July 4, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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Katagiri Roshi further outlines dhyāna (meditation) as the way to study karma, which is the same as studying ourselves. He describes zazen in the triple world of desire, form, and formlessness, and further explains some key concepts in Buddhist psychology. Even if you reach the state of formless samadhi, still perception remains, because body and mind still exist. This is why Dogen Zenji says, “Nevertheless, flowers fall with attachment, while weeds grow with hatred.” This body and mind are given to us as karma; we need to take care of them with compassion. And through karma, we can share our lives with others. The Suzuki Method for music education is given as an example of how to share our lives with others, particularly with regard to vedanā (feeling).


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Katagiri Roshi: This is my last talk for this week. Next week, I would like to talk about karma from a little bit different angle, particularly according to Dogen, the founder of Soto Zen, because he wrote a [fascicle] on karma in Shōbōgenzō. So next week I would like to talk about karma according to Dogen’s way: how he understands [and] accepts karma. For today’s last talk, as much as possible I would like to have a conclusion.

In Buddhism, meditation is called dhyāna. If you really start to study Buddhism, dhyāna or meditation is not a simple practice, it’s pretty deep. Most people handle meditation as a means to make your life strong, et cetera, but this is really just a little bit of understanding of meditation in Buddhism. The more you practice meditation, you really realize how deep meditation is.

In your whole life you should understand what meditation is, and through meditation you should understand [your life]. To understand meditation is exactly the same as understanding your life. Exactly the same. So that’s why I told you in this seminar that in order to understand karma there is no other way but just to do zazen. That is the best way.

So to understand meditation, dhyāna, is exactly to understand you, human life, and also karma. I don’t want to poke my head into the complicated explanation of dhyāna according to tradition, but just outline it.


For instance, [in Buddhism,] the world is divided into three categories. The first world is the world of desire. The second is the world of form. The third is the world of formlessness. Simply speaking, that is one of the understandings of the world, that we call the triple world. But also there are two meanings for the term triple world: one is the world of desire, form, and formlessness; the other meaning is the world of the past, present, and future.

So briefly speaking, we understand the world as the triple world. The first world is the world of desire. This is really the common human world, filled with human desire: good or bad, right and wrong, confusion, suffering, and many things.

The second world is the world of form. In other words, this world has no sense of desire, but the material entities remain, the material world remains.

Material world means not only material things, but even the spiritual things become material if you attach to them. Do you understand this? You may know Trungpa’s book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. If you really attach to the spiritual world, if you really handle the spiritual world according to individual preconceptions or prejudice, the spiritual world turns into the material world. In other words, you don’t understand the spiritual world exactly as it is, so the spiritual world is understood in a very narrow way. At that time it becomes the material world. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t work in the human world. Even though you have a spiritual experience, if it doesn’t work in your life, it’s still a material thing, a material entity. That is the world of form.

And third is the world of formlessness. This is just the spiritual world. [In Japanese] we call this mushiki-kai. Mu is non. Shiki is rupa in Sanskrit. Usually rupa is translated as form, but rupa in Sanskrit means to get something in a dualistic way. In other words, always separating: seeing something, hearing something separately, between subject and object. That is what is called rupa: form, the material world, the dualistic world. So mushiki means non-rupa, non-form. So formlessness.

So dhyāna, zazen, does not take place in the world of desire. The practice of dhyāna starts in the world of form. There is no dhyāna in the world of desire. That’s an interesting point.


Dhyāna takes place in the world of form, and at that time, I told you before, we have a system of dhyāna which is called the four stages. Do you remember?

In the first stage of dhyāna, all unwholesome human behaviors drop off, exactly. You don’t believe this, but this is really true! In other words, the world of desires drops off. For instance, if you sit down like this, even though you get angry, you cannot express anger, or you cannot hit somebody. Anyway when you sit down, [you just] sit down, that’s all. Even though someone comes and gets angry and tries to hit you, it’s pretty hard to hit the person who is sitting quietly. Well, maybe somebody [is] there. [He laughs.] But don’t worry.

