Katagiri Roshi

‘During zazen it is important to keep the right posture. You should especially keep the right posture for your hands. They are like a barometer, directly indicating the attention to your effort. Neither too high nor too low, the hands should be In the right place – as if you were holding jewels in your palm and close to your belly. Don’t touch your arms to your body. It is better to keep some separation. The hands should be held at the lower part of your gut. If you cannot maintain the correct posture of your hands you cannot breathe smoothly in the right way. When your back is kept straight and your chin pulled in, your hands will be In the right place. 

In order to control your mind, first it is important to keep the right posture of your body – your hands, your back, your head, your neck, your eyes, and your mouth. When this is accomplished your mind will be in the right way. What’s more, it will be done naturally in this way. When your posture is complete, everything goes well.’ (from Wind Bell magazine)

I have been doing some research for the Suzuki Roshi archive, and came across this instruction from Katagiri, on the morning of a one-day sitting, held just two days after Suzuki Roshi gave his Beginner’s Mind talk in Los Altos, in November 1965. I will perhaps share a quote from the two talks he gave during this sitting soon; the talks were tapes, to be transcribed, but those are not tapes we have found – yet.

This passage reminded me of the time I was having dokusan with Abbot Steve in the Abbot’s cabin at Tassajara – though I don’t remember if it was my shuso practice period, or the previous one I did which he led, in 2007. About half-way through he abruptly asked, “And how is your mudra?” I had certainly not been paying attention to it prior to that moment. All of a sudden I was. We smiled.

And then I realised that today is the fiftieth anniversary of Suzuki Roshi’s death. I shall (providing I can turn up a second negative at-home test during the morning) be heading into the temple to attend Roger’s shuso ceremony, and may ask him about that, if nothing more pressing comes up in the earlier exchanges. This in turn reminded me that ten years ago I was the ino dealing with all the logistics which come with the ceremonies and surrounding sesshin. I wrote about it here – re-reading the post, it feels at once very fresh and a long time ago; in my teaching sessions this week I made the same point about Thanksgiving week.


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