A minimally edited transcript

Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. II-8

Fall 1968, Zen Mountain Center

Buddha's disciples were very good people, generous and honest and sincere, but they were, I think, very tough guys, very tough [laughs, laughter], and his followers were very strong people, I think. For instance, when—as you know, Diamond Sutra—in Japanese, Giju-gikkodoku-on [Skt.: Jetavananathapindadarama],—the park given to Buddha by Prince Jeta. And the story is when Sudatta wanted to provide Buddha some place to stay, he seeked for some land some place, and at last he found a beautiful place but that property was property of Prince Jeta. So, he sought the prince and asked him to give it to Buddha. But he didn't say yes, and he said, “If you pay as much money as you could pave all the land by coin, [laughs] I will give you,” he said. Sudatta was also a very wealthy person, so he said, “Okay, I will do that,” [laughs] and he brought a lot of coin and started to pave [laughs] that land. And Prince Jeta was very much impressed by him, and he said, “Okay, okay [laughs, laughter]. I will donate it to your boss,” [laughs, laughter].

That was, you know, how Giju record the word [laughs]. I will recite sutra in that way [laughs]. [Here Suzuki starts to recite the sutra. It sounded something like this, but I doubt the spelling is right— Brian Fikes.] “Gije reko do ban, yo dai biku shu dai myo ____ ____ ____.” That is how we recite Diamond Sutra in Japanese. This is Chinese, actually, not Japanese. We recite it actually—Chinese people did it maybe—well maybe more than one thousand years ago [laughs]. We are still following Chinese—we are reciting it, old Chinese pronunciation.

Anyway, that park was given to him by Prince Jeta. Not only his followers—his students were very tough people. I didn't talk about Aniruddha. Aniruddha is famous for his supernatural power [abhijna]. He had supernatural power. How he gained that supernatural power is very interesting. Once he slept when Buddha was giving a lecture [laughs, laughter]. And he was one of the seven or more priests who belonged to Shakya family. Maybe Buddha was too familiar for him, so he started to sleep. But Buddha blamed his drowsiness, so he decided not to sleep anymore [laughs]. Very tough. He didn't go to bed since then [laughter]. And, at last, he lost his sight [laughter]. Giba [Jivaka] is a famous—I don’t know how you call him in Sanskrit, Giba. Giba was a very famous physician, and Buddha asked him to take care of his eyes. But because he didn't go to bed, [laughs] he couldn't do anything with him. And when he lost his naked eyes, he gained in supernatural power. He gained spiritual eyes.

I think Buddha's teaching originally is very—his character is very gentle, but his spirit was very strong. Yesterday morning I told about four suffering or eight suffering. Four suffering is—to come this world is already suffering, and to old age, and sickness, and death. And not to be able to get what we want, not to be able to see who you love best, and that we cannot be always with someone who you love, but instead, you will see always whom you don't like. This kind of [laughs, laughter] teaching is very negative teaching [laughs], started from very—at least based on this kind of negative feeling.

But think of why he escaped from, [laughs] castle. He did not escape from castle because he wanted to seclude himself in remote mountain. But when he saw sick people and poor people and old people having difficult time in the city around his castle, as their prince he felt a kind of responsibility for them. And his notion was to save them, to find out some way to help them completely. He, [laughs] is very [laughs]—I think he is very extraordinary person. Almost all the people, even Buddha's time, must have resigned from the problem of death [laughs] or sickness. Even though we do not like to die, this come to everyone. So, we think it can't be helped. [Laughs] There is no way for us—no possibility for us to conquer this kind of problem. And there is no possibility to help people who is going to die, but he didn't give up [laughs]. He had extraordinary spirit, I think. That was why he resigned and gave up heirship to his father.

So, there is no wonder that his disciple were so tough—very tough people. They were not afraid of anything, even death. And their way-seeking mind went even beyond the suffering of life and death. Buddha did not talk about the problem of birth and death just to make us unhappy, but because after he attained enlightenment—because we have this kind of problem, this kind of problem will help us to have real strength. When our spirit is limited by this kind of problem, we cannot have perfect composure of life. That is why he talked about this kind of teaching in his own very critical standpoint.

