June 7, 1987 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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This transcript is in rough draft stage.

Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org


Katagiri Roshi: Yesterday I mentioned that the important point in Buddhism is that we have to feel deeply and directly who we are; such as tasting, realizing manas, psychologically speaking. At that time, the realization of manas guides you to touch karmic life, coming from past life. That is alayavijñāna.

And then, I think it is not good enough for us to deeply or directly feel or to taste who you are by meditation. You have to reach alayavijñāna, so-called karmic consciousness, karmic life, but at that time there is still a problem: that we are stuck in the concept of karmic life.

Alayavijñāna is characterized by something going in perpetual series, from the past, through the present, to the future. So, [there is] nothing to pin down there, nothing to grasp, nothing to keep you stuck. It’s always going. If you really feel what your karmic life is, finally there is no concept of your own karmic life. Finally what you can see is just [the] flow of energy; that’s it. That is called tathāgatagarbha.

There is nothing to put a name on; it is kind of just a perpetual flow of energy. It’s very difficult to put a name on it, but it’s really something real, because it supports your life and also all sentient beings. That is called tathāgatagarbha. At that time, you really appreciate it.

And then from this, I think religious [ascertainment], and relaxation, or relief, naturally oozes from the bottom of your heart. That is called faith.

So, the main purpose of Buddhist practice is to taste ego consciousness, who you are, deeply through meditation – but, it’s not good enough. The farther practice is to taste karmic life not only conceptually, but directly. You should participate in alayavijñāna. What is direct participation in alayavijñāna? That is just movement, flow; perpetual flow of energy to live, to be present. Not only for you, but with all sentient beings. That is [the] final purpose of Buddhism.


I also mentioned yesterday that most people believe that if you don’t attain enlightenment then you are not Buddhist, you are really a lower class of human being, but I don’t think it is true. Whether you are a deluded person or you are an enlightened person, all sentient beings are [aware]. You should remember this!

But I mentioned that if you see your life individually, under all circumstances you want to live! Where does that desire come from? [Is it] your own desire? No; [it is] not your own desire. I gave you my own story: When the bomb exploded, I immediately ran and jumped into the hole, and chanted the name of Amitaba. Was that my desire? No way; not my desire. No choice. So under all circumstances, everyone has great energy, capacity to live, to be. Completely beyond like or dislike.

So, you should live there, from the beginning. You should appreciate this energy; you should appreciate this life force gifted to you, from the beginningless past. Anyway, you already have [this] great capacity.

That is [what] we temporarily call Buddha Nature. Or, 2500 years ago, Buddha Shakyamuni mentioned, “All are Buddha.” Temporarily, we call [that] Buddha. Buddha is a person who realizes that perpetual flow of energy, flow of existence, constantly [moving] from the beginningless past to the endless future.

You should participate directly in it. So, what is that? Just be there. And then, manifest it.

So, strictly speaking, I think everyone is in Buddha’s great world. I think even though you are not an enlightened person, [there is no] discrimination between Buddha and ordinary people. You are not an enlightened person, but originally you are an enlightened person: because you already survive, you are living from day to day. By your own effort? Yes it is [by own effort], but something more than that: by the help of the grasses, rains, sunshine, humidity, the air. By all sentient beings, you can survive. This is the true reality.

So you should live in the vast, expansive realm of the world, surrounded by all sentient beings. Usually we always see the world in the narrow way: “this is my world,” “that is your world,” separately. But first of all we should live in that enormously expansive realm of existence. That is called Buddha Nature. We are Buddha.


Let’s look at Genjokoan.

At the last sentence, there is a conclusion. The last sentence says:

Because the nature of wind is eternal, the wind of Buddhism causes the manifestation of the earth’s being gold and by participation develops the long river into butter.

(From “The Issue at Hand” translated by Thomas Cleary. The text is available on thezensite.com.)

“The wind of Buddhism”: In this case Dogen Zenji uses wind because he quoted the story of Zen Master Hōtetsu of Mount Mayoku using a fan, et cetera. That’s why he is talking about the wind, created by fan. The “wind of Buddhism” means Buddha’s family. So in this case, wind means lifestyle; the refined lifestyle of the Buddha’s family. All sentient beings are nothing but Buddha’s family. So, their life has [a] really refined lifestyle […] What is it? That is to manifest the earth. The earth means alayavijñāna, karmic life.