There are lots of stories [about this] in the history of Buddhism. In Japan, a samurai was about to be killed by an enemy, and at that time the samurai said, “Well, just a second, before you kill me, I would like to talk with you. Why don’t we drink a cup of sake?” [He laughs.] [So they drank sake]… and then very naturally, there is communication there. The samurai who was about to be killed, and the enemy, they are communicating with each-other, and they are very drunk. [Laughter.] It’s not a trick. You cannot do it in that way because if you are on the verge of life and death, you really become nervous and confused. You cannot have such a wonderful faith. Can’t you imagine?

So in the first stage of dhyāna, [all] unwholesome human behaviors drop off. That’s why the practice of meditation cannot start in the human world of desire.


And very naturally in the first stage of zazen, there are five consciousness experienced. Should I explain that again? … Do you want to know? [Laughter.]

Well, simply speaking, in the first stage of dhyāna there is still thought and discursive thinking there, strongly. So constantly you are thinking, again and again. But whatever you think in zazen, all become images. Even pain: pain is something you believe is something real, but it’s still imagination. Because if you stand up, it’s gone. So all things become imagination. Finally, there is nothing to get in your hand. That’s why you’re always chasing after images, escaping from [some], and also staying and enjoying [others], with imagination. That is what is called daydreams, constant daydreams. But if you stay with daydreams, it’s really exhausting. You cannot stand stably in the daydreams. So finally, even though you like or dislike them, very naturally, all daydreams drop off. So all you have to do is just sit down.

That’s why you feel prīti: it’s prīti in Sanskrit and pīti in Pali. That is joyful interest. So very naturally you can experience joyful interest, but in the realm of joyful interest still the six consciousnesses are always poking their head into each experience.

And also you experience sukha: this is happiness. In the realm of happiness, there is no function of the six consciousnesses. Of course you have the six consciousnesses, but sukha means you have the six consciousnesses but they don’t bother you, because you become exactly one with zazen.

[Everyone can experience this.] That’s why if you really become one with zazen, that’s exactly the same as you become one with you. It’s the same thing. Zazen and you are different, but if you completely become one with zazen, that is exactly the same as you become you as you are. So, you feel good. [Maybe] intellectually you don’t like zazen, but beyond your speculation, you like it. You don’t know why. That is happiness, which is called sukha.

The [word] happiness you usually use is a little different. [That] happiness is always happiness opposed to unhappiness. But according to common sense, that happiness is sort of joyful interest. Still the six consciousnesses poke their head into each hole: “What’s in there?” That’s not happiness. If you believe that is happiness, that is really happiness opposed to unhappiness. Happiness is exactly happiness: becoming exactly one with zazen, or football, or painting, playing piano, or whatever it is. And also your consciousness is really clear; but it’s become one. At that time it is called sukha, happiness.

So at the first stage, you can experience samadhi and sukha and prīti, and also vitarka and vicāra. Vitarka means thought, and vicāra is discursive thinking.

In the second stage of dhyāna, particularly vitarka and vicāra, thought and discursive thinking, drop off. And then you can experience strongly the prīti and sukha. And also at that time that is called mindfulness, because you can be mindful: “What is the truth?” That truth is a dim image of the truth, but you can be mindful of the image of the truth. Because still there is prīti, joyful interest, [in] which your six consciousnesses poke their head into it. The six consciousnesses poke their head into the truth, so that is the image of the truth.

In the third stage, prīti drops off, and just happiness and samadhi and also mindfulness [are] there. Because you can be mindful [of] samadhi and the truth. In other words, [there is] oneness between zazen and you, and then that is really mindful. Mindfulness means not to forget: not to forget the state of the being who is right in the middle of the truth. This is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is very practical belief. [This] belief is not something you can think in your mind, but mindfulness is really practical belief. You can be mindful of a state of you who is present constantly in the truth. That’s why mindfulness means not to forget the truth. Or, you can be present there. You can be mindful of your life, which is present constantly in the truth. At the third stage of zazen, you can experience this.

