Freedom from Everything

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Sesshin Lecture, Day 5
Wednesday, June 9, 1971
San Francisco

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I think you, you know, have understood-- (Can you hear me? Yeah? Not so well. Okay? Mmm?) You have understood what is zazen as your practice. But I didn't explain how you sit-- I didn't give you instruction how you sit in detail, but I told you, you know, how I practice shikantaza-- or zazen. Maybe that is my way, so I don't know how another teachers will, you know, sit, I don't know, but that is anyway my shikantaza.

I started this practice, actually, maybe two-- two years ago, after I went to [2-4 words unclear; one earlier transcript states, “cross the creek at Tassajara”] [laughs, laughter], not because I saw many good place to sit, you know. There's two [or] three caves where you can sit. But not because of that. Perhaps some of you were swimming, you know, with me at that time. Some beautiful girl students [laughs, laughter] and Peter [Schneider?] was there [laughs, laughter]. And as you-- I cannot swim, actually [laughs], but because they were enjoying swimming so much, so I thought I may join [laughs]. But I couldn’t swim. But there were so many beautiful girls over there, so I tried to, you know, go there [laughs, laughter], without knowing I couldn't swim [laughs], so I was almost drowned [laughs, laughter]. But I knew that, you know, I will not die, I will not drown. I shall not be drowned to death, you know, because there are many students. So someone will help [laughs]. But I was not so serious.

But, you know, feeling was pretty bad, you know. Water is, you know-- I am swallowing water [laughs]. So feeling was too bad, so I stretch my arm, you know, so that someone catch me [laughs]. But no one [laughs, laughter]-- no one helped me. So I decided, you know, to go to the bottom [laughs, laughter], to walk, but that was not possible either [laughs, laughter]. I was, you know, I couldn't reach to the bottom, or I couldn't get over the water. What I saw is beautiful girls' legs [laughs, laughter]. But I couldn't, you know [laughs], s- -- take hold of their legs, you know. I was rather scared [laughs, laughter].

At that time I realized that we will never have good practice, you know, unless we become quite serious, you know. I knew that I was not dying, you know, at that time, so I was not so serious, so I-- because I was not so serious, you know, I, you know, had very difficult time. I thought if I, you know, knew I was, you know, anyway, I was dying, you know, I will not struggle anymore. What I could do is to stay still, you know [laughs], if I am dying, you know. Because I thought I had, you know, another moment, so I couldn't become so serious.

Since then, you know, I started shikantaza expecting, you know, another moment, moment after moment I tried to sit, you know, as if I am dying, you know, in the water. That helps a lot, you know. Since then my practice improved a lot. That is why, you know, and I tried so long time, and I think I am quite-- I have good confidence in my practice, so I told you, you know, how I sit my shikantaza.

It was very interesting experience, you know. I was, you know, I was among beautiful girls [laughs], you know, and that sort of thing, you know, reminded me of Buddha's overcoming demons, you know [laughs, laughter]. I am sorry, you are not evil, but, you know, beautiful [laughs] demons [laughs, laughter]. But if I am dying, you know, those beautiful girls will not help, you know. If I am really dying, not because of water, but because of my, you know, sickness or something, it will not help.

So we can sit, you know, with demons and beautiful girls, and, you know, or demons or snakes. You know, snakes is okay, you know [laughs]. When I am dying, you know [laughs], it will not hurt me, you know. Anyway, I am dying, so it is okay. And they are with me. They will be happy to be with me, and I am very happy to be with them. In that situation, everything is with us, and, you know, we are happy to be with them, by not being hurt or helped or disturbed. But usually it is difficult to feel in that way because we have always involved in gaining idea, expecting something in future. So usually it is very difficult. But when you-- at least when you practice zazen, you should not be caught by, you know, you shouldn’t be involved in gaining idea.

The most important thing is to confront with yourself and to be yourself. Then naturally, you know, you can accept things as they are, and you can see things as they are. You will have perfect wisdom at that time. That is why I told you my way of zazen.

Now, as Katagiri Sensei told you last night, you know, you awaken, you know, from the dream. By “dream,” you know, he means, you know, our usual everyday life, which is involved in gaining idea. And when you expect things, you know, in various selfish way, that is actually the dream you have. But after awakening from the dream, you know, what you mean [need?] is another to come back, you know, to actual life, which include your dream, you know.

