June 20, 1987 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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Katagiri Roshi continues to review Genjokoan.


This transcript is in rough draft stage.

(Archive Issue: The first part of this talk appears to be missing.)

Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org


(Archive Issue: The first part of this talk appears to be missing.)

Katagiri Roshi:

If we inquire into the “family ways” of myriad things, …

… [how] objects exist, how your objects are structured. You have to inquire into this family style.

… the qualities of seas and mountains, beyond seeming square or round, are endlessly numerous.

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

So [we have to inquire] until we can see these numerous qualities in the object – in the ocean, in the mountains, in the trees that you see now. We have to train our six senses constantly. By what? Well, meditation is the best way.

We should realize there exist worlds everywhere.

We should realize there exists world everywhere. Those qualities of seas and mountains, which you cannot see, are not something far from us. They exist right in front of us, and within them, within us. So, we should realize there exists a world everywhere.

It’s not only thus in out of the way places-know that even a single drop right before us is also thus.

Even a single drop of dew exists exactly like this.

That’s why in the Sutras of the Mountains and Waters [written] by Dogen Zenji, the first sentence says, “[The present instant] of the mountains and water are total manifestation of buddhas and ancestors.” That means, we always see the mountains as mountains, but Dogen and ancestors, who realized myriad qualities of mountains and rivers we cannot see, suggest that we see the mountains as ancestors and buddhas. That means something more than the concept of the mountains and seas you have believed.

So, don’t act quickly on the concept of the mountain according to your understanding. Don’t struggle for it, but sit in zazen, calm the six senses, and go deeply into you. And then, naturally, the depths of the self are exactly the same as the depths of the world.

There are two important points here. In the beginning I mentioned, one point is that there is no space, no room for you to understand, or to touch, something true. That’s why I mentioned, the more you try to research, the more you try to inquire into the true meaning of the self, the more you feel unsatisfied. No matter how long you try to get it, you can’t get it. There is no space for you to try to get it with your hands. That is one aspect.

Second: If so, should we give up? The idea of giving up is already one of your understandings. So it’s not right. So the second point is, in the realm of no space for you to poke your head into the truth, you have to seek for it. In other words, on the foundation of nothing – no space, no room – you have to build up your house. This is the Buddhistic way. No, not the Buddhistic way; this is true way of human life, wherever you may go.


The other day I mentioned manas, the seventh consciousness, one of the unconsciousnesses. Manas is the self or attachment consciousness; in other words ego consciousness. It is very deep; it is unconscious. In Buddhist psychology, it’s [the] seventh consciousness among the eight consciousnesses: there are the six consciousnesses and manas and alayavijñāna, eight consciousnesses in all.

Manas […] has three characteristics. Buddhist psychology says that manas is always accompanied by satkaya-drishti, which means the congenital concept of Icongenital means inborn concept of I. So manas, always accompanied by the congenital concept of I, continues spontaneously in a perpetual and homogeneous series.

So, [there are] three points [there]. One is, manas is spontaneous. Second, manas is perpetual. Third, manas is homogeneous.


Those three points are […] the difference between the six consciousnesses and seventh consciousness, manas. The six consciousnesses are, you know, eye consciousness, nose consciousness, ear consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness, and conscious mind. The seventh consciousness is quite different from those six consciousnesses because it is the very basic state of ego consciousness. [It is] very strong [and] it appears spontaneously. Spontaneously means it’s alive very unconsciously, unintentionally, or “inborn”. Not “automatic”; automatic has still a sense of dichotomy. But, it is very [unintentional] or unconscious, and inborn.

That is one point. Because manas itself doesn’t create ego, but with manas there is some quality of the manas. That quality of manas is called satkaya-drishti: congenital concept of the I. Before you are born, you have this kind of faculty of your consciousness. That is simultaneously something […] happens.

The second point: homogeneous means that manas perceives no dichotomy of I and mine, but always I only. The six consciousnesses always dichotomize subject and object, and then we say I or mine, […] dichotomies. But manas always perceives the I only. So, [it is] always the same; manas remains in the same state of its own existence.

Practically, you experience [this]. You always struggle under all circumstances, because in an unconscious level, there is a consciousness which always remains in the same and one state of its own existence. That is energy to live. Do you understand? If your circumstances are very bad, and you are really struggling, crying – this is also energy to live. And if you feel happy, that is also energy to live. Very unconsciously, it’s always going.

With your head, you always say, “I am ready to die,” or “I am ready to do this, or to do that,” “I understand; I am ready to accept you, or not” – whatever you say, it’s always nothing but the world of conceptualization. But beyond this, there is a great energy to live, under all circumstances. This is called manas. Manas remains in the same and one state of existence, so-called the inborn concept of the I. So [there is] no I and mine. But the six consciousnesses always say I and mine, you and yours – dichotomies.

And also, perpetual. Manas is constantly going. Constantly going means the six consciousnesses don’t go constantly. For instance, I and you are separate. But you cannot always remain in the same state of I and you. [It is] always changing. Sometimes you become I, and I become you. You are right; I am wrong. This is a dichotomy, but it doesn’t go constantly. The next moment, it turns over; so you are wrong, I am right. It’s not perpetual. But the seventh consciousness is perpetual. Perpetual means completely beyond your understanding, it’s always going.


If you study and practice Buddhism through meditation and zazen, then you can go deeply. If you feel [it], if you understand even intellectually about manas, which has three characteristics – it is spontaneous, and perpetual, and homogeneous – if you understand these characteristics of manas even intellectually, you can go deep, you can touch something deep about you. So through the practice, through the meditation, not only understanding with your head, but practically, you touch this, you feel this directly – that is called deep understanding, profound understanding of the self.

