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This transcript is in rough draft stage.

Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org

0:00 start of recording

This morning I would like to talk about the karma which is one’s individual karma and simultaneously is not individual, is completely beyond our individual control. This is also karma. Within karma we can realize a very contradictory situation. Karma is always within individual life: there is no other way that we [can] take responsibility for our actions, for our individual life. On the other hand, karma is completely beyond individual control. Regardless of whether you like or dislike it, regardless of whether you control or not, regardless of [whether] it is something created by somebody else, or whatever it is, anyway, it is completely beyond your control. But as long as it is within you, that is something we have to take responsibility for. So that is very contradictory!

That is also an important point: we have to understand karma, and how we should be free from karmas. It takes time. It really takes time. But if you study Buddhism, you understand [this] very well. And because in Buddhism we have a certain stages of Zen dhyāna, meditation: yesterday I told you four stages of meditation. This is really Zen meditation, which everyone can experience in the realm of form, the world. I don’t know how to explain this. [He laughs]. I’ll go a different way. [Laughter.]

3:12

Yesterday I told you, karma is, according to Twelve Chain Causation, karma is samskara and also bhava. Samskara is the first stage of human movement. And the other one is bhava: existence. Existence is the present situation: what you are, or what the table is, what consciousness is. Whatever it is, that is existence. Something existent is alive in the dualistic world. That is what is called existence, being.

I told you yesterday, the quality of karma under samskara is avidyā: ignorance. Ignorance is a state that one is doomed not to know the truth as it is, exactly – although one is always present in it. We are constantly present in the truth, but we are doomed not to know it [exactly]. This is what is called avidyā: affliction, pain. It’s very painful, don’t you think so? You are doing zazen, but you don’t know what zazen is. If you cannot pin down what zazen is, it’s pretty painful, isn’t it?

If I say, “I am Katagiri”: I know who I am, but how much do I know? Just a speck of dust. Or, “I have lived almost 52 years”… or not almost; exactly. [Laughter.] So, 52 years, that is my life. If I say that is my life, already it seems that I know what life is. But how much can I know? It’s life, you know? I don’t know. But then, I am already right in the middle of that life, even though I don’t know. That is really pain, don’t you think so?

That is really the basic nature of human life, which is called avidyā. Avidyā is not karma, but it is a quality of the karma. In other words, [it supports] karma, [preserves] karma. So it’s really pain, affliction. It’s not karma; in Sanskrit avidyā is klesha. Klesha is not exactly ignorance, but we say klesha is a pain or affliction. [Avidyā is klesha.] So [avidyā is] the very basic nature of pain, or affliction, or suffering. That’s why Buddha says life is characterized by suffering. We are right in the middle of the truth, but we don’t know. We are really doomed not to know. We don’t try to ignore it; we want to know. But we don’t know; we are “doomed”. That is really avidyā.

So the quality of karma is ignorance. When you talk about karma as samskara, remember this point.

8:38

And also, karma as bhava (existence). Karma becomes the mainstream of one’s present world because karma as samskara is the first movement. What movement? It’s based on affliction, pain. We are there; this is the very first movement of human beings. And then, this movement is really the driving force of leading human beings to enter the human world, the dualistic world. That is consciousness, name and form, six consciousnesses, contact, feeling, craving, and grasping, and then existence. So, exactly this karma as samskara is really the mainspring of leading you to enter into the human world: that is which is called existence, karma as existence.

So from this point, you know pretty well, karma as existence is what? Already pain, affliction. We don’t know what the truth is, but we want to know, but we cannot know. So finally, we don’t know what to do, but that is already first movement. That’s why the quality of the first movement is affliction. And then, already this affliction, this movement, guides you in how to create the human world. That is consciousness.

From this point, karma is exactly within us, and simultaneously, not ours. It means that we are completely powerless before karma.