“Being gold”: Turning earth – turning alayavijñāna – into gold means tathāgatagarbha.

“And by participation”: You have to participate in this practice, directly. And then at that time you can develop the long river – that means human life.

“Long river”: Human life, the human world, handed down from century after century. [A] long, long river.

“Into butter”: Sweet butter, sweet milk, wonderful milk. That means Buddha’s world; [a] peaceful, harmonious world.

So, what is the responsibility for us, what is the duty for us, if you want to be present in this world as a human being? That is, a human being who has the great refined lifestyle of Buddha’s family. What is the duty? Our duty is to turn the earth – alayavijñāna, alaya world, karmic life – into gold – which means tathāgatagarbha, Buddha’s world. How? You should participate in it, directly. Regardless of whether you judge yourself, “I am enlightened,” or “I am unenlightened,” it doesn’t matter. All you have to do is you should participate in this practice directly, day by day. And then at that time, your life ripens, very naturally. So you can develop the long river: your whole life, including past, present, and future, into butter, sweet butter – that means into the peaceful, harmonious world. That is your total personality coming up.

How do you develop the whole personality? It’s not your business. Your business is just to participate in this practice. That’s it! And then, the whole personality is coming up, just like water under the ground coming up. If your pipe touches the water [line], naturally water – [shoop!] – comes up.

When you see the water coming up from the ground, it is called whole personality. By which people are really impressed, and people really want to see such a person. It is necessary for us; and we have such a capability. So, finally, our purpose is just like this. That’s why it is the conclusion of Genjokoan.

So, what is the practice for us? [He chuckles.] Well, we always say, “We want to attain enlightenment, we want to be enlightened person,” et cetera. We are always “juggling” in the realm of samsara: “You are wrong, I am right,” you know? “I practiced for ten years, with this person,” “You are always lazy; you are not Buddhist.” And always, “I love him, so he is my teacher.” It’s ridiculous! [He laughs, and there is some laughter.] And then sometimes someone tells you bitter things: “Oh, I don’t like him. He is not my teacher.” Something like that. We’re always juggling like this. How do you understand? How do you share your life with all sentient beings, in peace and harmony? No matter how long you talk about compassion, wisdom, kindness, friendliness, [and] shaking hands – actually, practically, you never built up a peaceful world from day to day. No way. Always you are fighting; suffering. That’s why Dogen Zenji [speaks] like this.

What is our practice? Whoever you are, what you have to do is try to turn alayavijñāna into tathāgatagarbha. Turn our earth, the human world, into gold, Buddha’s world. You should participate in it! You can do it. How? That is what Genjokoan explains.


Let’s go back to the first paragraph.

Let’s divide Genjokoan into eleven sections…

(From 18:20 to 21:05, Katagiri Roshi divides the text into sections. These sections mostly line up with the paragraphs in the Thomas Clearly translation we have today, with some differences. See link)

(He has someone read the first section:)

When all things are Buddha’s teaching, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is cultivation of practice, there is birth, there is death, there are buddhas, there are sentient beings.
When myriad things are all not self, there is no delusion, no enlightenment, no buddhas, no sentient beings, no birth, no death.
Because the Buddha Way originally sprang forth from abundance and paucity, there is birth and death, delusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and buddhas.
Moreover, though this is so, flowers fall when we cling to them, and weeds only grow when we dislike them.

Okay. The first section is divided into four sentences. The first one is:


When all things are Buddha’s teaching, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is cultivation of practice, there is birth, there is death, there are buddhas, there are sentient beings.

[The translator] says “Buddha’s teachings”; I think originally [Dogen] said Buddha-dharma. Buddha-dharma means the whole universe. Whole universe is not like a huge avocado seed, okay? In other words, the universe is not a huge lump of the earth body. Buddha-dharma means, I told you already, a perpetual flow of energies, always going, and acting. And it’s quiet. But it’s dynamic; it’s always going. [It] is huge; boundless. There are no boundaries; always huge, huge. That’s why I sometimes use [the expression] “vast expanse of existence.” It’s vast. It’s really vastness.

The first section is talking about the outlook on the world: how you should see the world, how you understand the human world. So first of all, you have to see the world in terms of Buddha’s eye. Yesterday I mentioned, if you see the human world in terms of ordinary people’s eyes, so call alayavijñāna, the world becomes always alayavijñāna, never Buddha’s world. If you see the world in terms of Buddha’s eye, the whole world become Buddha’s world.