So, we must see our life completely, and we have to confront all the problem by all means. So, to confront with those suffering is to develop our spirit—religious spirit. And before our spirit is emancipated from this kind of problem, there is no chance to have perfect enlightenment.

And here is a good example: As you know, Buddha was the first one who—in India, as you know, at that time, or even now maybe, I don't know, has very strict idea of class. The highest one was Brahman. The second one was the Ksatriyas. Brahman is the religious people—priests. And next one was kings or rulers of the country. And common people who participate farming or some other works [Vaisyas]. And the lowest class was slave [Sudras] maybe.

And Upali is one of the ten disciple, but before he joined Buddha's order, he was barber, and he belonged to Sudra or [laughs] servant class maybe. And when he served Shakyamuni Buddha's family, he shaved there—he worked for Buddha’s family. But when Buddha came back to his home, to his castle, after saving the five disciples and having [been] donated that Giju-gikkodoku-on [laughs], I don't know how you call it in Sanskrit—that park, and having more disciples, who belonged to some other teachers or some other religion—there were people who worshipped fire. And three names—here are their names: Venerable Uruvilva [pronounces a few ways], venerable Kasyapa of Nadi, venerable Kasyapa of Gaya, venerable—there must be one more Kasyapa. Those are brothers and served god of fire. And they joined Buddha's order with one thousand disciples. So, before he come back to his castle, he had pretty many disciples already.

And after he come back to his castle, he had all his family—seven people joined his order, including the prince of his father [laughs]. His father’s prince again joined Buddha’s order. So, his father had no prince anymore—didn’t have any [laughs] prince. And Rahula [other pronunciations], his son, and his cousin, the Aniruddha I talked about and the blind disciple, Ananda and Devadatta. Aniruddha is the one who I am talking about now.

When all those families joined his order, he helped them to shave their head, and at last he wanted to be a priest too. But because he belonged to Sudra class, he hesitated[?]. But Buddha, knowing that, became very sympathetic with him, and he let him join his order. And at that time, one more his family [Ananda] wanted to join the order, but Buddha said, “Wait. If you join our order, perhaps you will be the last one. And after you join the order if Upali join our order, he should be seated always last seat, so he will not be so happy. So, wait, let him [laughs] join my order before you.”

So, Ananda gave his turn to Upali. And Upali joined the order. And later Ananda joined Buddha’s order. So when all of seven families were seated their own seat, when Ananda is coming, Ananda saluted six disciples, and he had to take his seat. But when Upali came to sit, Ananda, who gave him the turn, hesitated [laughs] to bow to him. He knew Buddha was right, we should not discriminate this class or that class, higher or lower. He knows that, but actually [laughs] when he came next to [laughs] him, he couldn't bow. He forgot, or he couldn't do this, because he was his barber always. He was his servant, so it was rather difficult to [laughs] bow to him. Buddha was very angry with [laughs, laughter] —with Ananda, and he gave him a long lecture not to discriminate with class. Whatever the class is—this is a very famous word: When people join our order, they are all Shakyamuni family. They are all Shakyamuni family. As all the river came into ocean, there is no name of the river. So is our order. There is no name when—there is no family name when they join our order.

You may say Buddha had strange [laughs]—Buddha was strange person [laughs]. Maybe he’s a monk—in some way he has very strange spirit, but his spirit is something unusual. That was why he was called, I think, “Buddha.” He was [possible gap in audio here].
So, they did not know in what kind of occasions they would be scolded [laughs]. When they expect, you know, to be scolded, Buddha was very gentle [laughs], but when they didn't expect anything—they didn’t fear anything bad—they were scolded [laughs] terribly [laughs]. He had, I think, some unusual spirit which goes beyond our world. So, for a Buddhist, this world is one of the millions of the small, tiny world. There should be many and many worlds beside this small world. So, scheme of this sutra is very big, and there is no wonder why this kind of description came out from Buddha’s thought.