If I say so, you really think karma is sort of an avocado seed. But, it’s not an avocado seed. If you understand karma as an avocado seed, that karma is already starting to be systemized with your consciousness. But karma is not an avocado seed. No matter how long you peel banana trees, you cannot find anything which is called “karma”. No how matter how long you peel off your skin, take out the bones, and pick into the marrow, you cannot find anything at all. You cannot find something that is called karma.

Karma is really the source of individual life, but that is not inside, that is not outside. How can I know? Is this the whole body, pretty much? That’s why according to Twelvefold Causation, it’s really connected with consciousness, name and form, six consciousnesses, contact, feeling, craving, grasping, existence. That means karma is directly, closely related to the human body, the human world. But strictly speaking, karma is the basis of human life, but we don’t know how to know [it]. So that is really the human body: through this human body and mind, we have to know what karma is, what the basis of human existence is. There is really no other, better way than just to meditate, do zazen. And then you can understand this.

15:00

There is one question. According to Buddhist psychology, karma is divided into two: one is manifested karma, the second is unmanifested karma. Why is it that we have to emphasize unmanifested karma?

[We have to emphasize unmanifested karma] because karma is already with us and occupying the basis of human existence. And also, this karma is sort of our property, I told you yesterday. And also it is a kind of successor: this is something you have, consciously or not, carried on from beginningless past; your inheritance. Yesterday I told you: inheritance, and also a place where a person depends on. So from this point, karma is coming from beginningless past. How does it last up to this present life? Very naturally, we have to understand unmanifested karma because manifested karma is something which appears in the moment and disappears in the next moment. Of course, human action is just do it, and next moment, it’s gone. If you really attach to only this human action which appears on the surface, then we don’t understand human beings. Because even though the human action disappears right now, in the next moment, still you have sort of a smell of the action you have done. Do you understand?

For instance, if you smoke a cigarette, even though you know pretty well that smoking cigarettes in not good. Well, I experienced smoking cigarettes since I was eighteen years old. I didn’t want to smoke on purpose. But the motivation was pretty good for me, because the motive was to help my father, because my father didn’t see clearly in candlelight or a lighter’s light […] that’s why I always helped him to smoke a cigarette. So I lit the cigarette, and, one puff. That is a pretty good puff, you know? The first puff is very good. [He laughs.] The second puff is already nicotine there. The first puff is very good, so I took one puff and gave it to him. I was sick, very often. Every time when I got sick, I decided, “I’ll never smoke.” So I really hated – not smoking, not me, I hated my father. “You [should] smoke by yourself.” But I couldn’t [leave] him, so I always helped. Finally, I was really a cigarette smoker, for many years.

Even though you know pretty well it’s not good, even though you smoke here, you know pretty well what smoking cigarettes is, so next moment, you want to stop. So next moment, you think, “I want to stop. I will stop.” But, still smoking there. Something compels you to smoke again. If you see the cigarette in front of you; or sometimes a friend says, “Hey, Katagiri, why don’t you smoke?” So I said, “No, I quit.” He says, “Hey, come on. Smoke. One puff!” Only one? Well, maybe okay. So you smoke. [Laughter.] Who did it? Who smoked? You did it? Or your will? Did your friend make you smoke? No. Finally, what you can say is, only when time is right, conditions are arranged, then you can smoke again. Don’t you think so? So time and occasion are all arranged and ripe, and then you can smoke. Do you understand? So time and occasion is really something else. No one creates this. Something happens, always something happens, and then you get into it. But you cannot smoke by your will, because your will is fed up with it: “No, I don’t smoke,” that is your determination. But, always there is something.

So if you do something, if you always understand the actions which appear on the surface, it’s not good enough. You don’t understand human life [that way], because this is the present life you are always taking care of. Still, there is something else, more than human action, manifested karma action: that is what is called unmanifested karma.