Alayavijñāna means karmic life. If you see karmic life through meditation, you taste it, karmic life, but that karmic life you have tasted is still conceptualized. If you go beyond conceptualization of karmic life, it is nothing but perpetual flow of energies. That’s it. Because, karmic life has been going from the past, present, future, from every direction. So we don’t know what it is. But it’s [actively] working, anyway. So that’s why it’s very difficult to be free from the understanding of karmic life. Because every day you can see and taste karmic life, so it’s very easy for us to be stuck in karmic life. But originally, karmic life is what? It’s going. Dynamically, from the past, to the present, to the future.

If you go beyond, free from conceptualization of karmic life, at that time you really participate directly in alayavijñāna, which means tathāgatagarbha. Only when you participate in it, in deep understanding, the profound taste of alayavijñāna, then alayavijñāna turns into Buddha’s world, tathāgatagarbha.

Yesterday I mentioned, [all of] space, kokū, falls down to the earth and is crushed, and then that is the time when an oak tree becomes Buddha. We are always separated. When the whole sky, whole worlds are crushed, we must be Buddha. When do you become Buddha? When the whole world is crushed; [when there is] nothing to compare. What do I mean? Just energy, working; and then, you become Buddha. When you become Buddha, that is the time when the whole earth is crushed. That is direct participation in alayavijñāna, instead of understanding human life in the world of conceptualization. That is very tricky. It’s very difficult to participate in the alayavijñāna directly and turn it into tathāgatagarbha. It’s very difficult. Because our head is very strong, stubborn.

That’s why immediately Dogen Zenji [says that] all things are not the all things you have thought; all are Buddhas. You should deal with this. At that time, see the world, see yourself: do you live alone? No; you are there with all sentient beings. That’s why delusion and enlightenment, cultivation of practice, and birth and death, and buddhas and all sentient beings, exist simultaneously. This is true reality.

What is this (true reality)? Is this your world, created by you? No. Is this the world created by your life in the past? No. It is something more than that. It’s really expansive, the existence of the world. That’s why [it says this].


And then, next:

When the myriad dharmas are all not self, there is no delusion, no enlightenment, no buddhas, no sentient beings, no birth, no death.

(Transcriber’s Note: Katagiri Roshi says dharmas instead of things here.)

Then at that time, you are you, but you are not you – you are all sentient beings. You are supported by all sentient beings. So you shouldn’t always attach to yourself: “I am great.” I don’t think so; that is really egoistic! If you become really great, in other words if you really become mature, you don’t know this maturity. Real maturity is some energy which makes you go smoothly, like a stream of water; people just participate in that stream of water, just like a boat. But if you attach to maturity, this maturity becomes very strict. It’s not a stream of water, so [there is] always bumping. Lots of maturity there: your maturity, my maturity – [laughter] – always bumping, and creating a creaking sound. Do you understand? That is the human world that we [unintelligible].

That’s why “when myriad dharmas are all not self…” When you see the world in universal perspective, all [doesn’t] have its own ego-sense. No; it’s exactly the flow of energy, nothing but the flow of energy; penetrating, exchanging their own position with somebody else. I change my position with somebody’s position. In other words, I can talk with a bird, I can talk with a rock. I can talk with an Indian elephant. The elephant can shake hands with the Indian monkey. Do you understand that one? Intellectually you don’t understand this, but this is the Buddha’s world. Buddha’s world is shaking hands: if you pick up this one, the whole world picks it up. You don’t believe it, but this is really true. This is the outlook on the human world in terms of Buddha’s eye. Because you live with all sentient beings. Without all sentient beings, how can you survive? There is no possibility.


And then next: if so, what is true reality? He said:

Because the Buddha Way originally sprang forth from abundance and paucity, there is birth and death, delusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and buddhas.

What are the all sentient beings you can see with your naked eye? They are not all sentient beings seen with your naked eye; [they are] something more than abundance and paucity, being or not being; completely beyond this. What is that? Buddha? I can see the trees, I can see the birds, but the birds don’t have their own ego, a tree doesn’t have its own ego. And then that is a true picture of the trees and birds. […] going beyond being and not being, like or dislike, paucity and abundance. That is the true reality, of everything. So, a completely different world is coming up.


