May 25, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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Where does the one come from? Who creates the first cause? The one comes from right here. A “seven pound shirt” means an ordinary shirt is interconnected with the whole universe. It’s not necessary to move fast or slow in Zen; your life must be connected at superspeed. Being still in dynamism, dynamic in stillness — that is spiritual security. But we know it in a moment of time only.


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Katagiri Roshi: Case forty-five: “Chao Chou’s Seven-Pound Cloth Shirt.”

The Pointer:

When he must speak, he speaks—in the whole world there is no match for him. When he should act, he acts—his whole capacity doesn’t defer (to anyone). He is like sparks struck from stone, like the brilliance of a flash of lightning, like a raging fire fanned by the wind, like a rushing torrent crossing a sword edge. When he lifts up the hammer and tongs of transcendence, you won’t avoid losing your point and having your tongue tied.

He lets out a single continuous road. To test I am citing it: look!

The Case:

A monk asked Chao Chou, “The myriad things return to one. Where does the one return to?”

Chou said, “When I was in Ch’ing Chou I made a cloth shirt. It weighed seven pounds.”

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

Chao Chou (Zhaozhou Congshen, or in Japanese Jōshū Jūshin, 778–897) was one of the most famous Zen Masters in China. Dogen Zenji really admired and respected this Zen master. He was a monk when he was sixty, and he attained enlightenment at the age of eighty. And he died at age 120. [They laugh.] Amazing. I wish I could live to 120, but… really amazing. For forty years, anyway, he taught Zen Buddhism in China. He is a really famous Zen Master in China. Lots of stories in koans, the Blue Cliff Record, and also Dogen Zenji mentions him in Shobogenzo very often.

This koan is also pretty famous.


[So] the pointer:

When he must speak, he speaks—in the whole world there is no match for him.” […]

[That] means when he has to speak, he just speaks, but this speaking is really beyond human speculation. Nothing to compare, nothing to pin down, [no] object you want to criticize. Even a simple word, even though people don’t understand at that time [or] later – […] it’s still going, it’s still influencing the human mind. So in the future, sometime, that word really comes up in your life.

Not only Zen teachers or Zen masters, but all of you, when you speak, speaking is really expression of your life in dynamism through the words. Within the words you can express what you feel, what you think, what you want to give. But simultaneously, behind these words, [there is] something there through the words. You can understand the words, but through the words, you can understand the huge world behind the words.

Because – remember this point – you accept you, verbally, mentally, psychologically, or you always bring out yourself first – but this is [why you can do this]. If you bring up yourself first, so-called I, at that time you’re always emphasizing how important you are, ignoring others. This is perverted. But basically, the moment when you accept yourself, whatever reason, egoistically or whatever, if you bring out yourself first, at that time that means you accept totally. In other words, you live, you are alive. Total affirmation, self-affirmation. Without [total] self-affirmation, you cannot offer yourself, you cannot express. So “I alone, individual[ly] exist” means I exist in the same [and] one ground, where all sentient beings exist.

That’s why if you bring up yourself first and emphasize how important you alone are, that is perverted. Do you understand? It’s really perverted, because basically, there is a huge horse pasture there. Regardless of whether you understand or not: a huge horse pasture. All sentient beings exist there. And then human beings are always emphasizing the self alone. Very naturally, that is perverted.

That’s why Buddha always talks about the practice of egolessness. That means, one more time check up your understanding, check up the situation, check [out your emphasis], [check out] the state of your understanding. “Check up” means check you and others. In other words, let’s see the situation in a broad universal perspective.

“Check up” doesn’t mean to pick up dust from the corner of your box. Individual life is really kind of a box, you know? Katagiri box, and James box. [He chuckles.] And then we’re always picking up dust from the corner of the box. That’s the criticism, and the checking, watching, and “good boy,” “bad boy,” “good girl,” et cetera. But that is not to check. Check means to see the situation in broad perspective – including you, including others, including inanimate beings, too.

So that’s why the Heart Sutra always says “perverted view, perverted view,” “no eyes, no ears, no nose.” That is we have to go through these stages. Otherwise you don’t understand you in the universal perspective.

So through the words you can express you, but what you can express of you through the words, through the thinking, through your body physically, anyway there is already the one, the same, the vast horse pasture. And then you can express. But we don’t pay attention to this.

