June 15, 1979 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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The conclusion to the series of talks on Fukanzazengi takes place during a dramatic thunderstorm, the sounds of which Katagiri Roshi integrates into the talk. The Buddha does zazen during a thunderstorm, but he is not disturbed by the sound of the thunder. Katagiri Roshi discusses why the purpose of zazen is not to reach a state of no consciousness, and the meaning of the term jijuyu (usually translated as “self-fulfillment”) in Bendowa. Also: How to play guitar with two hands and two feet. A Rinzai Zen Master plays a Bach concerto in the zendo. And what does Manjushri do, anyway?


Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org


(Transcriber’s Note: A loud thunderstorm was going on during this talk. Katagiri Roshi’s words are occasionally punctuated by peals of thunder.)

Katagiri Roshi: When the Buddha Shakyamuni sat meditation, zazen, under a tree – [there is a sound of thunder] – there was a tremendous sound of thunder, that was more than this. But, his zazen was not disturbed by the thunder. And after zazen, he stood from his seat and practiced kinhin, walking meditation. At that time, the thunder was completely gone; the surroundings were very quiet. Near him there was one of the Buddhist laymen, who had watched the Buddha’s meditation.

The Buddha’s zazen – [sound of thunder] – was never disturbed by the thunder – [loud sound of thunder continues] – even though it was a really tremendous sound of thunder. So the layman asked the Buddha: “Four cows and two farmers were killed by electric shock of lightning a few minutes ago. Did you hear the sound of the thunder?”

Buddha said, “No, I didn’t hear that.”

The layman said, “It was a huge sound of thunder, everyone [heard] that. Did you sleep at that time?”

Buddha said, “No, I didn’t sleep.”

So the layman asked, “Were you in the state of a person who is without consciousness?”

The Buddha said, “No. I did zazen, with consciousness.”

So the layman said, “That’s excellent, wonderful! I have never heard of something like this before.”

So the layman really respected the Buddha Shakyamuni’s zazen. [Thunder.]

In those days, the attainment of samadhi with no consciousness was regarded as the highest level of spiritual life. From this point, you can stop your breath for a certain period of time, or you can stay in a sort of death. You can stop the functioning of your heart. That was really the highest level of practice in those days, a practice [informed] by Brahmanism. So if people attained this, everybody respected it. But Buddha didn’t do this; Buddha did zazen with consciousness. Nevertheless, he didn’t hear the sound. His zazen was not disturbed by the sound of the thunder. This layman had never heard before about such a kind of zazen. So he said, “How wonderful, excellent it is!”

Dogen commented – [thunder] – on this story with deepest respect, in the collection of Dogen’s short preachings. Dogen Zenji says:

The Buddha enters samadhi with consciousness, and the thirty-four ways to sever delusions manifest themselves within it. The Buddha uses this from morning to night, and culminates the quest of his body in the zendo.

(From Eihei KorokuDharma Hall Discourse #372)

“The Buddha enters samadhi with consciousness”: that is, exactly Buddha Shakyamuni did zazen with consciousness. Samadhi means oneness with subject and zazen. And when the practicer and zazen become one, that is samadhi. So, “the Buddha enters samadhi with consciousness.”

“The thirty-four ways to sever delusions manifested themselves within it.” In those days, there were thirty-four techniques to cut off the delusions and attain enlightenment and enter nirvana. But if the Buddha did zazen with consciousness, at that time within it, the thirty-four ways to sever delusion and enter nirvana manifest themselves. That is Dogen’s understanding. So it’s [one]. That’s why the layman also said, “How excellent it is.” [Thunder.]


Also, Dogen Zenji said in Bendowa:

Moreover, although in realization the mind of the zazen practicer and its objects both arise and disappear within the stillness of samadhi, since it occurs [within] the sphere of jijuyu, it doesn’t disturb a single mote of dust, nor infringe upon a single phenomenon.

“Although in realization, the mind of the zazen practicer and also its object both arise and disappear…” – that means, the mind and its objects goes in and goes out [of] enlightenment within the stillness of samadhi.

