Shōsan Ceremony

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Tuesday Evening, April 23, 1968, Lecture B


A monk asked Hyakujo: “Is there some special things happen-- happened in this temple?”

Hyakujo said: “I have been sitting on this mountain.”

And monk respectfully bowed to Hyakujo.

Hyakujo then give him a big slap.

This morning I talked about Nansen's “Everyday Mind Is Dao.” And this evening I am talking about something special. If you understand what is something-- something special and what is something common, please come and discuss with me on this point.

Student A: Chuchu issen seki. What is the meaning of this in everyday life?

SR: Kuchu issen seki? Something special or something common. If you hand up those idea, those are nothing but a stone hang up in the air. Do you understand it? What is the practice without being hanged [?] by itself [?]?

Student A: Thank you very much.

SR: Without answer is the best answer.

Student B: Docho Roshi, although you can only clarify an outline, and we can only hear what we realize, please say something about echo.

SR: Eko?

Student B: Echo.

SR: The sutra we recite after--

Student B: The phenomena [sic].

SR: Ah. Phenomena?

Student B: Phenomena.

SR: Phenomena-- oh-- eko in Chinese, or eko in--

Student B: No, not Eko the master, but the phenomena of an echo.

SR: Mm-hmm. Oh, echo. Echo, oh. Everything is echo of your mind or of your activity.

Student B: Thank you very much.

Student C: Docho Roshi, how can being in sesshin be practicing the middle way?

SR: Middle way? When you forget all about the middle way, there you have middle way.

Student D: Docho Roshi, you are you, and I am me, and you are not you, and I am not me, and the river keeps moving by. Where is the medicine for this sorrow?

SR: Medicine. The going river and the evanescence of life or ingraspable things is itself medicine. Sometimes it looks like poison, but actually those are only medicine we should take.

Student D: Thank you very much.

Student E: Docho Roshi, why does man's work bring so little merit?

SR: May be no merit, but when you realize that there is no merit, that is great merit. All the merit accumulated by all the people is your merit. So that is why the merit is not yours and actually at the same time yours. So when you forget all about you or others, the merit will be great.

Student E: Thank you very much.

Student F: Docho Roshi, if the president of the United States were to come to Tassajara and say the earth and the sun were on a collision course, and ask us what we could do, some of us might say that we could not change what has already collided in this man's imagination. Actually, the least we could do would be to tell him, “No moon, no sun,” and show him your wonderful garden.

SR: Yeah. No moon or no sun. But the sun is the sun, the moon is the moon, so the moon-- when moon is really moon, there will not be any collision. There is no need for the moon to be a sun or vice-versa.

Student F: Thank you very much.

Student G: Docho Roshi, the wheel of dharma turns in our life in many ways. It'll go from sickness to health to sickness again to health. Should we try to master this dharma? What is its nature?

SR: Wheel of dharma. When it is turning means to master it. Because it is always turning, it is difficult to tell how it turns in detail. Only when we allow it to turn, or we can keep up with the turning wheel, we can master it actually. But-- but actually we are turning with it. We are actually a part of the wheel. In this way, we should master the wheel without trying to master it.

Student G: Thank you very much.

Student H: Docho Roshi, if desires are inexhaustible, how may we put an end to them?

SR: Inexhaustible. To put an end to it, you know, does not mean to annihilate it. When you do not try to put an end to it, when you don't, it is actual, you know, put an end to it. Desire is not-- evil desire is not an evil any more. Because you think or you treat it [in an] evil way, wrong way, or, you know, try to stop it, it change into evil, and it will be a disturbance of our practice.

Student H: Is this how we can vow to put an end to desires without expressing another desire?

SR: [1-2 words]-- we should-- we should know the nature of the desires before we try to stop it or control it. To know what is evil nature is to know to stop evil desire. When you have no idea of evil, evil desire is not evil desire any more. That is how you stop it.

Student H: Thank you very much.

Student I: Docho Roshi, for my practice, I believe that the hardest and deepest teaching of Buddhism for all men is to know not to be attached to any thing. Can you explain why this is so?