It is called eternity, or buddha world, buddha land, or sometimes according to Christianity we say God. According to Confucianism we say taikyoku; that means “the first cause.” Literally tai means “thick,” “great,” “huge.” And kyoku is a pole; like north pole and east pole. So taikyoku means the absolute; you cannot go back, you know? So according to Confucianism we call it taikyoku, the first cause or the absolute. In Buddhism, we say sometimes dharma, sometimes dharma nature, sometimes nirvana, sometimes buddha nature. Lots of words in Buddhism. But in Christianity we say God.

So that is really the same and one ground. According to my term, this is a huge, vast horse pasture. All sentient beings exist there. Regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not, it’s there. And then you can live. So without this horse pasture you cannot exist, at all.

From this point, your speaking is your speaking, but simultaneously your speaking is not your speaking. Your speaking must be something coming from that horse pasture. At that time your speaking becomes very confirmed, stable. And very calm, and very impressive. That horse pasture is the absolute – sometimes [called] silence, because there is nothing to pin down. But silence is not silence, it’s really working in dynamism. But when you try to know [it], it’s nothing, that’s why it’s silence. We are always living there; without it, we cannot exist. But when I try to think, or when I try to see it, when I try to touch it – nothing. So it is silent.

But even though we don’t understand this silence, we exist in the silence, because we want to have confidence. When you talk, when you act, when you express yourself, very naturally you want to have confidence. Security. Peace. Harmony.

So when you talk, through the talk you can express yourself and simultaneously others, and also the whole universe. At that time, your talk is yours, but it’s not yours, your talk is talking about the universe. If you talk about your life, it’s not your life. You have to talk [about] others’ life. If you talk [about] Buddhism, not talking about Buddhism [but] talking about you, talking about all sentient beings, at that time Buddhist teaching becomes stable. When you talk about Buddhism alone, excluding the other religions, other understandings, and then just talking about Christianity, the so-called teaching of Christianity – that is really stinky. It doesn’t work. Sometimes it becomes a cause of human trouble.

So in speaking the teaching of religion, it must be talking about you, talking about all others, talking about trees. At that time, that teaching is really stable, and very soft, very generous, very universal, and very impressive. But it’s quiet, very quiet. It’s quiet, but if you talk, it’s really penetrating. It’s really penetrating, before you are conscious of it.

The more you study Buddhism, the more you realize that point about Buddhism. I really feel the more I study Buddhism, the more I understand Buddhism very deeply, penetrating my life, penetrating human life, before I know. So I say, “Buddhism is sneaking in Buddhism.” [He laughs.] It’s really so: “sneaking in.”

So if you don’t understand Buddhism, don’t worry! But every day, when you express yourself physically or mentally or verbally, you should just express. But not egoistically, okay? If you express egoistically, your expression is very unstable, restless. Your expression must be very universal. At that time, your expression is very stable, calm, and dynamic. Working, but very silent. But very impressive! Just your presence is very impressive.

So that is the natural situation inherent in everyone. But we don’t realize this.

Even though you don’t realize, you struggle to express yourself every day, don’t you? Between your friends and you, you try to express, you try to talk about something – really struggling. Don’t you? The more you try to [talk about something] in a proper way, the more you realize [there is] some problem there. So regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not, we really want to have confidence – in speech, in physical action, in mental action, whatever you do.

So that’s why [it says,] when you have to speak, you have to speak — but, “in the whole world there is no match for him.” That [means] nothing to compare. At that time, words [are] coming from the silence, according to my term. In other words, life itself. It’s really life. You cannot pin down what life is, but you can experience it. Study and quietly, stably, practice day by day. Anyway, whatever happens, if your life is just going like the water in the Ganges river, you can really realize what life is. It’s very difficult to express it, but when you talk, that talking is coming from this.

So even though you say one word, it’s very impressive. Even though you use usual words, behind the words there is something. You don’t know what it is. Behind the words there is something impressive.

That’s why we have to talk like this. But whoever you are, we are very egoistic. Very egoistic. That’s why we have to practice and study.


When he should act, he acts—his whole capacity doesn’t defer (to anyone).

To anyone, [or] to [anything].

For instance, when[ever] we had morning service at Eiheiji monastery, I was very impressed first by one thing. All the monks sit down, exactly sitting straight. That was very impressive [for me]. Because, before I became a monk, I was always sitting like this (presumably, sitting casually), you know? But at Eiheiji monastery, everyone is sitting up just like a stick. And then we hold the sutra [card] like this, but everyone holds [it in] exactly the same position. I was very impressed.