Your dream is actually, you know, in your everyday life. Actually, you cannot stop dreaming, and you will have also-- your life will not be so different from the life you have in your dream. A dream is something you-- in dreams, something you experienced, you know, appears. So actually [laughs], not much difference, you know. What you do is maybe same. But when you realize that this is dream, it is our life from Buddha's viewpoint.

When you, you know, when you are able to sit, you know-- practice shikantaza-- and when you experience shikantaza, and when you understand the meaning of shikantaza, the meaning of your everyday life will [be] completely different. [Laughs.] Do you understand [laughs] how different it is [laughs]? If you don't understand, maybe you are not yet practicing shikantaza, maybe.

What will be the difference? You have freedom, you know, from everything. That is, you know, the main point. Usually you have no freedom from things you have or you see, you know. But if you experience, you know, or if you understand the experience of shikantaza, you will have freedom from things. And you will enjoy, you know, your life in its true sense because you are not attached to anything.

We say always do not attach to anything, but, you know, literally it does not mean, so much, attachment or detachment. Detachment is not actually opposite of attachment. Attachment can be detachment, you know. Detachment can be attachment too. So words [laughs] doesn't mean so much, you know. “Detachment,” you know [laughs, laughter]. “Attachment” [laughs]. Doesn't mean so much, you know.

Anyway, you know, if you become really happy, you know, really happy, and if that happiness, you know, continues, maybe that is detachment, you know, what we mean. Most of the happiness you have is a kind of happiness which you, after having that happiness, you will be [feel] regret, you know. “Oh,” [laughs], “it was,” you know, “at that time,” you know, “we are very happy, but now [laughs] we are not so happy,” you know. You will feel in that way.

But real happiness will last in your mind always and encourage you when you are not-- in your adversity or in your happy life too. When you are successful, you will be, you know, you will enjoy the success, and you, you know, even though you fail, it is also good [laughs]. It will encourage you. Not encourage, but, anyway good. You can feel, you know, the feeling of-- you can enjoy the feeling of failure: “Oh, this is pretty good.” [Laughs, laughter.] “Not so bad as I thought,” you know. That kind of feeling you will always have.

So you have always satisfied with things. So you have always enough. You don't want too much, you know, as you wanted before. Even though, you know, you start one-hundred-day sesshin from next morning, you can do it [laughs]. You will not be discouraged. You will not say, “I cannot do that,” after five days [of] sesshin, “It is too much,” you know [laughs]. You don’t say so. “Okay, let's do it,” you may say, you know, because you know you can do it.

In your life, you know, if you come to a great difficulty, you know, like you came to big mountain-- not like Tassajara. Tassajara has many ways to go through [laughs], but big mountain doesn’t have any passage, you know. Looks like so, actually, but, you know, even though you go Nepal, you know, there is way to get through. One-hundred [-day] sesshin is difficult if you, you know, do it. You can do it. Even though you die, nothing happens [laughs, laughter]. It is okay, you know. Something will happen anyway [laughs]. So you are always, you know, happy, and you will not be discouraged.

Dogen Zenji explained this kind of feeling, you know, in “Tenzo Kyokun,” “Instruction to the Head Cook,” you know. Even though you think, “I cannot cook with this kind of poor material,” but there is way to cook. If you really want to, you know, want to make your friends happy you can do it anyway. If you have big mind, kind mind, and joyful mind always. That kind of mind arise from shikantaza. As long as you expect, you know, anything in future, you know, you cannot, you know, do things well. When you don't expect anything and just do it, something will happen there. That is actually shikantaza.

The kind of life-- and the kind of life-- next point is, kind of life you choose will, you know, will be different. Before you may like something great, big, and beautiful [laughs]. Number one, you know, in California [laughs, laughter]. Number one Zen Center, and Zen practice, you know, Zen practice monastery in America, in the world. Even better than Japan [laughs]-- Japanese monastery [laughs]. That will be, you know, what you want before you have right practice. The things you choose will be different and way of life you take will be different.

