Gail Sher • Dharma Talks

In Japan in the Spring We Eat Cucumbers – Suzuki Roshi’s Seminal Teachings

In Japan in the Spring We Eat Cucumbers:
Suzuki Roshi's Seminal Teachings

At the very end of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Suzuki Roshi said:

“I feel Americans, especially young Americans, have a great opportunity to find out the true way of life for human beings. You are quite free from material things and you begin Zen practice with a very pure mind, a beginner’s mind. You can understand Buddha’s teaching exactly as he meant it. But we must not be attached to America or Buddhism or even to our practice. We must have beginner’s mind, free from possessing anything, a mind that knows everything is in flowing change. Nothing exists but momentarily in its present form and color. One thing flows into another and cannot be grasped. Before the rain stops we hear a bird. Even under the heavy snow we see snowdrops and some new growth. In the East I saw rhubarb already. In Japan in the spring we eat cucumbers.”

In a few simple words Roshi has managed to convey the guts of Buddhism, the guts of our Zen practice, which is not about some weird way of thinking or esoteric practice, but rather about finding the true way of life, the true mind of life for human beings. People hear the word Zen and say, “Oh I’m not into that” implying that they’re just a regular person and not into anything so far out, but Zen is for everybody, every single creature. It is the most basic thing in the world. Oddly today, because we forget these basic things, we need to re-learn what they are. Fortunately, through Roshi’s kindness and compassion, we have been given everything we need for this task.

Ten Talks on Right Practice

First Talk: Your True Mind is Always with Whatever You See

Zen is not some fancy, special art of living. Our teaching is just to live, always in reality in its exact sense.

Date/Time: February 18, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Second Talk: In Beginner’s Mind We Have Many Possibilities, but in Expert Mind There Is Not Much Possibilities

We recited Prajna Paramita Sutra this morning—only once. I think we recited very well, but what will hapen to us if we recite it twice, three times, four times and more? Then we will easily lose our attitude in reciting—original attitude in reciting the sutra. Same thing will happen to us. For a while you keep your beginner’s mind in your practice but if we continue to practice one year, two years, three years, our beginner’s mind will have some pattern and we will lose the limitless meaning of original mind.

Date/Time: February 25, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Third Talk: Zen Is Difficult but There Is a Misunderstanding as to Why

Zen is not difficult because it is hard to sit in the cross-legged position or to attain enlightenment. It is difficult because it is hard to keep our mind pure and our practice pure in a fundamental sense.

Date/Time: March 3, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Fourth Talk: To Take This Posture Is Itself to Have the Right State of Mind

These forms are not the means of obtaining the right state of mind. To take this posture is itself to have the right state of mind. There is no need to obtain some special state of mind.

Date/Time: March 10, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Fifth Talk: If You Think, “I Breathe,” the “I” Is Extra. There Is No You to Say “I.”

This kind of understanding is necessary but it should not even be called understanding. It is actually the true experience of life through Zen practice.

Date/Time: March 17, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Sixth Talk: When You Are Practicing Zazen, Do Not Try to Stop Your Thinking

You yourself make the waves in your mind. If you leave your mind as it is, it will become calm. This mind is called big mind.

Date/Time: March 24, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Seventh Talk: You Should Rather Be Grateful for the Weeds You Have In Your Mind, Because Eventually They Will Enrich Your Practice.

If you have some experience of how the weeds in your mind change into mental nourishment, your practice will make remarkable progress. And you will feel the progress.

Date/Time: March 31, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Eighth Talk: When We Do Anything, Just to Do It Should Be Our Purpose

When the famous Chinese Zen master Ummon was ill, someone asked “How are you?” And he answered, “Sun-faced Buddha and moon-faced Buddha.” That is the life of “form is form and emptiness is emptiness,” the life of non-duality. There is no problem. Just to continue with our practice is our purpose. When we do anything, just to do it should be our purpose. In this way true emptiness will be realized.

Date/Time: April 7, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Ninth Talk: To Express Our Sincerity, Our True Nature, Is Our Single-Minded Way

Even if the sun were to rise from the west, the Bodhisattva has only one way.

Date/Time: April 14, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

TEnth Talk: To Give Is Non-attachment, That Is, Just Not to Attach to Anything Is to Give

Not to be attached to something is to be aware of its absolute value. Everything you do should be based on such an awareness and not on material or self-centered ideas of value.

Date/Time: April 21, 2024 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes