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Katagiri Roshi examines Case 34 of the Blue Cliff Record, which appears to be an ordinary conversation, but is actually an ordinary conversation in the broad scale of human life, which is beyond ordinary or not-ordinary. He explains the importance of paying attention to daily routine, and why we should get up in the morning. Also: How to practice compassion with emotions, how to be an actor, and how to be a not-actor.


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(Transcriber’s Note: While reading Katagiri Roshi’s commentary on this case, consider substituting the word ordinary where he says usual. For example, instead of “in the usual way,” you might read, “in the ordinary way”. Usual means customary, so it depends more on the context; for example, “the usual” in studying Zen may be different than “the usual” in daily life. In contrast, ordinary is pretty much just ordinary. Cleary’s translation of the Notes to the case uses the word ordinary.)

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Yang Shan asked a monk, “Where have you just come from?”

The monk said, “Mount Lu.”

Yang Shan said, “Did you visit Five Elders Peak?”

The monk said, “I didn’t get there.”

Yang Shan said, “You never visited the mountain at all.”

(Later,) Yun Men said, “These words were all for the sake of compassion; thus they had a conversation in the weeds.”

(From The Blue Cliff Record, translated by Thomas Cleary & J.C. Cleary.)

This case doesn’t have a pointer, just a case and verse. The conversation between Yang Shan and the monk in this case is construed in a very common or usual (ordinary) way, to all intents and purposes. But sometimes we don’t understand why [in Zen we have to] think again about these usual (ordinary) conversations. In a sense, the Zen spirit is a little bit cryptic, it’s not the usual way. But in a good sense, I think the Zen spirit is very compassionate to us. That’s why it’s pretty hard to understand why it doesn’t matter to this conversation whether it is valuable or not; the important point is that we have to have open eyes to see the human world, visible and also invisible, in a little bigger scale. You have to see it. If you understand just the surface of human life, it’s not good enough for us to live in peace and harmony.

This is not only Zen teaching; this is human life. We live just like this, but we don’t pay attention to it – because we have been trained for a long time, since our birth, or since before our birth, in thinking, analyzing, synthesizing, and just understanding the surface of human life, making everything neat. But human life or the human world is not just like that; it’s very deep, and big. So your understanding must be deepening day after day, year after year. If you don’t understand, practice continually and deepen your life until you have your eyes open enough to see the vastness of existence.

Look at your daily routine: getting up in the morning, and washing your face, having breakfast, going to school. You have never paid attention to this stuff, because it’s daily routine. So if [in general] you feel good from this, and then the next moment you don’t feel good from this daily routine, then you are disappointed. Your way of life [is not connected] with something more than the daily routine which you can see; you always handle daily routine [with] give and take. How do you feel getting up in the morning? If you like it, [you] get up; if you don’t like it, [you] don’t get up; that’s all. If you like it or you don’t like it, it is alright, but still, within the practice of getting up in the morning there are huge energies to support your life, to keep your life [going] for a day and for the next days. Because it’s connected with not only your life, but others’ lives. If you sleep late, for instance if you sleep until ten or eleven o’clock, have you experienced that all day your life is really cloudy, evasive? You don’t know what to do; you’re very tired. Have you ever experienced this? I have experienced it, anyway. [He laughs.] You feel good, but you are tired from sleeping for [so long]. So your life getting up at ten o’clock in the morning is not only your own life, it is already connected with all sentient beings, for a day, for two days, for three days. That’s why [if you don’t get up], your life doesn’t work [for a day]. So even though you feel sleepy, get up in the morning. And then if you come here and do zazen, then you feel good! Completely your life situation has changed. And then your life is just going smoothly.

If you get up in the morning, and see somebody on the street or in the house, and you say “good morning”: what do you mean by “good morning”? Is it just a formality of human life? Just get up and say, “Good morning, sir,” and that’s enough? I don’t think [that’s enough]. Behind the “good morning”, there is a big world to support your life and support others’ lives, and then this vastness of existence appears in a certain form, so-called “good morning”. And then, you can communicate with each other, because you and others are already in the vastness of existence, regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not. This world, the vastness of existence, is always working, appearing and disappearing. When it appears, it says, “Good morning!” This “good morning” is not merely the good morning which you can see. You have to see “good morning” on the surface of life and also [see the] vastness of life, including you and others.

