Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. II-8

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Fall 1968
Zen Mountain Center


Buddha's disciples were very good people, generous and honest and sincere, but they were, I think, very tough guys, very tough [laughs, laughter], you know, and his followers were very strong people, I think. For an instance, when—as you know, Diamond Sutra was told at the—in Japanese, Giju-gikkodoku-on [Skt.: Jetavananathapindadarama], the Jeta given—given by Prince Jeta—the park given to Buddha—given to Buddha by Jeta—Prince Jeta. And the story is when Sudatta wanted to give—wanted to provide Buddha some place to stay. He seeked for some land some place, and at last he found a beautiful place but that was—that property was property of Prince Jeta. So, he sought the prince and asked him to give it to Buddha. But he didn't say yes, and he said, “If you pay as much money as you could pave, you know, all the land by coin, [laughs] I will give you,” he said. Sudatta was very—also a very wealthy person, so he said, “Okay, I will do that.” [Laughs] and he brought a lot of coin and started to pave [laughs] that land. And Prince Jeta was very much impressed by him, and he said, “Okay, okay [laughs, laughter]. I will donate it to—to your boss,” [laughs, laughter].

That was, you know, how Giju record the word [laughs]. Giju record the word. I will recite sutra in that way [laughs]. [Here Suzuki starts to recite the sutra. It sounded something like this, but I doubt the spelling is right— Brian Fikes.] “Gije reko do ban, yo dai biku shu dai myo ____ ____ ____.” That is how we recite Diamond Sutra in Japanese. This is Chinese, actually, not Japanese. We recite it actually—Chinese people did it maybe—well maybe more than one thousand years ago [laughs]. We are—we are still following Chinese—we are reciting it, old Chinese pronunciation.

Anyway, that park was given to him by Jeta, Prince Jeta. Not only his followers—his students were very tough people. I didn't talk about Aniruddha—Aniruddha. Aniruddha is famous for his supernatural power [abhijna]. He had supernatural power. How he gained that supernatural power is very interesting. He must be—he was—once he slept, you know, when Buddha was giving a lecture [laughs, laughter]. And he was one of the seven, or more priests who belonged to Shakya family. Maybe Buddha was too familiar to—to him—for him, so he started to sleep. But Buddha blamed of his drowsy—drowsiness, so he decided not to sleep anymore [laughs]. Very tough. He didn't, you know, go to bed since then [laughter]. And, at last, he, you know, lost his sight [laughter]. Giba—Giba [Jivaka] is a famous, you know, I don’t know how you call him in Sanskrit, Giba. Giba was a very famous physician, and he—Buddha asked him to take care of his eyes. But because he didn't go to bed, you know, [laughs] so he couldn't do anything with him. And he—when—but he lost his naked eyes, he gained in supernatural power. Spiritual—he gained spiritual eyes.

I think Buddha's teaching originally is very—his character is very gentle, but his spirit was very strong. Yesterday morning I told about four suffering or eight suffering. Four suffering is to be—to come this world is already suffering, and to old age, and sickness, and death. And not to be—not to be able to get what we want, not to be able to see who you love best, and not to be always—that we cannot be always with someone who you love, and, but instead, you will see always who you don't like. This kind of [laughs, laughter] you know, teaching is very negative teaching [laughs] you know, started from very—at least based on this kind of negative feeling.

But think of why he escaped from, you know [laughs], castle. He did not, you know, escape from castle because he wanted to seclude himself in remote mountain. But he—when he saw sick people and poor people and old people and having difficult time in the city around his castle, as their prince, you know, he felt a kind of responsibility for them. And his notion was to save them, you know, to find out some way to—to help them completely. He, you know [laughs], he is very [laughs]—I think he is very extraordinary person, you know. Almost all the people, you know, even Buddha's time, must have resigned from the problem of death [laughs] or sickness. That, you know, as long as—even though we do not like to die, but this come to everyone. So, we—we—we think it can't be helped, you know. [Laughs] there is no way for us—no possibility for us to conquer this kind of problem. And there is no possibility to help people who is going to die, but he didn't give up. He had extraordinary spirit, I think. That—that—that was why he resigned and gave up heritage[?] to the—to his father.

So, there is no wonder that his disciple were so tough—very tough people. He did not—they did not afraid of anything, even death. And their way-seeking mind went even beyond the suffering of life and death. Buddha did not talk about the problem of birth and death just to make us, you know, unhappy, but because after he attained enlightenment—because we have this kind of problem—or this kind of problem will help us to have real strength. When we are, you know, our spirit is limited by this kind of problem, we cannot have perfect composure of life. That is why he talked about this kind of teaching in his own very critical standpoint.

