Our Practice is Expression of Our True Buddha-mind
Sesshin Lecture, No. 4
Tuesday Evening, August 4, 1970
Source: Original City Center tape transcribed and checked by Bill Redican (11/29/00). Miyagawa Keishi-san kindly provided assistance with the translation of Japanese terms.
File name: 70-08-04: our practice is expression of our true buddha-mind (titled by pf) (Verbatim)
In-- in everyday life, to observe precepts and, in our practice, to continue our zazen looks like different, but actually it is same. In actual zazen, whether-- even though your practice is not perfect, if you practice our way, there there is enlightenment because originally, you know, our practice is expression of our true buddha-mind.
Because you-- your-- because of your discrimination, you say your practice is not good. But if we do not, you know-- if we do not discriminate [in] our practice, that is really the expression of the-- our true nature, which is buddha-nature.
And in our everyday life, if we observe precepts even for a moment with this-- with our mind-- with our mind which is changing always, then the momentous change-- on the momentous changing mind, real, you know, moon of the buddha-mind will appear: bodhi-mind will be there. So actually there is no difference.
So the point is, you know, moment after moment we satisfy our practice and without discrimina- -- without criticizing your mind too much, to do something which is good is only way for us. And if-- when you understand way-seeking mind, or buddha-mind, or bodhi-mind in this way, actually everything is encouraging us to have buddha-mind or bodhisattva-mind, which is to help others before we help ourselves. When you, you know, try to help others, everything you have will be-- will give you chance to help others. So whatever it is, the things you see, things you hear will give you chance to help others.
So that mind to help others will give you a big opportunity to treat everything [as] a Buddha-- Buddha's gift. And when you say “before we save ourselves, we will get-- we will be free from selfish idea,” when you give up selfish idea, there there is chance to have buddha-mind. The world is, you know-- if you say “before we save ourselves, to save others” looks like dualistic. But our understanding of bodhisattva-mind is not dualistic. It is, you know, extended. Understanding of oneness of giving something-- someone who give and someone who receive-- this is the characteristic of our way. Practice and enlightenment is one, you know. Someone who save and who is saved is one. So there is no problem in observing this-- our way.
The precepts is also very clear. There is no precepts to observe, you know, or no one who is observing precepts-- no problem at all. Precepts-- if you say “precepts,” you are precepts itself. And if you say “you,” you know, you have, you know-- ”you” are already precepts. And there is no precepts or no one who observe precepts. In this way, we have to observe our precepts, and we have to arise bodhisattva-mind, and we have to practice our way.
It is not, you know-- Dogen Zenji says it is not because of your power of practicing zazen or power of, you know, bodhisattva-mind that you attain enlightenment, that you become buddha. It is not [through] power of practice or it is not, you know, power of arising bodhisattva-mind that you become buddha. And he says even though you attain enlightenment, you have to practice zazen. Even though you attain-- you become buddha, you have to have-- you have to extend bodhisattva-mind. Even though you become buddha, you have to observe precepts.
That is actually, you know, why he said before you save yourself, you should save others. So, you know, this idea is beyond the idea of attainment-- to be buddha or to observe precepts. Usually, you know [laughs], you think, you know, why you practice zazen is to attain enlightenment, why you arise bodhisattva-mind is by power of bodhisattva-mind, [and] you will, you know, be a buddha. By observing precepts you will-- you can practice zazen and you will become a buddha. You will understand in that way.
But Dogen Zenji says, you know, it is not because of the bod- -- observing-- because of arising bodhisattva-mind that you become buddha. And even though [laughs] you arise bodhisattva-mind, you should try to, you know-- you should continue the bodhisattva way. Before you save yourself, you should save others. Even though you attain enlightenment, you know, you should continue it. Do you understand? You should continue it. After-- even though you have, you know, acquired-- you have attained enlightenment, you should continue it.
So bodhisattva-mind is not the way to attain buddhahood. Just-- bodhisattva-mind is mind which should be continued forever, whether you attain enlightenment or not. Whether you are a buddha or not, anyway, bodhisattva-mind is the mind which buddha and someone who is not yet buddha should continue.