22:40

And also, one more reason is, if you don’t recognize unmanifested karmas, there is no sense of responsibility; because if there was no unmanifested karma, you would be just like a… For instance when I ask you, “Where are you going?” you just say, “I don’t know” – because you are always taking care of human actions which appear on the surface, from moment to moment. Because Zen says to “just be present,” “just take care of the moment.” So, “Where are you heading for?” “I don’t know.” Or, “After my feet,” et cetera. But this is really makes you [nervous]. If you don’t understand unmanifested karma, there is no sense of morality, or no sense of individual responsibility for your own actions. So, that’s why in Buddhism, unmanifested karma is very important, very important; even more than manifested karma!

This samskara is really unmanifested karma, because that’s why you act in the world. Why were you born in this world as an American? Do you know why? Of course you know: your parents were American. But I don’t know, it’s not an exactly perfect reason. Why am I Katagiri? I don’t know. If the reason is, my parents are Japanese, that is just a speck of dust. That’s just a little reason. But strictly speaking, I don’t know exactly. This the karma which is called samskara.

Yesterday I told you, when you were in the mothers womb, well, how can you choose your mother? No way. You’re already there! It’s too late. And then you were born in this world. So, how can you be in your mother’s womb? No reason. But, there is something real, a real fact, because you are in the mother’s womb. How do we know this? That is what is called karma, but this karma, you have done, from the beginningless past in that way, anyway; connected with maybe your parents, and grandparents – anyway, connected in the past. And then finally in the present, you are in the mother’s womb.

So that is what is called unmanifested karma. Piled up in your life, […] and then, here is something that happens.

27:09

But this unmanifested karma is not something “weak” or “strong”; it’s not [some kind of] “sin”. It’s not original sin; it’s not something originally weak, it’s not something originally strong. This unmanifested karma is characterized by what in Buddhism is called neutral nature. Perfectly neutral nature: nothing to put a certain label on. This unmanifested karma, which is called good or bad, right or wrong, is completely beyond the moral sense.

This is called neutral nature: we say, mufuku-muki. Mu is nothing; fuku means covered. Covered means covered with moral sense: good or bad, right or wrong – or neutral, this is also covered. So mufuku means “no covered”, completely nothing to cover. And also muki is neutral. This neutral sense is part of moral sense, but mufuku is completely “no cover”, so this neutral nature is pure sense of neutral nature of morality. That is unmanifested karma.

If it is true, if we have carried this unmanifested karma from the beginningless past, everybody has carried unmanifested karma from the beginningless past: that is which is called human being, that is what is called this table, et cetera. If it is true, why is it that we have different karma? You are different from me: you are American, I am Japanese. Why is it that we have to have a different type of karma? This is a big question.

That’s why this question is really closely related with the neutral nature of morality, which unmanifested karma has. And the perfect neutral nature of morality means you simply cannot put a certain moral label on that emergence of karma, good or bad or even neutral. But I don’t any word [for that], that’s why I used neutral nature. But completely nothing. In simple terms, you cannot put any label on it. This is unmanifested karma.

But how is it we create a different world? In Buddhism, we say interdependent co-origination. This is also a very important teaching for us. If you don’t understand this, well, pay careful attention to your reality, your life, every day; very naturally, you understand. What is existence? Existence is a form of being created by countless number of elements – not created by some particular person or being, or other beings. Anyway, in Buddhism, existence is that which is produced by countless number of elemental conditions.

I told you before about smoking cigarettes. You understand that. But the first question is, why is it I started to smoke? I don’t know. I have a reason: because I want to help my father. But this is my reason; I try to justify my life. [He chuckles.] Why do you smoke? Because I want to help my father. But this is nothing but justifying my life. But see more deeply: why? Well, [probably] I can say, maybe I have smoked from the beginningless past, because I have done it in that way for many, many years, and then, I stopped smoking. Maybe so.

For instance, why do you have breakfast? Why do you have to go to sleep? Do you know why? Of course, you can explain. But that explanation is just an intellectual explanation, biological, whatever it is. Strictly speaking, finally, [unintelligible]. Why? Well finally you can say, “Well, I have a custom of sleeping at night, for many, many years,” even though you say, “No, you should work at night.” Of course, maybe you can work at night. One of my friends always worked at night from eleven to seven, so he was very accustomed to waking up all night. But still he has a problem, because exhaustion means something happens, something more than daytime. If you sleep in the daytime – of course, you can sleep in the daytime, but that sleeping is not exactly the same as that at night. So, exhaustion is there; different feelings.

