To Study The Self

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Saturday, February 19, 1966

Tape operator: Sesshin afternoon lecture


SR: Once a candle start to burn it will continue to burn because—because when the center of the candle is covered by wax it is rather difficult to catch fire. How to save your last[?] too[?] [laughs]. Be certain will[?] your practice continue to burn? [laughs]. It is difficult[?] to catch fire—the fire of freedom[?]. The secret[?] if it does not burn, it is really difficult start[?] the fire. We would have to take fire[?] to start it.

Originally candidate[?] is like baby[?] of Phillip[?], but sometimes it is not. When the center is covered by wax, it doesn't catch[?]. I try to set the match because it is very difficult [laughs]. When you set fire for us[?] ???. So, I thought[?] to be effective[?], exactly the same with our practice. ??? but we cannot say it is difficult. Normally can say it is difficult to understand it, to catch fire[?]. I have never—I haven't heard of such a thing before. But actually, I found it very difficult, [laughs - putting on another voice] what has happened here? I think that is useful[?]. It is difficult to understand ???.

Dogen Zenji says to study Buddhism is to forget—to study—to study Buddhism is to study time[?]. To study tanden is to forget tanden[?]. To study Buddhism is to study ourselves. To study ourselves is to forget ourselves. If we forget—if we forget ourselves, candle will be candle. And the candle will lit up your room. All people are candles[?]. The candle as a candle—that was what he said. To study Buddhism is to study yourself. To study yourself is to forget yourself. If you forget yourselves, you will be you—awake but with the truth that is self-identity.

But this self-identity is—isn’t just self-identity. It is absolutely contradictory self-identity. Candle has contradictory absolute existence, because it has its—in its center it has something which is not candle. To wax—actual candle, if it is only wax, it is not candle. So, for a candle to have cotton in the center of it is absolutely necessary for a candle. But when you find candle—candle, that's self-identity. When it’s catch fire, candle becomes candle.

As long as you finds zazen difficult, because of your—because of the difficulties of your practice, that is not zazen. The difficulty you have will make a candle a candle. You should understand: you have to be—to be encouraged by the difficulties. Don't need to over learn; then Zen is all right. The pain you have on your legs is constant your suffering[?], but I enjoy with it [laughs]. That is—is your teacher. You have always your teacher [laughs]. Salt[?], on your legs, we learn[?] [laughs]. When you have some pain[?] laughs, you can chant[?]. You’ll get used to it fast[?]. If you want to try to get rid of pain—difficult. Problem with practice, it is the same thing. To pull out cotton from the wax [laughs]. The wax, it is full of from center—cotton center from the candle [laughs] your leg burns [laughs]—they have served [laughs] its own purpose. [Laughs] ridiculous[?] –actually[?]. So, there is no secret to learn our practice.

Our practice is based on the traditional understanding of actual being—how everything exist. This understanding was taught by Buddha, and patriarch after patriarch, we developed frequent[?], and we actualize this understanding. Because of this understanding we could develop our practice. Because of our practice we could preserve this essential teaching for more than two thousand years. This teaching is based on actual truth—how we exist still. That is why Buddhism did not die, and continuous development took place on our past wisdom.

The development of our Buddhist system will be realized in your own life. And in your everyday life there is no difference between our historical development of Buddhism and actual development—development of your life—there is no difference[?] at all[?]. That is—for us it is helpful to develops our way. Before you understand, how will you accept it as it is? You may feel that Buddhism is one of religions among many religions, but actually it is not so. For Buddhism there is—there should not be even name of Buddhism. This actual way of life following at something, something quite different—something quite different from your understanding of life.

In this point there is no difference between Japanese way of life and your way of life. How candle burns in Japan—candle burns same way as in America, even though your candles—difference of our candles [laughter]. We have enormous candles, [laughs] but it burns same way. When fire is the same, there's no difference, so there's nothing new to us. We are studying what we—what we know. Even though you know something, clearly[?] [laughs], you don't know [laughs] (that) you know something. That’s all. So, you have to know in its—its true sense. When you know what you know, that is enlightenment.