In the fourth stage, the last one, even happiness drops off. Because [with happiness there is] still a trace of happiness, or the form of happiness, remaining. You still “hang around” happiness. If you become one with real happiness, there is no trace of happiness. So it’s not necessary to bring up, “I am happy, I am happy”; it’s not necessary to say. If you really become happy, at that time you cannot say anything.

Or the same applies to suffering: if you really suffer from something, you cannot say anything. So suffering and happiness are basically the same. If you really experience suffering, you can touch [the core]. At that time, no words.

For instance: crying, being sad. Sad is sad. But the real core of sadness is not sadness; you can laugh! If you touch the core of sadness, you can laugh. Or happiness: at that time, you can cry. Don’t you think so? Look at the Miss America contest. [He laughs.] And Miss Universe, you know? If she gets first prize, everyone can see: she cries, always. That is the highest level of happiness. [Laughter.]

So happiness and suffering are basically the same. If you really experience real happiness, there is no trace of happiness [where] you can say “this is happiness.” Why do you feel happy? You don’t know, you cannot say. You have lots of things you want to explain, but nothing becomes words.

So at the last stage of zazen, you cannot say anything. Happiness drops off; there is only samadhi and mindfulness. Exactly mindfulness and samadhi, and also equanimity: in Sanskrit we say upeksha.

Literally upeksha means throwing away, abandoning, but this is not abandoning or throwing away; upeksha means to accept all human life, including all in equality. At that time you can experience equanimity, peace, which is called spiritual security. Equanimity is spiritual security. Or religious belief, or faith – whatever you say. If you don’t want to use the term faith, then according to my term, it is spiritual security.

That is zazen [which] takes place in the world of form.


And also, the question is, still [there are] four stages of zazen in the world of formlessness! That is really deep. [He laughs.] We don’t understand. So, I will give you just the names of the four stages of zazen in the world of formlessness.

The first stage is: the infinity of space.

Second: the infinity of consciousness.

Third: nothingness to resort to.

The fourth: a state of concentration which goes beyond the matter of whether nothingness is allowed or not.

[In the fourth stage,] completely you can’t say anything at all. Nothing. So all you have to do is just be present. Just be present. This is the final goal, anyway. [He chuckles.] Just like a fish swimming in the water. Even though the fish doesn’t use his own conscious, he doesn’t ignore the function of consciousness, because he has consciousness, but it doesn’t bother his activity. So the fish just swims in the water, dynamically, always. That is really the last stage of zazen in the world of formlessness.

So at that time, […] if you really practice zazen constantly, you never change. You cannot change you.

According to the psychological point of view, you try to change somebody. [He laughs.] But you cannot change. So forget it! What you can change is attitude, attitude toward human life. How do you take care of this table, and gassho, and zazen? That is attitude toward; that you can change. By the teachings, by the suggestions, and by deep understanding, you can change your attitude. That is the best.

So the final goal of meditation is not to change personality or whatever it is. The point is to understand deeply human life. That means zazen: understand deeply the meaning of zazen, meditation, connected directly with human life. And then, at that time, something happens. Completely you can return to [the] human being as he or she is. But this human being or person is nothing different from the person in the first stage.

Briefly speaking, [in the first stage,] we usually understand that mountains are mountains. This is according to common sense. In the second stage, we have to understand a little deeply, that’s why we say mountains are not mountains. And then the final goal is, mountains are mountains. That mountains are mountains is a little different from the mountains are mountains in the first stage, because your understanding is deep, related with you and all sentient beings, and the clouds, the sky, the sun, the moon. That’s why you really understand the total picture of the mountain. The total picture of the mountain means the mountain’s life including the clouds, the sky, the heavens and hells, all things – and then becoming one. This is really the beauty of existence the mountain has. That is the last stage.

So when you study and practice zazen, you can understand human beings as human beings. Second, you can go through a little bit negative aspect of human understanding. And third, finally, you can overcome this negation of human life. At that time you really can open your eyes and see everything and accept everything. That is really the final goal, which is called mountains are mountains. So you can return to the human again; but when you return to human again, that human is really nothing special. Just be present – but that just be present is really [influencing to everybody].


