A minimally edited transcript

Genjo Koan No. 4

Tassajara, Thursday, August 24, 1967

(Again, the opening sentences were missed. According to Dick [Baker], they were something like: “This is the last lecture of sesshin. We have talked of form and emptiness, but have not understood it well.”-- B. F.)


… She was a part of the world, and whatever she said from top of the mountain, that was in her mind. And he—she felt unusual warm feeling even to mountain range after range, but at the same time, she felt very lonely [laughs], you see? That is what—something is missing in that understanding. What is it? Today, for my last lecture, I want to clarify this point.

Do you know a famous story—Gutei's one-finger Zen? [Laughs] ??? I think everyone knows it. Gutei Osho lived in a small cabin, small house or small hut, in deep mountain. One day a nun called Jissai visited him. And as soon as she came to his cabin, she rounded, round and round, around the altar [laughs] with her hat on her head. So Gutei Osho said, “Why don't you take off your hat?” [laughs], he said. And she said, “If you can say something good to me” [laughs], “I will take off my hat.” But he couldn’t say anything [laughs], so he was very much ashamed of himself. And he left his an, which is small temple, and went visiting famous Zen masters. At first, he thought he must see Tenryu. But before he decided to see Tenryu—there’s some story, but I’m not telling about it. But anyway, he decided to see Tenryu Osho. And before he said anything, Tenryu Osho pointed up his one finger, like this, and Gutei was enlightened [laughs]. You understand! [Laughter.] Form is [laughs]—form is emptiness. When you see some leaves falling down from the tree, one or two leaves falling down from the tree, you will see—you will see the autumn there. “Oh, autumn is here now already!” you may say. So, one leaf is not just one leaf; it means whole autumn. So, even one finger will cover everything, and here there is your world. Here you understood already all-pervading power of your practice. Your practice covers everything.

But unfortunately, we [laughs] are so—our understanding is so intellectual. When we say “covers everything,” that understanding is to remain in a space-bound area, space. And others said, the time is continuous and discontinuous. And discontinuous—idea of time which is discontinuous, or momentary idea of time, is the same as the space-bound idea. It is also a speck of point in the wide space. So, the one point included is this much. Your understanding is liable to be like this. But actually, when we say, “includes everything,” it means also past and future too. So, when you say, “includes everything,” it include everything which will exist in this moment, and which exist in this moment, and which will exist in this moment, which has existed in past time. Your understanding should reach this point. The all-pervading power and incessant continuity of the power—it is also important. Training period now is over, you know, it is true. But this is not end of our practice. Incessantly, one after another, our practice will continue.

So, we will go back to the story of Gutei Osho. After that, Gutei Osho, whenever someone came, he pointed that one finger [laughs]. That is all right, because he understood it, so they must have understood it [laughs]. I don't know [laughter]. But one day when the master, Gutei, was not in temple, someone came. So, his disciple mounted on the platform and [laughs] received the question, “What is Buddhism?” [laughs] the visitor—visiting monk said [laughs, laughter]. The disciple did it [held up one finger]. But unfortunately [laughter], his master [laughs] heard of it, and his master asked the disciple, “What is Buddhism?” He did it! [laughter] ??? But the master cut off his finger! [Laughter.] There is no more finger! So, the disciple, young disciple, cried out and almost went out, but the teacher called back and show the finger, [laughs, laughter] one finger again. The boy enlightened [laughs, laughter]. Do you understand? [Laughter.]

This may be a training period; this may be sesshin right now, you see. After the sesshin is cut off, what will you come to right now for the next training for us? You see? Cut off—but [laughs] another one appeared! [Laughter.] Do you understand? One after another, this will appear.

So, the continuity of—as well as the universality or all-pervading power of practice, we should have continuous practice, or else your practice is not perfect. Someone—even though you attain enlightenment by one finger—form is emptiness—but if that enlightenment is momentary experience or enlightenment, that is all. It does not mean much. Something is missing in your feeling even. But when you realize that your practice will continue incessantly without any gap between one and next practice, there there is true practice. If your enlightenment reach this point, nothing you have—your understanding perfect, and you don't feel anything missing. Your mind will be full of joy in its true sense.

