A minimally edited transcript

To Study The Self

Saturday, February 19, 1966

Tape operator: Sesshin afternoon lecture.

SR: Once a candle starts to burn it will continue to burn on altar[?]—but when the center of the candle is covered by wax it is rather difficult to catch fire. How to save your life[?] [laughs]. Be certain[?] your practice continues to burn [laughs]. It is safer to catch fire—the fire of freedom[?] this is it[?]—it does not burn, it is even difficult to set fire. We would have to take fire to start it ???.

Originally a candle is like ???, but sometimes it is not. When the center is covered by wax, it doesn't catch. I try to ???, but it is very difficult [laughs]. When you set fire ???. So unfortunately[?], it is the same, exactly the same with our practice. But you cannot say it is difficult. No one can say it is difficult to understand it, and that is why[?]. I have never—I haven't heard of such a thing before. But actually, I found it very difficult, [laughs - putting on another voice] What has happened here? I think it is useful[?]. It is difficult to understand why.

Dogen Zenji says to study Buddhism is to forget—to study Buddhism is to study tanden[?]. To study the tanden[?] is to forget tanden[?]. To study Buddhism is to study ourselves. To study ourselves is to forget ourselves. If we forget ourselves, candle will be candle[?]. And the candle will light up your room. All people are candles. The candle has a candle; that was what he said. To study Buddhism is to study yourself. To study yourself is to forget yourself. If you forget yourselves, you will be awake but with the truth that is self-identity.

But this self-identity is not just self-identity. It is absolutely contradictory self-identity. A candle has contradictory absolute existence, because in its center it has something which is not candle. But an actual candle, if it is only wax, it is not candle. So, for a candle to have cotton in the center of it is absolutely necessary for a candle. And when you find candle, that's self-identity. When it catches fire, candle becomes candle.

As long as you find zazen difficult, because of the difficulties of your practice, that is not zazen. The difficulty you have will make a candle a candle. You should understand, you have to be encouraged by the difficulties. You don't need to over learn, then Zen is all right. The pain you have in your legs is constant your suffering[?], but I enjoy it[?] [laughs]—that is your teacher. You have always your teacher [laughs]. Salt[?] on your legs and learn[?] [laughs]. When you have some pain[?] [laughs], you can chant[?] and you can fast[?]. If you want to try to get rid of pain—difficult. Problem with practice, it is the same thing. To pull out cotton from the wax [laughs]. The wax, it is full of from center—cotton center from the candle [laughs]—your leg burns [laughs] they have served [laughs] its own purpose. [Laughs] ridiculous[?]—actually[?]. So, there is no secret in our practice.

Our practice is based on the traditional understanding of actual being—how everything exists. This understanding was taught by Buddha, and patriarch after patriarch, we developed ???. And we actualized this understanding. Because of this understanding we could develop our practice. Because of our practice we could preserve this essential teaching for more than two thousand years. This teaching is based on the actual truth of how we exist here. That is why Buddhism did not die, and continuous development took place over our past wisdom.

The development of our Buddhist system will be realized in your own life. And in your everyday life there is no difference between our historical development of Buddhism and actual development of your life—there is no difference at all. That is—for us it is helpful to develop our way. Before you understand, how will you accept it as it is? You may feel that Buddhism is one religion among many religions, but actually it is not so. For Buddhism there should not be even the name of Buddhism. This actual way of life following at something, something quite different, something quite different from your understanding of life.

In this point there is no difference between Japanese way of life and your way of life. How a candle burns in Japan—candle burns same way as in America. Even though difference of our candles [laughter]. We have enormous candles, [laughs] but they burn the same way [laughs]. When fire is the same, there's no difference, so there's nothing new to us. We are studying what we know. Even though you know something clearly[?] [laughs], you don't know [laughs] you know this. That’s all. So, you have to know in its true sense. When you know what you know, that is enlightenment.

So, there will be a day you will know something you knew, that is enlightenment. Enlightenment is not to find out something quite new. Very soon[?] when that is—your practice some activity[?] and whether all correct or from quality[?]. In the streams[?] of water, there is nothing but food. But there in fish that should be food. But before it eats that food, they don't know what to call it[?]. So [laughs] they will see[?], but will not see the food in front[?]. "Oh, this is food." [Laughs] but this is their enlightenment [laughs] with those foods [laughs]. It looks like new to you, but it is the truth Buddha found out more than two thousand years ago. Only you think, "Oh, [laughs] this is a food,” you decide[?]. Long, long before, many people found out [laughs] that will happen, [not] just you[?]. That is enlightenment.

When people are waiting for your enlightenment [laughs] at least many people who found it behind her[?]. Fish waiting [laughs] ???—where it’s alive, biting capturing[?] food, keep waiting[?]. How do they know this is food? Everyone is waiting[?] for you [laughs]—Buddha is [laughs] waiting for your enlightenment. Not only Buddha, everyone is waiting for you, even your children[?] [laughs] are waiting for your enlightenment. If you find enlightenment [laughs], even if Dogen’s enlightenment—always one other[?] [laughs] our life will be pulling [laughs] you back[?] very soon[?]. If everyone is waiting, who will help you? So, nothing happens, but something happens to you. That is enlightenment. So that is not whether you decide I’m aware of this or not ???—just do it. Place your trust in spirit[?].

And it is necessary to do it—to confront through the practice. That is actually necessary[?]. And just be as needed[?] [laughs]. That is not what I mean. I want how to find Buddha. First ???—when you really[?] confront Buddha, through practice, through eternal[?] practice, you obtain pure karma[?]. You acquire the same form[?] of your humanness as Buddha. You acquire the same ??? of Buddha nature. Buddha as you. Buddha and you is not two[?].

Absolutely[?], but it is absurd, because incomplete[?] but it is ???. Partially abstract, but it is realized[?] ????. Actually, it is the same ??? we say. The teaching will say what is missing[?]. But our way of separating ourselves, a so-called mistake[?] absolute self-idea, this ??? is idealistic. But it is not so. Our teaching is based on actual experience. So, when you practice our practice fully[?], solely[?], you are already Buddha too[?]. You are firmly[?]. If you cannot practice our way with [not] intellectual understanding, it may be better to try to understand our way more intellectually, but it is not necessary. Just do it.  You are Buddha—even if we don’t see it[?].

You cannot prove[?] anything without managing yourself. Before you mutually[?] practice our way, if take the wrong program[?], you cannot do anything. You will not be settled; you will not be pleased[?] with anything[?]. You could see[?] why we practice zazen.

So, whatever you have to do, you have to continue. Your friend, your teacher, will not always be your friend or teacher. So, you have to think by yourself[?]. If you can, try to realize[?] your aim[?]. Try to not be harmful[?] in your everyday life.

It is acquired generally[?], but if you can sit in our way, you can do anything. Our practice is not solution[?]—use Zen to see[?] anything. If you want to die[?], what do you want to die? But it is more difficult to by ??? [laughs].


Transcript by Shundo David Haye, Wendy Pirsig, and Peter Ford 6/2022. Re-transcribed as verbatim by Peter Ford 6/2023 from audio file provided by Engage Wisdom. The audio is very difficult to hear at many points, so much of the transcription is questionable. Lightly edited for readability by Peter Ford (6/2023).


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