Yang Shan talks with this monk with the usual conversation. Zen always asks “where do you come from?” This monk answered in just the usual (ordinary) sense. “Where do you come from” is very common; everyone asks this. It’s just like a “good morning” when you see somebody in the morning. It is exactly construed in the usual way, but still we have to [consider it] again, a little carefully. That’s why this case brings up this very simple conversation. […] Through the daily routine, through the usual conversation, there is something more that you don’t know; so you should pay careful attention once more to that broad scale of human life. That is the purpose of this case.


Anyway, the monk said, “Mount Lu.” Mount Lu means the mountains named Lu. So he came from Mount Lu. Yang Shan said, “Did you visit Five Elders Peak?” Maybe this Mount Lu has five old peaks.

This mountain is located where this monk lives, so he can visit the mountain any time. For instance, Mount Fuji in Japan: I can climb Mount Fuji any time. But I have never visited Mount Fuji. And also, when Americans go to Japan, you would go to Nikkō, which are very fancy old temples, painted with gold; very wonderful, gorgeous shrines. But I have never visited there. So you may know it pretty well, but I don’t know it. The Japanese know pretty well the Grand Canyon, but maybe some of you don’t know the Grand Canyon. Is that true? [Laughter.]

So, “Did you visit the Five Elders Peak?” The monk says, “I didn’t get there.”


According to tradition, let’s study this conversation along with Yuan Wu’s notes. The notes really give a hint about how you understand or how you deal with this conversation. So first of all:

Yang Shan asked a monk, “Where have you just come from?”

Everyone in the world is the same. Still it is necessary to ask. (The monk) will inevitably construe it in the ordinary way.

For “where have you just come from,” the note says, “Everyone in the world is the same.” That means, daily routine. [Answering questions is daily routine.]

But, “still it is necessary to ask.” If it is daily routine, is it not important? Yes, it’s important! That’s why you have to get up in the morning and deal with your body, your face, and water. It is important, that’s why you do it every day. If it is not important, I think you should do it only one day, the next day it’s not necessary to do it. But it is necessary; whatever you feel from the daily routine, it is necessary to do it.

So that’s why it says, “Everyone in the world is the same,” for the question “Where do you come from?” But it is necessary for us.

“(The monk) will inevitably construe it in the ordinary way.” He just talks in the ordinary way. It’s very smooth going. His mind is not crooked; he makes the usual answer.


The monk said, “Mount Lu.”

A truthful man is hard to find.

“Mount Lu” means: Where do you come from, Katagiri? I come from Japan.

But within this [world], it’s pretty hard to find a truthful man. It’s just like the form of dance. Within the form of dance, it’s pretty hard to see exactly what the beauty of the real dance is. You can never touch it. But beyond your speculation, the beauty of the so-called dance is something more than the form of dance. The form of dance is appearing and disappearing, so it’s not the real art. The real art is pretty hard to find within the form of dance. But without the form of dance, you cannot perform the dance! So you have to do it. In order to perform dance, simultaneously there is the form of dance.

But unfortunately, the form of dance is nothing but impermanent, so it’s appearing and disappearing. You have to see something more than the form of dance. We always say that is called the beauty of art. But what do we mean, the beauty of art? Anyway, if you perform dance, you have to perform dance on the basis of this beauty of art. And then at that time, the form of dance becomes really beautiful. If you forget this point, the form of dance is just the form of dance. It doesn’t make sense.

So, the monk said, “Mount Lu.” That means, “from Japan.” So, “Are you a ballerina?” – Yes, sir. – “Why don’t you dance?” – Yes, I do just the performance. But within this performance of dance, it’s pretty hard to find the truth.


Yang Shan said, “Did you visit Five Elders Peak?”

He uses the wind to fan the fire. How could he have ever passed it by?

“He uses the wind to fan the fire” means it’s not a special technique to find the truthful man, so-called artist, so-called dancer. No, particular things aren’t necessary. It’s pretty easy to find […] the truthful man of dance; it is just like fanning a fire with wind.

“How could he have ever passed it by?” You [should] never be at a loss as to what to do. If you want to know the real beauty of art, just perform a dance! It’s very simple. There is no way to be at a loss what to do.

I said before that life is like a maple leaf falling, showing the back and showing the front. Someone asked for a calligraphy about death, because I wrote one already about life. I said yes, but I didn’t know what to say about death, so I had to think about it for a couple of days. And then I got a good idea, because it is a pair of calligraphies, so I said, “A falling maple leaf never fails to fall.” Do you understand? [He chuckles.] That is death. That is performing dance. This is also life itself. So, there is no way to escape.

