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Summary

Is the Iron Ox dead or alive? Katagiri Roshi discusses the gradual and the sudden, accepting Buddha Nature in the midst of the bustling marketplace. In order to hold, you have to let go. What is the Buddhist Law, and what is the Law of Kings, and why are they the same thing? The old pond: a frog jumps in. Plop! Also: do you need a boss?

Transcript

Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org

0:00 start of recording

Case Thirty-Eight: “Feng Hsueh’s Workings of the Iron Ox”. Pointer:

If we discuss the gradual, it is going against the ordinary to merge with the Way: in the midst of a bustling market place, seven ways up and down and eight ways across.

If we discuss the sudden, it doesn’t leave a hint of a trace; a thousand sages cannot find it.

If, on the other hand, we do not set up sudden or gradual, then what? To a quick person, one word; to a quick horse, one blow of the whip. At such a time, who is the master? As a test, I cite this to see.

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

Here are two points: to discuss the gradual; second, to discuss the sudden. If you discuss the gradual, gradual means gradual progress, seeing progress through your individual feeling, understanding, and experience in your daily life. That is gradual.

If we discuss the gradual, it is going against the ordinary to merge with the Way: in the midst of a bustling market place, seven ways up and down and eight ways across.

It is going against the ordinary because, ordinary means you are always a little bit away from the truth that you believe [toward], away from the point of the truth. Physically and mentally, in your daily life, your body and mind are present in daily living; that means being present right in the midst of the bustling marketplace. The bustling marketplace means making noise. Day to day, getting up in the morning: “Yes, I am getting up in the morning.” And then next you don’t want to get up in the morning, so, “I don’t want to get up in the morning.” So always bustling; your body and mind is [shown] in the bustling marketplace. Pretty noisy.

And that means, next it says, “seven ways up and down and eight ways across.” We don’t care about the numbers; seven ways up and down means countless number, many times. Even for a moment, how often do you go up and down, you know? Can you imagine? [He chuckles.] If you do [imagine] that then you can see. In a moment your mind is really going up and down. And next your mind is really crossing rivers, and not crossing small rivers, you cross the universe. You can go to heaven. You can go to Japan. Immediately, you can go. So in a moment you are really going up and down, across the universe, going to heaven and hell, et cetera, because you are discussing in the gradual.

Gradual progress: because I am not a good person, I am not a real Buddhist, I am not mature exactly, that’s why I’m afraid to just be present with confidence, that’s why I want to progress. “I want to progress” means you are not mature, you are not perfect now, that’s why very naturally you are discussing about you, right in the middle of the bustling marketplace. That means [it’s] pretty hard. If you always take care of your life in that way, it’s really painful.

6:20

If we discuss the sudden, it doesn’t leave a hint of a trace; a thousand sages cannot find it.

You cannot take care of your life just like [the gradual], always. So next, we have to discuss the sudden. Sudden life, sudden progress. One hundred percent perfect. The sudden means one hundred percent perfect.

For instance, if you perform athletics, you have to catch the iron bar. If you discuss the gradual, you are always looking at the bar, and looking at you, and then looking at the result which will come. And also you discuss about the audience, and you discuss about the points. You are always doing that, so naturally you are very uneasy and restless. On the other hand … the sudden means one hundred percept perfect. That means you jump and grasp it. You cannot reach ninety percent; if you reach ninety percent to the iron bar, it’s not perfect. Ninety percent seems to be good, but it doesn’t make sense. So you have to completely perfectly catch it. If you catch it, then the next moment immediately you can perform athletics. “You discuss the sudden” means you should catch the iron bar perfectly, one hundred percent. That is not only athletics: [it is also] your study, your zazen, your daily living.

We need both. You cannot always say, “I can get one hundred points,” you know? You cannot boast about yourself like this. But a Zen Master in Japan says, “Zen is always to get zero points or one hundred points”; no middle between. This is Zen. Zen teaching doesn’t mean dogmatic teaching – this is life. I told you athletic performance: one hundred percent, or if you get ninety percent, ninety percent is exactly zero points, same thing. So no middle. Zero or one hundred percent. The same applies to zazen too: one hundred percent or zero. That’s what shikantaza is: to get the hundred points. It is very important. Discussing about you in the midst of the bustling marketplace, but on the other hand, you can do it! You have to do it; otherwise, you cannot see any progress in the bustling marketplace. So we need both simultaneously.

