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If there is nothing that can be pinned down in the vast expanse of the universe, then where is the mind? Where is the mind is a question, but also it is already an answer: the answer of what the real state of human life is. The essence is always raising (sic), just like a spring of water coming up. The continuation of flow makes a rhythm, or music; a concert, an orchestra. If we pay attention, and make ourselves simple and open, we can learn from this tune. Examining this case and verse, Katagiri Roshi shares the meaning of such poetry as, “When the rain has passed, the autumn water is deep in the evening pond,” and, “The moon’s brightness shines, revealing the night traveller.” Poetry and art are a shadow, but without them, we cannot approach the truth.


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(Transcriber’s Note: The beginning and ending of this talk are missing, and what exists in the audio file appears to be a single tape side repeated three times. The same audio repeats at 39:00 and 1:18:31.)

0:00 start of recording


P’an Shan imparted the words which said, “There is nothing in the triple world; where can mind be found?”

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

“The triple world” means… well there are lots of meanings, but in this case you may understand that the triple world is the vast expanse of the universe. In the vast expanse of the universe there is nothing, so-called emptiness. How can you learn emptiness, this “nothing in the universe”? [There is only one] way: we have to be absolutely open, we have to be absolutely simple. At that time, we can really learn.

“Where can mind be found?” Everything is nothing, basically nothing. Nothing means nothing to pin down, nothing to [comment on]. If so: where is the mind?

The world is understood by maybe two [aspects]: materialistic objects, and also spiritual stuff. Mind and thing. Mind and body. Subject and object. So object is [like the] tape recorder, microphone. According to the Heart Sutra we say, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” so from this point the microphone, tape recorder, radio, and the floor – all are emptiness. All are nothing in the vast expanse of the universe. If objects are present in the state of nothingness, where is the mind? Very naturally, no mind.

Mind can be seen only when object is seen. For instance, when you make an English sentence, you might say, “Katagiri dies.” “Katagiri dies” is a perfect, grammatical sentence, but spiritually it has a very contradictory quality. It doesn’t make sense, because the subject comes first, Katagiri, so the subject is something existent. There is a subject there: Katagiri. And then the verb: die. You have to bring the subject, and then [bring] die. Well what [does it mean] when you put them together: “Katagiri dies?” Do you understand this? [He laughs.] It doesn’t make sense! Katagiri is here. You bring something existent, and then you bring the verb die. Who dies? Katagiri? No, Katagiri is here, as the subject! [But] you cannot bring only dies, you know? [Like,] “Dies.” Who dies? No one understands that sentence or that situation. So first of all you have to bring the subject – Katagiri is here – and then die. So this sentence doesn’t make sense. Who dies? I don’t understand. Dies doesn’t make sense, so take out the word dies from this sentence, [he laughs,] and then the subject (Katagiri) doesn’t make sense. If there is no object, then the subject very naturally drops off, because it doesn’t make sense. The subject cannot exist alone, separate from the object. And the object cannot exist alone, [separate from the subject]. So object and subject are always there; mind and thing are always there.

So if things are emptiness, where is the mind? Very naturally, no mind. If there is no mind, where should Buddha go? Where is the place Buddha should depend on?


The verse:

There is nothing in the triple world;
Where can mind be found?
The white clouds form a canopy;
The flowing spring makes a lute—
One tune, two tunes; no one understands.
When the rain has passed, the autumn water is deep in the evening pond.

Engo Zenji has brought the same sentence in his verse as in the case: “There is nothing in the triple world; where can mind be found?” That is completely “where can mind be found”: if everything is empty, where can mind be found? Because mind is also empty; if so, mind is nothing. The mind is nothing, but the mind is there – because in your daily living, can you ignore your mind? You cannot. But what is the mind? Where is your mind? In your brain? This is already you setting up an idea; mind is a certain idea. [Is mind] your heart? No; this is also a certain idea. From where does the mind come, is the mind inside or outside? No way, because mind is emptiness, if so, mind is nothing. Does mind is nothing mean completely nothing? No, you cannot say that, because always mind is here. Where is the mind?

This is a question: where is mind means mind is not occupying a certain place and time. Under certain circumstances, mind is alive; just mind is alive: this is called where is mind. Just the question comes up, because it’s always alive. Under certain circumstances, mind is alive.

