Katagiri Roshi

‘To sit on the chairs of silence is not enough to realize what you are and who you are. Everybody can sit on the chairs of silence and tranquility, on the chairs of understanding transience. Actually, every time you encounter the various phases of human life it is possible to understand what a human being is. Through your experience, I think, you can see that understanding transience is not enough to improve your life in the future. Understanding tranquility or silence is not enough to elevate your life. You have to develop silence and tranquility. The understanding of silence and tranquility on a higher level is the actual practice. In other words, give it life, vivid life …. 

Buddha teaches us that we have to have the Big Mind. Then what is the small mind? The Big Mind as taught by Buddha has nothing to do with the domain between big and small. Even though you think you understand the Big Mind as taught by Buddha, I think this understanding is still floating between your notion of reality and Reality itself. You say “I don’t like this,” but the suffering doesn’t move. 

For the sick student, the most important thing is that she expresses the decision to continue to listen through her everyday life, through the taking care of, through the benign and cheerful treatment of her disease, of her death. Listening to the silence, to the silence and the tranquility, is not merely a notion – it should be bound up with our everyday life …. ‘ (from Wind Bell)

I have been doing some reading around the shosan ceremony that I quoted from recently, and found a wonderful lecture by Katagiri Roshi on life and death.

Katagiri Roshi

‘Mind as the universal path is peaceful and simultaneously dynamic. How can something be both peaceful and dynamic? When I was at Komazawa University, Professor Shoson Miyamoto used the example of a ball to explain. A ball can roll anywhere, but its center is always calm. So when a ball starts to roll, there is stillness within the movement of its leading edge and movement of the stillness at its center.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)

Katagiri Roshi

‘When we live in the vow we constantly live in our lives, seeking our own true nature, the real treasure of our own house. At that time you find your life worth living. Maybe you say I find life worth living by running into Zen Buddhism. If you believe in that way, consider again. Are you sure? Maybe there is something – some object – which you expect, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind, by your intellectual sense. After you start to practice zazen you are very happy for a while. You experience wonderful things you have not experienced before. “How wonderful zazen is.” But the more you practice zazen, the more you realize there is nothing to get, nothing to improve … neither character nor personality. Then you will be discouraged. In order to turn your practice into the power of your life is not so easy. It takes time … a long time.’ (from Wind Bell)

Katagiri Roshi

‘Change is the basis of human life, so don’t attach yourself to birth or death, continuation or discontinuation. Just live right in the middle of the flow of change, where there is nothing to hold on to. How do you do this? Just be present and devote yourself to doing something. This is the simple practice of Zen.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)

Katagiri Roshi

‘You don’t know how vast the human world is. Even if you touch it, you don’t know. Human consciousness always tries to know, but fortunately or unfortunately there’s nothing to know. Unfortunately means, the more you try to know it conceptually, the more you cannot know it. Fortunately means, you can train your six consciousnesses to calm down, let go of the concepts in your head, and experience it.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)

Katagiri Roshi

‘When we live in the vow we constantly live in our lives, seeking our own true nature, the real treasure of our own house. At that time you find your life worth living. Maybe you say I find life worth living by running into Zen Buddhism. If you believe in that way, consider again. Are you sure? Maybe there is something – some object – which you expect, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind, by your intellectual sense. After you start to practice zazen you are very happy for a while. You experience wonderful things you have not experienced before. “How wonderful zazen is.” But the more you practice zazen, the more you realize there is nothing to get, nothing to improve… neither character nor personality. Then you will be discouraged. In order to turn your practice into the power of your life is not so easy. It takes time… a long time.
Your practice is the end itself, because your practice is your life. Practice must be identical with your life, otherwise when you realize your progress in the practice you will be discouraged.’ (from Wind Bell vol X no.1)

I am trying to think how many years it took me to get a glimpse of the point he is making here.

Katagiri Roshi

‘There are many interesting things to do in the human world. To do as much as possible keeps you busy making lots of sounds. That’s fine, but you have to understand that these sounds come from no-sound. If you always understand sound as coming from sound, you become confused and lose the direction in which you should go. You have to know no-sound, because no-sound is your nature. Then, very naturally, you will want to come back from no-sound and look at your own particular sound. That’s wonderful. Thank you can know it.
Zazen is to come back to no-sound. Come back to the sound of no-sound and see it. It’s not just your limited territory, it is a vastness from which your capacity, your knowledge, your nature comes, just like spring water coming up from the earth. This is zazen, exactly; this is you.’ (Returning to Silence)

A repost – and this time round I am particularly struck by ‘come back from no-sound and look at your own particular sound.’ This is how we don’t get entranced by emptiness, but remain in the real world of the present.