You know the famous haiku (by Bashō):

The old pond,
a frog jumps in:
Plop!

This is a pretty interesting short poem. If you discuss the gradual aspect, I think you can discuss about Bashō, and you can discuss about the frog, you can discuss about the old pond, and mountains, and quietness, and [the man], and also birds singing, et cetera; you can discuss [all those], gradually. But no matter how long you discuss about all this and then put [the] things together – [it’s] pretty good, but I don’t know if you can make this kind of poem. You cannot make such a wonderful poem through the discussion about the gradual: analyzing, synthesizing, and your feelings, and also your emotions, and psychological point of view, and the original nature of existence, et cetera. You cannot make a perfect nice poem [that way]. So an important point is next you have to discuss the sudden. That means the frog, and Bashō, and the old pond, and quietness, come together all of a sudden, as one hundred percent perfect beings. At that time, Bashō, frog, and the old pond, and [birds] singing songs, and quietness, are all put together. In the realm of the sudden, they exist like this. And then, if you discuss this, then a poem comes up. [In] this poem, [any] word is not [a] word coming from discussion of the sudden or discussion of the gradual.

13:03

Then next it says,

If, on the other hand, we do not set up sudden or gradual, then what?

Gradual or sudden are still discussion, nothing but discussion. So what do you mean? If you discuss the sudden, that sudden is not the sudden opposed to gradual because discussing sudden means you must be alive in the same way as the frog, old pond, quietness, universe. You have to exist like this, exactly. If so, what is this? They all become one. So it’s not discussion; it’s nothing but motion or function, the energy of function.

Finally you cannot say what this is. This is the sudden: sudden means in the middle of the sudden, all things – frogs, old pond, quietness, and noise of the water – exist in peace and harmony. Is this still discussion? No. Opposed to gradual. That’s why next it says, “If, on the other hand, we do not set up sudden or gradual.” If you pay attention to real reality which is fully alive in your daily living with all sentient beings, at that time we do not set up sudden or gradual. And, “then what?”

One of the old students at Zen Center in San Francisco, they visited here on the way to Karmê Chöling in Vermont. He stayed for a while and discussed Buddhism with me. He very much liked Buddhist teaching philosophically, and was always discussing it. At that time he wore very nice suits and was very gentlemanly. He said, “Buddhism is interesting,” so I discussed with him about emptiness and interdependent co-origination. Then he said, “Good! That’s a good explanation of emptiness.” And he said: “Then what?” [He laughs.] Exactly: then what? Then what is then what; no room to discuss. So then what means pointing out the real aspect of emptiness which is fully alive in your daily living. That is nothing to discuss; that’s why we say, “Then what?” We don’t know what it is. [But] the full aliveness of the words, the nature of the poem, comes from then what, before you set up gradual or sudden. We cannot set up before that. So that’s why here it says, “If, on the other hand, we do not set up sudden or gradual, then what?”

16:57

To a quick person, one word; to a quick horse, one blow of the whip.

“To a quick person, one word”: At that time, one word comes from that then what. From then what means fully alive, nothing to pin down. That’s why we say our head is always catching up with something, but you cannot catch up, because full aliveness is always going, your intellectual sense cannot catch up. That’s why always I tell you it seems to me [like you] grasp the back of your bald head. You cannot grasp a bald head because there are no hairs. [He chuckles.] So it’s just like we’re always doing that.

