March 16, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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(Archive Issue: The audio ends abruptly at 1:01:19.)

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Katagiri Roshi: Case 43: “Tung Shan’s No Cold or Heat”

The pointer:

Ten thousand ages abide by the phrase that determines heaven and earth. Even the thousand sages cannot judge the ability to capture tigers and rhinos. Without any further traces of obstruction, the whole being appears everywhere equally.

If you want to understand the hammer and tongs of transcendence, you need the forge and bellows of an adept.

But say, since ancient times has there ever been such a family style or not? To test I’m citing this old case: look!

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


Ten thousand ages abide by the phrase that determines heaven and earth.

From century after century, the phrases given by the buddhas and ancestors really penetrate the core of human being, not only explaining the surface of the human world, but the whole universe. So that’s why even a simple phrase, a simple [statement], is handed down from generation to generation, and is very worthy of contemplating.

For instance, the very famous statement [from this famous story]:

When Bodhidharma went to China to teach Buddhism, first of all he met Emperor Wu. Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, “I have built lots of Buddhist temples and educated Buddhist monks and nuns. What is the merit?” And Bodhidharma said, “No merit.”

Emperor Wu didn’t understand no merit, so he continued to [wonder], “If Buddhist teaching is no merit, why do we study Buddhist teaching?” It didn’t make sense to Emperor Wu, so he asked, “What is the essence of Buddha’s teaching?” Bodhidharma said, “Vastness; nothing.” The vastness of no holiness, and the vastness of nothing.

This statement was very impressive, so although [Emperor Wu] didn’t understand, he felt something. So he continued [to ask]: “If there is nothing, and the essence of Buddhism is vastness of existence – if so, who are you?” Who is this little guy in front of Emperor Wu? And Bodhidharma said, “I don’t know.” Because even Bodhidharma is completely nothing holy, just vastness of existence.

That I don’t know is not the usual meaning of “I don’t know” that you think. That I don’t know is that he knows pretty well, but still Buddha’s teaching is completely beyond the intellectual sense or intellectual explanation.

So that is a very simple statement: “Nothing holy; just vastness.” But this is a very impressive statement. So from generation to generation, we still have to continue to think about this. It has been handed down from generation to generation because it is not merely words, it comes from Bodhidharma’s true heart. He really touches the core of existence.

The core of existence is really silent – but pretty active. It’s very vast, because it is always embracing the whole thing. But according to human speculation, we think that is kind of contradictory, because [existence is] embracing everything in peace and harmony. So that’s why it’s vast, nothing holy; no discrimination there. (Transcriber’s Note: These last two sentences were difficult to understand.)

So [the pointer says], “Ten thousand ages abide by the phrase that determines heaven and earth.” What is the human world, what are human beings? What are the trees and the birds, the skies, heaven, earth? What is the beginning of the world? What is the end of the world? This simple phrase completely [extends] to heaven and earth.


Even the thousand sages cannot judge the ability to capture tigers and rhinos.

If you want to get the tiger, you have to go into the tiger’s cave. And then if you create a certain gap, in other words if you slacken, then the tiger eats you. So you cannot sleep [there], you cannot make a psychological crack. But you cannot always keep tension. So you have to be relaxed, but not the relaxation you [understand]. If you say relaxation, it is already a crack, through which cold wind blows. You should be serious and have tension; [but on the other hand,] if you have tension, it is also a crack through which wind blows in. So whatever you say, it is a crack; [and] if you have a crack, the tiger attacks you. But you cannot escape from this, because you want to get perfect spiritual peace and harmony. Whatever kind of occupation you follow or whatever lifestyle you have, consciously or unconsciously human beings really want to get that peaceful, harmonious security in human life. That [means] that you are already in the tiger’s cave, so you have to get the tiger. How can you get the tiger? This is the teaching of ancestors and buddhas, expressed in words and also practically. Ancestors and buddhas guided people to enter nirvana, which means perfect peace.

So that’s why it says, “Even the thousand sages cannot judge the ability to capture tigers and rhinos.” Because even the sages cannot judge how big or large this ability is, because this ability is always working and always affecting somebody, always penetrating its object and helping all sentient beings, dynamically, from moment to moment. It’s really vast. So even the Buddha and the sages cannot judge this ability, how big it is, how great it is, because it is completely beyond human words. Because you are in the tiger’s cave; there is no crack to explain how you deal with this capability to get the tiger. Right in the middle of the tiger’s cave, there is no space. All you have to do is, you must be alive with the tiger.


