February 2, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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Katagiri Roshi discusses the verse to Case 40 of the Blue Cliff Record. Genjokoan is mentioned. What is the dharma stage?


(Archive Issue: Case 40 Talks 1 and 2 are transposed in the online archive. The link here is to the audio for “Lecture 1”, which is actually Lecture 2.)

Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org


Katagiri Roshi: [I will discuss] the Verse of the fortieth case. I think you remember the case, but let me read it again:

As the officer Lu Hsuan was talking with Nan Ch’uan, he said, “Master of the Teachings Chao said, ‘Heaven, earth, and I have the same root; myriad things and I are one body.’ This is quite marvelous.”

Nan Ch’uan pointed to a flower in the garden. He called to the officer and said, “People these days see this flower as a dream.”

The Verse:

Seeing, hearing, awareness, knowledge; these are not one and the same—
Mountains and rivers are not seen in a mirror.
The frosty sky’s moon sets, the night nearly half over;
With whom will it cast a shadow, cold in the clear pool?

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


Seeing, hearing, awareness, knowledge; these are not one and the same—

“Seeing, hearing, awareness, knowledge”: this means the appearance of the phenomenal world which you can discriminate – trees, birds, and squirrels – through the six [senses], six sense objects, six consciousnesses. So “seeing, hearing, awareness, knowledge” – six sense objects, six sense organs, six senses, trees, birds – “these are not one and the same.” I don’t think it is exactly one-and-the-same which you can say idealistically, because here is a tree, here is a bird, here is snow, which is very clearly existent.

So, trees are trees, flower is flower, winter is winter, before we say, “All sentient beings are the-same-and-one.” If you say “all beings are one and the same,” it is already a kind of idea coming from human speculation. So, flower is flower, but flower is exactly the flower before we think so or we don’t think so. Anyway, flower is flower. Flower is flower is exactly flower is the universe, without being interrupted by birds, snow, spring, et cetera; flower is exactly flower. That’s the point which the first line of this verse says: “Seeing, hearing, awareness, knowledge; these are not one and the same”.

So through your six consciousnesses you can see everything, which is completely independent. But it is not completely separate from others. Flower is flower, desk is desk, but, desk is desk before you think, “all are one.” Or, [if] you don’t say so, anyway, table is table. That means you have to see the table, you have to see the snow or winter, before you think or before you don’t think. This is the real picture of winter, which is different from spring and summer, et cetera.

In the note, it says:

In the multitude of forms and myriad appearances, there is not a single thing.

It means if there is something you can mention, it is already a single thing you can pick up. Immediately it is something advancing in your thought. So it is a single thing. But in the multitude of forms and myriad appearances, there is not a single thing. This note wants to say there is completely absolutely no single thing you can tell or you can not tell.

Seven flowers, eight blooms.

… means completely everything manifests itself in its own multitude. The translator’s note says:

“Seven flowers, eight blooms” is one literal translation of a phrase that bears multiple meanings. It can mean profusion, confusion in multiplicity, ‘cracked and shattered’. It can also mean opened up, clearly distinct, everything revealed in all its multiplicity.”

“Seven flowers, eight blooms” means explaining the total manifestation of each existence: table, snow, trees, birds. In the human world, myriad beings exist. That [is the meaning of] seven flowers, eight blooms.

What are they, the seven flowers and eight blooms? It is something we can say about it, taking it in the possession of a form; saying “winter,” or “trees,” “birds.” But at that time you are already falling into concept. So we have to take one more step: that is no single thing, exactly no single thing. That’s why here it says, “there is not a single thing. Seven flowers, eight blooms.”

Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are all at once a hammerhead without a hole.

That is the total picture. This is very good Zen terminology expressing the real picture of the truth; the real picture of the truth is the hammerhead with no hole. If you have a hammer without a hole, it means no hole where you put the handle. At that time, the hammer doesn’t make sense. That is really an expression of the real picture of the truth, and what the truth is. So all eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind, and smells, and colors, are all at once a hammerhead without a hole. It means exactly truth as it really is, before you think so, before you don’t think so, before you explain according to Buddhist teaching, so-called emptiness or oneness, et cetera. If you say “it’s emptiness,” or “it’s oneness,” it’s already a concept. So before this, we have to think, we have to see the real truth.

