Lotus Sūtra No. I-2

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

February 1968
Zen Mountain Center


A ray issued from Buddha's forehead between eyebrow. Everyone could see many things, and about this miraculous sight, Manjusri is asking—no, Maitreya Bodhisattva asking Manjusri what—why this kind—this kind of miraculous sight appears. And still we have several, about more than ten gathas about those sight. Page 14, number 36 [from Saddharma Pundarika translated by H. Kern1]:

Some, again, offer in presence of Jinas and the assemblage of disciples gifts in food, hard and soft, food and drink, medicaments for the sick, in plenty and abundance, you know, plenty and abundance.

Some again offered in the presence of Jinas—Jinas is Buddha. And the assemblage of disciples, gifts consisting in food hard and soft. Food or delicacies, you know. To sip and to eat hard and soft means, you know, something to chew and some—something to sip. And so hard and soft—soft—soft means, you know, something like soup. And the food—food and drink —"meat and drink" here it says, but food maybe—food and drink. Because in this translation it is translated—in food and soft—in "food hard and soft." It says food here, so—so—so that he may not repeat same word he translated—eating in food. But the first "food" is dishes and delicacies, something to chew, something to sip. And "food and drink" this food is various food to eat, and food and drink, like wine or lemonade. Food and drink [laughs, laughter]. Repetition, you know. Medicaments for the sick, in plenty and abundance.

And number 37: "Others offer in the presence of Jinas and the assembly—assemblage of disciples hundreds of kotis of clothes, worth thousands of kotis, and garments of priceless value." And this is, you know—there may not be no need to explain.

And number 38, "They bestow in the presence of Sugatas hundreds of kotis of monasteries—hundreds of kotis of monasteries which they have caused to be built—caused to be built of precious substances and sandalwood, and which are furnished with numerous lodgings or couches."

"Hundreds—hundreds kotis of monasteries," monasteries—like Tassajara, hundreds [laughs] of kotis of monasteries "which they have caused to be built of precious substance—substances," like various jewels and stones, "and sandalwood," sandalwood—sandalwood? Sandalwood is—do you know sandalwood? Sandalwood, "and which are furnished with numerous lodgings or couches." Lodging or couches—this is rather important words which appears many and many times in various scriptures. This is one of the five materials to offer to Buddha—bed. And this lodgings include something like—like a bed, you know. You put, you know, mats on some—what do you call it? Some—not—something which has legs—four legs, and you put mats on it—it include mats and bedcover and a pillow and cushion or—bedcover is some textile and cushion which you have cotton, or stuffing, in it, and pillow and something to sometime to sit on. So, it is something like couch. It includes those things.

“Furnished with numerous beddings or couches.” And monks or priests, you know, are prohibited to use some expensive ones, you know. We should not use material made of sheep, or, you know, sheep leather—sheep—what do you call—sheep [Student: wool] –not wool [Student: skin] skin, you know. But in some country, like Tibet, it is allowed to use skin. And if we change it so soon, it is violence[?] of the precepts. We should not change in six years, at least. And we are supposed to use same bed for thirteen years [laughs]. But this is—we do not—nowadays we do not observe strictly this kind of rules, but in old time they had very strict rules about food and bed and lodgings. Here [in the sutra] they see various, you know, monasteries built of precious jewels [laughs] and sandalwood, but this is, of course, not real—real story[?].

