March 2, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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Katagiri Roshi explores Case 42 of the Blue Cliff Record, in which Layman P’ang says, “Good snowflakes—they don’t fall in any other place.” As it says in the Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi, “Inquiry and response come up together.” If we really devote ourselves to doing zazen beyond our evaluation, accepting totally, we manifest ourselves in a totally appropriate way, and very naturally, everything will respond. We must jump into the realm of silence so that our life springs forth. Even if we don’t say anything with our mouth, our whole body speaks volumes. Buddha is not something divine, apart from us; Buddha has to go down to the human world and work.


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Katagiri Roshi: Case 42: “Layman P’ang’s Good Snowflakes”. The pointer:

Bringing it out unique and alone (is still) dripping with water, dragging through mud. When knocking and resounding occur together (it’s still like) a silver mountain, an iron wall.

If you describe and discuss, you see ghosts in front of your skull. If you seek in thought, you sit beneath the black mountain. The bright shining sun lights up the sky. The pure whispering wind circles the earth.

But say, do the Ancients have any obscurities? To test I’m citing this old case: look!

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


Bringing it out unique and alone …

In the original text it says [tan ke]; it means bringing it out unique. Tan means directly, tersely. And [tan ke dokuro] means dealing with it simply. So “bringing it out unique [and alone]” means bringing it out directly and tersely, and dealing with it simply.

If you read Zen texts they sometimes say, “Going to where the light springs forth, immediately you have to speak up.” A place where light springs forth is no space, no room [where] something is conceptualized, because light springs forth constantly, so you have to always be going to where the light springs forth. It’s constantly moving, alive. And then that is, I always say, nothing to say, nothing to comment [on]. But you have to go there, [and] you have to immediately speak up, you have to say [something]. Even if you don’t say anything, your body, your hands, your posture speak up anyway.

So first of all, we have to move to where light springs forth. That means in the realm of gassho, your life must spring forth. That means you have to be alive, beyond your like or dislike. Because you have to do [it]. If you have to do [it], you have to do [it]; no excuse. If you don’t like it, you can go away, but if you are here, you have to do it. So in the realm of gassho, you have to go to where your life must spring forth.

And then that is completely [that] you have to keep your mouth shut there, and then your life must be really alive. In the realm of silence, when you keep your mouth shut and then your life is really springing forth, at that time it is the place you can manifest yourself in [the] appropriate way. At that time, your life is really going.

That is silence, exactly silence. And sometimes [we say] Buddha Nature, or [we say] nothing to say, no comment. Sometimes it is called truth. Sometimes, philosophically, it is called emptiness. Sometimes it is called conditioned co-production. So if you do it, if your life springs forth, very naturally everything responds [to] your life.

So [with] your words, with your body, with your mind, with your hands, you have to speak up immediately. Very naturally you say it like this. Your posture, your attitude, your life speaks up immediately, right now, right here.

If you think something, and your mind is vibrated, [then] your life is vibrated. Very naturally in zazen, various thoughts, ideas and confusion vibrate your mind, your attitude, your life, [so] very naturally you are completely slipping off from zazen. Very naturally your zazen is very “sloppy.”

That is already speaking up. Whatever you do, your life springs forth in the realm of silence. But if you don’t tune in to the rhythm of this life, of silence, it’s very difficult to speak up, it’s very difficult to manifest yourself as you really are. So very naturally, you manifest yourself in a certain way which you have never thought before. So that’s why that [manifestation] is sloppy, sleepy, dizzy; lots of things come up.

So anyway, that’s why real words – with your body, with your mind, with your mouth – originate from this silence, where you can manifest yourself in a universal perspective. That is life springs forth. You can manifest you as you really are. This self is something beyond the yardstick by which you try to evaluate yourself. It’s something more than this.

In Soto Zen, […] Dogen Zenji is always pointing to the practice [where] you are present […] from moment to moment. Whatever you say – before you comment, after you comment, anyway beyond comment – your life must spring forth constantly. That is the point Dogen Zenji always talks about.

So how can you bring the gassho up uniquely and tersely, and deal with the gassho in the simplest way? First of all, you really jump into the silent world. That means keep your mouth shut and just do it with your heart. At that time, silence is the real place where you can manifest totally. That is called the gassho. But that gassho is not you are doing gassho, [but rather] gassho makes your life work. So you don’t do gassho; gassho makes your life work.


… (is still) dripping with water, dragging through mud.

In Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record) Case 2, it says, “To say the term Buddha is trailing mud and dripping water.” And next it says, “To say the word Zen (Chan) is a face full of shame.”

