The mind which [we] will acquire

Afternoon Sesshin Lecture
Wednesday, December 6, 1967, Lecture A
Tassajara

The mind we obtain by our pure practice is something which is not graspable—which is beyond our words. But at the same time, the mind will respond to everything. So positively speaking, our mind is like a mirror which reflects various objects on it. When there is no object, the mirror is something which you cannot even see. This is the mind we will obtain by our pure practice.

This afternoon I want to make the relationship between our big mind and everyday activity. In everyday life, how big mind reveals itself will be the point I will talk about right now—or you may say the function of the great mind.

Dogen Zenji explained this mind in his Tenzo Kyokun.1 Tenzo Kyokun is the instructions for monks who work in the kitchen. Those who work in the kitchen must have this mind. And, work in the kitchen is the extended practice of zazen, or their way of working in the kitchen should be based on our pure practice or big mind. Especially for those who work in a kitchen, it is necessary to have big mind because they will have various difficulties.

Food is very important—to prepare food may be the most important work in a monastery. And usually we do not eat good food. The food we prepare will not please the monks in the monastery. That is quite usual. And monks—even if something good is prepared, they will not be satisfied with it. They will want something better [laughs], and there is no limit to their [laughs] desire. So, they will always have complaints, and what they do in the kitchen will always be criticized. Even when there is nothing to criticize, they will be suspicious [laughs, laughter] about what they do in the kitchen. So, to work in a kitchen is very difficult work.

And so, first of all, Dogen Zenji says, he must be a man of big mind to accept various criticisms and complaints with—not a smile—[laughs] if you smile they will be more angry [laughs]. So you cannot even smile [laughs]. Just to accept what they say, and just to understand our human nature is the only way.

 First of all, Dogen Zenji counts the big mind—the mind as great as a mountain and as wide as the sea—or else you cannot be responsible for kitchen work.

And the next thing is kindness. Even though the material is not so good, you should take care of food and vegetables and fruits with great care. So he counts kind heart or kind mind. He says all the monks' mind.

And third will be to always have joy in your work.

The order in the text was not like this. Joyous mind2 is the first, and old ladies' mind3 is next—kindness, kindhearted mind. And the third one is great mind.4 The second one is kindness. And the first one is joyful mind.

In Japan, there are many fish stores. And, besides so many fish stores, we have people carrying fish and selling it.  Fish should always be fresh, so they are always running on the street with big flags, and they are always full of joy. They look very happy. They are always active [laughs]. If they are not happy, the fish look old [laughs]. As though fish [laughs, laughter]—are just more fresh if they carry it with joy. They look fresh [laughs, laughter]. When fish become old, the eyes turn to white from blue. The eyes are not blue anymore [laughs]. Even if [laughs] they carry [laughs, laughter] white-eyed fish, if they carry them with joy, and if they are running [laughs, laughter], the fish look very fresh, you know [laughter].

So, if a monk who is responsible for kitchen work is not happy, food tastes very bad. Even if it is good, it doesn't taste too good. So Dogen Zenji said [laughs, laughter] they must be like a man who is carrying fish. No, he didn’t say so, but [laughs, laughter] what he means is he should always be happy. If he is not so happy, all the monks will not be happy. And, the more complaints he will have, and he will be criticized more. So first of all, Dogen Zenji says he should always be happy.

And, the next thing is to have old ladies' mind. Usually, by nature, an old lady is very kind. Or, we say the mind of parents is Buddha's mind. Buddha's mind is the mind of parents. They raise children with great care, with great love, and they do not miss any expression of their baby. And when it is cold, they will take off their own coat and cover the baby. When it is hot, they will carry their baby on the cool side, exposing themselves to the sun. In this way they raise their children.

So, buddha-mind must be like an old-ladies' mind who raised children. You may say that is our instinct, whether it is instinct or their kindness. The mind they have is valuable. Because of this everything grows. Because of this we were so happy when we were at home, and you will not forget how you were raised in your family when you  were young. Even if you do not say “thank you,”  you cannot forget it.

This kind of mind is the mind of parents. And, big mind, great mind should be like this, he says. And, he says great mind is the mind of the mountain or the sea. If you do not have great mind, you cannot take responsibility.  If we don't know whether the cook will quit his responsibility, we cannot trust him.  If the man who is responsible for the kitchen quits his work, all the rest of the monks cannot eat. That is why this mind is necessary.

By this explanation, I think you must have understood what we mean by buddha-mind or big mind. Although our mind is something ungraspable, its activity is so great, and so warm, and so clear, and full of joy. This is the interpretation of buddha-mind or great mind by Dogen Zenji.

Because we are too intellectual and it is too difficult to put faith in something which we do not know exactly, some explanation is necessary. Some intellectual explanation or interpretation is necessary. So, we have to talk about something very intellectually and logically. But actually, there is no other way to appreciate than to practice our way, knowing the purpose of practice with right understanding of our way.

