Suffering Comes From Desires

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Wednesday, November 9, 1966
Tony Artino notes


Tony Artino notes on Shunryu Suzuki lecture. This transcript is a retyping of the existing City Center transcript. It is not verbatim. No tape is available. The City Center transcript was entered onto disk by Jose Escobar who received the notes from DC, 1997. It was reformatted by Bill Redican (11/5/01). Edited by DC 4-17-17

File name: 66-11-09: Suffering comes from desires (titled by pf); #no-audio


Suffering comes from desires. Zazen leads to the strength to cut off the root of suffering. When we are free from our suffering we are called Buddhas. But our desires are limitlessly deep. Hence it is impossible to totally cut off our human suffering.

For a while zazen will alleviate suffering, but zazen is not a complete remedy.

[Suzuki Roshi emphasizes improving oneself little by little rather than by trying to cut off one's suffering at a single stroke. -- “A little fire is still fire. It is not necessary to have a big fire.”] In this world we live by constant effort. Even though gains are small, the act of sincerely trying to improve little by little is salvation-- a way to transcend the troubles, without which we could not have occasion to make efforts at improvement. So even desires are necessary. The Buddhist way is the way of eternal effort. True eternity is not that which is contrasted with the momentary. True eternity is the eternal present.

Satisfaction with our present life is the true way of emancipation. “So-called wisdom is nothing but to be satisfied with what we have. That is Buddha's wisdom.” We should not be mixed up or over-concerned with right-and-wrong actions.

Question Period

Bad situations are not so bad but good situations are dangerous. Bad situations have a bottom. Good ones are bottomless. "In such good situations, you are in danger of floating down the river with a smile on your face!”

If you don't lose your composure, there is no bad situation.

If someone has lost his way, it is very hard to truly help him. He can be aided, but the help is only temporary such as "by a kind listener when he is distressed. Sometimes, we won't tell him the truth so as to temporarily help him.”

Perhaps this is related to the culture of Japan, but, if you don't ask for others' help, there is a chance to be helped by others. [Roshi emphasized the person making sincere efforts on his own behalf-- not relying on others.]

Real help is more than merely improving the situation. A person should determine the limits of his circumstances, and himself improve them.

What I am speaking about this evening is the right attitude towards religion. True religion does not add to one's helplessness. But you should not expect to gain from a religion because it is not of things, not worldly. For example, Buddha's wisdom does not produce anything. Wisdom sees the world and things as they are, but wisdom has no form or color. Hence wisdom is not something to rely on.

Our power is innate, so when we have wisdom, we have everything. Wisdom is right-seeing and with right-seeing you will know what to do. Knowing what to do is your power. Using or having this power with wisdom, there are no bad situations. A bad situation is not unique to an individual. If someone else were there, he would be in a bad situation instead of you. So, a bad situation can be gotten out of.

People get married to help each other. So if my boy marries a beautiful, healthy, rich woman, then he is not a Buddhist. My boy should marry someone whom he can help. So I told him he should marry a girl he feels toward, even if the villagers think she is plain and dumb. He should not consider appearances

When we lose our way, we help those who don't need it and ignore those who do. Right now I have to ignore them and go in the opposite direction. But some day I will have learned how to help them.

Many people are suffering and do not know it. We who know it are happy and lucky.