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Karma: Where Karma Originates
July 2, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Transcribed by Kikan Michael Howard
This transcript is still in rough draft form.
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I talked, in the first early morning zazen, I said, “to deport oneself in samadhi.” I have to correct this term: “to deport,” not “deport.” (Sounds like the same word.) That’s why, maybe I explained after that, “playing freely.” That is deport. Okay?
Today, I would like to explain what part of one’s life karma occupies. What part of one’s life does karma occupy. This is pretty difficult to explain, but anyway, let’s return to twelve chain causation, okay? (The Twelve-Linked Chain of Causation, also known as the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination)
Let me once more again; please remember:
First is ignorance, avidyā.
And saṃskāra: this is the first stage of movement, psychologically or physically. This is what you call saṃskāra: function, practice. Human practice and function. This is what is called saṃskāra.
Next, consciousness, and name and form. (#3 Vijñāna is consciousness; #4 Nāmarūpa is name-and-form.) This is all beings, all … exist, and we understand through the name and form. Is that okay? This is name and form; this is fourth.
Fifth, this is six consciousness, six senses. (Āyatana)
Next, sixth, is tangibility; touch. (Sparśa in Sanskrit, or phassa in Pali; more commonly, “contact.”)
Seventh is reception, or feeling. (Vedanā)
Eighth is craving. (Taṇhā in Pali)
Ninth is, what would you say, grasp. (Grasping: Upādāna; also “clinging” or “attachment”; literally, “fueling the fires”)
Tenth is existence. In Sanskrit we say, “Bhava”. Bhava means, in Sanskrit is, “being.” When you say being, that being consists of, already system of subject and object; this is picture of being. Do you understand? This is a being; we call being, or existence. If you use a term, ‘existence’ or ‘being’, it’s already something consisting of subject and object. In other words, dualism. This existence, or being. That’s why yesterday I told you, we are already seated at the table, in the relationship, subject and object. I am here; that’s why I can see that here is a table; that’s why I can see the table itself. So that means already existence. So table always is something existent. Something being. That means subject object dualism. That is tenth; I will explain this one too.
And the others (are) birth (Jāti), and last one is old age and death (Jarāmaraṇa).
And in this twelve chain causations, karma is the second one, saṃskāra, and also bhava (the tenth). Only two things. Tenth: bhava, existence, and being. And also saṃskāra. Just these two are karma. Remember this.
And also mumyo (Japanese word for avidyā or ignorance); first one, ignorance, and also craving and grasping: those three are klesha, in Sanskrit; delusion. Klesha means affliction. Because yesterday I told you the mumyo, ignorance, avidyā, is that which we are - what would you say - doomed - doomed means fated - (we are) doomed not to understand; not to understand what the truth is, as it is. We don’t understand, intellectually. We are all always there, but we don’t understand. We are doomed not to understand truth as it is. This is what is called “pain”; affliction. Is that clear? Do you understand? That’s why Buddha says life is characterized by suffering. This is really suffering. But we cannot stop it; because we are already there. So even though intellectually we don’t understand, still we feel, anyway. And also we want to know. That’s what we want to know, but we cannot understand. That’s why that is affliction. Suffering. This is a basic, basic nature of human being. That’s why first avidyā, ignorance.
And avidyā, ignorance; and craving, grasp; this is called klesha, delusion. And also consciousness, name and form, six consciousnesses, tangibility, and also reception, birth, old age and death; those are called suffering. Karma result; karma-vipāka (action and result). Karma-vipāka means your body and mind. You have now. For instance, name and form is your body. Body and mind, six consciousnesses, six objects, whatever you say, anyway, name and form - this is our body. And also six consciousnesses. And also if you have six consciousnesses, anyway, if you have six organs, immediately you have to face object, six objects. So always six organs face six objects. This is kind of a contact. Without contact…
[There is loud airplane noise.]
So… consciousness, name and form, six consciousnesses, contact, and then react(?); action, receive. So you can receive this … through contact…
[Lots of airplane noise.]
That is reception, and, that reception, when you receive something, and then you can create your own world. That is a person.
And also, next is, you are born in this world, anyway, next, old age and death. This is what is called karmic result. Alright?
So, remember, this is karmic life, karmic result. Is that okay, is that clear? Remember this, otherwise you don’t understand.
So, first what I wanted to explain today is, relationship between… ignorance, and saṃskāra, and consciousness, and also ten: bhava, being. So, let’s remind you that karma is saṃskāra and being. And also, saṃskāra as karma is already produced by avidyā, ignorance. This is the first stage of human action; moved by, encouraged by what? Pure sense of action? No, that is ignorance. Ignorance. We don’t know. We don’t know exactly what the truth is, where you are. You don’t know the real truth … of existence, you don’t. But you want to be… that’s why you want to know, so finally it’s called klesha, avidyā … we have affliction. So this saṃskāra, first stage of human action, is produced by this, avidyā. Remember this.
But in this case. Then next, consciousness there. But consciousness is produced by first stage of human action, encouraged by avidyā, ignorance. And then this consciousness enter into the present … world. You can get into it. You can get it into the gate of the present life. Name and form, six consciousnesses, et cetera. You can get in. That’s why consciousness is, in a sense, pretty important. Consciousness means including will, volition, or all mental / psychological functions. This is consciousness. So, when… Dogen Zenji says, right before you die, even though right before you die, that moment, right before you die, you chant the Triple Treasure, and you can take a vow to be reborn as a human being in the next life, to help all sentient beings. You can. Because, this is consciousness. Consciousness is really powerful. Why consciousness is very powerful? Because consciousness is created by first stage of human action. You don’t know why you do this, you don’t know exactly. But you act, already. You act, already. By what? This is ignorance. Ignorance means, anyway you are there, but you don’t know. You don’t know. But as long as you are there, you want to know. So finally, you move. Very naturally, you move. This is first stage of human movement.
So, first stage of human movement is, according to my term, this is really volition. No, not volition… vitality. In a good sense, this is really vitality. Don’t you think so? That’s vitality. But in a sense you don’t know, you don’t know what the truth is, you cannot understand; that’s why you suffer. You are afflicted with human life; that is basic nature of human being. But in a sense, … attached to this ignorance, we are moving anyway. Moving, acting and creating consciousness; and by the consciousness we can get in human world.
So from this point, ignorance is really dumb. [Hesitant laughter.] For in a sense, attached to dumbness, we can get into human world. Don’t you think so? That is what is called… well, according to me, this is really vitality. Really vitality in human life. Don’t you think so? If you don’t, if you really always understand the truth and you are always there, well you cannot get the vitality, because you are always in heaven. … No suffering. You always there in the heaven. You know heaven, heaven is really paradise. No suffering. Completely no suffering. Because if you want, if even for a moment if you think, “I want,” immediately something happens. So, everything you want is given to you. So, it’s not necessary to suffer. That is heaven: paradise. But everybody wants to go there. That’s why we struggle for human life. But apparently, if you go to paradise, you’re really boring. [Laughter.] It’s not where human beings should be! So, you’re lucky, anyway, to suffer. [Scattered laughter and sighs.] Because suffering is really vitality; creating human vitality to live. Even though you don’t like it, it is true, according to these twelve causations. Don’t you think so?
First, ignorance: from where it comes? We don’t know. From where you come? You were born from your mothers. Why did you choose, why did you choose your mothers? We don’t know. When you are conscious of where you are, it’s too late. [Laughter.] You are already (in the) mother’s womb. And already if you are conscious of where you are, you’re already in the mother’s womb, and you are already moving. Don’t you think so? So from where you come? No choice. Completely no choice. You don’t know from where you come, but you are there, and you are moving already. And then that basic first stage of human movement anyway creates human consciousness. And consciousness anyway leads you to getting to the human world. That is name, form, six consciousnesses, and contact, and reception, and craving, and grasp; and then this is really something that makes your life possible to exist. That is what is called birth. And then, next, we have to go to old age and death. But from this point, I think you can understand karma. What is karma, coming from the first stage of movement, which is called saṃskāra. And then this saṃskāra movement is already … see something, understand something, hear something. Anyway … in the realm of world-system, that’s called dualism. Subject-object. That is called existence.
So karma is - what? Karma is really basic nature of human action. But this karma is always acting toward subject and object. That means already karma always set up a certain fixed idea: subject, object. Karma already set up something.
So karma is very difficult to understand. Where table is and where Katagiri is. (Where) see-er is, where the seen is. Karma cannot understand the basic nature of existence in which make it possible for table and I to exist. Karma doesn’t know. Karma always act in the realm of world-system, dualism. Recall, karma is produced by ignorance. That’s why karma consists of the two, saṃskāra and existence. Do you remember? Saṃskāra and existence; that is the only two things karma. So this karma is really, what should I say… karma really occupies very basic portion of human life. You can get the description, describing who you are. What human being. In other words, karma is full, what would you say, description of your life, or one’s life. Or, karma is really source of one’s life. So, everyone is in the realm of… Everyone is on the basis of karma.
There is… So, do you understand? What I want to tell you is, what portion of one’s life karma occupies. So, karma occupies the very original nature, very basic portion of one’s life. In other words, that is the source. That is something you can depend on; one’s life depends on. That is karma.
Here, in the Buddhist scriptures it explains in a different way, like this; very interesting point. I don’t know how I can say, how I can translate, but: The scripture explains, karma is… We have karma, but karma is sort of like this; karma is once-around. In Sanskrit we say karmavaca(?). Karmavaca(?) means having one’s own actions as one’s property. This is, we have karma as what is called one’s own property. That property is a place where you live in; so that’s very basic.
And next, it says karma is karmadāyāda (see https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/karmadayada) - dāyāda means inheritance of action. Inheritance of action means karma has been lasting since beginning past; it’s going on. And also you are inheritor, successor, of karma. This is what is called karmadāyāda; it means inheritance of an action.
Next it says, karma is karmayoni. karmayoni means source of an action. Action means karma. Generally speaking, karma is understood as general action, including physical action, including even the psychological action. That is the karma. That’s why it’s the source of action. And next, so, the karma is really occupying in the source, occupying in the source of human action. That is very basic action, basic nature of action.
And karma is karmabandhu(?); karmabandhu means friend of action. Karma is really your friend. So you cannot keep away from it. It is always with you; like a friend, or relative, or parents. This is karma.
And also karma is karmapratisarana. Karmapratisarana means that which one’s life depends on; a place which one’s life depends on. This is karmapratisarana.
Well, maybe you can envision the place where karma exists. Another explanation in the buddhist scripture says, karma is just like a garden. Karma is garden; consciousness is just like a seed. Thirsty means feeling very basic nature of human desire. Human desire is always there, always there. You want to know; to know something, to hear something, to see something; this is ego. But why do you do in that way? Because this is ignorance. Basic nature of human beings is really ignorance. We cannot know but we want to know; that’s why we always move. We don’t know why we move in that way, but, we move. This is ignorance.
So, very naturally, the seed… no, consciousness is seed. And also the thirsty feeling of desire is moisture. That’s very good expression. So let’s imagine: garden, seed, and water, moisture.
So from this point, karma is a field, or garden, and also consciousness is a seed. That means there is a relation between karma and consciousness. Karma is a garden; it’s big, which makes it possible for seed to grow. … That’s why in the twelve chain causation, ignorance, saṃskāra, consciousness. From where consciousness comes? What is the place where consciousness occupies? That is really karma. Consciousness always in the realm of karma. Karma is constant moving. You don’t know why you move in that way; you cannot pin down. Always constant moving. This is saṃskāra. Then, in this saṃskāra, what’s called yard, garden, there is consciousness. Consciousness growing there; if consciousness is not there, consciousness doesn’t grow. That is, I explained, the consciousness (is) really powerful, which it makes you perform, to get into human world. Do you remember? That’s why this consciousness is very important. If you take a vow, for instance, consciously if you take a vow “I will be reborn as a human being next life, for helping all sentient beings” - you can. You can get in. Don’t you think so? Yes it is.
