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1. Diamond Sutra: Introduction
Katagiri Roshi begins a series of talks on the Diamond Sutra by discussing the fundamental point that the Diamond Sutra teaches: “A is A, but A is not A, this means A is really A.” He explains the meaning of negation in Buddhism, how it relates to interconnection, and why emptiness means that we have to practice. He also talks about where the sutras originated, and the Indian preference for using huge numbers and concepts to teach about emptiness. In addition, he addresses the question, “If we are sitting in order to help ourselves, should we stop sitting?”
2. Fukanzazengi: Dogen’s Universal Recommendation for Zazen – Talk 1
Katagiri Roshi begins a series of talks on Fukanzazengi, Zen Master Dogen’s universal recommendations for how to practice zazen (seated meditation), by examining the meaning of the critical line, “For you must know that just there, in zazen, the right dharma is manifesting itself, and that from the first, dullness and distraction are struck aside.” He introduces a six-component system for understanding zazen from a physical and psychological standpoint, and discusses how important it is to arrange circumstances and let go. He also talks about life at Eiheiji monastery.
3. Fukanzazengi: Dogen’s Universal Recommendation for Zazen – Talk 2
Katagiri Roshi expands on the six-component system for understanding zazen that he introduced in the previous talk. He further discusses the relationship between regulation of body and mind, samadhi (one-pointedness), egolessness, “no design on having a reward”, and shikantaza (just sitting). The distinction between “religious zazen” and philosophical or psychological zazen is explored. There is an extended question and answer period.
4. Fukanzazengi: Dogen’s Universal Recommendation for Zazen – Talk 3
Katagiri Roshi examines the meaning of the line “from the first, dullness and distraction are struck aside” from another angle. He talks about three different kinds of zazen (sitting meditation), and why shikantaza is not a means to an end. He also explains what it means to accumulate merit and virtue, how to understand and work with past karma, and why we have to aim at the life after next life. There is a story about a commando who visited the Zen Center. Also: what to do when death taps your back.
5. Fukanzazengi: Dogen’s Universal Recommendation for Zazen – Talk 4
Katagiri Roshi discusses the meaning of the line, “In surveying the past, we find that transcendence of both un-enlightenment and enlightenment, and dying while either sitting or standing, have all depended entirely on the strength of zazen,” in relation to Blue Cliff Record Case 46, “Ching Ch’ing’s Sound of Raindrops”. He talks about life and death, and how to “cease fire” in zazen. There is a story about a machine that reads brain waves, and he discusses whether there are any real Zen teachers in the United States.
6. Fukanzazengi: Dogen’s Universal Recommendation for Zazen – Talk 5
Katagiri Roshi talks about the difference between zazen itself and seeing zazen “before zazen” or “after zazen”, using the example of Gensha Shibi in “One Bright Pearl”. In an extended question and answer period, he explains the difference between physical and psychological exhaustion, how to work with the “vomit” of the mind, and why we should do zazen for future generations. Does the world disappear during zazen? Are there techniques in Zen? And is Zen the simplest, most ‘pure’ way?
7. Fukanzazengi: Dogen’s Universal Recommendation for Zazen – Talk 6
Katagiri Roshi talks about “body and mind dropping off” from a psychological point of view. This talk focuses on samskara, which is usually translated as impulses, one of the five skandhas or aggregates. Here he discusses samskara as the “together-maker,” and also as a sort of a bridge or door which enables you to take mind to either the dualistic world or the non-dualistic world, because samskara itself is completely free. In relation to this, he explains a key line from Dogen’s Genjokoan: “Oneness is not like moon reflected in the water; when one is bright, the other one is dark.” He also discusses the lines from Fukanzazengi, “It cannot be fully known by the practicing or realizing of supernatural power either,” and “Is it not the principle that is prior to his knowledge and perceptions?” During a challenging discussion on the “forces” of prāpti and aprāpti, he tells a story about the 1948 Fukui earthquake in Japan.
