A minimally edited transcript

Meal Chant

Thursday Evening, January 11, 1968

I already explained about Maitreya Buddha when I explained about the three periods of Buddhism.  On this occasion, I want to explain about all of the Ten Buddhas which we recite at mealtime:

Homage to the pure Dharmakaya Vairocana Buddha.

I already explained Vairocana Buddha.

And to the complete Sambhogakaya Vairocana Buddha.
To the numerous Nirmanakaya Shakyamuni Buddha.
To the future Maitreya Buddha.

I explained already Maitreya Buddha.

To all buddhas, past, present and future all over the world.
To the Mahayana Saddharmapundarika Sutra.
To the great Manjushri Bodhisattva.
To the Mahayana Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.
To the great compassionate Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.
To the many bodhisattvas, mahasattvas.
To the Mahaprajnaparamita.

Here we have the complete teaching of Buddha. Dharmakaya Buddha, Sambhogakaya Buddha, Nirmanakaya Buddha. This is Buddha. And here we have Mahayana bodhisattvas. And we have also the Mahayana Mahaprajnaparamita. This is the teaching. So we have here Buddha and sangha and dharma.  If you recite those names with deeper understanding, you are practicing the Buddha's way.

We have three understandings of Buddha: Dharmakaya Buddha, Sambhogakaya Buddha, and Nirmanakaya Buddha. The Buddha as the truth is Dharmakaya Buddha. The Buddha as the rewarded body is Sambhogakaya Buddha. And the Buddha which takes various forms to help people is Nirmanakaya Buddha.

Shakyamuni Buddha helping people, providing various teachings, like a doctor who makes prescriptions for invalids, is Nirmanakaya Buddha, “incarnated body,” we say. Sambhogakaya Buddha is the rewarded body. The buddhahood which was attained through his practice is Sambhogakaya Buddha. Dharmakaya Buddha, as I said, is Buddha as a truth. So the historical Buddha is actually Nirmanakaya Buddha.

The Buddha who realized the truth is Dharmakaya Buddha, Buddha as the truth. Whether he attained enlightenment or not, Buddha will be there. Truth is there. So, in this sense, although he realized the truth, if we put emphasis on the truth itself, rather than his body or rather than his spiritual or physical being, that is Dharmakaya Buddha. Although he is the embodiment of the truth; without practice he cannot attain enlightenment or he cannot express the truth. Only when he actually practices the truth, will realization of the truth take place in this sense. We then call him Sambhogakaya Buddha.

Nirmanakaya Buddha, or Sambhogakaya Buddha, or Dharmakaya Buddha, are actually one. In this way we understand Buddha. And here, instead of Buddha himself, the name of Vairocana Buddha is here.

Homage to the pure Dharmakaya, Vairocana Buddha.
To the complete Sambhogakaya, Vairocana Buddha.

Vairocana Buddha sometimes may be Dharmakaya, but sometimes he is also Sambhogakaya because he is a bodhisattva. Before he became Vairocana Buddha, he was a bodhisattva and practiced his way according to his vows.

To the numerous Nirmanakaya, Shakyamuni Buddha.

We say:

All the buddhas, past, present, and future.

When they become buddha, they become Shakyamuni Buddha. So Shakyamuni Buddhas will be numerous.  It is not only Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment. All the patriarchs and bodhisattvas will be the Buddha—Shakyamuni Buddha.

To the future Maitreya Buddha.

I explained Maitreya Buddha already.

To all buddhas past, present, and future all over the world.

Here this “world” is not just this human world. There are many worlds. So this “world” means various worlds—in which there are various worlds.

To the Mahayana Saddharmapundarika Sutra.

This sutra is supposed to have the highest teaching of Buddha as well as Avatamsaka Sutra.

To the great Manjushri Bodhisattva.

I explained the great Manjushri Bodhisattva when I explained the Prajnaparamita Sutra.

To the Mahayana Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.

The Mahayana Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is the bodhisattva who is famous for his ten vows. Samanta means universal. Bhadra means wisdom or sagacity or deep wisdom. Here Samanta and bhadra look nearly the same, but there is a great difference.

