Berkeley Zen Center

Three Lecture Excerpts from Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

This lecture is reprinted from the May 2000 Berkeley Zen Center Newsletter.

In our practice, we should not put emphasis on our skill or the result of the work, but we should know the meaning of the work more deeply. If so, most of the difficulties in our practice will be solved.
Usually what we do is not so difficult, but the problems which follow from your imperfect understanding of work are greater, and you will suffer from the useless problems and you will lose the whole practice. If the point of your practice is lost, that is not practice any more. Of course, if you visit a practice place, everything is in order and vegetables and plants are healthy and everything is clean, and tools are well-polished and sharp. That practice place is sure to be a good one. But to polish your tools or to raise your vegetables is not the main point of your practice. The main point is whether your effort is practice, real practice. Of course, because you have a good feeling in your place, everything grows. So where there is good teaching, good practice, there is a good feeling and everything will grow. But the purpose is not just to get larger crops or to have done a great amount of work. So even though you may have some special ability to do something, you will have to do things which you are not familiar with. But as long as you have something to work on, you should do your best on your position - this is also Prajna Paramita. So although our activity looks the same, if you have right understanding of our work, the meaning is quite different.

• • •

You may say you attained some stage in your practice. But that is just a trivial event in your long life. It is like saying the ocean is round, or like a jewel, or palace. For a hungry ghost the ocean is a pool of blood; for a dragon the ocean is a palace; for a fish it is his house; for a human being it is water. There must be various understandings. When the ocean is a palace, it is a palace. You cannot say it is not a palace. For a dragon it is actually a palace. If you laugh at a fish who says it is a palace, Buddha will laugh at you who say it is two o'clock, three o'clock. It is the same thing.

Eternity is in mortality. When you become a mortal being through and through you will acquire immortality. When you are absorbed in sheer ignorant practice, you have enlightenment. So in order to be a true Buddhist, you must find the meaning of life in your limited activity. There is no need for you to be a great man. In your limited activity you should find out the true meaning of yourself. If you pick up even a small stone you have the whole universe. But if you try to pick up the tail of a comet you will be crazy. People will pity you.

• • •

To be enlightened may not be so difficult. What is difficult is not to be caught by enlightenment or to be attached to it. To express enlightenment in each moment is to live each moment afresh without ideas or attachment anywhere. You can be trapped by your own way. You should not try too hard.

To be sincere is not to make haste for attainment by self-centered ideas, but to do zazen for the sake of your Big Self. Do not make haste. Do not try to do something ahead of time or behind time.

If it is raining out, do not walk fast, because it is raining everywhere.

My Master called me "Crooked Cucumber." I have seen many good Zen Masters and I do not think I can be a good Zen Master, so I should not work too hard.

Please walk in the rain with me and if I am too slow for you, please go ahead of me.

Last revised June 27, 2000. Copyright 2000 Berkeley Zen Center.
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