Upali, who belonged to a Sudra class, he’s famous for his precepts observation. Not much events are told about him, but after Buddha's death they had, as you know, synod or compiling conference. At that time, he decided precepts.

I must tell you one more thing about Aniruddha, who became blind without sleeping. When he started his journey of training—as you know, in India in summertime they have rainy season. When it is difficult to go around the country, various part of India, they stayed some certain place with Buddha and practiced with him. And as long as it is fine clear weather, they went for a journey. And usually Buddha told them to make journey one by one. And Buddha told them, “You should be always one, and you should trust people. Wherever you go, you trust people. And you should treat them as your friend.” This is Buddha's way.

Someone, I don't know Christianity, but [laughs] someone compared this point with Christian way too[?]. When Jesus, you know, sent his disciple, he told them don’t make trip, just one person. You should go more than two person, and you will have many difficulties. You will have many enemies. So, don’t make trip just one person—by yourself.

But [laughs] I don't think—I don’t want to compare [laughs] Buddhism to Christianity in that kind of way. That is just—if you try to compare Buddhism to Christianity in some way, the opposite conclusion you will have. So, this is not fair [laughs] to say Buddhism is a more generous teaching and Christianity more exclusive. But anyway, this is very interesting.

So, Aniruddha, the blind priest, went for a journey, and he happened to stay, or he had to stay, some woman's home where there is only her. There’s no other person. That woman started to like him so much [laughs]. And she loved him, but as he was a priest, he was rather [laughs] —he said, “You shouldn't do that.” [Much laughter throughout this story.] And after he came back to Buddha, he told what has happened to him when he stayed at some woman’s home. So, Buddha set up one precepts at that time. He fails for Buddha provided one precept: not to stay some woman's home alone. If you want to stay, you should stay with someone else. If there’s no one to stay with him her home, you should always recite a sutra and think of Buddha. Always “Buddha, Buddha, Buddha.” That is one of the precepts, he said. Aniruddha is famous for helping Buddha to set up one precepts. [Laughter, laughs (again).]

Do you have some [laughs]—some question?

Q: Roshi, I think I understand what a sravaka is and what a pratyeka buddha is, but I still can't understand what an arhat is. Will you try once more to—

SR: Arhatship is goal of practice of sravakas—hearer. You see, historically, at one time in the sravakas or pratyeka—I don’t know why we and when and how we made this kind of technical term. I don’t know, it is maybe someone may know, but I don't know. Or maybe pretty difficult to know when, and how, and why we use this kind of technical term. But perhaps Mahayana, so-called-it “Mahayana Buddhist” later used this kind of technical term. Actually, most of the—perhaps maybe all of the direct disciples are sravakas. All the sravakas he named—all the arhats’ name is listed as a disciple of Buddha. They are the same person. While bodhisattva, like Bodhisattva Manjushri, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, is not listed as a historical person. Maybe they are the people who were supposed to be told by Buddha, but since, for an instance, this sutra was not told actually by Buddha. This sutra was told by someone else, [laughs] long, long after Buddha passed away, maybe one or two centuries in A. D.

So, purpose perhaps this kind of sravakas or pratyeka—earliest Mahayana sutra is supposed to be small Prajnaparamita Sutra, Shobo Hannya. And in that sutra, they do not say “Mahayana” or “Hinayana.” Instead of using “Hinayana,” they use “Shravakayana” or “people who hears.” I don't know Sanskrit, but sravakas means to hear, who studied under Buddha, it means. And “Bodhisattva ayaya[?]” means who studied who studied Bodhisattva’s way. And so-called-it Mahayana way or Bodhisattva way originated by the other assembly who meet outside of the cave. Cave means—in the cave synod was held to compile Buddha's teaching. And in that cave, older and famous disciple assembled and compiled the scripture.