One of the famous Zen Masters, the abbot of a monastery, who died at 96 years old, he was very wonderful person, Zen teacher. At that time, three famous Zen teachers died in the same month. The first person died, at that time, the other person went to a monastery to perform the funeral service. And then he came back to Tokyo, and he died. It’s very strange thing that happened at that time; that is is almost three years ago. But this person is walking the hallway with his attendants, on the way to perform the funeral service for abbot of a monastery. At that time he said, “Next life, I will be reborn as a human being again, to help all sentient beings.” And he smiled … “Do you think so?” He smiled. And then he came back, he returned to Tokyo and he died. That’s why consciousness is very important in the system of twelve chain causation. By consciousness, you can get into human world. So human world is not only this life, and next life, and also life after next life. Life is continuous. So from this point, if you take a vow, “I will be reborn,” you can get in. That’s why consciousness is very important. And then, if consciousness is really growing in the garden, that garden is constant movement. From where it comes, it’s really vitality, what’s called avidyā - ignorance. We don’t know where we are, but we want to know. That’s why, anyway, “Let’s go, let’s go.” We do always, don’t you think so? This is human life. So myo is ignorance, it’s really vitality.
That’s why karma is yard, garden, and consciousness is seed. And the first desire, the thirsty feeling of desire is water. That is grasping, craving, according to twelve chain causation; always there. By what? By reception, contact. You can’t ignore, if you contact. Always contact. This is inevitable situation. You have to contact, receive, and then next you can get feeling, and multiple psychological functions come up. So very naturally, we can repeat life and death, constant. This is meaning of teaching of the twelve chain causation. That’s very interesting.
Let me say, simply, what I have taught today, what I want to tell you is, karma is great source of one’s life. That’s why you cannot understand. If you try to understand karma intellectually, Buddhist scripture says, you become crazy and confused. How do you know this? How do you know this? This is only one way, this is meditation, zazen. Handed down from generation to generation. Turning back; return to source, return to home. And sit there. But we don’t know exactly … why we have to do this.
In daily life, we don’t… the consciousness… we don’t know, we don’t have enough space to look at our selves and look at source of our lives, always, because consciousness is always going out. Naturally, very difficult. But while you are going out, there are lots of things you are interested in. That’s why you feel joyful. But actually it’s not. That joy comes not from you, from others. Because your consciousness always going out. And then you feel joyful, but that joy coming not from you, from others. So strictly speaking there is no sense of subjectivity, which is called Katagiri. That is human being. Because Katagiri is sort of a person dragged away constantly by something else, always. So that’s why we don’t have any space to look at who I am, who you are, and where you are anyway. But, if you come back, return to you and sit in, at that time exactly you can be there.
But problem is, maybe you think, return to home is pretty easy. I don’t think it’s pretty easy. If you return home, maybe you will complain for months. Because if you return you, return home - completely nothing. Nothing. That’s why you complain, grumble at such a situation. And then finally, what you are doing, when you come back home, you are always thinking. You are checking out the thoughts, and you are roaming around. According to Buddhism.
First stage of Zen… There are four stages of Zen… In the first stage of Zen, all unwholesome dharma - unwholesome dharma means unwholesome things, including physical and mental, or whatever it is - if you get into zazen meditation, in the first stage of zazen, you can experience no unwholesome thing. Because you don’t bring up; it’s really true, if you sit down like this. Maybe you cannot do anything, because your legs are cross-legged, crossing each other; your hands are like, you cannot hit somebody; and also your mouth is closed, you cannot talk; and your eyes are cast on the floor, so you can’t see anybody, facing wall. And also your thinking is coming and sitting in zazen. So all things come back to zazen; nothing you can do. You cannot do.
But you think still, “I am a bad boy.” But that is already imagination, so you can think. Imagination is imagination. Imagination is completely, if you don’t know (remember?) anything, imagination disappears. So notice, so notice. You cannot put a label on that imagination. If you like you can chase after, but all you have to do is just to exhaust, that’s all. So, in zazen you should return to you; all unwholesome things stop. This is …
And then, next, there are three important things still left. That is, which is called vitarka in Sanskrit; vitarka and also vicāra. Vitarka means thought. Thought consists in set the human consciousness to object. This is thought. In other words, we are all thinking something. I see this; table sees all that there is. So, the thought consists in setting human consciousness to one subject. This is thought. That is which is called vitarka. So in other words, in zazen, still you attach to the object. Well, I told you later. And also vitarka means discursive thinking. You can realize this, don’t you think so? Your thinking is going, on and on, in zazen.