That’s why “to a quick person, one word” is when you are exactly being present in the real function of emptiness, before you set up gradual or sudden. And then you can really get the full aliveness of the words, expressing oneness. The so-called old pond. A frog jumps in. Plop. That’s all. From these words, very quick persons, Bashō as a person, [are] not a being opposed to frog and the old pond; Bashō is exactly the same as the frog and the old pond. That’s why Sengai (Sengai Gibon, one of Bashō’s disciples) commented on this poem: “An old pond, Bashō jumps in, the sound of water.” You know? Bashō jumps into the pond: plop. In the notes he said, “If there is a pond with a jump, I want him to hear it.” Do you understand? “If there is a pond with a jump, I want him to hear it,” means a huge pond, it’s not a limited pond your senses can see. Pond is exactly pond with frog and universe and trees and mountains and quietness, et cetera. So that is a huge pond, so-called Buddha Nature – Buddha’s pond. So if there is a pond with a jump, I want to jump in, I want him to hear it. I am not different from Bashō; I am Bashō. That’s why I can understand Bashō’s feelings, and I can understand the frog’s life, I understand tranquility’s life, created by clouds and old pond and mountains, et cetera. So that’s why he said, “If there is a pond, I want to jump, I want him to hear it.” And next he says, “And old pond, something jumps in with a plop.” Something jumps in. What jumps in? I jump in? Or Bashō jumps in? Or frog jumps in? Or tranquility jumps in? I don’t know. Something jumps in. It means a very natural situation: something jumps in. Something is completely leaving no trace of frog and old pond and Bashō. [They are] working together perfectly, one hundred percent, but they don’t leave any trace, so-called “I am merging with all beings perfectly, one hundred percent perfect.” They don’t [leave a trace like this]. So that’s why Sengai says, “Something jumps in, with a plop.”

This is explaining, “To a quick person, one word, to a quick horse, one blow of the whip.” No space to think of it; immediately [it] comes up.

22:20

At such a time, who is the master? As a test, I cite this to see.

Who is a master? I am a master to make a poem? I am a master in zazen? Who is the master? Is Zazen the master? Because zazen educates me, zazen enhances me – so is zazen the master? No. So if it is not, am I the master? No. Well, who is the master?

Right in the middle of zazen you are merging with each other perfectly. That’s why I told you, being on the top of a hundred foot high pole, take one step forward. Who [jumps]? Who pushes you to take a step forward? No one. Who [approves] your jumping from the hundred foot high pole? No one. Anyway, jump! Take one step forward; that is a great master. Well, temporarily we can say [so].

So take one step forward. Anyway, take one step forward is, maybe, master – without leaving any trace of being master. That’s why we don’t know who is the master. Who gives a reward? I don’t know.

That’s why, who is the master – no. Lotus Sutra or Dogen Zenji says, “Buddha knows.” Only Buddha knows what the Buddha is. Only Buddha knows what human suffering is. Only Buddha knows the Buddha’s world.

24:23

Next, the case:

At the government headquarters in Ying Chou, Feng Hsueh entered the hall and said, “The Patriarchal Masters’ Mind Seal is formed like the workings of the Iron Ox: when taken away, the impression remains; when left there, then the impression is ruined. But if neither removed nor left there, is sealing right or is not sealing right?”

At that time there was a certain Elder Lu P’i who came forth and said, “I have the workings of the Iron Ox: please, Teacher, do not impress the seal.”

Hsueh said, “Accustomed to scouring the oceans fishing for whales, I regret to find instead a frog crawling in the muddy sand.”

P’i stood there thinking. Hsueh shouted and said, “Elder, why do you not speak further?” P’i hesitated; Hsueh hit him with his whisk. Hsueh said, “Do you still remember the words? Try to quote them.” As P’i was about to open his mouth, Hsueh hit him again with his whisk.

The Governor said, “The Buddhist Law and the Law of Kings are the same.”

Hsueh said, “What principle have you seen?”

The Governor said, “When you do not settle what is to be settled, instead you bring about disorder.”

Hsueh thereupon descended from his seat.

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

26:44

At the government headquarters in Ying Chou, Feng Hsueh entered the hall …

Feng Hsueh Zen Master seemed to be living in maybe the headquarters of the government in China, Ying Chou, and teaching Buddhism to government people. One day he entered the teaching hall and said,

“The Patriarchal Masters’ Mind Seal is formed like the workings of the Iron Ox: …”

Mind Seal means Buddha Nature, or the original nature of existence, or dharma body, dharma nature, or bodhi mind – whatever you say. That is Mind Seal.

Regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not, Mind Seal, regarded as a Buddha, is already sealed in the root of your life. No exceptions: everyone, all beings, are exactly sealed by Buddha Nature. “The Patriarchal Masters” means many patriarchs from generation to generation: Mind Seal is handed down from generation to generation, from patriarch to patriarch.

“… formed like the workings of the Iron Ox”: Mind Seal is Buddha Nature, Buddha Mind, Bodhi Mind… It seems to be a wonderful thing, but we don’t know what it is. It’s very [vague]. So that’s why it says “the workings of the Iron Ox.” The so-called Iron Ox was a huge iron ox, built by the Yellow River in China. People believed in this Iron Ox, regarded as a protector of the Yellow River, because the Yellow River is a very important thing for the Chinese to live there, in many ways. So in ancient times this huge iron ox was built by an emperor. The head is toward Honan, that means toward the south, and the tail is in the north (in Hopei). A huge, huge iron ox. An Iron Ox is something made with iron, so it doesn’t move. It’s huge, but it doesn’t move. But every year, annually, Chinese people respect this Iron Ox with celebration and religious ceremony, because it is regarded as a great protector of the Yellow River. So from this point, the Iron Ox doesn’t move, it is not alive, but it’s alive by the people who respect this with religious ceremony.

Mind Seal is very vast; we don’t know what it is. It seems to be far away from us. “You are Buddha Nature” – how do you understand this? “Well, yes, you say so. If you say so, I can believe it.” But where is the Buddha Nature? If you say, “If you say so, I can believe,” [then] Buddha Nature is Katagiri’s Buddha Nature but it’s not your Buddha Nature. So you have to feel and get a taste of Buddha Nature in your heart. Still Buddha Nature or Mind Seal or Buddha Mind – compassionate, generous, magnanimous human mind – is vague, far from us, because every day we can see the mind which is in the bustling marketplace. Seven ways up and down, and seven ways across, always. So it’s pretty hard to believe [in] Buddha Mind which is fully alive. But on the other hand, Buddha Mind is really Buddha Mind, because right in the middle of war, still there is always one person, from generation to generation, who hopes and acts toward peace. Right in the middle of natural tragedies or whatever, one seed is left.

From this point, we have Buddha Mind. Anyway, Buddha Mind is really alive. If you see a small little boy rushing into the street who is on the verge of life and death, you immediately rush in to save him from the danger, before you discuss, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” This action really comes from Buddha Mind: compassionate, generous, magnanimous mind.

That’s why it says, “The Patriarchal Masters’ Mind Seal is formed like the workings of the Iron Ox: …”

34:37

“… when taken away, the impression remains; when left there, then the impression is ruined.”

In this case the seal is a kind of example. You know the Japanese seal or stamp. If a seal is pressed down on a piece of paper and taken away, then the seal is alive, the seal remains. But on the other hand, when the seal is left there, the impression is ruined, because you cannot see the impression. You cannot see the seal, because the seal is on the paper.

That means you don’t understand Buddha Mind, but it is already present in everyone. So all you have to do is, Buddha Nature should be accepted by everyone, without exception. Just like a seal. My name’s on it, so no excuse. If so, well, I have a seal, but a seal is a seal: if you don’t use it, it doesn’t make sense. So seal must be alive in your daily living; you have to press it down on a paper or clay, or on something anyway. That means hold completely perfect acceptance of Buddha Nature, [and] next moment you have to take it away. That means you should accept Buddha Nature, but you cannot say, “I am Buddha, so why is it I have to practice zazen?” [Then] your seal is always on the paper; it doesn’t make sense. So you should completely accept; but that is it should be taken away in order to see the seal of the name, so-called Buddha Nature. So that means holding.

