Suzuki Roshi

‘If I– if you see me, you may ask, “Is there lecture tonight?” Maybe I’m very smoky kerosene lamp [laughs]. I don’t want, you know, to give lecture. I– I– what I want is to– just to live with you, moving stones, having nice hot-spring bath [laughs], and eat something good [laughs, laughter].

Zen is there, you know. When I start to talk about something, it is also smoky– it is already smoky kerosene lamp. As long as I [must] give lecture, I have to explain it in term of right or wrong: “This is right practice. This is wrong. How to practice zazen.” It is like to– to give you recipe [laughs]. Recipe doesn’t work. You cannot eat recipe [laughter]. Maybe after having a long, long practice in hot summer weather, it may be good to enjoy to say something [laughs] and to listen to something. This is, you know, our [a?] purpose of practice.

I said just now [that] to know how to adjust the flame is important. This is actually what Dogen Zenji worked so hard for– for us descendants. Not just– not– usually Zen master– a Zen master will give you: “Practice zazen! Then you will attain enlightenment. If you attain enlightenment, you will be detached from everything and you will see things as it is. So if you want to see things as it is, you have– you must practice zazen hard and attain enlightenment.” That is usually [what] a Zen master will say.

But our way is “not always so.” That is, of course true, but we, you know– Dogen Zenji told us how to adjust back flame– back and forth, he told us in his Shobogenzo– this point. This is one of the characteristic of Soto Zen.

In– in Soto, people say in Soto– Soto priest doesn’t– Soto school doesn’t use koan, and they have no koan practice. But Dogen Zenji, after studying koans, and he simplified all the koan in a– in a quite simple forms, as– like Tozan Zenji in China did. Tozan Zenji used five ranks– five ranks of practice, or five ranks of seeming and reality. But Dogen Zenji did not use five ranks in practice or five ranks in seeming and reality because Dogen Zenji’s understanding or teaching of Zen is much simpler than that. Quite simple. The point of Soto Zen– Dogen Zenji’s zazen is to live on each moment in complete combustion, like a kerosene lamp or like a candle. So how to live in each moment, and how to become one with everything, and attain oneness of the whole universe, is the point of his teaching and his practice.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

Without wishing to compare myself with Suzuki Roshi, I feel at the moment that I am in a phase where I just want to move stones, have a nice hot bath and eat something good (all three of which were wonderful aspects of living at Tassajara). I am offering several meditation sessions a week, and don’t often have much else to say. For regular readers who might want to be hearing more from me, I can only apologise.

Sekkei Harada

‘Of the religions of the world we can say that many or even most are comprised of seams or knots which connect the separation between Man and God, Man and Buddha or between Man and Nature. In truth there is no such borderline, and I would like you to realize that there is no reason such a division should exist. The ego/self has created distance between self and other things and then purposely joined them together again. Consequently if the ego/self is forgotten, one becomes the origin, becomes all things. This is an unmistakable fact.’ (Talks on Yoka Daishi’s “Song of Realization”)

This was another post I retrieved from a recent dive into the Ino’s Blog. I still don’t think these talks have been commercially released, which highlights what a privilege access to the Zen Center library was.

Shohaku Okumura

‘As a bodhisattva, we can never say, ‘I have achieved all vows’. We cannot be proud of our achievements, because in comparison to the infinite, anything we achieve is insignificant. Each of us has different capabilities of course. If we cannot do very much, we practice just a little. There is no reason for us to feel small or to say we’re sorry. We just try to be right there with this body and mind and move forward one step or half a step. This is our practice in a concrete sense.’ (Living by Vow)

Brad Warner

Nishijima Roshi used to say that every philosophy but one fell into either the category of materialism or the category of idealism. Buddhism, he said, was the only exception. This is why the Buddhist worldview is so hard to understand. Whenever we encounter a philosophy that denies the materialistic view, we tend to think of it as idealistic. It’s almost impossible not to do so.

In fact, in terms of how our thinking works it may actually be impossible to hold a worldview that is neither materialistic nor idealistic in our thoughts. Thought insists on seeing things one way or another. It can’t contain contradictory viewpoints. And yet reality itself is not limited to the categories our thoughts insist upon. 

This is why Nishijima Roshi called Buddhism a “philosophy of action.” It is a philosophy that you experience in real action in the present moment. This is why Dogen used deliberate contradictions as a way of pointing out the limitations of language and thought to ever fully explain reality.’ (from Hardcore Zen)

I don’t feel I need to get too philosophical about this, but I agree with the overall premise here, and I think that Dogen might boil it down to ‘reality itself is not limited.’