So even though you think you enlightened, mostly our enlightenment remains in some intellectual understanding of time or space and based on some self-centered idea. And it is pretty hard to get beyond the limited intellectual understanding. This is why it is necessary to cut off the finger and to point out another finger. Some history fellow will go out, when once he's seen the one pointed finger, like Tokusan did [laughs] when Yutan blew out the light [laughs]. Now I must tell you this story. Tokusan-zenji visited Yutan Soshi[?]. It was too dark, it was very late. Tokusan thought he attained enlightenment under Yutan's instruction, so he wanted to go back. But Yutan said, “It is too late for you to go. Why don't you stay?” But he was so grateful and so glad that he understood the teaching because of his attaining enlightenment. So, the master gave him a light. “Then take this light with you.” And Yutan blew out the light. And Tokusan really, truly understood, and he went back. But that is—no one knows, as Dogen said—Dogen Zenji says, this enlightenment is perfect or not. If we see him, we’ll understand whether he attained enlightenment really truly. But so far as the story goes, we are not so sure.

From Buddha's time to our age, human nature is nearly the same. We live in the world of time and space, and our life does not go beyond this limit. It is like to push big snake [laughs] in small can [laughs]. Time and space—and snake will suffer in the small can. But snake does not know what is going on outside of the can. But why he—it is something [laughs]—something funny. The feeling is quite different [laughs, laughter]. Because it is in the can [laughs], it is so dark he cannot see anything, but he will struggle [laughs] in the small can. That is what we are doing. The more we struggle, the suffering will be greater [laughs, laughter]. That kind of practice does not work, [laughs] you know. Putting yourself in a small can and day after day sitting in cross-legged position [laughs, laughter] is worse than a waste of time [laughs]. Do you understand? [Laughs, laughter.] Sometime our practice is something like this [laughs]. We don't know how our understanding is limited. So small areas[?]. That is why you have to study koan. Koan will open up your mind. But if you understand your way of life more objectively, you will understand what you are doing.

I think right now you must have understood what is “form and [is] emptiness and emptiness is form” in its true sense. Here you will understand Dogen Zenji's difficult statement: “Time elapse from past to present, from present to future, and from future to present [laughs], from present to past.” If you really understand “form is emptiness” in its true sense, in time-bound, you have this much freedom. Time goes from future to past, from present to past. [laughs] This is extraordinary statement [laughs].

Student: What does it mean?

SR: [Laughs] what does it mean? This moment include past and future. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. In this present moment there is past and future. That future exist in present moment, it means future elapse to the past—present. Here, right now. Your future is right here [tapping]. And this kind of experience continues forever from Buddha to us, from us to your descendant, from you to your friend. And we will have the perfect relationship between us, something more than relationship. This is how you develop your character in whole world, past and future.

So the disciple of founder of my temple was always studying Zuigan's koan. Zuigan always addressed himself, “Zuigan!” [Laughs] and he [laughs] answered, “Yes!” [laughs, laughter]. And once in a while, “Zuigan?” “Hai!” [laughter]. The neighbors wondered [laughs, laughter] what he was doing! [laughter]. “Zuigan!” So, at first, they thought, someone isn't there [laughs, laughter]. But, oh! [Laughter.] He was always addressing himself, “Zuigan,” and answering, “Hai!” Do you understand? [Laughs, laughter.] Our practice should be like this, you know.

When you are practicing zazen—of course all of us have some small [laughs] enlightenment, or weak enlightenment. And in your zazen you may think [laughs] about it again, you see. But if you try to think about it, [laughs] you will be lost [laughs, laughter], you see, you will be lost. I know [laughs, laughter]. I myself be lost, so I think you will be lost too, because you are involved in intellectual, three-dimensions way of thinking. So that is why you are lost. And once you lost yourself, you start to torture yourself [laughs], you don't feel so good at first. And that anxiety or that impatience, angry feeling will continue, and your practice will become worse and worse [laughs]. That is what will happen to you.

But if someone call your name [laughs], “Where is—where is Kanzen?” “Hai!” [laughs, laughter]. All of a sudden his practice will come back to him. You see how emptiness is here, right here. [Taps stick] Do you understand? So Zuigan had to call himself [laughs], because he will be lost [laughs, laughter] if he doesn’t. So incessantly, you should call your name. And when you come back to—to yourself, there you’ll include everything as a solemn[?] being in the time-bound and space-bound. And you will feel very good [laughs].