So, we must see our life completely, and we have to confront all the problem by all means. So, to confront with those suffering is to develop our spirit—religious spirit. And before we—our spirit is emancipated from this kind of problem, there is no chance to have perfect enlightenment.

And here is a good example: As you know, Buddha was the first one who—in India, as you know, in India at that time, or even now maybe, I don't know, has very—very strict idea of class. The highest one was Brahman. The second one was the Ksatriyas. Brahman is the religious people— priests. And next one was kings or rulers of the country. And common people who participate farming or some other works [Vaisyas]. And the lowest class was slave [Sudras] maybe.

And Upali—Upali is the—one of the ten disciple, but he—before he become—before he joined Buddha's order, he was barber, and he belonged to—and he belonged to Sudra or servant [laughs] servant class maybe. And when he served Shakyamuni Buddha's family, and he shaved their ??? there—he worked for Buddha’s family. But when Buddha came back to his home—to his castle, after saving the five disciples and having donated—having been—donated that Giju-gikkodoku-on [laughs], I don't know how—how you call it in Sanskrit—that park. And having more disciples, who belonged to some other teachers or some other religion. There were people who worshipped fire, you know. And three names—here there is—there—there are their names. Venerable Uruvilva [pronounces a few ways], venerable Kasyapa of Nadi, venerable Kasyapa of Gaya, venerable—there must be one more Kasyapa. Those are brothers and served god of fire. And they joined Buddha's order with one thousand disciples. So, when he—before he come back to his castle, he had pretty many disciples already.

And after he come back to his castle, he had all the—all his family—seven people joined his order, including the prince of his father, [laughs] his father’s prince ??? again joined Buddha’s order. So, his father had no prince anymore—didn’t have any [laughs] prince. And Rahula [other pronunciations], his son, and his cousin, the Aniruddha I talked about and the blind disciple Ananda and Devadatta. Ananda—Aniruddha is the one who I am talking about now.

When all those families, you know, joined his order, he helped them to shave their head, and at last he wanted to be a priest too. But because he was—he belonged to Sudra class, he hesitated[?]. But Buddha, knowing that, became very sympathetic with him, and he let him join his order. And when—at that time, one more his family [Ananda] wanted to join the order, but Buddha said, “Wait,” you know. “If you,” you know, “join our order, perhaps you will be the last one. And after you join the order if Upali join our order, he will—should be seated always last seat, so he may be, you know, he will not be so happy. So, wait, let him [laughs], you know, join my order before—before you.”

So, Ananda, you know, gave his turn to—to him—to Upali. And Upali joined the order. And later Ananda joined Buddha’s order. So, but when, you know, all of seven families were seated their own seat, when Ananda is coming, Ananda was, you know, gave—saluted, you know, six—six disciples, and he—he had to take his seat. But when, you know, Ananda—when Upali came to sit, Ananda, who gave him the turn, you know, hesitated to [laughs] —to bow to him. Despite[?], you know, he—he knew Buddha was right, you know, we should not discriminate this class or that class, higher or lower. He knows that, but actually [laughs] when he came toward[?]—next to [laughs] him, he, you know, he couldn't, you know, bow. He—he forgot, or he couldn't do this, you know, because he was his barber always. He was his servant, so it was rather difficult to [laughs], you know, bow to him. Buddha was very angry with [laughs, laughter] —with Ananda, and he gave him a long lecture not to discriminate, you know, not to discriminate with class. Whatever the class is when—this is a very famous word: When you—when people join our order, they are all Shaku—Shakyamuni family. They are all Shakyamuni family. As all the river came into ocean, there is no name of the river. So is our order. There is no name when—there is no family name when they join our order.

You may say he has—Buddha had strange [laughs] Buddha was strange person [laughs]. Maybe he’s a monk[?]. In some way he has very strange spirit, but his spirit is something unusual. That was why he was called, I think, “Buddha.” He was [possible gap in audio here].
So, they did not know in what kind of occasions they would be scolded [laughs]. When they expect, you know, to be scolded, Buddha was very gentle [laughs], but when they didn't expect anything—they didn’t fear anything bad, they were scolded [laughs] terribly [laughs]. He had, you know, I think, some unusual spirit which goes beyond our world. So, for a Buddhist, this world is one of the millions of the world—small, tiny world. The—there should be many and many worlds beside this small world. So, scheme of this sutra is very big, and there is no wonder why this kind of description came out from Buddha’s thought[?].