Without any further traces of obstruction, the whole being appears everywhere equally.

Obstruction means a crack through which cold wind blows in.

Particularly [in breathing,] when you exhale, you feel your tension slacken. When you inhale, it’s alright, but when you exhale, you feel relaxation; at that time, it’s pretty easy to create a crack. And through this crack a cold wind blows in; that means your enemies, [your partners] attack you; the tiger attacks you immediately. […] When you inhale, you really have tension, [to] keep yourself as you are: keep yourself in peace and harmony, keep yourself away from tigers. So inhale, it’s alright, but there is a little bit of danger because it creates tension. Exhale, it’s wonderful, you feel relaxed, but it’s pretty easy for us to create a crack. That’s why inhalation and exhalation are very important for us (in meditation); through them you can know what’s going on there, who you are. That’s why we concentrate on breathing: inhalation, exhalation.

Concentration on inhalation and exhalation shouldn’t be an obstruction for your zazen. It’s just [that] inhalation and exhalation must go in and out very smoothly. But that doesn’t mean ignore inhalation and exhalation. You should awaken to it, but you shouldn’t create any tension or excessive relaxation through inhalation or exhalation. So that is a little bit difficult, because it is something functioning, and you must be there. It is a little difficult to explain, so you should really experience this.

So “without any further traces of obstruction, the whole being appears everywhere equally.” At that time you can manifest yourself as you are through inhalation and exhalation; but not only you, the whole world can be manifested. It is really true. We don’t know [it], our consciousness cannot reach [it], but if you do this completely, it is a real fact, real reality; you can manifest yourself and simultaneously the whole world equally.

So that’s why if you do zazen, there are two points you have to do. You have to do zazen with your effort, both physically and mentally too. Anyway, you should do zazen with your body. But if you really concentrate on doing zazen with your effort, this is zazen seen from your perspective. Simultaneously, if you really jump into zazen with your physical and mental effort, at that time zazen and you are one. So zazen and you are not different; and also zazen is not different from the table, and you are not different from the wall. Anyway, the wall, and table, and cups, and the zazen you do, and you as a practicer, all are the same beings, which exist simultaneously in space. This is regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not. This is the characteristic of space. In space, there are many beings existing simultaneously in peace and harmony. So you really handle zazen as an object, as well as your life. You and zazen are exactly the same as other beings.

What do I mean? Zazen and you are exactly existent in space, with other beings, simultaneously. And then, this is kind of the total picture of reality you are in. You can see [it] intellectually. Intellectually means wisdom; with your very clear mind, you can see it, if you do zazen like this. And then at that time we say in words that “you are zazen, zazen is you,” [or] “you are zazen, zazen is Buddha.”

But “zazen is buddha,” “you are zazen,” or “zazen is you” – it’s still kind of an intellectual understanding. This intellectual understanding – zazen is you, you are zazen, exactly as one – must be something which is alive in person. Both [must be] really functioning in a person – not in ideas or philosophical concepts, but in the person who is alive from moment to moment. That is our practice; you have to do it.

And then when you practice, at that time you really become one with zazen with your effort, and then it means you manifest yourself in zazen, zazen manifests itself in you. So simultaneously it means you manifest not in you, not in zazen you do, [but] in the universe, because [unintelligible] space. Consciousness cannot see it, but physically, if you do it exactly like this, simultaneously you manifest [yourself] in zazen and in the universe. So the whole universe responds to your practice. So that’s why you feel good, anyway. If somebody asks you why you feel good, you don’t know why. But you feel good, anyway.

So that’s why here it says, “Without any further traces of obstruction.” [Between] the zazen and you, there is no obstruction, no gap, no crack. At that time, the whole being appears – everywhere, equally. This is called freedom.

So in human life, first of all you initiate doing something with your effort. But simultaneously, within this small scale of effort, still there is a great chance you can manifest yourself, not as a small self, but in the big scale of the self called the universe. That is always the point you have to learn. You should do it by your effort, by your karmic life, but within the karmic life there is still a great chance to let the flower of life force bloom in the universe. In the universe, not in you. At that time, you feel stable and dignified. You feel really dignified, because you manifest yourself in the universe.