SR: Not to attach to any thing, we say. Why you asked this question is, you know, it is impossible not to attach [laughs] to anything. So it means that in your mind you have the idea of attachment and detachment. But true non-attachment means to get free from the idea of attachment or detachment, knowing that attachment and detachment is the two side of one reality.

Student I: Thank you very much.

Student J: Docho Roshi, how are we to know how to behave when a strong dualistic situation arises in our life? It seems as though we can only take one of two paths.

SR: Don't hesitate to-- to take one-- just one choice. Don't think which is good or bad. When you do not think about it, you will intuitively know which way to go and which is better.

Student J: Thank you very much.

Student K: Docho Roshi, what should I do about the fear that causes small mind or limited mind?

SR: Fear looks like something which will cover your entire being, but if you wait, and if you watch it-- watch the fear, watch yourself, that will not be any more fear. Whatever it is, it is necessary to break it as your motor [?]. It is necessary to drive your fear.

Student K: Thank you very much.

SR: Attack your enemy by his horse [laughs]. You understand? All right.

Student L: Docho Roshi, love is love, and hate is hate, and love is empty, and hate is empty.

SR: There you will have a great sorrow or longing-- loneliness of emptiness. Until you get accustomed to this experience, you cannot be-- you cannot get out of the trouble, or fear, or whatever it is. When you can remain still with some composure in pitch dark, you will have deep true composure.

Student L: Thank you very much.

Student M [Ed Brown]: Docho Roshi, big mind and small mind are equally without size. The Buddhist practice is no practice. Can it be that-- is there any practice which is not Buddhist practice?

SR: When you involved in dualistic idea in your practice, that is the non-Buddhist practice. There is no alternative way for us-- means to sit alone on the top of mountain. Whatever happens in the mountain, that is part of your practice. To sit on the mountain means to be a boss of the mountain. That is our practice. And try to climb up to the top of the mountain is not our [practice]. So you can say various practice is nothing but the Buddhist practice because we are boss of the mountain. But for the people who are trying to climb up to the top of the mountain, there may be various way to the mountain. So we must not forget that we are center of the universe, and sitting in the center of the universe or top of the mountain.

Ed: Thank you very much.

Student N: Docho Roshi, you have taught us that everything changes, and that we can rely on nothing. From one day to the next, then, we cannot be sure of a place to practice or a teacher. If this is so, how can we continue our practice forever?

SR: Wherever you go, you will find your teacher. The eyes you have right now, as long as you have your eyes, as long as you have ears to listen-- so Dogen Zenji says the color of the mountains and sound of the rivers are Shakyamuni Buddha's sermon. But you should be grateful for your teacher because he gave you-- he opened up your eyes and ears to see and to listen. Then your teacher is always with you. And you can continue your practice forever.

Student N: Thank you very much.

Student O: Docho Roshi, how can I behave with my usual mind when my house is on fire?

SR: Mind-- your house? House? Excuse me.

Student O: On fire..

SR: On fire. [Laughs.] Why don't you get out of it? [Laughter.] Give up your house. You will find a good new house.

Student O: Thank you very much.

Student P: Docho Roshi, one step forward, one step back. How can I go where I don't want to go?

SR: When you don't want to go, there is no other way to stop there. And while you are stopping, you should, you know, warm-- make your seat warm [laughs] to stay. That is the way.

Student P: Thank you very much.

Student Q: Docho Roshi, I serve you some ferns in your third bowl. Has anything special been given or anything particular been received? Is it possible to give and take?

SR: I couldn't follow you. Something--

Student Q: If I serve you something in your third bowl, do you receive anything special? Do I give anything special or do I give something common?

SR: Is--

Student Q: Is it possible for-- is it possible for people to help each other really?

SR: Like-- sorry, the first sentence you said-- first?

Student Q: I serve you something.

SR: Yeah. You serve me something.

Student Q: At mealtime.

SR: At mealtime. In third bowl?

Student Q: Third bowl.

SR: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Student Q: What has transpired between us then?

