Sincere Practice and Way Seeking Mind

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

Given on May 3, 1970

To take refuge in the Triple Treasure it is necessary to have pure faith, whether it be in the time of the Tathagata or after his disappearance from the world. We should repeat this formula with clasped hands and bowed head. D.T. Suzuki�s translation is, "I take refuge in the Buddha, the incomparable honored one. I take refuge in the Dharma, honorable for its purity. I take refuge in the Sangha, honorable for its harmonious life. I have finished taking refuge in the Buddha. I have finished taking refuge in the Dharma. I have finished taking refuge in the Sangha."

In Japanese it is simpler: namu kie Butsu, namu kie Ho, namu kie So. Kie Butsu myo sam, kie Ho rijin sam, kie So wago som; kie bu kyo, kie Ho kyo, kie So kyo. But if we translate it into English, we cannot arrange the words in this way. Whether in English or Japanese, we have to repeat those precepts. Buddha is said to be the supreme world honored one. There are many names for him. We have ten names for Buddha. By Buddha we do not mean just Shakyamuni Buddha. At the same time we mean various Buddhas. So sometimes we say the Buddhas in the three periods of time: past, future and pres-ent. Namu sanze sho Butsu, we say: I take refuge in all Buddhas in the three worlds, Namu is to take refuge. Sanze means the three worlds. Shobutsu means all the Buddhas, or we say, "Ji ho san shi i shi hu." Ji ho means ten directions. San shi means three worlds. I shi means all. Hu means Buddha. Ji ho san shi i shi hu, shi son bu sa mo ko sa means: Shi san is the supreme one, bu sa is Bosatsu, that�s bodhisattva. Mo ko sa is great Bodhisattvas. That is actually Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Dharma is mo ko ho ja ho ro mi. Moko is maha or moka: great. Ho ja ho ro mi is Prajna Paramita. That is the teaching. So when we say ji ho san shi i shi hu, shi son bu sa mo ko sa, mo ko ho ja ho ro mi, that means that we are taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. That is why we say: Ji ho san shi i shi hu. That is the old Chinese pronunciation, but the meaning is the same.

The Buddha is supposed to be the Supreme One. The Dharma is called Dharma because it is Truth itself. It is impersonal so it is pure. There is no dust on it (laughing). If there is any dust on the law, you will be put in jail, rules or Dharma should always be clean. So Dharma is something which is honored for its purity. I take refuge in the Sangha which is honored for its harmonious life.

You know, we human beings should be always harmonious and we should work in unity. So we call a Buddhist group "harmonious Sangha." Sangha means Sang or so gya in Japanese. So means priest and ga is plural; so sangha means priest group, or group of followers.

Here he says, "We take refuge in the Buddha because he is the great teacher." "We take refuge in the Law because it is our medicine and points the way." It is law or rule. "We take refuge in the priesthood because its members are our wise friends." It is through this triple adoration that we become disciples of Buddha. We should respect the Three Treasures before we receive any further precepts. This is the fundamental precept, since it is on the basis of this devotion that all the moral precepts of Buddhism rest, from beginning to end. Buddhism starts from these three refuges and ends with these three refuges.

"A responsive communication between the refugee and the preceptor makes the maturity of the merit of the triple refuges." "Responsive communication" is the translation of kanno doko. This is a very difficult word to translate. Kanno means to respond to each other. And Doko means true relationship. Do is Tao. Ko is interrelationship. Here we say Kanno Doko. In terms of consciousness it happens in this way to us: we feel some coherence, or interrelationship, or correspon-dence between Buddha and us. But, originally, there is no difference between Buddha nature and human nature. So this is more than responsive communication or relationship. But it happens in this way, so "a responsive communion between the refugee and the preceptor," or "protector" (not "protector," ok, maybe "Buddha") "marks the maturity of the merit of the Triple Treasure."