And then, if you really feel the state of manas, how it is going, spontaneously, and homogeneously, and perpetually, that means completely no concept. You cannot put any concept on it, because it’s perpetual; it’s vast. So manas is kind of a “dead end” of your life. But on the other hand, manas is not dead end; it is a starting point, [from which] you can go any place.

So that’s why, if you practice zazen, in the beginning you can feel good, you can feel very satisfactory. But if you go deeply, you come to the terminal stations. So you don’t know; you really don’t know. The more you practice zazen, the more you see there’s something confused.

But, I think you cannot stop. So you have to go deeper and deeper, going through and through. Then, naturally, you can see, you can touch, very deeply and directly, that manas, which is spontaneous, and perpetual, and homogeneous. Then, manas becomes very vast.


So finally, what you have to do is, give up. Give up means, let go of your head. It means, let go of your thoughts.

We always see self through the head. That self is something fabricated by the thinking process: subject and object. So very naturally, it is always changeable. But we don’t know what it is. We always believe that is the self, and also believe it fully, and jump into it, and live with it. And then finally, we are completely confused. That always happens.

I think finally, give up means let go of all thoughts, because the more you try to get it, the more you feel unsatisfactory. So I always mention the partition between dead end and also [unintelligible]. There’s something spontaneous, perpetual and homogeneous; the other side is something like that. This side is the human world. There is no space to poke your head into it; this is the human world. Then if you practice deeply, you can cut this partition. That partition is, I always say, just like a curtain. It’s not [like a] board; it’s not sharp. It’s very soft. It’s not cardboard, it’s not a piece of paper; it’s a very thin curtain. If you touch it, it moves. If you touch it, then finally immediately you can go this way; you can participate in something eternal and vast.

But we want to know something about this partition. I say curtain, but actually there is no curtain there. But I have to say curtain because you can transmit your life into something vast. In other words, you can turn over a new life. If so, if you go deeply, and then touch something, and then turn over, then something you have touched is what? We want to know. What is it? What kind of power is it? How can we transmute or transform our life into something vast? We want to know.

That is, I say, a curtain. If I say curtain, that is kind of a very thin, small crack, between the human world and eternity. But actually, there is nothing to know. Nothing. Unfortunately, or fortunately [he chuckles], nothing. Fortunately means if you do it, you can turn [over], naturally. You can do it; you can experience it. But unfortunately means the more you try to know, the more you cannot know it.

So even though you touch it, you don’t know what it is, because consciousness always tries to know. So we don’t know how vast the human world is. That’s why the shikantaza you do is to completely throw away your thoughts and just sit down. That’s all you can do. That is called enlightenment. We don’t believe it, but it is nothing else. So, this is the best way. We can do it.

That’s why there is no space, no room for you to poke your head in, but on this kind of foundation we have to practice.

But we always do something on the foundation of expectation: “If I do this, then I can get A, or B,” and then I want to do it. That means there is already something you can expect in front of you, and then we do it. And the more you try to do that, you cannot get it, because [it is] always changing. So that’s why Buddhism always tries to present to you that there is no foundation in particular, because it’s vast. And then, in the vast state of existence, you have to build up a house. Intellectually it’s impossible, but spiritually, we can do it. This is our practice.

So just sitting is nonsense; but on the foundation of nonsense, or uselessness, you can do zazen as [something] useful. What is that? That is perfect peace and harmony. That’s what Dogen Zenji says here.


Dogen Zenji also says in another paragraph:

When the people first seek the dharma, they are far from the bounds of the dharma. Once the dharma is always conveyed in oneself, immediately original nature of the self is manifested.

(Transcriber’s Note: This differs from Cleary’s translation. It might be Katagiri Roshi’s own translation.)

So that means, there is no space for you to poke your head, because it is nothing but delusion. But if you go deeply into the delusion fabricated by your effort, that end, the terminal station of the delusion, is the big scale of delusion. So you can participate in something vast.

That’s why Buddha is what? Buddha is person who enlightens, attains, realizes very deeply what delusion is; that is called Buddha. Buddhist psychology says that [delusion] is manas. Manas is kind of the abyss of the human life, darkness, because there is no space to do something good by our effort. This is manas. This is energy to live. But if you use it, if you go deeply and if you understand or contemplate deeply about this one, that energy of your life can be used in the big scale.

That is very important for us. That’s why we have to train our intellectual understanding, calming down our six consciousnesses constantly, and touch this manas. And then, if you touch the manas, still we’re there in the world of conceptualization, so-called concept of manas. So still we have to go through […] the practice again and again, and then taste, very deeply and directly, what manas is. Then, you can see something vast.

At that time, you can just sit down. When you do, that’s it. But it doesn’t mean go to sleep there. Your eyes are always open and can see what’s going on there, and nevertheless you are not tossed away by it. [You are] constantly present, from day to day, from moment to moment, with straight posture. This is zazen. Whatever you do – kinhin, walking, or working at the office – you should do it in that way. Otherwise, you never feel peaceful. There is no foundation, no space for you to poke your head [into] what it is I want to get. I want to satisfying myself – no way. On the foundation of no space for you, you have to practice there. Then you can develop your personality, your life, with all sentient beings.

It’s very difficult to practice this in our everyday life; that’s why we have these kind of particular sesshin situations [to practice in]. That is zazen. If you do it on a daily basis, again and again, then it’s manifested, it penetrates into everyday life, unconsciously.

If you don’t practice zazen like this, it’s very difficult to deal with human life – whether happiness or unhappiness, it’s very difficult. That’s why, day by day, we have to practice this. Because in a sense, we are stubborn, very stubborn.

Everyone is very stubborn, but we don’t know how stubborn we are. The bodhisattvas and ancestors in history know clearly how stubborn we are; that is [how] you become bodhisattva. But we don’t know how stubborn we are.

31:44 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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