April 19, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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What is the meaning of “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha”? What is the feeling of Zen Master Baso, who is about to die? In the universal perspective, life is eternal. But on the other hand, in order to express eternal life, we have to have a human body, a human mind, which is fleeting, ephemeral. What is the opportunity of this human body and mind? How can we communicate human life to each other, in order to enter a peaceful world? Even though body and mind are going on in the rhythm of the universe, we are always poking our head into a hole, like a cat. Do we need to stay in the hole, turning it into a den? Katagiri Roshi discusses what is right, in the sense of Right Thought and Right View in Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. He also discusses how we should relate to modern civilization, and there is a story about his brother learning to swim in the Navy.


Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org


Katagiri Roshi: Blue Cliff Record, Case 3, “Master Ma is Unwell”:

Great Master Ma was unwell. The temple superintendent asked him, “Teacher, how has your venerable health been in recent days?” The Great Master said, “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha.”

(From The Blue Cliff Record translated by Thomas Cleary)

Great Zen Master Ma, Baso Zen Master, was the second patriarch after Huineng Zen Master.

“The temple superintendent asked him, ‘Teacher, how has your venerable health been in recent days?’” It means, “How have you been?” Probably Baso Zen Master was about to pass. I don’t know who was the superintendent, but anyway, he visited Baso Zen Master’s room and asked, “How have you been?” So the Zen Master says, “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha.”

The Translator’s Note says:

According to the Buddha Name Scripture, a Sun Face Buddha lives in the world for eighteen hundred years, whereas a Moon Face Buddha enters extinction after a day and a night. Tenkei Denson Zen Master says, “But is everyone’s own Sun Face Buddha Moon Face Buddha something long or short?”

“Is everyone’s own Sun Face Buddha Moon Face Buddha something long or short” means is your life long or short? Is your life called Sun Face Buddha or Moon Face Buddha?

In the universal perspective, wherever you may be there is constantly the stream of universal life. From this point, it is eternity; life is eternal. But on the other hand, in order to express eternal life, we have to have a human body, a human mind, which are transitory, fleeting, ephemeral. We have to live an ephemeral existence as a short-lived being, just like a mayfly.

So that is the meaning of Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha. This is a feeling of Zen Master Baso, who was about to die. He was not concerned about human life too much, but he was still a human being, he knows a short life. But on the other hand, he was not concerned too much about life; when the time comes to die, he has to die.

That is the case or story.


Setchō Zen Master wrote a Pointer, so first let me read the Pointer:

One device, one object; one word, one phrase – the intent is that you will have a place to enter; still this is gouging a wound in healthy flesh – it can become a nest or a den. The Great Function appears without abiding by fixed principles – the intent is that you will realize there is something transcendental; it covers the sky and covers the earth, yet it cannot be grasped.

This way will do, not this way will do too – this is too diffuse. This way won’t do, not this way won’t do either – this is too cut off. Without treading these two paths, what would be right? Please test; I cite this for you to see.


This pointer was said to be divided into five sections. The first section:

One device, one object; one word, one phrase – the intent is that you will have a place to enter; still this is gouging a wound in healthy flesh – it can become a nest or a den.

“One device” originally means the opportunity or action of human consciousness or human body and mind. When you do zazen and experience samadhi, this is one device, which is called opportunity, or action, or [prāpti], or working.

Zazen is the “one object”. Whatever you do, there are always two objects, and also opportunity or action. Full action of your body and mind, this is one device, one object. Whenever you do zazen – or walking on the street, or working in the office, working in the kitchen, whatever you do – there is one device, one object.

Shakyamuni Buddha showed the flowers with his hand, and Mahākāśyapa, one of his disciples, smiled when he saw the Buddha’s flowers. “Mahākāśyapa smiled” is exactly one device; one opportunity, one action of Mahākāśyapa’s life. And the flowers shown by Buddha are “one object.”

“One word, one phrase”: You know this pretty well; this is the explanation of existence in a word. Without words and phrases, we cannot find the opportunity to communicate with each other. So if you want to teach something to people, we need four circumstances: one device, one object, one word, one phrase. Time, opportunity, action of your life, and your object. And also there is utterance: verbal utterance, or sometimes not verbal utterance. Even though you don’t use words, still there is utterance.

