June 27, 1987 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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This transcript is in rough draft stage.

(Archive issue: The conclusion of this talk seems to be missing.)

Listen to this talk on mnzencenter.org


Katagiri Roshi: [At the beginning of] Shobogenzo Genjokoan [it says]:

When all things are buddha-dharma, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is cultivation of practice, there is birth, there is death, there are Buddhas, there are sentient beings.

And next he says,

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

Next he says,

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

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

Three sentences here. Let’s say […] the first one, according to my terms, [refers to] the A world. A world, B world, C world; the first sentence is A world. That is, Dogen Zenji says, “When all things are buddha-dharma, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is cultivation of practice, there is birth, there is death, there are Buddhas, there are sentient beings.” So first, in our common sense, the seen world, that is the A world, the mundane world, simply speaking.

Then second is B world. Dogen says, “When myriad dharmas are all not self, there is no delusion, no enlightenment, no buddhas, no sentient beings, no birth, no death.” B world is the spiritual world, simply speaking.

So there are two worlds we are always confronted with: A world, the mundane world, and B world, the spiritual world. In terms of the spiritual world, B world, the mundane world (A world) is something impure. So very naturally, in the spiritual world, [there is] no mundane world, so [there is] no birth, no death. According to Nagarjuna, this is called emptiness, we say.

Is that clear? A world, B world. Very naturally, everyone sees two worlds in their lives: the mundane world as A, and the spiritual world as B, which is pure.

In the spiritual world, there are lots of terms: Buddhas, and enlightenment, and God, and godhead, and… well, we try to use a lot of terms to explain the pure spiritual world, which is quite different from the mundane A world. Very naturally we always see the two things separately. That makes you confused. Very confused. So always we have the see-saw game: this way, that way, this way, that way, always.


But as you know pretty well, Buddhism says that the world, or human life, or myriad, myriad things, or every single thing, are produced by the truth of interdependent co-origination. In other words, there is nothing which is produced by its own being, it’s own nature, it’s own substance.

In other words, according to the senses, the table exists by its nature, by its own energy, by its own substance. In philosophy we say the earth, [wind], water and fire, the four elements. The world is produced by the five elements, then the table has five elements. That is its own energy and power or substance to produce itself. That is a very common [belief].

But Buddhism talks about the teaching of the truth of interdependent co-origination, which means that there is nothing which every single being is produced by its own energy or nature or substance, but by myriad, myriad conditions, going and coming together at super-speed. So we don’t know! The table doesn’t have its own nature, its own power. Even a seed, a pumpkin seed or poppy seed, doesn’t have its own nature to produce. But a seed grows by… well, its own power, but on the other hand, [by] lots of energies around.

So, Buddhism always says something appears [or] something is produced by myriad conditioned elements. So from this point, in the truth of interdependent co-origination, there is nothing particular you can pin down [as] this is substance or this is the cause by which it is produced. Nothing, because [it is] always interdependent, so there is nothing to separate. If you separate, there is the A world and B world […] and then you can go to the A, and you can leave the A and go the B. In the truth of interdependent co-origination, there is no reason to separate everything. Always there it is, as it is. What is [is] just as it is, beyond your speculation, before you poke your head into it, because everything is constantly interconnected, interpenetrated. This is the world you can see: the winter, spring, and summer, you can see through.


So, usually, A world is always something separate from the B world, [and we think] “I don’t want it.” If we see the Spring, you love it, because you don’t like Winter. Always separations. But that is human speculation, the so-called A world, and then you want to go to the B world, the so-called spiritual world. That is always a cause of confusion. Buddhism always says A world and B world come together, and [are] interdependent, interconnected, interpenetrated constantly, and produce something. This is the total picture of winter. So what is winter, beyond your speculation?

That’s why in the first sentence Dogen Zenji says, “When all things are buddha-dharma.” So all things are not the all things you can see; all things are already all things seen from the truth of interdependent co-origination. It’s a big [world], the bigger scale of the word dharma, the world you can see; that is what we call buddha-dharma. That’s why here it says, “When all things are buddha-dharma, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is cultivation of the practice, there is birth, there is death, there are buddhas, there are sentient beings.”

So [it’s] a little bit different than I said, I explained it simply. [It is] not A world; A world is A world, but A world is not A world in the usual sense, but A world interconnected, interpenetrated with B world. That is the total picture of A world.

So, what is the A world? We can say B world. But the same applies to the B world: what is the B world? Should you escape from A world and then you can get to B world? No, because B world is B world interpenetrated, interconnected with the A world, then this is the B world. So what is the B world? We don’t know how to put a name on it. That is the total picture of the B world, the so-called spiritual world.

And then, where do you live? What is the true reality you live in every day? Do you live in the A world? Do you live in the B world? Yes or no. Yes or no means completely there is nothing to pin down.