Next, the last sentence (in this section) says,

Moreover, though this is so, flowers fall when we cling to them, and weeds only grow when we dislike them.

Yesterday, Shoken Floyd Winecoff asked me […] about sadness. Religiously speaking, if you see your karmic life, there is some deep sadness there. For instance, if I look at myself, there is a deep sadness there, because I cannot control it. You cannot control it in the usual way; it can be controlled, but not in the usual way. That’s why it’s very difficult. So in a sense, [there is] deep sadness there.

Deep sadness means, completely beyond speculation, when you see something, you feel sad, you feel pensive. So when the flower falls, you feel pensive, and you say, “Please, stay on the branch,” you know? When weeds grow, you hate it. I’ve really experienced this hatred in the everyday cleaning my temple yard. [He chuckles.] Picking up [the] big temple yard by myself. I didn’t have a big machine, or chemicals to kill the weeds, so I had to pick up weeds every day when I saw them, you know? It’s really questionable. I always asked [myself], “What [am I] doing here? This is my lifestyle, picking up grasses like this? This is the purpose of a monk’s life?” [Laughter.] So I thought, “Oh, [this was a] big mistake.” [Laughter.] “Why did I become a monk?” [Laughter.] But I had no choice, so I always did it, you know?

That’s really hatred coming up. Flowers bloom and weeds grow beyond your hatred or love. Before, or in advance, it’s blooming. Do you understand? Your life is already blooming, in the same way as the blooming of a flower. So your life is what? Just a blooming flower. Your life is what? Growth of the weeds. Just the same things. But when you see the weed, you separate it, and then you hate it. But basically, weeds grow in the same way as your presence. Before you poke your head into it, it already grows, the flower blooms.

But on the other hand, you cannot ignore that feeling. So Dogen Zenji says let’s come back to everyday life as a human being. […] What do you feel [about] flowers or weeds? Do you feel love? Do you feel you love the weeds? Are you sure you love the weeds? We always cut the grass, and then some people say, “don’t cut the grass,” you know? Are you sure you love the weeds? Are you sure you love the insects and the mosquitos? Are you sure? But – do you hate them? Are you sure? You don’t hate, you don’t love; [you] don’t know.

But, it is a fact [that] you feel hatred or you feel love. This is a fact. Very straightforwardly, look at your human life. Your feeling, hatred or love, is not the usual sense of love or hatred you have thought for a long time. Let’s see it a different way, okay? That’s why Dogen Zenji says the last sentence. He says [to] first bring up the Buddha’s world [as] how to see the human world. You should see the world in terms of Buddha’s eye. If so, should you hate the samsaric world? No. Come back, please come back – to the human life which exists day by day; with feelings, emotions; hatred, anger, et cetera.

That’s why yesterday I mentioned that I think instead of always handling a feeling of sadness, we should go back to the important point: how to live, how to see the world; in other words, your basic attitude toward human life. So let the different way you should see the world, from the Buddha’s eye. That is our practice. Because feelings, sadness, always appear just like bubbles coming up. You love feelings so much, but next moment they disappear, and love turns into hatred. So it’s always very uneasy. But you cannot ignore it; that’s why Dogen Zenji brings it up. Don’t ignore this one. But that feeling – sadness, hatred – is not something you should hate or you should love. You should take care of hatred or love as the Buddha’s world, as a decoration of the Buddhas’ land.

So if you do it, how do you decorate the human world with hatred, with sadness? That is our practice. Actually deal with it: calm your mind, calm your six senses, and then deal with your life; sadness, hatred, et cetera. It means, deal with life as [it] truly is.


And then, I think the next paragraph is the contents of all sentient beings. What is the contents of all sentient beings?

Acting on and witnessing myriad things with the burden of oneself is “delusion.”

[That] means cultivating practice and verifying myriad things by conveying oneself to them is delusion.

In other words, first we try to move toward nature and create the poem. By creating a poem, you can verify the existence of nature, how wonderful it is. […] But, he says, it is delusion. Yes, it is delusion, because you see the world in terms of your eyes, your feelings; [that is] delusion. But is it real delusion? No, no way; that [would be] a little bit narrow understanding. That delusion is going in the Buddha’s land, supported by all sentient beings. Because there is no other way! No other way.