Anyway, that’s why finally we have a custom like this, we have a habit. We have had a habit in that way for many, many years. That’s why we have breakfast. We sleep at night. This is very natural. Finally, you can say so.

The question is, what is this custom that makes you sleep at night? This is unmanifested karma. We have done [it] for many, many years. And also, this karma, unmanifested karma, always is stored in your body and mind. It’s very “good boy.” [It is] nothing to interrupt your life, it’s always in your life as unmanifested karma. It doesn’t appear. If it doesn’t appear on the surface: well, no one knows, and you don’t know either. So it doesn’t bother [anyone]. That is what is called neutral nature; completely neutral.

38:30

But, sometimes [karma] happens, it comes up. So in other words, your body and mind is a big storage. You store lots of “goods”: good karmas, evil karmas, neutral karmas are stored there. And the “door” of storage is completely closed. No one knows how to open that door. Even gods, even divinity doesn’t know how to open it. Only one thing knows how to open that door: that is what is called time and occasion and conditions. When the time is right, conditions are arranged, the door immediately opens. And then, a bubble comes up.

That’s why you don’t know. For instance, smoking cigarettes. You know pretty well intellectually that you should stop it: “Yes, I know.” But you cannot stop, because you smoked. Again, why? Your will? No, not by your will. By one of the certain consciousnesses? No. Instinct? No. Your friends? No. Completely there is a very simple reason: there is a time, there is an occasion, there are conditions. And then, all are arranged and ripe. And then, you smoke.

And also, that time and occasion and conditions are really closely related with the karma you did in the past. You left something like an impression remaining behind your actions. That is called unmanifested karma. That is “storage”. And then it comes up.

That’s why very naturally, in our present life you can see different lifestyles, different types of human life. Broadly speaking, if you say karma, karma is with you, and also karma is completely beyond human control. At that time everyone is the same, all human beings are exactly the same. Everyone has the same karma: that is ignorance, avidyā. Affliction. And then we are doomed not to know exactly what the truth is. This is the very universal nature of the human world, which is called dualism, the dualistic world. But in the dualistic world, there are different types of human life; that is what is called individual karma. We have individual karma. How do we create this individual karma? Because you have done, for many, many years. And then, you have breakfast now. Why? Because we have had that custom for many, many years. And then, when the time and conditions are arranged exactly, you want to have breakfast. And then, this unmanifested karma is really stored individual life. If the door of the storage doesn’t open, you are exactly the same person as others. But when this door of the storage is open, it’s different.

Different types of individual life is really action, every day. For instance, even though I sit like this, and all of you sit in the same posture – but different! Don’t you think so? Or even though you gassho, even though you smile, that’s different. Your smile is different. How wide do you smile? When I went to a conference in Chicago, after the lecture at the [fraternity] one of the students asked me, “Why do you have your mouth just like this?” [Laughter.] Well, I didn’t notice that! So I just sit down like this. “Why do you have your mouth closed like that?” So I said, “Why were you born in this world as an American?” [Lot of laughter.]

This is unmanifested karma. When the unmanifested karma appears, it means, it is really your action, daily action. …

[Tape change.]

… always different type of human world.

That’s why we have to take responsibility for individual behaviors. Whatever it is – good or bad, right or wrong – we have to take responsibility. Just like, “Just do it.” Not like “no plan”. You cannot take care of human life with “no plan.” So you should take care of [it], because every day, you manifest yourself, which is called [who] you are, which is different from others. This is your daily actions. That is really something completely different from others; that’s why you have to take responsibility for your doings, whatever it is, good, or evil, or neutral.

