Berkeley Zen Center [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Ordinary Mind/Buddha Mind

Lecture by Suzuki Roshi, Given March 30, 1969

This lecture is reprinted from the May 2001 Berkeley Zen Center Newsletter.

The point of my talk is just to give you some support for your practice. There is no need for you to remember what I say. A tree, when it is strong enough, may still want some support. But if you stick to it, it means that you stick to the support, not the tree itself. The most important thing is the tree itself, not the support.

I am the one tree, and each one of you is also a tree. You should stand by yourself. When a tree stands by itself, we call that tree a Buddha. In other words, when you practice zazen in its true sense, you are really Buddha. So Buddha and the tree are one. Sometimes we call it a tree and sometimes we call it a Buddha. "Buddha," "tree," or "you" are many names of one Buddha.

When you sit, you are independent from various beings, and also you are related to various beings. When you have perfect composure in your practice, it means that you include everything. You are not just you. You are the whole world or the whole cosmos, and you are a Buddha. Before you sit, you may stick to the idea that you are ordinary. But when you sit you are not the same being as you are before you sit. Do you understand?

You may say that it is not possible to be ordinary and at the same time holy. When you think this way, your understanding is one-sided. We call someone who understands things from one side a tambancan, "someone who carries a board on his shoulder." Because you carry a big board on your shoulder, you cannot see the other side. You think you are just the ordinary mind, but, if you take the board off, you will see, "Oh, I am Buddha, too. How can I be both 'Buddha' and 'ordinary mind?' It is amazing!" That is enlightenment.

When you experience enlightenment, you will understand things freely. You won't mind what people call you. Ordinary mind? Okay, I am ordinary mind. Buddha? Yes, I am Buddha. How do I come to be both Buddha and ordinary mind? I don't know, but actually I am Buddha and ordinary mind.

Buddha, in a true sense, is not different from ordinary mind. And ordinary mind, in its true sense, is not something that is apart from what is holy. This is complete understanding of ourself. When we practice zazen with this understanding, that is true zazen. We will not be bothered by anything that we see or hear. To have this kind of feeling, it is necessary to become accustomed to our practice. If you keep practicing our way, you will naturally have this understanding and this feeling. It will not be just intellectual. You will have the actual feeling.

Even though someone can explain what Buddhism is, if that person does not have the actual feeling, we cannot call him a real Buddhist. Ordinary mind is dual. Only when your personality is characterized by this kind of feeling can we call you a Buddhist. The way we become characterized by this kind of understanding is to be always concentrated on this point. How to be concentrated on this point is rather difficult to explain. Many koans and sayings bring out this point. Even though we are doing quite usual things, whenever we do something, that is actually Buddha's activity. Buddha's mind, Buddha's activity, and our ordinary activity are not different.

Someone may say that "such and such" is Buddha's mind, and "such and so" is ordinary mind, but there is no need to explain it in that way. When we do something, we cannot say, "I am doing something," because there is no one who is independent from others. When I say something, you will hear it. I cannot do anything by myself, just for myself. If someone does something, everyone will be doing something. Moment after moment, we continue this kind of activity, which is Buddha's activity, because you are actually doing something too. You may say "I" then, but we don't know what "I" that is. The reason you try to say "who is doing what" is that you want to intellectualize your activity. But before you say anything, the actual activity is here. Who you are is here.

Although our activity is both cosmic and personal, there is no need to explain what we are doing. We may want to explain it, but we should not feel uneasy if we cannot, because it is impossible to understand. Actually, you are here, right here. So then, before you understand yourself, you are you. After you explain, you are not really you anymore. You have an image. But usually you will stick to the one who is not you, and you will ignore the reality. As Dogen Zenji said, we human beings attach to something which is not real and forget all about what is real. That is actually what we are doing. If you realize this point, you will have perfect composure and you can trust yourself. Whatever happens to you, it doesn't matter. You can trust yourself.

That trust is not the same as the trust or the usual belief in what is not real. So when you are able to sit without attaching to any image or any sound and with an open mind, that is true practice. When you can do that, you are free from everything.

Still it is all right for you to enjoy your life, moment after moment, because you are not enjoying your life as something concrete and eternal. Our life is momentary and, at the same time, each moment includes its own past and future. In this way our momentary and eternal life will continue. This is how we actually live our everyday life, how we enjoy our everyday life, and how we get freedom from various difficulties.

I was in bed for a long time, and I was thinking about these things. I was just practicing zazen in bed. I should enjoy my bed. (Laughing) Sometimes it was difficult, but (laughing), if it was difficult, I laughed at myself. "Why is it so difficult? Why don't you enjoy your difficulties?" That is, I think, our practice.

Last revised June 17, 2001. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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