Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. II-11

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October 1968
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Source: digital audio archive from DC. Problem set audio work by Angus Atwell. Transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Work in progress. Further preparation to post by DC - formerly no mark. Check date???

File name: 68-10-00-J: Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. II-11 Another partial version is in hidden file 68-10-00-X (ID# 478). Changed "chose most vegetable" to "chose worst vegetable"; "to give up zazen" to "to [not] give up zazen" 3-5-2015 by DC.

; #approximate-date, #please-transcribe, #improved-audio


Last, last lecture we studied about Mahakashapa. Mahakashapa, who became the second Patriarch, and who was always presiding over the sangha. And, I think, you must have many questions about him. And anyway, that is what we are studying – it's not Zen, so-called Zen Buddhism itself. It is … now we are discussing more original way of Buddhism. Before … even before various schools of Buddhism arise.

So there is big difference. This point should be remembered.

Now, I'm not telling you about Zen Buddhism. But, still, Zen Buddhism is also Buddhism. This is – Zen Buddhists is not some teaching completely different from those teachings. So there is some important connection. Or you may say, the things we are studying is the background of Zen Buddhism.

So, from this viewpoint, I want you to ask me questions. If necessary, the relationship between Zen – teaching of Zen and more original Buddhism.

Q: Didn't you say one time that Mahakashapa was considered the first Patriarch?


Q: Is the Second Patriarch ( considered the same ??) generally in Buddhism?

Second Patriarch. No, it is not so. But most Tendai and Zen Buddhism are nearly the same lineage. So it means that all the lineage … all the school take Mahakashapa as the second Patriarch. Almost all. There may be some exception, but I don't know any exception.

Q: So he's the second in Zen Buddhism?

Yes, second in Zen Buddhism and second in Tendai school. There's a … most school takes him as the Second Patriarch.


Q: You said that Mahakashapa did not have such a good understanding of emptiness as the other disciples. …

No, I think that…

Q: … as Subhuti…

I don't think that…

Q: As among disciples you said Subhuti understood emptiness …

Yeah, but it means that each of the ten important disciples has their characteristic, you know.

Subhuti is famous for his understanding of emptiness, and Shariputra is famous … his wisdom. They are nearly the same thing! [Laughs] Understanding of emptiness is understanding of wisdom, but Shariputra is more … he was more philosophical and his understanding is wider and you may say, he was a smart fellow! He was very clever. He was very sharp and clever, and he has also deep understanding. A kind of, maybe, soft or… various scripture are attributed to him. Without it, not much exists!

Right after Buddha passed away, their group divided into … and … I'm pretty sure, after that, they divided into five – before Mahayana Buddhism arrived. And the more philosophical teaching of Buddha, or teaching which is described in more philosophical way. Why I say so is because we don't know those … even those old kind of scripture … taught by Buddha or not, we don't know. Maybe no one knows, but it is … the language which was… in which those scripture was told was not so old… it should be two hundred or three hundred – maybe not three hundred – maybe two hundred years after Buddha passed away.

So, we think that is … those scriptures were not told by Buddha, but those scriptures, like Abhidharma … Abhidharma group ascribes or ascribed to Shariputra. He is that kind of person. I don't know how to compare Shariputra to Subhuti.

Subhuti is more like Zen master type – Zen teacher. Shariputra is more … not scholarly, but more brilliant teacher, and who helped Buddha in this way.

Q: Did Subhuti become a Patriarch or teacher?

No, I don't think so.

Q: One position is that Buddha didn't appoint a Dharma heir or successor – or after he died, he didn't say who should follow him?

No, yeah.

Q: Then according to another tradition, he named Mahakashapa. How did Mahakashapa the better….

This is all … we have no … we have no historical evidence, you know. But Zen school – because we put the emphasis on transmission, I thought – original scriptures, we do not transmit. We do not put emphasis on scriptures. So Zen is called school “outside scriptures -- sutra teaching”. “Kyozu Butsuzen” – special teaching beside or outside of the scripture. So, I think this is something … creative for Zen school. [Laughs] I shouldn't say so….