And then there are two ways of practice: one practice is letting go, the second is holding it. So letting go is completely perfect acceptance of Buddha Nature, [which] means you have to put it down, anyway you have to put it into practice everyday, on the paper of the everyday, which is called everyday life. You should put it [there], press down. It should be pressed down every day. But simultaneously it should be taken away. That means you cannot hang on – you know, [saying] “I am Buddha.” If you say, “I am Buddha,” very naturally you hang on to the idea of Buddha Nature. It doesn’t make sense, because look at yourself [in] everyday life: you cannot see the Buddha, because your body and mind is in the bustling marketplace.

So how do you take care of this? This is also a question. If you are Buddha, if you accept one hundred percent that you are Buddha Nature, [then] put it into practice, press down on the paper every day, while simultaneously it should be taken away. At that time, Buddha Nature is there, but intellectually you cannot perceive it. This is a little problem. But if you do it, very naturally you can see it, you can feel it. According to discussion of gradual, very naturally you can see it.

And then holding: holding means you should hold Buddha Nature, but holding doesn’t mean hang on. If you receive the Buddha Nature, always staying there, dwelling in Buddha Nature, but that means letting go: simultaneously you should cut off any image of Buddha Nature or whatever it is. If you do it, at that time there is something you can hold: that is Buddha Nature without leaving any trace of it. No trace. So that is, you can hold it. That something you can hold is pretty hard to be understood or known by six senses.

That’s why it says, “When taken away, the impression remains; when left there, then the impression is ruined.” When you hold on constantly, whatever it is, good or bad, if you hold on, it’s ruined. So you have to hold on to something, but this is not something you can hold by your six senses.

41:53

“But if neither removed nor left there, is sealing right or is not sealing right?”

Well, if you say “when taken away, the impression remains; when left there, then the impression is ruined” – but if neither removed nor left there, why is it we have to say, “Is sealing right or is not sealing right?” Because neither removed nor left means completely emptiness. Should I say removing is right? Or leaving there is not right? We cannot say so, because we need both. When you let go of the Buddha Nature you have understood, at that time something remains which you can hold. But I don’t know what it is. This is Buddha Nature.

So in order to hold, you have to let go. So we need both practices simultaneously. Constantly we have to do this practice. When you do zazen, completely you should accept zazen. Beyond your six senses, your understanding of Buddha Nature, you should accept zazen. But zazen lets you become Buddha. Yes it does. But, you have to let go of this idea. And then, there is something you can hold, which maybe you can discuss “gradually,” in the midst of the bustling marketplace. You can see [your light] there. But we don’t know what it is, because when you see it, next moment it is also in the midst of the bustling marketplace, so it disappears. But all we have to do is, when we do zazen, just accept and let it go. And then, there is something you can hold. But this hold doesn’t mean hanging on.

So that’s why …

[Tape change]

… [we cannot say] removing is the right way, or leaving is the right way.

45:04

At that time there was a certain Elder Lu P’i who came forth and said, “I have the workings of the Iron Ox: please, Teacher, do not impress the seal.”

This is Elder Lu P’i who came forth and said, “I have the workings of the Iron Ox.” This statement is exactly imitated. So he said, “Please, Teacher, do not impress the seal” – because I am already Iron Ox. Should I press down the seal? And then simultaneously take it away? Or should I press down the seal and leave it there? Which is right? Which is wrong? The Iron Ox by the river, is it dead? Yes, it’s dead; but it’s not dead. Is it alive? It’s not alive; it’s dead, because [it’s an] Iron Ox. But is the so-called Iron Ox dead? No; it has a really close relation with human beings, protecting the Yellow River. If so, it’s alive. So which is right? Can we say the Iron Ox is alive? No, that’s wrong. But in a sense, it’s right. Or the Iron Ox is dead: it’s right, but it’s wrong. So finally, nothing to say.

So, “I have the workings of the Iron Ox” means I am already present right in the middle of emptiness, without leaving any trace. So please, don’t press me. Don’t press the seal down on my life, [I am] Iron Ox, which is dead, or which is alive.

