Thursday, July 22, 1965
We are studying now the sutra of the sixth patriarch, in the evening lecture, and Prajna, this is of course a Sanskrit word. Now what we mean is wisdom, but this wisdom is not intellect, or knowledge. This wisdom is our so-called inmost nature, which is always in incessant activity. Zazen practice is wisdom seeking for wisdom, if I use a technical term. Wisdom seeks wisdom is zazen practice, and our everyday life is wisdom. Realization of our precepts is our everyday life. When our everyday life is based on wisdom, we call it precepts. When we sit, we do not do anything; we just sit. There’s no activity of our mind. We just sit, and all we do is inhaling and exhaling. Sometimes you will hear some birds singing, but you are not actually hearing. Your ears will hear it [laughs]. You are not hearing it. Just sound comes, and you make some response to it, that’s all. This kind of practice is called “wisdom seeks for wisdom.”
We have true nature. Whatever you do, even if you are not doing anything, your true nature is working incessantly. Even when you are sleeping, it is quite active. Your thinking or your sensations are superficial activity of yourself, but inmost nature is always working. Even when you die, it is working. I don’t mean some soul, but something—not soul, but something is always incessantly working. Whatever you call it, spirit, or soul, I don’t mind [laughs]. You can put many names to it, or you can give it various interpretations, but the interpretations belong to your intellectuality. That is intellect. So, whatever you call it—inmost nature itself, doesn’t mind [laughs, laughter]. Someone may call it soul. Someone may call it spirit. Someone may say, “Oh, no, no, that is just material. Soul is some kind of function of materiality.” Maybe. According to people—they will put many names to it, but our inmost nature is our inmost nature. Names have quite little to do with [laughs] our inmost nature.
When we sit, we say, let inmost nature be itself, or be activity. We call it self-use of inmost nature. Let it work. You don’t do anything but let our true nature work by itself. This is Zen practice. Of course, even though you do not do anything, you will have pain in your legs, or some difficulty to keep your mind calm. And sometimes you may think, “Oh, my zazen is not so good.” [Laughs, laughter.] That is also the activity of the inmost nature. Not your activity, but the activity of your true nature. Your true nature says [laughter], “Your [laughs, laughter] zazen is not so good [laughs, laughter].” If he says so, you should accept it. “Oh, not so good [laughs, laughter]. What are you thinking?” Stop thinking, okay.” This is Zen, you know. When you do something, it has a kind of morality in it. It is because you do something by your choice. When you make a decision to do something, your inmost nature will tell you, “That will not be [laughs] so good. Why don’t you do it this way?” That is precepts, when we have some choice in our activity. In zazen we have no choice. We just sit, and whatever inmost nature says, let it do it. “I don’t mind.” That is zazen. But when you make a plan, you are responsible for it.
And at that time, you should listen to what your inmost nature says. That is morality or precepts. Our inmost nature will tell you what to do. So, if you understand this way, it is morality, or it is precepts. The precepts actually are not only two hundred and fifty or five hundred. For females we have five hundred precepts, and for males, two hundred [laughs] and fifty. That is not so fair, but [laughs] anyway, five hundred, or three hundred—it doesn’t matter. Whatever we do is precepts, because we have some choice. We have to make some decision.
“I am responsible for it—what I should do?” And when we make some decision, we listen to Buddha Nature. “What should I do?” That’s all. So, here in your everyday life you have precepts, and you have freedom too. Whatever you do, that is up to you. As long as you have freedom you yourself make decisions, so you should be responsible for them. You should not say, “Buddha should be responsible for it. I don’t mind [laughs]. I am not responsible for that.” You cannot say that in your everyday life. So, in our everyday life, we should observe the precepts, instead of leaving the responsibility to Buddha. We should be responsible, but at the same time we have freedom. There is no need for you to be bound by precepts. Precepts are formulated by your own choice. As long as you have conscious activity, there is freedom, and at the same time, you should be responsible. This is freedom—true freedom. To leave all the responsibility to Buddha is not freedom.
“I don’t mind.” Someone may say whatever you do that is Buddha Nature, so it doesn’t matter what you do. This is misunderstanding. But morality without Buddha Nature is just a moral code, and you will be enslaved by moral codes. That is a rigid moral code by which you will be enslaved. But if you become aware of Buddha Nature, innate nature, that is freedom, that is not rigid precepts. You do things by your own choice and according to your true nature. So, that is complete freedom. And that is also morality. So, in this sense you have freedom. You are not enslaved by Buddha Nature or by a moral code. And our moral code is not always the same. It is not permanent. Strictly speaking, there is a moral code whatever you do. So, we say, Zen and precepts is one. In everyday life we call it precepts, and in practice of zazen we call it Zen. So, Zen and everyday life should be the self-use of our true nature. In this sense, precepts and Zen are not different. This is a very important point.