So you may say bodhisattva-- you may think bodhisattva-- buddha is, you know, highest, and bodhisattva is next, you know. And pratyeka and shravaka is, you know, will follow. But [laughs] when we understand bodhisattva way in that way, or when we understand our practice in that way, which is important for us, enlightenment [laughs] or practice-- which is important? Which is, you know, better? Bodhisattva or buddha [laughs]? Very difficult to say. In one way, maybe, bodhisattva is. You know, buddha-- if you become buddha, if that is the end of the practice or end of everything, you know [laughs].
So after you are-- become buddha, what you will do [laughs, laughter]? Then that buddha will not exist forever. And if there is somewhere to go, it may be [that] you have to start again from [laughs, laughter]-- . Bodhisattva way is the way which we should continue anyway. So we say, “before you save yourself,” you know, “you should try to save others.” The meaning is very deep. And the meaning, you know, will provide a very easy approach. But very easy, but it is so lofty idea. There is no end, you know, in bodhisattva way.
So we transmit, you know, bodhisattva precept to you [laughs]. We do not say, you know, “buddha precepts.” We say “bodhisattva precepts.” We-- I don't want to discriminate, you know, Theravada way or Mahayana way-- so-called-it “Mahayana way,” but true spirit of Buddha is actually in Mahayana way. And by Mahayana practice we could-- Buddhism could survive for a long time.
So four vow we recite every day is very important. And the precepts we transmit from Buddha to us-- transmitted from Buddha to us is very important. And to express the meaning of Buddha's truth-- meaning of Buddha's precepts, we call it, you know, “bodhisattva precepts” instead of calling [it] “buddha precepts.” We can say “buddha precepts,” but if we say-- to make this point clear-- non-duality of-- idea of non-duality and idea of true duality, we use “bodhisattva precepts.”
Even though we say “bodhisattva way,” we do not discriminate bodhisattva way or Hinayana way. But if we call it-- call our precepts “bodhisattva,” you know, then you will have much clear[er] understanding of precepts. And you will find out easier to observe. And you will find the deeper meaning of observing precepts.
So for us, even though we have, you know, we are the son-- all of us is descendant of Buddha-- son of Buddha, but we call, you know, all successive patriarchs “bodhisattva,” you know. Buddha is a bodhisattva. And for us, you know, we understand in that way. Bodhidharma is a bodhisattva. And Eka is bodhisattva. Dogen is bodhisattva. And the precepts you will have, you know, in lay ordination is called “bodhisattva transmission of precepts.”
For several nights, I am concentrate-- my talk is, you know, concentrated on this point of, you know, why you have-- you receive bodhisattva precepts when you, you know, are [receive] lay ordination. Recently I did not put emphasis on Dogen Zenji's zazen practice, which is shikantaza. But shikantaza-- we do not say even “shikantaza.” But we just say “zazen.”
In comparison to the zazen, to attain enlightenment, we call it shikantaza because we have no gaining idea in our practice. And in our practice, practice and enlightenment is one. When you practice our zazen there is enlightenment. We rather put emphasis on, you know, practice rather than enlightenment. Front, you know-- front gate is-- for us is practice. And, you know, our precepts-- Zen precepts is, you know-- all Zen precepts is bodhisattva pre- -- is called “bodhisattva precepts.”
And precepts you will receive in lay ordination-- precepts transmission you will receive in lay ordination is [one] in which it says there is no difference between Rinzai precepts and Soto precepts. It is bodhisattva precepts. This is very important point. Not dualistic precepts. And the precepts always one with you. And always should be kept by you. Even though you do not try to keep it, it is there.
So that is why I said last night you should say “yes.” There is-- you cannot say “no.” [Laughs.] My lecture was, you know-- the point of my lecture was this point: bodhisattva practice-- bodhisattva precepts.
So on okechimyaku it says, “Busso shoden bosatsu daikai.” Bosatsu is “bodhisattva” in Japanese. And after you receive it, you know, the most important thing is to continue it, you know. Moment after moment, you should say, “Yes-- yes I will.” [Laughs.] Moment after moment. And you should continue our practice, even though you experience enlightenment experience. You should continue it. That is golden rule for all Zen student, whether you are Rinzai student or Soto student.
