Opposites

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Thursday, June 22, 1967

Los Altos

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Tonight, perhaps I was supposed to explain the chapter in the Platform Sutra of the thirty-two pairs of opposites; right and wrong, there he points out thirty-two pairs of opposites. This is very interesting points. Originally in this sutra, what is essence of mind is the point of the sutra, and the various pairs of opposites are the two sides of the one essence of mind. So that is why he referred to various idea -- opposites ideas. Because of the opposite idea we have our study do not result in anything. When your understanding is always in realm of good or bad there is no end in your study. But when your understanding reach the point where there is no opposites, where you find oneness of the two opposites when you are in perfect renunciations. And the characteristic of Buddhism is to attain oneness within this kind of opposite idea. So in opposite idea we should find the oneness of the opposites. Without rejecting bad to attain oneness is to attain the goal, is our purpose. Usually rejecting flesh under ([?] ) spiritual attainment, or rejecting bad nature resume good pure nature is the purpose of religious effort, but ours is quite different. We find both good and bad in oneness. So the essence of mind or original mind is actually something, sometime which is -- which looks like good and sometime looks like bad is the original nature. Someone may say this is bad, but the same thing is understood something good and actually one nature can be understood according to the circumstances, good or bad, but originally it is not good or bad, so in this sense the original nature transcends the realm of good or bad. Especially in our practice we put emphasis on something bad because everyone ignore -- tries to ignore the bad side of something, or may try to escape from it. That is not our way. We should confront the problem we human beings actually have. And through everyday problem we should see our true nature or essence of mind which is more Mahayanistic. Especially in Japan this tendency is very strong. So in Mahayana Buddhism we put emphasis on practice of down way rather than way upward. There may be -- when you go to Tassajara, and when you climb up from Jamesburg to the high mountain (I don’t know what is the name of the mountain but it may be more than four thousand feet) and go down to Tassajara -- we are both way -- way upward and way downward and we put emphasis on way downward. But everyone wants to climb up to the top of the mountain to have some view. When I was seeking for the site for the monastery almost all the people showed me the sight which commanded wide, great view. Where you can see the town, where you can see the ocean, where you can see San Francisco Bay. But I rather like the bottom of the valley where we cannot see anything. When -- it is quite natural for us to appreciate something beautiful, something wonderful. That is alright; that is our true nature so there is no problem. I don’t ask why do you like such a beautiful thing. It is quite natural. But if I say I like something ugly, people may ask, “Why do you like that kind of thing?” But there is no reason why. If there is no reason why we like something beautiful and there is no reason why we -- I like something not so beautiful; there is no reason I like something plain. By the way we Buddhists appreciate something plain and common, like water-- we say like white rice. Most people eat white rice with soy sauce on it because it is so plain; it is so tasteless. Most people may like lemon-aid or orange juice or coca cola, rather than water. But when you are seriously ill, which do you like? Coco cola or plain water? So your inmost nature wants something quite plain. When you have excessive energy or power you have something stimulating, but when your life becomes more and more controlled then your liking will change from some extreme to the common way. And when you can appreciate something common you may have more appreciation of something beautiful. When you have the subtly to appreciate the slightest movement of wind you can actually feel the cool wind through the tree or small waves on the calm pond. So when you have this kind of power to appreciate some plainness, calmness, serenity you will have the subtle -- you will have the power to understand the whole universe through the slightest movement of reality. Here you have true liberation, but look what people are doing now. They are making effort to accomplish something great ignoring something small. They say. “This is trivial matter. We have no time to be bothered by small thing.” But which is big or which is small is -- no one can tell. It is just matter of comparison. Who is comparing them to the other? You are comparing. That is just your opinion. So when you realize who are you then this kind of life means a little.

Anyway we should listen to the birds singing; listen to the insects singing; if you are aware of your exhaling and inhaling (where the inhaling come from, where your exhaling goes) if you feel the heart beat one after another, then you will understand what is going on in this world actually. If your heart does not beat (stops) what will happen to you? Feel it (your pulse). It is continuously beating. It looks alright but one, two, three-- three may be the last one. Four may be the last one. No one knows. Have you some experience of hearing your heart beat? Mostly, I think, we usually think ‘this is too fast’ or ‘this is too slow’, you say. That’s all. But it may stop at one or two or three. Fast or slowly is not a serious matter, but if it stops -- but you say that is out of the question. If it stops, that’s all, you may say. But if you really feel this is the end of the heart beating then you will realize what is your life. Here we can appreciate the -- each one of the heart beats. Then you will feel your being; step by step you will feel yourself. Even walking on the floor is the actual feeling of your reality -- your being. Here we have real gratefulness and feeling of being. So through something -- through various events, big or small, we have actual feeling of reality. That feeling is the feeling which is called essence of mind, or because of the essence of mind we can feel each moment, we can feel our being, moment after moment. So the essence of mind which is supposed to be great can be aware of through the smallest movement of each being -- in each moment. So we say, ‘one is everything and everything is one.’ One or many is not different. Many is one and one is many. When you feel actual being of yourself. Here we have pair of opposites and at the same time we have no pair of opposites, because the pair of opposites is originally one. It is one, but two (or many). Many but one. So we don’t know what to say. We don’t know exactly. We do not know what to say. In this sense this is something beyond our knowledge. We do not know what to say. It is not because the essence of mind is so great that we cannot even say what is great. It is not a matter of great. So we don’t know what to say. So the expression may be sometimes very fancy, but the reality is quite simple. In this simplicity we must find our goal, moment after moment.

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Los Altos box transcript. Exact copy entered onto disk and emailed to DC by GM 02/09/2009. Marked as ‘original’ at top of page one in type.
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