So that is the meaning of this first verse: “Seeing, hearing, awareness, knowledge; these are not one and the same.”


Mountains and rivers are not seen in a mirror.

Of course it is not desirable that all sentient beings are reflected in the realm of the six consciousnesses, six sense objects, six sense organs. It is not real awareness of truth, because all sentient beings are exactly reflected in the realm of your six sense organs. At that time, maybe you can realize, you can awaken to, “Yes, all are one. One is all.” You can say so. But it is nothing but a delusion, because all sentient beings are coming into your small territory. But it’s impossible to do this. If you think so, it’s already you [see] all sentient beings from your own telescope, so it’s not real oneness, real truth.

It is true, of course, [that all are one, one is all]. But on the other hand, by the practice of [the] six [negations in] Prajñāpāramitā, if you really live in your life, very naturally your mind is getting calm, and if your mind is getting calm, very naturally you can get into samadhi. That is called dhyana: meditation, samadhi: concentration, contemplation, one-pointedness. [If so,] you can really get into oneness pretty easily. At that time we say that is a mirror of your consciousness. Then in this mirror of your consciousness, all sentient beings are reflected simultaneously as they really are. At that time, you can really build up a really huge, beautiful mansion, called “Philosophy of Buddhism”, “On Oneness” – that is Avatamsaka Sutra. (The “Flower Ornament Scripture”.) And Kai-in Samadhi means Ocean Seal Samadhi. We can say so. So we can build up [these mansions]. But this is still not seeing the real picture of the truth which is alive with you. So that’s why here it says, “Mountains and rivers are not seen in a mirror.” Of course you can see [them]: if your mind really becomes a mirror, immediately all sentient beings appear in your mirror. But if you see the shadow in the mirror, you already are right in the middle of dualism, so it’s not real truth.

The note says,

There is no such scenery here where I am. What is long is of itself long; what is short is of itself short; green is green and yellow is yellow.

From this point, winter is exactly winter.

“Where I am” means we always justify ourselves, understanding ourself, understanding our object, on the basis of intellectual thought, systematized thought; and then at that time we can see a certain scenery, “where I am.” “Yes, I am in the middle of the Buddha’s world.” But this is nothing but the systemized teaching. This is nothing but something you can see through the six consciousnesses, six objects. So in the real truth there is no such scenery here where I am. If you get into [it] deeper and deeper, at that time you don’t know, you don’t get anything you can depend on: where you are, what you are. You don’t know exactly.

From this point all you have to do is, even though you don’t know where you are exactly, you have to stand up, becoming you which you are, from moment to moment. That is you are you. You are long is of yourself long. You are short is of yourself short. That’s enough. Yellow is yellow. Red is red. When you really stand up in that way, you are you, winter is winter.

Finally, the question is,

Where do you see them?

Where are you? From where are you looking? There is nothing to say. All you have to do is, you have to stand up straight there, as you really are. That is just the practice, every day.


The next line says,

The frosty sky’s moon sets, the night nearly half over;

That is kind of taking an example in order to explain the real picture of the truth which is fully alive. “The frosty sky’s moon sets, the night nearly half over” means at night there is a frosty moon in the sky, and also the night becomes very deep. At that time, everything sleeps, everything is exactly night, very quiet. But the moon is shining. Is there some reason why the moon has to shine? Because somebody looks at the moon? Because the moon thinks that he has to help somebody? No reason. The moon just illuminates all the human world, [that] means without expecting anything, just illuminating. Just like the donkey looking at the well (from Book of Equanimity Case 52): the well looks at the donkey. For what? The moon has to shine. If you say so, it’s ideas coming from human speculation. Only human speculation thinks, “Why? Why does the moon shine at night?” At that time there is completely no one, nothing there. Everything becomes quiet. So no one can look at the moon, look at the nothing, but all it has to do is just to illuminate, from moment to moment.

The note says,

He has led you into the weeds.

