of your practice. Because your attainment is always ahead,
you will always be sacrificing yourself now for some ideal
in the future. You end up with nothing. This is absurd; it is
not adequate practice at all. But even worse than this idealis-
tic attitude is to practice zazen in competition with someone
else. This is a poor, shabby kind of practice.
Our Soto way puts an emphasis on shikan taza, or "just sit-
ting." Actually we do not have any particular name for our
practice; when we practice zazen we just practice it, and
whether we find joy in our practice or not, we just do it.
Even though we are sleepy, and we are tired of practicing
zazen, of repeating the same thing day after day; even so, we
continue our practice. Whether or not someone encourages
our practice, we just do it.
Even when you practice zazen alone, without a teacher, I
think you veill find some way to tell whether your practice
is adequate or not. When you are tired of sitting, or when
you are disgusted with your practice, you should recognize
this as a warning signal. You become discouraged with your
practice when your practice has been idealistic. You have
some gaining idea in your practice, and it is not pure enough.
It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become dis-
couraged with it. So you should be grateful that you have a
sign or warning signal to show you the weak point in your
practice. At that time, forgetting all about your mistake and
renewing your way, you can resume your original practice.
This is a very important point.
So as long as you continue your practice, you are quite safe,
but as it is very difficult to continue, you must find some way
to encourage yourself. As it is hard to encourage yourself
without becoming involved in some poor kind of practice,
to continue our pure practice by yourself may be rather diffi-
cult. This is why we have a teacher. With your teacher you
will correct your practice. Of course you will have a very
hard time with him, but even so, you will always be safe from
Most Zen Buddhist priests have had a difficult time with
their masters. When they talk about the difficulties, you may
think that without this kind of hardship you cannot practice
zazen. But this is not true. Whether you have difficulties in
your practice or not, as long as you continue it, you have
pure practice in its true sense. Even when you are not aware
of it, you have it. So Dogen-zenji said, "Do not think you
will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment."
Whether or not you are aware of it, you have your own true
enlightenment within your practice.
Another mistake will be to practice for the sake of the joy
you find in it. Actually, when your practice is involved in a
feeling of joy, it is not in very good shape either. Of course
this is not poor practice, but compared to the true practice
it is not so good. In Hinayana Buddhism,, practice is classified
in four ways. The best way is just to do it without having any
joy in it, not even spiritual joy. This way is just to do it, for-
getting your physical and mental feeling, forgetting all about
yourself in your practice. This is the fourth stage, or the
highest stage. The next highest stage is to have just physical
Joy in your practice. At this stage you find some pleasure in
practice, and you will practice because of the pleasure you
find in it. In the second stage you have both mental and phys-
ical joy, or good feeling. These two middle stages are stages
in which you practice zazen because you feel good in vour
practice. The first stage is when you have no thinking and no
curiosity in your practice. These four stages also apply to
our Mahayana practice, and the highest is just to practice it.
If you find some difficulty in your practice, that is the
warning that you have somie wrong idea, so you have to be
careful. But do not give up your practice; continue it, know-
ing your weakness. Here there is no gaining idea. Here there
is no fixed idea of attainment. You do not say, "This is en-
lightenment," or "Thatisnotrightpractice." Evenin wrong
practice, when you realize it and continue, there is right
practice. Our practice cannot be perfect, but without being
discouraged by this, we should continue it. This is the secret
MISTAKES IN PRACTICE
And if you want to find some encouragement in your dis-
couragement, getting tired of practice is itself the encourage-
ment. You encourage yourself when you get tired of it. When
you do not want to do it, that is the warning signal. It is like
having a toothache when your teeth are not so good. When
you feel some pain in your teeth, you go to the dentist. That
is our way.
The cause of conflict is some fixed idea or one-sided idea.
When everyone knows the value of pure practice, we will
have little conflict in our world. This is the secret of our prac-
tice and Dogen-zenji's way. Dogen repeats this point in his
book Shobogenzo (A Treasury of the True Dharma).
If you understand the cause of conflict as some fixed or one-
sided idea, you can find meaning in various practices without
being caught by any of them. If you do not realize this point
you will be easily caught by some particular way, and you
will say, "This is enlightenment! This is perfect practice.