Your life, you know, from your age of hippie [laughs], is very different, I think. Time of hippie, you know, [is] different. Very Buddhist-like. That is why you like Buddhism, maybe. But if you become a Buddhist, your life will change more-- more-- you will be super-hippie [laughs, laughter], not usual one. Your style of, you know, your lifestyle is-- looks like very Buddhistic, but not enough. And, you know, when you have that kind of, you know, strict practice and when you ignore your practice, your weak point of practice, then eventually you will have good practice. More and more you will understand what, you know, Zen master said and appreciate their life more and more.

After my lecture, I thought about what I said, you know. Usually I forget, you know [laughs], what I said quite easily, but [laughs] the lecture I gave you was pretty serious one, so [laughs]-- result of actual experience, you know. So I thought about it, you know, and I thought-- I think I put emphasis on some hard, you know, practice, you know, difficult, hard practice: “Don't expect,” you know, “next moment,” or something. “Don't move!” [Said with mock seriousness.] [Laughs, laughter.]

But I am sorry but I have to say so, you know, because your practice looks like too weak, you know. I want it [wanted?] to make you stronger, you know. But actually what I meant was you need, you know, even though your-- that your practice is not so good is okay, but that you move is maybe okay, but, you know, if you lack confidence, you know, zazen cannot be zazen. If you, you know, are not strict enough with yourself, and if you have-- if you [have a] lack of confidence, then it doesn't work. That is why I said so, but what you will-- what makes your practice deeper and deeper, and the experience, you know, better and better, is usual effort, you know, usual effort-- day-by-day effort to sit. That makes your experience, you know, better and better.

In China and in Japan there are many teachers who attained enlightenment, you know, like this [laughs] [snapped fingers]: Chht! [Laughs.] Like this [snapped fingers again] [laughs, laughter]. You may think so, but actually that was the result of many years practice or many times of failure. This is Dogen Zenji's famous words: “That you hit,” you know, “a mark,” you know, “is the result of ninety-nine times failure.” [Laughs.] The last arrow hit the mark, but that is after ninety-nine times failure. So failure is okay actually. But each time you, you know, hit the mark, each time you shoot you do it, you know, with confidence, you are sure to hit the mark. That is, you know, important. So Dogen Zenji said, “Ninety-nine failure is okay.” [Laughs.] So anyway, I will [laughs] continue to try to hit the mark that doesn't work.

So each time you sit, you know, it is necessary for you to do your best in your practice. Anyway, if you only sit, you know, [in the] cross-legged position for forty minutes, “That is zazen,” you may think. But that is not zazen. If it is preparation, it is okay. Like you practice yoga, it is okay. But, you know, the most important point should be, you know, done-- all your effort, physical and spiritual.

That is why, you know, we must have good breathing. Anyway, when you do something physically, breathing follows. And if your way of breathing is not appropriate, you know, you cannot do any physical work. Even [when] you sew, you know, breathing should be-- should follow. When you lift some heavy things, you know, breathing should be completely, you know, controlled, or else you cannot lift heavy thing. You may say, breathing-- anyway you can take breathing, but breathing-- if you want to, you know, have good breathing, you know, it is not so easy. Your posture should be right, and your mudra should be right because your mudra is a symbol of your, you know, mentality. If spine is not straight, your breathing will not be deep enough.

So if you think about those point-- how to make, you know, how to control all of your mental and physical, you know, effort. Of course it takes time, you know. Enlightenment does not come when [until] you are in perfect control of your mind and body, you know. You cannot accept it. You don't feel you have enlightenment. Or, in other word, when your mind and body [are] completely one, then enlightenment is there actually. Whatever you hear, whatever you think, that will be enlightenment. So it is not the sound of bamboo hit by a stone or color of plum trees that makes them enlightened, but their practice, you know, is there. So they attained enlightenment. So enlightenment could be many-- so in your everyday life, you know, you have, you know, always chance to have enlightenment. Whatever you do, you know: If you go to restroom, there is, you know, chance to attain enlightenment. If you cook, there is enlightenment. If you clean floor, there is enlightenment.

I think we are very fortunate to have various teachers. It is not just, you know, happened in this way, but previous, you know, human effort came to this point. Your culture, you know, is, you know, came to this point where you want to study Zen. Japanese Zen tradition came to the point that we need some revival. It is not-- this kind of feeling didn't happened-- arised in Japan just, you know, ten or twenty years. But pretty long time, this kind of, you know, movement was there.