Even though you don’t understand, you should do first, with your effort, and manifest yourself in the small scale of the self. But simultaneously, it is not good enough, so you should still continue to polish your eyes and mind, [so that they] are good enough to see the blooming of your life force in the universe. At that time, that is called spiritual security. Very spiritually secure. Everyone can do this. So sit down [and do the] zazen that you do. If you see zazen in terms of you, you don’t understand, you can’t believe that this zazen gives you spiritual security, but anyway, there is no other way. So whether you understand or not, continue to do zazen in the appropriate way, so very naturally you can know the blooming flower in you, in zazen, and also in the universe.

That is “the whole being appears everywhere equally.” So when you do gassho, do gassho. But within the gassho, there is a sense of security. Do you understand that? Standing, or sitting, or cleaning the room, or washing the dishes… Well, wash the dishes, but still, within washing the dishes with your effort, there is spiritual security there which makes your life really work. You shouldn’t create any crack, through which cold wind blows. That is comparison or conflict right in the middle of washing dishes: “Oh hey, you should wash dishes. I don’t want to wash dishes but [you should].” So [you are] always fighting psychologically; even if you don’t say it, in your mind [you’re] always screaming. Comparison and conflict are always like that.

So within the gassho, [if] you do gassho, that is the small scale. But within the small scale of gassho, there is a big scale of gassho. At that time, the big scale of gassho really supports this small scale of gassho. That is called spiritual security within the gassho you do. So [there are] always two aspects. That is the total picture of your doings, like a piece of paper with back and front.


If you want to understand the hammer and tongs of transcendence, you need the forge and bellows of an adept.

Well, you can do it by yourself, you can live your own way; that’s alright, it’s fine. But if you live only your own way, it’s very interesting, but still your way is limited. You know how to grow, but that growth is really limited. So if you want to grow in the universe, you have to grow by your effort, and simultaneously, you might [practice] under the guidance of a leader or teacher. That is very important for us. I always tell you, if you want to be a football player, or basketball player, whatever you want to do, you have to run on the field under the guidance of a coach. Still there is no guarantee whether you become a top player or not. It really depends on your strong your determination is.

So even though you do the same practice like this, one person grows pretty well, another doesn’t grow well. Someone goes [one] way, someone goes in [a more] appropriate way. Everyone does [the same thing], but among those doing the same thing, in the long range you can see a big difference. That’s why everyday practice is really important. Just like a turtle walking step by step. This is very slow, but in the long range, you can create a really big gap, a big difference among people. So that’s why we have to practice on a daily basis, just like a turtle, just like a cow. Completely putting aside your grandiose ideas or complaints, anyway, let’s do it! That is very important for us.


But say, since ancient times has there ever been such a family style or not? To test I’m citing this old case: look!

It is not an explanation of human life we are taking care of today, but from generation to generation, we can see a good example the ancestors left for us. So that’s why it says this.


The case:

A monk asked Tung Shan, “When cold and heat come, how can we avoid them?”

Shan said, “Why don’t you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?”

The monk said, “What is the place where there is no cold or heat?”

Tung Shan said, “When it is cold, the cold kills you; when it is hot, the heat kills you.”

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

Look at page 309, the last paragraph. [The commentary says:]

Ts’ao Shan asked a monk, “When it’s so hot, where will you go to avoid it?” The monk said, “I’ll avoid it inside a boiling cauldron, within the coals of a furnace.” Ts’ao Shan said, “How can it be avoided in a boiling cauldron or among the coals of a furnace?” The monk said, “The multitude of sufferings cannot reach there.” See how the people of the Ts’ao Tung house naturally understood the conversation of people of their house.

This discussion is almost the same meaning [as the case].

Ts’ao Shan asked a monk, “When it’s so hot, where will you go to avoid it?” The monk said, “I’ll avoid it inside a boiling cauldron, within the coals of a furnace.”

You know a boiling cauldron is very hot. He is going there. Not he is going; he is there.

Ts’ao Shan said, “How can it be avoided in a boiling cauldron or among the coals of a furnace?” The monk said, “The multitude of sufferings cannot reach there.”

I think so. Because you are already right in the middle of the heat. [There is] no space to suffer; it’s already there. Do you understand?

For instance, [if you’re] burning in a big furnace. It’s not necessary to do, [laughter,] but let’s imagine you’re right in there. Well, if you die, then very naturally your body is carried directly to the big furnace, […] and you’re immediately burning. A dead body doesn’t say anything, but if you’re alive and right there, well, you can’t scream, just [fwoosh], that’s all.

[Tape change.]

… You cannot scream. So, no suffering. No space to impose the feeling of suffering. Just immediate.