So, do you know the story about when all the disciples and followers sat down ? … Buddha appeared and he had one flower. And no one could know, you know, what does it mean? What does that flower mean?

Only Mahakashapa smiled, and Buddha said, “All my teaching is yours. You are my second better,” he said.

This is very famous story. And this is, I think, Dharma way of expressing how we transmit, you know, our teaching to our disciples. Not by words, but by a kind of intuition … not verbal, but more closer relationship. What do you call this kind of relationship? I forgot the word for it.

When you could know, not by words, but not more than even a feeling,

Q: matching?

Q: Intuitive?

Q: Empathy? Or Psychic?

Q: Nonverbal?

That is, anyway, comparative. He showed little golden flower, and that was the point. To understand what it was. And only Mahakashapa, smiling beautifully, and Buddha said, you have it only one to understand this.

Buddha's way, Mahakashapa … Buddha showed all his teaching to Mahakashapa.

So, that is why we do not depend on any special speech.

But if you, if you understand his way of practice, develop Buddha's practice, and always practice with Buddha, and with disciples as a head of the group. You may understand you may picture, you may have picture of what kind of practice you want – not by words, not by intelligency, but by practice – but by his everyday life.

He could be a good example of all the students and, in short, he was like maybe “good ( sister ??)”, [Laughs], you know! Whole life good sister of Buddha and disciples.

So, of course, he understood what is emptiness, and what is Zen, and what is teaching,. And what Shariputra may say. But he was very strict with himself, and his practice for himself was very strict.

Some other questions?

Q: Um, Roshi, the lecture before this yesterday you mentioned that never laid down or the disciples of Buddha before their time, only to eat two meals a day and to wear a robe that had old rags sewn together, and to practice in a quiet place, like the forest.

Uh huh.

Q: Um, We, you said we still try to keep the spirit of this practice alive, and it's difficult for me to see how we do that when so many, so much of what we do is actually more busy.

But you may feel the spirit of why they did it, even though we are doing things in a quite different way, you know. You can be doing with the same spirit, the same spirit. Even though you are brand new, you can do it, you can do it, you know, with the same spirit. That doesn't mean we should always use something which people throw away.

Even though, you know, we have plenty of food, you know, you can do that. For instance, if there is … you are head of the kitchen, like Ed, you can use all the food without wasting. How to make best use of it is your spirit.

When I came to San Francisco, for two years I lived … my life was not easy, when I go to restaurant, when I buy something, I chose the most – instead of restaurant. Then I save money to … I chose vegetables which people may not want it.

You know, the next Sokoji days, … and the mistress, you know, very much interested where I buy my food!

I always felt sorry for the rotten … especially potatoes! I thought, eventually, they will rot away. Insides are changing, and the money. I used the money and I buy. And I also felt very good how vegetables may feel when I buy. [Laughs] If I buy vegetables, you know, … I saw crying vegetables each … {Laughter by all} If I buy, you know, worst of them, all of them may be happy! [Laughs]

That kind of, you know, ( constellation ??) is necessary – the same spirit – with the same spirit you can this. Like now, after going, after 2000 years, after Buddha passed away.

I think I'm not Mahakashapa, but that kind of spirit is necessary. This is especially transmitted spirit from my master, and from my father, too.

My father was a teacher, a master of my master, you know. So, I became a disciple of my father's disciple. So, their way is very similar. My father … my master used to tell me something about what my father did when he was young.

After takuhatsu, or when he come back to his zendo, there were river … not big river. If vegetables, you know, come down from upper river, my father would take off his geta, and pick up vegetables, by himself. Sometimes he told my master, who was my father's disciple, told him to pick the vegetables., whenever he saw it.

So, my master said, “Whenever I see vegetables”, before my father tell him to pick up, he would take it back to their temple. So my master told me not to waste anything, and if you take anything with food, you should take the worst one. Most stale – if there are three apples, you should take …. [Laughs] So I was trained in that way, and still I feel very sorry, you know, if I take best one.