So, “One device, one object; one word, one phrase – the intent is that you will have a place to enter.” This is why it is said we have to use one device, one object, one word, one phrase: in order to teach; in order to communicate human life with human beings. Well, there is no reason why, because it is always there; without this, we cannot do anything at all. It’s completely beyond why. Before you make a question why, it’s there. It completely transcends the human questions of why, what we should do or shouldn’t do.

That’s why the intent is that you will have a place to enter. Through these four – the device, object, word, phrase – we can communicate the universal life and we can communicate human life to each other. Understanding, living in peace and harmony. It is to guide people to realize a place to enter nirvana: a peaceful life, a peaceful world. How to live; how to exist.


“Still this is gouging a wound in healthy flesh”: “Healthy flesh” means human body, human mind. “Still this is gouging a wound” means always there is human consciousness, poking our head into a hole, just like a cat. We really make a hole, and stay in it, because we are interested in seeing what is in it.

So Setchō says, “Still this is gouging a wound in healthy flesh.” Actually, our body and mind are really healthy, very healthy, because our body and mind are exactly going on in the same rhythm of the universe. But the trouble is that human consciousness always digs in the ground, making a hole; poking, poking, poking your head into it, trying to know, to see what’s in it. But we don’t know what’s in it. Ah! Maybe a skunk there. Maybe a beautiful flower there. Maybe a poisonous snake there. We don’t know. But constantly, we do this.

It is not bad, in a sense, but it is not good. This is one reason why human civilization is developing, so in a sense, it’s pretty good, such a human civilization. But the development of human civilization is not good, not bad – nothing to say. Even though you hate modern civilization – hate cars, airplanes, helicopters, whatever you say – still we are living with cars, with airplanes, with modern civilization. We should appreciate this. But we should know what modern civilization is, we should know how it is going on, because you cannot pin down “modern civilization is good” or “modern civilization is not good.” We cannot say, completely.

So, we are always poking our heads into the hole in the ground to see what’s in it, because it’s very fun for us, and it is the reason why human life is developing pretty well. On the other hand, we don’t know what’s in it. Maybe atomic bomb there, maybe a chemical bomb there. Maybe a skunk there, maybe beautiful flowers there. No one knows. This [spirit of] question is always within human beings: how to use modern civilization, how to use human consciousness. But if you see the human world now, you know this pretty well.

That’s why Setchō Zen Master says, “Still this is gouging a wound in healthy flesh.” We are, our body and mind are, originally [very fleshy].

“It can become a nest or den.” If you poke your head into modern civilization, or the atomic bomb, or whatever it is, we really try to stay with it, believing, “That is my den. That is modern civilization; we should depend on it.” But if you think modern civilization is best, rather than “primitive” peoples – well, that is a little bit dangerous. What is modern civilization? [It is] creating ideas [about] human beings; it’s not better, it’s not “good”. That’s why we always have to check human consciousness, modern civilization or the human life we create, constantly.

It’s not a matter of destroying [consciousness], because consciousness is already being, beyond human speculation. Without consciousness, we cannot exist. So we should gouge a wound in our healthy flesh – but watch out. Don’t believe it is your den, it is your house. Of course it is a house, it is your den, but you should get out of it and see what it is. That is pretty good. I tell you sometimes: if you’re always selling fish, your body and mind have a fish smell, but if you’re always soaking in the fishy smell, you don’t smell how fishy you are. So sometimes get out. If you get out, and are engaged in something with a beautiful smell, people will really tell you how fishy you smell. The same applies to human life.


The second section is:

The Great Function appears without abiding by fixed principles – the intent is that you will realize there is something transcendental; it covers the sky and covers the earth, yet it cannot be grasped.

The second section is completely opposite to the first section. In the second section, Setchō says “the Great Function” of human existence – so, the universe – “appears without abiding by fixed principles.” The basic nature of existence is constantly working, and it is never strained, it is never limited by fixed principles or rules. Constantly it is working freely. That is the character of the Great Function, the character of the function of human existence. [Or] trees, birds, floors – whatever.

