Tokusan and The Old Lady

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===== Awakening the Archive - Tape #8, by Shundo David Haye =====

At Zen Center, responsibilities get passed on from person to person regularly. One part of traditional Zen training is that a monk should not expect to keep any one role, but to be able to adapt to, and practice whole-heartedly in, whichever position is offered. Sometimes this has disadvantages: while the extant Zen Center recordings from 1965 are all carefully dated and annotated, once we move into 1966, it is a different story.

There are seven reels which are listed as being from the one- or two-day sesshins between January and July of that year, but six of them are problematic in some way: dates are not clear or consistent; on four reels, one of the tracks seem to have been completely overlooked and never transcribed or annotated; and in several instances, such as this one, the audio quality is very poor, with bleedthrough of music and radio broadcasts which has made Suzuki Roshi's voice almost completely inaudible.

With the most up-to-date audio processing painstakingly applied, we can now make out a little of what Suzuki Roshi is talking about in this lecture (to have a sense of how it previously sounded, you can listen to this older version -

The date of the talk has been recorded as January 22nd, the day after two other lectures were offered, but the discovery of unmarked and unknown audio on the same reel, from the February sesshin, throws this date into doubt. In the latter talk (which is also marred by sound interference, but at least nominally has the correct date supplied by the tape operator), Suzuki Roshi mentions the story of "Tokusan and the Old Lady" (which comes from Mumon's comment on Case 28 of the Mumonkan); in this current talk, he says he talked about that story "this morning", and discusses it further. Interestingly, this is not a story he appears to have used in any other lecture that we have transcribed, so these two talks have a unique value for that alone.

In this talk, he refers to Dogen's commentary on the story in ways which - with the limitations on the audio - are not abundantly clear. Dogen refered to the story in the two versions of the 'Ungraspable Mind' fascicle in the Shobogenzo and, typically, had his own ideas on what each of the protagonists could or should have said to each other, which Suzuki Roshi tries at length to communicate (at the end of the talk he apologizes for mixing up the order of the discussion).

There are two parts to this story that would make it relevant to his students: one is that a supposedly renowned Zen scholar, as Tokusan was, can be outsmarted by a lay practitioner, in this case, an old woman selling refreshments, one of a small number of women who make an appearance in the traditional Zen literature. This is entirely in line with many of the talks Suzuki Roshi had been giving over the previous months which emphasize practice over philosophical or other intellectual kinds of understanding.

Also, Suzuki Roshi amplifies Dogen's point that while the story about the exchange of cakes for the teaching of the dharma happens on the relative level, there is an absolute level where no exchange is possible or necessary. For those students following the thread of Suzuki Roshi's teaching, and as he speaks about during this talk as well, this absolute level is experienced and embodied for practitioners in the zendo, and our practice is to take that experience and carry what is learned in the zendo out to the relative levels encountered in the rest of our lives - a topic that has lost none of its relevance:

"Actually we have completed our sesshin. What we completed will be -- will become more meaningful if you continue -- if you extend this practice for tomorrow. In this way we extend our practice from today to tomorrow, and from sitting practice to everyday life. This is itself our way of practice." (3:08)

AI Summary: 



The originally ascribed date has been amended due to his reference to the story of Tokusan and the old lady, and its presence in another talk on the same reel from February 19, 1966, which he refers to in this talk.

Transcript SDH 12/21

David Chadwick's notes

File name: 66-01-22N: untitled [Verbatim transcript not available. (Sound problem.)]
; #inaudible, #new-audio, #please-transcribe, #improved-audio, #awakening-the-archive


[Tape operator tests microphone]

To practice sesshin

[30 second gap in audio - remaining audio has bleedthrough of radio programs and music]

There is no reason for you to consider, there is ??? you will only create more difficulties (?) you have to work with it (?) Practice this day [laughs] will introduce you to pain (?) [laughter] Moreover, there is no purpose (?) for that ?? No bottom. [laughs] ?? So what will be will be (?)