The next one, "Some present and—some present the leader of men—some present the leader of men and their disciples with neat and lovely garden bounding with fruits and beautiful flowers, to serve as place of daily recreation." Some present the leader of the—of men—leader of men is, of course, Buddha. "...and their disciples with neat and lovely gardens abandoning—abounding with fruits and beautiful flowers," like—maybe like Church Creek [laughs], with—abounding with fruits and beautiful flowers "to serve as a place of daily recreation" [laughs]. This is, you know—it looks—this translation [laughs] looks like very, you know, very picnic like [laughs], but it is—it is not actually so. After they, you know, after [laughs, laughter] after they make—after they have begging, you know, in midnight—in mid-day, when it is very hot, they rest for a while at some—some—someone's garden. It is very good to, you know, to rest, having something good which is offered by the—by the owner of the house or garden, and putting, you know, heavy things aside and rest under the tree and have something good. This is our custom, you know, maybe. In Japan we do this also. When it is very cold, we may be—we may be introduced in some warm room for a rest[?] and lot of charcoal fire, and they may serve mochi [laughs, laughter] with plenty of sugar, and [laughs], you know, sometime, New Year's dishes. And for a while we can rest at that home. So, this is a kind of maybe recreation.

“Place of daily recreation.” But it is a place of afternoon recreation maybe, afternoon rest. It does not mean to—to have, you know, to rest to have good time all day long, you know. Just after [laughs] having had practice of begging, for a while when it is—only when it is hot, they would rest—and some—at someone's home. They could see and the priests Buddha and his disciples resting at some farm[?] beautiful home—home.

The next one, "When they have, with joyful feeling—feelings, made such various and splendid donations, they rouse their energy in order to obtain enlightenment; those are those who try to reach supreme enlightenment by means of charitableness."

Here in this gatha lord[?] is missing—lord[?] is not described. But lord[?] is here, you know. When Buddha—people who met with Buddha wanted—most of them wanted to be his disciple, if possible. But those who cannot be his disciple would contributed something. That is actually what they did. So, when they have—when joyful being would meeting Buddha—with encountering the Buddha—it means that when they have with joyful feeling made such various and splendid donations, they cannot be—because they couldn’t be his disciple he donated—they donated something instead of being his disciple. They rouse their energy in order to obtain enlightenment.
So anyway, he wanted to participate Buddha's work and to feel better. That is what it really mean. "Those are those who try to reach supreme enlightenment by means of charitableness." This is very, you know—it is more natural, you know. It is like—if we describe this way it is something like special practice to attain enlightenment. It is so—it was so, the—for the bodhisattva. We—the bodhisattva has six paramita: dana paramita, sila paramita, ksanti or patience paramita, or zeal paramita, virya paramita, and this one is meditation dhyana paramita, and the sixth one is so-called prajna paramita. Those are bodhisattvas’ practice. And—but this kind of practice they did more naturally; the later we, you know, count, six prajna—like six prajna paramita or four practice of bodhisattva.

The number 41, "Others set forth the law of quietness—the law of quietness, by many myriads of illustrations and proofs; they preach it to thousands of kotis of the living beings; there are— these are tending to supreme enlightenment by—science?" Science—by—maybe by wisdom. It said by science, but science? [laughter, laughs] –very modern [laughs]. This is science—S C I E N C E [laughter]. Enlightenment by, yeah, wisdom [laughter, laughs]. Just to, you know, others set forth the law of quietness. "The law of quietness." We should be quiet, first of all [laughs, laughter] before you practice anything. You—first of all, you—we should be quiet. That is meditation. "By many myriads of illustrations and proofs." If you sit quiet, you will be like this. This is proof. And how you keep quiet, that is illustration. "They preach it to thousand—thousands of—of kotis and living beings." Just to sit is to preach Buddha's teaching to every being. Those are tending to supreme enlightenment by wisdom.

The—42, "There are sons of the Sugata who try to reach enlightenment by wisdom; they understand the law of indifference and avoid acting at the antinomy of things, attach—attached like birds in the sky." “There are sons of Sugata who try to reach enlightenment by wisdom.” To have perfect wisdom.

By having perfect wisdom, they understand the law of the indifferent means, yeah, indifference means non-action, non-thinking, non-activity. Dhamma of—law of indifference—law of non-action. "And avoid acting at the antinomy," dualistic activity. "Unattached like a bird in the sky." Like a bird in the sky. We say, “Bird flies like bird, fish swim like fish.” That is zazen.

