We Are Always Helping Others
===== Awakening the Archive - Tape #13, by Shundo David Haye =====
This tape is, happily, the last of the messed-up recordings from the first half of 1966. It is the first of two talks from the July one-day sitting, and it begins in a most unusual way, with Suzuki Roshi apologizing for having slept in, or gone back to sleep after breakfast, which must have been disconcerting for everyone.
In 1966, alongside his series of lectures on the Genjo Koan, Suzuki Roshi was also lecturing on the Shushogi, a text created by the Soto School in Japan as a kind of short primer to Dogen's ideas (you can click on the keyword above to see some of his other references to it). He spends most of this talk expounding on the idea of helping others - the essence of the Bodhisattva way - before finishing with a quote from the text on that topic, but the breadth of the talk is quite extraordinary.
While the limitations of the audio make some of what he is saying inaudible, he appears to be teasing his students about their attitudes towards sex and love - again, something that might have been disconcerting for them; cautioning them against "making waves where there is no wind," and admonishing them at the end not to be conceited or arrogant, but rather, in the traditional Zen expression, "like a horse or a donkey." He invokes another famous Buddhist image, from the Lotus Sutra, to remind them that they already have a jewel in their pocket - or in their sleeve if they are wearing a robe.
These expressions are all in service of having his students let go of ideas of searching, of doing something special, or of having notions on how to help. There is something in his tone during the talk - perhaps from having overslept, or from exchanges he had had with some students, that suggests he is impatient with their understanding, and is urging them to go beyond the superficial to look from the "third aspect"- something he had already brought up in earlier talks on the Genjo Koan, the aspect that goes beyond form and emptiness. Once we have gone "through and through," then we are able simply to help others, to be a Bodhisattva.
Zen Center 1881 Bush St SF, Sesshin, July 23rd, 1966 (inside box is written "Katagiri" - also July 22nd is faintly visible)
https://terebess.hu/zen/dogen/shushogi.html - the translation Suzuki Roshi uses is by Reiho Masunaga.
Transcript in progress SDH 2/22. Title by SDH.
[Tape operator's microphone test at beginning, followed by silence up to 1:00]
I'm so sorry, I didn't think (pause) When I get up -- when I woke up, it was already eleven thirty [laughs]. I felt as if I had slept for [slight glitch in tape] I thought I slept enough [laughs]. So I made up my mind to give you a lecture.
The last part of the chapter twelve in Shushogi is very important chapter. And several words of Dogen - Dogen Zenji - is very important. What it means is very deep. Even though my understanding will not be deepest (?), but I want to explain as much as I can.
Usually the Bodhisattva mind will help us before we save ourselves. This mind is very deep, and based on very deep ideas. When you hear "to help others before you help you yourself, to save others before you save yourself" it's like ridiculous.
To feel it's ridiculous may be good [laughs]. When you feel ridiculous, you have rare insight into some understanding, and you have some different understanding of what you need (?).
The man who is supposed to be a great general, to say "to think is ridiculous" but we should be sure which is ridiculous: you or someone else [student interjects a word or two - laughter]. So I think you will have some suggestions when you hear such ridiculous words.
First of all I think if you help others, you cannot help yourself [laughs]. Whether you help yourself or help others is very difficult to decide. That is the problem for us. Always we have this kind of problem. This is because you do not have the idea of oneness (of) you and others. Even though you have the oneness of you yourself and others, that is just intellectual understanding in terms of (one or two words unclear) or helping (?)
You know you your -- you cannot be separated from others, and you and others makes one (?). What you think is right is what they think is wrong. And you are a part of the universe and others are part of it too. So intellectually there is no problem. So you know that. But when your -- when your decision is based on you or others, it means your physical (?) aspect does not accord with your history (?)
So to have problems in this way means you not actually realize the oneness of you and others. So when you accept -- when you do not mind to help others or to help yourself, there you have power to decide. Especially our culture is based on, more or less, individualism, after -- biologically, after Darwin, we have idea -- different understanding -- our understanding of life is ?? of existence or fitness of purpose. We could walk. That is biological truth we have in society, as well as all the trees and animals, everything else survives in this way. That is biological truth, we may say. So we can ?? and we have trees (?) we are in struggle (?). That is the truth we understand.
This is -- this aspect of life does not cause it -- is not a cause ?? And you may think that idea causes certain impact. It doesn't, at all. It is superficial scientific understanding of our life. Spiritually, or really (?), which -- which looks like strong is not strong. Which looks like smart is not smart. Which looks like ?? is not big -- great. Something which looks like -- some way of life which looks like weak, which looks like buoyant (?), which looks like weak, but looks like buoyant (?) -- buoyant (?) but really strong -- is the fundamental nature of being.