That is formality. But behind this formality, there is something. I don’t know what it is. But I was very impressed. Do you understand what I mean?

Don’t ignore the formality. Formality is form. It is very important for you.

And then, at Eiheiji monastery, all the monks always pick up the posture. “Don’t hold the sutra card like this, hold it like this.” So always [whap], hitting the hand like this. Or if you’re holding it high, like this. Without saying anything.

Sometimes the older monks become very mad. [He laughs.] And sometimes when I was there… you know the keisaku? The hitting stick? During the morning service, [they go] around behind the [sitting] monks […] with the keisaku. If you [unintelligible], [whap]. And also, lots of visitors are there, watching, listening, participating. And then the old monks […] [whap]. And then everyone [was thinking], “Wow, what’s going on there?” [Laughter.] Sometimes, you know, fighting there. Sometimes fighting! Because old monks sit there for three years, four years, living at Eiheiji monastery. And if a one year monk hits the three years monk… the three years monk is really mad! [He laughs, and people laugh.]

Actually one day I saw a situation. Before they hit, the monk just taps your shoulder. A one-year monk tried [to tap an old monk]. [Tap.] Then immediately the old monk held the stick: “Stop it.” [Laughter.]

That expression was not good. Don’t act in that way. [He laughs.]

So anyway, whatever [action] you do – holding the sutra card like this, or kinhin, or sitting up straight – that is really expressing the universe. That’s why behind the posture, behind the form, there is something.

Read Refining Your Life, a cooking book written by Uchiyama Roshi recently, a new book. Do you know it? This book is very nice for you.

In this book, you know the koan of Isan’s cow? [That] story? Do you remember? Isan says, “A hundred years from now, I [will be] born in a village as a cow. And then you should go there to check that cow, under the arm or belly, and you can find the name Isan [there]. And then if you say, “Oh, this is Isan” – it’s wrong, because it’s a cow. But if you say, “Oh, it’s not Isan, it’s a cow” – your answer is wrong, because it says Isan. How do you call [it]? [He chuckles.] This is the koan. How do you call [it]?

While your body is you do, [Isan practicing] zazen is cow practicing zazen. That is really the human body practicing zazen. But on the other hand, if I say, “Oh, [Isan] does zazen,” it’s wrong. Because, I told you before, this presence is already based on – supported by – vastness of existence, the horse pasture. So [unintelligible] sitting is [unintelligible], so-called cow. But it’s not cow. Cow means the physical/mental body. But simultaneously, through this physical body and mind, [religious] presence manifests, which is called Isan. That means buddha. The universe.

Holding the sutra card like this: this is I do. And then if you see that, that is formality; it’s ridiculous. However I hold the sutra card, this way or that way, it doesn’t matter – you think like that. But no way. If you think so, every day you take care of your life exactly in that way. So at that time you can express yourself, but nothing else, nothing more than that. So that’s why your life is very unstable.

But anyway, when you practice, practice is to educate you, simultaneously to educate the universe. You have to educate you with the universe, with all sentient beings. So, [to] take care of zazen is [to] take care of your zazen, but simultaneously there is universal zazen, that means best care of your zazen. And then, that is simultaneously [to] express the universe.

But if you say, “Oh this is formality” – it is. You cannot express the universal.

So the teacher says, “Hold this [sutra card like this].” “Yes sir” – that’s enough. Because the teacher saying “hold this sutra card like this” doesn’t mean formality. The teacher always emphasizing holding this book or sutra card like this means, “Please hold this sutra card and hold the universe like this, together.” This sutra card is not the sutra card you think. The sutra card is the universe. Exactly the same as your life.

So anyway, hold [it like this]. And then […] how can you hold this sutra card? With wholeheartedness. Wholeheartedness means pure faith or pure mind, purity. Purity means no gap between the sutra card and you. That is called purity. So [there is] very natural communication there. That is called expression of the universe.

[But] the moment when you express the universe, consciousness starts to work, [picking] up that one, so you don’t know what is the real universe. But the real universe is something which makes your presence, makes your action, makes your talk, makes your speech, makes your thinking very stable, [confident,] in a moment of time only. Remember this: in a moment of time only. So next moment, if you think it – it’s not.

So in a moment of time only means what? No space to think it. No space to impart your feeling into [it]. All you have to do is, just do. You have to spin just like a top.