Also, that different individual action comes from universal karma. Universal karma is that everyone exists in the dualistic world, analyzing, synthesizing, and always trying to understand intellectually. This is very common, what you call karma.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of karma. One is public karma. Public karma means universal karma; everyone has the same karma. So, even though you and I have the same karma, as a human being, what is called avidyā. This is karma. And then the other karma is individual karma. That is, you are American, I am Japanese. And also, you do something in different ways from me. That is individual karma.

Do you have questions?

48:30

Question: When you stopped smoking, did will figure into that as well as all the circumstances being right? Or could you always come back, at any time, if the time is right?

Katagiri: Well, you have to use your will very often. But the perfect situation, when time is right and conditions are arranged, is completely beyond your will. You can just be there – right on. At that time, very naturally you can stop. That is my case. But until this, you have to [defeat] again and again, using your will. “I want to stop it.” So you stop – for two days, three days, for a week, or sometimes two months, three months, et cetera. You start again, but you try to stop again. And then, finally I said, “How stupid I am,” so I stopped. [unintelligible], just smoke. But even though I decided in that way, smoking is very interesting to my body. So sooner or later. Still I continue to dos this, so I always think, “I should stop – someday.” That is my hope – always aiming at the hope.

So even though you smoke or whatever, under all circumstances, always, there is hope. If you always aim at the hope, when the time comes in your life, if conditions are arranged, you can [just let go]. That happened in San Francisco, Sokoji temple. That was a seven day sesshin [he laughs] – no smoking. Of course you can smoke outside, but, [I thought,] “Oh this is good chance, so let’s stop smoking.” So I just stopped smoking. No suffering. That is really time was ripe, conditions arranged – just right on. I didn’t worry if after that, maybe I couldn’t smoke again, or not. I didn’t think; just be right on. And after the sesshin, I didn’t feel anything at all. So no [suffering].

Question: When you say you have that hope, is it in your mind, like while you’re smoking you have the hope that you won’t smoke?

Katagiri: Well, […] not only the mind and the body, anyway. Mind, well you can think, hope. You can be mindful also [of] hope.

Same person: So you envision another…

Katagiri: Sure, you can say envision, you can say image[he laughs with people] – whatever it is.

52:15

Question: Roshi, what is the relationship of will to karma. The first day, you said something about karma being a place of freedom, in order to change your life.

Katagiri: Yes. That’s why Buddhism explains the original nature of human structures based on dependent co-origination. Meaning, everything is moving dynamically. Do you remember I gave you an example? Turn the coins on the bottom of the string? This is the original nature of human existence. This is nothing but movement, which is called energy. And then, if something is really moving, the movement energy, the function of the energy never is alone without leaving anything – always something is left behind. That is the closed circle. [That is] provisional being – which seems to be a solid being, but it’s not a solid being. Only when you take a picture with your consciousness, you believe that that is a solid being which is called circle. But it’s not really solid.

Karma is the same. Original nature, real karma is nothing but the movement. That is energy. That’s why I told you yesterday the quality of the karma is avidyā, ignorance. But this is nothing but the energy which leads you to get into the human world. So at that time, karma is just like vitality – life. So, it’s really good vitality, don’t you think so? It’s vitality! Without this, you cannot live in this world.

Well, according to the dualistic sense, your intellectual sense, you can think that. But what is vitality? Vitality is that day by day, you have to arrive. Arrive, whatever happens, under all circumstances. Anyway, we have to be alive, day by day. This is vitality.

You can do this, and also vitality is a form of the dualistic world, and also this is the nature of karma. So very naturally, what is real karma? Karma is [unintelligible]. Turning on, perfectly. Moving in all directions – not only [in a] circle, okay? It’s moving in all directions. If you see the original nature of karma like this, that is what is called freedom, if you really understand this.

That is the example. Even though you create your karma and carry it to the present, this is completely with you, and also this is completely beyond your control. But, that is understandable. That is a point. What karma is: karma is completely with you, yours, and also nothing to control. So, all you have to do is just totally accept your karma, and then get a taste of this karma. And then at that time, when you get a taste of this karma, very naturally you can see your life a little bit: turn a new leaf.