47:38

But,

Hsueh said, “Accustomed to scouring the oceans fishing for whales …”

Do you understand “fishing for whales”? You know, big whales; whales are huge. Even in a big ocean, if a whale swims it makes huge waves. It’s fantastic.

So scouring [is like] cleaning up everything, stirring up the oceans completely. His statement “I have the workings of the Iron Ox” means just like a whale swimming in the ocean. Pretty nice, you know? He knows pretty well the real point of the Zen teachings, so he said so. So he becomes a whale. He becomes just a whale swimming in the ocean, stirring the waters. Scouring or making the water muddy; whatever you say, it’s alright. And that’s why Hsueh said “accustomed”; you are pretty good, accustomed to do so, because you are a pretty big whale. You can swim in the ocean. Not a small whale, anyway.

So, pretty good, but:

“… I regret to find instead a frog crawling in the muddy sand.”

[He laughs.] It means, what you said is exactly right, exactly right, but still there is a frog crawling in the muddy sand. That means still there is a trace there: “I am a big whale, swimming in the ocean,” “I am an enlightened person” – like this. Scouring the waters; but still I regret I can see a frog crawling in the muddy sand. Even though you get out from human delusions, you can get out of the house by the door, but unfortunately your tail is [caught] by the door, so you can’t get out. [He laughs.] Most of your body is out, but still your tail is hooked by the door. It’s pretty hard to realize this point, so that’s why we need to constantly practice. Letting go, constantly. When you let go, then something is filled in your hand. If you don’t let go, it’s very hard. So that’s why Hsueh said, “I regret to find instead a frog crawling in the muddy sand.”

51:33

P’i stood there thinking.

P’i couldn’t say anything about this. So a big whale becomes a small frog in the muddy sand. Hsueh saw him exactly like that. But on the other hand, this Lu P’i is a really huge whale swimming in the ocean. He seems to be wonderful, but on the other hand, he can see him as a frog in the muddy sand. So, nothing to say. P’i was a little bit confused. So,

Hsueh shouted and said, “Elder, why do you not speak further?”

Why don’t you say something about this? Is my statement right? Can’t you say [something] about this?

P’i hesitated;

Still P’i hesitated. Maybe P’i understood what Hsueh said. If you understand, most times it’s pretty hard to say. If you understand the Buddha Nature cats have, or human beings have, it’s pretty hard to say. Because whatever you say – a cat doesn’t have Buddha Nature – that’s wrong. Or even though you say a cat has Buddha Nature, that’s wrong, because where is the Buddha Nature in a cat? Is Buddha Nature in a cat exactly like a human being? No it’s not; a little different. Does the cat understand human life very deeply? No. If so, where is the Buddha Nature? Whatever you say, it doesn’t hit the mark. So maybe P’i hesitated because he knew [this].

Hsueh hit him with his whisk. Hsueh said, “Do you still remember the words? Try to quote them.”

“Do you still remember the words which you have said? Do you? You said, ‘I have the workings of the Iron Ox.’ You said so. Can’t you remember that?”

As P’i was about to open his mouth, Hsueh hit him again with his whisk.

P’i was trying to open his mouth and say something, but Hsueh immediately hit him again with his whisk.

54:34

The Governor said,

At that time there was a Governor by them, listening to this conversation between Hsueh and Lu P’i. This Governor had been practicing for a long time under the guidance of Hsueh Zen Master. So he knows pretty much the real point of Zen teachings, so he said,

“The Buddhist Law and the Law of Kings are the same.”

In a sense, the Governor stood between and passed out fair judgement on this case: “Both are pretty good.” That’s why next,

Hsueh said, “What principle have you seen?”

If you say both of them are good, if you judge like this on this case, if so, what have you seen? What is the truth you have seen?

The Governor said, “When you do not settle what is to be settled, instead you bring about disorder.”

That means you have to do what you have to do. You shouldn’t do what you shouldn’t do. Life is very simple. When you want to practice, practice. When you attend a training session, [do the] training session, follow the schedule. Even though it’s hard, follow the schedule. You should do what you have to do. This is daily life, based on living in, standing straight in, Buddha Nature. Life is very simple: you have to do what you have to do; you shouldn’t do what you shouldn’t do. That’s all you have to do.