SR: Between us? I feel as if entire-- your entire being were served too [or “to”]-- that is not anymore food.

Student Q: Thank you very much.

Student R: Docho Roshi, this-- this mind has no real questions. Why is this?

SR: Yeah. No question, and without any question you are practicing our way. That is true practice. Don't worry about having no question.

Student R: Thank you very much.

Student S: [Long pause.] Thank you very much.

Student T: Docho Roshi, is enlightenment always changing?

SR: It is-- it will change always, but you will not be-- if you are enlightened, you will not be bothered by-- by its change.

Student U: Docho Roshi, at the end of your lectures you always ask us if we understand. What does “understand” mean?

SR: “Did you accept it?” Actually what I mean is did you accept it? What [?] good question.

Student V: [Long pause.] Thank you very much.

Student W: Docho Roshi, question beyond word, word beyond question.

SR: Question. When you make improvement, you have question. So when you are improving yourself constantly, that question is more than question. So that is question beyond word. Word beyond question is even though you are making question, you know-- you know there is no other way to improve yourself. But you need some help or encouragement. So we discuss something between us, but actually the only way is improve ourself by ourselves. When you understand this point, your question is something more than word. And your word is something more than the question you have. In this way you should, you know, found yourself. That is [1 word]. Expressing by word how you feels, and try to know something what you feel. Over and over you found yourself [1-2 words]. Then-- to continue this kind of practice is our way.

Student W: Thank you very much.

Student X: Docho Roshi, I am drowning in a great ocean. Will I wake up and discover this is a dream?

SR: How did you feel [laughs, laughter]?

Student X: I can't describe it.

SR: Which do you prefer: to be drowned in the ocean or safe in the-- on the land-- to be safe, you know, on the land? Which is better? Which do you like better?

Student X: [Long pause.] I don't know. [Laughter.]

SR: “Do not know” is right. It is very difficult to decide, you know. If so, you should prefer to stay in bottomless ocean with some difficulty, because you have more possibility. If you are on the land in this way, there is not much hope. To have some chance to struggle for is very good, you know. You feel much better. Even [if] you have fear, soon you will get-- you will manage it.

Student X: Thank you very much.

Student Y: Docho Roshi, there is nothing to attain, and yet every morning we chant and we vow “to attain it.”

SR: [Laughs.]

Student Y: And if enlightenment is within me, and yet I can't tap its resources, I can't make any use of it. When you speak, I think I understand, and I accept what you say, but when you're through speaking, I reject everything you say. I don't understand how unless somehow I can experience the truth myself, I know what to believe and what not to believe, and what to accept and what not to accept.

SR: Try-- don't try to accept things, you know. But you should, you know. Don't think I am talking to you, you know. Instead of you, I am talking, you know, discussions [?] of-- that's all. Because you think I am talking about something to you, you know, you cannot accept it. So it-- I am talking-- what I am talking is how you feel, you know, how you think is what I am talking, actually.

Student Y: I don't understand.

SR: Your weak point is, you know, you are trying to understand it, or you are-- in short, you are like a big baby [laughs], you know. That is your weak point. So you should-- you should work by your own-- walk by your own feet, you know.

Student Y: And what is your role as my teacher?

SR: My teacher-- ”your teacher,” you say, but actually I am your friend. I cannot do anything with you. Tentatively, you know, I will treat you in this way.

Student Y: Thank you very much.

Student Z: Docho Roshi, hearing the stream, feeling it within, tears flow. What is the meaning?

SR: Because this kind of feeling, our practice is quite new to you. More and more you will feel deep joy in your practice. It does not mean your practice is wrong, or your attainment is not good. But the way you feel is-- if the way you feel in that way, with fear, that is because it is-- that is because your experience is quite unfamiliar to you. That's all. So you will get accustomed to this practice more.

Student Z: Thank you very much.

Student AA: Docho Roshi, I was alone [?]. I have no questions.

SR: No question? Oh, all right. I hope you can continue your practice in that way. If you have problem, you should think more when you have problem. But right now you are going on big freeway. Very good.