So, naturally, you know, without thinking, I take most … and ….

There are many things to think about in those twelve Buddha practices.

Q: Roshi, could you tell us again what the twelve Buddha practices are?

Oh. Oh, I have it … the paper, here. Maybe. I don't know why – too many! … I must have left it – the paper.

As, you know, before eating, you should eat something which was given to you by takuhatsu, and you should … when you do takuhatsu, you should it by order, and you should not beg too many times – once or twice. Not even. And when you receive it, you should know how much you want; and you should not take more than you want.


… ceremony, we put emphasis on harmony, and respect, and calmness, calmness. And jaku is more than calmness. Meaning, jaku – jaku is nirvana. Harmony, respect, and calmness, and nirvana.

That is four? Three? Okay. Begging by order, and amount of the food, and how often – that once or twice. It says in the scripture says once – once, not twice.

Q: Is that once a day?

Once a day. And amount.

One is you should always support yourself by begging. That is one.

When you beg, you should do it in order, not … without choosing, you know, good family, or wealthy family. You should do it one by one. You should not change your order, with some greedy feeling. So it means that you should not be greedy. So, to support yourself by, only by begging, and by order you should do it. And you should not do it more than once a day. And you should not have it more than you want. You should think how much you want.

That's four, already – about food.

The wearing, it should this robe, or that kind, or more … This is seven … seven pieces robe. But you may have a robe made of more than seven – nine or thirteen. But you should always leave only…

And the material is … should be the material which you collected from sitting. Unzoi.

And where you live is under the tree. Or, if you become attached to feeling, good feeling, under the tree, you should go to cemetery! {Laughter} Or this is the spirit, you know. You should be very strict with yourself. You should not develop your … you know; you should not spoil yourself. You should always have realization.

So, if, under the tree, you should become attached to it, you should go to cemetery.

Or you should go to some place ( other karma ??), or where … where you have nothing to protect you.

Even if you're lying down, insects see you lying down.

Or he may ( raise up ??) and people may say, so you have to be always sitting!

And you should not lie down, even though you sleep. This is not aestheticism, even though it is how to keep up your good spirits. {Laughter by all} And you should always leave … the first one was, you know, you should always live in ( arenia ??), forest., you know, wood. Like many religious people who gave up, who retired from family life, or something like that. I don't know how many you have. Nine or ten.

Q: Nine. It's at nine, yeah.

Very interesting.

Q: Roshi, if that's not aestheticism, then how do we understand our practice is to live everyday life? Our practice is to live in the world?

Live in the world. Even though you live in world, you may live, you know, according to Bodhisattva's way. To help people, you should live in the world with sitting. And you should help them.

But the way you help them is the same way, with the same speech.

We can practice this way of practice in the city, too. Not literally, but the more refined your practice, with same speech, you can do it.

Q: It seems like you have to modify the rules entirely.

In Zen you don't have to attach to the rules literally.

You will find out some way to … when you have this kind of feeling, you will know, this is, you know, whether you are spoiling yourself or encouraging your spirit. You see?

So, at that time, you can change your attitude a little bit. Just a little bit works very strongly.

To buy a lot of wisdom is just a little bit. [Laughs]

When they are interested in, they are trying … they want … even they drive the one mind or even after ten block – ten block's work, they may go to the best store and best business. When they're doing so … if someone chose worst vegetable, [laughs] but no such story…..

This is just your … not much practice but … little bit change. Little bit different from usual way.

But it works. And it helps yourself and it will give people some reason. You can do that.

Q: Yesterday on the town trip, in one of the large grocery stores that we shop at often, kind of at the back where we buy our vegetables, there were three cardboard boxes kind of full of vegetables like you were describing – that they were going to throw away. Lettuce, and old oranges and apples and so forth. What would you say if we were to actually take that, and to ask the manager to use that food, so on the next town trip we should bring it back to Tassajara. Would you think that to be practicing the spirit of these rules?

But for the head of the kitchen to buy, you know … were not so good. But, if we have that kind of spirit, you know, I think the grocery store and farmers will help you a lot, you know. They may give you, even though you don't expect, you know, they may give. But if you are really expecting … them ….