But there were many disciples who did not join that meeting. They are called—I don't know Sanskrit word—daishubu. Daishu means public, a more public assembly. And, of course, they compiled some other sutras. Maybe small Prajnaparamita Sutra was compiled by those people. But even in that sutra, they do not use shravakas or Hinayana or Mahayana. And at that time if we say, “Buddhism” it means  the Buddhism which was taught by Buddha, or which was a teaching which is compiled by those famous disciples. Those are shravakas, but instead we should call them maybe “original Buddhist” instead of calling Hinayana.

It looks like there is Hinayana, Mahayana, but it is not so. And all those sutra from—Prajnaparamita Sutra more like Mahayana, so all those sutras is attributed to Shariputra, who was a great disciple of Buddha. He was actually both. His understanding was more wider and more deeper than the rest of the disciples, so all the sutra is attributed to Shariputra. “Shariputra [laughs] told this story. [Laughs] Listen, we say so.” It is more like traditional Buddhism.

But at that time, if we say “original true Buddhism,” if we say “Buddhism,” that Buddhism is shravakas’ teaching—Shravakayana. And according to them, Buddha is so great. So, we cannot be like Buddha, but we can be at least arhat. The next to Buddha is arhat. After following diligently Buddha's precepts and observing and with perfect understanding of Buddha's teaching, annihilating all our evil desires, we will obtain buddhahood [should be arhatship?]. This is shravakas and so-called-it “original Buddhism.”

But—but! [laughs] there is one more.  We have something more to know. After Meiji period, or recently, European scholars started to study Buddhism with various materials they found in India. And they found out that at last, the material—the teaching of shravakas—which is written in Agama Sutra was not compiled, or was not told by Buddha himself. Not all of the European scholars, but the scholars early started— when just started study of Buddhism thought Agama Sutra was told by Buddha. But they at last found out that the Agama Sutra was not told by Buddha. It was told or compiled long, long time after Buddha. So, shravakas is not original Buddhism. So, what is then Buddha’s teaching which was told by Buddha was the next problem. Maybe we have now—still we have that kind of problem. How to know that teaching which was told by Buddha without not much material. We have some reliable one, but not much is our problem.

And this kind of problem also Mahayana Buddhist had. They couldn't rely on Agama Sutra or philosophy of Kusha [abhidharma] or Yuishiki [Vijnaptimatrata = consciousness only]. So, Mahayana teachers start to think about what is real Buddha's teaching. And this was very good discipline for [laughs] for them. I think what is true with us, really, is true with Buddha too. That [laughs] is very strange or mysterious thing. What you think is right is right for Buddha too. And Buddha said in this way, “What is right to me is what was right to my former teachers and will be right for our descendants.”

So, in this way Buddhism was developed. So, there—there is original shravakas—Shravakayana, and original more fundamental Buddhism, which was taught by Buddha himself, and shravakas—Shravakayana, and Bodhisattvayana. And true Mahayana Buddhism, which include every Shravakayana and Bodhisattvayana, is true Mahayana or true Buddhist teaching. Should be [laughs]—we cannot say true, but should be true Buddhism. That kind of Buddhism established by Tendai Chigi—Tendai [T'ien T'ai Chih-I]. According to him, true Mahayana teaching, true Buddha's teaching, should be original Buddhism, should be Shravakayana, should be Bodhisattvayana. The people say Bodhisattvayana is the best teaching of all the Buddhist teaching, but that is a mistake. True, if it is best teaching it should include original Buddha's teaching, of course, and Shravakayana. So, arhat belongs to us[?], Shravakayana, but we, you know, every morning we recite sutra for arhat too. So, it is also our Buddha. The people call them by some other name, but they are actually Buddha. But, as a technical term, arhat  belongs to Shravakayana.


This transcript was 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 by Bill Redican (7/17/01). Verbatim version based on Engage Wisdom audio by Peter Ford 11/2022. Lightly edited for readability by Wendy Pirsig, October 2023.


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