This is our way. The rest of the ways are not perfect. This is
the best way." This is a big mistake. There is no particular
way in true practice. You should find your own way, and you
should know what kind of practice you have right now.
Knowing both the advantages and disadvantages of some spe-
cial practice, you can practice that special way without dan-
ger. But if you have a one-sided attitude, you will ignore the
disadvantage of the practice, emphasizing only its good part.
Eventually you will discover the worst side of the practice,
and become discouraged when it is too late. This is silly. We
should be grateful that the ancient teachers point out this
IMITING YOUR ACTIVITY "Usually
when someone believes in a particular religion, his
attitude becomes more and more a sharp angle pointing
away from himself. In our way the point of the angle is
always towards ourselves."
In our practice we have no particular purpose or goal, nor any
special object of worship. In this respect our practice is some-
what different from the usual religious practices. Joshu, a
great Chinese Zen master, said, "A clay Buddha cannot cross
water; a bronze Buddha cannot get through a furnace; a
wooden Buddha cannot get through fire." Whatever it is, if
your practice is directed toward some particular object, such
as a clay, a bronze, or a wooden Buddha, it will not always
work. So as long as you have some particular goal in your
practice, that practice will not help you completely. It may
help as long as you are directed towards that goal, but when
you resume your everyday life, it will not work.
You may think that if there is no purpose or no goal in our
practice, we will not know what to do. But there is a way.
The way to practice without having any goal is to limit your
activity, or to be concentrated on what you are doing in this
moment. Instead of having some particular object in mind,
you should limit your activity. When your mind is wandering
about elsewhere you have no chance to express yourself. But
if you limit your activity to what you can do just now, in this
moment, then you can express fully your true nature, which
is the universal Buddha nature. This is our way.
When we practice zazen we limit our activity to the small-
est extent. Just keeping the right posture and being concen-
trated on sitting is how we express the tmiversal nature. Then
we become Buddha, and we express Buddha nature. So in-
stead of having some object of worship, we just concentrate
on the activity which we do in each moment. When you bow,
you should just bow; when you sit, you should just sit; when
you eat, you should iust eat. If you do this, the universal na-
LIMITING YOUR ACTIVITY
ture is there. In Japanese we call it ichigjo-zammai, or "one-
act samadhi." Sammai (or samadhi) is "concentration." Ichi-
gyo is "one practice."
I think some of you who practice zazen here may beheve
in some other religion, but I do not mind. Our practice has
nothing to do with some particular religious belief. And for
you, there is no need to hesitate to practice our way, be-
cause it has nothing to do with Christianity or Shintoism or
Hinduism. Our practice is for everyone. Usually when somie-
one believes in a particular religion, his attitude becomes
more and more a sharp angle pointing away from himself. But
our way is not like this. In our way the point of the sharp
angle is always towards ourselves, not away from ourselves.
So there is no need to worry about the difference between
Buddhism and the religion you may believe in.
Joshu's statement about the different Buddhas concerns
those who direct their practice towards some particular Bud-
dha. One kind of Buddha will not serve your purpose com-
pletely. You will have to throw it away sometime, or at least
ignore it. But if you understand the secret of our practice,
wherever you go, you yourself are "boss." No matter what
the situation, you cannot neglect Buddha, because you your-
self are Buddha. Only this Buddha will help you completely.
TU DY Y O U RSE LF "To have some deep
Jeeling about Buddhism is not the point; we just do
what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed.
This is Buddhism."
The purpose of studying Buddhism is not to study Buddhism,
but to study ourselves. It is impossible to study ourselves
without some teaching. If you want to know what water is
you need science, and the scientist needs a laboratory. In the
laboratory there are various ways in which to study what wa-
ter is. Thus it is possible to know what kind of elements water
has, the various forms it takes, and its nature. But it is impos-
76 RIGHT ATTITUDE
sible thereby to know water in itself. It is the same thing with
us. We need some teaching, but just by studying the teaching
alone, it is impossible to know what "I" in myself am.
Through the teaching we may understand our human nature.
But the teaching is not we ourselves; it is some explanation
of ourselves. So if you are attached to the teaching, or to
the teacher, that is a big mistake. The moment you meet a
teacher, you should leave the teacher, and you should be
independent. You need a teacher so that you can become
independent. If you are not attached to him, the teacher
will show you the way to yourself. You have a teacher for
yourself, not for the teacher.
Rinzai, an early Chinese Zen master, analyzed how to
teach his disciples in four ways. Sometimes he talked about
the disciple himself; sometimes he talked about the teaching
itself; sometimes he gave an interpretation of the disciple
or the teaching; and finally, sometimes he did not give any
instruction at all to his disciples. He knew that even without
being given any instruction, a student is a student. Strictly
speaking, there is no need to teacK the student, because the
student himself is Buddha, even though he may not be aware
of it. And even though he is aware of his true nature, if he
is attached to this awareness, that is already wrong. When
he is not aware of it, he has everything, but when he becomes
aware of it he thinks that what he is aware of is himself,
which is a big mistake.
When you do not hear anything from the teacher, but just
sit, this is called teaching without teaching. But sometimes
this is not sufficient, so we listen to lectures and have discus-
sions. But we should remember that the purpose of practice
in a particular place is to study ourselves. To be independent,
we study. Like the scientist, we have to have some means by
which to study. We need a teacher because it is impossible
to study ourselves by ourselves. But you should not make a
mistake. You should not take what you have learned with
a teacher for you yourself. The study you make with your
teacher is a part of your everyday life, a part of your incessant
activity. In this sense there is no difference between the
practice and the activity you have in everyday life. So to find
the meaning of your life in the zendo is to find the meaning
of your everyday activity. To be aware of the meaning of
your life, you practice zazen.
When I was at Eiheiji monastery in Japan, everyone was
just doing what he should do. That is all. It is the same as
waking up in the morning; we have to get up. At Eiheiji
monastery, when we had to sit, we sat; when we had to
bow to Buddha, we bowed to Buddha. That is all. And when
we were practicing, we did not feel anything special. We
did not even feel that we were leading a monastic life. For
us, the monastic life was the usual life, and the people who
came from the city were unusual people. When we saw
them we felt, "Oh, some unusual people have come!"
But once I had left Eiheiji and been away for some time,
coming back was different. I heard the various sounds of
practice—the bells and the monks reciting the sutra—and I
had a deep feeling. There were tears flowing out of my eyes,
nose, and mouth! It is the people who are outside of the
monastery who feel its atmosphere. Those who are practicing
actually do not feel anything. I think this is true for every-
thing. When we hear the sound of the pine trees on a windy
day, perhaps the wind is just blowing, and the pine tree is
just standing in the wind. That is all that they are doing.
But the people who listen to the wind in the tree will write
a poem, or will feel something unusual. That is, I think,
the way everything is.
So to feel something about Buddhism is not the main
point. Whether that feeling is good or bad is out of the ques-
tion. We do not mind, whatever it is. Buddhism is not good
or bad. We are doing w^hat we should do. That is Buddhism.
Of course some encouragement is necessary, but that en-
couragement is just encouragement. It is not the true purpose
of practice. Itisjustmedicine. When we become discouraged
we want some medicine. When we are in good spirits we
do not need any medicine. You should not mistake medicine
for food. Sometimes medicine is necessary, but it should not
become our food.
So, of Rinzai's four ways of practice, the perfect one is
not to give a student any interpretation of himself, nor to
give him any encouragement. If we think of ourselves as our
bodies, the teaching then may be our clothing. Sometimes
we talk about our clothing; sometimes we talk about our
body. But neither body nor clothing is actually we ourselves.
We ourselves are the big activity. We are just expressing
the smallest particle of the big activity, that is all. So it is all
right to talk about ourselves, but actually there is no need
to do so. Before we open our mouths, we are already express-
ing the big existence, including ourselves. So the purpose
of talking about ourselves is to correct the misunderstanding
we have when we are attached to any particular temporal
form or color of the big activity. It is necessary to talk about
what our body is and what our activity is so that we may
not make any mistake about them. So to talk about ourselves
is actually to forget about ourselves.
Dogen-zenji said, "To study Buddhism is to study our-
selves. To study ourselves is to forget ourselves." When you
become attached to a temporal expression of your true na-
ture, it is necessary to talk about Buddhism, or else you will
think the temporal expression is it. But this particular ex-
pression of it is not it. And yet at the same time it is it!