That is the last stage of zazen in the world of formlessness. But what I want to tell you is: according to Buddhist tradition, it is the last stage, but Buddhist teaching says that perception still remains there. That’s an interesting point: even though you reach the final goal, perception still remains in your life.

Let me say something about this [perception]. In Buddhist psychology, there are five consciousness operating, working constantly. Whatever event happens, good or bad, right or wrong or neutral, whatever behavior you do, there are human consciousnesses working constantly. That is five consciousnesses.

The first one is contact; in Sanskrit we say sparśa. And second is feeling; [in Sanskrit it is] vedanā. Third is perception, saṃjñā. Next is thought, cetanā. Fifth is mind, citta. Those five consciousnesses are constantly working there, in whatever situation. That’s an interesting point.


Contact, sparśa: this is not the contact which you have usually thought. I don’t know how you understand contact according to psychology, but in Buddhism, contact is not the idea of contact [from the] psychological point of view, contact is a little [more] broad. For instance, contact is just like a pillar in a building: big pillars connecting with the rafters and many things, and supporting the whole building. And also each of [the pillars] has recognized differences, and form a harmoniously connected whole. This is sparśa. Can you imagine this?

So sparśa is contact as a whole. This is very powerful: just like two goats fighting each other with their heads. [He laughs.] They’re really bumping into each other; this is contact.

(Transcriber’s Note: For another explanation of sparśa, see Blue Cliff Record Case 46: Ching Ch’ing’s Sound of Raindrops, Talk 2”.)


So [contact] is really creating a certain function. When it works, like they’re hitting each other, at that time something happens. That is what is called feeling: vedanā.

Vedanā is reception: to receive something. If they bump each other, your six [sense] organs contact with six [sense] objects, and then there is a big shock, [like the] two goats bumping into each other. If you get a shock, your body starts to work. That is feeling, vedanā. You immediately receive something.

And also when you receive something, there is the function which is called grasping: loving or attaching to something. This is a quality of vedanā, feeling. (Transcriber’s Note: Upādāna or grasping is the ninth link in Twelvefold Causation. It follows taṇhā or craving, which follows vedanā.)

And also, where the vedanā is located. […] Essentially, feeling is very quiet, tranquil. You don’t know that, but the original nature of vedanā is very tranquil. And also, the original nature of vedanā creates wholesome behavior in the human mind. This is the original nature of human feeling. That’s why through feeling you can create the religious sense, and the musical or artistic sense.

That’s why we educate the little children. You know the Japanese teacher of [violin playing], Mr. Suzuki? Suzuki’s [Method]. He teaches music to the little children. They don’t understand music, […] but originally a human being has a feeling. That feeling is really [tranquil], accepting everything – by bumping into each other, getting the big shock. That is contact. So very naturally you can educate that feeling. Particularly in small children, it’s pretty easy to grow, to educate, such a quiet, tranquil feeling. That’s why Mr. Suzuki always teaches us in that way.

The same applies not only to music, but to religion, or sports, or whatever it is. That is, when you teach somebody when they are small, that’s pretty good. Even language, too. But not only teaching in a [linguistic] way, but teaching language through human feeling. They can get language through the human feeling. So the teacher can teach in that way.

In Japan, particularly music teachers, or whoever it is, pay careful attention to people who are under twenty. That is a very good time to teach somebody, in order to be a good musician, or carpenter, whatever it is. That’s a pretty good age.

Maybe you know pretty well, when you are in high school, you can just concentrate on studying. In high school, I memorized English terms by writing the terms on cards, the night before the examination. I didn’t forget them the next day. But later, when I went to the university, I did it the same way, memorizing the English terms. Next day, I forgot everything! [He laughs.] You know how different it is? Before twenty, it’s really easy to memorize, because your life is very simple, simpler than for people over twenty. If you’re over twenty, lots of things happen. [He laughs.]

So that’s why they always concentrate on educating young people like this. We have to educate [young people] in order to grow such human feelings, which are tranquil. These little children learn human feeling through relationship with parents, and teachers, et cetera.

That is feeling, vedanā.


Next is saṃjñā: that is perception. This is a very interesting thing.