Usually through intellectual understanding, you may have the universal truth. You may understand what is universal truth by induction or by experience or by thinking. But the wisdom we mean cannot be acquired through thinking or by experience.

In [?]  philosophy there were various disputes whether it is possible to have perfect wisdom by experience. Through experience you will have some knowledge or deep perfect understanding, or someone may say it is not possible to acquire perfect understanding by experience. So even with experience we cannot be sure to have perfect understanding. According to Buddhism, it is not possible to have perfect understanding through experience. The accumulation of experience—even though you repeat the same experience over and over—that result of experience is still experience, and that that cannot be the perfect truth.

That which you  attain through experience will have some universality. But, accurate, substantial, solid, tangible feelings or meaning cannot be attained by experience. So, we put emphasis on validity rather than universality. This validity could be acquired through right meditation. If zazen practice is just to attain some special experience, that is not true zazen. True zazen that you have obtained through right practice is more than just experience. What you acquire by right meditation is the power, you may say, power of adjusting yourself according to the circumstances. Sometimes we put emphasis on flexibility. You should be always ready to respond to circumstances. So, what you will have through right meditation is the perfect ability to respond to circumstances. Even though you do not realize, you do not think, or you are not aware of the merit of your zazen, it does not mean you haven't acquired anything. Even though you think you have had some special experience, that does not mean you acquired the true power of meditation. That is why we say “think non-thinking.” So you may say—obtain something which you cannot obtain. Anyway, what you will have through zazen is more than what you think you have acquired. This kind of acquisition cannot be attained by experience or thinking.

That is why this bodhisattva is called Samantabhadra. Samanta is “universal, universality.” And bhadra means “wisdom” or “validity”—a more solid and concrete idea. Anyway, his name is Samantabhadra—universality and sagacity. This bodhisattva is the bodhisattva of all the dharma, all the universal teaching. As a bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara is the bodhisattva of compassion. This bodhisattva is the bodhisattva of wisdom or truth. But by “truth” I do not mean some truth in the ordinary sense. It is more than truth. It is more concrete. It is more tangible.

And again there are two meanings in samanta. One is universal buddha as a Dharmakaya Buddha, and the other is universal buddha as a Nirmanakaya Buddha, you see? He is Dharmakaya Buddha, but on the other hand he is also Nirmanakaya Buddha. Nirmanakaya Buddha is more concrete, not abstract. Dharmakaya Buddha is a more abstract buddha, buddha as a truth. Buddha before he takes a various form is Dharmakaya Buddha. But Nirmanakaya Buddha may be various beings which have form and color. So, this bodhisattva has two sides: He is universal buddha as a Dharmakaya Buddha, and also Nirmanakaya Buddha as a more concrete buddha which has form and color.

As a Dharmakaya Buddha, his body is omnipresent or—truth itself as a Dharmakaya.  As a Nirmanakaya Buddha, his body is a more real, tangible buddha. So each one of us will be Nirmanakaya Buddha. But if you think this way, it is not only this bodhisattva who is Dharmakaya and Nirmanakaya. All of us is also Nirmanakaya Buddha and Dharmakaya Buddha.

So, if you practice, or if you realize who is this bodhisattva, you will realize who you are. This is the characteristic of a Mahayana buddha or a bodhisattva. So to repeat—every bodhisattva has  his own vow. And his vow may not be just his special vow but may be the vow we should take.

This bodhisattva has ten vows. And, I want to explain them one by one. But before I explain,  I want to make clear what is true wisdom. I think I already explained what is true wisdom once or twice. But, as it is rather difficult to explain, I don't know whether you understood or not, partly because [laughs] it is rather hard for me to explain it.

Do you remember the classifications of our way of observing things? To observe things from the viewpoint of existence, and viewpoint of nonexistence, and superior viewpoint. Viewpoint of existence is the usual way of observing things, the usual understanding of nature. Almost all people are involved in this viewpoint. From this viewpoint, your question will be, “What is it?” And, when you have better understanding, or the second understanding, your question will be, “How things go?”