This kind of practice, to address someone in this way, is most kind instruction to give. No one can be more kind to him[self] than this. Don't you think so? I do not write letters; that is my very bad habit [laughs]. And I think sometime really I have to—I must do, to just to come[?] a letter from someone is enough to bring back himself, to his home—directly to his home. This is true love [laughs]. Incessantly we are changing, so it is necessary to call you back incessantly. Without this kind of—without taking care of yourself in this way, you will be lost.

So, after zazen we take meals and we recite names of Buddha. That is to call ourself back to home. Here there is practice of continuity. And the other one, which I have been talking about for six days was practice of discontinuity. Even the practice is momentous one, it has virtue, great virtue to include everything. But if you practice our way incessantly, that practice will have power to bring Shakyamuni Buddha right here. Do you understand? This is true, very true. It is more true than the time elapses from past to present. So here you have in your practice no space-bound or time-bound. You are beyond the idea of time and space, and you are independent in this world.

And yet every one of you—your teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, or your friend, your family—everyone is within your enlightenment. You may say, “If I have a family, I cannot practice our way.” That is [laughs] because you are bound by the idea of annihilation. To cut off your consciousness does not mean don’t think anything. Dogen Zenji says, “To cut off various idea is to have various idea” [laughs]. How about it? [laughs]. To cut off various idea is to have various idea within yourself, within your practice. Maybe if you have family, it is more difficult to practice our way; that is true. But it does not mean it is impossible to practice our way. If you have enough conviction and effort, you can do it, and you can accomplish better attainment, if you only could do it.

In this way we should make our effort. Today I act incessantly. One enlightenment is not enough. One after another, incessant enlightenment is necessary. Moment after moment, you must call Buddha's name or your name directly. There you have yourself.

I am so grateful for you to join our practice and listen to our lecture. And Maezumi Sensei is leaving tomorrow—early in tomorrow morning, so I want to ??? thank you ??? in this occasion, right now, plus tomorrow[?].

[Whispering with Maezumi in Japanese]

Maezumi: Thank you very much for allowing me to sit together with you, and I greatly appreciate it. As Suzuki-roshi just has said, there is enlightenment after enlightenment. In one of his lectures he explained the four steps of study. First, to have the faith. Then, second, you really understand it. Then you practice it. Then you realize it, see, really you enlightened. Should I say, or you will be enlightened. It certainly is possible. Then after that enlightenment we start again, see, with often affirming our faith, then understand it, then practice it, then enlightenment. Then again, have more deep faith, and then understand it [laughs], then practice. Dogen-zenji said this sentiment[?], “Gyoji dokan” see?—practice is like circle. But it’s not—that circle, see, but something like that a circle in this way, [gestures?] goes round and round, and constantly. He said, “hoshin shugyō bodai nehan ???”—"hoshin,” to raise the bodhi-mind. To have faith, same thing. Then “shugyō”—practice. Then “bodai”—bodhi, enlightened. Then “nehan” —"nirvana,” see. You should really put yourself into the state like I called it from Dogen-zenji’s writing. That believe in the fact that we are in the midst of the way—in the midst of the way in enlightenment, or midst of the void or emptiness, whatever you call it. Then we practice it. Then, enlightenment. Then, going to nirvana, which is a perfect, peaceful state, then in that state we again raise our bodhi-mind. Then practice it, being enlightened, getting to nirvana, then again raise the bodhi-mind. See this way, and then—now the incoming temporary, that time-span, like he said, in each moment, then you can expand that time span for your lifetime. Then you can expand that time-span for the time period[?]. Anyway, I’m very grateful to be able to come up here and have sesshin together. I’m quite sure you may have a sesshin again in December, and I should like to join as much as possible. I don’t know when I am going to meet you again next time, but no matter where we are, it’s in a transcending the bonds space and time. When we practice zazen, we will be always together, being accompanied with thousands and millions of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Thank you very much again. Tomorrow morning I leave very early, and I may not be able to have a chance to see you when ??? from here. So, I say good-bye and good luck to you. Thank you.


Originally transcribed by Brian Fikes. This transcript is a retyping of the existing City Center transcript. It was not verbatim. The City Center transcript was entered onto disk by Jose Escobar, 1997. It was reformatted and notes were amended by Bill Redican 4/30/01 and 7/16/01. Verbatim version 7-2022 by Wendy Pirsig and Peter Ford. Lightly edited for readability by Wendy Pirsig and Peter Ford, June 2023.


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