In Japan we have toys, called okiagari. Okiagari in Japan is children toys. Do you know the okiagari paper ?? Some of them ??, and weight bottoms, so you -- you push it, and it even come back like this. But it will stand straight after somebody does that -- sway this way and the other way. This is okiagari. I looks like very buoyant (?) or very weak, but it is actually -- [laughs]
Human beings is like this. When ??, famous novelist described ??. He said immediately after a castle burns -- burns down, they started to live in their own house. That was how he described the ??. The ?? is kind of computer, he said, that is (?). But it looks like bad news (?) The people look like they lost their space, but next ?? when their homes had burned down, they started to live in their houses. And soon the town recovered, and all the houses and people (?). And that is actually how we exist.
So for a while it looks like strongest survives forever (?). Strongest is not always strong. The most powerful one (?) after he died, no more,but people even people (?) always building houses and will live forever. Our society will be kept in this way. That is very true.
We understand this kind of human existence. The human life which is based on the truth, absolute truth.The truth in which there is no great man or there is no weak. The truth where there is no wise man or fool. The truth where there is no sage or no common --common people.
This is the truth we are based on. We say we help others, or we are helped by others. But whether we are aware of it or not, we are actually -- actually helping others, and we are actually helped by others, moment after moment, we are helped and we are helping. So to try to help others ?? is not to help others. You are forgetting that you are helped always by others. And we are helping others in some way, to some extent.
It means you are -- your life is based on the truth that we are one and we are helped and are helping. So first of all when you realise this fact, the truth suggested by ?? something which just fortuitous (?) -- understanding of -- it looks like we are always suffering, struggling with things. Because our understanding of life is just based on the idea of self which actually does not exist. We do not exist. What really exists is the fundamental truth which ?? ?? we help others. And we are all one, you know.
When our understanding is based on self-centered ideas, what having observed ?? but it is the truth -- it is the truth -- when we --our aspect of life is based on some superficial aspect. But when our understanding of life is based on the fundamental understanding of life, there is no ?? existence (?)
And when you think -- when your understanding of life is based on just selfish ideas -- I think selfish ideas, or shallow understanding of life, or impure understanding, you think -- when you think you are doing something right, that right -- rightness (?) is not right in its true sense. What you think is right -- when that rightness (?) is based on just your own viewpoint it is right for you, but it is not right for others. When someone -- the others take another viewpoint what you think is right is not right for others.
This point is always neglected.
This is why you think your gratitude (?) you are helping others but actually you are not, in frame of burning love your selfish attitude will remain all the ?? Before you realize your true value (?) you think you are helping other but actually in your frame of mind still you have true selfish ideas. Or your selfish ideas will be -- will be - - loving spirit (?)
That is not true love. We -- in Japan or China we view "ji" -- "jihi" or true love, and just sexual love is ?? ?? is love between man and woman, and true love is"jihi." It is completely different, it has completely different order (?) One is based on sex, and the other is based on true mercy -- mercy ???
But this difference is not clear it's like not so clear inhi..... Mercy and love ?? ??
The loving affection which is based on the idea, or which is based on dualistic idea, is love -- love of sex. And love which is based on absolute idea, it is true love. It looks -- looks like sex for a while, when you loving it looks like sex. We have had -- when we are quite young we screw (?) ?? but as long as ?? [laughs] Someone may say there is no difference between ?? love of sex.
Someone ??? according to Buddhism this point but some naughty fellow no,you are wrong [laughter]. When you do not have -- you haven't had any serious loving girl (?) so you don't -- do not know. When you really love a girl, you will find out how deep and how strong love is ?? it is ?? ?? ??
That is why ?? When you have ?? love.There's no -- you cannot ????? When you love you should be happy. You should provide and ??? in that way you are both bodhisattva. So in this kind of discussion was conveniently ?? after until our viewpoint ?? ????
What are you talking about [laughs] Don't you usual discussion.
We say this kind of discussion can can only ??just become a superficial discussion in realm of superficial
So as long as we find out our true nature it is impossible to discuss something through and through. When -- just when you realize your life through and through, you can discuss something.
In our way of understanding of life, there is three way of understanding: primitive or naive understanding of life, we call it aspect of existence, and aspects of non-existence, and superior aspects. When you have superior aspects - the third aspect - you can discuss something in primitive, naive realm, or in that second, more advanced view of life.
It means we have to have true, deeper understanding to believe in the third, deeper understanding, and actual understanding of life means to believe in nothing -- to believe in nothing through and through,
I don't want to discuss about this kind of discussion. There's no -- but when you believe in nothing, when you love people -- love others without any exchanging condition, or without any gaining idea, that is true love.
When you -- when you realize this world, what you say, what you do is actually helping others. Even though you are not perfect, what you do, what you want to do, is to help -- help -- to help others, to say something to others. To do something -- to do something for yourself is to help others. Even though, you are sleeping in bed you will ?? Even though you do not realize you are helping others, actually you are helping others.