The intent is that you will realize there is something transcendental;

“Something transcendental” originally literally means development. Development is not to develop human life in terms of human speculation; real development is to transcend human speculation. In other words, to say something transcendent means to show yourself for what you are, or as you are; then, according to Zen terms, to be master of yourself in whatever situation you may be. This is really something transcendental. Whatever you may be doing – zazen, gassho, walking, or eating – you must be master of yourself. In other words, you yourself are constantly functioning, working freely, as you are what you are. This is something transcendental. That is development of your life.

This development of your life is completely beyond human speculation; because when you do gassho, just do gassho. Be one with gassho, be one with zazen. At that time, your life is really working with zazen, without leaving any trace, anything between zazen and you. That is, according to Dogen’s term, shikan.

Regardless of whether you are conscious of the truth or not, Buddhas and patriarchs constantly teach us there is a great function of existence, the truth. So constantly we have to say it, because the intent is that you will realize, sooner or later, that there is something transcendental. That means, there is a way to live, to show, to demonstrate, to manifest yourself as you are what you are, freely. This is development of human life, deepening your life.

In other words, as I told you before: modern civilization is pretty good for us, and consciousness is pretty good for us, but we have to transcend the function of consciousness.

Transcend doesn’t mean to destroy consciousness; transcend is to not attach to any [expected ideas]. We cannot say “consciousness is good” or “consciousness is bad.” Transcend means that through consciousness we should live in the best way, day after day. Think carefully, through and through, and then live in the best way. But – you cannot stay with your consciousness, by which you have lived in the best way. You must transcend your understanding, your best life. In other words, you should watch carefully your life, modern civilization, which we have created. That is really development of human life.

Development of human life is, according to the Diamond Sutra, no development of human life. And then, this is real development. [He chuckles.] Do you understand? It’s really true.

We really believe in individual life, we really believe in modern civilization, because modern civilization makes human beings happy. Of course it does. But if you don’t pay careful attention to the modern civilization you are always soaking in, it’s very dangerous, because no one knows; everything is changing constantly, so you can misuse modern civilization pretty easily.

We should appreciate modern civilization, because we can live in a better way. On the other hand, we should transcend, we should go beyond. That means, watch modern civilization – where we are going, what’s going on.

Secondly, regardless of whether you like or dislike, we have to transcend: that means, completely speaking, we have to reflect upon ourselves and move toward the future, for future generations, day after day, in order to transmit human life in a proper way, in order to transmit human knowledge in a proper way, not in a wrong way. For this, we have to practice, to reflect upon ourselves and what we have done in the world of modern civilization, with gratitude for consciousness and modern civilization. And [we need to help], and transmit how important human life is to future generations.

That is the really great function which modern civilization possesses inherently. That is great function. Great function is basically [that] everything is free, completely free. It is never limited by any rules or principles. We say always, “modern civilization is best,” or “modern civilization is good” – it becomes sort of rules or principles we set up already, but it is not the real nature of modern civilization. In order to make modern civilization help all sentient beings, we should appreciate it, and reflect, and watch carefully, without misusing it. That’s why here it says that the Great Function appears constantly without abiding by fixed principles.

“The intent is that you will realize there is something transcendental.” Your life, floor, trees, birds [are] transcendental. When we see spring, we set up a certain idea: wow, spring is wonderful, because all beings start to work, and everyone is excited. And that means exactly, consciously or unconsciously, that you hate winter. But you cannot hate winter, because spring comes from winter. Without winter, you cannot [see] spring. So what is spring? Basically, spring is free from your ideas, the principles or rules you have set up. Spring is something completely transcendent.


… it covers the sky, covers the earth, yet it cannot be grasped.

This is great being, the great function [that] you have, trees have, spring has, pebbles – whatever it is, it has it. Whatever you may be, everything has this great function, covering the sky and heaven and earth. Just like wind: wind is omnipresent, wherever you may go.

But you cannot grasp the omnipresence of the wind. If the wind is omnipresent, well it’s not necessary to use a fan, because wherever you may go, wind is there. In summer, you should feel cool without using a fan. But it’s impossible to do that. That great function is covering the sky and heaven and earth, wherever you may be, but it is not something you can grasp. It’s completely beyond. Only when you be one with the wind: that means use the fan. At that time, wind really comes.