If I make a face, sticking out my tongue right in front of you – at that time, where is the mind? Can you say mind is nothing? No. Yes, mind is nothing, that’s why mind comes up anytime, anywhere, under certain circumstances. Mind doesn’t occupy a certain time and space [which] you believe. Inside or outside – what part of your body inside, or what part of your outside world, [is mind]? No place; that’s why anytime, anywhere, wherever you may go, mind appears. Under certain circumstances, under certain conditions, [it’s alive]; that’s all. It’s working constantly, but the next moment it disappears, because you cannot hold on [to it]. So next time, you can smile, [instead of sticking out your tongue].

This is “there is nothing in the triple world; where can mind be found?” This is pointing out the real state of human life, so-called truth.


In the next line, Engo Zen Master is talking about this real state of the truth, based on “where can mind be found.” Where can mind be found is a question, but it’s not a question, it’s an answer already: the answer of what the truth is. So,

The white clouds form a canopy;

Clouds cover the whole sky, and then those clouds are not clouds, those clouds become a canopy. That means wherever you may go, the truth is omnipresent, just like a canopy [is just clouds]. [Truth] doesn’t occupy a certain time and place. According to conditions, clouds appear and disappear – but [truth is] there. Clouds are empty, but still clouds are clouds, under [certain] conditions. So clouds are not [the clouds] you hate or love; they are something more than that, a so-called canopy.

When the clouds become a canopy, it’s really good for us. Through the canopy, we can learn something. So we have to know clouds, what the clouds are.

The flowing spring makes a lute—

It’s a beautiful scene: this flowing spring makes a lute, [or a musical instrument]. “Flowing spring” means constantly coming up, regardless of whether you like it or not, regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not. Spring water comes up constantly; [it is the] continuation of flow. And that makes just like a rhythm, or music; a performing concert, an orchestra. That is so-called truth.

One tune, two tunes; no one understands.

You can learn from one tune, two tunes: open yourself and become simple, and then you can learn. When you see grandparents and great persons, be open, and be simple, and just do it, and then you can learn. That is the chance or opportunity to make your life ready to be simple and open. But if you don’t, you always comes first, and [you are] criticizing, judging, evaluating; so you never learn openness, simplicity itself; you never learn how to live in peace and harmony.

You can learn something from this one tune. This one tune is ten tunes, a hundred tunes… a million tunes. From the one tune coming from the mountains, you can learn a hundred tunes, which birds have, which trees have. A hundred thousand million tunes come up. No one knows; you don’t understand. What is this?

And then next it says,


When the rain has passed, the autumn water is deep in the evening pond.

“When the rain has passed”: when the rain comes, then very naturally autumn water becomes deep in the evening pond. It’s very natural. “When the rain has passed” means that when you see your parents and grandparents, or great persons, all you have to do is just do zazen: just pass by. When the rain has passed by, the autumn pond becomes deep, in the autumn season.

In the autumn season you can see both aspects of human life, life and death, because leaves are falling. In a sense, you can learn a lot. One aspect of human life is sadness, pensiveness, melancholy. Don’t you think so?

Minneapolis, [for example]. [People laugh.] In the autumn season, before winter, many people are confused and irritated and restless, because they don’t like autumn, in a sense. The trees are beautiful: the leaves turn bright red and yellow. But on the other hand, the leaves are falling constantly, and our head is already going to winter. So your head is in winter, in the future, and your body is here, in autumn. So you’re completely messed up; your life is a mess. And then this confused person looks at this reality, the falling leaves, and then you feel melancholy. If you feel melancholy, you don’t know how to take care of melancholy, because you are already messed up, because your mind is already in winter, so your mind is completely separate from your body in autumn. How can you take care of that mess? You don’t. So finally in the autumn season, many people are confused, you know? Living in Minneapolis; looking for something fantastic in that. And then the winter comes, and you give up completely: “I give up; let’s stay here, because it’s already winter.” But before that, many people struggle; that is autumn. But autumn means you can see the two aspects of human life: death, life. Melancholy, pleasure. Vitality and loss of vitality. That’s pretty good for us.

So if you see zazen, all you have to do is be open and simple in the zazen. And then at that time, zazen has passed, just like a rain. And then very naturally, your pond, the pond in your life, so-called Katagiri’s pond, is filled with rain in the autumn season. “In the autumn season” means not only happy life: in the life having both happy and unhappy, melancholy and pleasure, life and death.

