Katagiri Roshi gave talks on the cases of the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku) from 1979 to 1989. Listed below are the talks that are present in the online audio archive.

Talk Summaries | Talk List


Case 1: The Highest Meaning of the Holy Truths, Talk 1
November 17, 1979 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi introduces a long-running series of talks on the Blue Cliff Record, a renowned collection of one hundred koans (or “public cases”) in the Zen tradition. The first case is the famous story of Bodhidharma’s encounter with Emperor Wu. In Talk 1 of 2 on this case, Katagiri Roshi focuses on the pointer (or introduction). To explain it, he tells some stories about his training as the anja or jisha (attendant) at Eiheiji monastery, where the “everyday food and drink” of a monk is to pay attention to everything and flow with events like a stream of water. This is a way of “cutting off the myriad streams,” so that a harmonious, wonderful life can bloom. If there is anything “showy” about it, if there is something to be gained, it is not the real practice of Zen. But say, at just this moment – whose actions are these?


Case 1: The Highest Meaning of the Holy Truths, Talk 2
November 18, 1979 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Why is there “no merit”? Katagiri Roshi covers one of the most famous stories in Zen Buddhism: Bodhidharma’s meeting with Emperor Wu. Along the way, he explains tanpankan (a “board carrying fellow”), the meaning of the inscription on Ranier Maria Rilke’s grave, and the space between silence and speech. He says that we may find the spirit of Zen, pointing directly beyond words and language, by studying the Blue Cliff Record. He concludes by saying that we have to understand our practice in terms of general Buddhism, beyond Mahayana and Theravada, and beyond the Rinzai and Soto denominations.


Case 2: The Ultimate Path Is Without Difficulty, Talk 1
January 19, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi introduces Case 2 of the Blue Cliff Record, “The Ultimate Path Is Without Difficulty,” with an examination of the pointer to the koan. Engo Kokugon (Chinese: Yuanwu Keqin) expresses the Ultimate Path in terms of “the task of the fundamental vehicle of transcendence.” What is the nature of truth, and how do we realize it? To express it, Katagiri Roshi uses an analogy of “grabbing the bar” in gymnastics and “getting one hundred percent” – not ninety, not ninety-nine, only one hundred or zero. He also uses the example of turning on a TV set instead of intellectually studying the TV set. How do we have faith when there is nothing to depend on? How did Chinese monks keep Buddhism alive when institutional Buddhism was dismantled? What did Gempo Yamamoto Roshi say to a practicioner who wanted to “save all beings”? Also: dragging yourself in muddy water like a sewer rat chased by a cat.


Case 2: The Ultimate Path Is Without Difficulty, Talk 2
January 20, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi reviews Zen Master Jōshū’s dharma encounter with a monk regarding the Ultimate Path. The truth is always with us; yet in order to be one with the truth, we have to manifest ourselves as people who are not tossed away by picking and choosing thoughts and ideas. A problem is, if we try to avoid picking and choosing, we create more picking and choosing. Through study, we have to deeply understand the structure of our understanding, and then we can find the way of avoiding picking and choosing. There are three ways to understand something: perception, consciousness, and wisdom. (Those three could perhaps also be labelled as emotion, intellect, and deep understanding.) The third way is the Ultimate Path; however, this third way integrates the first two ways, it does not dismiss them. Finally, Katagiri Roshi says, what we do is very simple: practice, which is called shikantaza. But this simplicity is not simple as we usually understand it: this simplicity is to do something with no choice, on the edge of life and death.


Case 3: Master Ma Is Unwell, Talk 1
April 19, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

What is the meaning of “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha”? What is the feeling of Zen Master Baso, who is about to die? In the universal perspective, life is eternal. But on the other hand, in order to express eternal life, we have to have a human body, a human mind, which is fleeting, ephemeral. What is the opportunity of this human body and mind? How can we communicate human life to each other, in order to enter a peaceful world? Even though body and mind are going on in the rhythm of the universe, we are always poking our head into a hole, like a cat. Do we need to stay in the hole, turning it into a den? Katagiri Roshi discusses what is right, in the sense of Right Thought and Right View in Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. He also discusses how we should relate to modern civilization, and there is a story about his brother learning to swim in the Navy.


