In the Prajnaparamita Sutra

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

Friday, January 21, 1966

In the Prajnaparamita Sutra, which we recite every morning and evening, it says, “No mind.” It says, “No form, no sensation, no ( search ??), no active substance, no consciousness, no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue.” No. This negative, no, means liberation.

When you do something, you know, now it doesn't mean that you have no nose or no eyes. You have eyes; you have nose. But when we say, “no nose”, it means, you know, you think that your face's consist of your nose and eyes and and mouth and hairs and ears. But this kind of understanding will lose the reality of your face. Even though you have [a face], it is just not just an accumulation of nose, ears … your face is not just an accumulation of nose and eyes and ears and mouth. If nose is fixed upside down, that is not your nose, because it fixed in vertical, as Dogen-zengi says, “nose is nose”.

So “nose” means nose is not just nose; nose is something more than your nose. If you have this kind of misunderstanding of nose, it means you have understanding of limited things – a part of a one existence. But when you say a part of it, “a part” is not a part any more. A part cannot be separated from the rest of the part.

When you say, “This is nose,” you lose your reality of the nose. So we have… when we want to express what is actually nose, the best way is “That is not your nose.” That is maybe the best way. When you think, “Oh, this is not just nose “– something more than that, then you realize the reality of the nose. So we say, “No nose,” No, that is not nose or no nose. Only say, “No nose” we realize what is actually nose.

So “no nose” means … “no nose” point at actual understanding or reality … reality of nose. So no … it is the same to say “no nose” or “no ears” or “no eyes”. When we say “no eyes” it points at the reality. When we say “no nose” we point at the reality. When we say, “no mouth”, we point at the reality.

So “no” means sometimes to put emphasis on something. “No nose” means “that is nose”. The same thing, when I say, “no nose” this is ( acorrect ??) expression of your nose. When I say, “nose”, of course you say, “I have nose! Is that so?” When I say, “You have no nose”, you stop and “Oh, is it really so? I have nose.” Maybe I realize your nose in its true sense.

So, “no nose” means “You have nose.” “No ears” means “You have ears.”

So find out what is your ears or what is your nose. That means “no”.

So in Buddhism, “no” means reality, and sometimes “no” means when we put the emphasis on something, we say, “no nose”. When say “This cake is sweet,” sometimes we say, “This cake is not sweet.” “Not sweet” means “very sweet” – in Chinese….. In Buddhism's eyes. Sometimes you when you see the score, some say written on score, you may wonder what does it means.

For instance, “Water dance at the top mountain, and ….no, no, excuse me. Cloud hang on the mountain, and it is not calm.” “Not calm” means very calm.

When the cloud is on the foot of the mountain, it express the same calm feeling, but poem it says, “not calm.” “Not calm” means it is a kind of ( rhetorical ??) negation.

Sometimes you put, you know … when we want to say something in strong way, we … you put it in negative form. “Isn't it” means “it is”. Instead of “it is”, you say “isn't it?” That is stronger expression than “it is.”

This is a kind of rhetoric, but in ( just ??) Sutra, “no” means ( affirmation ??). Sometimes it is literally negative, but most of the time, it means stronger affirmation. This understanding ( rooted ??) from our practice.

When you drink tea, you should not listen to lecture. I'm sorry, but it is true. When you listen to lecture, you should listen, just listen to lecture. That is our way. When we talk, we should not take tea like this. We cannot do two things at one time, because each activity includes everything. When you take tea, it means, that you take tea, it includes all of your activity, and it covers all of your activity. This our practice.

So when we say, at the same time, when we say, “Nose,” nose covers everything. When we say, “Eyes,” eyes cover everything. And this is the true understanding the way to understand things in its true sense. When you understand something as a part of something, you lose the reality. You lose relationships between things and you just get a dead idea of something.

So, everything… our understanding of everything is not everything as a part of something. Everything includes the rest of the thing. That is the true understanding of everything. When we say, “Mind,” mind includes everything. That is true understanding of your mind. Mind include everything. In your practice, if you have mind, which is related to something else, that is not true understanding of your mind.

When you say, “Mind” mind should include everything. Everything that happens to your mind is not a part of your experience, it is each of your images or function is mind, which includes everything. And so, each experience is independent experience from other experience. And each experience … and when each experience include everything, every experience, that is Zen practice. That is … that means you have independent practice, when all practice which include everything.

So, you do not attain enlightenment after Buddha or before Buddha. When you attain enlightenment, Buddha attains enlightenment and the rest of other Patriarchs attains enlightenment at the same time. This is right understanding of enlightenment. It is not before or after you practice zazen, just you attain enlightenment. So enlightenment include practice and practice ( includes ??) enlightenment. This is right understanding of our practice.

And right understanding of reality.