That wind which is coming – I don’t know from where. From fan, or from wind? No way. That is called the Great Function: great function of the wind, great function of the fan, great function of the person who uses the fan. There is no discrimination.

That’s why Setchō Zen Master says, “It covers the sky, covers the earth, yet it cannot be grasped.”


The third section says:

This way will do, not this way will do too—

“This way will do, or not this way will do” means: Well, do you think modern civilization is good? If you think so, [it’s you]. If you think modern civilization is not good: okay, you think so. You can think whatever, because modern civilization is not something particular [separate] from your life, it is something connected with individual life. So whatever you say: “Modern civilization is good” – okay, [it’s good]. “Modern civilization is not good” – okay!

In Buddhism, all means something which is closely, intimately connected with your individual life. That is called all beings. All beings appear in a different way in terms of individual perspective; this is all beings. From this point, all beings are limited by individual perspective. But all beings are originally something transcendental, so you must be free from individual perspective in order to understand the great function of all beings.

For instance, [giving a talk]: we have a student talk every morning. [You should really study a student talk.] A student talk is something connected with your life; so without individual life, you cannot talk. That means your talk is really talking about you: not something about Buddhism, just from your life. But [say] you use the topic of egolessness. I listen to a student talk every morning, without saying anything, but really thinking. [Sometimes] I can really understand individual life, because you always concentrate on the topic of Buddhism, but that topic is not Buddhism, it is really your life. You talk about you.

So from this point there is development, in order to talk about Buddhism in terms of individual perspective. That’s great! But talking, or Buddhism, or your life, should be something transcendent. That means – forget it! Sit down and just talk! Sit down and just talk means – who talks? I talk? No, I don’t think so; talk is completely something transcendent. The function of the talk is completely something transcendent. Do you understand?

To teach means you teach, that is one way. But you completely forget the other way: teaching comes to you. That means that teaching teaches you; you don’t teach somebody. In other words, you can learn something from your teaching, your talk. Don’t you think so? Have you ever experienced during the talk or teaching, sometimes you can get a good idea? “Oh, right!” Like this? No? [Some laughter.] Well sometimes, something comes up, completely beyond your speculation. So after that, you think, “Wow – I said something good.” [Laughter.] You don’t know from where it comes, but anyway, it comes. So, from where? It comes from you? No, I don’t think so. It comes from you, but it comes from you only when you completely let it go. Your ideas, and I am talking, I am teaching to you – completely let it go, just sit down and talk. At that time, something good comes from you. So, you are not you, but a good idea comes from no-you.

That is very important. “This way will do, not this way will do too.” Everything is communicated with individual life; but on the other hand, completely you should let it go, and then learn something. Otherwise, you cannot learn something important, which is called the development of human life, if you follow your life just one way. “I am learning,” or “I am teaching,” or “I am talking” – always it’s one way. At that time, it’s very difficult to know something transcendental.

Of course you should talk. You talk, you sit, you chant, you walk. But, next moment, you should be free from yourself, you should let go of yourself. Zazen, gassho – let it go. That means you should learn something from the state of letting go. That means shikan: just do.

But before just do, consciousness is always poking it’s own head into the hole, digging into the ground. “Your preparation is completely perfect?” – “Yes, yes I think so.” – Next moment: “Are you sure?” [Rueful laughter.] But next moment: “Why don’t you stop talking?” – “I cannot escape. Something compels me to talk.” – “Do you like it?” – “No, I don’t like it.” – “If you don’t like it, why don’t you stop it?” – “But I cannot stop it.” In all this, consciousness digs in the ground, makes a hole, and believes “this is my den,” “this is my hole,” always.

But you cannot do this always. Of course, you can make a hole. And if you believe it’s your den, that’s okay; next, let it go. Get out from the den. That means, just do. Just shikan taza.


—this is too diffuse.

“Too diffuse” means … scattered, spread out.

[There is some hard-to-follow discussion of what ‘diffuse’ means in English, whether it is negative or positive or neither.]

… spread out may be something helpful, useful…

[Tape change.]

… Well, according to the translation into Japanese, diffuse is “spread out,” just like spreading water and seed [unintelligible]. Maybe it is good, anyway. [He chuckles.]

