Tokusan and The Old Lady

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Saturday, February 19, 1966

[Tape operator tests microphone]

To practice sesshin

[30 second gap in audio - remaining audio has bleed through of radio programs and music]

There be no reasons for you to consider–there is—we are only thing you ignore thing[?] you will disciple Buddha any day[?]. Practice this day [laughs] will introduce you to pain[?][laughter]. Moreover, we better be all part of at least for the hour[?]. No bottom[?][laughs]. It’s all right [laughs]. What will be will be.

I think you know that the bottom is more[?] than[?] heaven, more than we know [laughs]—hope [laughs] very so[?] this is could there be[?] ???.

will be necessary for us to continue our practice with our perfect effort, and actually we have completed our sesshin. What we complete will be to build or become more meaningful if you continue—if you extend this practice for tomorrow. In this way we extend our practice from today to here[?] tomorrow, and from sitting our practice to everyday life. This is itself our way of practice.

And this morning I talked ??? about discussion between Tokusan and old lady. But Dogen Zenji said the discussion is not completed. You may think that already old lady was better than Tokusan, but no one knows—old lady was—if old lady—whether out—old lady was better.

And if Dogen Zenji were Tokusan—would be old—old lady, he said he might have asked him—or Tokusan, ??? if she is aware Tokusan, he might [have] asked old lady right ???. First of all, if he is—were Tokusan the young monk, he would [have] asked old lady about the meaning of—even though present ??? since it cannot be grasped, future cannot be grasped, past, what does he mean?—does it mean if he were ???—Tokusan he would ask—ask. Then he will find out some meaning, but he didn't. He just went out, and old lady also didn't say anything about it. That is not right, he said. He should say—she should say something.

And if Dogen Zenji were the old lady, Dogen Zenji says—I must have—he said, there is no reason why I should give you—why I should bother you with time?[?] he offered.

It means that mind, or Buddha mind—for Buddha mind, there is nothing to be offered. Is the—Buddha mind is the absolute mind. For the absolute mind where there is nothing to offer, so couldn’t[?] old—even old lady—why she asked you for some cake? There is no need and for you to be entertained by a servant. You’ve better experience in yourself[?]. She should say so. And if—and the monk ???—Tokusan, says—if Tokusan says, if [long pause]. And if the monk, Tokusan, if asked her to give some serious talk for[?] three cakes, three rice cake, and if ??? which Tokusan takes ??? out his eye, ??? he will say, present mind cannot be grasped, and past mind–no, no present cannot be grasped, past mind cannot be—present mind cannot be grasped, past mind cannot be grasped, and future cannot be grasped, he would say. I think as he would say[?]. This is what he said.

Without saying anything, to leave the old lady is not right—was not right. And without any reason, to refuse the—the monk is not also right. The present [long pause]—the cake—although a cake is not a Buddha, there's nothing to offer for the Buddha. But—but for us or for Buddha there's many things to give us.

For Buddha, there's nothing to receive, but—but he has many things to give us. And if so, what we do, whether it is offering a cake or practice zazen, this kind of practice is not a matter of to attain enlightenment, or to practice to do some success[?]. When we do something, it looks like we are doing something good, but actually, for Buddha there is nothing which is good ???. And Buddha—nevertheless Buddha has many things to do for people[?]. When Buddha produce many things for us, it is true practice. When we do—when we think we do something, that is wrong for practice. That way not our practice.

But it looks like we are practicing zazen to attain enlightenment, if we expect so. And it may be so, because [laughs] if we practice zazen, eventually, or at that time, we are actually Buddha. So, there's no one ???—it is obvious that we are practicing zazen to attain enlightenment—that is the way that it is[?]. But if you take it literally[?] and we say, "I—my practice is not so good," after many years it's for your own[?] enlightenment. But if you say, "I did[?] that," in this way, it is wrong, because what you may do is what Buddha is doing first. If so, Buddha is doing it for something purer[?]. Buddha is constantly doing that thing of true practice[?]. So, true practice, we have three point. One is, we practice—we practice zazen. The next is Buddha practice zazen. The—the third one is Buddha practice Buddha. That is the third. We are Buddha when we—when we practice zazen.

And this is our ritual, we bow with each other. Whatever the teachings are three, it's really only truth[?]. And what is Buddha and bowing to you? Buddha is only to be Buddha[?]. And at—at the same time, Buddha—I don't know who[?] [laughs], and Buddha is, you know, doing something for him, and he is offering something to Buddha. But actual meaning it is not different—the same thing.