Katagiri Roshi

‘Put value on the Dharma, not on individual experience and feeling. This means to put value on the bigger scale of the world, and to open our hearts; even though you may feel pensive, open your heart. Then when you have to help, help; when you have to take care of your life, take care of your life. Whatever you feel, pensive or not pensive, like or dislike, open your heart, and then do what you have to do. From this way of life, you can really take care of individual feelings and experience; your life will bloom. It really helps.’ (Returning to Silence)

Katagiri Roshi

‘We use the terms universal effort and individual effort, but actually there is no gap between them. You take care of universal effort by your individual effort. It’s a little difficult to do this because we are always critical toward our own effort. We attach to getting a certain result from our effort. Then we judge it in terms of ideas and emotions connected with our heredity, education, consciousness, and memories coming from the past, so it’s very complicated. Universal effort is very simple. That’s why we try to understand out lives in terms of the universal perspective. How?

When you wash your face, accept washing as universal effort first, and then make your individual effort. Deal with everything – your face, the waater, your posture of standing in front of the basin – as universal activity. Through the actions of washing your face, you can go beyond your usual understanding and experience the pure nature of washing your face. This is the realm of total dynamic action. Right in the middle of taking good care of your individual effort as universal effort, the whole world comes into one screen. That one screen is the big picture of your life. When you see that living screen, you can learn who you really are.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)

Some serendipitous moments around this post: first of all, I think it acts as an excellent commentary on Dogen’s post from yesterday. This was not something I planned out when I sat down to type some posts at the beginning of the week. With my impending move, I have started packing up books, and set aside ones that I knew I could use for blog posts. This particular volume of Katagiri’s talks is one I knew I hadn’t referenced for a while, though I had previously noted various passages as suitable for the blog.

When I opened to this particular page, I found a bookmark – an old-fashioned sales slip from the kimono shop in Japantown, dated January 2020, from when my partner first visited San Francisco; an afternoon in Japantown was a part of our first weekend together. I wanted her advice on a nice kimono I could wear as a bathrobe, to replace one that had worn out after ten years of regular use. A month or two ago I tried to visit the store again, but it was closed. Last week, my partner and I went to Japantown again on an outing, and saw a sign on the store window directing us to a different store in the mall – one I recognised as soon as I entered as the place my dharma sister Djinn went to for the best matcha. I bought a noren hanging that I could use as a backdrop for Zoom calls (the reason I wanted to visit recently) and two little calligraphies, one saying love, and one saying health, our two main focuses in these past eighteen months.

Katagiri Roshi

‘Dogen constantly emphasizes that practice is shikan. Shikan is just wholeheartedness; it is experience, so practice is experience.

Practice as experience is based on the manifestation of reality. Manifestation means the relationship between subject and object. We manifest subject and object in many ways through the six consciousnesses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought. So we can manifest practice with our mind. But practicing just with the mind is not good enough; we also have to practice with our body.

For example, if you are cooking, and you use a vegetable, if you think, ‘This is a vegetable’, it immediately becomes an object, something that is separate from you, and you see the vegetable in the ordinary way. But you can take a different attitude toward the vegetable. Before you consciously label the vegetable, you can touch and handle the vegetable as something more than a vegetable – Buddha – and face the vegetable in terms of timelessness with no label.  This is really the attitude we should take. This is wisdom. Then cooking is practice based on manifesting reality.

This is a very difficult practice, but with wisdom you can face the real vegetable, which is not something separate from you. Then even though your dualistic consciousness says, ‘Oh, that is a vegetable’, wisdom keeps you straight. So calm your dualistic consciousness and just face the vegetable. Place the vegetable right in the middle of timelessness. When you place your object, the vegetable, in the middle of timelessness, then your subject, you, is also placed in the middle of timelessness. At that time, all things come back to nothingness, emptiness, and you wake up.

But practically speaking, you cannot ignore the fact that you and the vegetable exist in everyday life. So how should you deal with a vegetable? First place the vegetable in timelessness, where carrots, cabbage and potatoes all exist with no discrimination. Then come back to everyday time, where you cannot cut a carrot the same way you cut a potato, because a carrot is a being with its own characteristics. Recognize that a carrot is a carrot and deal with your carrot without confusing it with potatoes, water, or the pan. When you deal with a carrot like this, you manifest yourself as a cook and the carrot as a particular being, but at the same time, both you and the carrot are manifested as Buddha.’ (Each Moment Is The Universe)

Katagiri, like Dogen, illuminates the fundamental point with concrete analogies. The only question is, have you ever faced the real vegetable?