A minimally edited transcript

Because I was not well

Tuesday Morning, April 23, 1968, Lecture A

Because I was not well, I am sorry I couldn't join your practice so much. But you did very well, I think, and even if as a personal experience you cannot accept your practice, maybe that is not so big a problem. If you can accept yourself completely [laughs], then you will not be in this world any more [laughs, laughter]. So, that you have problems means you are still alive. That is our way. And, even if you make a trip to another world, [laughs] you will have the same problem, as long as you have your body and mind. Things exist in that way. That is how things exist in this world.

The cold I experienced this time was a pretty unusual one for the colds I have had in America. The colds I have had in Japan were as bad as I had this time. High temperature and feeling, you know, sleeping [or slipping] on some slope upside down [laughs]. Head is down and feet are up. That was the feeling I had when I had colds in Japan.

And, as I was very careful recently, and trying to find ways to help you, I carefully experienced my bad feelings [laughs, laughter]. And, I want to tell you some of them.

First of all, I want to tell you about breathing. This time, instead of finding my breathing difficult through my nose or throat, this time my nose and mouth were open—too open. Like a bottle without a cork [laughs]. So when I took medicine it came in, all at once. And when I exhaled, it came out forcefully, so I could not take normal breaths [laughs].

So, I tried to make my throat narrower, with my tongue and the bottom of my nose so that I could snore [makes snoring sound] [laughs]. In this way, I felt good. I thought at that time that life without a problem is like breathing without any nose or mouth—without a head [laughs]. Breathing may be very easy, but with unhappy feelings [laughs, laughter]. No feeling of breathing at all.

And, my back ached pretty bad. I could have been patient with it, but I tried many things. I put a stone on my back and tried to make some substituted problem [laughs]—for the pain. Instead of an unhappy feeling of pain, maybe some usual pain would be better. So I put a stone here, and having some pain on my back, I couldn't forget my pain in my back, but it helped the unhappy feeling of my spine. When I did it, I had no idea of zazen or anything. But, later I thought, zazen pain in your legs or body in your practice may be like a stone was on my back. That is a healthy, normal problem. So, whatever experience it is, if it is a normal experience based on right understanding of life, you can accept the problem quite easily.

At San Francisco, many times I told them that even though you feel you do not make any progress in your practice, and even though you have many problems in your practice, it may be better not to quit sitting because if you quit sitting, you will not have the pain in your legs, but instead of that pain you will have another pain [laughs]. So this pain in your practice will be much better than the pain or problems you will have in city life or in some other way.

“Everyday Mind Is Zen”: This was a very important koan.1 “Everyday Mind Is Dao.” And, this is pretty difficult. Many people have a misunderstanding about it. “Everyday Mind Is Dao.” First of all, we should know what is dao or true mind, and this is again the problem of true mind and everyday mind. Dao is the back something from which everyday mind arises. So, “Everyday mind is dao” means to find dao in everyday mind, everyday life. It looks like it's putting emphasis on everyday mind or dualistic mind. You may say: “If everyday mind is true mind, whatever we do doesn't matter; that is dao. To sneak into some other's field and get a sweet potato, or sweet melon, and eat it in hot summer weather is dao [laughs]. Whatever you do, that is dao.” You may understand it this way.

But actually, what it means is to feel big mind through our everyday practice. This morning, when we were sitting, perhaps you could hear many birds singing on the sunny side of the mountain. In your practice, to hear it, what you feel or what you hear is not just birds. It is quite different from when you hear birds in usual time. Instead of being disturbed by the birds, you will feel a deeper feeling of your practice—deeper. If you do not hear anything, it is like breathing without a mouth or nose [laughs]. No problem, but no feeling. Something which will come into your practice will deepen your feeling of practice.

But, when you are involved in dualistic ideas—“What time do we sit?” or “What bird do we see?” [laughs] —it's more and more useless to sit in such a dark room instead of enjoying this beautiful sunshine at the foot of the mountain with birds [laughs]. The moment you hear the bird, usually, we will be involved in this kind of life. But, when you hear the bird in your sitting, without trying to hear it, then your practice will be encouraged by the bird.

Every morning we hit our bell when we practice zazen. That will encourage our practice.  Sometimes it may be a disturbance, but when your practice is filled with true spirit, it will encourage your deep feeling. That feeling is dao or everyday mind in its true sense.

There are many stones in Tassajara Creek. Each stone has a very mysterious strange shape which will tell us various things. Kumazawa Zenji2 wrote something about stones, in Japanese. If you went to Sokoji, you must have seen it already: five virtues of stones. If you see a stone, there is our practice. That is everyday mind. So, everyday mind is not just a kind of mind which is always involved in a dualistic sense.

In Japan, in springtime especially, or in late autumn,  a heavy storm or big flood will wash out everything in a creek so that anyone can see new stones.  After rain, we go stone hunting. So, suppose five people, with their lunch like a picnic, started stone hunting, someone may go ahead of the people so that he can find the best stone before the rest [laughs] of the people find something good. But, those people usually do not find the best stone [laughs]. Maybe the last one, who is not so enthusiastic to find anything [laughs, laughter], and listening to the birds, enjoying the stream, by chance he will find the best stone [laughs]. The eyes of the first one are [laughs] called “chicken's eyes.” Do you know chicken? [Probably mimics chicken.] [Laughs, laughter.] Trying to find something good, you know. [Laughs, laughter.] Their mind is too little. So, even though they try hard, they cannot find anything good. Or if it is mind—we say “monkey mind.” A monkey is so busy looking around [laughs, laughter]. With that busy mind, they cannot find anything. Usual mind or everyday mind [laughs] will find something good.