For instance, if I behave in a strange way, then you say, “You are strange.” But if I understand this, if I accept totally, I can say, “Yes.” Okay? If I say yes, it’s already turning a new leaf. But if I say, “No, I’m pretty usual,” at that time, I continue to behave in a funny way. Do you understand?

So, that is nothing but movement, vitality. If you understand this karma, completely no control, and also this is yours. But if you understand karma just like this, you fall into pessimism – or petulism – because you understand it intellectually. But this is not something you should understand intellectually. Your karma that you have carried for many many years is not a matter of understanding, but a matter of penetrating your skin, [bones,] and marrow. That means total acceptance. And then, at that time, you can turn a new leaf. That turning a new leaf is exactly connected with the teaching, which is called dynamism, or energy. Nothing but energy: many streams of creating vitality.

58:55

Question: Hojo-san? You know the will is ego against karma. Do you think it’s still necessary to … You say you vow to quit smoking, yet you continue to smoke. Do you think though that that is necessary in order to reach that point of …

Katagiri: Maybe so. It depends on the individual; it’s different. But anyway, we have to use the will, and your determination, your consciousness, et cetera. Because you are already [an] existent being, okay? So, being is constant change, and also beings are also right in the middle of the dualistic world. So we have to use [it].

59:58

Question: Hojo-san, when we act on our consciousness and our will, are there – unless it’s in your karma, then you will not be able to change your karma, right? You’ll just… you can’t change your karma by your will?

Katagiri: The karma which you have done in the past, it is karma stored in your life, not as something particular. It’s already quiet. This is your storage. So, if you don’t touch it, it doesn’t appear. Very naturally, it disappears, if you don’t touch it. If you don’t touch it means, if you don’t create a certain time and occasion and conditions by yourself, it doesn’t appear. For instance, yesterday I stole a ten dollar bill from someone’s pocket. And then today, after that, I thought, “I shouldn’t do that.” […] And then, if I create the time and occasion and conditions of stealing the ten dollars or five dollars, et cetera, immediately I think, “Oh, I don’t want to.” I can repeat.

Same person: But you could also stop and pay somebody back.

Katagiri: Oh, sure, sure.

Same person: And say, by my will, I did it, but now …

Katagiri: That is good karma. If you turn it in, give it back, that is good karma, even though after this. But this karma is also the unmanifested karma you can store in your life. So any good karmas, evil karmas, [they are] stored in your life, which doesn’t appear. So, only when the time and conditions are arranged […] at that time it can up. But if you don’t, very naturally, unmanifested karma disappears. And then if you always create good karmas every day, you can store good karmas. Do you understand?

1:03:00

Question: Hojo-san? You were saying how when the time is right it happens, like you can let go of smoking. Well, we talk about great determination – how does that fit in?

Answer: Great determination when all elemental conditions come together, and then that creates determination. Your world, and all environments come together, and then you can have great determination.

Same person: Oh. So great determination is dependent on the right time and …

Katagiri: Right. That is the right time, right condition.

Same person: So when you decided not to smoke during that sesshin, that was great determination?

Katagiri: Yes I think so, determination. Environment, and also sesshin, and people encouraging me, et cetera. So all things put together and just [right]. But if I try by myself, using my little will, that is pretty hard. That’s why we need environment, and friends, and many things.

1:04:21

Question: Hojo-san? Unmanifested karma carries through from life to life… But yet [unintelligible] transforms from one life to the next? You know, your smoking habit is probably not because you smoked in your last life. That could be because you were in a fire or something like that?

Katagiri: [Unintelligible.]

Same person: My point was just asking whether it was radically transformed from one life to the next.

Katagiri: When karma transforms from one life to another?

Same person: Yes. It’s the same, but yes, it takes on different forms.