Even people who are not satisfied with the materialistic way of life, as long as their view of life is based on some substantial viewpoint of existence, they cannot get out of the materialistic way of life. Even if they seek spiritual life, in their spiritual life there are various materialistic gods or a deity. And, there may be evil and spirits because their understanding is bound by some idea of existence or substance which cannot exist actually. When nothing concrete exists, nothing permanent exists.

Some people believe in evil spirits, you know [laughs], which work in the same way on you. But, no evil spirit can work in the same way forever. They are changing. Whatever existence may be, they are changing. There is nothing that does not change. If so, there are no special evil spirits who work in the same way. To believe in some permanent deity is also based on the idea of existence. So, we cannot take this aspect.1 Even though you say “spiritual life,”  that is not spiritual life. It is another form of material life.

If everything is changing, nothing special exists. This is true, but in the smallest particle of time, everything exists. Everything is changing. Moment after moment it will change, but at that moment, the smallest particle of time exists in that form or color with close, close relationships with some other things. That is true.

So the third aspect, or superior aspect, includes the two aspects of existence and nonexistence, the first and the second. But even if you understand this truth, it does not mean you have the third aspect. Actually, to obtain the third aspect, there is no other way than to practice our way, or else you cannot obtain this aspect. Whatever you say, as long as your aspect is in the realm of thinking, that is not really the third aspect.

If you study our way intellectually, you should arrange the various teachings in some order; you have to find some system of the teaching. But when it is necessary for you to accept the teachings, one by one, as long as you rely on intellectual understanding, you would compare one teaching to another.  Our way of understanding the teaching is quite different.

In the Rinzai school, if you pass one koan, it is good enough. You should pass koans, one by one, without comparing one koan to the other. Of course, in Rinzai there are some teachers who arrange koans. We call it “stepladder practice”— stepladder, one by one [laughs].

In the Tendai school, they say that to arrange teaching vertically, to compare one teaching to another teaching, is to arrange teaching. But level? What do you say?

Student: Horizontal.

SR: Horizontal way, yeah.

So we should not arrange teaching horizontally or vertically. We should realize the meaning of the teaching, one by one, without arranging.  This is not only the Zen way but also Tendai's way. The so-called middle way in Tendai is a way to accept teachings one by one without arranging them. That is the middle way. That is the understanding—that is the third understanding which you will acquire by the third aspect, or perfect wisdom. That is the middle way.

When we practice our way, we give up the first aspect, which is the aspect of existence, and the aspect of nonexistence, the second aspect. We give up all those aspects and practice our way, resuming in a fundamental life act or life force which is not intellectual or emotional.

You may understand why we practice our way in so-called shikantaza. We do not say shikantaza in English. But some people say shikantaza. In Shobogenzo there are many words. [Unclear phrase in Japanese: shikan plus 2-3 words] like the shikantaza. But it means—we say “just to sit,” but “just to sit” means don't depend on intellectual understanding. But use the intellectual understanding. This is our way.

So you may understand as true our Buddhist traditional way of practice or understanding.  Whatever books, texts, you read there is Zen.  All those scriptures are the truth of Zen by which you will understand what Zen is. If you have eyes to read it, this is not just Buddhist scripture. This is Zen text which you should read. But, there is no need to read all of those scriptures because there is no need to arrange them vertically or horizontally.  If you open some part of the scriptures, there is Zen. In this way, we should understand our way, and we should read scriptures. When you can read scriptures you can find out, you can enjoy your life whatever you do. To read scriptures is nothing but to appreciate, to enjoy your life. That is why we recite ten names of Buddha when we have meals.

Each buddha is Manjushri Bodhisattva, who is taking care of our practice. Even though he has many names, he is the buddha who is taking care of our practice.

Next time I want to explain the ten vows of Fugen-bosatsu or Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.

[This section not on the now available audio file: www.shunryusuzuki.com/suzuki/audio/new-2020/68-01-11-B-R.mp3]  

Do you have question? Some question? Hai.

Student A: I don't quite understand the Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.

SR: Mm-hmm.