So that is the total picture of the mundane (A) world [and] the total picture of the B world as the spiritual world that you are seeking for. But true things are completely something produced by A world and B world. That is called C world, I say.

So C world is the world where you live now. What is the C world? Is C world named by something? A or B? No. We cannot even say “C”. But temporarily, I say C world.

The C world is the true reality you live in. We live there, but usually we don’t see it; we […] ignore it, and attach to A or B. That’s why your life is going far from the true reality you live in day to day; that’s why you create a big gap. So you are very confused.


That’s why next Dogen Zenji says, “Because the Buddha Way originally sprang forth from abundance and paucity” – Is that translation clear? I don’t know if you understand this or not.

“The Buddha Way” means true reality. Practically, or truly, you live there, which is a bigger scale of the world than you have thought. That is the Buddha Way.

“Abundance and paucity” means: Does the table exist? Yes, it is being. But on the other hand, table is no being.

So what is the true reality of the table, beyond being or not being, abundance or paucity? This is the total picture of the table’s existence.

That is “the Buddha Way originally sprang forth from abundance and paucity.” And then next he says, [because of that], “there is birth and death, delusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and Buddhas.”

This is very important: we exist. I am thinking, therefore I exist, you can say. [He chuckles.] Or my five skandhas, including thinking. And with you, all sentient beings exist. That existence – my life and your life – is completely beyond your speculation or evaluation. So should your life be viewed in terms of emptiness, so-called no birth? Yes or no. And is your life is seen from the mundane view? Yes or no.

In the Madhyamaka, Nāgārjuna constantly tries to correct people’s misunderstanding of Buddha’s teaching, emphasizing constantly the true meaning of emptiness. So finally, everything is based on emptiness. Emptiness means the truth. But I don’t think this is really true, so still people don’t understand it, because we cannot ignore the mundane world. So very naturally in the history, [unintelligible] consciousness develops, the conscious psychological world is developed. At that time, in the Buddhist psychology, I think, of course, the reality is beyond abundance and paucity, because it is based on emptiness. And then the question comes up: the world that you see out there, is what? It should be negated? It should be affirmed? No. Whichever you say, no.

So beyond your “yes” or “no”: yes. That is called C world, according to my term, and in Buddhism we say pure dharmadhātu nisyanda in Sanskrit.

In English we say dharma world; in Sanskrit we say dharmadhātu. Dhātu is a vein of ore. Dharma is the truth, and also phenomena, all beings – you can see the form of all things – and also teaching. So we call [it] dharma, including three of [those]. So dharmadhātu means something is mined from interdependence and interpenetration of myriad dharmas, myriad conditioned elements, and then that is so-called dharmadhātu. So dharmadhātu is the dharma world; buddha-dharma, we say, or Buddha’s world. And nisyanda means throwing into or necessary result. […] So it means that the truth is mined from there, the real reality beyond A and B world, and throws into the worldly affair. And this is the necessary result of dharmadhātu.

So dharmadhātu – in other words truth, absolute truth, absolute reality, or whatever you say – is not something separate from you. If what the absolute God, Buddha, or true reality, or whatever is is something separate from you, it is nothing but conceptions. Which is pretty cold. It doesn’t make sense.

So, if it is separate from us, what are you seeking for? Even if you see the truth, [if it is] separate from your life it doesn’t make sense for us. So I think truth is always “throwing into the worldly affairs, and that is the necessary result of the truth or dharma.” That is called nisyanda.

So Buddha’s teaching, or the teaching of human life or the human world, is dharmadhātu nisyanda. In other words, you are C world, beyond A or B. This is your reality.


So that’s why Dogen Zenji mentions that your world should be completely accepted, beyond A world or B world. Beyond your speculation, beyond germination of your thought, completely accept; this is our practice. But it’s very difficult. Accept means your world, your life is nothing separate, your world is completely something in the same and one ground. But you don’t believe this, because from your birth, we have always been educated by separation.

One of the primitive peoples has a certain custom after birth, [for the mother to] hold a baby in a particular bag in front of [them], and they are very proud of themselves if this bag is kept in purity constantly. Nothing is contaminated or dirty by baby’s pee, et cetera; the mother always keeps this bag clear and clean. Well, how do you know the time and occasion when the baby wants to have a pee? The baby doesn’t say anything. But if she is always carried in a bag, just like kangaroo, baby’s life and mother’s life is exactly one. So if baby feels nature, naturally [the mother] understands it.

The famous Zen Master [unintelligible] in Japan always mentions [that when] the baby cries, that is the time when the mothers’ breast is filled with milk. Very naturally, the mother knows. And also, the mother knows what’s going on with the baby when he cries, what kind of cry he or she has. Through the type of cry, mother knows whether baby is sick, or baby is sleepy, or baby feels hungry. She knows.