Student AA: Thank you very much.

Student BB: Docho Roshi, when you are our teacher, I feel like you have nothing to teach. But you stay in this world and suffer along with us. And I'd like to ask you why, but that's a very foolish question. And I-- I think that you just sit and wait for us if you're at Tassajara.

SR: Sit and what?

Student BB: Sit here at Tassajara--

SR: Uh-huh.

Student BB: -- and wait for us--

SR: Uh-huh.

Student BB: -- and I'd like to thank you.

SR: Yeah. I don't want to be your teacher, you know, in its usual sense, because with your idea of teacher you cannot find your teacher in its true sense. That is why I say I am not your teacher always. All right? But we are actually practicing with you. That is my responsibility.

Student BB: Thank you very much.

Student CC: Docho Roshi, if you and me and everyone here and everything around us is emptiness, can we see form in its change?

SR: Emptiness? Emptiness. Because we are changing, we say “emptiness.” “Empty.” Because nothing is-- nothing stays in its own home, because everything is changing. But usually, when I say “you” or “I,” we have already some idea which does not change. That kind of idea is empty. But if we understand everything in the state of change, that is true understanding.

Student CC: A change can't be form?

SR: Change, yeah. Changing-- moment after moment it changes. But even for a while, you know, you can see it-- some form-- some-- you can observe things in its particular form. That is form. But it exist in smallest particle of time. Next, you know, particle of time it will be some other thing. But on each moment it exist. That is also true. So form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

Student CC: Thank you very much.

Student DD: Docho Roshi, I have no question.

SR: [1 word] is best. [Said very quietly.]

Student DD: Thank you very much.

Student EE: Docho Roshi, how is it that big mind can hide so well?

SR: [Laughs, laughter.] Because it is too big. Or because you are too near-sighted. [Laughs, laughter.]

[Reel is changed. The following question and answer were reconstructed from the tape operator's commentary at the end of this lecture.]

[Student: Roshi, when you eat an apple, form is emptiness. Give an example of “Emptiness is form.”

SR: When you say “emptiness,” you have the idea of complete-- you have an idea of complete [1 word]. That is not what emptiness means. Everything is-- ”] -- Emptiness is form. Form is emptiness.

Student FF: In its own home?

SR: Mm-hmm. You know, bamboo is bamboo, you know, even-- but it does not exist as a bamboo shoot, you know, always. It is growing. “Emptiness,” we say, but some concrete idea of bamboo shoot is empty.

Student FF: Thank you very much.

Student GG: Docho Roshi, your words without sound may we hear without ears.

SR: Yes. You can hear it-- you should hear it without ears. It means, you know, you shouldn't stick to my word. You should accept it with your whole body, and with your whole practice. In your zazen you should accept what I am-- you should hear my lecture or what I say like you hear some bird singing in your zazen. You are boss, you know. You are-- then you not hearing my words just by ear-- by your ears-- by your practice. Nothing happens to you [laughs]. Even though you hear some-- something, that is the part of practice. So nothing happen beside your practice. That is how you hear my talk without your ear.

Student GG: Thank you very much.

Student HH: Docho Roshi, the bodhisattva's vow-- how to understand it and to follow it?

SR: Bodhisattva's vow. Bodhisattva's vow is a vow which is not possible-- looks like so. But possible or not is not our point. We should continue our practice without being involved in the possibility or impossibility. Because we should do it, we should continue our way. That's all. That is bodhisattva way. In other word, our practice is based on our inmost nature. As we are human being, and sentient being, and son or daughter of Buddha, we should. That is bodhisattva's vow.

Student HH: Thank you.

Student II: Docho Roshi, if you have a finger you can point, if you have a voice you can growl.

SR: Yeah. But, you know, until I feel I have voice or finger, I cannot use it. Do you understand? When I want it, I may use it, you know, like this, but when I don't have it I cannot use it.

Student II: Thank you very much.

Student JJ: Docho Roshi, how is a person with no self-perception aware of himself as being a person with no self-perception?

SR: No self-perception? Perception means the idea. No self-perception-- no idea of self means.