I think you know that the bottom is more the heaven (?) more than you know -- I hope [laughs] ?? this is ??

[2:45] It is necessary for us to continue our practice with our perfect effort, and actually we have completed our sesshin. What we completed will be to build -- become more meaningful if you continue -- if you extend this practice for tomorrow. In this way we extend our practice from today to tomorrow, and from sitting practice to everyday life. This is itself our way of practice.

And this morning I talked about some discussion between Tokusan and old lady. But Dogen Zenji says the discussion is not completed. You may think that old -- old lady was better than Tokusan, but no-one knows -- old lady was -- if old lady -- whether old lady was better than Tokusan.

[5:45] And if Dogen Zenji were Tokusan -- were old lady, he says he might have asked him -- or Tokusan, if he were Tokusan, he might have asked old lady-- First of all, if he is -- were Tokusan the young monk, he would have asked old lady about the meaning of present mind: since it cannot be grasped, future cannot be grasped, past cannot be grasped, what does he mean -- does it mean if he were -- Tokusan he would ask. Then he will find out some meaning, but he didn't. He just went out, and old lady also didn't say anything about it. That is not right, he said. He should say -- she should say something.

And if Dogen Zenji were the old lady, Dogen Zenji says -- I must have -- he said, there is no reason why I should give you -- why I should offer to you (?) to buy my cakes (?) ???

[8:55] It means that mind, or Buddha mind -- for Buddha mind, there is nothing to be offered. Is -- the Buddha mind is the absolute mind. For the absolute mind there is nothing to offer, so old -- if he were old lady, why he asked you for some cake - there is no need for you to be entertained by cake (?) he served -- she served. She should say so. And if the monk -- Tokusan, says -- if Tokusan says, if [long pause] And if the monk, Tokusan, asks her to give some serious offer (?) three cakes, three rice cakes, and if Tokusan takes ???, he will say present mind cannot be grasped [laughs], past mind -- present cannot be grasped, past mind cannot be -- present mind cannot be grasped, past mind cannot be grasped, future mind cannot be grasped, he would say. I think as he would say (?) This is what he said.

Without saying anything, to leave the old lady is not right -- was not right. And without any reason, to refuse the monk is not also right. The present [long pause] -- the cake -- although a cake is not Buddha, there's nothing to offer for the Buddha. But for us -- for Buddha there's many things to give us. For Buddha, there's nothing to receive, but he has many things to give us. And if so, what we do, whether it is offering a cake or practice zazen, this kind of practice is not a matter of to attain enlightenment, or to practice to do some success (?) When we do something, it looks like we are doing something good, but actually, for Buddha there is nothing which is good or bad. And Buddha -- nevertheless Buddha has many things to do for people (?) When Buddha do many things for us, it is true practice. When we do -- when we think we do something, that is wrong practice. That is not right practice.

[16:15] But it looks like we are practicing zazen to attain enlightenment, if we expect so (?) And maybe so, because [laughs] if we practice zazen, eventually, or at that time, we are actually Buddha. So there's no one -- it is obvious that we are practicing zazen to attain enlightenment - that is the way that it is. But if if you take it literal (?) and you say, "I -- my practice is not so good," after many years it's for your own (?) enlightenment. But if you say "I did that," in this way, it is wrong, because what you do is what Buddha is doing first. If so, Buddha is doing it for something (?) Buddha. Buddha is constantly doing something good. That is true practice. So true practice, we have three points. One is, we practice -- we practice zazen. The next is Buddha practices zazen. The third one is Buddha practice Buddha [laughs]. That is the third. We are Buddha when we -- when we practice zazen.

This is our ritual, we bow with each other. Whatever the teaching of three, it's really only two (?) That is, Buddha is bowing to him, Buddha is pointing to Buddha. And at the same time, Buddha -- I don't know who this is (?) [laughs] Buddha is doing something for him, and he is offering something to Buddha. But actual meaning it is not different - the same thing.