Here is a brief translation of the three minds by Dogen:5

The sole mind as expounded in Zen differentiates itself into three minds: the joyful mind, the kindly mind, the generous mind. They are the three functions of the sole mind. The joyful mind means the joyful frame of mind. A man of joyful mind is contented with his lot, even in adversity. He will see bright light and value, and never grumbles or complains. He finds some of the Buddha's grace in difficult circumstances. He feels pleasure even in painful conditions, and always rejoices. Seven hardships will disappear  at once, and seven kinds of happiness will come at once. In this way, he can experience spiritual joy and realize that the world of birth and death is the world of nirvana.

The joyful mind is the volitional aspect of Zen mind or mentality.

The  seven6 hardships are the hardship when you are born. We don't remember—I don't remember—but [laughs, laughter] it must be pretty hard [laughs] to come out. And, old age, we become older and older—that is a hardship; and sickness, and death. Those are four. And we count three more. One is to have too much energy [laughs]. That is a hardship too [laughs]. So, that is why you don’t eat strong stimulus food in a monastery. It will create a hardship [laughs]. That's very true [laughs].

And even though you expect something, almost all the expectations will not be fulfilled in this world because by nature we expect too much. So, it is [laughs] impossible to appease your desires. That is another difficulty.

And, the third one is to depart from someone you love. And to be with someone you do not like [laughs, laughter].  These are [laughs, laughter] hardships we have in this world. This is very true [laughs]. But, if you have a joyful mind, all people will be your friend. And, the more you are healthy, the more you can enjoy your life. And, birth should be a happy occasion, and death also should be happy.

In this way, all those seven hardships, all at once, when you have a joyful mind, change into a happy mind or happiness.

The joyful mind means a joyful frame of mind. A man of joyful mind is contented with his lot. Even in adversity, he will see bright light and value and never grumble or complain. He finds some of Buddha's grace in difficult circumstances. He feels pleasure even in painful conditions, and always rejoices. Seven hardships will disappear at once, and seven kinds of happiness will come at once. In this way, he can experience spiritual joy and realize that the world of birth and death is the world of nirvana

Joyful mind is the volitional aspect of Zen mind. The compassionate mind is the affectionate mind of parents. Parents always think of the growth and welfare of their children to the neglect of their own circumstances.

A Buddhist scripture says the Buddha's mind is the mind of great compassion. One of the [1 word] three treasures is compassion that allows courage. These are nothing but the kind mind. The kindly mind is the emotional function of Zen mind. The magnanimous mind is as big as a mountain and as deep as a sea. A man with a magnanimous mind is impartial. He walks the middle way. He never attaches to anyone. He is never attached to any one side or aspect of things. The magnanimous mind walks justly and impartially. It denotes the intellectual function. The holy mind is the harmonious unity of intellect, emotion, and volition, and is equipped with intelligence, benevolence, and compassion. The function of great mind may be limitless. According to circumstances various virtues will appear from this great mind.

That is why we should not attach to any particular practice. Whatever the practice may be, we should practice it with big mind. If we know the fundamental purpose of our practice, we can practice our way even in our work— walking or sitting or stopping or lying down. So, we should open up our mind without clinging to some particular thing. This is how we practice our way.

And our practice should refer to how to treat things, how to make friends, and how to study our teaching. Respectively, there are some teachings told by Dogen Zenji. Anyway, our way is limitless. So, without satisfying or without stopping our effort, we should express big mind. This is the life of  Buddhists.
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1 Eihei Dōgen, Instructions for the Tenzo, 1237. The tenzo is the head cook in a Zen monastery.

2 ki-shin (Jap.): the mind of gratitude or joy.

3 ro-shin (Jap.): the mind of kindness, the aged, or parents.

4 dai-shin (Jap.): the great mind.

5 The three minds are mentioned in Tenzo Kyōkun, but Suzuki-rōshi's translation or commentary does not follow the available translations of Tenzo Kyōkun currently available in English.

6 The traditional list includes eight hardships of human existence (as listed by Suzuki-rōshi himself in Lectures SR-68-10-00-F and SR-68-10-00-G): (1) birth;(2) old age; (3) illness; (4) death; (5) to be separated from those who are dear to us; (6) to meet those who are not dear to us; (7) not to obtain what we desire; and (8) difficulty of guarding our possessions. (See also Garbhāvakrānti-sūtra in H. V. Guenther, trans., The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Rider & Co., 1959, pp. 63-69.)


Source: City Center original tape. Verbatim transcript by Adam Tinkham and Bill Redican (4/4/01). Lightly edited for readability by Wendy Pirsig and Peter Ford (10/2020).