Dainin Katagiri Roshi was one of the prominent Zen Masters who brought Zen Buddhism from Japan to the United States. This website carefully transcribes his dharma talks as an aid to Buddhist study.
Posted March 9, 2023.
Karma: Two Aspects
June 30, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi introduces a series of talks on karma. What is karma? Why is it important to study karma? Is karma only for Buddhist people? Is Buddhism itself only an aspect of Eastern culture? Can thinking about karma drive you crazy? Also: How to reconcile “aiming for the long range” with “no goal in zazen”.
Posted February 21, 2023.
July 12, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi further addresses the seeming contradiction that karma is both our property or inheritance and also is emptiness, freedom. This returns us to the reality of Buddha’s karma. We can reflect on ourselves and our actions without being stuck in the “ghost” of karma. Time and occasion and conditions are completely free, so day by day we can move toward the future, in order deepen our lives and help all beings. That is Right Effort. Also: Grace is not something that comes from heaven.
Posted February 18, 2023.
Karma as Energy / Emptiness
July 11, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Karma is not a psychological entity: karma is consciousness, but also karma is really the human body, closely related. So if we want to know karma, we have to know the human body; and if we want to know the human body, we have to know consciousness. According to the Twelve Causations, the base of our existence as karma is ignorance; but this ignorance is really vitality, allowing us to enter the gate of the human world. We should appreciate this. But we can’t just appreciate it without making any effort, because we carry many kinds of karma, stored at the bottom of human body and mind. This karma comes up only when time is right and conditions are arranged, so it is important that we arrange good conditions. We can do so because karma is a great source of energy, which we call emptiness. That means we can think in terms of possibility, and “dream the impossible dream” of helping all beings. Also: how to work with emotions in zazen.
Posted February 4, 2023.
Karma: Karmic Retribution in Present Life
July 10, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi discusses karma in terms of Dogen’s understanding, including three main points: continuation of karma, karma as energy or emptiness, and Buddha’s karma. He explains why Dogen Zenji emphasizes focusing on actual practice. Karma does not mean simple cause and effect or action, as a current popular understanding goes, but includes unmanifested karma, the impression left behind by our actions. Karmic retribution is illustrated by a story about a talking bear and a shockingly antisocial woodcutter. There is also a surprising explanation of the line “learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self” from Fukanzazengi. All of this relates to eko – giving away the merit from our actions – which is viewed as the fundamental attitude toward studying the Buddha Way. Also: Be the turtle.
Posted January 24, 2023.
Karma: Taking Care of Karma
July 4, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi further outlines meditation, dhyāna, as the way to study karma, which is the same as studying ourselves. He describes some key concepts in Buddhist psychology, particularly in a section on five aspects of consciousness. Even after reaching the final goal of religion, these five aspects of consciousness remain, because the body and mind still exist. This is why Zen Master Dogen says, “Nevertheless, flowers fall with attachment, weeds grow with hatred.” This body and mind are given to us as karma: we need to take care of them with compassion. The Suzuki Method for music education is used as an example of how to share our compassion with others, particularly with regard to vedanā (reception or feeling).
Posted January 8, 2023.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 4: Te Shan Carrying His Bundle – Talk 2
May 18, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi examines Engo Zen Master’s notes on the meeting of Te Shan and Kuei Shan, and the dynamics between “process itself” and “doings as a result.” The wild fox spirit and the board-carrying fellow live right next door to each other. “Wrong” and “sure enough.” Check!
Updated December 14, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 4: Te Shan Carrying His Bundle – Talk 1
May 8, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi comments on the famous dharma encounter between Te Shan and Kuei Shan. Te Shan is a former academic master of the Diamond Sutra, now an earnest seeker of the Way, just trying to work through his arrogance issues and perhaps have some dumplings. Kuei Shan is the abbot the monastery, founder of one of the schools of Zen, who won’t accept any “dregs” in the bottom of the bottle of enlightenment. Their encounter “under the blue sky, in the bright sunlight” still leaves us pointing out this and that.
Posted October 28, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 40: Nan Ch’uan’s It’s Like a Dream – Talk 2
February 2, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi discusses the verse to Case 40 of the Blue Cliff Record. Genjokoan is mentioned. What is the dharma stage?