So this is actions. This is [our] Zen practice, anyway.

So it says, “His whole capacity doesn’t defer (to anyone).” That’s why holding this book, and putting the book on this table, and carrying the table – or gassho, or walking, or chanting, or bowing – whatever you do, your action is really universal action. Universal action means you express yourself, but within expressing yourself, there is the universe manifested. The universe manifested within you means confidence. [Great] confidence. Spiritual confidence. Or, purity. Or, magnanimity – we say so, sometimes. When it works, we can say magnanimity, or security, or faith.

But faith, security, confidence is not something you can [just] talk [about]. Every day, you have to do it. Whatever you do, your action [is your action], your gassho is your gassho, but your gassho must be supported by confidence, spiritual security. It means, imperturbability and dynamism. It’s working – so-called liberation, freedom. That gassho is really impressive.


He is like sparks struck from stone, like the brilliance of a flash of lightning, …

[It’s] just like there is no gap between you and universal expression, expression of the universe. That’s why it’s just a like a spark of lightning: immediate, simultaneous. When you do gassho, immediately there [it] is.

Zen history says Soto Zen is gradual enlightenment, Rinzai Zen is sudden enlightenment. It’s ridiculous! [He laughs.] If you talk about this, it’s ridiculous. If you’re really crazy about this discussion, you don’t understand Zen Buddhism, you don’t understand Buddha’s teaching, you don’t understand human life. [He chuckles.] History is history. Don’t worry about it. If you see someone who is interested in history, let him do that. But don’t be involved in it too much. [He chuckles.]

So human life is exactly like… I say, [living is like] a leaping fish. Leaping fish is exactly just like a spark of lightning.

Because you don’t know what it is. If you say fish, fish already becomes a concept, you know? But fish is not fish, fish is moving. So you say [it’s] movement? No. It’s not movement; it’s fish. But it’s not fish; it’s movement. How can you call this? Movement? No. Movement means energy, inherent to everything. So you can say energy? No. It’s fish. [So] you can say fish – but it’s not. How can you say the total leaping fish?

That total leaping fish is something you can learn. You can learn, you can express yourself, right in the middle of… what? Pure sincerity, pure heart. That is wholeheartedness. And then you can express. That is called the universe. So that’s why the leaping fish is very beautiful. Very active, very impressive.

… like a raging fire fanned by the wind, like a rushing torrent crossing a sword edge.

This means it’s very quick, very quick.

You know a diamond is very hard – but it’s not hard. The hardest [thing] is the very softest. That means very flexible. Vacillation is going at superspeed. More than tofu! Tofu is a solid lump, a small lump of being. It’s still moving and flexible, but very slow. But inside of diamond is moving at superspeed – interrelated, interpenetrated with each-other, and simultaneously it makes something hard, very hard. But inside of tofu is very soft, moving a little bit slow. Do you understand?

Diamond is very hard because it’s working at superspeed. At that time, diamond expresses itself as confidence, spiritual security. So [it is] very impressive. [The] inside of the diamond working very hard at superspeed – this is your life. Life is exactly diamond. Life is very solid. Katagiri’s life: as long as I exist, my life is very solid. Whatever I say about me, however you criticize me, anyway my existence is very solid. That means completely beyond my speculation, [the] inside of my life is really working at superspeed. Consciousness, simultaneously it’s not consciousness, consciousness is simultaneously the universe. Universe is simultaneously consciousness. So [it’s] very quick. So you don’t know; you don’t know how we can separate, how we can synthesize. No.

That’s why it’s moving very quick. That is the relationship between the truth and phenomena. And [between] consciousness and buddha nature. Your life and others’ life. Human life and nature. Simultaneous: there is no gap between.

But we don’t know [this], because we have been tamed by the analyzing, synthesizing, and then try to, well, [put] everything together. If we do that, and if you believe [in] human life like this, your life becomes just like tofu. It’s very slow. No [solidity], no confidence there. Because you always analyze, and synthesize, [he chuckles], and try to get good ideas, et cetera. Your life becomes tofu. It’s very breakable. Fragile.

So originally our life is very solid, that’s why [at any cost] we have to awaken to it. That is called buddha nature, buddha. Greatness of existence, beyond your speculation and judgement.

[Tape break.]