Upali—Upali, who belonged to a Sudra class, and, I think, he’s famous for his precepts observation. Not much things—events are told about him, but in—after Buddha's death they had, as you know, synod or compiling conference. At that time, he decided precepts.

And our[?] precepts—I must tell you one more thing about Aniruddha, who is—who was blind—who became blind without sleeping. He—when he started his journey—journey of training—as you know, as long as—in India in summertime is—is some—they have rainy season. When it is difficult to go around the country, various part of India, they stayed some certain place with Buddha and practiced with him. And sometimes they—when it is—as long as it is fine clear weather, they went for a journey. And usually Buddha told them to make journey one by one. And Buddha said—told them, “You should be always one[?], you know, and you should trust people. Wherever you go, you trust people. And you should treat them as your friend.” This is Buddha's way, you know.

Someone, I don't know Christianity, but [laughs] someone compared this point with Christian way too[?]. When Jesus, you know, sent his disciple, you know, he—he told them don’t make trip, just one person. You should go more than two person, and you will have many difficulties. You will have many enemies. So, don’t make trip, just one person—by yourself.

But [laughs] I don't think—I don’t want to compare [laughs] Buddhism to Christianity in that kind of way. That is just—if you try to compare Buddhism, you know, to Christianity in some way, the opposite, you know, conclusion, you will—you will have. So, this is not fair [laughs] to say Buddhism is a more generous teaching and Christianity more exclusive. But this is—anyway, this is very interesting.

So, Aniruddha, the blind priest, you know, went for a journey, and he stayed—he happened to stay, or he had to stay some woman's home where there is only her. There’s no other person. That woman, you know, started to like him so much [laughs]. And he—she loved him, you know, but as he was a priest, he was rather [laughs] —he said, “You shouldn't do that,” you know. [Much laughter throughout this story.] And after he came back to Buddha, he told what has happened to him when he stayed at some woman’s home. So, Buddha set up one precepts at that time. He fails[?] for—then Buddha provided one precept: not to stay, you know, some woman's home alone. If you want to stay, you should stay with someone else. If there is no one, you know, there’s no one to stay with—with him, at—at—at her home, you should always recite a sutra and think of Buddha. Always “Buddha, Buddha, Buddha.” That is one of the precepts, he said. He is famous—Aniruddha is famous for helping Buddha to set up one precepts. [Laughter, laughs (again).]

Do you have some [laughs]—some question?

Q: Roshi, I think I understand what a sravaka is and what a pratyeka buddha is, but I still can't understand what an arhat is. Will you try once more to—

SR: Arhat—arhat—arhatship is goal of, you know, goal of practice of sravakas—hearer. You see, historically, you know, at one time sravakas—in the sravakas or pratyeka—I don’t know how this kind of word we—how we—why we and when and how we made this kind of technical term. I don’t know, it is maybe someone may know, but I don't know. Or maybe pretty difficult to know when, and how, and why we have this—we use this kind of technical term. But perhaps Mahayana, you know, so-called it “Mahayana Buddhist” later used this kind of technical term. Actually, there are, you know, most of them are the—most of the—perhaps maybe all of them, all of the direct disciples are sravakas. All the sravakas he named—all the arhats’ name is listed, you know, as a disciple of Buddha. They are the same person. While bodhisattva, like Bodhisattva Manjushri, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, is not listed, you know, as a historical person. Maybe they are the people who were supposed to be told by Buddha, but since, for an instance, this sutra was not told actually by Buddha. This sutra was told by someone else, after [laughs] long, long after he passed away—Buddha passed away, maybe one or two centuries in A. D.

So, purpose perhaps this kind of sravakas or pratyeka, or sravaka—sometime Mahayana Buddhist—Mahayana sutra—earliest Mahayana sutra is supposed to be small—small Prajnaparamita Sutra, Shobo Hannya. And in that sutra, they do not say “Mahayana” or “Hinayana.” Instead of using “Hinayana,” they use “Shravakayana” or “people who hears.” I don't know Sanskrit, but sravakas means to hear, at—who studied by—under Buddha, it means. And “Bodhisattva ayaya[?]” means who studied Bodhisattva’s—who studied Bodhisattva’s way. And Mahayana, so called it Mahayana way or Bodhisattva way originated by—by the other assembly who meet outside of the cave. Cave means, you know, in the cave synod was held to compile Buddha's teaching. And in that cave, older and famous disciple assembled and compiled the scripture.