We bowed this morning nine times. Why we bow to Buddha is actually a kind of practice to get rid of our self-centered ideas—to give ourselves completely to Buddha. Here to give ourselves, means to give our physical and intellectual life to Buddha because it is based on Buddha Nature. So, even if we forget all about it, we still have Buddha Nature. So Buddha bows to Buddha. That is bowing. This is one meaning.
Another meaning is: As long as we live, we have a body here, and we have to think something. So, Buddha practiced Zen, and we practice Zen. So, everyone when they practice Zen, they are called Buddha. And Buddha Mind, or Bodhisattva Mind is a spirit. To attain oneness in duality is, in short, our spirit. Because we are not so good we try to improve ourselves. That is our true nature. And we are aware of it—we have some intention to improve ourselves. This intention is limited to human beings. Flowers come out in the spring without fail, but they do not make any effort; they automatically come out [laughs] —that’s all. We try to open our flower in the spring, you know. We try to do right things at the right time, but [laughs] we find it very difficult. In this sense we are very stupid [laughs, laughter]. Even though we try to do it, we cannot [laughs], but this is our human nature. We always try to do something. We always have some difficulties to do something. But this point is very important for us. That is why we have pleasure as human beings, because it is difficult, and we are always making some effort. That effort results in our pleasure of human life. This pleasure is limited to human beings, and this is called our true nature.
But, if you understand this true nature, you will find out the true nature within yourself and in every existence. Flowers have this nature. Even though it is cold, they are preparing for spring, even though they do not know they are making a good effort to come up in spring. When we become aware of it, we will know that this nature we have is universal nature to every existence. But this awareness of true nature is limited to human beings. So, this awareness is very important, and this awareness is, in short, to try to do something good is our spirit. We don’t know why we should try to [laughs] improve ourselves. No one knows. There is no reason for it, or it is beyond discussion. Even though you cannot discuss why, our true nature is so big. It is out of comparison, out of our intellectual understanding, so it doesn’t make any sense even though [laughs] you discuss it. “What are you talking about?” [Laughs.] Those who are aware of it will laugh at you if you discuss about why it is so. It is a big problem to discuss. This is why we bow to Buddha.
[Section added 10/22/2021]
And, by long experience, [SR stands up presumably] we found that the best posture—best standing posture is when you have this space as wide as your fist, and stand like this. And from here to here, should be from here to here. And your left hand like this, right hand—you cover your fist by your right hand, and put some strength here. And your eye focus is about here, about as high as your height [i.e. about six feet in front of you?]. This is your standing posture. This is also one of our precepts: when you stand up, there are precepts. When you sleep [laughs] it is not a matter of not to kill or not to steal [laughs]. Of course, you should not kill and should not [laughs] tell a lie, but those are not all the precepts. And like this. And when you sit, it's better to sit on the center of your cushion like this. [SR sits down, presumably.] This is—I'm sitting on the center. When you sit on the center, some part of your cushion will be like this. Not like this. If you sit like this, you will be like this. So, sit like this, on the center of the cushion. [SR stands up presumably.] And when you bow [sound of robes rustling], it may be difficult for you to bow like this, so you can take one step forward or backward. [Sound of robes rustling, SR bows presumably.] And, oh, when you stand up, maybe you have to do like this [sound of robes rustling] —or like this—or to do like this or like that. Then it is easier. We do like this, you know, but this is maybe difficult. When you practice it, it’s better to do right here [laughs, laughter]. This is difficult [laughter]. I became old [laughs, laughter]. I could do it, but now it is difficult [laughs, laughter]. Oh, this is [laughs, laughter] one inch thicker. [Laughter] Oh, now I realize [laughs] something [laughs]. That is how you practice standing and sitting, and it makes you healthy. [Whispered aside].
Woman's voice [Marian Derby?]: You're all invited to breakfast.
[end of section added]
Los Altos box transcript. Exact copy entered into disc by GM and emailed to DC 05-30-08. Handwritten note top right of 1st page of transcript reads ‘original’ End of last page of transcript has approx. 11 words too faded to copy. May have been erased. Transcript of last section by Shundo David Haye 07/21, with some changes made to original transcript as well. Re-transcribed as verbatim by Peter Ford 12/2021 from audio file provided by Engage Wisdom. Lightly edited for readability by Peter Ford (12/2021).