I don't want to repeat same thing over and over. I think you have understood. I think I have some more time, so if you have question, please ask me. Hai.
Student A: You said if you come to zazen in bodhisattva-mind, it's not the way to enlightenment.
Student A: I think I [1 word] that.
SR: Yeah. Many times, yes.
Student A: What is the way?
SR: Maybe so, you know, but, you know, as I said right now, you know, if, you know, Zen is way to attain enlightenment-- if you take, you know, literally, you know, you will misunderstand our practice-- bodhisattva practice, you know. Bodhisattva practice-- bodhisattva way is the way which, you know, regardless you are buddha or not, you should-- way you should continue forever is bodhisattva way.
If you say, you know, “buddha way,” if you become buddha that will be the end. So to, you know, to make the meaning of our practice clear, we say zazen is not to attain enlightenment. Do you understand? You will be mistaken by saying you practice zazen to attain enlightenment. So when we practice zazen, that-- so we say beginner's mind is everything, you know. When you arise bodhisattva-mind, there is already buddha-mind. And it is everything. So, you know, I don't know which is more appropriate word: bodhisattva way or buddha way. I don't know. May be, you know, better to call it “bodhisattva way” rather than “buddha way.” Buddha way is something like “dead way.” [Laughs.] Not active-- not alive. And looks like very-- we are not buddha. When we say “buddha,” we are sentient being. So there is big gap between buddha and sentient being.
But bodhi- -- when we say “bodhisattva,” bodhisattva include all sentient being. And bodhisattva way is especially for sentient being. Do you understand? You-- we-- you know-- [laughs] to make our way clear, you know, I said “our way is not to attain enlightenment.” But we do not reject enlightenment experience. We welcome [laughs, laughter] to attain enlightenment. But if we call, you know-- if we say in that way, you know, you-- ”Oh, I had a great experience! So my practice is over. [Laughs, laughter.] I have done it!” [Said in an ironic voice.] If you say so, you will actually lose your enlightenment.
So if you shouldn't say so, maybe-- I think maybe you shouldn't say so. It is better not to say so. And it's better to continue bodhisattva practice. Hai.
Student B: Is there a meaning-- a concrete meaning for “saving all sentient beings,” or is doing zazen saving all sentient beings? Is there some other way to understand what that means?
SR: Sentient? All, you know? Save sentient being-- to help, you know, you can say “to help.” You can start, you know, very, you know-- to save sentient beings, you know, is not just to give something to others, you know: to almsgiving or to help people when they are in difficulty, you know, materially or spiritually. But it is, you know, to make freeway or to work on factory is actually to help others. But it does not mean, you know, only to help others just materially or spiritually. It is-- the spirit is-- the meaning is greater than that. But we-- to begin with, we should try to help others in various way-- easy way. And while you are doing, that is practice. While you are doing, you will find out how difficult it is, you know. Then you will, you know, improve the way to help others. Naturally, you should practice zazen. Hai.
Student C: Is there a reason-- or what is the reason why we should [6-10 words.] Does it have something to do with the consciousness [1-2 words] or something [1-3 words].
SR: Ahh. No. Here, you know, we practice in that way. But it does not mean you should, you know, continue to eat, you know, as you eat here. It is a kind of practice-- training, maybe.
Student C: Is it a discipline to try to deprive yourself, say, when an urge to eat certain food [1-2 words]--
Student C: -- if you wanted to eat it. Like, you [1-2 words]-- can that help your practice or something [1-2 words]?
SR: Yes, yes. Nondiscrimination is very important in our eating practice. [Laughs, laughter.] We Japanese people do not like, you know, raw vegetables so much. Especially we don't eat beans, you know, without cooking. The smell is so strong [laughs, laughter]! But in San Francisco zendo, as long as I am here [laughs, laughter], I have to eat, you know, raw beans and [laughs, laughter]-- which have strong smell! All salad looks like, to me, you know, green bean. If you cook it, it has not much strong smell. Good flavor [laughs]. But if you don't cook, all the salad will-- looks like to me green bean [laughs, laughter]. But, you know, we should not discriminate [laughs, laughter]. Non-discrimination is very important [laughs, laughter]. Hai.