Katagiri: You mean that karma can be carried on toward the future? From the past, to the future? Well, sure. Even though I talk with you, now I don’t smoke. But there is no guarantee! I have quit. Of course I have quit now, but there is no guarantee. Probably I could smoke again. Do you understand? So still I carry my karmas. Any time the door is opened. Well no one can touch it, only the time and conditions can touch it, open that door, then they come up. So that’s why if you understand karma and human life very deeply through meditation, you become more careful of taking care of your life. Because time and conditions. Even though you say “I am a great person” – a good person, mature person, whatever you say – that’s just your understanding. It is no guarantee. If you are mature, that fact is okay, we should take care of it. You can be proud of yourself. But that pride is not a final thing you can depend on. The path sometimes goes to hell. [Laughter.] It’s very true.

1:07:00

Question: Hojo-san? Does the form that you act out your karma in… to take another example, if I don’t have any ability in this life to control my eating, does that mean that in a previous life it was an eating issue? Or could it have been… ? How are the karmas in different lives carried over? Does it mean that my ancestors maybe were starving and so they didn’t have enough food, so now in my life I am not able to control my eating and I eat a lot? Is it that connection? Or could it be that they have the same problems, were they overeaters in their lives, and that’s passed on? Is it passed on in the exact same form, or how does it change?

Katagiri: Do you mean, for instance, if you smoke now, that habit is already something you did in the past?

Same person: Is it that or, could it be from – I don’t know what another explanation would be that I would now smoke. Would it come from something else other than that my ancestors smoked. The form that I manifest my karma in, is that the exact form that my ancestors’ had?

Katagiri: Well whatever it is, if you do whatever, right now, today’s life – smoking or not smoking, whatever – probably you can ask why do you smoke, you like or you don’t like, or whatever reason it is. But that reason is really just a little understanding of human life, because you want to justify your life. But finally, you realize whatever reason you have, it doesn’t fit to your life. Why? So finally you feel that reason is nothing but something you try to justify yourself with, protect yourself with. Don’t you think so? So finally, why do you smoke? [Unintelligible.] Maybe. That’s why finally, very naturally we try to understand a more deep level of human existence, connected with the past and the future itself. Why? So very naturally through the present life, we can [peek at the] past life. That is karma, [that] you did maybe in the past.

For instance, maybe a few days ago if a person walked on a bridge and immediately the bridge broke and he died. If someone survived right on the edge of the broken bridge – what’s the difference? Is there some reason? No reason. Why? We don’t know. Maybe he did something wrong in the past. The person who survived, maybe he did something good in the past. That’s one theory. [He chuckles.] But it’s not necessary to put a certain label on it, okay? That is a pretty good attitude toward human life, without too much arrogance. You can be really humble, modest toward human life, because you can see that long range of life. If you really understand just the present life, and then if he died on the bridge like that, you really get out if, “Why did only [he] have to die?” Well he died already from the story. [He laughs.] But this is something that happens always. So [it may be] only, “Why do I have to have a pain in zazen like this?” Well, you really are confused. Even though [it’s] good or bad, it’s really a narrow understanding. Narrow understanding really makes people arrogant.

1:12:42

Question: Roshi? If you’re constantly subject to the result of your earlier actions, how is it possible to be free from birth and death? If any time you’re alive, you’re constantly creating karma for the future, and there’s no way to be free from that, how is it that we can be free from birth and death?

Katagiri: That’s why we have to store unmanifested karma for the future, okay? Unmanifested karma is very important. So we should do something good, helping people, and then that action leaves an impression on your life, and we can carry on toward the future. At that time, we can carry this good karma as unmanifested karma, so very naturally you cannot create the time and occasion and conditions when you want to do something wrong. So always you would try to do something for the future, so evil karma very naturally disappears in your storage. And then, good karma is stored in your life for the future. The moment when you store good karma, at that time unmanifested karma, but this completely turns into neutral nature. So, there is nothing to fix. But, that karma appears when the time and conditions are arranged. So that time and condition are pretty good. Then the karma appears.

1:15:03 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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