Well, if you sit down, completely nothing to do, nothing to do for you; but you can do many things. What (do) you do? Chasing all the thoughts, or roaming around thinking. But thinking and thoughts are completely something you do in dualistic world, and also problem is, they are all imagination, just imagination. Don’t you think so? What do you think? All imagination. So, in zazen, you’re really playing with imagination… But finally, nothing to do. Because you realize how stupid you are, if you are chasing after plane (there is the loud sound of a plane in background) with thoughts, imagination, how stupid you are. Finally you think: how stupid zazen is. [Laughter.] It’s not thought of zazen, you thought, don’t you think so? You thought it; because you are chasing after thought, imagination. And then finally you criticize zazen; how stupid zazen. I don’t think so; you are stupid. [Laughter.] Don’t you think so? … [unintelligible] [Laughter.]
Well, if you return home exactly, you can experience, because this is what Buddha says, Buddhist scripture says. That is the first experience, first stage of zazen, okay? First believe… Not believe, not necessary; if you don’t believe, that’s okay…
You start to poke ahead into that joy. Because you don’t know, you don’t know, but you feel something. So you start to poke your head into joy. That is pīti in Sanskrit (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pīti); joyful interest (or intellect?). But joyful interest is still your six consciousness always walking; that’s why you start to poke your head into joyful interest. But happiness is not next, still you can experience happiness. Happiness is completely… Happiness means samādhi, being one with zazen. That is what is called happiness, in Buddhism.
At the first stage you can experience five consciousness there. One is vitarka, and vicāra, and also pīti - pīti means joyful interest - and happiness (sukha), and also samādhi. Five consciousnesses. You can experience five things psychologically. And also, basically, at the first stage of zazen, all unwholesome things drop off. That’s great! That’s great. And then finally, nothing, nothing. This is zazen. And then at the second stage of zazen, you realize… actually at the first stage of zazen, you realize how stupid you are, because always chasing after thinking, and because, why you feel so, because you completely exhaust, chasing. If you sit seven day, you really understand this. The first day, second day you really struggle, trying to make your mind calm. Third day, fourth day, well, you start to get tired, really get tired. Fourth, fifth, you start to give up this chasing after thoughts, because you start to realize how stupid I am. Because you exhaust. Finally sixth, seventh, all thoughts, you completely give up. That’s pretty nice. And finally, even though you are completely beyond you try or not try, you can do zazen. Just sit down. Just sit down.
So, at first stage, you really understand how stupid you are. And at the second stage of zazen, then, vitarka and vicāra drop off. And then you can experience joyful interest (intellect?). Still your consciousness start working, still working, poking your head into, “what is this joyful interest? What is that? This is enlightenment? Maybe so.” [He laughs.] You are still asking to yourself, “This is enlightenment? Wonderful.” So, joyful interest always there. And also simultaneously, you don’t know what the truth is, but you little touch it, you touch it a little bit. That’s why you feel happy. You can experience happiness. You don’t know exactly. Even though consciously you really hate zazen, you really hate pain, et cetera, but still you feel happy. Then at the third stage, gradually your interest in zazen is rolling, you know, snowballing. So you try to poke your head into joyful interest, what the truth is. Finally, in the realm of joyful interest, still your consciousness work, but finally, six consciousnesses also drop off. Very naturally. All you have to do is just sit down. And then, there is a smile, little smile. Then exactly, you can be one with zazen.
So, no joyful interest, then just happiness there. Just happiness means exactly samadhi itself. Samadhi is oneness. And then actual fourth stage of zazen: completely there is no happiness, because there is no space to touch the happiness. If you touch the happiness, it means you see the happiness here, and you are here. Then this person looks at this happiness. At that time, this happiness is not real happiness. That is image of happiness; don’t you think so? That’s where you touch it, just like this. And then you enjoy very much; but at that time, while you are touching this happiness, that means that your six consciousnesses still poking your head into this. That’s not happiness; that is joyful interest.
So if you see happiness after the first stage of zazen… completely, after the (fourth) stage of zazen, no happiness, no trace of happiness. Just one. At that time, you don’t know. This is what is called enlightenment. But enlightenment, most people think enlightenment is still sort of dregs; trace left behind your experience. That means already always touching, top of the enlightenment, but this is just the image of enlightenment. Real enlightenment is no trace. That is zazen. And then, when you’re really one, when you really return home like this, exactly you be one. In the realm of (the) source, what is called karma. And then, you can see karma, what karma is. It’s real. You can touch it.