Case 3: Master Ma Is Unwell, Talk 2
April 20, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi examines the notes and verse for the “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha” koan. If the Buddhas and ancestors dwell in nirvana, in eternity, then why do they have to die? Why do we have to practice hard, even if our practice is less than a drop in an ocean? Why do we have to continue even if there is no one who we can talk to about our suffering? Katagiri Roshi says that compassion is not something given by Buddhas or Buddhist teachings; compassion comes from us. We must have clear eyes to make it alive in our daily living. Also: What is the difference between zazen and taking marijuana?


Case 4: Te Shan Carrying His Bundle, Talk 1
May 8, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi comments on the famous dharma encounter between Te Shan and Kuei Shan. Te Shan is a former academic master of the Diamond Sutra, now an earnest seeker of the Way, just trying to work through his arrogance issues and perhaps have some dumplings. Kuei Shan is the abbot the monastery, founder of one of the schools of Zen, who won’t accept any “dregs” in the bottom of the bottle of enlightenment. Their encounter “under the blue sky, in the bright sunlight” still leaves us pointing out this and that.


Case 4: Te Shan Carrying His Bundle, Talk 2
May 18, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi examines Engo Zen Master’s notes on the meeting of Te Shan and Kuei Shan, and the dynamics between process itself and doings as a result. The wild fox spirit and the board-carrying fellow live right next door to each other. “Wrong” and “sure enough.” Check!


  • Case 5 Talk 1
  • Case 5 Talk 2
  • Case 7 Talk 1
  • Case 7 Talk 2
  • Case 8 Talk 1
  • Case 8 Talk 2
  • Case 9
  • Case 10
  • Case 11
  • Case 12 – Part 1 and 2
  • Case 13
  • Case 14
  • Case 15

Case 18: National Teacher Chung’s Seamless Monument
July 18, 1981 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

What will we need after we die? What is the meaning of keeping silent? Keeping silent means to take off the “clothes” of our concepts, such as success and failure, pleasure and suffering, life and death. But you cannot stay with the silence; you have to know the person completely unfolded behind the silence. This is how to “light the candle” of human culture. Also: There is no discrimination between the four kinds of horses, which are us. Still, at some point, you need a whip. And then, you can run.


  • Case 20 Talk 1
  • Case 20 Talk 2
  • Case 22
  • Case 23 Talk 1
  • Case 23 Talk 3
  • Case 24

Case 25: The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds Up His Staff, Talk 1
November 21, 1981 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

What happens when we unexpectedly come face-to-face with real life, such as being paralyzed, or having cancer? Katagiri Roshi discusses “the big trap,” “one-finger Zen,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Sun-Moon-Light Tathagata, Adam and Eve, and how to educate children. Also: “Please, sit down.”


Case 25: The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds Up His Staff, Talk 2
November 22, 1981 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi discusses the pointer to this case. What is our potential? What is the rhythm of life? What does it mean to be a “smoked dry fish,” and how can we avoid it? Should we look for a “flashy” enlightenment? Should we become a Zen bank robber? Also: How to cook puffer fish. How to lose money in San Francisco. And: wherever you may go, you can feel pain.


  • Case 27 Talk 1
  • Case 27 Talk 2
  • Case 28
  • Case 29 Talk 1
  • Case 29 Talk 2
  • Case 30
  • Case 32 (mislabeled as Case 33 in the archive)
  • Case 33

Case 34: Yang Shan Asks “Where Have You Come From?”
November 17, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi examines Case 34 of the Blue Cliff Record, which appears to be an ordinary conversation, but is actually an ordinary conversation in the broad scale of human life, which is beyond ordinary or not-ordinary. He explains the importance of paying attention to daily routine, and why we should get up in the morning. Also: How to practice compassion with emotions, how to be an actor, and how to be a not-actor.