He says it in a different way… what would you say… not poetical… literary expression. “Like sparks struck from stone, like the brilliance of a flash of lightning, like a raging fire fanned by the wind, like a rushing torrent crossing a sword edge.” When you cross the edge of a sword, there is no gap between, because you have to be careful: if you lose spirit, your body [is] cut in two. When you walk on the edge of a sword, you have to use your wholeheartedness. No gap.

And also a rushing torrent: when you cross a river in a rushing torrent, there is no gap between the torrent and you, because you have to use your wholeheartedness.


When he lifts up the hammer and tongs of transcendence, you won’t avoid losing your point and having your tongue tied.

“When he lifts up the hammer” means one of the devices you use for refining copper, iron, or gold, et cetera. It means educating you, educating others, transmitting something important in human life to somebody. That is really using the hammer to refine copper or iron. That word, [or] hammer, must be working just like a rushing torrent, coming from silence. So it’s really coming up.

Baso also gets that poem coming from silence. […] From the silence Baso gets the words. […] Look at this poem. Behind the poem there is dynamic working between Baso and nature. Just like a rushing torrent, just like crossing the sharp edge of a sword: simultaneously there. So that’s why through the words, you can really see the vastness of existence.

At that time, when you “lift up” something, in other words words and actions, et cetera, “you won’t avoid losing your point.” There is nothing to – what would you say – challenge somebody to argument, or discussion. Nothing. Because, when you express yourself, within your expression there is you, simultaneously there is the universe, that you and the universe working together dynamically – how? I don’t know. But it’s there. It’s really there. If you do it, [it’s] exactly there. Somebody doesn’t see it, but somebody knows.

So why? I don’t know how they come together, how they interconnect with each other dynamically. We don’t know. But if you do it, exactly do it, we can express it.

So nothing to argue. So “you won’t avoid losing your point” – you cannot challenge somebody to discuss it. “… and having your tongue tied” means you cannot help withdrawing, in other words going back to [your room].


He lets out a single continuous road.

But it’s very difficult to explain that situation, oneness. Oneness of you and the universe […] going from moment to moment is something difficult to express. But, he says, “He lets out a single continuous road”: it’s very difficult, but let me say something. So that is this koan [or] case.


In the case,

A monk asked Chao Chou, “The myriad things return to one. Where does the one return to?”

This is an interesting point.

You know pretty well the myriad things return to one. In the phenomenal world, countless myriad beings exist. But when you research, […] when you trace back to the source… it’s one. There is only one.

According to scientists, maybe it is called energy. Maybe it is called “very original elements of chemical stuff”…

[Tape change.]

… That is the origin of life, according to scientists: chemical stuff. Chemical stuff is not chemical stuff; it’s energy.

According to Christianity, I told you, it is called God. According to Confucianism it is called taikyoku, the first cause. In Buddhism it is called dharma nature, or dharma.

But we know that, we know that. Not only Buddhists, everyone knows that. But the next point is pretty difficult to know: where does [the] one return to? That is a very interesting question.

In other words, everyone knows the human world, all the universe, is created by God: fine. Created by first cause: fine. Created by dharma nature: fine. But who creates dharma nature? Who creates God? Who creates Buddha? Et cetera. Who creates the first cause?

At that time, most people are very confused.

So, this monk is a very sharp guy. That’s why in the comment, it says,

He’s pressing this old fellow.

[“Old fellow”] means Joshu, Chao Chou. You are pretty good, to drive Chao Chou into the corner where he can’t move an inch. [He laughs.] So pretty good, monk. You are pretty good. That is the comment here.

But anyway, where does the one return to? That is, constantly if you seek where does the one return to intellectually, you never get [the] place where the one returns to. Because intellectual understanding lets you go in parallel, always; [it] never comes together. Intellectually, probably two things come very close together, but always parallel. That’s why this guy is going fast, this guy slow, but very close, that’s why [they make] noise. The other one goes fast, the other one is slow. The world is going very quickly, [and] you try to catch up with this, but you cannot catch up, so you’re always making noise, so-called despair. You’re disappointed. So that intellectual understanding lets you go always in parallel with the world, people, friends, everything. So, always making noise.

So finally […] the question is, from where does this question come? Okay? This question means “where does [the] one return to.” From where does this question come? Do you understand? This is your koan, anyway. From where?

It’s very simple. It’s very simple. If I say “where does one return to” – who talks, who makes the question? This guy? This guy is who? Katagiri? This Katagiri is …? Well, Katagiri, but totally speaking, Katagiri is something alive, so-called being. So this Katagiri is really alive – and then the question comes up.