And this karma is really basic nature of your life. This is not only particular person, this is all human beings; just exist. So you cannot understand karma through literature, or through your experience in daily life, or through philosophical understanding, through metaphysical, or through sight. Whatever you do, nothing. It makes you crazy. All you have to do is, just sit in meditation, zazen. That’s all. [Pause.] I’m sorry for you, anyway. [A few laughs from those sitting close by.] And then you blame; it’s ridiculous because, you say Katagiri says in zazen there is nothing, but it’s there! What? It’s pain. But even the pain; pain is not something (that is?) here. Because you believe pain, you say it’s real, but I don’t think so. If you think the pain is real, that pain is here – [presumably pointing to his head] – in head. That is image of pain. Whatever you think, pain doesn’t care. So pain is what? Pain happens, occurs under certain circumstances. Means, when you sit down like this, pain comes up: “Hello, Katagiri. What are you doing?” “You are (I am) doing zazen.” “Oh. You are dead person?” “No.” “Why?” “Because, why not.” “Why?” “Because I am alive.” “Oh, okay, I will give you pain.” [Laughter.] This won’t go away. And then when you stand up from zazen, from your seat, well, pain goes away. But you say the pain is here, it’s real! That is an image of your pain. Don’t you think so? It’s an image. And then you play with image of pain; finally you act. Psychological, mental, anyway suffering, to pain itself. But pain doesn’t care. This pain, it really doesn’t care. If you add something to this, it’s huge; becomes monster. Finally: “I hate zazen.” So you quit. Very naturally, you quit. But, it’s not zazen. Completely nothing there. That’s why you feel boredom. It’s really boring. And then you say, “Boring. Boredom is really something real.” But it is not boring; boring doesn’t care also. Under certain circumstances, boredom comes up. Because you have done, you have been beating(?) with taking care of your mind, going out in your daily life. Thats when you return to your mind, you feel boredom, because nothing to deal with, something else, an object. All you have to do is take care of your mind. So, mind takes care of the mind. You’re boring. That’s it.
So you really hate. But this mind, this zazen, boredom is… Some would say main purpose of zazen is to feel the boredom, to research boredom. [He laughs.] I don’t think so. If you feel the boredom, and analyze, criticize the boredom, that is really you are chasing after image of the boredom. Boredom is, boredom comes from where? Boredom comes from your discursive thinking, that’s all. And then… Anyway, if I give you a certain sweet candy, boredom is gone. If I don’t, you really feel boredom. That’s all. So what is boring? Boring means, “Bye-bye.” When you’re done, well, boredom come up (?). This is zazen, really zazen.
Finally, complete nothing. But if there is nothing, all you have to do is come back home and sit. Just sit down. With form. It’s gone. That is what is called experience. Experience through zazen. … see yourself. Finally, all … completely nothing. All you have to do is just sit down… And then, this is pretty good way to know, to get taste of what karma is.
So, today, two points, what I taught. One point is, the location of the karma is really in source of one’s life. That karma in the source of, in the ground of, really the fundamental ground of one’s life, is not something you try to understand intellectually. No way. Nothing else to understand. All you have to do is, finally, return home, just sitting. This is zazen. Only through zazen, you really cross that they have access to what karma is, what human nature is. And then if you continue to do zazen like this, you really understand the total picture of karma.
I would like to continue still; we have to have three or four questions; I would teach more, but. Today, please remember these two points. Karma is source of human life. Description of one’s existence. And also, there is no other way, just sit. There is no other way but just to sit. This is just a way to know what karma is.
Do you have questions?
Person 1: So what you suggest when you get pain is to - and I’ve experienced that if I try to fight it, it gets worse, and if I get into it, then I can stay with it, but then all of a sudden inside my mind, all of a sudden, that’s it, and then I have to move with it. So, does it get better with sitting?