If you want to know true art, so-called dance, you should perform dance. During the performing of dance, there is no way to fail to perform the dance. Exactly right in the middle of performing dance, you just perform. There is no mistake. That is his comment, “He uses the wind to fan the fire”: very simple ways.

If you want to know the meaning of happiness, and enlightenment, et cetera, do you have to do something particular? Oh yes, sometimes – if you have a chance to do something particular apart from daily life, it’s fine. But you should remember there are some individuals who do not have enough time to do something particular apart from daily life. Most people make every possible effort to live their everyday life. Through everyday life, still there is a wonderful chance to know the truthful man.

That’s why Yun Men says, “How could he have ever passed it by?” There is no way to be at a loss of what to do; just perform. Just wash your face; just get up in the morning.


The monk said, “I didn’t get there.”

Take a step. A red face is not as good as honest speech. He seems to be at a loss.

Next, the monk says, “I didn’t get there.” Traditionally, we probably expect some particular answer to this question, but this monk says “I didn’t get there”; he answers in the usual way. That’s why the note says, “Take a step.” “Take a step” means “why don’t you answer in a little bit different way?”

For instance, if Yang Shan asks you, “Did you visit Five Elders Peak,” maybe you could say… well, this is not exactly an answer, okay? [He chuckles.] But maybe you could say, “I have nothing to do with Amitābha Buddha, so I don’t want to see him.” If you say so, maybe your story is pretty interesting. Yang Shan is encouraging the monk to continue to talk with him, but he didn’t say so, so the monk said, “I didn’t get there.” Yang Shan seems to be very bored, or disappointed, and it seems that he didn’t know what to do [on his end]. Maybe he expected some good answer, but the monk didn’t give it. That’s why this note says, “Why don’t you take a step?”

“A red face is not as good as honest speech”: “Take a step” means why don’t you answer in a little bit different way, but he didn’t, so this note continues, “A red face is not as good as honest speech.” That means still he’s pretty good, because it’s better to be honest, and not put disgrace on himself. If he says, “I have nothing to do with Amitābha Buddha so I don’t want to see him,” maybe he could put disgrace upon himself, you know? In other words, he would have made a mistake, and he would be beaten by this Zen Master. So that’s why the note says, “A red face is not as good as honest speech.” You are you, so don’t imitate others. You must be you. [It’s better to] be honest.

“He seems to be at a loss” means he seems to have forgotten that he visited this mountain. Maybe he had visited this mountain, but he said, “I didn’t get there.” So this note says, “He seems to forget that he visited there.” First Yun Men criticizes him a little bit, and then he picks him up, and says, “You’re a good boy.” First with “take a step” he gives him a big blow, and then next moment he says, “You’re pretty good; [at least] you’re honest.”

This is pretty good because in relationship with people, you cannot always criticize somebody, you cannot always put somebody down. If you criticize somebody, that’s alright, but the next moment you should see some good aspect of human life, and praise him or her. That’s good for you. But usually we don’t: if you see the criticism, or you just criticize somebody, you forget to praise them. So Zen always puts someone down first and then praises them, or praises them first then puts them down; always up and down. That’s pretty good; it means you have to see the total picture of human life.


Yang Shan said, “You never visited the mountain at all.”

Too much ado! He should be careful of his eyebrows. What is this old fellow’s hurry?

“Too much ado”: The monk said “I didn’t get there,” which means “I have never been there,” but it is alright, because he’s already living there. If Katagiri lives in Japan, Katagiri’s life is encompassed by Mount Fuji. Even though I have never visited there, my life is Mount Fuji.

He points out that it’s just a form of dance. Your form of dance is pretty good; next moment, the form of dance is not good. So you pick up a form of dance. This monk saying “I didn’t get there” and the teacher saying, “Oh, you have never visited there” means, for instance, according to the dance: the teacher asks, “How did you like your dance?” You say, “I didn’t feel good.” The teacher says, “Oh, you didn’t feel good, huh? So in your dance you made a mistake.” That’s just like this conversation. But strictly speaking, if you didn’t feel good about the dance, that’s from your dance, so that’s good enough. Didn’t feel good is also part of the performance of dance. So you should appreciate it, and you should pay attention to it.