Perception is just like a carpenter who recognizes what kind of wood they have to use, and also, next, the carpenter […] puts a mark there. […] That putting the mark reminds you what kind of wood you should use. That means re-recognition. So first recognition, and second, the quality of perception is re-recognition. If you recognize something, you immediately put a mark on your object. So that putting a mark on the object is re-cognition. You can know, later, what kind of wood you should use.

At that time, the function of perception is to attach individual understanding. Because the carpenter understands what kind of wood he needs, but that is the individual carpenter’s understanding of wood. So that’s why he puts the mark on the wood.

For instance, if you understand Zen, or Christianity, whatever. You have [an] experience of Christianity or Zen you understand. That is recognition. And then you put the mark on Christianity. That is your individual understanding. And then this individual understanding is really [to] re-cognize. You really re-cognize what kind of wood you need. Finally you say, “That is Christianity.” So you really attach to individual understanding. That is the function of perception.

That is just like the blind men touching the elephant. There is an interesting story in the Buddhist scriptures: the king brings an elephant, and asks the blind men what it is. One blind man touches the ears of the elephant, and he says, “The elephant is just like a big fan.” Another is touching a leg, and says, “Oh, the elephant is just like a pillar!” [He chuckles.] Well, that is really the function of perception.

And another characteristic of perception is that perception cannot reach the depth of the object. Perception [happens in] a very short period of time, just like lightning.

For instance, just like if you walk in the countryside in the evening; it’s a little dark and you cannot see clearly what is in the road. All of a sudden you notice sort of a small rope. And then immediately you scream, “Snake!” That is perception. Perception starts to work immediately, but perception doesn’t have enough space to understand what it is. It’s very quick: touch it, and understand what it is. That is perception.

But this perception is also working with wisdom. Wisdom is [also] very quick sometimes, just like lightning. So perception is not something bad; perception is also working with wisdom.

For instance, if you do zazen. I [experienced] the same thing. Maybe I told you before, Zen teachers always teach that “zazen is useless.” But I didn’t understand this: why do I have to do zazen which is useless? So I didn’t understand. But I had to teach zazen anyway, so that was really my affliction, which is called avidyā, ignorance. [He laughs.] So, [it was] very difficult, but something compelled me to teach, so every day I had to teach, studying and understanding with my best [effort], while actually I didn’t understand. But all of a sudden, I understood the meaning of uselessness in zazen: “Ah! [It’s this]!” And then, from then, I feel relief. I don’t know what it was, but immediately it was just like water rushing out from the bottom of a bucket, [fwoosh]. [Laughter.] I felt good: “Ah, this is uselessness! Right! This is zazen. That’s good. So, that is maybe real zazen.”

That is [also] a perception. You really get such an experience through perception, because perception is working with wisdom.


And next is cetanā. Cetanā is thought, and also volition or will.

Cetanā is very important because it is the basis of karma. Whatever kinds of behavior you do, good, bad, or neutral, cetanā is working there.

So cetanā is to think, to contemplate, [or] volition, will. But at that time cetanā makes very wonderful effort, twice as much as the other consciousnesses. Cetanā is really using its energies to succeed, whether in good behavior or evil behavior or neutral behavior, whatever it is. Just like the boss of a company. If you have the position of supervisor or boss of a company, you really use great effort, twice as much as the employees. For instance, in modern civilization, particularly in Japan, the Japanese really [unintelligible]. So the boss of the company really makes every possible effort, day after day, twice as much as done by some other people, to create whatever kind of new product they should do. That’s really hard work. And also cetanā supervises the employees with his sort of order. Cetanā is orderly: cetanā has the power to order somebody and organize, and let employees work in the best way. So at that time, cetanā uses great effort, twice as much as other people.

So cetanā is the boss, and the employees are human behaviors: good, or bad, or neutral. If you organize the employees, that is good behavior. But if you fail to do [so], that is unwholesome.

That’s why cetanā is individual experience, individual [things]. Cetanā is boss of the company; [he] has great effort. That is his business. But simultaneously, his behavior, his cetanā, really influences other people. So [it is] exactly interconnected with others. Individual cetanā really influences other people; that is organizing the employees, et cetera. So individual cetanā is not individual; individual cetanā is simultaneously all others’ cetanā.