So where does the one return to? Where does the one come from? One comes from here? One returns to this silence. It’s very close. It’s too close to understand. [So] if you try to know intellectually what is the beginning of the world, and where is the end of the world, you really go outwardly, and never end, never begin. No beginning, no end; always parallel. That’s why finally you are confused. Finally confusion means something which makes you unstable, irritated, restless.

So, exactly, finally you come back here. [The] one comes from here.


And then,

Chao Chou said, “When I was in Ch’ing Chou I made a cloth shirt. It weighed seven pounds.”

This is interesting. In the commentary, it says:

This case, though hard to see, is nevertheless easy to understand; though easy to understand, it’s still hard to see. Insofar as it is hard, it’s a silver mountain, an iron wall. Insofar as it’s easy, you are directly aware. There is no place for your calculation of right or wrong.

That is the interconnection, interpenetration between [the] two, simultaneously.

So, that is the universe there.

Chao Chou said, “When I was in Ch’ing Chou I made a cloth shirt.” That means everyday life. Anyway, come back to me; everyday life. So I am there; I express myself every day. But on the other hand, that shirt is not a usual shirt. That is seven pounds.

That means, I make a shirt, but it’s pretty light. If I make my shirt, it’s very limited, because it must fit me in size, et cetera. So it’s very light. You cannot wear a seven pound shirt. So if I make a shirt, it’s very light; in other words, I express myself. That is very stinky; Katagiri. Simultaneously there is a seven pound shirt. That means [a] seven pound Katagiri expressed in the small shirt I have made.

So that is really so-called security. If you realize this point, that becomes spiritual security. Confidence.

It is not a matter of discussion. We should do it, every day.

That’s why very practically Zen always points out: when you wash your dish, just wash your dish. Just wash your dish. That means you wash your dish, but washing the dishes is nothing but […] washing the universe. You don’t believe this, but it’s really so!

That means don’t think the universe in washing dishes, alright? [He laughs.] In order to see the universe in washing the dishes, your action of washing dishes must be stable. Very imperturbable. At that time, it is called seeing the universe within washing the dishes.

So, you are drinking a cup of tea. A Zen master says, “See the universe in the cup.” A Zen monk tries to see the universe in the cup. He cannot see the universe, so he throws it away. And the Zen Master says, “Oh, poor tea.”

This is [really] “poor tea.” Because he sees the universe separately. Tea is tea; I can see [it]. But tea is something more than I can see. So that is what? Tea is the universe. How can I know? Deal with the tea with wholeheartedness, with compassion, with kindness. It’s not a matter of discussion: deal with the tea like this. That’s why when the monk throws it away, the Zen master says, “Oh, poor tea.” It’s really “poor tea,” because you destroy the universe.

So that is “seven pounds.”

I told you before, whatever you do, consciously or unconsciously, everyone wants to be secure in each action. No one [wants to do anything] without security, in each action, in each speech, in each thinking.

How can you get this? If you try to get security or confidence, very secure imperturbable thinking or action, you never get it. So day by day, you have to do it like this. Gassho, you should do gassho. Anyway, this is your gassho but that is universal gassho, [that] means you do your gassho with your wholeheartedness. At that time this gassho becomes imperturbable, stable. Right now, [here]. There is no space, there is nothing to impart your feeling or criticism into it, because life is really dynamic. Life is moving, just like a flashing light, just like a rushing torrent, just like walking the edge of the sword.

So all you have to do is, every day, you have to manifest [it], you have to practice like this. And then, you can really see, sometimes.

That is called seven pounds. That weight is a seven pound shirt. It’s very heavy. Katagiri is small, but it’s very heavy: Katagiri is here, that is universal Katagiri. And that is called spiritual security, or faith. In life, in death, in whatever. Under certain circumstances, separately, Katagiri is there: that Katagiri is very shaky. But on the other hand, universal Katagiri is very heavy, just like a mountain.

How can we know? It is just doing. Every moment you act like this, take care of you like this.


This morning, one of the ladies called from Oklahoma. I tried to communicate with her through the telephone, but her [accent] was a little bit funny, I didn’t understand it exactly. [Laughter.] But I understood that she was suffering and she wanted to get some security. She had some problem there, but I didn’t understand exactly what kind of problem.