Posted October 12, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 40: Nan Ch’uan’s It’s Like a Dream – Talk 1
January 26, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Cease and desist. Why does Nan Ch’uan say we may see a flower as a kind of dream? Why do we need a push from the top of a one hundred foot pole? Also: is Buddhist community like army training?
Posted October 5, 2022.
Karma: Unmanifested Karma
July 3, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Katagiri Roshi explains the difference between manifested and unmanifested karma, and why we need to understand both. Unmanifested karma is the reason why we have to take responsibility for our individual behavior. The difference between public karma and individual karma is also mentioned.
Posted September 30, 2022.
Karma: Where Karma Originates
July 2, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Katagiri Roshi explains how karma is the source of our lives. He reviews Twelve Chain Causation (or the Twelve-Linked Chain of Causation, or the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination), noting that karma is samskara (link two) and bhava (link ten), and these are produced by avidyā (the first link: ignorance). But avidyā is really vitality: this is how we get into the human world of the present moment. He describes four stages of zazen, and five related consciousnesses: vitarka (thought), vicāra (discursive thinking), prīti (joyful interest), sukha (happiness), and samādhi (oneness). The descriptions of prīti and sukha in particular may be helpful in understanding what is meant when we see the words joy and happiness in English translations of Buddhist scriptures. Ultimately, the only way to understand karma is to do zazen. In the fourth stage of zazen, we are exactly one in the realm of source, which is karma. Then we can see what karma is.
Posted August 23, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 39: Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge – Talk 2
January 19, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Katagiri Roshi discusses the Verse to Case 39 of the Blue Cliff Record, “Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge”. What is the real picture of a flower? There is an interesting statement of what samsara is, which is related to Sandokai (The Harmony of Difference and Sameness). The marks on the scale are on the balance arm, not on the pan. The rhythm of being means including all sentient beings.
Posted August 23, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 39: Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge – Talk 1
January 12, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Katagiri Roshi discusses the Pointer to case Thirty-Nine of the Blue Cliff Record, “Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge”. To “observe times and seasons, causes and conditions” does not mean we should observe from a distance; we must observe closely, settling ourself in the self. “Times and seasons” means our life in the stream of the time process, and “causes and conditions” means the spacious dimension of our existence. Our life is in the pivot position, where time and space are working constantly in dynamism, whether we know it or not.
Posted August 23, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 38: Feng Hsueh’s Workings of the Iron Ox – Talk 2
January 5, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
The ancestors all convey Buddha Mind – magnanimous mind, compassionate mind, and joyful mind – to the next generation. This is why Feng Hsueh Zen Master explains Buddha Mind as being just like an Iron Ox. Katagiri Roshi further examines this case. Should we add our own ideas to Buddhism?
Posted July 18, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 38: Feng Hsueh’s Workings of the Iron Ox – Talk 1
December 22, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Is the Iron Ox dead or alive? Katagiri Roshi discusses the gradual and the sudden, accepting Buddha Nature in the midst of the bustling marketplace. In order to hold, you have to let go. What is the Buddhist Law, and what is the Law of Kings, and why are they the same thing? The old pond: a frog jumps in. Plop! Also: do you need a boss?
Posted June 8, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 37: P’an Shan’s There Is Nothing in the World
December 15, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
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.
Posted May 25, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 36: Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains – Talk 2
December 8, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
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.
Posted May 22, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 36: Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains – Talk 1
December 1, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
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 job in the human world. The caution against falling into the weeds is ironic commentary.
Posted April 28, 2022.
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.
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.
Posted April 15, 2022.
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.
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.”
Posted April 11, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 35: The Dialogue of Manjusri and Wu Cho
November 24, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
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?
Posted April 3, 2022.
Mindfulness – Talk 1
March 21, 1984 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Katagiri Roshi discusses the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, focusing on the first foundation: contemplation of the body as “impure”. This series of talks examines 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. In this talk, he introduces the topic of why we must go beyond the idea of purity or impurity. 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.
Posted March 19, 2022.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 34: Yang Shan Asks “Where Have You Come From?”
November 17, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
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.
List of Talks | Summaries | About | Search