Well, “This way will do, not this way will do” means, whatever you think … of your life, do your best to take care of life, using this way or not this way. Not this way means negative judgement: “I’m not good.” “Katagiri, are you talking perfectly this morning or not?” “No, I’m not.” This is negative, not this way. Or next moment: “Well yes, I am pretty good now.” This way is an affirmative way, this way. We always use this way or not this way, but whatever … if you want to use this way, use it! If you want to use not this way, use it! It means, why don’t you stop talking? You can go to the [unintelligible] … heaven and hell, wherever you want to go. And then, whatever choice you make of your life, this is too diffuse means that way is – more or less – helping your life. This way or not this way, you have made a choice of living penetrate your life; because this way or not this way are beings, all beings, in the realm of the universe. Wherever you may go, you cannot escape from the universe. If you pick up this way, it’s also still you pick up [something] in the universal world. If you pick up not this way, it is also you doing something in universal life. Whatever you do, you are universal; the Great Function helps you. So, do your best. Think. You have to think. Do your best to do, and [help]. That is too diffuse: completely beyond human speculation, [but] anyway helping you, penetrating your life.

That’s why in the Abhidharmakosha … the meaning of a moment is to have access to a good friend; that is one of the characteristics of a moment. That means human life is described as a moment, but this moment is completely something transcendent. So from this point, whatever you do, your life is helped by this moment; even though intellectually you poke your head into a hole you have made by consciousness, good or bad, this way or not this way. And then you experience something bitter, so you say, “My life is bitter.” But that is just your understanding, that is one of the all beings connected with you. Next, let it go. If you let it go, bitterness is not always bitter. From the bitterness, you can learn something more than bitterness, or more than good. That is very important for us.

So, that is “this is [too] diffuse.”


[The fourth sections is:]

This way won’t do, not this way won’t do either – this is too cut off.

Next, “This way will not do, not this way will not do either.” This is completely the opposite.

You cannot doubt this way or not this way; that means [that] emptiness, or truth, or Buddhas, delusions, or whatever you say, all are something connected with your individual life, otherwise you cannot exist in this world. So, you should appreciate them. [However] you judge your life, whatever you say, without this you cannot exist. So, appreciate it. That means, use this way or not this way. Thinking carefully, with your best [effort], make a choice. That means your life is really accepted in an affirmative way. That means: “Oh, pretty good!” So you really like your life very much.

But [here] on the other hand, Setchō Zen Master says: “No, no… Don’t adopt this way or not this way.” Completely negative. Because, Setchō Zen Master says, your life is nothing but all beings, connected with your individual life – [but] if you believe “oh, wonderful, wonderful,” so you really accept yourself pretty easily, that means you’re already making the hole, and poking your head in, and believing [this is your] den. That’s why [Setchō Zen Master says], “Don’t stay in your den.” In order to let it go, to be free from the den you believe in, Setchō Zen Master says don’t adopt this way or not this way. That means, be free from them. We have to experience something transcendental.

Basically, all beings are free. That’s why Setchō says, “This way will not do, not this way will not do either—this is too cut off.” Because the great function and original nature of trees, and birds, modern civilization, are completely something transcendental: even though Buddhas and patriarchs try to approach them, there is no way to attach to them, no way to touch them – because there are no particular fixed rules or principles that we can set up, that we can believe.

Well, it is pretty easy for us to believe certain rules or laws. For instance, Buddhism says all beings are produced by interdependent origination; all beings come from this interdependent origination. And then at that time, interdependent origination becomes a principle; The Law. And then, we can believe it. But what is interdependent origination? Well, what you have understood is something fixed as type of solid being, which is called principles, discipline, and law; rules. But rules and principles are completely something transcendent; that means free. This is the original nature of human being. Finally, if you believe the reality that all beings come from interdependent co-origination – forget it! Forget it means why don’t you learn interdependent origination from the reality itself? Jump into it! Dive into it and learn what interdependent co-origination is, don’t you think so?