So, there is a day you will know something you knew, that is enlightenment. Enlightenment is not to find out something quite new. There is some[?] when that is –your practice some ??? and whether—whether all correct or from quality[?], and ???. There is in—in the water there nothing but food. But there is ??? fish. That fish eat food. But before it eat the food—that food, they don't know what to call it. So [laughs] they will sit[?] in the ??? and they’ll eat food in front. "Oh, this is food[?] todays[?]." [laughs]. So, this is their enlightenment [laughs] with those foods [laughs]. It is new to—it looks like new to you, but it is the truth Buddha found out more than two thousand years ago. Only you think, "Oh, [laughs] this is a food,” [laughs] you decide[?]. Long, long before, many people find out [laughs]. That will happen, just you[?]. That is enlightenment.

When the people is waiting for your enlightenment [laughs] at least many people whose—who would stand[?] behind her[?]. Fish waiting [laughs]—it's biting (?) catching (?) the food. How do they eat fish's food? Everyone is waiting for—for you [laughs]—Buddha is waiting for your enlightenment. Not only Buddha, everyone is waiting for your enlightenment. Even your children[?] [laughs] is waiting for your enlightenment. If you find enlightenment, [laughs] even if—Dogen’s enlightenment –always, when was it? [Laughs.] Enlightenment is pulling[?] you back. Where is Phillip[?]? If everyone is waiting, who[?] will help you? So, nothing happen, but something happens. That is enlightenment. So that is not whether you become aware of it or not—just do it. That feeling face[?] divine trust[?]. Face spirit[?].

And it is necessary to do it—or to confront through the practice. That is a—actually that is ?? And just please do this[?], [laughs], that is not what I mean. I want and to find[?] Buddha. First he was[?]—first[?] ????. When you—you confront Buddha, through the practice, through empowerment practice, you obtain pure karma. You acquire the same point of your humanness as Buddha. You are trying be responsible of Buddha nature. Buddha is you. Buddha and[?] you is—is not two(?).

Absolutely[?] but it is absurd, but in conflict[?] but it is ???. Partially it is abstract ???, it is real[?]—mirror[?], so find out[?]. Actually, it is the same when[?] you find out[?]—we say that[?]. The teaching will say what is missed it[?]. But our way of –of separate ourselves, a so-called mistake[?] absolute self idea, this ?? is idealistic. But it is not so. With[?] our teaching is based on actual experience. So, when you practice our practice with full silence[?], you are already Buddha ???. Your pain in your legs[?]—it is ???. If you cannot practice from your original our intellectual understanding, it make you go back to ??? Buddhas[?].When you practice our way, no intellectual effort—it is not necessary. Just do it. You are Buddha—even we don’t see it[?].

You cannot be anything without managing yourself. Before you usually[?] practice our way, it take the wrong problem[?], you cannot do anything[?]. You will not be settled, you will not be pleased what you think (?) This is why we practice zazen.

So, whatever you have to do, you have to continue. Your friend, your teacher will not be always your friend[?] or teacher. So, you have to think by yourself[?]. If you have—try to have—you are well behaved[?] and with each other, or you—you cannot do anything in your everyday life? It is quite true[?] quite simple[?].

If you can sit in our way, you can do anything. Our practice have—is not strength[?]. You can do anything. If you want to die – stop being[?]—die, but it is more difficult to have vital[?] testimony[?].


Transcript by Shundo David Haye, Wendy Pirsig, and Peter Ford 6-2022.


File name: 66-02-19-A: To Study The Self (titled by sdh) (Verbatim) Date is approximate. This audio was separated from 66-02-19 at the tape operator's announcement. Audio quality is poor, so this is a rough verbatim transcript.

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