If it is delusion, which you should hate – at that time, [is] all sentient nature coming to you and helping you? In the 1960’s and 70’s, the hippies always said something like, “I don’t know where I am going. The Universe takes care of me.” Can you say that? [He chuckles.] No way. If you do it, your life becomes a mess.

So first of all, you have to move toward nature, toward the world, and take care of it. And then, at that time, you can verify the presence of the world with you. That’s why we have to do it. But, it is delusion. We say, “It is right; it is Enlightenment;” [but] I don’t think it is. [That is] prejudice; ego. That’s why if you see the very energetic businessmen and politicians – whoever they are – you really respect them, because they are always acting positively, creating something; [you think] they are wonderful people. But I don’t think it’s wonderful. [He chuckles.] It is a delusion.

But the point is, there is no other way except the deluded way, in order to reach whole world. So the important point is, don’t be stuck in the delusion. You can use delusion properly. How? Simply deal with delusions; as simply as you can. There is no reason you should be stuck, or you should be proud of yourself; no matter [whether] you are successful in business, or politics, et cetera. Even if I become a saint, there is no reason I should be proud of myself. No way. Because it is delusion. That is my karmic life.

It is something like [that] an owl can see everything at night. “By practice, I became a saint” – is this wonderful? No, it’s not wonderful. It is just like an owl…

[Tape change.]

… because I create it.

But on the other hand, if so, it is wrong? No, it’s not wrong. Behind this delusion, a huge, expansive world is there, by which your delusion is supported. So, don’t get stuck with delusion; please use delusion in universal perspective. That is the bodhisattva practice. That’s why bodhisattvas suffer from their life, and also from [other] people’s life, all sentient beings’ life – how to help all sentient beings.


And then, that’s why next he says,

Acting on and witnessing oneself in the advent of myriad things is enlightenment.

So your life, your delusion is already manifested in the advent of myriad things. That is your way of life. That is a unique way to approach [knowing] the total picture of life, the human world.

So, delusion and enlightenment work together. That’s why a bodhisattva is always characterized by walking with all sentient beings hand in hand, instead of getting into Buddha’s position, becoming Buddha. They don’t want that! So, [they are] always walking. But behind the bodhisattva’s delusion, there is a Buddha there; so-called enlightenment. That’s why, if you read scriptures, always the bodhisattva appears in front, and behind [there are] Buddhas. Always the Buddha is behind the bodhisattva, supporting.

So if you read the scriptures, there is always something very quiet, silent, beyond a bodhisattva’s activities in the front. There is some quietness. That quietness is described sometimes as emptiness.

It’s very interesting: if you sit down quietly and read scriptures, very naturally, you can see first the bodhisattva’s activities and dynamism, in the front of the existence. But behind, always there is something there, which is quiet and supportive.



Great enlightenment about delusion is Buddhas; …

You should know what delusion is: that is called Buddha. Delusion is not something you should hate or keep away from. So you should have great enlightenment about delusion; then you become a bodhisattva. And then you can help, you can share.

For instance, [if] you always try to help, but people don’t accept you. This is suffering. But suffering is okay… [Well,] not okay, but there is no other way. So, if the help is good, you have to consider again and again how to help people, all kinds of people, whatever happens, accepting or not accepting. Anyway you should continually consider carefully how to help. That is really delusion. Don’t you think so? It’s delusion, by which you suffer. But this is [being] a bodhisattva.

That delusion is really supported by enlightenment. That’s why the next sentence says,

great delusion about enlightenment is sentient beings.

That is called you. Ordinary people. Ordinary people are persons who have attained […] really deeply […] what delusion is. Then, this is called all sentient beings.


There are also those who attain enlightenment on top of enlightenment, and there are those who are further deluded in the midst of delusion.

What you have to do is, you are always acting and helping all sentient beings as a Buddha. But on the other hand, you are [also] the bodhisattva who suffers a lot. So you are always doing [that] in the realm of delusion, but on the other hand, there is a great supporter there called Buddha. So who is helping people? Buddha helps, in the realm of Buddhas.


In the saying,

When the Buddhas are indeed the Buddhas, there is no need to be self-conscious of being Buddhas; nevertheless it is realizing buddhahood, Buddhas go on realizing.