Katagiri: Mmm, well, if you continue to sit, mmm, pain, you can be free from pain. So, getting better, you can get better. But, don’t worry too much, okay? Anyway, pain is also your friend. Because pain is coming from thought. Whatever you do, always pain. But not only zazen; if you want to be a sports man, a football player - always pain there. Even though you become a janitor, there’s always pain there. So, not only zazen.
Person 1: I have a sensation, like, I can see my feet turning blue. Is there a danger to this? Am I sitting wrong, or what?
Katagiri: Well. No, no; it’s pretty much.
Person 1: I mean, they do come back to life eventually.
Katagiri: Yeah, but be careful, okay? Be careful sometimes, because if your feet get numb, sometimes after standing, usually numbness goes away. But if numbness is staying with your feet for long, you must be careful. Sometimes, such a thing can happen. But usually, when you stand up, the numbness gone, no problem. It’s very natural, because if you cross legs, circulation stops. The circulation stops, it’s very good for you. Next moment, after that, after stopping the circulation a while, circulation goes well. Just like day and night. You cannot always stay in the day time. If you want to get the vitality of the daytime, anyway you should sleep. So, stop the circulation for a while. That’s good.
Person 2: Roshi, is it good to also work at strengthening your muscles? To do some other kinds of exercise, or running, so that your body would be strong, and it’s not going to eliminate the pain.
Katagiri: Strength? Oh, yes. Yes. Flexible.
Person 2: To be more flexible?
Katagiri: Yes, that’s pretty much. In many ways we try to fit to zazen posture. If you want to do zazen, zazen never comes up to you; you cannot wait for zazen to come up to you. If you want to do zazen, you should go to zazen. Do you understand? For this, anyway, physically we should understand understand our human body and mind, and try to fit to zazen. For this, we have to exercise.
Person 3: I was concerned because the conditioning expert who came and taught us some exercises and some stretches said that our knees shouldn’t bend that way, they should just bend this way. Just this way, and not this way.
Katagiri: What is the question?
Person 3: Well I felt concerned about that, because she felt it was not good for our knees to sit in posture.
Katagiri: Oh. Do you think so?
Person 3: I don’t know. There’s a rumor going around that it’s not.
Katagiri: I don’t know, biologically speaking. Maybe so, but there is no worry. You cannot do always something good, perfectly, okay? That is your diet, or whatever you do. Even though you live here, do you take in the completely fresh air? Pure air? Actually intellectually, we want. But look at this room! It’s really dirty, dusty. We cannot see this room’s air; but if morning sun comes in, you can see lots of dust, don’t you think so? We always take a breath in such a situation. But we’re alright. But I don’t think, I don’t want to recommend you to get dirty air. I don’t think so. But I don’t recommend you to take always pure air. Anyway, sometimes, dirty. [Laughter.] But I don’t mean to break your legs. [Laughter.] So listen to that situation, okay? You know, assess (accept?). For instance, people will have problem with low back; all chiropractors say, “Don’t sit; sitting make you worse.” But, we’re sitting. Intellectually it’s not good, because if your spine is wrong, sort of like this, then… pressure. You know, wrong. So it’s not good, but even though you sit, or even though you stand up, it’s always pressure. Better way is, you should lie down, that’s better. But you cannot lie down all day; you have walk and you have to go someplace. If you stand up, immediately pressure comes. Do you understand? So why is it all chiropractors refuse sitting? Only see, if chiropractors refuse sitting, they should refuse standing or walking too; just lie down. Don’t you think so?
So it’s not reasonable for me; but I don’t want to… I don’t tell anybody, “Please sit down, do zazen.” So I always say, please follow the chiropractor’s advice. But they still continue to sit. So maybe it’s true, but I don’t know. But I don’t have any problem.
Person 4: I’m trying to understand something from two different - I think it’s the same thing, from two different angles. The one is, you said that consciousness comes from ignorance. Or did that, am I understanding that? And also karma?
Katagiri: Related, yes. Consciousness acts. Attribute of ignorance. Action of consciousness is based on saṃskāra. Do you understand? Saṃskāra means basic first thing; some action. So, the action of consciousness is based on saṃskāra. And then, consciousness acts. Acts means… Consciousness acts with attribute of ignorance.
Person 4: So they’re related, but karma is the source of consciousness.
Katagiri: Yes, related. So that’s why karma creates consciousness.