Student D: Roshi, why do we eat the banana and throw away the skin?
SR: [Laughs.] I don't know. [Laughter.] Maybe very difficult to eat. I tried [laughs, laughter], but it was too difficult. And actually, I think if you eat it, you know, your tummy will stop, you know [laughs, laughter]. You will-- you will have hard time in your restroom next morning [laughs, laughter]. So that is too much. Hai.
Student E: Roshi, did you-- did I understand-- last night did I understand you correctly when-- getting back to the business of helping others-- trying to help others-- that it shouldn't-- it shouldn't be with the conscious mind? It should just be what it is-- just don't bother with it [?]-- a sort of natural thing [?]?
SR: Yeah, you know, it is like-- when you help them, you know, you don't have not much problem because you are a man who is helping someone. But those who are helped, you know, there will be some problem there. If you receive something from someone, if you change your position, you will find out why. And it-- if you-- if you are conscious about giving something, you know, then it will be-- it will create some problem unnecessarily. In this point, American people are very good, I think. If you give [something to] someone, that's all [laughs]. I find many things, you know, outside of my room. I don't know who gave it to me. They just give it to me. So, you know, I appreciate their kindness in its true sense. But if you-- if I know who gave it to me, you know, I-- I have, of course, no bad feeling, so I don't mind so much whether I know who gave it to me or I don't know. It doesn't matter so much. But I think it is better, if it is possible, if you can do it without dualistic idea of giving or “I am giving something to others.” Hai. [Sentence finished. Tape turned over. First part of student's question not recorded.]
Student F: -- in practice. In this context, I'd like to understand effort, because it's also said that the way is effortless.
Student F: The way is effortless.
Student F: The way, or--
Student F: Right practice.
SR: Ah. Right practice. Yeah.
Student F: That's what I'd like to know. Is right practice effortless?
Student F: Yes. With no effort.
SR: No effort of, you know-- no effort with gaining idea. Effort to, you know, maybe to give up gaining idea. Effort to continue it without, you know, dualistic idea: just to do it. That kind of effort is necess- -- always important. Hai.
Student G: Roshi, would you say something about shila-- the Bodhisattva concept of [1 word].
Student H: That was Sanskrit.
Student G: Shila-- morality. [6-8 words] bodhisattva way.
SR: In contrast to-- in Sanskrit [laughs, laughter]? I don't know Sanskrit. “Bodhisattva” is Sanskrit, I know, but-- I am sorry.
Student G: The bodhisattva concept of morality.
SR: Ah, concept of morality.
Student G: Yeah.
SR: Morality-- morality is, you know-- it is more than morality. Morality is-- if you underst- -- if you see our precepts, it is exactly morality, which you should observe as a human being. But bodhisattva way is more than that. That is why I have to explain it, you know, why I explained so far. If it is morality, you know, if you read the precepts, you know: “Don't kill,” you know. “Don't steal.” Or, “Don't speak ill of others.” If you read in that way, literally, that is morality. And actually, we are observing-- most people are observing morality to some extent. That is morality.
But bodhisattva way is the way when, you know-- bodhisattva way include morality but more than that. If you, you know, observe it in dualistic sense, it is morality. If you understand bodhisattva way deeper than that, it is, maybe, religious activity. So moral world, religious world, there is-- there are two or more.
Maybe your question is arised because I said, you know, intuitively, you know, or without any idea observing it. But it does not mean to ignore the moral code-- codes. Okay? Hai.
Student I: What is suffering? What is that relieves suffering?
SR: Suffering is, you know, in short, to expect, you know, something which you cannot expect is cause of suffering-- in short, you know. We want to live longer, but, you know, we cannot live so long. Maybe one hundred years or-- mostly less than that. But we want to live more than that. There we have suffering. We want to meet someone who you love [laughs], but, you know, it is not possible-- always possible. Some day you have to be separated from someone who you love. And, you know, you will meet someone who you not like so much [laughing]. That is very true, you know. You say you don't like him or like her. But may say-- you must ask her how she feels. Then it is very difficult, you know. Even though you love her, she may say no [laughs, laughter]. That is cause of suffering. So in short, you know [laughs, laughter], the things does not go-- do not go as you expect. That is suffering.