That’s why [we ask,] “What is this? How do you know this? How you feel stable? Please give me the stability and faith and the strength by practicing this. Katagiri mentions this, Buddha mentions this, ancestors mention this. Please give me something!” But, no way. I don’t know. I don’t have anything to give you. So all you have to do is, just do it. If you just do it – participate directly in the perpetual flow of energy – at that time, there is no way to know. But, it is [that] you can realize it.

So, it’s just like your body soaks in the stream, and then your whole body is wet, but we always scoop the water into our bodies. If you feel thirst, you always scoop the water and you drink, and then you feel good; then next moment, some thirst comes again. So to really quench your thirst, you jump into the water; you soak your body and mind in the river. And then, the river water soaks through your huge pores. Your body is just like a bamboo basket. Do you understand? Like the pores. But you don’t believe it. If you soak [your body], then water falls through there, lots of […] holes, the pores. [He chuckles.]

That’s why it says here, “when the Buddhas are indeed the Buddhas, at that time, you become Buddhas.” With great enlightenment about delusion is all sentient beings; that is you. Great enlightenment about delusion is Buddhas; great delusion about enlightenment is sentient beings. Because, how to save all sentient beings? How to guide deluded, stubborn people to Buddha’s way? It’s very hard. [He chuckles.] It’s really tiring. [Laughter.] But there is no other way, so you have to continue to [do it]. That is great delusion about enlightenment. This is called sentient beings; this is called you. And then, if you do it, that is called “Buddha becomes Buddha.”

But, how do we know? Who proves this? There is no need to be self conscious of being Buddhas. No. Because, [it is] just perpetual flow of energies. You just be there. Just like being present in a jet airplane, [as] I always mention: just be there.

“Nevertheless, it is realizing Buddhahood, Buddhas go on realizing” means, that way of practice naturally makes your life mature. Before you know it. This is called shugyō; practice. He translated it “cultivating practice.” Practice is constant cultivation. There is no “top,” no end. Constantly cultivating.


Next, how do we do this? That practice seems to be very hard, but, he mentions, there is a way. He says:

In seeing forms with the whole body-mind, hearing sound with the whole body-mind, though one intimately understands, it isn’t like reflecting images in a mirror, it’s not like water and the moon – when you witness one side, one side is obscure.

So, all you have to do is […] you should throw away [your] whole body and mind into your object. At that time, your body is reflected in the realm of your object, and interconnected and interpenetrating each-other at super-speed – just like moon and water, both never disturbed. Just creating the world; so-called “how beautiful it is”. You feel this one, simultaneously.

That’s why it says, “it isn’t like reflecting image in the mirror, it is not like water and the moon.” Because if you see the water and the moon, you separate them. If you attain enlightenment, all sentient beings are reflected in your whole body and mind. And then, you say, “I am the Universe!” [He laughs.] That’s ridiculous. And then when […] you walk a little far from the earth, three feet and five feet and walking, and then you say, “I am a saint. The whole universe helps my life, and [I am] free from it.” That is not real enlightenment. That’s ridiculous. That is called prejudice, okay? [Laughter.]

So that’s why it says, “it is not like a reflecting image in the mirror.” If you believe religion is to experience miracles like flying in the sky, that is just like the relationship between water and the moon. That’s [all]. But real enlightenment is not like that. That’s why he says it isn’t like a reflecting image in the mirror, it is not like water and the moon. When you witness one side, one side is obscure. So, what is real enlightenment, what is real activity of human beings? At that time, when the moon is reflected in the water, the whole water becomes moon. That’s it. The whole universe. So you cannot see the moon, because the moon has penetrated and disappeared, melted away into your body and mind.

You can experience [this in] the way you climb mountains. Then you are always using consciousness, but you really devote yourself into the rock, because there is no choice to escape, so it requires enormous attention. At that time, mind penetrates; your body and mind finally melt away. So where [are these things]? What are [these things]? They are just body; there is no rock. Rock has penetrated your body; just your body is there. Your body still goes through the rock climbing procedures: using boots, using a rope, et cetera. Your body doesn’t confuse them, because mind is there, rock is there. But all are penetrated and melted away, so the whole body is rock, the whole body is the mountain. And then, how do we know? Just climb; the activity of climbing. The perpetual flow of activity called climbing, from moment to moment. That’s it.

Buddha’s teaching is always talking about this; [worried] about human beings from that point of view. That’s why it’s a little difficult. That’s why Dogen Zenji brings it up first. You should see the world in terms of Buddha’s eye.