Number 43, "Further, I see," "I" means Maitreya Bodhisattva. "Further I see O Manjughosha.” Manjughosha is Manjusri. "Further I see, O Manjughosha, many Bodhisattvas who have displayed steadiness under the rule of departed Sugatas, and now are worshipping the relics of the Jinas."

We have seen already many things. First of all, I saw—we saw—we saw many Buddhas entering meditation, and we saw this earth was shaking—is shaking—were shaking in six ways, and we saw a ray issued from the Buddha's forehead, and we saw our incarnations—people’s incarnation—incarnated in six states of living being. Starting from heaven, human, and animal, asura, hungry ghost, hell: these six worlds. And we saw also Bodhisattvas who are practicing. No, we saw a buddha in each world, and—and we heard the Law preached by them. And we saw Buddha's congregation—four congregations: monks, nuns, male and female lay devotees. And we saw bodhisattvas who are helping others [possible break in tape here]. And here we saw—we see Buddha finally taking Nirvana. And last one will be the stupas and the mound—building stupas and mound for Buddha, and worshipping Buddha's tomb—graveyard. This is the whole story of this sutra.

"I see thousands of kotis of Stupas, numerous as the sand of Gangas [Ganges], which have been raised by those son of Jina and now adorn kotis of grounds."

In each world there is Buddha—in each innumerable worlds there is Buddha who took final Nirvana and who adorned the kotis of land with this kind of stupa. A stupa is—Buddha’s disciples—Buddha did not encourage them to make stupas, but—but some of them actually—when some nun passed away, and they built one stupa for the nun. But most—mostly stupa was built by Mahayana Buddhist, mostly. And we have—we have a certain form in the building—way of building stupas, you know. It is something which is round, you know, underneath the roof— it’s umbrella, you know, to protect Buddha's tomb—mound. And on which we have center of the umbrella, you know. If you go to Japan Center, you will see the stupa, you know. The top of the building—there it seem[?] –we call it ??? nine rings[?], that is a symbol of center of the—center of the umbrella. And center of the building there supposed to be a sarira [relic] of the Buddha.

"Those magnificent Stupas, made of seven precious substances, with their thousands of kotis of umbrellas and banners, measure in height no less than 5000 yojanas and 2000 in circumference."

Number 46, "They are always decorated with flags; multitude of bells is constantly heard sounding; men, gods, goblin, and Titans pray their worship—pay their worship with flowers, perfumes, and musics—music."

Men, gods, we already explained. And men, devas, goblins. And goblins is yakshas, and titans is rakshasas. Rakshasas—rakshasas, titans—I—I don’t know whether we had it before, rakshasas—rakshasas. Rakshasas are devas who devours human—human being, is sucking our blood and eating our [laughs] flesh. They are rakshasas. And this is supposed to be southern Asian—southern [laughs] southerner of the southern of India. Maybe the—there is—there’s supposed to be the island where many rakshasas were living. That island could be Ceylon; I don't know. There were five hundreds of merchants who wanted to cross the ocean, but by the hurricane or by the storm they were drifted to the island of rakshasas— rakshasas. But they disguised, you know, themselves as a decent people, and they invited the merchants to a beautiful castle. But at the midnight they climb [laughter, laughs] climb out to the wall of the castle and—and they saw another castle. And he—they more climbed up higher and peeked in the inside of the castle, where many rakshasas get through[?] the devouring human being [laughs]. Some were still alive [laughs, laughter]. So, he was [laughs] very much frightened and they tried—they discussed how to escape from the castle. And fortunately they could get out of the castle. This kind of story is told in some Buddhist—Buddhist scriptures, it is said. I—I haven't read it [laughs, laughter]. That is rakshasas. When you recite, you know, this sutra, yakshas and rakshasas will, you know, yakshas and rakshasas always get together and frighten us. Yakshas and rakshasas.

