Katagiri Transcripts

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. About This Site

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Posted November 24, 2023

Blue Cliff Record, Case 18: National Teacher Chung’s Seamless Monument

July 18, 1981 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

What will we need after we die? What is the meaning of keeping silent? Keeping silent means to take off the “clothes” of our concepts, such as success and failure, pleasure and suffering, life and death. But you cannot stay with the silence; you have to know the person completely unfolded behind the silence. This is how to “light the candle” of human culture. Also: There is no discrimination between the four kinds of horses, which are us. Still, at some point, you need a whip. And then, you can run.

Posted November 9, 2023

Diamond Sutra: Final Lecture

July 23, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi concludes his series of talks on the Diamond Sutra by examining the famous verse at the end, which tells us to view the conditioned world “as stars, a fault of vision, a lamp, a mock show, dew drops, a bubble, a dream, a lightning flash, a cloud.” The nine perspectives in the verse reveal different aspects of our experience. Overall, it means that we should respect the law of causation, our past life and its consequences, without being stuck in it. While still being humble, we can move bravely toward the future, toward a beautiful ideal image of human life.

Posted November 7, 2023

Diamond Sutra: Emptiness and Mind

July 16, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

How do we teach Buddhism? Molding life into ideas or philosophy is backwards; the words must come from our own life, or they won’t connect with people. Our understanding of the world based on causation is empty, but the world itself is not; that is why the Prajnaparamita Sutra says “emptiness is form.” We should digest the teachings thoroughly in our life, and then the words to explain will come naturally. Happiness and peace cannot be found by rushing to the destination.

Posted September 1, 2023

Class: Taking Care of Karma

On eight Wednesday evenings from September 20 - November 8, 2023, I will be leading a class called “Taking Care of Karma,” where we will be studying Katagiri Roshi’s talks on karma, as transcribed by yours truly on this site. The class will take place at Compassionate Ocean Zen Center, which is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There is an option for participating via Zoom.

The talks we will be discussing are:

We almost certainly won’t have time to get through all of those – there is so much material. But this should be a great opportunity to study Katagiri Roshi’s teaching together. (The class is now concluded.)

Posted August 31, 2023

Karma in Buddhism

June 6, 1987 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi summarizes the origins and development of the concept of karma, and then explores both its deeper meaning and its practical application. Karma is related both to the problem of whether there is a world after death, and how we should live in the present world. Practically, we can feel karma in our lives through whole personality. This is connected with the Buddhist concept of vedanā (feeling). After we feel our life and other’s lives, we judge and make distinctions, limiting our view. First, we should understand how narrow our intellectual understanding of the world is, and we should work day-by-day to understand the human world in the broader perspective, through meditation. Second, there is no way to find a perfect understanding of life and death, so we must simply entrust ourselves to our life as it really is. But that doesn’t mean just to accept. Karma includes dynamic energy to make our life productive. We have to develop our individual character, and simultaneously the global character of human beings, in order to build up a peaceful world. Also: What is the connection with Jungian psychology?

Posted June 23, 2023

Lay Ordination Lecture 4 of 7: Triple Treasure, Lecture 2

March 15, 1986 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

The Triple Treasure – buddha, dharma, and sangha – is the sublime goal in life. We must take refuge in the Three Treasures in terms of the whole situation of our lives: intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. To this end, Katagiri Roshi looks at the Three Treasures in terms of philosophical worth, virtue or characteristics, and functioning. The teaching of “The Three Thousand Worlds in a Moment / Thought” from the Lotus Sutra means that there are buddhas and bodhisattvas even in hell, so there are ample opportunities to take refuge. Also: how Gandhi dealt with events and circumstances.

Posted June 14, 2023

Lay Ordination Lecture 3 of 7: Triple Treasure, Lecture 1

March 8, 1986 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Taking refuge in the Triple Treasure – buddha, dharma, and sangha – is the foundation of the Buddhist Precepts and Buddhist practice. Buddha is the universe, dharma is the teaching from the universe, and sangha is the community that makes the universe and its teaching alive in their lives. Taking refuge is spiritual communion with Buddha, which is interactive appeal and response with the universe. We need to awaken to the depth of existence, and transmit that awakening to future generations. To do this, we must accept others’ lives as the content of our lives. The nature of prayer and the meaning of legendary Bodhisattvas is also discussed, with reference to the Lotus Sutra. Also, there is some clarification of what ritual means in Buddhism.

Posted May 29, 2023

Blue Cliff Record, Case 42: Layman P’ang’s Good Snowflakes – Talk 2

March 9, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi discusses the rhythm of causation, which is not falling into cause and effect and not ignoring cause and effect. Representing cause and effect is Layman P’ang; representing freedom from cause and effect or emptiness is the monk Ch’uan. If you understand emptiness, you can become sick of emptiness. To avoid Zen sickness, offer a turning word. Also: Teaching without doing is not a good deal.

Posted May 24, 2023

Blue Cliff Record, Case 42: Layman P’ang’s Good Snowflakes – Talk 1

March 2, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi explores Case 42 of the Blue Cliff Record, in which Layman P’ang says, “Good snowflakes—they don’t fall in any other place.” As it says in the Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi, “Inquiry and response come up together.” If we really devote ourselves to doing zazen beyond our evaluation, accepting totally, we manifest ourselves in a totally appropriate way, and very naturally, everything will respond. We must jump into the realm of silence so that our life springs forth. Even if we don’t say anything with our mouth, our whole body speaks volumes. Buddha is not something divine, apart from us; Buddha has to go down to the human world and work.

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

Karma: Conclusion

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: 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 Twelvefold Causation, 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 teaching, including three main points: continuation of karma, karma as energy or emptiness, and Buddha’s karma. He explains why Dogen Zenji focuses on practice over study or even realization. Karma does not mean simple cause and effect or action, as one 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 dhyāna (meditation) as the way to study karma, which is the same as studying ourselves. He describes zazen in the triple world of desire, form, and formlessness, and further explains some key concepts in Buddhist psychology. Even if you reach the state of formless samadhi, still perception remains, because body and mind still exist. This body and mind are given to us as karma; we need to take care of them with compassion. And through karma, we can share our lives with others. The Suzuki Method for music education is given as an example of how to share our lives with others, particularly with regard to vedanā (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 unmanifested karma and why we need to understand it. Unmanifested karma is the reason why we have to take responsibility for our individual behavior, because it is like an impression left behind by our actions, as opposed to manifested karma, which appears in one moment and disappears in the next. In terms of the Twelve-Linked Chain of Causation, unmanifested karma is samskaras. (It is also related to alayavijnana, storehouse consciousness.) Despite its role in morality, unmanifested karma itself is completely neutral in nature. If you get a taste of this karma, then you can turn over a new leaf, because karma is nothing but energy: it is the wellspring of creative vitality.