And so, how to get out of suffering is to have, you know, quiet mind. That you can eat green pea [laughs, laughter] is how to get out of suffering. You know, if you-- if your mind is calm and very soft, you know, you can eat it, and actually it is very good, you know [laughs, laughter]. So we say:
Jiki ni oite to naru mono wa,
ho ni oitemo mata to nari.
You know-- you-- a man who does not discriminate food
will be, you know-- will not discriminate in our dharma too.
You-- you will not say, “I cannot observe this precepts. But this is very good precepts [laughing, laughter]. Very convenient for me.” To criticize someone-- we use precepts to criticize someone, you know: “'Don't speak ill of others.' You see? What did you say now? You shouldn't criticize me [laughs, laughter], because precept says don't criticize anyone.” That is not how we observe precepts. Hai.
Student J [DC]: Sometimes when I've heard definitions of suffering by Rahula in What the Buddha Taught, and that doctor who spoke at Zen Center a couple of years ago-- Dr.--
Student K: Conze [?]?
David: No, no. That young guy who went to Ceylon.
David: They define suffering in such a big way, you know-- it was like-- do you-- do you-- do you think of suffering as-- it-- is your understanding of suffering including everything: good and bad, happy and unhappy-- all experiences?
SR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, suffering covers-- teaching of suffering covers almost whole Buddhism.
Student K: Burns.
Student L: Burn. [Laughs, laughter.]
SR: Oh. Yeah. Dr. Burns, yeah.
David: Could you-- could you repeat what he thought-- what he thought on [2-4 words]?
SR: No, I cannot. My mind is not so explicit, you know, to, you know-- it is big, you know, topic to speak about. I know that much. But, you know, in one word, that is how we suffer. But that teaching covers almost whole teaching, you know.
Duhkha, sukha-- you know, in-- our life could be divided into renunciation from suffering and suffering. But it is actually one, you know. Because it is one, the teaching of suffering covers of-- covers teaching of enlightenment.
Student M: I thought you said that we should begin by practicing as if we were shopping-- as if we were shopping for things?
Student M: Would you-- how did that fit in with buying the rotten vegetables? Would the bad vegetables be what you would buy [?]?
SR: [Laughs, laughter.] No, I-- when-- at that time I have no idea of buying something, you know. It is a kind of-- my special practice, maybe, you know. Not-- but I didn't-- I-- that is my habit or feeling, you know. When you-- when I see it-- good, you know, fresh vegetables and fresh apples and, you know, old, you know, rotten apple, I feel if I don't buy it, if I don't eat it right now, you know, it will be-- no one will buy it, so he must throw it-- throw it away. So if I buy it, you know, that apple will save-- will help us. But if I don't, for that apple there is no chance to serve its purpose [laughs, laughter]. Immediately I feel in that way, so I cannot help buying bad ones first and leaving good ones for someone, you know, because many people will like it, you know. Maybe if you work in the kitchen you will have that kind of feeling, you know.
Student M: Wouldn't you then always buy bad things [?]?
SR: No, not always.
Student M: Bad [1 word], bad [1 word].
SR: [Laughs, laughter.] No. No, not always, you know, especially food, you know. If it is some-- if it is-- if I buy a motorcar, I want to buy a brand new perfect ones [laughs, laughter]. But the more you have knowledge of something, you know, you will be, you know, like me when I buy something-- some apples or something. Before you have not much knowledge about it, you will, you know, buy something good first. If you have good knowledge of, you know, car, even though it doesn't look like so good, but you know how to-- because if you know how to mend it you will buy it, you know, because maybe it is cheaper. And you know how to make good use of it. So if your mind is very kind and very clear, you will observe in that way without having superficial discrimination. Some question? Hai.
Student N: When you say “attaining enlightenment,” are you saying gradual enlightenment always? And when you talk about enlightenment experiences, do you mean experiences that are an encouragement to our practice?