So far as I know, Oka Sotan Roshi, you know, was the-- all the source of-- source of all the teachers, you know-- source of power of all the teachers. Tatsugami Roshi, you know, studied under Harada Roshi. Harada Roshi's, you know, teacher was Oka Sotan. My teacher was Kishizawa Roshi, and my master was Suzuki So-on, and their teacher was, you know, Oka Sotan Roshi. Yoshimura Roshi's teacher, you know, is Hashimoto Roshi. Hashimoto Roshi's teacher is Oka Sotan Roshi, you know.

At Komazawa [University] there were, you know, good scholar of Buddhism-- Eto Sokuo. He was my classmate-- my teacher's classmate-- master's [Gyokujun So-on's] classmate when they were studying at Komazawa. At that time, Oka Sotan Roshi was head of Komazawa.

So if we, you know-- things didn't happen, yeah, to Zen Center just by chance. If we don't know what to do, if we study, you know, Oka Roshi's teaching, Kishizawa Roshi's teaching, or [Kodo] Sawaki Roshi's [?] teaching, you know. Answer is there.

[Sentence finished. Tape changed.]
-- you know, came from one source. He was a really great, you know, teacher. Not only he was a great teacher for his disciples, but also for laymen who studied under him he was a great, you know, teacher.

I wanted to tell you, you know, something about how to extend our shikantaza to your everyday life, you know, today, right now. But-- and I-- I, you know-- I take out the interpretation of precepts by Oka Sotan Roshi. And I read, you know, preface of it [laughs], preface, which was written by Kishizawa Roshi. And in the introduction of, written by Kishizawa Roshi for Oka Sotan Roshi's interpretation of precepts, he referred to Oka Roshi's, you know, precepts lineage, which was wrong [laughs]. Which was wrong.

Kishizawa Roshi knew, you know, under the, you know, many-- after many years study under Oka Roshi, what is right lineage. Lineage should be like this, he knew-- Kishizawa Roshi knew what-- how it should be. But Oka Roshi's, you know, his teacher's lineage was wrong because Dogen Zenji's lineage consist of two lineage: Rinzai and Soto. And came to Dogen Zenji one from Nyojo-- [from the] Soto lineage. Another is from Myozen-- Rinzai master, disciple of Eisai.

But his lineage is just Soto, you know-- Oka Roshi's. So, you know, Kishizawa Roshi have to ask him why. “Why is this, you know? It is wrong,” you [he] said, “But your lineage is wrong” [laughs]. “What is that?” you know. When he asked him, you know, Oka Sotan Roshi, you know, his face changed, and tears came down from his eyes. “Yes, it is wrong.” And he started to talk about his lineage.

When Oka Roshi was young, he wanted to go to Komazawa University-- Komazawa College-- you know, to study Buddhism. He wanted to go there. But his master Token did not allow him or could not afford to send Oka Roshi to school, so he didn't say yes so easily. So, you know, he said, you know, “I want to study hard and become a good teacher and give precepts, you know, jukai-- ojukai-- having ojukai-e and precepts to many people, so let me study more.” And his master Token was pleased: “Okay, then you can go.”

But after he finished schooling, he came back. At that time he was making, you know, wood print, you know, for lineage, you know, to make, you know, lineage paper, okechimyaku. Some of you already received my okechimyaku when you received, you know, rakusu. His master was making which is wrong, so Oka Roshi explained, you know, in detail, it should not be like this, you know. It should not be just lineage of Soto, it should be Rinzai and Soto.

His teacher agreed: “Okay, maybe I was wrong, but,” you know, “this lineage is the lineage which Kankei Zenji had”-- also famous teacher-- ”Kankei Zenji had. So according to Kankei Zenji's lineage, my lineage is not wrong. But if Dogen Zenji's lineage is like that, it should be like that,” you know, he said. So-- and then-- and he said, “I will make another wood print.”

But Kishizawa Roshi-- you know, when he came back and saw him-- when Kishizawa Roshi-- Oka Roshi saw him again, he, you know, he had-- he was making-- he finished half of it already, which was quite good. And his-- Token-- his teacher-- Sotan Roshi's teacher went to some specialist to make it and studied how to make it and, you know, tried to do it again.