So that’s why it says here, “The multitude of sufferings cannot reach there.” It means, when it is hot, you should be right in the middle of the heat, but you shouldn’t be confused by the heat – because if you’re confused by the heat, you are not right in the middle of the heat, you are looking at the heat at a distance, [he chuckles,] fighting. […] So there’s lots of suffering you can get. But if you are really one with the heat, right in the middle of the heat, that is the best way to avoid [suffering]. Anyway, no heat.

[In other words], when it is hot, usually people are very confused. But you shouldn’t be confused, because if you are confused, you are completely carried away, or you are not centered. Be centered. You must be what you are, always. Even though your mind is inside of your six consciousnesses, always burning, screaming – still, even [if only] physically, be quiet, be present there. And then very naturally, your mind gradually follows it. But physically, if you scream or if you dance, it’s pretty hard; simultaneously mind also follows it. So that’s why [you should] be present there but not confused. As best as you can, you should deal with what you are, right in the middle of the heat. That means you shouldn’t ignore the heat, but on the other hand, you cannot attach to the heat.

If you ignore heat, you don’t care […] When I was at Eiheiji monastery, a friend of mine was always showing off how strong he was. Right in the middle of winter, he would wear just a thin kimono. No [undershirt] (juban), just underpants, and a very thin kimono. And this koromo was a summer koromo; it’s not warm. [He laughs.] So he was always showing off, saying to me, “Hey – how many clothes do you wear? Look at me!” [Laughter.]

It’s pretty good, but I don’t think it is great, because it is just like an owl, which can see everything at night. Do you understand? [He laughs.] A human being cannot see everything at night, but an owl can see. So if you can live wearing just a little bit in the cold winter, even in Minneapolis, you’re fine, you’re great. [But] not great – you are still a normal person. [Laughter.] I don’t think it is valuable, because this is nothing but karmic life. Just like an owl. In terms of human beings, you are jealous of an owl because it can see everything at night: “I wish I could see everything at night.” But should we find real value in such a [particular kind of] life? Well, it is nothing but karmic life, as well as my karmic life, your karmic life. So if you really ignore winter and summer, well, you can wear the very thin komono…

[Tape change.]

… [On the other hand, in the summer] it’s very hot. So particularly in the country, one of the priests was a little bit concerned about wearing the [robes]. We wear at least four [layers], you know? It’s very hot. So we have to think about this. I don’t think it’s necessary to escape from the heat, but we should do our best to be in the heat, without being carried away by heat.

If you attach to heat so much, very naturally a comparison comes up, so you hate heat. And then, very naturally you want to get the cold. When you attach to cold, you really hate the cold, you want to go to Florida, or Hawaii. Even though you don’t go, your mind is always in Hawaii. [Laughter.] But strictly speaking, I always tell you, wherever you may go, winter is winter. When the winter comes, everywhere is winter, alright? You don’t believe me. Even in Hawaii, it’s winter; even in Florida, it’s winter. Well, you don’t believe it, but if you want to know, go to Hawaii, stay over there, and learn the changes of the seasons. You can find winter.



A monk asked Tung Shan, “When cold and heat come, how can we avoid them?”

“When cold and heat come” means not only heat and cold; this is human life and death. When life and death comes, or when suffering, distress, confusion comes. How can we avoid them? How can we be free from suffering, distress, confusion?

Shan said, “Why don’t you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?”

This is very natural. If you want to go somewhere [where] there is no suffering, no pleasure, no life and death, why don’t you find [that place]?

Buddha said [this] to a woman who suffered so much from her babies dying. She asked Buddha Shakyamuni to save her suffering, to save her baby’s death. In other words she asked Shakyamuni Buddha to make her babies alive again. So Buddha said, “Maybe I could do that. But before this, why don’t you go to the village or city, to find a family in which there is nobody who died.” So she went to the country and to the city to find a family who didn’t have anyone who had died. But nothing. So, she really realized human death, and also suffering, which a mother should have from her babies death. She understood that. So there is no other way to go.

The monk said, “What is the place where there is no cold or heat?”

What is perfect peace or harmony, where there is no suffering, no distress – no hard work, no easy going? Nothing.

Tung Shan said, “When it’s cold, the cold kills you; when it’s hot, the heat kills you.”

That means when it is cold, cold is cold. Wherever you may go, cold is cold. So you should take care of cold as it really is, right in the middle of cold. Nothing else. When it is hot, you should find yourself in the heat. That is the cold kills you, or the heat kills you. In other words, exactly be one. You are centered; you are really stable in the cold, in the heat. At that time, the cold and you are really one. At that time, heat or cold don’t bother your life.