Number 46, “They are always”—oh—number 47, "Such honor do the son of the—son of the Sugata render to relics of the Jinas, so that all directions of the space are brightened as by the celestial coral trees in full blossom.”

Number 48, "From this spot I behold all this; those numerous kotis of creatures; both this world and heaven were covered with flowers, owing to the single ray shot forth by the Jina."

Those were seen by—by—by the people who gathered at the Rajagriha when the ray issued from Buddha's forehead.

"O how powerful is the Leader of men! how extensive and bright is his knowledge! that a single beam darted by him over the world renders visible so many thousands of fields!

"We are astonished—we are astonished at the seeing this sign and this wonder, so great, so incomprehensible. Explain me the matter, O Manjusvara! the son of Buddha are anxious to know it.

"The four classes of the congregation in joyful expectation gaze on thee, O hero, and me—and on me; gladden their hearts; remove their doubts; grant a revelation, O son of Sugata!”

52 "Why is it that Sugata has now emitted such a light? O how great is the power of the Leader of men! O how extensive and holy is his knowledge!”

53 "That one ray extending from him all over the world makes visible many thousands of fields. It must be for some purpose that this great ray has been emitted.

"Is the Lord of men to show the primordial law which he, the Highest of men, discovered on the terrace of enlightenment? Or is he to prophesy the Bodhisattvas their future destiny? Or is he to prophesy the Bodhisattvas their future destiny?

"There must be weighty reason why so many thousands of fields have been rendered visible, variegated, splendid, and shining with gems, while Buddhas of infinite sight are appearing.

"Maitreya asked the son of Jina; men, gods, goblins, and Titans, the four classes of the congregation, are eagerly awaiting what answer Manjusvara shall give in explanation.

"Whereupon Manjusri, the prince royal, addressed Maitreya, the Bodhisattva Mahasattva, the whole assembly of Bodhisattvas in these words:"

I must continue this for two—three lectures. Do you have some question?

Q: Roshi, I have a question on some—you said not to stop thinking, but to be free from thinking, and I wonder if you could explain what it means to be free from thinking?

R: Not, excuse me?

Q: You said, not trying to stop thinking, but be free from thinking, and I wonder if you could explain what it means to be free from thinking.

R: Free from—what I meant was, you know, don't be bound by, you know, your thinking. When you think—when you reach some conclusion by thinking, you will, you know, definitely—you will have some definite idea of something. A definite conclusion. Actually, that is why [laughs] you think, you know: to have some definite answer, you think. But that is not possible.

Q: So, what should you do?

R: Hah?

Q: What should you do?

R: You can think, and thinking will help you. That is, of course thinking will help you. But that answer, even after you take it, you should ignore that, at the same time. So, you think, but you are free from thinking. That is what I meant. So, to have, you know, to—we call it double-edged blade. So double-edge think [laughs]—don't think and think [laughs]. Two ways—it works two ways. Or double nature, double construction of Buddhist philosophy, you know, double construction: thinking construction and non-thinking construction. Some other question?

Q: Last night you mentioned the world of—of form, and the world of—the world of desire; the world of form and the world of no form. Would you explain what the world of form is and how that differs from the world of desire?

R: World of desire is the world of attachment—desire, you know. To attach to something, so you—you have desires. World of form is the world—is world as it is, including desires. We have desires maybe; every—everything has a kind of desires. But if we observe desires as it is, that is also form world, not desire world. The form of no—world of no form is usually attained in your deep zazen. When you do not feel your body, you're being in that is part of no—no form. Those are the worlds where we—every being exist.

Q: What’s the evil one that was in the sutra last night?

R: Hmm?

Q: The evil one that was in the sutra last night?

R: Evil one, oh. Evil—there are many various being, good and evil.

Q: I can’t believe ??? told evil one.

Student: Mara!

R: Mara, oh, ???. I didn’t notice it. [Sound of turning pages.] I must find out exactly what it is.