8. Fukanzazengi: Dogen’s Universal Recommendation for Zazen – Talk 7
The conclusion to the series of talks on Fukanzazengi takes place during a dramatic thunderstorm, the sounds of which Katagiri Roshi integrates into the talk. The Buddha does zazen during a thunderstorm, but he is not disturbed by the sound of the thunder. Katagiri Roshi discusses why the purpose of zazen is not to reach a state of no consciousness. Also: How to play guitar with two hands and two feet. A Rinzai Zen Master plays a Bach concerto in the zendo. And what does Manjushri do, anyway?
9. Diamond Sutra: Provisional Being
Why should we not be disappointed with this world, if there seems to be nothing to help us? To answer this question, Katagiri Roshi examines the aspect of Buddhist teaching that is no perception of self and no perception of object. Going further, he explains why we shouldn’t attach to either a perception of an object or perception of no-object. This leads to an explanation of provisional being, and how we can relate warmly to self and object. Does the morning sun have a mind? The answer may surprise you. Also: What to do if you are the Buddha in a past life and some king insists on chopping you to bits.
10. Diamond Sutra: Emptiness
What is a Buddha, and what does a Buddha experience? Katagiri Roshi describes three kinds of enlightenment: kaku (awareness), satori, and sho (realization or verification). He explains three aspects of the utmost, right, perfect enlightenment from the Diamond Sutra: the marklessness of all things, the marklessness of their emptiness, and the marklessness of their suchness. Also: Why we exist, how to experience spiritual security, and why we shouldn’t get too caught up in Buddhist Psychology.
11. Diamond Sutra: Giving and Non-Covetousness
Why is the perfection of generosity the most important quality in Mahayana Buddhism, and what is true generosity, and true love? Katagiri Roshi explains how generosity relates to emptiness, or vastness, by sharing a poem from the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke. Embracing the words of the poem, he says that human destiny is not something that forces us to be always “face to face,” trying to “get” something from each-other, but that we can also know a different way to live, to sit side by side in peace and harmony. Illustrating the problems we create when we are “face to face”, he tells a story about adult children living with their parents in Japan, and a story about his own experience attending Hiroshima Day in Omaha, Nebraska.
12. Diamond Sutra: Dharma / Not Dharma / Dharma
If, as the Diamond Sutra says, there is no dharma which the Buddha Shakyamuni has experienced, no dharma which the Buddha Shakyamuni has preached, then how does the Buddha experience and preach the dharma? Katagiri Roshi addresses this question in relation to the practice of giving. He begins by discussing seven ways we can be giving, even if we don’t have the ability to give a material gift or preach the dharma. To explain how the ungraspable can be taught, he talks about the three divisions of the Buddha body: Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya. This helps explain the role of virtue and merit, and also knowledge, in Buddhism. (Those looking for an explanation of Bodhidharma’s famous statement of “no merit” would be wise to refer to this talk, in conjunction with the next two.) There is more about the Rilke poem, and why we have to experience a “big shock” to realize the dharma. Also: is enlightenment forgetfulness?
13. Blue Cliff Record, Case 1: The Highest Meaning of the Holy Truths – Talk 1
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?
14. Blue Cliff Record, Case 1: The Highest Meaning of the Holy Truths – Talk 2
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.
15. Blue Cliff Record, Case 2: The Ultimate Path Is Without Difficulty – Talk 1
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 100 points” – not 90, not 99, only 100 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”? And also, how to drag yourself in muddy water like a sewer rat chased by a cat.
16. Blue Cliff Record, Case 2: The Ultimate Path Is Without Difficulty – Talk 2
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.
17. Save All Sentient Beings
Katagiri Roshi explains the meaning of Buddhist terms such as “save all sentient beings” and “all dharmas,” clarifying what all means. It may not mean what we usually think. In Buddhism, all means something which is closely connected with our individual life. Samskaras comes up again. Ultimately, we have to dive into the ocean.
18. Blue Cliff Record, Case 3: Master Ma Is Unwell – Talk 1
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.
19. Blue Cliff Record, Case 3: Master Ma Is Unwell – Talk 2
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?