Student A: What do you mean by—that it's a realized [1 word] bodhisattva? I just don't understand.

SR: Samanta?

Student A: Pardon me. Sambhogakaya.

SR: Hmm?

Student A: Sambhogakaya.

SR: Oh, Sambhogakaya.

Student A: Pardon me. The Sambhogakaya.

SR: Oh. Sambhogakaya is—we say,  without practice there is no buddha. It means practice is buddha. When you practice there is buddha. But if you do not have real understanding of practice or everyday life, your understanding is not based on the real understanding. That understanding is not true understanding of ourselves, or each being, or everyday activity. That you have true understanding of practice means that you have true meaning of everyday life. You may say, “Even though I don't understand true meaning of life, I am buddha.”  When you say so, your understanding is based on, some substantial understanding, something buddha, some special thing. But buddha  is not some substantial being. “Whether or not I understand him, there is buddha,” you may say. Or, “I am buddha. Even though I don't practice zazen I am buddha. So there may be no need to practice zazen.” But when you say so, your understanding is quite different from our understanding, which is practice and buddha is one [?], or enlightenment is one [?], or whatever we do, that is buddha.

So Sambhogakaya Buddha, which is rewarded body, which is one with everyday life, which is nothing but each being, means to express your idea of buddha through your way of practice or your everyday life. That is the idea of Sambhogakaya.

[Laughs.] Do you understand? Not quite [laughs].

“Rewarded body,” we say, but it is not like an accumulation of our practice—as a rewarded stage, you will attain enlightenment. But rewarded body is—when there is something, there is already buddha. That is Sambhogakaya.

[End of section not on the now available audio file.]

For ordinary people, of course, because of Buddha's many kalpas of practice he attained buddhahood in this way, scripture says. But that is just a more dramatic or poetic expression. “After he practiced many kalpas of time, he attained buddhahood.” But actually the rewarded body means oneness of practice and buddhahood. Oneness of your everyday life and buddhahood. That is Sambhogakaya. [Laughs.]

May be, yeah— may be difficult to accept it, especially when I say [laughs] oneness of enlightenment and your everyday life. That may be difficult to accept, but it is so. Because it is difficult to accept, you sit. Even while [1 word] you sit without thinking about this not making  any sense, you know. So if you want to understand it, just sit [laughs] without asking questions. In your sitting, you should not sit for anything. Just sit. When you find yourself in zazen, you will have various ability [?] you can [3-5 words] without any problem.

You have some questions?

Student B: When you say Manjushri Bodhisattva takes care of our practice, does that include prayer, then?

SR: Hmm?

Student B: When you say that Manjushri takes care of our practice should we pray to him [1-2 words]?

SR: Manjushri.

Student B: Manjushri Bodhisattva. Am I pronouncing it wrong?

SR: [Laughs.] Again, that is your understanding—based on the substantial understanding. Forget all about any substantial idea. I realize this point is very, very important for people. When doctor came, I was listening to him lecture. And I was very much interested in his statements. He is rejecting substantial understanding from beginning to end. And, this is why we cannot understand Buddhism or our way.

Actually there is nothing, you know [laughs], including you.  So we should just sit. Then you will be the one including everything. Because you are not accustomed to live in this form—you are not accustomed to your own home. So you are you are wandering about—finding your home. “Where is my home?” You are right in your home, but you are seeking  a home with a substantial idea.

[End of tape. A fragment of a lecture was found at the start of the master tape for SR-68-01-11-B, which seems almost certainly to be the end of this lecture. The fragment follows below. It was found in 68-01-12-t.wav (11/2020).]

— without expecting anything.  You can just enjoy things outside of your home. Sometimes if it is something good, you can it to your home [laughs]. But home is the most important [laughs] thing, not something which you have brought. That is zazen.

[Chant follows.]

1Suzuki may have meant perspective when he said aspect (pf).


Source: City Center original tape. Verbatim transcript by Diana Bartle and Bill Redican (3/20/01). Lightly edited for readability by Wendy Pirsig and Peter Ford (11/2020).

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