Q: I remember doing that.

But, what was the point of your question?

Q: The question was: Do you feel that we should bring back to Tassajara those three large boxes of food which the grocery store didn't feel it wanted to have on its shelves, but was still … part edible?

Yeah, I think so.

Q: We should bring it back to Tassajara?

And we should make best use of it. If it is possible to eat, we should do. If it is not, we can throw away. [Laughs]

Q: We should pay them for it, shouldn't we, the same price?

No, I don't think so. We will not pay for that. {Laughter} As the head of, as you are working for Tassajara, so at the time, it is not just your practice.

There is this kind of story … the monk, what Dogen teach and what Dogen said was described by his disciple, and we have story of that record called Zuimonki – the great stories. Something like that.

Some of them is very difficult to understand: why did he say so? Very difficult.

Some more question?

Q: Getting back to the question of aestheticism, with the cold coming on, I was thinking about putting a heater in my cabin, a small heater, and um, the question that came to my mind, I knew the people who were here last winter,, a lot of them didn't have heaters in their rooms. And, ah, ah, they're here now. {Laughter} But I wondered if you think it will be, you know … I guess it's hard to make a general rule, but … do you think it would have hurt your practice too much to, you know, have a warm room to go to? {Laughter by all}

Yeah. I think in this way, you know. We are … tendency, some tendency to really be more and more luxurious, and we will be more and more spoiled. And we are finding some excuse for it.

Always our mind is working in such a direction! {Laughter} So, I think it is necessary to know that – what is our tendency.

Not to be – we should remember some word like “( liable to after ??)” [Laughs] We have to remember two words. We have to do something.

So, not to fall into the same hole is very important.

In Japan we have … there is some … what do you call it – spider like? I am slow learner. It is big … or not big … for him it is big.

Q: Ant lion.

Ant? What? {Laughter} Good name! Ant lion.

All the ants may fall into same hole, you know. And we human beings, too, fall into same hole. Same hole.

And we are on the edge of the hole like an ant lion.

So if you fall in that same hole, [laughs], like ant, very, very silly. So.

So this kind of … when we, you know – when you want to protect, try to protect human being, we should, we should be a guard of the hole. [Laughs]

You may be eaten by ant lion, and at the same time, you should be very careful. By yourself, too.

But still, we should not be afraid of our nature. We should develop our nature, as much as we can. But we should … if you want to develop your native desire, then you should know the tendency you have. So, this kind of practice is absolutely necessary if you … when you want to … help yourself and help others.

This point should be … this word as reliable, should be remembered always.

Or else you cannot do anything.

And you should be always, you know, rigid and afraid something may happen to you – scared of something which someone will do to you. While you have no this kind of practice. You don't know how to protect yourself and protect others, and how to help others.

If you know … if you … if you know the word “have to” completely, then you are quite safe, and you have always confidence in yourself and helping others.

So, without this kind of practice, Mahakashapa could not manage Buddha's disciples.

This is very important point, and with this spirit, I think we should practice zazen.

Just to practice zazen, you know, to acquire something is not our way.


Do you understand?


Q: Where do we find the determination and the perseverance to continue a life where … to keep on going in a way where we don't want to spoil ourselves? Where does this determination come from?

Determination comes from zazen. Even though you fail at it, you know, we have to [not] give up zazen when we are painful. Always you have … you should train yourself in that way, with our practice, and until you have full confidence in yourself … not to fall, not to … ah … analyze all.

With determination you see edge of the hole! [Laughs] Without complaining or disengaging. {Laughter} That is not zazen.


In that way you should always make yourself strong – strong enough to go on sitting, and strong enough to help people.

Strong enough to have some candy when you want it [laughs] sometimes! Not always.

You should know, if I eat candy, I may want one more. No.


That kind of point is the very important point – in your zazen, and in your everyday life.

Not … Don't try to find out where. But try to strengthen your … make it stronger. So that you can do it quite easily.