Suzuki Roshi

‘We should be very grateful to the rigid formal way of practicing Zen and Zen precepts. You may think these precepts are useless if we cannot observe them perfectly. But they are the traces of human efforts based on the great mercy of Buddha. The life we have now is the result of such useless effort. From one-celled animals to monkeys. I do not know how long, but we wasted much time, many efforts until we came to this human life. The giant redwood trees of Muir Woods have annual rings or layers and we have these annual layers in our human life too, I think. That is precepts in its wide sense. You say we don’t want them, but you have them. As long as you do, you should sit, and thus you have to know how to continue your effort to have another annual ring. In this way we will develop Buddhism more and more forever.

Strictly speaking we must have more precepts in America. You think 250 precepts for men and 500 for women is awful and that it should be made simpler. But I think you have to add some more to the precepts we have in Japan. Actually, I think you will have more difficulty in practicing zazen in America than we do in Japan. This kind of difficulty should be continued forever or we will not have peace in our world. Without the precepts there can be no congenial life for human beings. By reflecting on our human life and by respecting the precepts and rules of humanity, we will know the direction in which to make an effort and we will have the right orientation in our life. This is how we practice Zen and how Buddhism has been developed.

Do you have any questions?

Student A: You think we may need more precepts in the United States. Can you suggest some?

SR: No, not now. I do not want to disturb your practice.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

Another talk from 1965, where Suzuki Roshi is insisting on the precepts. I wonder about the context for all of that.


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