Case 35: The Dialogue of Manjusri and Wu Cho
November 24, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi discusses Case 35 of the Blue Cliff Record, in which an obscure monk has a spiritual discussion with the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Can we settle our uncertainties? Can we accept our lives in terms of infinity? Or will we be like a lion running around in a cage? If we find ourselves in a cage, how should we practice? Also: Does it matter how many people come to our Zen Center?


Case 36: Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains, Talk 1
December 1, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Wandering in the mountains, life flowing freely: how very like the sense of springtime. Katagiri Roshi discusses seeking for the truth, and returning following the falling flowers. What is total communication between you and the mountain? Sages and ordinary people are the same, but what is beyond sage or ordinary person? Movement and practice responding to the rhythm of life. Also: how to get fired from a job in the human world. The caution against falling into the weeds is ironic commentary.


Case 36: Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains, Talk 2
December 8, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi further expounds on “Ch’ang Sha Wandering in the Mountains,” focusing on the verse. He especially focuses on the first line, “The earth is clear of any dust.” This is Buddha’s world, which is identical with the original nature of existence. But also, “A mad monkey cries on the ancient terrace”: this is us looking through the telescope of our karmic perceptions. Buddhist practice is not to destroy all human delusions and then you can have Buddha’s world; we need both. Good or bad are nothing but time, but time is not good or bad. A monk walks in the snow without leaving a trace.


Case 37: P’an Shan’s There Is Nothing in the World
December 15, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

If there is nothing that can be pinned down in the vast expanse of the universe, then where is the mind? Where is the mind is a question, but also it is already an answer: the answer of what the real state of human life is. The essence is raising (sic), just like a spring of water coming up. The continuation of flow makes a rhythm, or music; a concert, an orchestra. If we pay attention, and make ourselves simple and open, we can learn from this tune. Examining this case and verse, Katagiri Roshi shares the meaning of such poetry as, “When the rain has passed, the autumn water is deep in the evening pond,” and, “The moon’s brightness shines, revealing the night traveller.” Poetry and art are a shadow, but without them, we cannot approach the truth.


Case 38: Feng Hsueh’s Workings of the Iron Ox, Talk 1
December 22, 1982 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Is the Iron Ox dead or alive? Katagiri Roshi discusses the sudden and the gradual in Zen. We need both, accepting Buddha Nature in the midst of the bustling marketplace. In order to hold, you have to let go. What is the Buddhist Law, and what is the Law of Kings, and why are they the same thing? The old pond: a frog jumps in. Plop!


Case 38: Feng Hsueh’s Workings of the Iron Ox, Talk 2
January 5, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

The ancestors all convey Buddha Mind – magnanimous mind, compassionate mind, and joyful mind – to the next generation. This is why Feng Hsueh Zen Master explains Buddha Mind as being just like an Iron Ox. Katagiri Roshi further examines this case. Should we add our own ideas to Buddhism?


Case 39: Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge, Talk 1
January 12, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi discusses the Pointer to case Thirty-Nine of the Blue Cliff Record, “Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge”. To “observe times and seasons, causes and conditions” does not mean we should observe from a distance; we must observe closely, settling ourself in the self. “Times and seasons” means our life in the stream of the time process, and “causes and conditions” means the spacious dimension of our existence. Our life is in the pivot position, where time and space are working constantly in dynamism, whether we know it or not.


Case 39: Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge, Talk 2
January 19, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi discusses the Verse to Case 39 of the Blue Cliff Record, “Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge”. What is the real picture of a flower? There is an interesting statement of what samsara is, which is related to Sandokai (The Harmony of Difference and Sameness). The marks on the scale are on the balance arm, not on the pan. The rhythm of being means including all sentient beings.


Case 40: Nan Ch’uan’s It’s Like a Dream, Talk 1
January 26, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Cease and desist. Why does Nan Ch’uan say we may see a flower as a kind of dream? Why do we need a push from the top of a one hundred foot pole? Also: is Buddhist community like army training?