He comments on this line of the verse kind of ironically. “He has led you into the weeds” means [it’s] a little bit complicated, confused. He is leading you into some [unintelligible]. We don’t know what it is. Who looks at it? For what? Completely we don’t know. Just like a “miss”. So that’s why he ironically says, “He has led you into the weeds.” He means Setchō Zen Master, Hsueh Tou, who wrote this poem; Hsueh Tou has led you into the weeds.

The whole world has never concealed it.

That means everything is totally revealed, without anything to be hidden. It means completely no reason, no one who looks at it… nothing. All the moon has to do is to manifest itself in the universe.

I only fear you will go sit inside a ghost cave.

“Ghost cave” means the real picture of the truth, because we don’t know what it is: it’s kind of a dream, it’s kind of a ghost. We don’t know according to human speculation; the truth is just like a ghost. According to human speculation, human thought, systematized by philosophy, psychology, physics, we don’t know what it is. So very naturally it is expressed by a “ghost cave”. But it is really the meaning of the Buddha’s world, or the truth.

[…] So far, Setchō Zen Master and also this commentator explain giving the total picture of the truth which is fully alive. If you understand, very naturally we really want to sit there, we really want to keep it. How do we keep it? “I only fear you will go sit inside a ghost cave.” At that time, you can really experience excitement, or religious fascination, or what’s called enlightenment – but it is not real enlightenment, it is not real truth. The real truth is exactly the real truth, before you experience it, before you don’t experience it. That is real truth.


Finally, the last line says:

With whom will it cast a shadow, cold in the clear pool?

With whom will it cast a shadow? The moon shines. For whom does the moon shine every night? Here is a Zen [expression]: “Flowers bloom in the spring, for whom do they bloom?” (This is referenced in Case Five of the Blue Cliff Record.) For whom do they bloom is already human speculation; the flower itself just blooms. A tiny flower blooms in the mountains; no one knows. “For whom? Poor flower.” That is human speculation. “Oh, poor boys” – that is already human speculation. But the tiny flower itself blooms is completely beyond human speculation, because no comparison there, no conflict there, just let the life of flowers bloom.

So, with whom will it cast a shadow? Just cold in the clear pool. Exactly pool is pool. The moon is the moon. The moon is just the moon. The pool, which is cold, is just the pool. [Unintelligible.] With whom? For what? No reason. No words.

There is an interesting poem composed by one of the famous Japanese priests who lived in the nineteenth century. He says:

“What are you illuminating?” After the storm in the winter night, that’s what I ask the moon.

What are you illuminating? This is a question. I want to ask the moon after the storm in the winter night, what are you illuminating? [Is it] in order to save all sentient beings? In order to give troubles to all sentient beings in the winter? If you shine all over the world, you should have some purpose. Is it to help? Or to give a natural disaster? What are you illuminating, what are you shining on? For what? Because storm is storm. Storm is exactly natural disaster: people suffer and die from natural disasters. But the moon is just shining, without doing anything. Is this useful? Is this the real picture of the moon? Is this the real function of the moon? It’s far distant from the human world, is that why all the moon has to do is just to shine? Whatever you say, it doesn’t hit the mark, because the moon is just the moon. The storm is just the storm.

If you think, immediately there are lots of questions coming up. In California now, they have lots of problems, natural disasters, because of storms. So why do they have this suffering? Why do we have lots of snow in the winter [here in Minnesota]? If the moon is kind of a god, or a kind of divinity, which has lots of power: what do you do for us? Please do something! But whatever we say, when the storm comes, just the storm. So we have to prepare for the storm, we have to do something with the storm. We have to do something for it, completely beyond thinking in that way. For what? With whom does the storm have to do? For human beings. That’s why this priest says, “‘What are you illuminating, what are you shining on, after the storm in the winter night?’ That’s what I ask the moon.” There is no answer in this poem, but I want to ask, because I is nothing but a human being. This is the world of human speculation. Always we want to say something, we want to justify ourselves on the basis of the intellectual, psychological system of human life.

In the comment it says,

Is there anyone? Is there?