“… within the stillness of samadhi”: We have a technical term: shijo, the sign of the beginning of zazen. When you hit the bell three times, that is called shijo, sign of the beginning of zazen. The shi is “struck.” Jo is “stillness.” Stillness implies samadhi; stillness implies zazen itself. So, “struck zazen” means, zazen settles itself in zazen. So you dwell in zazen at that time. That is the sign of the starting of zazen, so we call it shijo. The end of zazen is called kaijo. Kai means “open.” Jo is “stillness.” So, “open stillness.” The stillness means zazen: “to open zazen.” That means, the end of zazen. So in this case, the same applied to this: “Within the stillness of samadhi” – within zazen itself – “the mind and its objects” – the mind and also zazen both go in, go out [of] enlightenment and realization.

Well, I told you so far, if you do really real zazen – not before zazen, not after zazen – [then] regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not, you are right there, you are right in the middle of zazen. No delusions, no confusions. But consciousness is very “picky.” So immediately, you can pick up before zazen, after zazen. If you stop the functioning of your mind, you can be there constantly, but always consciously our mind is picky. Even though you are right in the middle of zazen, you say, “Ah! I attain enlightenment!” And then immediately, you sleep. [Someone chuckles.] And then you wake up; the moment when you wake up, you say, “Oh – I attain enlightenment.” [He laughs.] I don’t think so. You sleep pretty well, in zazen. [Laughter.] And then, something happens and you wake up. [Thunder.] At that time, you don’t realize whether you were sleeping or you were entering samadhi. You don’t. So that’s why sometimes you misunderstand: “Oh, I attained enlightenment.” But it’s not actually enlightenment, okay? [He laughs.]

So sometimes, right in the middle of zazen, still you can go in enlightenment or go out of enlightenment. But whatever you do – goes in, goes out – all are going on right in the middle of zazen. So Dogen Zenji says, “Mind and its object both goes in, goes out of enlightenment within zazen itself, the stillness of samadhi. Since it occurs within the sphere of jijuyu, it doesn’t disturb a single mote of dust, nor infringe upon a single phenomenon.”

“… it doesn’t disturb a single mote of dust…”: [Dust] means object. If you do zazen, zazen becomes the object. But, your zazen really doesn’t disturb your object. Without moving even an inch to the left or right, or front or backward, you can completely become one with zazen itself. At that time, using your body, your breath, and your mind – in other words, by the regulation of your body, and breath, and mind – if this practice is exactly perfect, your whole body is exactly fitting into zazen, your object. So, at that time, your body and mind disappear. Where? Within zazen. So, it’s not necessary to move zazen from one A place to B place, or forward and backward, or up and down. Nothing; just there. And all you have to do is make arrangement of your body, your breath and mind, and just fit into it. At that time, without moving, without disturbing even a single mote of dust, you can be one with it, you can be right in the middle of samadhi. That is called samadhi, okay?

And also: “… nor infringe upon a single phenomenon.” That means, when your body and mind – [thunder] – and breath are used perfectly, in the proper way, fitting into your zazen – at that time, it’s not necessary to move to the left or to the right, up and down, forward and backward. Just there, and just fit there. At that time, you can become one with zazen. And then that zazen completely returns to you, because you are one with zazen. So, no body and mind; [just] zazen there.

So zazen is you, you are zazen. At that time, I told you – I think on the second day of sesshin, or the first day, I forget – anyway, total personality blooms there. In other words, the original nature of the self blooms, very naturally, because there is no mind which is picky. Mind is there, but mind doesn’t work; mind is [just] existent with your zazen and your body. That’s why “nor infringe upon a single phenomena” means your original nature of the body and mind blooms, without destroying your nose, or your ears, your eyes, your consciousness. Without doing anything – for this just blooms.

And then, “since it occurs within the sphere of jijuyu” means, when you do zazen in that way, your body and mind become one with zazen, and then, zazen and all circumstances return to you. All circumstances exist simultaneously in peace and harmony. The sound of the car, the sound of the thunder, exist. Your mind is [there]. Zazen and all circumstances return to you. That means, [when] we do zazen, everything exists in peace and harmony. Japan, the United States, the sound of the car, the sound of the cat, the sound of the raindrops, lightning – whatever happens, all exist in peace, right in the middle of zazen.