So sometimes she said, “I tried to become a Christian, studying the Bible.” So I said, “Oh, that’s good. Why don’t you read the Bible carefully, and see the ministers, and talk about your [Father].” Because it’s very hard to communicate through the telephone, you know? [He laughs.] Through the telephone it’s very simple, but it’s very difficult to communicate person to person, particularly about human problems. Well, trying to get [an appointment] – “tomorrow I want [an appointment] with you” – that is simple, you know, through the telephone you can do it. But how can I communicate about human problems? First of all I have to communicate with the person directly, person-to-person, and then something happens. That’s pretty important for us. But through the telephone it’s very hard. But anyway, I tried to tell her that point.

And she asked me, “What is nirvana?” That’s a big problem. [He laughs.] I said, “Peaceful and harmonious life.” [She asked,] “What is harmonious, peaceful life?” I told her, “In sickness, please be calm and peaceful in the sickness.” She said, “How can I do it?” “Well, first, be present in the sickness. And next, keep your mind calm, and deal with the sickness.” But she didn’t understand me.

But that is everyday life. Because the sickness you can see is the small sickness, but sickness is exactly sickness as the universe. Just like in your life. Sickness is nothing but life.

So in the sickness, there is the sickness you can see, but real sickness is beyond the sickness you can see. So that is the universe. So you have to deal with the sickness with the universe. How? Well, first, keep your mind calm. If you’re confused, you cannot deal with the sickness. So first, keep your mind calm, and be present in the sickness. And then step by step, what should you do. This is, each moment, how can I do? This is Katagiri expressed in sickness, simultaneously Katagiri as the universe expressed in sickness.

So, [there is a] seven pound Katagiri there, seven pound [Jim] there. More than seven pounds: huge. No one can move it, anyway. That is called security.

Security is pretty hard to tell you, to give you. Security is really my security. My security is always in here. It’s always working. I can talk, but even though I can talk [about] security, it’s my security. So you should find your security.

That’s why spiritual security is always just like a seven pound, huge mountain there. But it’s very difficult to tell you, to give you. Because, you should find it.


So, read the commentary. This commentary is very interesting. [There is] another koan [there], so it’s a very interesting commentary. Next Wednesday we will read the verse, and also a little bit about his commentary to this verse.

Do you have some questions?


Question: Hojo-san? You spoke of speed and slowness. And I’m reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh’s visit, and his teaching of a practice which is far slower than we had seen. Certain practices. And I was asked by someone in San Francisco to ask you, because it has been a serious consideration for many people: what is it in the Japanese tradition, in monasteries, what is the nature of the speed that monks are trained to use in the monastery? Is there a kind of mindfulness …

Katagiri: Mmm-hmm.

Same person: … about that? I know Thich Nhat Hanh said that he goes very slowly, and when I asked him if it’s possible to be mindful when you’re going very fast, he said maybe it is, but it’s much harder.

Katagiri: Yeah, I’m not talking about this one. That is already something expressed by him.

Same person: Ah.

Katagiri: Slow, for him, it is a kind of stability. Very stable. Do you understand what I mean? Slow action. Slow action is, in this case, kind of total security there.

And then if we see that total security in terms of speed, or slow or fast, then we say slow motion. But that is a name, a concept. [It is] completely beyond slow motion, because his life is exactly fitting from moment to moment, so [it’s] very quick. So his slowness is not slow; his slowness is very quick, hitting the point.

If you see Thich Nhat Hanh, immediately you’re shocked, don’t you think so? I was shocked. [When] I saw him gassho at the airport, immediately [that] shock. So that is very slow, but it’s not slow: [it’s] immediate. Just a lightning spark.

That is the point, alright? I am talking about that [point]. So I say the diamond apparently is hard, the hardest being. That means total security, human security. But in order to have this security, […] the inside of your life must be connected at superspeed. At superspeed means completely beyond fast or slow; that is superspeed. In other words, freedom. No particular pattern, so-called slow or fast. Because it’s super-speed. So no particular pattern.

That’s why we don’t know if molecules have a certain type of speed, slow or fast. We can find [out] how A and B come together and create the water which exists. But we don’t [know]. Some we can know, but some we don’t know. So finally the question is: why? Water exists just as it is. We don’t know why. So that means all molecules inside of the water, inside of the diamond, are working very quickly, interconnected. That movement makes something hard. That is [the] security [I mean].