So, we should not take those three statement in three ways. Actually it is from[?] one statement. If the old lady knew this point, and said—said in this way, she was—she was very good nun[?], but we don't know, because she didn't say anything ??? –asked—she really[?] didn't know[?] this point. And Tokusan must have a chance[?] with [laughs] all of the old lady had indicate[?] this statements.

And so Dogen Zenji says, we don't know what she has in her sleeve. It might be frightening[?]—it might be honey[?]or bees[?], could be something, we don’t know [laughs] honey or bees, we don't know. She has—perhaps she didn't have anything in sleeves. Or she must have a bee [laughs] in that sleeve.

This kind of understanding of that case[?] is the right understanding of practice which is transmitted from Buddha to us. This isn’t just Dogen Zenji's impression[?]. And it’s in this way our culture was formed. Moment after moment we developed new paths[?]. And even though it is a new culture, there's some connection between past and future, past and present, and present and future. It was developed from past to this moment, from present to future. But as we call it "eternal present" we are doing it moment after moment, we are forming new culture, moment after moment.

Here we have three meaning of practice: Buddha is doing his—we are doing something for us[?] and Buddha is doing something for Buddha; we are Buddha, always Buddha. Our meaning of culture contains our culture, always Buddha. But the expression is not the same. Sometimes we work points Buddha ???. Sometimes hero[?] will lead[?] solved[?], and at the same time aides[?] will make his step[?] because of serious he’s been student[?]. But he is controlled[?] ???.

But if you understand his immediate reaction help, it is actually Buddha who’s watching Buddha. If you understand that that you are helping, you are offering something to the weak[?] that is one[?] it will think[?]. A leader[?] is always helping. Now that is not perfect. A leader is—one capacity of leader his. There's no—actually each one of us ??? even though we cannot pass this way[?] sometimes someone will become as some other—some other Buddha. This is how Buddha developed our culture[?]. It is the same thing with our practice.

So you can say, where there is Buddha, there is nothing. And at the same time, because of sentient being Buddha exist. Because of sentient being Buddha exist. That is why we should practice Zen, we should live in this way. How we in this moment is to continue practice in this way to reach renewed pleasure[?] moment by moment. And how to do it, how to actualize those three understandings is just by sincere effort[?].

When you can sincerely to forget yourself that will rid the idea of the self. Our world will start bit by bit—If we cannot forget ourselves in our society, then we have to do many things for your society. You have heavy sack on your back. But if you become quite sincere instead you will to without any reason, just by nothing[?]. There is no value[?]???.
In this realm there is no leader[?] or no people[?] or no teacher[?] no student. And if ???? this is how to cultivate our society and our leaders[?].

What I say is rather complicated, but in short, when—whenever you have some difficulties, you have to watch yourself, whether you are without—covered the idea of self. Centered with that[?]. If the center of the candle is covered by wax, the wick doesn't work, you have to get rid of wax on the center. So, you shouldn't cover yourself with the idea of self. You should be always pure inside your own plan. Then, when you have really established in this realm the action and actual activity has candle and something[?]—something is ignited. This is the—this is the truer[?]. Something is ???, something without conflict on which we ???.

So idealistic practice will cover that something with your own self-centered idea. That doesn't work[?]. You always—you are always listening—you have been ?????. How many times happened to you? ???? This is not our way. This is why you practice zazen, and why this sesshin constantly[?] this—this way[?], this place.

Now I am sorry I was not—I couldn't—I didn't remember discussing all our ???. Actually beginning that some understanding[?] ???. I was in sesshin [laughs]. What I meant—what she meant is this is[?]—she was subject in the order of discussion is divided itself. Meaning is with ??? it will give us spirit despite[?] our conversation. I was lost, excuse me, but I think you will—only will have inspiration ??? [laughs]. And I accept what you actually lost[?] in this sesshin[?].

[Closing chant[?] and bell]

SR: [a few words unclear]


The originally ascribed date has been amended due to his reference to the story of Tokusan and the old lady, and its presence in another talk on the same reel from February 19, 1966, which he refers to in this talk.

Transcript from Engage Wisdom audio by Shundo David Haye 12/2021. Rough "verbatim" version by Peter Ford 3/2022 (with many guesses and inaudible words).


File name: 66-01-22N: Tokusan and The Old Lady (titled by SDH) (Verbatim) This tape has been reprocessed, and some of the transcript may be clear now. Seems more like an end of sesshin lecture. (Sound problem.) Lecture date has been changed.

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