 With realization, all things are of one family; 
 Without realization, everything is separate and different; 
 Without realization, all things are of one family; 
 With realization, everything is separate and different 

Katagiri Roshi

‘A diver jumping off the cliff, a mountain climber, an artist, a poet, or a musician creates a beautiful form that manifests the maturity of his or her life. But spiritual life doesn’t have that same sense of performance. So creativity in religion cannot manifest in the same way. Of course you do manifest maturity because, as Dogen says, ‘you cannot avoid detachment from the zazen posture’. But then, next you must be free from that manifestation. In Japanese we say gedatsu, meaning emancipation, or freedom. Moment after moment you must be free from the beautiful form you created, because the moment in which the form existed has already gone, and the next moment is coming up. Life becomes mature, constantly. You cannot stop it, not even for a moment, so you have to keep going. You must keep practicing to create this beauty again and again. This is spiritual creativity.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)

Chan Master Sheng Yen

‘When some older people find out I became a monk at thirteen, they become discouraged, thinking they won’t have time to reach enlightenment. Nonsense. Remember, enlightenment can come in an instant. Is there a queue at the gate of Chan? Are you only allowed in one at a time? You don’t have to take a number and wait in line to achieve buddhahood. Do buddhas have seniority over others? Do buddhas compare notes on when and how they got enlightened? Funny as it sounds, some people go through similar mental maneuvers. “That person over there sits like a rock; she must nearly be enlightened. I’ve been on twenty retreats, so I must be closer to enlightenment than that guy, who is on his first one.” Do these thoughts sound familiar? It is never too late to start practicing. If you missed the first bus to buddhahood, the next one will be by soon. The important thing is to get on the bus and stay on.’ (Song of Mind)


‘The ocean of true reality is boundless and profoundly deep. The Buddha Way is immeasurably vast. Some priests do nothing but seek fame and success until their dying day, never showing the slightest interest in the path of Zen or the Buddha’s Dharma. Others become enthralled in literary pursuits or become addicted to sake or women, oblivious of the hell fires flaming up under their very noses. Some, relying on insignificant bits of knowledge they pick up, shamelessly try to deny the law of cause and effect, though woefully lacking any grasp of its working. Some find ways to attract large numbers of people to their temples, believing to the end of their days that this is proof of a successful teaching career.’ (Beating The Cloth Drum)

I haven’t picked up this book in a while, but it happens that I was writing a Patreon post, and wanted to see if I had written anything about the traditional way of tangaryo when I was writing the Ino’s Blog. It was not too surprising that I had, and, as I often find, a little meander down memory lane from ten or more years ago made me smile. My practice is less traditional these days than it was when I was a temple officer at San Francisco Zen Center, and while I am sure that Hakuin would not stint in his criticism of what I am doing now, I would at least not claim to be seeking fame or success.

Gudo Nishijima

‘The precepts guide us in our life. They have come from the experience of the truth in the past, so we can say that they are based on reality. But our lives are tremendously complex and varied. If we try to apply the precepts too strictly we may lose the freedom to act. We are living here and now so we must find rules which can be used here and now. We must find our precepts at every moment. Reality is changeable so our rules must also be changeable. True rules must work in the real world. True precepts are changeable and at the same time unchangeable. This is the nature of Buddhist precepts. They help us to live correctly. They provide a framework which is exact and rather narrow, and yet we are free to act in the moment by moment situation of our life.’ (from a talk on the Precepts)

Joan Sutherland

‘Awakening is a marriage of wisdom and compassion, and both wisdom and compassion are made up of enlightening and endarkening. The enlightening aspect of wisdom is a growing clarity of insight that puts doubts to rest and creates confidence. It’s about what we come to understand. The endarkening aspect of wisdom is our profound acceptance of the great mystery at the heart of things, which we can never understand in our ordinary ways but can come to rest in. This is about knowing what we can’t know, and it’s sometimes called “not-knowing mind.”

The enlightening aspect of compassion includes our shining commitment to everyone’s freedom from suffering. The endarkening aspect of compassion is our willingness to have our hearts broken by the world, so our hearts remain open and not defensive. As we endarken, we see that we are not only continuous with the luminous nature of the universe but also continuous with the great broken heart of the world; we and the world share a tenderness that is both poignant beauty and wound.

It’s as though revelation happens at the speed of electrical impulses in the brain, while embodiment happens at the speed of the heart, which is a slow-beating muscle.’ (from Lion’s Roar)