Q: It’s on the right side, and it’s at the top. I can’t remember what page.

R: ??? [laughter] the top of the page?

Q: I was on the page [laughs].

R: Okay, I’ll find out. Some other question?

Q: Roshi, in Hinduism they—often they worry about good karma and bad karma and collecting merit. And then Bodhidharma presents the—about the Emperor asks Bodhidharma about the merit in making many temples. Bodhidharma said, "No merit." In what sense is there merit in reading a sutra or chanting the sutra?

R: The—for—for Zen Buddhism to sit is to read sutra—now we understand opposite way. It is actually—we practice our way—let me explain this point. This is very good question. This is our—the—our attitude towards scripture. For an instance, in other school, they do practice, you know. Lotus Sutra is—for an instance, Nichiren said, "You should read scripture by your body. You should experience it." When he say so, he means, you know, even though he’s going to be killed, but sword will be brake in two, piece by piece. If that kind of thing happens to him, it means that he reads scripture by his experience, by his body.

So, but—we also say you should read, you know, scripture by your body. But when we mean it—meaning—what we mean by that is—not only this scripture has eternal truth—universal truth which is true with this culture, and with bodhisattva, with various kinds of followers of Buddhism. And this is true with river and mountain and everything. So, to read this scripture by body means to find the truth of it in everything, in everyday activity. You know, there's big difference. So, the merit of reading this scripture is to find the truth of this scripture in our everyday activity. So that we can—we can understand perfectly—better—we read this scripture. To be familiar with the truth. This is our attitude towards scripture. It doesn’t mean—in this script—in this scripture, you know, there is this kind of statement. So, we should observe everything, you know, as every—as things described in this scripture. [Possibly a break in the recording here.]
Building temples—building temples is, of course, merit, not because he built temple, but because his understanding of Buddhism and helping Buddhism. That is merit. But without any faith to build a monastery—a monastery. It doesn’t mean is extremely [laughs]. This is—to say in this way is too—too much, but ???. Real merit is not matter of building temple or not building temple, or amount of things big or small. This is our understanding. Am I answering your question?

Q: Um, hmm.

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

R: Yes, to help. If you are—when you become familiar with—with the Shin Gyo, what you will do naturally will express your understanding, your attitude. Even though you don't realize it, there is big difference between the people who can recite sutra and who cannot. So, of course, ??? that you can recite sutra or that you recite sutra will help others. You know, I—from my cabin, you know, when I am resting, there is window, you know, in front of my sink. And you are always bowing, you know. Before you enter the restroom, you bow. And I don’t think you are—you are just doing it like this, you know, maybe because you get accustomed to it. So, the moment you, you know, go to that place and bow. But I thought, if someone saw—if someone saw that—if someone saw someone bowing to that place like ???, what kind of feelings they will have? The people may not know what does it mean, but I think we—you will give them big influence like that[?]. You will not give them bad influence. You just do it, you know [laughs]. And that's very valuable thing. This is same thing as reciting sutras.

So, many like Sariputra—Buddha's disciples converted many—many learned scholars to Buddhism. Sariputra converted to Buddhism when he saw Assaji who was walking on the street with a very steady step. So, each one of 250 characters of Prajna Paramita Shingyo is bodhisattva itself[?], Buddha himself. What it means is not intelligible—more than how we understand. That it means is enough[?] this merit for—for us and for others too.


1 At times Suzuki doesn’t read the text exactly. It is available online at www.buddhism.org/Sutras/2/Lotus_Sutra.htm.

Originally checked, transcribed, and edited by Brian Fikes.
Old file name 68-02-LS.2
Prepared for digital archive by DC 9-12. Verbatim version created August 2023 by Peter Ford from audio by EngageWisdom.

File name: 68-02-00-B: Lotus Sūtra No. I-2 (Verbatim) sped up at end - join 1n2 for t-B not like A. Edited by Brian Fikes

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