SR: Society, as a whole?

Student: You know, or all of the people in the country? Or all of the people in the world?

SR: [Laughs.]

Student: Is it—is it only a, you know, a thing that's so difficult that maybe just the people—it’s such, you know, an individual thing? Or—or is there some hope of, you know, all of the world, being…

SR: All over the world…

Student: …everyone being—

SR: …including stone, and trees, and everything that is, you know, our way. Not only human beings. That is, you know, so we are not interested in individual practice, so-called it individual practice. We do not acknowledge any self, you know. He—he may disagree with me [laughs]. Please come here [laughs]. Real self, you know, will be found in your surrounding, you know. You will be always completely, you know, absorbed in what you see. If you are not fooling yourself, you know. If you exist here, you know, that is very true. I—we know that. So, we have no individual practice, in its usual sense. Our indi—our individual practice include, or, you know—

Student: No one should practice alone?

SR: Hmm? No. No individual, no, you know, no practice just for yourself. You know, to take care of—care of zendo is practice. To take care of your own kitchen is practice. We understand practice in that way. How you know how to take care of your kitchen is how, who knows, you sit, you know. Even though you sit, you have many problems, you know. Drowsiness [laughs], pain in your legs, and posture, and you have to take care of your breathing, and you—your posture should not be like this, you know, you should be always straight. There are many things to take care of, in your practice. We are not just sitting on cushion, you know, [laughs] sleeping. We are taking care of everything. Just [as] you take care of your family, your children. That is real practice, you know. So, if you know how to take care of your practice, you will know how to take care of your business, you know, in its true sense. Sometime businessman doesn't take care of his own business [laughs]. He take care of something quite different! You know, beautiful girls [laughs], or bank books [laughs, laughter]. That is a problem! You know?

Student: You said that during practice, a student can do—must be careful not to do too little or too much.

SR: [Laughs.]

Student: As an example of too little, you said he might fall asleep. What do you mean by too much? How is it possible to do too much or try too hard?

SR: Talk to—too hard, you know, too hard.

Student: What would be an example?

SR: To get up, you know, too early, you know, before other students in bed, you know. To get up early and to sit—that is not good practice! You know, our rules is not so loose, you know [laughs]. We—our rules is, you know, just, you know, just right [laughs]. If you try to do, you know, more, you will be exhausted. You cannot, you know, keep your practice for seven days—eventually you will give up. That is the result, you know. So, you know, this much care, you know, is necessary on the part of the teacher or leader. [Laughs] okay?

The great teachers are doing, you know, just enough, and not much [laughs, laughter]. Sometimes they wear, you know, gorgeous, you know, okesa, and beautiful hat [laughs], and, you know, long staff, you know, beautiful sandal, and beautiful whisk, you know. You may think, “That is too much!” [laughs]. But actually, maybe too much! [Laughs, laughter.] Maybe too much, but—reason why they do so is people like it, you know [laughter, laughs]. So Huineng[?] said, you know, “Even though I wear gorgeous robe, this is just right for the people” [laughs]. For, you know, people—contemporary[?] people, he may say.

[Laughs] ah, maybe before I finish my lecture, I'll, you know, let me talk more about Kumazawa Zenji. [Laughs] I rather, you know, 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, you know, some thirty years ago. And, you know, he gave us some Zen story during sesshin time. We are sitting in cold, cold zendo, for seven days, at Eiheiji, in the snow. And we are, you know, very serious our practice. Of course, we are so young! [Laughs.]

One morning, Kumazawa—late Kumazawa Zenji—at that time he was Kanin of the—he was Director of Eiheiji monastery—came to zendo and gave us a Zen story. He said, “Do you understand this story?” He said, "As sparrow—a sparrow broked, you know, big stone gate—torii.” “Ishi no torii” means, you know, big gate built by—built of stone. As thick as this, maybe, I don't know how big. But a sparrow break it. I don't know how—maybe by stepping on it! [Laughs.]

And he said, “Do you understand?” I—we thought that is some koan, you know. We must solve during seven-day sesshin. And he started to talk about it, in very serious mood. I didn't like, you know, that kind of, you know, story—Zen story, so-called it Zen story. I feel as if, wherever I read or hear Zen story, I felt as if I was fooled by [laughs] someone, without giving not much reason for it is so, you know. They talk about something funny. So, because I didn't like it, so I remembered it, what he said. I still remembered it.

But the other day, you know, when I, you know, think about what he said, you know, when I repeat it, what he said, “Kosuzume ga—kosuzume ga, ishi no torii wo fumiotta. Kosuzume ga ishi no torii wo fumiotta.” What does it mean? Of course, in Japanese, I'm sorry. It is Japanese. “Ishi no torii wo fumiotta.” “Fumiotta” means, you know, to step on it and break it, it's to “fumioru.” But another meaning may be “fundeita” [laughs]. A sparrow was stepping on the, you know, stone—“fundeita”! [Laughs.] Was stepping on the stone, back and forth, you know. “Fumioru”—always one meaning is break, and the other meaning is it—on it, stepping on it, it's the other meaning.1

[Laughs] what he said was—he was, you know, seriously talking about it as if a sparrow was breaking the, you know, was—has broken the big stone gate. But when—when he—before he start to talk about, to say something, to explain that koan, he repeated, “Did you understand?” [Laughs.] “Did you understand!” You know, no one could understand that it was joke! [Laughs] because we were too serious! [Laughs.] No one talked about, you know, his joke, or his koan after, you know, that, you know, sesshin time. Because no one could understand what he meant! [Laughs.] Or no one could understand that was just a joke! [Laughs.]

You know, that is another side of the serious, you know, practice. That is, you know, if we could, you know—if someone could, you know, know that was just joke, you know—we are practicing very good practice—not too much effort [laughs], but not too little [laughs]. Maybe we are—we are wasting our effort, doing—making some excessive effort. Too much effort—so we—we lost our, you know, usual thinking mind. That is how we obtain, you know, our true practice. [Laughs.] He was a really great Zen master. That is, you know, how you'll solve the problem.

If you—if every, you know, governor of the United State is like—like him—not much problem [laughs] will not arise [laughs]. Even though someone is very, you know, mad at him, they will treat, you know, treat him just, you know, just right. Not too, you know—not too strong or not too soft. That is not something which we can attain, by a skill, you know, by repeating things. But if you know—just know—what is real practice, then, you know, you will have—just you can do things just right.

Thank you very much.

1 This is a pun.
ORU can mean “break” but it is also the auxiliary verb used to form a progressive mode of a tense. It is archaic, or at least regional language.
FUMIOTTA as 踏み折ったmeans “broke by stepping on it.”
FUMIOTTA as 踏みおった means “was stepping on it”
- Frederick and Takayo Harriman

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. Further preparation to post by DC. More editing and transcription by CM end of October 2012 using the enhanced audio. Talk is straightforward (couple Japanese phrases) and mostly understandable with hardly any interference. Checked by DC, 12/2014. Verbatim version based on Engage Wisdom audio by Wendy Pirsig, Shundo David Haye and Peter Ford, 8/2022.


File name: 68-00-00-B: become more honest and direct (titled by pf) (Verbatim) spedup a bit (Sound problem.)] Q & A after lecture. Changed "ichi" to "ishi", "fumioro" to "fumioru", "Ko suzume" to "Kosuzume", "fundeitta" to "fundeita"- thanks Fred and Takayo Harriman. Changed Komazawa to Kishizawa, 12-17-2014. Changed to Kumazawa 1-26-2015.

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