But there were many disciples who did not join that meeting. They are called—I don't know Sanskrit word—daishubu. Daishu is—daishu means public, a more public assembly. And, of course, they compiled some other sutras. Maybe small Prajnaparamita Sutra was compiled by those people. But in—even in that sutra, they do not use shravakas or Hinayana or Mahayana. And for—if at that time if we say, “Buddhism” it means, you know, the Buddhist Buddhism which was taught by Buddha, or which was a teaching which is compiled by—by those famous disciples. Those are shravakas, but instead we should call them, you know, maybe “original Buddhist” instead of calling Hinayana.

It looks like Hinayana—there is Hinayana, Mahayana, but it is not so. And all those sutra from—Prajnaparamita Sutra more like Mahayana, so all those sutras is attributed to Shariputra, who was a great, you know, disciple of Buddha. He was actually both, you know. His understanding was more wider and more deeper than the rest of the disciples, so all the sutra is attributed to Shariputra. “Shariputra [laughs] told this story,” [laughs]. Listen, we say so, you know. It is more like traditional, you know, Buddhism.

But at that time, if we say “original true Buddhism,” if we say “Buddhism” that Buddhism is shravakas’ teaching—Shravakayana—yaha. And according to them, Buddha is so, you know, great. So, we cannot be like Buddha, but we can be at least arhat. The next to—arhat—Buddha is arhat. After following diligently Buddha's precepts and observing and with perfect understanding of Buddha's teaching, annihilating all our evil desires, we will obtain buddhahood [should be arhatship?]. This is shravakas and so-called-it “original Buddhism.”

But—but! [Laughs] there is one more, you know, we must—something we have—something more to know. When—after Meiji period, or recently, European scholars started to study Buddhism with various materials they found out in India. And they, you know, found out that at last, the material—the teaching of shravakas which is written in Agama Sutra was not, you know, compiled, or was not told by Buddha himself. Not all of the European scholars, but the scholars early started—just started—when just started study of Buddhism thought Agama Sutra was told by Buddha. But they at last found out that the Agama Sutra was not told by Buddha. It was told or compiled long, long time after Buddha. So, shravakas is not original Buddhism. So, what is then Buddha’s teaching which was told by Buddha was the next problem. Maybe we have now—still we have that kind of problem. How to know that teaching which was told by Buddha without not much material. We have some, you know, reliable one, but not much is our problem.

And this kind of problem is also Mahayana Buddhist had. They couldn't rely on Agama Sutra or philosophy of Kusha [abhidharma] or Yuishiki [Vijnaptimatrata = consciousness only]. So, Mahayana teachers start to think about what is real Buddha's teaching. And this was very good discipline for [laughs] for them. I think, you know, what is true with us, really, is true with Buddha too. That [laughs] is, you know, very strange or mysterious thing. What you think is right is right, you know, for Buddha too. And Buddha, you know, said in this way, “What is right to me is what was right to my, you know, former teachers and will be right for our descendants.”

So, in this way Buddhism was developed. So, there—there is original shravakas—Shravakayana[?], and original more fundamental Buddhism, which was taught by Buddha himself, and shravakas—Shravakayana[?], and Bodhisattvayana[?]. And true Mahayana Buddhism, which include every Shravakayana and Bodhisattvayana, is true Mahayana or true Buddhist teaching. Should be [laughs]—we cannot say true, but should be true Buddhism. That kind of Buddhism established by Tendai Chigi—Tendai [T'ien T'ai Chih-I]. According to him, true Mahayana teaching, true Buddha's teaching, should be original Buddhism, should be Shravakayana, should be Bodhisattvayana. The people say Bodhisattvayana is the best teaching of all the Buddhist teaching, but that is a mistake. True, if it is best teaching it should include original Buddha's teaching, of course, and Shravakayana. So, arhat belongs to us[?], you know, Shravakayana, but we, you know, every morning we recite sutra for arhat too. So, it is also our Buddha. The people call him—call them by some other name, but they are actually Buddha. But, as a technical term, arhat is—belongs to Shravakayana.
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 (7/17/01). Verbatim version based on Engage Wisdom audio by Peter Ford 11/2022.

File name: 68-10-00-G: Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. II-8 (Verbatim) Q & A after lecture. Originally edited by Brian Fikes.

Audio & Other Files | Lecture Transcript List