The point is, through the performance of dance what we have to do is to pay attention to the real beauty of art. Within the real beauty of art, there is a mistaken performance of dance, there is a perfect performance of dance. There is both incomplete or complete dance. And then you pick up one: incomplete dance. This is just kind of like seeing the dance from a certain angle. If you pick me up, so-called Katagiri or Zen teachers, then Katagiri is who? Katagiri is Japanese. So you understand this Zen teacher from a certain angle, so-called Japanese. Or, you say that [biologically] Katagiri is pretty good, so you praise Katagiri [biologically], but that is not the real understanding of Katagiri’s existence, because you understand Katagiri from a certain angle, so-called [biology]. So in Zen, within this conversation, what they want to do is to pay attention to the real beauty of art in human life. For this, how do we know [it]? If you say, “Your dance is pretty good,” this is too much ado. Or if you say “not good,” this is also too much ado. So if you really want to educate somebody as a dancer, basically you need great compassion, accepting both incomplete dance and complete dance.

“He should be careful of his eyebrows”: So you have to say it carefully. Or whatever you say. But it’s pretty hard for us to pick up the real truth, the real beauty of art. So how can you pick up the real beauty of art, so-called dance, et cetera?

“What is this old fellow’s hurry?” Why is it you want to be hurried to say something? (Transcriber’s Note: For a different comment on being “hurried”, see the talk “Devotion: Walking Alone with Open Heart” at 53:15.)


(Later,) Yun Men said, “These words were all for the sake of compassion; thus they had a conversation in the weeds.”

The sword that kills people, the sword that gives people life. Two, or three. If you want to know the mountain road, you must be the man who travels on it.

“These words were all for the sake of compassion”: According to tradition, within such a usual conversation, Zen sometimes gives big blows, hitting the monks – a pretty fancy, dramatic show there, on the stage of conversation between the monks and teachers. If Yang Shan were Rinzai or [Tōzan], probably he would give a big blow to him. But Yang Shan is very patient to give an answer to his question; he kept the conversation in the usual way. So that’s why Yun Men said, “These words were all for the sake of compassion.” Yang Shan was very compassionate. But it doesn’t mean he was just compassionate; also his compassion points out that we should know something more than the usual conversation, something behind the words.

That’s why the note then says, “The sword that kills people, the sword that gives people life.” If you are ready to accept the usual conversation as just the usual conversation, then your life is just the usual life. But maybe if you’re ready to see something more than the usual life through the usual conversation, probably you’re pretty good. That means it makes your life alive.

“Two, or three”: Katagiri’s life is one, but in this whole life, maybe I can make my life one life or two lives, or three lives, four lives. That means to make my life something more than my belief about my capability. Anyway you can create your life, one or two or three of four or five in your whole life, if you are ready to see something more than usual life, usual conversation. It depends on you: how you kill your life, how you give life to yourself.

“If you want to know the mountain road, you must be the man who travels on it”: If you want to climb the mountain, you must be the one right on the road in the mountains. That means you must be one with the mountains. This is the first important thing for us. And then, you can have a conversation with somebody.

For instance, if you want to swim in the ocean, first of all you must be right in the midst of the ocean. You must be one with the water. And then you can perform the dance, so-called to swim, or not to swim. Even not to swim is brought into existence, because it exists in the vastness of the ocean, becoming one with the water. So, do you swim? Yes. Are you not swimming? Whatever you say. Those two ideas exist, one and the same, and one with water. So already you are one. You must be one; that is a point which your life is supported by: universal life. And then you can pick up a form: so-called swim or not-swim, good or bad, performing dance or not performing dance, et cetera.

“You must be the man who travels on it.” You have to do it, always. And then you can learn. When you are in the ocean, you cannot stop your life, so you have to be always acting in the ocean. You are already one with the ocean, so the ocean and you are connected with each other, working dynamically, so you cannot stop acting. Just standing in the water without swimming is also acting, or sleeping on the surface of the water is also acting, or screaming in the ocean is also acting. You have to act.

In order to act, you have to pick up a certain form. That is the form of swimming. Through the form of swimming, you can act. But within the form of swimming, it’s very impermanent beings, creatures, appearing and disappearing. Sometimes you suffer from the form of swimming, but you have to take care of those forms with your best. We should know what is the real beauty of the form of swimming; that means oneness with the ocean. At that time, the form of swimming becomes beautiful, as art. Otherwise, the form of swimming is very dreary and meaningless.

[Tape change.]

For instance, if you fall in love with somebody, you really hang on to him or her. But if you don’t, even though you see a really beautiful lady or beautiful man, still you can handle them just as a person, beyond a man or a woman. That is so-called compassion. [Unintelligible] In equal attitude. That’s pretty hard, but this is important. Basically, we can do it.