At that time it is called jijuyu – samadhi of jijuyu. Ji is “of itself.” The ju of jijuyu means “receive.” Yu is “to function, to work, or to take advantage of.” So if you do zazen like this, you can receive freedom, very naturally, of itself. And, you can use it.

That’s why Dogen Zenji says, “Although in realization the mind and its object both arise and disappear within the stillness of samadhi, since it occurs within the sphere of jijuyu, it doesn’t disturb a single mote of dust, nor infringe upon a single phenomenon.”

So from this point, what the Buddha said, not to hear the sound of the thunder, doesn’t mean that he was in a state of no consciousness. He did zazen with consciousness. If you do zazen – [or] hitting the bell, chanting the sutras – with no consciousness, it doesn’t make sense, it’s useless. Shijo, the sign of the beginning of zazen, or [kaijo,] the sign of the end of zazen – it’s ridiculous, it doesn’t make sense. Why do you have to hit the bell, if the main purpose of zazen is to reach the state of no consciousness? It’s not necessary to hit the bell, because even though you hit the bell, you cannot hear it. It’s not necessary to eat your breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, because you can stop your heart for a certain period of time, for seven days. You can do it. Maybe so. I read an article about one of the saints in India. He was in a casket for more than seven days. And the scientists checked his heart; his heart was completely stopped. And after that he came out, but he was alive. So it’s possible; it’s possible. But the zazen we do is not something like this. We have zazen with consciousness.


And also Dogen Zenji says, “the Buddha uses this from morning to night.” Not only in the time of doing zazen, but also from morning to night, your mind must be attentive to all movement of behavior. Working in the kitchen, and walking in the hallways, walking in the zendo, picking a plant or grasses outside; whatever you do, your mind must be there, present with each movement.

So zazen is always working in your daily living from morning to night, but it doesn’t mean you should be nervous because you have to pay careful attention to your mind, checking whether your mind is always attentive to each movement. If you do that, you will be nervous. I don’t mean that; because you cannot disturb even a single mote of dust. In other words, you cannot stop the stream of time. You must be always right in the middle of the stream of time. Nevertheless, there is mind present with the activities. That’s why Dogen Zenji says, “The Buddha uses this from morning to night – [thunder] – and culminates the quest of his body in the zendo.” “Culminates the quest of his body” means, mind completely fits [and] fills his body.

In other words, I always use [the saying], “Your kind, compassionate attention must penetrate from the top of your head, to the tip of your toes.” That means, when you stand up, you have to stand up with what? Two feet. Of course, two feet. You can stand up with two hands, but usually you have to stand up with two feet. But that is not the real practice of Zen. You have to stand up with two feet, two hands, and also your nose, your eyes, your mouth, your heart, your emotions, all your circumstances. At that time, you can really culminate the quest of your body. And then you say, “Oh! This is standing up, perfectly.” You feel good at that time.

Or, I always tell you, if you play the guitar, you can play the guitar with two hands, of course. But playing with two hands is not the perfect way of playing guitar. You have to play the guitar with two hands and two feet. [Yes,] you have to play the guitar with two feet. How you can play that way? I don’t know. [He chuckles.] But you can play with two feet, and with your nose, with your mouth, with your eyes, with your knowledge, with your perceptions, with your consciousness, with your heart, with your emotions, with your past life, with your present life, with your future life, and the composers, and all circumstances. And then at that time, that is a perfect practice of playing guitar.

That is what is called “to culminate the quest of your body.” And then, in playing the guitar, in daily living, at that time you really feel good, from playing guitar from your body, from your mind. So finally that’s why you cannot stop playing guitar. Something compels you to continue to practice. Even if consciously you don’t want to, something compels you. So that’s why finally, you will be a great guitar player. Even though you don’t like it, even though you don’t expect it, finally, you will be a great guitar player.

That’s why Dogen Zenji says, “Buddha uses this from morning to night and culminates the quest of his body in the zendo.”