In the autumn season my pond is filled with water. Water means zazen. If you do zazen, you can experience something, very naturally. If so, it’s not necessary to poke your head into it, researching, “What is zazen? What is zazen?” You become exhausted [that way]. So zazen is not to research something, zazen is to let you return to home. I always tell you this: return to home. Only when you become open and simple in zazen, at that time you can return to home. That is the natural state of your life. That means when the rains have passed, and then the pond is filled with water in the autumn season.

Autumn season is really lots of things: ups and downs, ups and downs. Sometimes you don’t like zazen; sometimes you love it! Sometimes you love you; sometimes you don’t love you. Always up and down, up and down, constantly. But [there is] nothing else to do, [there is not] something extra, apart from this life. So all you have to do is, when the time comes to do zazen, just do zazen. When the morning comes, you have to get up. When breakfast comes, you have to have breakfast. When you have to go to school, you have to go to school. It is simple life, but you have to learn that simple life in the realm of up and down life. This is the autumn season. That’s pretty good. And then very naturally you can fill your pond with the water. That is after the rain has passed. That is individual experience.

So that’s why nature is beautiful. When the rain comes, it’s beautiful. When the snow comes, it’s beautiful. When the sun time comes, it’s beautiful.


In the commentary [on the verse]:

An Ancient said, “Even a deaf man can sing a foreign song; good or bad, high or low, he doesn’t hear at all.” Yun Men said, “When it is raised, if you do not pay attention, you will miss it; if you want to think about it, in what aeon will you ever awaken?” Raising is the essence, paying attention is the function; …

Essence is not an absolute you can believe philosophically, it’s not the idea of so-called essence, so-called absolute. I don’t think that. Essence is raising: essence is always raising, just like a spring of water coming up, in every aspect of your life.

“Paying attention is the function”: That is where you can pay attention, that is the function of your life. So if your life is not functioning, well you have to die; it doesn’t make sense. No matter how long I say, “Fire, fire, fire,” I never burn my mouth, because that fire is coming from my head. “Fire, fire, fire” – this fire never burns my tongue. Fire is real fire. So [if you think] “Katagiri, Katagiri, Katagiri, I love Katagiri” – it doesn’t make sense. If I love Katagiri a lot, take care of [that]. That is raising up: pay attention. Paying attention is function.

… if you can see before it is brought up, before any indications are distinguishable, then you will occupy the essential bridge; if you can see at the moment when the indications are distinguishable, then you will have shining and function. If you see after the indications are distinct, you will fall into intellection.

This is a pretty good explanation.

“Raising is the essence, paying attention is the function” means the function of your life must be always going on in the realm of essence; that means the truth. That is the function of your daily life. Where is it? It is in the essence. You have to make your life alive in the essence, not in your territory, not in your intellectual world. So what is it? That is [why] he says, “If you can see before it is brought up, before any indications are distinguishable, then you will occupy the essential bridge.” It means before any indications are brought up. If you do zazen, distinguishable means “I am doing zazen”: at that time already some indications are distinguishable. Indications are brought up; at that time you never touch real zazen. So if you want to touch the real form of zazen in the essence, you have to understand it before “zazen” is brought up. [Unintelligible.]

Next, “… if you can see at the moment when the indications are distinguishable, then you will have shining and function.” If you can see at the real moment when the indications are distinguishable means not before and not after – immediately touch it, just like lightning touches thunder. Lightning–thunder: just like this. At that time your life becomes shining, and the functioning of zazen becomes shining. Then that is called enlightenment. So enlightenment is just like thunder: lightning, thunder. Becoming one with zazen and you – at that time it is really function. So that’s why it says, “then you will have shining and function.”

“If you see after the indications are distinct, you will fall into intellection.” If after your mind comes up, and then discriminates, then at that time it falls into intellectual understanding. That is very naturally lots of things coming up: like or dislike. Discrimination is not the simple state of existence, because discrimination is already followed by judgement, evaluation, and emotional affective preferences. That means right and good: feel good, feel bad; those emotional preferences follow. So that’s why it’s pretty hard; that’s why you don’t know what to do next. Human beings are carried away by emotional affective preferences pretty easily, so that’s why it’s pretty hard to stand up straight there.

You should also read the commentary on the case; it’s a pretty good explanation there.

Do you have questions?


Question: In the first note, he says, “He ought to have been hit before he finished talking.” And then on the next page he said, “Why do I say I would have hit him before he finished speaking? Just because he was wearing stocks, giving evidence of his crimes.” I don’t understand what he’s trying to say there at all.