For instance, what is swimming? You can learn swimming. For swimming, you need a body, and a mind, and also water, and also your breathing, and also air. And then, swimming comes into existence – by what? By the air, your nose, your eyes, your heart, breathing. Physical, mental – many things. We understand this pretty well. But this is not interdependent co-origination. You are understanding interdependent co-origination in terms of intellectual consciousness, making a hole and believing it is a den! But the den is a den; no one can get in. If another animal comes into the den, they fight each other. The same applies to human beings; because somebody invades your territory. [He laughs.] The den is really your territory: “This is my den. Don’t interrupt my den.” This is the pretty usual intellectual understanding. Intellectual understanding is really very strange, but in a sense, wonderful. [He chuckles.] You understand: “I am making a den; I am feeling good from my den.” It’s very interesting. But simultaneously, we must be free from the den.

So, interdependent co-origination is something you have to experience directly from interdependent co-origination itself. How? Why don’t you dive into the ocean. That’s enough. And then, your body starts to work.

It’s just like my brother, I told you before – do you remember my brother’s experience? My brother was in the Japanese Navy; but unfortunately, he couldn’t swim! If you enter the Navy, you should learn swimming, you should be a master swimmer, but he couldn’t. So one day the sergeant threw him out of the boat into the ocean. He was very surprised. “Oh no!” [Laughter.] No way to escape. His other friends were watching carefully; if something happened, somebody would have helped him. But for him, for my brother, there was no way to escape, no way to know somebody was watching him. Already there!

But still, his stream of consciousness was going on. That’s interesting, don’t you think? If still the stream of consciousness is going, he can notice: “Uh-oh; what should I do?” So he struggled, and during the struggle still he was looking at himself: “How can I take a breath; how can I float?” But whatever he did, no way to float. So finally, he decided, “Okay; I’m okay to die.” He gave up. Then his body was sinking to the bottom of the ocean. On the way, all of sudden, his body started to float. [Laughter.] So he was, “Wow!” [unintelligible]

Well, this is human life, really human life. It’s really true. So, dive into it. At that time, interdependent co-origination is there. But you don’t know what interdependent co-origination is. Does it comes from you? Does it comes from the water? Does it come from technique? No way.

This is a good example, but these [situations are all the same], whatever you do. You should learn by your self, because everything is connected with you. Make a hole, and [believe] the den – but next moment, we should let it go. And then, at that time, we can really learn. That is the real meaning of interdependent co-origination. But actually we are always going on a one-way trip, forgetting to come back. We try to understand everything intellectually, and then if you understand it, you can believe it, you can depend on something. But we cannot always do it in that way.

That’s why Setchō Zen Master says, “This way will not do, not this way will not do either – this is too cut off.” How can the Buddha and patriarchs understand the real meaning of interdependent co-origination? No way to understand. All they have to do is just dive into the ocean; then, they can learn something. But temporarily, after we experience this we can make a word, which is called interdependent co-origination. [This is true] even for the Buddha; because that interdependent co-origination is really something without discipline or rules. That’s why this is “too cut off”: no communication. But, we can be.


The fifth section is:

Without treading these two paths, what would be right? Please test; I cite this for you to see.

“Treading these two paths” means “this is my den; I should depend on this” – yes it is, but no it is not. On the other hand, this is not my den. Of course this is not my den, but you shouldn’t believe this is not my den – because you are already in the den, making a hole for your consciousness, trying to prepare for your talk, and then, it’s your den. But on the other hand – not-den. Let it go, free from den means that is my not-den. You cannot attach to either one of them. That’s why “without these two paths.” What is right? Completely no way. All you have to do is, just swim in the ocean.

In the Ocean Seal Samadhi in Shobogenzo, Dogen says something like that: “The original nature of existence is pretty deep and pretty high.” That means, completely beyond human speculation. In other words, according to this, something transcendent of human consciousness, human body, human mind, whatever it is. It’s pretty deep; there is something transcendent. So finally, what should you do? According to Dogen, we should realize all beings are reflected in the ocean. This way or not this way, all are going on in the ocean, because all are reflected in the ocean. So you can choose: this way or not this way. If you want to die, any time you can die. If you want to live, any time you can live.

Whenever you make a choice, it helps you function; but it is just one way. On the other hand, still there is something. You have to pay careful attention to the reality [that] you have made a choice of living. So watch out means, it’s negative: you cannot adopt any kind of way, this way or not this way. That means, let it go.