This last [part],

when you witness one side, one side is obscure.

This is a crucial point of Buddha’s practice. If you explain this point, then the teaching of egolessness, interconnection, interpenetration, interdependent co-origination, comes up. But “when you witness one side, the other side is obscure” [means] the whole world is penetrated to you. At that time, your life becomes very secure, very secure. Stand up and walk. Gassho becomes gassho; gassho settles in gassho, exactly. Because the whole world is gassho; the whole world is walking.

That’s why Dogen Zenji says, “the mountain walks.” Intellectually, you cannot believe it, but from this point of view, the mountain walks. How do you know? You just walk. And then, the whole mountain walks. The same applies to sports, and everything. Without this, you cannot taste the profundity of sports, the profundity of arts, the profundity of physics. No.

So, this is a key point. And then, the rest of [the sections are] explaining about this in a concrete way. I don’t know if we have enough time [to discuss them].

So please remember, the last sentence of this chapter is the conclusion. What is the point? What is the advantage of practice? [Someone] asked me a couple of days ago, what is the advantage of practice for human being? It is to turn the earth into gold. It means, regardless of whatever happens in the world – fighting, killing each other – all we have to do is, from the beginning to the end, even one person, let’s turn the earth into gold. That is what you can do. If you do it, that is called the way to turn alayavijñāna into tathāgatagarbha. That is called the world becomes Buddha. That is the actual practice to build up Buddha’s world.

But most people understand the world in the light of conceptualization. That’s why when you see the world is miserable, then you say, “Terrible; no chance to build up peace.” But that is still that you are playing with the world of conceptualization. It’s just a game. No. The world is not a game. The world is very close to you, and helping, and also [strict]. You have to do it, otherwise, you will die. You know? You will suffocate.

If you don’t do anything like the Buddha’s and ancestors’ suggestions like this, then there is no way to build up a peaceful world. So, remember this is a key point. If you teach this point philosophically, that is called egolessness. Egolessness, interdependent co-origination; lots of teachings coming up. But the point is, regardless of whether you understand egolessness or not, there is a unique way to practice for everyone. Everyone can do it.

Okay, do you have questions? I’m sorry I didn’t finish.


Question: Could you go back to this last point, “When you witness one side, the other side is obscure”? I didn’t understand…

Katagiri: Okay, first, I recommended a book, Beyond Boredom and Anxiety. In this book, I think he mentions about the expert mountaineers and rock climbers, et cetera. They talk about the oneness with the rock face and the climber’s body and mind. He or she doesn’t feel any tiredness or consciousness; just the flow of experience, that’s it.

(Transcriber’s Note: The book Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, 25th Anniversary Edition by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is available but expensive. The more recent update by the same author, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, is a popular mainstream book. It is well worth checking out.)

What do I mean, just the flow of experience? “Just the flow of activity when you climb the mountain” – what is that? Just the flow of activities called “climbing the mountain” – at that time, where are they, what are they? Right in the middle of the perpetual flow of activities, there is rock, mountain, trees, your consciousness, feelings, past, present, future; all things come together. And then, this is temporarily called perpetual flow of activities, called climbing the mountain. Without all sentient beings, you cannot climb. That’s why “one side is manifested, and the other side is obscured.” The other side means the rest of the existence. The whole world comes into you.

That is what? Just practice. The total manifestation of perpetual flow of activities. And then, if you explain it philosophically, [etymologically] speaking, that is Buddhist psychology, Buddhist philosophy. And that makes you confused, in a sense. [He chuckles.] But it helps.


Question: When one side is obscure - that’s when all things are sentient beings.

Katagiri: Yes.

Question: When no side is obscure - that’s when all things are Buddhas.

Katagiri: Yes. In other words, all sentient beings are behind you, always supporting.

We are always going in front. But we have a back. But we don’t see the back, you know? We always see the front, what’s going on. We always ignore the back. [But] the back is huge. So, “the other sentient beings are obscure” means “with a back” – in other words, behind you, and then supporting. Even though you don’t like [it]. [We are] crying, “go ahead, go ahead,” in many ways, you know? [Laughter.]

If you become a spiritual teacher, you must be like that. You cannot be a front person. If you become a person in front, it’s making trouble. So if you become a spiritual teacher, you must be always a person of behind. But, it really helps.

1:12:06 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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