SR: Why I say so is, you know, because you say “enlightenment.” But mostly it is not great enlightenment. It is, you know, many small enlightenments-- not big one which covers various-- every experience. Enlightenment, like Dogen Zenji describe, is the enlightenment which covers everything, you know. You cannot-- no one cannot get out of his enlightenment [laughs]. It is so big, you know.
Student O: Can you explain the difference between koan practice and shikantaza practice?
SR: I don't know koan practice so well, you know. But for us, koan-- koan is-- ”koan” originally means official statements or rules-- issue, you know, from the government. So which is something which you observe-- absolute rules or statements of enlightenment, you know, for Zen. So how you find out the absolute truth in each story of Zen story is koan practice. But for us, you know, our everyday life is already big koan, you know [laughs, laughter]. So, you know, we, you know, we do not stick to some traditional special koans. Some question? Hai.
Student P: [3-4 words] the difference between the bodhisattva-mind and the buddha-mind? [4-8 words.] Is the buddha-mind something that occurs only after death?
SR: No. In its true sense, buddha-mind-- there must not be any difference between bodhisattva-mind [and] buddha-mind, you know. Should be same. But, you know, for a long time, you know, Buddha-- Buddha's-- Buddhism was mistaken or misunderstood. And, you know, when-- after a long time they found out the true meaning of precepts-- sutra. And they started to use “bodhisattva”-- word “bodhisattva” instead of “buddha.” They put emphasis on bodhisattva stage rather than buddha stage, which is perfect. Bodhisattva stage which is not perfect. But in bodhisattva-- in idea-- idea of buddha is also fully included-- maybe more advanced buddha [laughs] in term-- in-- the meaning of words is-- may be deeper when old Buddhist called Buddha “Buddha.”
Student P: In what sense, then, does our zazen heal others?
Student P: In what sense, then, does zazen help others?
SR: Help others? Yeah.
Student P: I was assuming that it only helps--
SR: -- yourself.
Student P: -- yourself.
SR: Yeah. No. No-- definitely not. Maybe, you know, as I said right now, you know, because, you know, you do not know yourself so much, you know, and you don't know what you are doing to others so much, but you know what others do to you, you know very much [laughs]. And actually, you are doing same thing to others [laughs, laughter]. If you realize that, you know, you will think [laughs].
Student Q: Is it necessary to accept freedom as a form of suffering?
Student Q: Is it true?
SR: Freedom. The idea of freedom or-- ?
Student Q: The experience of freedom.
SR: Experience of freedom.
Student Q: Yes. Is that also suffering when you [2-4 words]?
SR: I think so. Freedom-- you may say freedom is also cause of suffering because you have, you know, fear of losing freedom. So you [feel that you] should protect your freedom [laughs, laughter]. Then, you know [laughing], freedom will cause some trouble for you. Hai.
Student Q: Isn't that the original discrimination-- freedom versus-- or enlightenment versus non-enlightenment or freedom versus non-freedom? Isn't that the original discrimination?
SR: Freedom. Yeah, freedom-- maybe so, you know. You know, the-- something which is-- some idea which is dualistic, you know, is, anyway, cause of problem because, you know, it is-- it makes pair of opposites, you know. So there is no words which mean something without any opposite idea. So if you stick [to] one side, you know, you will cause trouble-- stick to one side. So when you are in the position which include both side, or understanding which you include-- which you can-- which you can include both side, that is how to be free from, you know, suffering. Hai.
Student R: The Theravadan scriptures talk about many different levels of meditation. Does zazen include all of these, or is it different?
SR: “Include” is, you know, very vague, you know. But it is-- at least it is-- our practice is foundation of those practice. Without, you know, our practice, you know, it doesn't work. It will, you know-- if it is actually, you know, stepladder-like practice, you know, it will create problem. And it should be one practice, you know, and it should be a different experience of one practice. Then, you know, those various steps will work-- will help. So if you open your eyes, you know, and if you understand our practice and see those stages of attainment, it makes sense.
Mmm. Just a moment. I-- I think I have-- I haven't time any more. Do I have some more time?
Student: 9:10 [?].
SR: Oh. Okay. Thank you.