[19:35] So we should not take those three statements in three ways. Actually it is one statement. If the old lady knew this point, and said in this way, she was -- she was very good nun (?), but we don't know, because she didn't say anything ?? - she didn't know this point. And Tokusan must have a chance (?) [laughs] with the old lady ?? this statement.

So Dogen Zenji says, we don't know what she has in her sleeve. It might be -- it might be honey (?) or bees (?) could be something [laughs] honey or bees, we don't know. She has -- perhaps she didn't have anything in her sleeve. Or she must have a bee [laughs] in that sleeve.

[22:10] This kind of understanding of practice is the right understanding of practice which is transmitted from Buddha to us. This isn't just Dogen Zenji's interpretation (?). And in this way our culture was formed. Moment after moment we developed new paths. Even though it is a new culture, there's some connection between past and future, past and present, and present and future. It was developed from past to this moment, from present to future. But as we call it "eternal present" we are doing it moment after moment, we are forming new culture, moment after moment.

[24:05] Here we have three meanings of practice: Buddha is doing this -- we are doing something for him; Buddha is doing something for Buddha; we are Buddha, always Buddha. Our meaning of culture contains (?) our culture, always Buddha. But the expression is not the same. Sometimes we ?? point Buddha ?? Sometimes hero (?) will be ?? and at the same time age (?) will make mis-step because of the previous (?) ?? Buddha. But he controls ??.

But if you understand his immediate reaction -- help (?), it is actually Buddha who is working Buddha. If you understand that that you are helping, you are offering something to the weak(?) that is one. It will do (?). Leader (?) is always helping that is not perfect (?) -- leader (?) is one world (?) with the Buddha [laughs]. There's no -- actually each one of us ?? even though we cannot pass this way (?) sometimes someone will become a leader as some other -- some other Buddha. This is how Buddha develop our ?? It is the same thing with our practice.

[27:20] So you can say, where there is Buddha, there is nothing. And at the same time, because of sentient beings Buddha exists. Because of sentient beings Buddha exists. That is why we should practice Zen, we should live in this way. How to live in this moment is to continue our practice in this way to reach renewed life moment by moment. And how to do it, how to actualize those three understandings is just by sincere effort (?)

[29:04] When you can sincerely to forget yourself that will rid the idea of the self, our world will start bit by bit (?). If we cannot forget ourselves in our society then we have to do many things for your society. You have heavy sack on your back. But if you become quite sincere -- sincere not to do things without any reason, just by ?? There is no value whatsoever ??
In this realm there is no leader (?) or no people (?) or no teacher no student. And if ???? this is how to cultivate our society and our ?????

[31:00] What I say is rather complicated, but in short, when -- whenever you have some difficulties, you have to watch yourself, whether you are without your -- covered by your (?) idea of self. Center of the candle -- If the center of the candle is covered by wax, the wick doesn't work, you have to get rid of wax on the center. So you shouldn't cover yourself with the idea of self. You should be always pure of ?? your own plan, your own worth (?) Then, when you have really established (?) in this realm the actual activity, and actual activity has candle and some -- something is ignited. This is the -- this is true. Some ?? easily (?), something -- there is conflict (?) on which we -- ??

So idealistic practice will cover that something which your own self-centered idea doesn't work. You always - you are always listening to your own business (?) ??? how that happen do you ?? worse ?? This is not our way. This is why we practice zazen, and why this sesshin ?? on this kind of ??

[35:11] I am sorry I was not -- I couldn't -- I didn't remember the discussion -- the order of the discussion -- actual order of the discussion between Tokusan and the old lady. I was in sesshin [laughs] What I meant - what she meant is ?? -- she ???? The order of discussion is divided itself (?)?? ?? it is rather complicated. I was lost, excuse me, but I think you have intellectual discussion ?? ?? And I accept what you actually lost (?)

[Closing chant (?) and bell]

SR: [a few words unclear]