That’s [also] why in Fukanzazengi [Dogen says], [thunder]

Zazen must be deportment beyond one’s hearing and seeing.

But, of course it is hearing and seeing, because you cannot move even a single mote of dust, nor infringe upon a single phenomenon. So finally, you can manifest the beautiful flower of the total personality, right in the middle of zazen. At that time, “Is it not a principle that is prior to one’s knowledge and perceptions.” And you have to use knowledge and perceptions – not no-mind. “No mind” means through and through, you have to use mind. So, that is the practice of regulation of your body, breath, and mind.

We should know the mind is very picky; “monkey mind.” That’s why we need the practice of regulating the mind. But we have to use the mind. When you regulate your body and breath, there must be the mind with your body, your breath. Otherwise, you become cats and dogs. Cats and dogs and birds can do with their bodies but no mind. But we are human beings. So first we have to do something with our body, but there must be mind, constantly.

So, the final goal of regulating the mind is to be free from mind, because mind is picky. That’s why Dogen Zenji says we have to practice samadhi, complete samadhi, becoming one; using your whole body and mind in order to fit your object perfectly. Adjusting, regulating your body, and breath, and mind. And then, if everything is perfect at that time, very naturally your body fits to your object. And then, something happens. Something happens; we don’t know what it is. And then when we see it, when our mind is immediately there and picking that, then we say, “Oh, that’s zazen.” But before your mind picks it up, that zazen is no-name. Just, something happens. So, very naturally, zazen blooms. And also you bloom, as total personality there.


Yesterday I told you, between the two objects there is a kind of force, that is just a condition or fact. That is a conditioned element. That conditioned element is a kind of force to unify two objects perfectly. That conditioned element is a kind of force which melds each object, used perfectly in order to fit another object. Even if you don’t like a certain situation and you try to escape, or if you do something at random, immediately [there is] some problem there, but basically, there are two objects completely unified. By what? Conditioned elements. But this conditioned element, we don’t know what it is, because this is just dynamic working, that’s all. We don’t know how [the] two objects are fit together. But anyway, conditioned elements can use one subject exactly perfectly in order to fit its own object. At that time, something happens. Striking the toe, and blood comes.

Then immediately mind picks, and says, “Oh! Toes. And rocks. And also blood.” And finally you say, “Ouch.” But that is just seeing the pictures, before and after. Right in the middle, between before and after: nothing. No pains, no delusions, no confusion. Just the rock, just the toes, just the breath. All of them exist perfectly, in peace.

So, we have to do this. How can we do this? From this body and mind. That’s why, let’s use your body and mind with your best, in order to fit your object. Because we – our body and our mind – have lots of customs we have accumulated from the beginningless past; that’s why it’s pretty hard to fit your object exactly. That’s why we need to practice. But if even for a moment your body and mind are used perfectly to fit your object, that is a beautiful blooming flower. Even though you don’t know it, it’s really a blooming flower.

At that time, if you continue to do this, you become, very naturally, a great guitar player, or zazen player, or Buddha Land player. It is true. Even though you don’t like it, very naturally you do it.

That is called zazen, based on body and mind dropping off.

Do you have any questions?


Question: Roshi? Earlier on, you told us the story of the monk who asked the master, “Do you hear the raindrops?” And he said, “I almost hear the raindrops.” And you just mentioned that Buddha said he didn’t hear the thunder. Are they saying the same thing as … ?

Katagiri: Same. The expression is different, but same situation.

The Zen Master is always right in the middle of real rain drops. But, it’s not necessary to stay with it. That’s why any time, anywhere, he can go to the right, to the left. That’s why he said almost. Because if you say, “I am to the left; I am this here” – immediately another aspect or side says, “Hey, hey! Why don’t you come this way?” So [you say], “Okay, I will go.” And then if you stay there, and proclaim, “I am here,” another side says, “Why don’t you come here?” That is dualistic. [Thunder.]

Basically, a Zen Master, right in the middle of real raindrops, he never moves, but he knows [that is] flickering lights: right side, left side. In the realm of flickering lights – “I am in the right side” or “I am in the left side” – that is “almost.” It’s not a real place he has to stay. At any time, he can move. That is freedom.