Student JJ: Then who is aware of being a person with no self-perception?

SR: Oh. Here again, “no” does not mean, you know, opposite of the-- it is not just negation. It is strong affirmation: no. Usually “no” is opposite of “yes.” Affirmation. But in this case, “no” means like here [raps his stick once on a table or the floor]. Like this [raps] is “no.” When you say-- when you are making dispute [?] “yes” [raps] or “no” [raps]-- someone who knows what it is actually-- NO! [raps loudly] [1-2 words]. This kind of “no.” Both is not true. This is it [raps].

Student JJ: Thank you very much.

Student KK: Docho Roshi, the top of the mountain is a place without competition. Why is there so much competition to get there?

SR: Because you forget your seat, you know, and try to find out your seat there is so much competition. Each one has-- each one sit on the top of his own mountain, you know. Each one of us are boss. [Laughs, laughter.] There is no competition.

Student KK: Thank you very much.

Student LL: Docho Roshi, what can you say to my doubt about whether my zazen is true zazen, my practice is true practice, and my effort is right effort-- that type of thing?

SR: [2-3 words said while laughing.] [Laughs, laughter.] Don't, you know, don't doubt your practice. Just sit with us. That is true practice. When they get up, you should get up and join our practice. That is good enough. Don't think more than that. Then your practice will be true practice. But if you think too much about your practice, you will lose your practice, you know.

When you cook something, if you think too much or taste so many times, you know: “Too salty? [Add] water.” Or “Not much salt.” Add salt-- water-- salt. You will lose whole-- whole thing. [Laughter.] That is what you are doing. Okay. So don't think too much, or don't try too hard. Take your time and, you know [probably makes a gesture]-- [laughs, laughter]-- stay on your cart [?]. Okay?

Student LL: Thank you very much.

Student MM: Docho Roshi, why are we you?

SR: Why-- oh-- you are me?

Student MM: Why are we you?

SR: Oh. There is no reason, you know. If you want to find out why, you should ask yourself, you know. [Laughter.]

Student MM: I am.

SR: Huh?

Student MM: I am.

SR: Okay. You are. So when you are truly me, you know, there is no problem. But when you say “why,” there may be something to think about [laughter]. So-- but for me, there is nothing to think between you and me.

Student MM: Domo arigato.

SR: Hai. [Laughs.]

Student NN: When we are happy, do we suffer? Do we suffer when we are happy?

SR: Suffering exist actually in your happiness. And so if you seek for happiness, you know, what you will get will be the suffering, not happiness. So when you suffer, you should find out true happiness in your suffering. That is how you seek for true happiness. If you try to find out what is real suffering, you should seek for happiness [laughs, laughter]. You will find out what is suffering in its true sense.

Student NN: Thank you very much.

Student OO: Docho Roshi, the dharma is no dharma. The Tathagata doesn't come or go. And the Buddha cannot be seen by the thirty-two marks. Where is our way?

SR: Actually, there is no way-- no way-- wherever-- we say, “On the river you will see various mountain over the river.” Near [2-3 words] is near mountain and remote mountain. Between the waves, you know, we think there is no road in the sea, but between the road [waves?] there is some road. So nothing exist in its sheer emptiness. Even on the water there is mountain. Even in the water there is a path to go. So as long as you are-- we are practicing our way, there is no problem. Before you practice it, you know, you have problem.

Student OO: Thank you very much.

Student PP: Docho Roshi, I feel pretty foolish. How do you feel?

SR: Pretty foolish? Foolish?

Student PP: Yes.

SR: Ah. Yeah, I-- I feel same way. [Laughter.]

Student PP: Thank you very much.

Student QQ: Docho Roshi, first our teacher became ill, and then someone passed away. What is the meaning of this?

SR: [Laughs.] Oh. I didn't think of the meaning of those, but nothing happens just by accident. There must be deep meaning to it. But I don't think I am, you know-- you will have my funeral service so soon. [Laughter.] I don't think in that way, but there is many things to think about.