Archbishop Kumazawa Zenji said, “Stones with many strange mysterious shapes speak out fluently the full meaning of the mystery of the truth.” That is one [virtue of stone]. We say strange, mysterious. But if you seek something mysterious and strange, you cannot find something mysterious and strange in its true sense. People may say this is a quite common, usual stone, but if it is stone through and through, it will speak out many mysteries.

And second, “It is stones which support the whole earth from the deepest bottom of the earth, as a bone of mountains, with immeasurable spirit and bottomless composure.” These are very beautiful words. I cannot translate it so well. But I tried.

The third one is: “It is a stone which never changes its position in spite of the hardship of rain and wind, overcoming the hot and cold.”

And next: “It is stone, with its hard nature”— hard nature? not “nature,” but—

Student: Durable?

SR: Stone is hard, nature of— not nature—instead of “nature” you have some word.

Students: Quality?

SR: Quality. Ah. “—with its hard quality supporting. It is stone which supports high buildings and beautiful pagodas fulfilling the duty [function] of a foundation. Silently adding beauty to mountains and carvings, and harmonizing our mind—is stone.”

He wrote this last year, and last year he was 93. And here he says: “Eihei Taizen, 94.”3 [Laughs.] People wonder why he wrote he is 94 when he was 93 [laughs, laughter]. Kumazawa Roshi, the bishop, Bishop Yamada,4 whom you know, said here, “He likes to boast about his age.” [Laughs, laughter.] So when he was actually 93, he said, “I am 94.” Someone said it is quite common to add two or three more years after 100 [laughs, laughter]. There are many famous Zen masters who lived to more than 100. But, we cannot exactly know how old they were [laughs, laughter]. Maybe more than 100, but how many more we don't know.  He said to write, “Eihei Taizen, 94.” And all of us thought he was 94. “Oh! He was very old.” He was very happy to hear people admired him because of his old age.

Mount Fuji is our pride. And it lies just between Yamanashi Prefecture and Shizuoka Prefecture. Once they had a big dispute whether a shrine which is located on the top of Mt. Fuji belongs to Shizuoka Prefecture or Yamanashi Prefecture. They had a very big dispute [laughs].5 At that time, Archbishop Taizen visited the shrine, and he said to the people who were there, “Yamanashi Prefecture is the landlord of Mt. Fuji. I support you as the abbot of Eiheiji.” People worried about that statement very much because they were in the terrible dispute, and said to him, “If you go to Shizuoka Prefecture, what will you say to them?” [Laughing, laughter ongoing.] “That is quite easy,” he said. “I will say Shizuoka Prefecture is the landlord of Mt. Fuji. I am completely for your dispute, as the abbot of Eiheiji.” This is all right [1-2 words], he said to the people, and people couldn't say anything. They were astonished. He wouldn't change his attitude [1-2 words]. “Oh, it's all right. I am saying so.” He is a very humorous person.

With that kind of time [?] we should find out story. With this kind of story he helped people to adjust themselves in some entanglement. That is not so easy, you know. He must have thought that it is silly to be involved in the problem of which side the shrine belongs to. It is very silly. So, he was laughing at them. That is so-called “tongueless speech.” What he was saying literally doesn't mean anything. But he just pointed out their wrong attitude—their small mind.

This is the Buddhist [1-3 words],6 which is pretty good. Maybe too special, but I wish that you can keep it [?]. Not only Zen but also for children [?] of all schools of Buddhism.

[Aside:] Do you have the time?

Student: Right about now. I think we have 4 o'clock rehearsal.

SR: Mm-hmm. Okay.

Thank you very much.

1 Gateless Gate 19.

2 Kumazawa Sogaku Taizen (1873–1968), 73rd chief abbot of Eihei-ji and 16th chief abbot of Sōji-ji.

3 Taizen-zenji (1873–1968) died at the age of 95. According to these dates (from the Zengaku Daijiten dictionary), he was 94 in 1967, so Taizen apparently had the final say. The name Eihei ("eternal peace") is taken from the monastery Eihei-ji, where he was chief abbot.

4 Yamada Reirin: Head of the Sōtō Zen School in America from his arrival in Los Angeles in the summer of 1960, where he was head of Zenshu-ji from 1960 to1964. In 1965 he was succeeded by Bishop Sumi Togen, then an instructor of monks at Sōji-ji. Yamaha returned to Japan to become president of Komazawa University, Tōkyō, and later the 75th chief abbot of Eihei-ji.

5 The border of the two provinces runs right through the summit of Mt. Fuji.

6 Probably referring to Taizen's calligraphy. Sounds like a Japanese word—phonetically, "maka-ju-e."

Source: City Center original tape. Verbatim transcript by Bill Redican (10/22/01). Lightly edited for readability by Wendy Pirsig and Peter Ford (11/2020).

Audio & Other Files | Verbatim Transcript | Back to top of page