Shunryu Suzuki’s quotes

From Crooked Cucumber

Buddha is always helping you. But usually we refuse Buddha’s offer. For instance, sometimes you ask for something special. This means that you are refusing to accept the treasures you already have. You are like a pig. When I was young, as my father was very poor, he raised many pigs. I noticed that when I gave the pigs a bucket of food, they would eat it after I went away. As long as I was there, they wouldn’t eat it, expecting me to give them more food. I had to be very careful. If I moved too quickly they would kick the bucket over. I think that is what you are doing. Just to cause yourself more problems, you seek for something. But there is no need for you to seek for anything. You have plenty, and you have just enough problems. This is a mysterious thing, you know, the mystery of life. We have just enough problems, not too many or too few. Our way is to practice one step at a time, one breath at a time, with no gaining idea.


[From his Mountain Seat Ceremony (becoming the official abbot) at his temple Sokoji in San Francisco in 1963. He’d been there since 1959 but on this day officially became the chief priest.]

Like the birds I came,

No road under my feet,

A golden-chained gate unlocks itself.


From the Wind Bell. At the bottom of a page with the text and his commentary on a Zen Koan, Suzuki wrote: "Give the monk thirty blows! It is difficult to express reality fully on each occasion!"


"Don’t kill" is a dead precept. "Excuse me" is an actual working precept.


Maybe I am a very smoky kerosene lamp [kerosene lamps were used to light the zendo]. When I start to talk about something, it is already a smoky kerosene lamp. As long as I must give a lecture, I have to explain in terms of right and wrong: "This is right practice, that is wrong, this is how to practice zazen." It is like giving you a recipe. It doesn’t work. You cannot eat a recipe. As Dogen says, people like what is not true and they don’t like what is true.


You may foolishly try to ignore karma, but this will never work, and if you fight it too much, you will invite destruction that is worse than war. We are actually creating war through our everyday activities. You talk about peace in some angry mood, when actually you are creating war with that angry mood. Ughhh! That is war! We should know. We should open our dharma eyes, and together we should help each other forever.


If you count your breathing, you will easily notice when you are not taking care of your everyday life. I have many difficulties in my practice, so I think you too will find it very difficult to sit in good zazen.


The secret of Soto Zen is just two words: not always so.


There is nothing absolute for us, but when nothing is absolute, that is absolute.


Enlightenment is not any particular stage that you attain.


Almost all people are carrying a big board, so they cannot see the other side. They think they are just the ordinary mind, but if they take the board off they will understand, "Oh, I am Buddha, too. How can I be both Buddha and ordinary mind? It is amazing!" That is enlightenment. There is no particular teaching or way, but the buddha-nature of all is the same, what we find is the same.


The most important point is to accept yourself and stand on your two feet.


The first principle is not something that Buddha or other people came up with. If you think what Buddha proclaimed is the Royal Law, that is not right. The Royal Law was already there before he was on the pulpit.


If you have a preconceived idea of the first principle, that idea is topsy-turvy, and as long as you seek a first principle that is something to be applied in one way to every occasion, you will have topsy-turvy ideas. Such ideas are not necessary. Buddha’s great light shines forth from everything, each moment. "I don’t know" is the first principle. Do you understand? The first principle cannot be known in terms of good or bad, right or wrong, because it is both right and wrong.


Buddhism is transmitted from warm hand to warm hand.



My lecture for tonight will be very short, especially after having a good dinner of noodles, which were very long. Our transmission should be a very long, long one. And our transmission is a special noodle.


Dogen Zenji says, "When you realize buddha nature, you are the teacher." You are the teacher of your master too, and you will be even the teacher of Shakyamuni Buddha.


Encouraged by trumpets, guns, and war cries, it is quite easy to die. That kind of practice is not our practice.


To accept some idea of truth without experiencing it is like a painting of a cake on paper which you cannot eat. There is no taste, and you will give up, because it doesn’t mean anything, even though you sit seven days. But our true zazen cannot be like that. If Zen was like that, it would have vanished from this world a long time ago. Zen is still alive because of the other side of the truth. Only when each one of us feels the truth, appreciates the truth, accepts the truth, and is ready to follow the truth, will it work. When someone puts himself outside of the truth in order to study the truth, he won’t know what to do when something happens to him.


Do you know the story of the true dragon? In ancient China, there was a person who liked dragons very much. He talked about dragons to his friends, and he painted dragons, and he bought various kinds of dragon sculptures. Then a dragon said to himself, "If a real dragon like me visited him, he would be very happy." One day the real dragon sneaked into his room. The man didn’t know what to do! Whaaaah! He could not run away. He could not even stand up. Whaaaah! For a long, long time we have been like him. That should not be our attitude. We should not be just a fan of dragons; we should always be the dragon himself. Then we will not be afraid of any dragon.


One day while walking in the vegetable garden at Tassajara, Suzuki noticed a student who was sitting on a stone looking at a sunflower growing nearby. He went over and sat by her. "What are you doing?" "Meditating with the sunflower," she said. "It rotates with the sun." Suzuki sat with her for a long time. That night Suzuki referred to his garden visit. "Unless you get through to emptiness, you are not practicing. But if you stick to the idea of emptiness, you are not a Buddhist yet. Someone was sitting in front of a sunflower, watching the sunflower, a cup of sun, and so I tried it too. It was wonderful; I felt the whole universe in the sunflower. That was my experience. Sunflower meditation. A wonderful confidence appeared. You can see the whole universe in a flower. If you say, ‘Oh this is a sunflower which doesn’t really exist’ [laughing], that is not our zazen practice."


You stick to naturalness too much. When you stick to it, it is not natural any more.



Student B: The other day when I was hitting the mokugyo (fish drum) a small spider crawled across the top of it. I went a little bit off to the side, but he went right into it. There was nothing I could do. It was too powerful for him to escape. Suzuki-roshi? You didn’t kill it? Student B: Something did. Suzuki-roshi: But you hit some other place? Student B: Yes, but I couldn’t stop and he went right into it! Suzuki Roshi: It couldn’t be helped; Buddha killed him. He may be very happy. To live in this world is not so easy. When you see children playing by the stream or by the bridge, you will feel very scared. When I am on the freeway I always think, "Oh, how is it possible to survive without having an accident?" But if something happens, that’s all. If you stop and think about it, if you stop and see and think, you will be terrified. I have heard of someone who is 166 years old who has more than 200 boys and girls, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If he thinks about each one of them, he may be scared. He may easily lose one of them in this busy life. If you think about our practice, you may be scared because it can be very strict. You should be ready to kill something even if you are a Buddhist: whether it is good or bad, you should do it. It is impossible to survive without killing anything. We cannot survive by some feeling. We must be involved in a deeper practice than emotional practice. That is the strict side of our practice. And if it is absolutely necessary you should stop hitting the mokugyo even though all of us get into confusion.


Tenshin Reb Anderson tells this story: somebody came up to Suzuki Roshi and said, "Why haven’t you enlightened me yet?" Suzuki Roshi said politely, "I’m making my best effort." He might have told the student to make more effort herself, but he didn’t say that. He said "I’m making my best effort." Zazen is the way we care for our life with all beings. I can’t do it by myself. Can you have faith in a way that you can’t do by yourself? Most people can only trust a way that they do by themselves. But living a life that you can do by yourself is unadulterated misery. Completely trusting a way that you can’t do yourself, that you do with all sentient beings, is immediate liberation.


0 Responses to “Shunryu Suzuki’s quotes”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other followers

August 2006
« Jul   Sep »

Blog Stats

  • 1,921 hits



%d bloggers like this: