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Dainin Katagiri Roshi was one of the prominent Zen masters who brought Soto Zen Buddhism from Japan to the United States. This website carefully transcribes his dharma talks as an aid to study. More about this site.

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Cleanup Sweep


I am once again cycling back through the earlier talks to improve the transcription. The latest updated transcript is Fukanzazengi Talk 5.

Latest Posted Talks


Blue Cliff Record, Case 37: P’an Shan’s There Is Nothing in the World

December 15, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted June 8, 2022.

If there is nothing that can be pinned down in the vast expanse of the universe, then where is the mind? Where is the mind is a question, but also it is already an answer: the answer of what the real state of human life is. The essence is always raising (sic), just like a spring of water coming up. The continuation of flow makes a rhythm, or music; a concert, an orchestra. If we pay attention, and make ourselves simple and open, we can learn from this tune. Examining this case and verse, Katagiri Roshi shares the meaning of such poetry as, “When the rain has passed, the autumn water is deep in the evening pond,” and, “The moon’s brightness shines, revealing the night traveller.” Poetry and art are a shadow, but without them, we cannot approach the truth.


Blue Cliff Record, Case 36: Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains – Talk 2

December 8, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted May 25, 2022.

Katagiri Roshi further expounds on “Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains,” focusing on the verse. He especially focuses on the first line, “The earth is clear of any dust.” This is Buddha’s world, which is identical with the original nature of existence. But also, “A mad monkey cries on the ancient terrace”: this is us looking through the telescope of our karmic perceptions. Buddhist practice is not to destroy all human delusions and then you can have Buddha’s world; we need both. Good or bad are nothing but time, but time is not good or bad. A monk walks in the snow without leaving a trace.


Blue Cliff Record, Case 36: Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains – Talk 1

December 1, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted May 22, 2022.

Wandering in the mountains, life flowing freely: how very like the sense of springtime. Katagiri Roshi discusses seeking for the truth, and returning following the falling flowers. What is total communication between you and the mountain? Sages and ordinary people are the same, but what is beyond sage or ordinary person? Movement and practice responding to the rhythm of life. Also: how to get fired from a bookshop in the human world. The caution against falling into the weeds is ironic commentary.


Blue Cliff Record, Case 25: The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds Up His Staff – Talk 2

November 22, 1981 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted April 28, 2022.

Katagiri Roshi discusses the pointer to this case. What is our potential? What is the rhythm of life? What does it mean to be a “smoked dry fish,” and how can we avoid it? Should we look for a “flashy” enlightenment? Should we become a Zen bank robber? Also: How to cook puffer fish. How to lose money in San Francisco. And: wherever you may go, you can feel pain.


Blue Cliff Record, Case 25: The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds Up His Staff – Talk 1

November 21, 1981 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted April 15, 2022.

What happens when we unexpectedly come face-to-face with real life, such as being paralyzed, or having cancer? Katagiri Roshi discusses “the big trap,” “one-finger Zen,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Sun-Moon-Light Tathagata, Adam and Eve, and how to educate children. Also: “Please, sit down.”


Blue Cliff Record, Case 35: The Dialogue of Manjusri and Wu Cho

November 24, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted April 11, 2022.

Katagiri Roshi discusses Case 35 of the Blue Cliff Record, in which an obscure monk has a spiritual discussion with the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Can we settle our uncertainties? Can we accept our lives in terms of infinity? Or will we be like a lion running around in a cage? If we find ourselves in a cage, how should we practice? Also: does it matter how many people come to our Zen Center?


Mindfulness – Talk 1

March 21, 1984 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted April 3, 2022.

Katagiri Roshi discusses the Four Foundation of Mindfulness, adding his commentary on the “Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi” (Sanjūshichi-bon-bodai-bunpō) chapter of Zen Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo, which explains traditional Buddhist teachings in Mahayana terms. He begins with the first foundation: contemplation of the body as “impure”. Along the way, he discusses how samatha (tranquility) and vipassana (insight) function together, and weighs in on the practice of meditating on the decomposition of human corpses. Also: why the word “Zen” is overused.


Blue Cliff Record, Case 34: Yang Shan Asks “Where Have You Come From?”

November 17, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Transcript posted March 19, 2022.

Katagiri Roshi examines Case 34 of the Blue Cliff Record, which appears to be an ordinary conversation, but is actually an ordinary conversation in the broad scale of human life, which is beyond ordinary or not-ordinary. He explains the importance of paying attention to daily routine, and why we should get up in the morning. Also: how to practice compassion with emotions, how to be an actor, and how to be a not-actor.


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