Student RR: Docho Roshi, melting into rivers of gold--

SR: Excuse me?

Student RR: Melting--

SR: Uh-huh.

Student RR: -- into rivers of gold, tasting the bitterest dregs at the bottom of the teacup, I feel I am a more complete person for having these experiences because I find a world that is not measured. However, I don't want to become attached to this world, but want to give it its proper place so it will have its own existence. What can I [1-2 words]?

SR: You understand, you know, very well. But still your understand is not real because idea of ego is-- too much idea of ego involved in it. So don't think so much. Instead of thinking, you should forget-- try to forget yourself by all means. Okay?

Student RR: Thank you very much.

Student SS [Richard Baker]: Docho Roshi, to many of the questions, you've answered, “Don't do anything,” or “Forget about.” I have difficulty with this point. I feel that's too, maybe, selfish. It helps us and it helps our people who practice with us. But I'm not sure it helps others so much. I feel we have to go beyond accepting everything. It-- sometimes Zen practice seems too much like the poem of the bamboo, which doesn't-- the shadows don't disturb the dust on the stairs. I think the dust on the stairs has to be disturbed sometimes--

SR: Yeah [laughs].

Richard: -- and grass doesn't always grow by itself.

SR: Uh-huh.

Richard: What do you think?

SR: We should take care of grass, and we should always be disturbed by-- or at least possible to appreciate the shadow of the bamboo. If we ignore this point, our practice doesn't mean anything. Pain [?]-- big great constellation through everything. And to have renunciation in it is our way, which is pretty difficult. This is the point many of our Zen masters had difficulty in their true practice, because it is not matter of successful or unsuccessful, you know. It is matter of how to handle themselves or how to understand the way to work on it. This is very subtle point. No one else but you cannot [can] help you.

As your teacher, I am trying to help you in various way, but at the same time I know I cannot help you [laughs]. But as a disciple and teacher, this kind of effort should be always continuing. That is why I am trying pretty hard with other students. I appreciate your effort and the way of working on your own problem too. This is very much true with everybody, but we should make more effort to know how to work on ourselves, how to help ourselves, how to take care of our practice. This is the most important point. So let's-- let's have-- let's do more effort on this point. Each one of you are making pretty good effort on this point, but not enough in comparison to the-- to our teachers and masters who attained perfect enlightenment.

Thank you very much.

Richard: Thank you very much.

SR: The points all of you presented were like a jewel and gold. But we should make jewel and-- jewels and gold-- jewels and gold in its true sense. Something special: When we say “something special” that is-- that may be jewels and gold-- and gold. When we say “something common,” that is also jewels and gold, which-- to which usual people attach to it. When we attach to them, that is not true jewels and gold.

What we are practicing here is not compare with anything else. No one can practice our way as we are doing at Tassajara. Tassajara has-- we have our own way, and Tassajara has its own way. If you start to compare gold with iron, jewels with [1 word], you will not understand what is jewels or gold.

Something common is something-- something common is valuable because it is common. Something is special is valuable it is-- because it is special. People may say to sit on top of the mountain is something which is special, and what we do in our everyday life is something which is common. But in its true sense, or in its absolute sense, there is no difference.

So I should like to be a good friend and good teacher of the-- each one of you. Thank you very much.

[Recorder stopped and restarted.]

Tape operator [Richard Baker]: At-- at the transition, when the tape was being changed, the question was, “Roshi, when you eat an apple, form is emptiness. Give an example of 'Emptiness is form.'” The answer: “When you say 'emptiness,' you have the idea of complete-- you have an idea of complete.” Then she forgot a word. “That is not what emptiness means. Everything is-- ” and I think the tape picks up from there.

[Tape resumes with the end of Philip Wilson's shuso ceremony.]
Source: City Center original tape. Verbatim transcript by Bill Redican (8/15/01).

File name: 68-04-23-B: Shōsan Ceremony (Verbatim) Changed "stone hand up [thrown up?]" to "but a stone hang up"; removed "kotsu {?} or kyosaku" (nyoi stick) 3-4-2015 by DC.

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