Dainin Katagiri Roshi was one of the prominent Zen masters who brought Soto Zen Buddhism from Japan to the United States. (Roshi is an honorific meaning distinguished elder teacher.) Audio recordings of many of his talks are made available online by Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. But since Katagiri Roshi was a non-native English speaker, and the audio files vary in quality, he can be difficult to understand. On this website, I carefully transcribe these talks, as an aid to understanding them. You can read these transcripts on their own, or, ideally, follow along while listening to the recordings, which are referenced at the top of each talk.
On close listening, it becomes apparent that Katagiri Roshi frequently backed up and corrected his choice of English words and grammar as he spoke. I attempt to apply his own in-stream self-corrections in a style of intelligent transcription. My intent is to stay as true as possible to Katagiri Roshi’s actual, complete words, while also honoring what he was intending to say. This generally has the effect of smoothing out the grammar a bit, making the talks easier to read and understand. Each talk requires multiple listens over many hours to carefully transcribe in this way. That said, there may certainly still be inaccuracies. This is an ongoing work.
Words where I am unsure of the best transcription, or where I am adding words to make the meaning more clear, are usually presented in brackets, [like this]. Significant nonverbal sounds are noted [in brackets with italics]. Sections that are unintelligible are marked [unintelligible], or sometimes […], depending on what makes the text more readable. And transcriber comments adding additional information are placed in parentheses, (like this). The timecodes embedded in the transcripts serve as section breaks, in addition to helping match up the text to the audio recording.
Katagiri Roshi’s talks are a treasure trove of dharma teaching, most of which is not included in the wonderful books that have been compiled from his lectures. They also convey his energy, his enthusiasm, and particularly, his sense of humor. I am transcribing these talks as a way of studying them myself. I’ve already found much here that is personally meaningful, even revolutionary. I hope you find something inspiring here as well.
– Kikan Michael Howard
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