So, this “no” is very important. So, here, also in this Sutra, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Emptiness is to point at the form itself. Form is emptiness, we say, “Form is emptiness” it means “form is form, through and through.” “Emptiness is form”, it means “Emptiness, through and through.”

So, form is nothing but the emptiness. Emptiness is nothing but the form.

So, when you practice, the way to practice is not to attain enlightenment.

Anyway, we should do, you should sit through and through without having any idea. You should not be concerned about enlightenment – just sit.

Don't be concerned about what your teacher may say about your practice. He may say, “Your practice is not good!” He may say so, but it's all right. You have to do it, you have to sit with all your strength. You have to do your best.

When you say, “Form is emptiness”, I think you understand that. You understand in this way, “form is emptiness”: it means detachment, you know. Form is emptiness: we should not be attached to some certain form. That is true. But you have idea of detachment. That detachment ( bothers ??) your true understanding. Detachment.

It is same thing to put notice on bitter persimmon or sweet persimmon, you know. If you put some notice on persimmon tree, they will be interested in ( doing ??) that tree. And they will try [to see] if it is sweet or not. So, best is not to put any notice on that tree. That way, no mischievous boys will come. No one will come, no one will be interested in that. If you say, “not sweet” or “detached”, you will be interested in it.

So, form is emptiness is not that. Emptiness is form, we say. Then you can get rid of the idea of emptiness, too. Do you see? It means to directly experience your life without “no” or “yes”. This point is very important.

When you become you through and through -- we say, when stone is stone through and through, that is real stone. That is not just stone.

So, when, you know, we say, “Form”, that is all. When we say, “Emptiness”, that is all. There is no comment for us. “I” that's all. No “You”. When I say, “You”, that's no “I”. It is not after, communicating “I” and “You”, to intimate understanding between us. When I become just I, you become me. When you become just you, when you become just you, you know, I become you.

When there is no need to say anything about the relationship, there is reality.

But, usually, we arrange many things in some system, you know. This is ( teaching ??) is for Zen. This teaching is for ( adult ??) or for boys. This teaching is for girls, and this teaching is for men. And this teaching is for beginners, and this teaching is for advanced student. To arrange the teaching in this way is not true way. Each teaching is independent teaching.

We should understand in this way. You should not compare the teaching you have with some other students. This is for me, you know, for me, an advanced student [to say] – this is teaching is for some beginners, not for me – this is really poor understanding. Whatever the teaching may be, the teaching you have had is your teaching.

So, it is not …. It is not after you … advance, step by step, to attain enlightenment. You cannot arrange your steps to the enlightenment. Each step is independent practice. And on each step, there must be enlightenment. When you develop yourself only [on] one step you have, there is true understanding of the teaching. So, it means you have enlightenment.

When you arrange it, you know, you lose the essence of the teaching.

Sengai 's teacher, do you know Sengai? When I went to Fields Bookstore, the old master hangs the Sengai's picture … picture of a frog, and it says, if we can attain, while sitting zazen. [laughs] It says, just if … if it is possible to attain enlightenment by sitting posture [laughs] – frog says. [laughs]

Very much I miss this statement. Frog has enlightenment, you know, but you may laugh at the frog. You may think “I can attain enlightenment by sitting posture” [laughs]. But you are laughing at him, but he may laugh at you, you know.

“Of course, I have enlightenment, don't you know that?”, [laughing] he may say, but you may say, “Just by sitting -- how is it possible to attain enlightenment?” I don't know which is laughing at which!

So, even the frog, when he sit like this, he has enlightenment. You should not laugh at him.

That if we practice zazen in cross-legged posture to attain enlightenment, that is worse that the frog!

This kind of … this point is very important. This is the wisdom of prajnaparamita – the wisdom to cross this shore to the other shore. So in this shore, there is the other shore. The other shore, there is this shore. So, when you have this wisdom, this shore is the other shore; the other shore is this shore. So this is called perfect wisdom. This wisdom is, so it is said, is the Supreme Mantra. Supreme, and so that the most important point of the Prajnaparamita Sutra is emptiness or “not” or “no”.

If you understand this “no” or “not” you have prajnaparamita – the wisdom to cross this shore to the other shore.

And we'll finish sesshin by reciting the sutra at future. It might be better, I thought it might be better to recite the sutra at the end of the sesshin, before we practice zazen until pretty late at 7 or 7:30. But it is not possible because of the noise of the movie, so we will stop practice before the movie starts. ( Okay, that's enough ??).


Source: digital audio archive from DC. Problem set. Thanks to audio work by Angus Atwell, transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Work in progress. Further preparation to post by DC


File name: 66-01-21-BN: In the Prajnaparamita Sutra (titled by dc) Transcript in progress. Needs further work, checking. Words bracketed like ( word ??) in doubt. 11-23-14 removed 66-01-21-A part from transcript. It's still at the beginning of the older audio files. Changed "giggles" to "laughs" 1-5-2017, dc. Added title, 7-6-2017.

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