I take as an example, sometimes, a mothers’ life toward her child. She scolds him or her, but still on the basis of her life, there is compassion, which means accepting the child’s entire life. Accepting totally whatever he or she does: this is compassion. The mother doesn’t know this sometimes, but this is really human warmness.

Do you understand?


Question: Mm-hm; I have another question. What if you really have a strong feeling about somebody, and you really don’t like that person, or something, and that’s the feeling that you feel. How can you be compassionate then?

Katagiri: Compassion is not something you try, but… well, your [conscious] attitude is important. If you see somebody you don’t like, at that time immediately you stumble and fall down on the ground constantly. But still, human nature is not something like that. Human consciousness always catches one thing and evaluates, judges, and then affective preferences come up, and then you stumble, by the affective preferences. On and on like that. So basically, “we have to be compassionate” means that whoever they are, we try to do this, even through consciousness. Consciousness always picks up something, so you have to train your consciousness like this.

Same person: What happens to me is that, maybe it isn’t somebody that I don’t like, but somebody says something to me or does something to me that makes me… It’s almost like it’s not a conscious reaction, it’s like I get very angry, and that something sort of overpowers me. It’s not something that I really think about. When I think about it, and I think, “[Self,] this is really dumb that you’re getting this way,” anyway that feeling still exists.

Katagiri: Sure. What do you think about that? Do you think that is instinct? Maybe you can say it is instinct, but human instinct is a little different from animals’ instinct. Still you can control it, don’t you think so?

Human instinct appears under certain circumstances. So if you are training your consciousness, your body, your mind, everyday life, then even the instinct doesn’t appear sometimes; you can control it. So you cannot say always there is an unconscious feeling coming up. Most people pay attention to this kind of emotional feeling, which seems to be important. But what would you call this kind of thing? Of course it is important, but it is not completely beyond control, it is still something under your control. Control means be intimate with it and take care of it. Whatever kind of name you put on it – instinct or intuition, unconscious feeling or unconscious emotion, whatever it is – it is still something under your control. Don’t you think so?

Same person: So in other words the way to be compassionate in that situation is really a conscious response, right? You have to kind of consciously process it and say, “Now, [self], shut up.” You know? I mean it seems like it’s a real… it’s not something I feel at a deep level, I just can’t kind of let it go.

Katagiri: If you say, “Shut up, [self],” that is already you are taking it very seriously. It’s not necessary to say “shut up, [self]”. Why don’t you just pass by, anyway? That’s all. You have to do it as simply as you can. You make it bigger by saying something like, “Hey, [self], shut up,” or, “You should shut up because Katagiri said so,” et cetera. That is already extra, you know? If you say so, you already add something to it, making it bigger. So, even though you want to say something, keep your mouth shut. [He laughs.] “Quiet.” Pass by, as simple as you can – in many ways. You should find a skillful way. I don’t know how, because it’s case-by-case.

That means don’t take it so seriously sometimes! There are many small things in human life, but we always make them bigger, and by making small things bigger, then we create bigger problems. But if you deal with it as simply as you can, you can keep it small.

For instance, let’s imagine I see somebody on the street by chance, and I don’t like him or her. At that time, immediately, what should I do? Why don’t I just go? If I have to say good morning then I have to say good morning, but if it is not necessary to say good morning, I can just pass by. Let’s imagine I have to say “good morning” to him or her, but at that time she or he doesn’t respond to me. Then, I become mad at him or her. Well, if he or she doesn’t respond to me – that’s alright; you just pass by. But if we’re really mad at this kind of thing, and we always keep this madness for a long time – even though you go home still your emotion is burning inside – that is really making small things bigger. There are many small things; you cannot handle many small things by making them bigger. You will be exhausted.

Many times you can see somebody who doesn’t respond; that’s alright. That is a small thing. When you have to do it, just say, “Good morning.” That’s enough. If it is important things – you have to do something, but when, how, should you do it – well, this is also a question.


Question: Why did Yun Men say it was “a conversation in the weeds”?

Katagiri: Oh, the weeds, I am sorry. “Weeds” means the phenomenal world; human life.

There are two normal ways of practice. One is going up, which means seeking for the truth. Seeking for the truth means to be liberated from any kind of ideas, thoughts, and human life, suffering, et cetera. That is constantly way-seeking mind. That is one way. The other way is that you cannot always do practice just like this, because you have to take care of daily life, so you have to descend to the human world. That means, “conversation in the weeds”.