Hsueh thereupon descended from his seat.

Then that is the end of the discussion. “He descended from his seat” means he really accepted that Governor’s way too.

Next time I want to discuss some of the commentaries and notes. This commentary is a pretty long commentary; interesting stories there. So you should read it, and also the verse, for next time.

Do you have some questions?

58:12

Question: Hojo-san? The [unintelligible], is that just sort of like “just do it”?

Katagiri: Yeah, that is “discussing sudden.”

Same person: Ah.

Katagiri: This Blue Cliff Record always [presents] the sudden and gradual, particularly the sudden, in a dramatic way. Very dramatic, but I don’t think you should imitate the dramatic way. [He chuckles.] You can do it in many ways: through words, through silence, you can do it.

You know I told you before a Zen Master taught a priest who was really proud of his experience, proud of his priest life, because he was completely respected by one of his followers, a very old woman who respected him just like Buddha, you know? [The priest said] to the Zen Master, “I was really respected by one of my followers.” Then immediately [the Zen Master] said, “Don’t think of life roughly. You originally are stupid. So shut up.” [He laughs.] In a word, it’s very sharp. Don’t you think so? It means if you are respected by somebody, that’s wonderful, but let it go. What do you mean? You are respected by one of the old women in the village. It is just like karmic life. Just like a lion: lion is strong, [catches] the cats in the lion cage and [eats them]. And then you say, “I am strong.” Lion is respected. So I can talk Buddha’s teaching pretty well, and you respect [that], what does it mean? I cannot think of myself, “I am Buddha.” I don’t think so; this is just like owls, who can see at night. Same thing; what’s the difference? So don’t be bragging. Don’t think of life roughly. You are originally stupid, so shut up. [He laughs.] That is exactly boom. That’s pretty nice, isn’t it? It’s like hitting him with a whisk.

1:01:32

Question: When you say that you have to do what you have to do, and you shouldn’t do what you shouldn’t, where does that come from, that having to do? And you say in relation to the training period to just follow the schedule, but supposing that what you feel that you have to do is not something that’s necessarily…

Katagiri: No. Just you have to do what you have to do. According to the schedule, and…

Same person: How do you decide what you have to do?

Katagiri: Well, you already decided your attendance of the training session. So you already decided.

Same person: Okay, but does that apply to other things besides training sessions? [Like,] in your life there’s certain things that you feel that you want to do or need to do?

Katagiri: Oh, of course, in your daily life I don’t think you always do something related with training sessions. You cannot [always] do it. So you have to go to work, but in the “go to work,” that still means if you go to school or teach, you have to do something you have to do. Always there is [that] you have to do something you have to do. So how do we know there’s something we have to do? Well, we should learn; we should learn what it is. You can learn.

If you do something wrong, maybe you bump your head against an electric pole and get a bump. [He laughs.] You know? So through this, everyday life, we can learn. But as much as possible, we shouldn’t hit our forehead against an electric pole when we walk down the street. That is a teaching. We have to listen to the teaching, and also we have to practice: less bumps on your head. If you want, you can get lots of bumps on your head, but we should [have] less, we should confine the bumps to the minimum.

1:04:04

Question: Roshi? I still don’t understand where it says, “The Governor said, ‘The Buddhist Law and the Law of Kings are the same.’”

Katagiri: The teacher’s understanding is the Buddhist Law. The Buddhist Law doesn’t mean some teaching apart from human life. It’s connected to human life. So Lu P’i, and governors, including Hsueh Zen Master, are nothing but the beings which are in the bustling marketplace. Nevertheless, right in the midst of the bustling marketplace, we have to understand the Buddha Law. So Buddha Law and also the Law of Kings is the same thing.

1:05:31

Question: Hojo-san, did I understand correctly a phrase which you said a few times, “You need a boss”?

Katagiri: Both.

Question: Oh, I misheard you.

Katagiri: Oh, I see. B-o-t-h, not b-o-s-s. [Laughter.]

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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