Katagiri: [Engo’s first note says,]

Once the arrow has left the bowstring, it has no power to come back. The moon’s brightness shines, revealing the night traveller. He has hit the mark. One who knows the law fears it. He ought to have been hit before he finished talking.

“Once the arrow has left the bowstring”: that means the truth is already existent before you were born, or not born. Before the world is born, the truth is the truth; it’s already here. So that is what “once the arrow has left the bowstring” means. And next he says, “it has no power to come back,” because no one can do anything for it. Come back means take it in or take it up; we cannot do it, because this is the truth, and the truth is omnipresent, wherever you may go. It’s not inside, not outside. “It’s omnipresent” means [there is] no gap between; if you say inside or outside, it’s already created a gap between the truth and you. Omnipresent means completely you have to put the basket of your life in the water, then the basket is filled with water inside and outside, no partition there. Water is always coming and going through the bamboo basket. So that is “once the arrow has left the bowstring.” It’s already there; it has no power to come back; no one can do anything.

“The moon’s brightness shines, revealing the night traveller”: If you say something about the truth, it’s kind of the [like] “the moon’s brightness shines, revealing the night traveller.” It sort of means the moon shines over travelers, making a shadow. It means [it’s] the explanation of human life, or truth, but it’s just like a shadow. The shadow is a shadow. The shadow is exactly right in the middle of the truth, but the problem is that people always grope for the shadow as the truth. But shadow is shadow.

We always grope for an explanation of the truth. If I explain the truth pretty well, you will really respect me. And if I don’t, well you really hate me, you don’t follow me.

When I went to the missionary school in Saint Paul, I described about the truth according to the Diamond Sutra, because they studied the Diamond Sutra. And then the teacher asked me, “[Does] Buddhism always explain the truth? How can you know the truth? Why do you explain the truth?” And then after that, the teacher told a student, “God shouldn’t be explained.” Of course I understand that. But the teacher didn’t understand the Diamond Sutra. [He chuckles.] I don’t think explanation of the truth is right, [that] you have to grasp it: it’s nothing but the shadow. But nevertheless, how can you approach the truth if you don’t explain, if you don’t say anything? If you don’t have art, or a poem? How can you touch the truth, how can you have access toward the truth, a beautiful universe – how can you do it, [without something]? [There is] no way. So that’s why there are lots of ways how to approach to the truth: there is poetry reading and discussion, and there is the art of Buddha statues and Buddha pictures, et cetera. And then we can approach the truth. But a Buddha statue is not a real Buddha; that’s why if you really pay attention to the Buddha statue, it turns into a snake. That is a ghost. So you cannot always grasp the Buddha statue. The Buddha statue is just pay attention and respect: that’s enough. You cannot expect something extra from your practice itself. The practice itself is just pay homage to it, as a Buddha. That’s all we have to do. Always that is just revealing the shadows; but without explanation, we don’t understand, we don’t have any chance to approach [the truth]. That’s why we have to explain, and make art, et cetera, for human beings.

“He has hit the mark”: It is nothing but the shadow, but “hit the mark” means [he says there is] nothing in the world. “Nothing in the world” means truth is truth; truth is nothing to explain. But without explanation, without saying something from the truth, we cannot have any chance to approach; that’s why we have to do it. If you do it, it’s just like making a shadow. You cannot hang on to the shadow, but if you say [it], if you experience [it], if you make a shadow, you can hit the mark, because the shadow should come from truth itself you are present in. That’s why you hit the mark.

“One who knows the law fears it”: If you are a person who knows the real truth, you really fear it, because you cannot touch it. If you [try to] explain it, how can you explain it? It’s really here, you cannot keep away from it, but if you touch it, it’s not truth. But you also cannot ignore it, so it’s really fear. Fear means not the usual fear: it’s a little bit [like] always wondering what is the real truth. The question comes up, always.

“He ought to have been hit before he finished talking”: You ought to have been hit before you finished talking means you have to be there. Before you finish making a shadow, you have to be there. You ought to have been there means [to] hit. So before you make a shadow, you and your explanation must be hitting the bullseye; that means right in the middle of the truth. We have to know.


(Transcriber’s Note: At this point, the audio skips back to the beginning of (presumably) this one side of the tape, and repeats. That happens again at 1:18:31.)

1:58:02 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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