Real truth cannot be elucidated directly, but indirectly you can do it. That is through the form of dance, form of your life, form of washing your face, form of gassho… anyway, though this you can do it. But that real truth is not something different from the form of life or dance; it’s exactly one. If I explain this in words, always there is a gap, you know – because this is a characteristic of language. It’s pretty hard to explain directly, exactly oneness itself. So this is nothing but the practice itself.

Same person: On page 212 it says:

But tell me, how is it that there was a conversation in the weeds for the sake of compassion? It was nevertheless dangerously steep; getting to this realm, only this fellow could hold up. This monk had personally come from Mount Lu; why did (Yang Shan) then say, “You have never visited the mountain”?

I guess there are a lot of questions in there. Why was it dangerously steep? Why could only this fellow hold up?

Katagiri: Oh, I see here, “It was nevertheless dangerously steep.” Dangerously steep means it’s very tricky… not tricky, very delicate. If you attach even a little bit to the form of the dance, it’s already nothing but impermanence, so it’s pretty hard to see the real beauty of the arts in it, because it’s appearing and disappearing. So behind this one you [meet] the real beauty of arts. But how can you know? Without the form of dance, you cannot see it. So that’s why you have to perform dance. But if you attach to it, it’s nothing but impermanent. On the other hand, you can see the beauty of performing dance within the impermanence of performing. At that time if you attach to the real beauty of arts, it’s also dangerous, because it is already “formed” by you, by your thought. That is very dangerous, very steep. Wheels like this. [He indicates something, and chuckles.]


Question: Using the analogy of, let’s say, getting up in the morning and doing common things like brushing your teeth, washing up: it seems like it’s hard if you can’t see it as a dance or as a beautiful leaf turning both ways. Like the times when it’s just drudgery, you know, or the times when you don’t see it that way, at least when I don’t see it that way. And those are the difficult times, because it doesn’t seem like a dance anymore, it doesn’t seem like art.

Katagiri: Sure, it’s really difficult. That’s why we have to do it.

Same Person: Right, but I guess what I’m… That’s always the most difficult point for me, and I think for a lot of people. It almost seems like when you try to reason it out at that point, it never works. It’s like, sometimes in my mind I go, “I should see this as every moment is something… sparkling.”

Katagiri: But you cannot handle all aspects of your life just like this; understanding completely, seeing the beauty of the dance. You cannot do your life completely in that way. Look at your life so far. How do you get up in the morning so far? Do you see, before you get up in the morning, “the beautiful art of the dance is here”? [Laughter, clapping.] You cannot get up in that way. Can you get up in the morning, saying, “It’s a beautiful universe”? It’s too much! [Laughter.] So immediately you become an actor.

Same Person: You mean [unintelligible]? [Laughter.]

Katagiri: “Actor” means you see already… Acting is very interesting, you know? You must be you, but you cannot be you, you must be some different somebody. Do you understand?

I experienced being an actor once. I wanted to be Devadatta, you know, who is a very bad boy, trying to kill the Buddha. The teacher asked me to be the Buddha – Siddhartha – but I didn’t want that; I wanted to be Devadatta, because I was very interested in Devadatta. [He laughs.] So first of all, I found out how difficult acting is: because I have to be I, but on the other hand I cannot be I! I must be Devadata. But I cannot be Devadatta exactly; Katagiri is still Katagiri. So I have to see Devadatta a little bit at a distance. And also you have to see yourself at a little distance. In other words, you have to act.

Same Person: But when you’re seeing yourself at a little distance, is that what causes… Although you can’t help it, you just do it, that’s what happens…

Katagiri: Yeah, I think so.

Same Person: But is that still not necessarily… I mean when you get to “enlightenment”, you’re not seeing yourself at that distance anymore. Is that…

Katagiri: Well you cannot be an actor, anyway. [He laughs.] If you become an actor, sometimes you are interested in your life, but sometimes you cannot be an actor, you have to be just you, you know. I mean, if you become an actor you always analyze and synthesize, seeing the beauty of stuff at a distance, whatever it is you have to be. That is an actor. But daily life is not like this; there is no space to be an actor. Before you want to be an actor or not-actor, you already act. This is our life; the so-called present.

I understand it’s pretty hard, because getting up in the morning is a very simple practice, but if you get up in the morning at four o’clock, and you carry this practice for thirty days, a hundred days… For instance, if you carry a small bucket of water for ten miles, twelve miles, a hundred miles, then you are really exhausted. I understand that. But anyway, you have to carry it! Still, in simple ways, spiritually, you can carry a small bucket of water every day, [and you feel it].

1:08:13 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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