And citta is mind. Mind is to know and to understand, and also to communicate with [the] object. Creating communications between subject and object, by understanding and knowing something. Analyzing, synthesizing. This is the mind, which is called citta.


So, five [consciousnesses]: Sparśa, contact. Vedanā, feeling. Saṃjñā, perception. Cetanā, thought. And citta, mind.

Those five are always working, whatever you do. Particularly perception remains, even after reaching the goal. That is interesting. This is just like karma.

According to Buddhist tradition, you have to continue to practice in order to reach what is called formless samadhi. That is completely no form, nothing. That is what is called jijiyu samadhi in Japanese, or sometimes that is called “to disport oneself in samadhi.” It’s really [like] you can be one with judo and kendo; your body is very flexible, round, just like a bow. You can experience that; this is the final goal which is called formless samadhi.

And then at that time, you can go beyond perception. But, still there is something there: that is the human body and mind, which exist right now, right here. This is the final thing left.

How can you take care of it? This is karma. It’s really karma.

That’s why Dogen Zenji says (in Genjōkōan),

The Buddha Way is completely beyond the concept of being or not-being. That’s why there are human beings and buddhas, life and death, delusion and enlightenment.

Because everyone is great being. If everything is great being, everything is entitled to live. Before you criticize, before you put a certain label on it, this is the actual picture of human life.

And next he says,

Nevertheless, flowers fall with human attachment, …

For instance, if you see the beautiful flower, you say, “Oh please, stay on the branch, as long as you can, because you’re beautiful.” [And also,]

… weeds grow with hatred.

Well, that is my translation, simply speaking, okay? It means, weeds are weeds. We really don’t want weeds in the garden! But even though we hate it, weeds grow.

Dogen really understands the final thing, what remains after the final goal of religion, what’s left: this is the human body, human mind. This human body and human mind is completely beyond being or not being, like or dislike. It’s there! It grows with hatred, it falls with attachment. When the time comes, you have to die. When the time comes, it grows; even if you don’t like your life, anyway it grows. You have to grow.

So that is the final thing that you have to do. How can you take care of this human body and mind? This is really nothing but karma. Karma means [it is] completely beyond your control. This is reality, fact.

So if you understand the Buddha Way, everything is equal, wonderful, okay? And then finally, you should pay attention to you. There is something. This is not enlightenment, not Buddha, not ordinary people! It is completely beyond: this is your human body and mind, given to you, as karma.

That’s why, please, take care of this karma. Because everything is changing; this body and mind is really in the stream of change, impermanence. Don’t attach too much; don’t hate too much. Anyway completely beyond hate or attachment, take care of your human body and mind, with compassion. Without compassion, you cannot take care of this human body and mind.

That’s why Dogen Zenji says finally, “Nevertheless, flowers fall with attachment, while weeds grow with hatred.” That means flowers and weeds have their own karma. Cats and dogs, trees and birds, all are Buddha, exactly, which means they can live in this world without [our] evaluation and judgement. Whatever you say, that is human business: it doesn’t matter, they can live. But: cat is cat. Cat has, also, his own karma. Dog [has] still his own karma. That’s why we can share our compassion with a dog, with a cat.

The same applies to human beings: we can have, finally, human body and mind. Without this karma, we cannot practice! So, this is really karma, the human body, coming from parents. This is not a biological understanding, this is a really deep understanding. If you understand your body and mind just according to a biological, physiological point of view, well, you really hate your body and mind. But, if you understand more deeply, your body and mind become Buddha.

Human body and mind as Buddha is taking care of [your life] with compassion, in order to share your life with others. Because others also have the same karma. So you can share. At that time, you can be free from karma – because you can take care of your karma, without putting certain ideas, like or dislike, or whatever it is. Just take care, day by day, and share your karma with people, and recognize how important it is. That practice is wonderful; we say our karma turns into Buddha.

That is the conclusion of my talk this week. Do you have any questions?

1:09:46 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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