Case 40: Nan Ch’uan’s It’s Like a Dream, Talk 2
February 2, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi discusses the verse to Case 40 of the Blue Cliff Record. Genjokoan is mentioned. What is the dharma stage?


Case 41: Chao Chou’s Man Who Has Died the Great Death, Talk 1
February 9, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

This talk is not available due to an error in the online audio archive.


Case 41: Chao Chou’s Man Who Has Died the Great Death, Talk 2
February 16, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

This talk is not available due to an error in the online audio archive.


Case 42: Layman P’ang’s Good Snowflakes, Talk 1
March 2, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi explores Case 42 of the Blue Cliff Record, in which Layman P’ang says, “Good snowflakes—they don’t fall in any other place.” As it says in the Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi, “Inquiry and response come up together.” If we really devote ourselves to doing zazen beyond our evaluation, accepting totally, we manifest ourselves in a totally appropriate way, and very naturally, everything will respond. We must jump into the realm of silence so that our life springs forth. Even if we don’t say anything with our mouth, our whole body speaks volumes. Buddha is not something divine, apart from us; Buddha has to go down to the human world and work.


Case 42: Layman P’ang’s Good Snowflakes, Talk 2
March 9, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi discusses the rhythm of causation, which is not falling into cause and effect and not ignoring cause and effect. Representing cause and effect is Layman P’ang; representing freedom from cause and effect or emptiness is the monk Ch’uan. If you understand emptiness, you can become sick of emptiness. To avoid Zen sickness, offer a turning word. Also: Teaching without doing is not a good deal.


Case 43: Tung Shan’s No Cold or Heat, Talk 1
March 16, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Summary not yet available.


Case 43 Talk 2: The Five Ranks
April 6, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Katagiri Roshi explains the Five Ranks, a fundamental teaching of Zen Buddhism. (Warning: the archive audio cuts out before the explanation of the fifth rank.)


Case 44: Ho Shan’s Knowing How to Beat the Drum, Talk 1
April 20, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Summary not yet available.


Case 44: Ho Shan’s Knowing How to Beat the Drum, Talk 2
April 27, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Summary not yet available.


Case 45: Chao Chou’s Seven-Pound Cloth Shirt, Talk 1
May 25, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Summary not yet available.


Case 45: Chao Chou’s Seven-Pound Cloth Shirt, Talk 2
June 1, 1983 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Summary not yet available.


  • Case 46 Talk 1
  • Case 46 Talk 2
  • Case 49 Talk 1
  • Case 49 Talk 2
  • Case 50
  • Case 51 Talk 1
  • Case 51 Talk 2
  • Case 52 Talk 2
  • Case 53
  • Case 54
  • Case 55 Talk 1
  • Case 55 Talk 3
  • Case 57 Talk 1
  • Case 57 Talk 2
  • Case 58 Talk 1
  • Case 58 Talk 2
  • Case 59
  • Case 60
  • Case 61 Talk 1
  • Case 61 Talk 2
  • Case 62 Talk 1
  • Case 62 Talk 2
  • Case 63
  • Case 64
  • Case 67
  • Case 68 Talk 1
  • Case 68 Talk 2
  • Case 69 Talk 1
  • Case 69 Talk 2: On Note 2, Symmetry and Unsymmetry
  • Case 69 Talk 3
  • Case 70 Talk 1
  • Case 71
  • Case 72
  • Case 73
  • Case 74
  • Case 75
  • Case 76
  • Case 78 Talk 1
  • Case 78 Talk 2
  • Case 79 Talk 1
  • Case 80 Talk 1
  • Case 80 Talk 2
  • Case 81 Talk 1
  • Case 81 Talk 2
  • Case 84 Talk 1
  • Case 84 Talk 2
  • Case 84 Talk 3: Impermanence and the Meaning of Silence
  • Case 84 Talk 4: Three Aspects of Buddha’s Silence
  • Case 86 Talk 1
  • Case 86 Talk 2
  • Case 87 Talk 1
  • Case 87 Talk 2