Blue Cliff Record, Case 25: The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds Up His Staff – Talk 1
November 21, 1981
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.”
Blue Cliff Record, Case 25: The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds Up His Staff – Talk 2
November 22, 1981
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.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 34: Yang Shan Asks “Where Have You Come From?”
November 17, 1982
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.
Blue Cliff Record, Case 35: The Dialogue of Manjusri and Wu Cho
November 24, 1982
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?
Introduction to Buddhism
June 22, 1985
An alternative title for this talk might have been, “What Is Buddhist Faith?” What does faith mean in Buddhism, where the central philosophy is emptiness? Buddhist faith is intimacy with total dynamic working. Katagiri Roshi discusses how “the way we should practice within the intimacy between our lives and emptiness” is “to bear up, to enjoy, to desire, and to be limpid and clear.” Along the way, he talks about quarks, and driving on the freeway in Los Angeles. And he answers the question, “What does this have to do with zazen?”
Lay Ordination Lecture 1 of 7: Significance of Ordination
February 22, 1986
Katagiri Roshi introduces a series of seven lectures on lay ordination (Jukai). In this first talk, he discusses the significance of lay ordination. The goal of lay ordination is explained as three points: first, realization of the truth, that all beings are Buddha. Second: the profound and steadfast aspiration for living our lives with all beings in peace and harmony. And third: helping all beings. For the first point, realization of the truth, he explains three kinds of knowing: the ordinary sense of knowledge; knowing something beyond the ordinary sense, in the world of impermanence; and supreme knowledge. This ties into a discussion of what it means to help all beings. The ceremony of lay ordination is an opportunity to realize the three points. Even if we don’t understand this, we can still take action to enter this world of the Buddha.
Lay Ordination Lecture 2 of 7: Three Aspects of Repentance
March 1, 1986
Katagiri Roshi explains repentance in Buddhism, which is also sometimes called formless atonement. Repentance is not a ritual of trying to get forgiveness from someone; rather, repentance is to be present right in the middle of peace and harmony. Katagiri Roshi describes three aspects or conditions of repentance. The first aspect is that we should realize the world of compassion and heart, to accept and forgive all, without exception. This is to realize “the world prior to germination of any subtle ideas” – which is called Buddha. The second aspect is that we should accept this Buddha’s compassion with readiness. This is sometimes called samadhi, or egolessness. The third aspect is ritual, which is “interacting communion between you and the universe.” To illustrate these points, Katagiri Roshi discusses the role of the doan in Zen, the meaning of the word Shakyamuni in Chinese, and the poem “How To Make A Portrait Of A Bird” by Jacques Prévert.
Devotion: Walking Alone with Open Heart
December 24, 1988
Katagiri Roshi discusses how and why we should devote ourselves to dharma. He says that in Japanese, devotion is kie or kimyo, which mean to return to something true or ultimate, which is universal life. Devotion must be practiced in terms of two points: one is that you have to walk alone, realizing the simplest expression of existence, and the other is that you must be compassionate, open to everything. He relates this to Shakyamuni Buddha’s statement that “you should rely on the self; you should rely on the dharma,” and to passages from Muni Sutta, Khaggavisana Sutta, and Mettā Sutta. And he discusses how to deal with problems in the community while standing in the dharma.
Dealing with Death, Dealing with Life
January 7, 1989
Katagiri Roshi discusses how we should practice with those who are ill or dying. We have to deeply understand human suffering and pain. There shouldn’t be an expectation that there is a certain way to die; lots of emotions come up, and we should be right there with it. Also, we should practice a feeling togetherness with those who are ill or dying, because there is no separation between us and them. We need to practice this in our day-to-day lives, or we will not be ready to offer compassion in difficult times. This everyday practice may seem to be small, trifling things, but it is very important for us; it makes our personality mature. It includes expressing emotions in appropriate ways and times, not recklessly. We need oneness, and also oneness needs us. We have to receive oneness, and deal with it, and make it alive. To illustrate the Japanese word ki, Katagiri Roshi talks about his love of the American television show Bewitched.
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