So according to Thich Nhat Hanh, security is […] diamond-like. That diamond-like state of existence is very slow, walking slow, but at that time very speedy, fitting into every situation. When the person walks quickly, there is a very slow motion there, but simultaneously speedy, quick. Still in dynamism, dynamic in stillness. That is both, working together. And then that is really security.

So apparently he just expressed one type of action, slow moving. But it is not the total picture of his life.

Mindfulness is really working at not creating a gap between you and your object. This is the practice of mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh also says this. That means you and your object working at super-speed: interconnected, interpenetrated. So the important point in mindfulness is that you have to be one, exactly one.

But in order to be one, we have to create certain circumstances. If you become an expert, [say in] running, [this] is also [that] you can practice mindfulness. Don’t you think so? […] You can really concentrate on [unintelligible]. It’s really mindfulness. And also slow, step by step – this is also pretty good. But in the beginning, or for his case, he just follows slow motion. That is one part. But the basic teaching of mindfulness is really [that] your life must be working at superspeed, interconnected with your object. Just like molecules of water, or the molecules of diamond inside of a diamond. This is mindfulness.


Question: Is there a difference between concentration and mindfulness?

Katagiri: Mindfulness is not forgetting the dharma. Concentration is sometimes not forgetting you. [He laughs. The questioner laughs.] But real concentration is not forgetting you but simultaneously not forgetting others. That is called mindfulness.

So traditionally, we understand mindfulness is constantly not to forget the dharma. And then, dhyana, meditation, or sometimes we say concentration. But I told [you] the very usual [kind of] concentration, alright? But dhyana means zazen; let’s [look at] zazen. Mindfulness is not forgetting the dharma, and in zazen, dhyana, you dwell in dharma. Do you understand the difference? Mindfulness is not forgetting dharma; in other words, still you can see dharma objectively, so you try to approach to dharma. That is the practice of mindfulness. But dhyana, so-called zazen, is [that] you’re always present in dharma. That means total security. You have to be present in security there, exactly, from moment to moment. Not try [not] to forget, okay? [He laughs.] Completely beyond. Because you already do it. That’s why Thich Nhat Hanh’s way is always practicing mindfulness, and simultaneously his life is very secure. That means dhyana. So that’s why he can be present in dharma always. So behind his life, there is huge security there.

That is called concentration, we say say concentration. That is really deep. But usually concentration is not forgetting me. [He chuckles.] Always try to be aware of myself; that is the common sense of concentration. But real concentration is going through mindfulness perfectly, and then you can reach concentration. That is dhyana, zazen. Shikantaza.

Same person: So mindfulness is like being aware of two things: what I’m doing, and dharma. As if there were two.

Katagiri: Through your actions, through your body, through your object. Because dharma is nothing but your body and object.

Same person: Right. And concentration is even more complete oneness.

Katagiri: Right.


Question: Do you say that dhyana is deeper than mindfulness? Or …

Katagiri: Well, I don’t think it’s necessary to compare like that. But temporarily, if you look at the experience separately, so-called mindfulness and zazen, dhyana, maybe we can find a certain definition [of] the difference between. So that’s why mindfulness is “try not to forget the dharma.” Dharma means the universe; truth. Anyway, we try to approach; not forget. Whatever you do, you should do with the universe.

But usually in our daily life, always I comes first. So we pretty easily forget the universe, others. So “[we should] try not to forget the universe” means try to do something with the universe. That means keep your mind calm, because your mind always brings yourself first, so-called ego. That’s why make your mind calm means taking care of your mind in [the] proper way first.

And then, how? That is simultaneously deal with the sutra card…

[Tape break.]

… If you continue to do this, completely beyond your consciousness or unconsciousness, you are really present in dharma. That is called dhyana.

Is that alright?

For instance, if you practice karate, or something [with] energy. Or [being] doan. First of all, you always try not to forget how to hit the bells. [He chuckles.] Or how to master a certain form of karate, very carefully. Don’t you think so? But all you have to do is, you have to do [it] – [whether] you don’t like or you like, you try not to forget the form taught by the teacher. You have to master it, constantly. If you do it, finally, you can be present in the form, [in the] proper way. Exactly there. So if you move, exactly the proper form comes up. So your body and your form [are] exactly one. No gap between. That is called dhyana.

So if you become a doan, very naturally, you can hit the bell in the proper way. But how can you do it? Every day, try not to forget how to hit the bell in the proper way. That is our practice.

1:17:56 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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