Dogen Zenji says, “For many, many years I thought that the snow covered the mountains.” So he didn’t like the snow. “But now I realize, snow creates the mountains.” Snow creates the mountains: that’s a big difference. So for many years, snow covered the mountains: at that time, you don’t like snow, you don’t like winter. But now Dogen Zenji realizes that snow creates the mountains. At that time, snow is beautiful scenery, snow has its own beautiful nature, a beautiful reason of snow’s life. So very naturally, snow is wonderful nature, as well as your life. That is really enlightenment for you.


On page 309, there is a verse:

He lets down his hand, but still it’s the same as a ten thousand fathom cliff: …

“He lets down his hand” means Tung Shan guides this monk with kindness, compassion, walking hand in hand. It seems to be very kind, but “still it’s the same as a ten thousand fathom cliff.” It’s very straight and serious, and very hard going. […] Life and death, heat and cold: on the basis of existence, on the basis of human life, always there are two things existing simultaneously. Life and death, and nirvana. Delusion, and Buddha. Good, and bad. All sentient beings, and bodhisattvas. Trees, human beings. So all things which seem to be contradictory exist simultaneously. This is a really fundamental contradiction. But regardless of whether you’re conscious of it or not, this is the basic picture of your existence. That’s why there is always a sense of uneasiness, or unsatisfaction, there. If you feel satisfactory, simultaneously you feel unsatisfactory.

So if you want to get satisfaction, [there is] no end. Endlessly you want to get satisfaction, because within the satisfaction, unsatisfaction can be seen simultaneously. That’s why constantly you want to get satisfaction, on and on. Because on the basis of human existence there are two things, always simultaneously existing, completely in equality. That’s why even though you don’t know, the other idea comes up.

According to Buddhism, we understand the human world according to three points. One is own-being. Second is form. Third is functioning. That is a Buddhistic way of understanding the human world, human life.

Own-being is the fundamental base of existence, being. Within own-being, as I said, there are always two things which exist simultaneously in equality. So that is the intellectual understanding of human world, according to Buddha’s teaching.

And then this own-being manifests itself in the human world. That is form. Table, you can see. Microphone, you can see. Sound, you can hear. […] That is form.

And function. Function is, well, time. Own-being is a kind of space.

For instance, maybe we say a being. If you say being, that is a kind of space. But on the other hand, being itself doesn’t exist related with human being, because a being must be closely connected with time. Space and time. So being must connect with time very closely. Time and being are one. When a being manifests itself in the human world, that is time. Then, when a being manifests itself in this stream of time, it is called life and death. So life and death is functioning of being.

So from this point, what is life and death? Life and death is being: the issue of being, the issue of existence, understanding of existence. But what is understanding of existence? That is understanding of life and death. What is life and death? It’s time. It’s working constantly. How does life and death work? That is continuous change.

In general Buddhism, we say change consists of four stages, continually. First is origination. Then maintenance. And changes. Then extinction. Origination constantly comes up, and next, it maintains. Then it changes. Fourth, extinction. That is continuous change, so-called impermanence – going in a circle like this, very quickly.

So life and death is what? Life and death as a functioning of being is just continuous flow of change.

Human life and death is not [like the] table disappears right now, right here, and next moment, a new table comes up. I don’t think the issue of life and death in human beings [is like] the life and death of inanimate beings; it’s quite different, because we have consciousness. So we cannot just die without suffering, without thinking, without feeling. You cannot be alive just like inanimate beings, because we have consciousness. Consciousness is always looking on just the surface, and also consciousness always focuses on one thing, so it’s very difficult for consciousness to see everything in universal perspective. That’s why we have to see the foundation, the basic picture of existence. The basic picture of existence is being, connected with human consciousness.

So if you see this bottom basis of human existence with your consciousness, consciousness simultaneously turns over one hundred eighty degrees. This is a religious transformation. And then you can see your life in the universal perspective. [That is the] broad scale. Usually, we always see the human world with our consciousness, which is very limited. That’s why we’re always looking at just the surface. But it’s not good enough; because life and death is connected with being, so-called space, which is vast, something more than you think. So very naturally in your life, many things come up which you have never known. At that time you are very confused. You really experience [that] if you do something, simultaneously something comes up which you have never seen before.

(Archive Issue: The audio ends unexpectedly at this point.)

1:01:19 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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