That kind of love is true love, and if you miss this point, to realize this love -- when you realize this love, you cannot ignore ??? activity of your life, because that is actually to help others, it is actually bodhisattva activity. Because you do not realize that you are helping others always, and sometimes you try to help others and something confusion the moment you try to help other [laughs] you will be involved in ??
When you realize that just life ???? even a blink of your eye is helping others. Then there will not be any confusion.You can help others without being noticed by others. ????? but all the better. ?????? You will not cause problems to others and you are helping other
Even though you say I am not good at all -- when you say I am not so good you are helping others. Do you understand?
When you say "I am always helping you" [laughter] that is not helping others at all.
So to help others we mean is not just to give ?? or to give your hand ?? [laughter] That is?? to help other ?? dualistic selves. Dualistic self, that is to help others. But in its true sense you are creating [laughs] problems ??
It is to build a rule over rule. True rule is one -- one is enough, if it is very good. If the rule is there's?? is no need to create another rule. So we say to build a rule over a rule. Or we say to make waves when there no wind [laughter]
We are always helping and helped -- and being helped with each other. We try to help, you know, is to create waves when there is no wind. That is why Zen is called -- our everyday life is Zen. So it is not after you became Zen students that you help others. You have to ????? And you just realize that ???? According to our teaching and understanding. This is so-called-it enlightenment.
[Student asks question?]
Here I am talking in some ???? in terms of just ??? But this kind of discussion will make your practice seem -- but how to actually realize -- realization of this truth will be attained by actual practice. Even though you do not -- even though it is too difficult to understand Buddhism in terms -- in way of ?? But if you just practice our way without any ?? that is how to understand actually what we mean. This is so-called-it Southern way.
But usually, you know, this kind of -- this -- Southern way ??? in the western world, hasn't introduced into western world yet. For you just to sit on your cushion is way of life. When you say to study Buddhism is maybe read to some books????? it is not to sit cross-legged position as a kind of playing (?), or to attain enlightenment.
But this kind of understanding is not ??? deep and we may say it is the way opposite. It is same thing which we call some jewel which is in your sleeve -- in your pocket. We have sleeve so is the same thing as you have pocket. In your pocket you already have a jewel. But you do not know you have a jewel in your pocket. So you start to search ?? to point out some jewel, which you have already in your pocket. This kind of practice -- to find out -- or not to find out -- to actualise the value of the jewel you have, is our way.
It takes time, we say. Why it takes time because your everyday activity -- you are so deeply involved in the dualistic understanding of life. That is why it takes time. But when you realize what you are doing, and when you realize what you do, in terms of conscious ?? the smallest part of you, through and through, then your everyday activity will -- the quality of your everyday activity will change completely. The quality or understanding ?? -- the quality of ????
Why we say you should be careful to understand our way or as Dogen says, you should be very careful to understand it. You should not be testing -- you should not be involved in testing understanding of our practice or our way. You should think over and over. You will reflect on what you have achieved. Then, as he says, even to lift your hand will change whole world. Even though you have power -- you -- even though you have great influence -- you cannot do anything with your power -- with your influence. Even -- even though you have nothing, you can help others.
Immediately you have ?? You -- you will be called by perfectly -- something perfect is not ?? Because it is not perfect it is valuable
If it is perfect it will not ??
[Student asks him to repeat the phrase?]
Because it not perfect it is ?? if you, you know, improve ??? perfect ??? God or Buddha-- only perfect thing is God or Buddha.
Because it is ?? it is valuable. Because it is not so good it is valuable. Your practice may not be so good ??? anyway not so good
but because it is not so good I can continue. If my practice is perfect there is no need to do it again. Once is enough [laughter]
There is Buddhism ??
So the true way is not to attain the form or colour, but to change the quality of our activity is our true way. That is why we say you have to be careful in your understanding of Buddhism. Not only careful with your understanding, but also careful what you do in your everyday life, because it is Buddha's activity.
[Reading from Shushogi 25] "Seekers of enlightenment, meditate on these teachings. Do not belittle them. Revere them and respect the merits that benefit all living beings and help them cross to the other shore." Help them to cross the to the other shore, to the other shore. "Seekers of enlightenment, meditate on these teachings. Do not belittle them - do not attempt to understand (?) Revere them and respect the merits that benefit all living beings and help them cross -- help them to cross to the other shore".
What he meant here is very, very clear. So constant reflection on your everyday life is necessary. Do not be conceited, do not be arrogant do not say I have -- I know what it is Buddhism. To do it, we say as horse -- as a horse and a donkey, is our way. We should be ?? horse or ass. Don't -- try not to do ?? Don't ask teacher ??? [laughs]