In the monastery, the Ino hits the [umpan] with a small piece of wood, and then after hitting that, he makes an announcement which is very important. If they want to kick somebody out because he did something wrong, the Ino makes an announcement that he will kick people out of the zendo today, right after breakfast. And then, he bows nine bows to Manjushri and leaves. Well, those are the monastic rules; lots of rules there. But anyway, in this story, the Ino hits that [thing], and makes an announcement: “Today the monks on the right side should work on such and such – outside, picking grasses, et cetera – and the monks on the left side should work on such and such.” And then the monks accept their assignments. Only the head monk didn’t accept it. He asked the Ino, “What does Manjushri do? He sits right in the middle of the zendo.” In Japan, Manjushri is enshrined in the middle of the zendo – not this way [here], but right in the middle. The monks sit around Manjushri; right side, left side, anywhere around, so always Manjushri sits in the middle. Well then the Ino didn’t give an assignment to Manjushri. [He laughs.] That’s why the head monk asked, “What does Manjushri do?” The Ino said, “He is always sitting in the middle, never attached to right or left. But he is working, always.” Pretty good, huh? [He laughs, and there is some laughter.]

That’s why Buddha said he didn’t hear the sound of the thunder. [Unintelligible.] But on the other hand, Buddha says, “I almost lose myself by the sound of the thunder.” [He chuckles.] That’s [alright], because he is in the middle. Any time, anywhere, he can go in all directions. If you are always on the right side, it’s pretty hard to go to the left side. But in the middle, it’s pretty easy to go in all directions.


Question: Is that what we mean by the Middle Way?

Katagiri: Yes, the Middle Way.

The Middle Way is not to walk in the middle of the street, okay? [He pauses, then there is some laughter.] The Middle Way is to walk in the middle with total awareness – of middle, right side, left side, and all beings around it. Then this is the Middle Way. But if you just walk in the middle, you hit your forehead against a streetcar. [Laughter.] Watch out! You cannot walk that way.

Or I always tell you, there is a scale. Why don’t you point out the middle? You cannot just point out the middle without understanding there is a right and there is a left, or the total picture of the scale.

[Tape change.]


(Transcriber’s Note: The following anecdote, at the end of the seven day sesshin, starts quietly, but quickly becomes difficult to transcribe because it’s hard to hear over all the laughter.)

Katagiri: If you think about zazen for seven days, you become good friends with zazen. How do you like it? Do you hate it? [Soft laughter.]

Is there anyone who attained enlightenment? No one? [Laughter.]

Nakagawa Roshi (probably Sōen Nakagawa), at the last day of sesshin he would say… He is a very interesting Zen Master. He is very dramatic, and sometimes he is very mysterious, and sometimes he’d behave very strangely. But that is the Rinzai Zen style, so that’s okay; beautiful, anyway. So one day [at the end of sesshin] he sat in the middle of the zendo, and during sitting he played a record of a Bach concerto. Famous music, anyway. He liked it very much, so he played that, and – [he laughs] – he immediately said: “At this time during sesshin, there is one person who attained enlightenment. Do you know who it is?[Everyone laughs.] This is in a very big voice: “DO YOU KNOW WHO IT IS?” [Laughter.] And then no one would say! [Laughter.] And then anyway he said, “DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE?[Laughter.] But no one said. And only one person said, [unknown gesture, possibly pointing at someone]. And then he immediately said, [scornfully,]This person?” [He loudly lets a stick or something drop, possibly indicating falling flat.]

[Gales of laughter.] [Unintelligible.]

That’s interesting, isn’t it? Everybody [searches], “Who? Who? Who?” … “Maybe I?” [Laughter.] But [the person] says, “No, no, no. I don’t either.” He’s a nice guy, huh?

Finally, all [unintelligible] gone. Yes. [Laughter.]

[The laughter eventually dies down, and Katagiri laughs.]

Remember that story. That’s a beautiful story, isn’t it?

51:04 end of recording

This talk was transcribed by Kikan Michael Howard. Audio recordings of Katagiri Roshi are being used with permission of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.

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