But as Oka Roshi came back, you know, he made it although it was not complete. But he made it. And show it to him. At that time, you know, Oka Roshi ag- now-- his face changed again, and tears came down, especially when he said, “This is the okechimyaku,” you know, “lineage paper for you when you have big,” you know, “ojukai-e. This is for you.” When he said so, he almost cried and teacher and disciple cried, you know-- what do you say-- hugging and cried.

And then teacher said-- Oka Roshi said, “This lineage paper is okay, although it is not,” you know, “exactly [as] Dogen Zenji had it. It is okay. As long as,” you know, “this wood last, I will use it.” So that is why Oka Roshi's lineage paper is wrong. Because it was wrong, Kishizawa Roshi accused [him], you know, why [that] it is wrong. So when he was accused, again he [Oka] cried. Oka Roshi was that kind of person. It is not usual, you know, scholar or usual great Zen master. Not usual at all-- very unusual. When, you know, why we say Dogen Zenji is so great is not because of Shobogenzo maybe, but because of his sincere practice, not only as a Zen master but also as a man, you know, as a human. He was the most sincere student of Buddhism. Oka Roshi was that kind of teacher, you know.

I didn't know actually, you know, what we should do with our old okesa after, you know, Yoshida Roshi show us which-- how should be right traditional okesa, you know. I didn’t know what to do. But, you know, when I took out [Oka Roshi's book on the precepts], I didn’t know idea of solving this problem, you know, by Oka Roshi's help. But when I, you know-- I wanted to know what will be the interpretation of precepts not to act [do] unchaste act, you know. So I wanted to know about it. But what I found out is that, you know, preface [by Kishizawa Zenji], you know, I haven't read that part. It was just, I thought, it is just introduction [laughs]. But, you know, when I need it, you know, it appears in front of me like that. You may say that is just by chance, but I don't feel in that way [laughs]. If you say things happen just by chance, you know, all the things happen just by chance [laughs]. When we don't know, we say, “Things happen by chance.”

Katagiri Sensei and I, you know, discussed very hard about that point-- what should we do? [Laughs.] We had no answer for that. It is not things-- not that kind of thing we can ask Yoshida Roshi or someone else [about]. We should solve this problem just between us, who are responsible for this.

You think, you know, things happens, you know, in this way in America, at Zen Center, you know, but it is not just by chance. It is, you know, result of many years of many peoples' hard work, sincere work. It is not just, you know, way of propagating Buddhism. To us there is no idea of Buddhism. What is the truth will be always our, you know-- main point is what will be the truth.

As Katagiri Sensei said, you know, last night, breathing should be upright to the sky. And we should sit on black cushion without moving, so that we can, you know, grow to the sky. That is, you know, how you practice zazen, how I practice zazen, how Katagiri Sensei practice zazen-- as a priest, as a layman, you know. There is no difference in its-- in the virtue, whether you are layman or a priest, if we know what is the purpose of practice and how we should grow-- what will be our way of life as a Buddhist, you know. Only difference is, you know, we put more emphasis on the truth. Usual people do not respect truth so much, you know-- little bit different [laughs].

But, you know, eventually you will find out which is more important, as you have already found out. We cannot be fooled by anything so easily, you know, and we shouldn't fool anyone. We must “settle ourselves on ourselves,” as Katagiri Sensei says, you know. Excuse me [laughs]. “To settle one's self on one's self,” you know, that is very important point. How you do it is to be yourself on each moment. Whatever you do, you must do it, you know. You shouldn't expect someone's help. You shouldn't be spoiled by some shelter, you know. You should protect yourself, and you should grow upright to the sky. That's all, you know. That's all, but little bit different, you know. Maybe we are crazy [laughs, laughter]. According to them we are crazy, but we think they are crazy [laughs]. It's okay [laughs]. We will find out pretty soon which is crazy [laughter].

Okay. Thank you.
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Sources: City Center transcript and notes on back of the original tape case. Entered onto disk by Jose Escobar, 1997. Translation of Japanese terms and research assistance by Shohaku Okumura and Miyagawa Keishi-san. Bill Kwong commented on this lecture in a dharma talk at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center entitled “Dying in the Water.” In particular, he clarified the story about Oka Sotan's lineage papers. Transcript checked against tape and made verbatim by Bill Redican (11/30/01).

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File name: 71-06-09: Freedom from Everything Not Always So, p. 12, (Verbatim)

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