For a while this is it; for the smallest particle of time, this
is it. But it is not always so: the very next instant it is not so,
thus this is not it. So that you will realize this fact, it is
necessary to study Buddhism. But the purpose of studying
Buddhism is to study ourselves and to forget ourselves. When
we forget ourselves, w^e actually are the true activity of the
big existence, or reality itself. When we realize this fact,
there is no problem whatsoever in this world, and we can
enjoy our life without feeling any difficulties. The purpose
of our practice is to be aware of this fact.
O P OLIS H A TILE "When you become
you, Zen becomes Zen. When you are you, you see
things as they are, and you become one with your sur-
Zen stories, or hoans, are very difficult to understand before
you know what we are doing moment after moment. But if
you know exactly what we are doing in each moment, you
will not find koans so difficult. There are so many koans. I
have often talked to you about a frog, and each time every-
body laughs. But a frog is very interesting. He sits like us,
too, you know. But he does not think that he is doing any-
thing so special. When you go to a zendo and sit, you may
think you are doing some special thing. While your husband
or wife is sleeping, you are practicing zazen! You are doing
some special thing, and your spouse is lazy! That may be
your understanding of zazen. But look at the frog. A frog
also sits like us, but he has no idea of zazen. Watch him. If
something annoys him, he will make a face. If something
comes along to eat, he will snap it up and eat, and he eats
sitting. Actually that is our zazen—not any special thing.
Here is a kind of frog koan for you. Baso was a famous Zen
master called the Horse-master. He was the disciple of
Nangaku, one of the Sixth Patriarch's disciples. One day
while he was studying under Nangaku, Baso was sitting,
practicing zazen. He was a man of large physical build; when
he talked, his tongue reached to his nose; his voice was
loud; and his zazen must have been very good. Nangaku saw
him sitting like a great mountain or like a frog. Nangaku
asked, "What are you doing?" 'Tampracticingzazen," Baso
replied. "Why are you practicing zazen?" "I want to attain
enlightenment; I want to be a Buddha," the disciple said.
Do you know what the teacher did? He picked up a tile,
and he started to polish it. In Japan, after taking a tile from
the kiln, we polish it to give it a beautiful finish. So Nangaku
picked up a tile and started to polish it. Baso, his disciple,
asked, "What are you doing?" "I want to make this tile into
a jewel," Nangaku said. "How is it possible to make a tile
a jewel?" Baso asked. "How is it possible to become a Bud-
dha by practicing zazen?" Nangaku replied. "Do you want
to attain Buddhahood ? There is no Buddhahood besides your
ordinary mind. When a cart does not go, which do you whip,
the cart or the horse?" the master asked.
Nangaku's meaning here is that whatever you do, that is
zazen. True zazen is beyond being in bed or sitting in the
zendo. If your husband or wife is in bed, that is zazen. If you
think, "I am sitting here, and my spouse is in bed," then
even though you are sitting here in the cross-legged position,
that is not true zazen. You should be like a frog always.
That is true zazen.
Dogen-zenji commented on this koan. He said, "When
the Horse-master becomes the Horse-master, Zen becomes
Zen." When Baso becomes Baso, his zazen becomes true
zazen, and Zen becomes Zen. What is true zazen? When you
become you! When you are you, then no matter what you
do, that is zazen. Even though you are in bed, you may not
be you most of the time. Even though you are sitting in the
zendo, I wonder whether you are you in the true sense.
Here is another famous koan. Zuikan was a Zen master
who always used to address himself. "Zuikan?" he would
call. And then he would answer. "Yes!" "Zuikan?" "Yes!"
Of course he was living all alone in his small zendo, and of
course he knew who he was, but sometimes he lost himself.
And whenever he lost himself, he would address himself,
If we are like a frog, we are always ourselves. But even a
frog sometimes loses himself, and he makes a sour face. And
if something comes along, he will snap at it and eat it. So I
think a frog is always addressing himself. I think you should
do that also. Even in zazen you will lose yourself. When you
become sleepy, or when your mind starts to wander about,
you lose yourself. When your legs become painful—'*Why
are my legs so painful?"—you lose yourself. Because you
TO POLISH A TILE g]
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