The primitive people always carry their babies [close to their] bodies, and then they can know it. Intellectually we don’t believe it, but actually we do. Baby remembers the situation of the mothers womb after the baby’s birth. That’s why we throw the babies into the pool, let them swim. Do you know this one? Because babies remember. Maybe babies don’t say anything, but in the beginning of the birth, I think everything is one. But right after, we always educate human beings, separate. So very naturally, we put the diaper – and then we feel comfortable. And also, mothers and parents always going to see the movie, and put the babies with somebody else. And mothers and fathers want to work, and go camping, so they try to get a baby sitter. That’s comfortable for us. But I don’t know if that is really true or not. That is a big question. For adults, it’s comfortable, because we want to satisfy our own desire, but we don’t think about the baby’s real nature. Baby’s real nature is exactly one. So why don’t you take care of the babies always? Then, even though baby doesn’t know, I think there is communication there. Do you understand this? This is education.

Or for instance, if you don’t believe me: why do you talk to babies? Or [speak] in English or Japanese, for children. When my son came to San Francisco, he picked up English very quickly. And then later Tomoe asked him, “How do you know English?” He said, “For children English or Japanese doesn’t matter; completely beyond. Children always jump into the situation with the body.” Body means body and mind.

In other words, I always say, soak your body and mind in the river, and then at that time you can learn. But modern civilization is completely [doing] the opposite: first, scoop the water into your head, which is like a bamboo basket. [Laughter] How can you keep your knowledge, learning, maturities? It’s very difficult, [almost] impossible. I don’t mean you should ignore [that way], but we follow a little bit [quicker] way.

So […] why do you talk to the babies in English or Japanese? Or why do you talk to the dog or cat in English or in Japanese? Dog doesn’t care what kind of language you use. There is no guarantee how much the baby understands your language. But you constantly talk, and then, baby understands. How? I don’t know. You don’t know either!

You don’t know, but beyond good or bad, beyond being or not being, beyond abundance or paucity, you always do it! There is language, there is the baby’s life, there is the mother’s life, and then the whole thing is coming up. And then finally you can say, “this is education,” and “this is language.”

But we don’t do it. And then lately, we say, “Let’s teach English to the baby.” And then – [he chuckles] – we always set up a schedule, set up a frame, so-called “English Education”; training. And then we put the baby into the frame of training, just like training horses and cows, and we always give language. And then if the baby doesn’t understand, you’re mad at it. Something like this.

The same applies to your training. If you always train or practice in terms of A world and B world separately, you always put yourself in a certain frame of practice – because it is already a preconception, so-called “I am bad,” which belongs [to] A world, and “I want to be a good boy,” which should belong to the B world. So you train. That is just like a punishment.

So finally, you always depend on something, some frame of training or practice, and expect something. At that time, you cannot stand up in true reality, which is beyond abundance and paucity. If you cannot stand up there, you never accept training or practice based on compassion or kindness. You should deal with practice and training as compassion; otherwise, you cannot maintain practice for [the long range].


That’s why we say pure dharmadhātu nisyanda. The world of worldly affairs is not merely the secular world, separate from the truth. Truth is not merely truth, separate from the secular world. The world is the world interpenetrated by the truth. So the world exists in the realm of beyond abundance and paucity, being or not-being, or thinking or not-thinking. This is the total picture of your life and everything. So you should totally accept. That means your life and your world is bathed in, and held, in the warm light of dharmadhātu: the big world, Buddha’s world; the universe, or truth.

In terms of the truth itself, or emptiness itself, truth by itself manifested in our world means to throw a light upon the world and save it. Therefore, secularization of emptiness or truth is what is called compassion or upaya. Upaya means to excellent method. Upaya means to go near to, or to reach.

In terms of C world, Dogen Zenji says “the Buddha Way originally sprung forth from abundance and paucity.” Your world is bathed in the warm light of the huge expanse of being, existence, beyond purity or not purity. In other words, your life is embraced by the really great, warm arms of the mother. So, we should completely accept. But beyond whether you want to accept or you don’t accept, you are already embraced by the huge, warm arms of the mother. This is the earth, the universe. That is called the Buddha land, [or] Buddha.

[…] Maybe I mentioned, all life should be built up on the foundation of nothingness. In other words, the pivot of nothingness is a place where there is no space, no chance to poke your head into it. And then how can you build your life there, [on] that question mark? Or how can you transmit the dharma, if there is no space, no time for you to poke your head in? That is a big question, and also that is a very interesting point, practice-wise. That is why Buddhism always talks about this.

But practically speaking, for instance, if you want to master dance or skiing or whatever, you can see the future vision of the skier, or rock climber, et cetera. But if you see the future vision, very naturally we try to have lots of expectations from that future vision…

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

42:38 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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