“To say the term Buddha is trailing mud and dripping water” means Buddha is not something divine, apart from you; Buddha is beings who are besmeared with mud. That means Buddha has to go down to the human world and live with all sentient beings, in the realm of the six categories of existence. He has to work. So very naturally, his life is besmeared with mud, and his body and his mind is really all wet. That is what dripping water means; it means he really lives with all sentient beings.

The other day, maybe Monday night, I told you there are two ways of practice. One is constantly going up, attaining a certain stage, and keep going, go beyond. That is one way of practice. The other way is going down and transforming or helping all sentient beings. When you help somebody, your life is really besmeared with at least six realms of human existence. And also you can get your mind and body completely wet. That means you have to go down to the human world and transform all beings; that means helping. At that time, he or she is called Buddha. Even though he or she is in the six realms or categories of existence, still his or her life is constantly springing forth, alive… with aplomb, [without] moving so much. But he or she as a Buddha is always working with all sentient beings in the six realms of existence. That is the second way of practice.

The first [way of practice] is going up, constantly seeking [for a certain stage], and keep going. If you graduate from high school, you have to keep going. If you went to university, you can graduate and attain a certain state, but you have to keep going. Whatever [it is], not only Buddhism, your life must be so. Philosophy, art, sports, whatever: if you practice, very naturally you can reach a certain stage, and then you cannot stay there; keep going, constantly keep going. That is really individual life. You have to do it.

Simultaneously, you cannot be egoistic. You have to keep going, seeking for the truth, deepening your life, but simultaneously you should share your life with all sentient beings, living in the world. That’s pretty hard, sometimes, but you have to do it.

That is “dripping water and dragging through mud”.

Because “bringing it out unique and alone,” you have to stand up straight with silence and do gassho. This is nothing but the demonstration of the silence. Within the picture of the gassho, within the gassho you do, there is silence. That silence makes your life stable, makes your gassho work. But the silence doesn’t appear on the surface. When the silence appears on the surface of the water, it’s called gassho, zazen, and also bowing, and study, and going to school, and breakfast – something like this. It is already something manifested. So very naturally, silence becomes besmeared with mud and dripping water. That’s why here it says, “Bringing it out unique and alone (is still) dripping with water, dragging through mud.”


When knocking and resounding occur together …

This knocking and resounding is also in the Hōkyō Zanmai sutra – Song of Treasure Mirror Samadhi. In this sutra it says, “Inquiry and response come up together.” Or here it says “when knocking and resounding occur together.” It means if you really devote yourself to do zazen in the realm of zazen – which is very quiet, completely beyond your yardstick, your evaluation – that means you manifest yourself in [a] totally appropriate way. You manifest yourself as you really are. That is called acceptance, total acceptance. Just accept zazen and you. Not accept you and zazen; accept silence. Silence means something more than evaluation which you find by your yardstick. Total acceptance is you should be just present in that silence.

Simultaneously, if you accept means if you acquire this, [then] very naturally, immediately, something responds [to] you. Because in the realm of silence, many beings exist. The many beings are not existing in the position of their own form; at that time they are always fighting each other. But in the silence, they are existent in peace and harmony. That means each of the beings are nothing but energy, total working. So [working or] energies are really tuning in, cooperating, interconnected, interpenetrated [with] each other. That’s why [your life must spring forth]. How can you be one with zazen and you? What should you do? Your life must spring forth. The life of zazen must spring forth. That means […] you have to put yourself in the realm of silence first, where your zazen is also present. And then what do you do? Just [work] together.

So inquiry and response come together simultaneously. That means if you do zazen, that is total acceptance, and then total acceptance is your experience. But your experience is completely total response from the universe. So the universe echoes; the sound of the universe really echoes. That’s why if you do it, you experience something. You don’t know what it is you experience, but you are fascinated, sometimes. Even though you don’t feel good, it’s exactly helping, it’s really helping your life. If you see your life for the long range, it’s really helping.

So remember, the point is that if you do something with your wholeheartedness, there must be all beings which are waiting to respond to your life, very naturally. You don’t see [them], but it’s really natural. All beings in the universe respond your total acceptance. That is the way of deepening your life. That is a way of manifesting your personality in this world.

So if you do zazen, don’t be hanging around the small self. “I am doing zazen, zazen is helping me” – that is really the small self, it is not real zazen. Because if you think so, you make the function of zazen small – separated from you, separate from others. Anyway, zazen and you, or trees, birds, all sentient beings, are exactly the same and living in the realm of silence. Silence is energy, it is just working, functioning.


… (it’s still like) a silver mountain, an iron wall.

Even though you accept totally and all sentient beings respond to your life, still it is just like a silver mountain, an iron wall. You cannot …

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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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