Is there anyone? Is there something you can say? For whom? With what? For what?

If they did not sleep on the same bed, how could they know the cover is worn out?

But real truth is not something separate from us. It is always with us. Buddhism constantly says something about truth from human life directly. Buddhism never says anything metaphysical, or psychological, or philosophical; it’s really based on human experience, human life. So it’s always with us. So “if they didn’t sleep on the same bed, how could they know the cover is worn out?”

Someone who is sad should not speak of it to another who is sad; if he speaks to a sad man, it would sadden him to death.

“Someone who is sad shouldn’t speak of it to another who is sad”: do you understand this one? If you feel sad and then you want to talk to somebody who is sad, very naturally you shake hands, and both of you can cry, but you cannot get out from the sadness. Very naturally, you can feel sad to death. Finally, no life there. That means if you understand real truth, then you can talk about real truth to somebody who knows about real truth, very naturally we can shake hands: “Yes, you are a real Buddhist.” That means already you fall into the trap. Very naturally [you say] who doesn’t understand, very naturally you put them down: “You are not Buddhist,” “You are not Christian,” et cetera. So very naturally you become sad to death. So if you really know the real truth, you cannot say anything, because you don’t see anybody you want to tell. You don’t have any reason why you have to say or why you have to keep yourself silent. You don’t know. But, you know pretty well.

That means, Dogen Zenji always tells us, that is just continuous practice. At the end of the Hōkyō Zammai (“Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi”), there are very nice, short words there: all you have to do is to carry on and on, every day, that quiet practice, just like a fool, [like an idiot]. This is “the host within the host.” That means it is a great person within a great person. That means “super-great”. That is a great practice, to manifest the truth which is really truth. There is nothing to say, but all you have to do is just be alive there. So this is Dogen Zenji’s practice, and also Buddha’s practice, and ancestors’ practice, always.


In Genjokoan, Dogen Zenji says:

When Buddhas are genuinely Buddhas, there is no need for them to be conscious that they are Buddhas. Yet they are realized Buddhas, and they continue to realize Buddhas.

So, continue to realize Buddhas. This realization of Buddhas is just carried on, day by day, from moment to moment.

[I want to read] the commentary on page 296, toward the end of the first paragraph:

“Each thing abides in its normal state; the mundane aspect always remains.”

“In its normal state”: In Japanese it says ho; it means dharma. It means not a state, but kind of a dharma stage, a dharma place. We say ho; Dogen Zenji also uses this term very often. For instance in the Genjokoan he says, “We must realize that firewood is at the dharma stage of firewood, and although being possessed of before and after, the firewood is cut off from before and after.” Firewood, winter, the trees, birds: anyway, winter is winter. That means completely winter cut off from before and after. That means completely beyond you think or you don’t think; no before and after. No middle, nothing: that is cutting off before and after. Even though there is before and after, according to human speculation, we live there. According to human speculation, the dualistic world, there are before and after, of course. But, we have to see the “back” of the phenomenal world. Let me use back and front, temporarily. In the front, we live: winter is really alive, [it is really] something. But behind the winter we can see, there is huge energy, nothing but energy. Maybe according to modern physics we can say energy. The phenomenal world is really backed by, supported and maintained by this energy. That is called truth, and dharma nature, Buddha Nature; whatever you say. Truth.

Very naturally that is just like energies moving. So that is called everything is at the dharma stage. In the moment, the winter is at the one single dharma stage of so-called winter. Temporarily we can say winter, but it is really supported by energies. That energy is nothing but dharma stage. That is dharma stage. Only [when] winter is present at dharma stage, it is called winter. But within this winter, there is no idea of before and after, whether you can think or you don’t think. Nevertheless, there is a before and after. Only when winter is at the dharma stage, all winter, at that time we can say temporarily, winter. But we have to see the back and front both, simultaneously, without separation, because back and front are exactly working together dynamically. So that is called the dharma stage, or here it says, “Each thing abides in its normal state.” I don’t know how you understand “normal state,” so maybe we can use dharma stage, and then we can explain a little bit about this.

44:17 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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