Person 4: That’s why?
Katagiri: Yes, that’s why. Consciousness is produced by saṃskāra. Because this is original nature of … consciousness is action. Or you can say, from a different angle, consciousness creates saṃskāra too.
Person 4: Okay. Then how is saṃskāra related to karma? How are they related?
Katagiri: Karma is exactly saṃskāra itself. Karma is saṃskāra and also existence, Bhava (is karma). This is karma.
Person 4: Then the other thing I was wondering is from then, being related to ignorance, is that how karma, not understanding dualistic nature? Well maybe this is … too…
Katagiri: Karma is action, already action.
Person 4: Is there a relation to ignorance? Our thoughts come and are trying to grasp…
Katagiri: Because we don’t know where we are. We are here; but we don’t know where we are. Very naturally we want to know. Do you understand?
For instance, if you’re this room, you are here. Even though your consciousness doesn’t work, if you are here, you can feel something. You contact always. So very naturally, information comes from this room. Information, senses are… No, this room sends information to consciousness constantly, that’s why even though you try to ignore, you can know. You want to know. You are curious of where we are. But actually we can’t know what it is, exactly what it is. That’s why the more we try to know what it is, the truth, we cannot know. But we are there. And then… The truth give a lot of information to us. That’s what we cannot ignore, but we cannot know. That is a struggle. This is the basic situation. So, very naturally, there is no particular guarantee how to know what to do. But, all we have to do is just act. This is saṃskāra. Is that okay?
Person 4: Yeah.
Katagiri: Well this is, through reality you can know. So for instance, you want to do zazen, intellectually, so you decide, “Yes, I would like to do zazen.” So you do. But when you sit down and do zazen, immediately you are skeptical. “Should I do? Practice stupid zazen forever? It’s ridiculous.” So immediately you think, “No, I want to do something better.” So immediately you try to go some other place. And then you move, but still, it is not exactly right, you have to depend on. Finally you say, “Is this right? Should I stay here always?” No. I don’t. So finally going that way, that way. So basically we are really driven by the stress of alternatives. Uneasy conditions, unstable conditions. Do you understand? This is what is called ignorance. But, we have to do. We have to say something, we have to do something. But, how dangerous, how unstable it is? We don’t know, we don’t know. That is delusion, what is called delusion. If you don’t now how uneasy, how unstable situation we are, that is what is called the foolish, ordinary people. If you realize it, you are wise man.
Is that okay?
Person 5: Hojo-san, is my… My understanding is that my karma already is in motion. And I don’t know what it is, but there is a place where it exists. So that I’m obviously trying to find out my way - whether it will be through more zazen, or through less, or this way, or this way. And there’s… It sounds like there’s no guidance, other than my making that choice, I will go here or here. But that’s already determined somewhere. It feels like I’m choosing, I can do this or this. But what you’re saying is, in one sense it’s not my choice.
Katagiri: No it’s not, yeah, but finally whatever you say, “not my choice,” “not your choice,” or “someone gives a choice” - whatever you say, that is the state of your life. Anger, and easy, and state of conditions. Whatever you say, there is not exactly something clear you can pin down. But under certain situations, conditions, you have to make a choice; this is reality, total picture of reality: you are there. So that’s why it’s very unstable, unstable field. But all you have to do is, do our best, to make a choice. Let’s do it. That’s all we have to do.
Person 5: But aren’t you saying that some choices would be better than others, like a choice to be more disciplined in our practice would be a better choice?
Katagiri: Sure. Better choice. But I don’t know, better choice… what is a better choice? Better choice is, the conflict of the better … you create. So for instance, “Zen is better than some other religion,” whatever you say. What is Zen? What is “better”? So you come to Zen and then sit: “It’s not better, because you have to feel all this pain, it’s not better.” Very naturally, conflict of the better is always change.
In Japan, Zen is… appears different. United States, Zen appears in a different way. So what is better? But, all you have to do… That is the real situation, total picture of your reality. But anyway, we have to make a choice of better or worse. Do you understand? Better or worse? But, you cannot completely depend on this better when you have made a choice. So, leave it alone. Just a choice.
Okay? Do you understand?
end of recording
Next: Not Yet Transcribed: 1980 Part 2