Finally, what is right? Is swimming something you can learn from a book or teachers, and then you understand how to swim? This is one way. And the other way is you should let it go, and learn something directly from interdependent co-origination itself. So finally, what you have to do is just dive into the ocean. If you dive into the ocean, immediately you can swim on the surface, but simultaneously, your body is walking on the bottom of the ocean. In other words, you swim being one with the whole ocean. Logically, it doesn’t make sense, but according to Dogen you can swim on the surface of the ocean and put your feet on the bottom of the ocean. How can you do this? It’s impossible intellectually, but actually, you can do it. That is to learn the real meaning of interdependent co-origination. Understand, think carefully, and let it go: dive into the ocean. At that time, what is interdependent co-origination? Nothing to say. But, you can learn. You can learn means your feet are really on the bottom of the ocean, because you can learn. That really makes your swimming possible to exist as it is. That’s why next, you can see yourself, who is swimming.

This is “right”: Right View, Right Thinking, according the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Right means completely beyond right and wrong. So, “without treading these two paths, what would be right?” Completely you can reach a dead end, nothing to say. At that time, you can keep silent, but this silence really makes you active. This activity is very quiet, but this quiet activity is really something which makes you very active. That’s why this is what would be right. In terms of this activity, you cannot say “this way is good” or “not this way is good”; you completely cannot say so. This is the Great Function.


So, “Please test; I cite this for you to see.”

This is the point: you have to test, you have to experience it by yourself. I cannot give you anything. I can give you something sweet, or bitter, something like that – but beyond bitterness or sweetness, you should get a taste for yourself. Beyond bitterness or sweetness – what is that? That is the real meaning of interdependent co-origination: you yourself, your life itself. Completely beyond you can believe your den or you cannot believe your den, or beyond you should stay in the den or you shouldn’t stay in the den. You cannot say, because your life is working. So, please test. Get a taste.

And then he says, “I cite this for you to see.” This is referring to the case; the case is an example. The Zen Master says, “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha.” He is about to die. For his death: “Are you okay?” Yes, or no. “Are you sure?” I’m not sure, but I’m sure. “To be ready to die; are you sure?” Yes or no; nothing to say. That’s why he says, “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha.” “Where are you going?” “I don’t know.” But he knows. He doesn’t know where he is going, but he knows. He knows means: dive into the ocean; that’s all.

This is the final goal we have to reach. Zen Master Baso is treating his death like this. But death itself is something which you have to taste by yourself; so in many ways, how to taste, how to express.

A disciple asks a Zen Master, “Before you die, please say something for us. Please leave a good message for us, for our education, for our practice as monks.” The Zen Master says, “I don’t want to die.” Then the monks are very surprised, because they had expected something wonderful, something just like the Buddha’s teaching, completely beyond human speculation. But he says, “I don’t want to die.” This I don’t want to die doesn’t mean I don’t want to die. Without using these two ways, “I want to die” or “I don’t want to die,” completely beyond – what would be right? This is his death. Finally, the question is left: what would be the right way? But if you answer this question what will be right with “Yes, death” – it’s already dead, you made it dead. Or if you say, “No, it’s not” – it’s already dead, which is called not-death. So finally, what is right?

If you really understand interdependent co-origination, if you really understand human life deeply, finally the question is left: what is right? Constantly you have to think carefully, what is right? What would be right? To live in peace and harmony, constantly, day to day, from moment to moment: what would be right? Whatever happens, under all circumstances, good or evil, you cannot stay in a den which is called good, you cannot stay in a den which is called evil. You cannot stay. Constantly there is a question, what would be right, because this is the Great Function. That’s why our practice is continuous. Dogen says, “[Just] continuous practice.” Continuous practice is a really stable human attitude [toward] day by day. Saying something about today now; not before today, not after today.

So if you say something, maybe you can say, “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha.” What is Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Budha? What would be right? Should I depend on Sun Face Buddha, seeking for eternity? Seeking for the Buddhist faith? What is peace? What is bliss, real bliss? There are always questions there. If you see the real meaning as sort of a faith that you can depend on, that faith is really [a trick]. It’s not the real faith. This is very important: through the faith you can see the real faith. But that faith always leaves you with a question, what is your faith, constantly. [Unintelligible.]

1:19:37 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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