When we become one with Buddha, it means the Triple Treasure, or refuge, is completed. So, to take refuge in Buddha means to become one with Buddha or to find our true nature which is not different from Buddha. "Be he a devil or man, dwelling in the lower regions, demon or animal; whoever experiences the responsive communion is sure to take refuge in the Triple Treasure." By nature, everything has Buddha nature. So when beings have this experience, they can attain the perfection and they can take the Triple Treasure. "The merit of having taken the Three Refuges continually increases through the various stages of existence and ultimately calls forth the highest right universal enlightenment." "Highest right universal enlightenment" is Buddhahood. If you repeat this experience, you will attain the highest Buddhahood. "This excellent and inconceivably deep merit has been proved by the Tathagata himself; therefore, all living beings should take this refuge."

Buddha himself experienced it and Buddha has the same nature that we have. This means it is possible to have the same experience.

This is not some particular experience when we realize our true nature or some occasion. So here we emphasize the universality of the Three Refuges. Here he just emphasizes the precepts, but precepts and Zen are not different. Both Zen and precepts are the expression of our true nature; the experience of finding or realizing our true nature. In this sense there is no difference. So the way to practice Zen is the way we take refuge in the precepts.

So, by mutual communion, or kanno doko, we mean the true experience of Zen. It is not some ecstasy or some mysterious state of mind, but it is a deep joy that is even more than joy. You may have this true experience through some change in your mental state. But a change of mental state is not, strictly speaking, enlightenment. Enlightenment is more than that. That comes with it, but it is more than that. What we experience is joy or mysterious experience, but something follows. That something which follows, besides this experience, is true enlightenment. So we should not suppose that enlightenment will always be experienced in terms of consciousness. Even though you don�t know, you know that enlightenment is there. And by repeating various activities with this subtle caution, the experience becomes deeper and your consciousness will become more and more mature and smooth. So you may say that enlightenment is the maturity of your experience of everyday life. When enlightenment does not follow, your experience is black and white. But when true experience follows your conscious activity or conscious experience, the way you accept it is more natural, smooth, and deep.

It is not just joy. It is something more than joy. It may not be possible to experience enlightenment just in terms of consciousness. But what you do experience is much deeper. This point should always be remembered. If you remember this point, all the precepts are there. You will not be attached to some particular experience; you will not be caught by the dualistic experience of good or bad, or myself or others. When we violate the precepts, we attach to some particular experience.

When you have something, you will have some joy of possession. To do that is, you know, to break the precept of not stealing, (laughs) or not being greedy about giving either spiritual or material help to others. So when those three precepts are kept in the right way, all the precepts will be kept. In short, when you do everything as you do zazen, then all the precepts will be there. We say that we have to just sit. Our mind is clear. You have no experience whatsoever. Maybe the only experience you will have is sleepiness or pain in your legs (laughs). No particular experience.

But when you attain enlightenment, when some sudden change of mental state comes to you � happens to you � even that experience is not true enlightenment. You will see something, or realize something in terms of consciousness, but that means you saw something, that�s all. It may not be yours. You saw something there, something beautiful. That is the experience, that�s all. It is a true experience, but that is not enough. We should obtain the truth. We should become one with the truth. That is taking refuge in Buddha or Truth. When we become one with it, there is no communion or interrelationship because it is just one. That is completely taking refuge in its true sense. That is the experience we have in our practice.

Namu in Japanese means "to plunge into something." We say, "you cannot skim over the water in a basket." But if you dip the basket in it, the basket will be full of water. That is the way. As long as you are making (laughter) a dualistic effort, you cannot do anything because you are a basket. You are full of holes. Holes are you. We say, mu ro chi. Mu ro chi means "no-hole wisdom." (laughter) Our wisdom is hole wisdom. Wisdom with holes. Mu ro chi means "no-holes wisdom." But for us, no holes wisdom is just dipping a basket in the water. Then there is no hole. (laughter) That is taking refuge, and that is how we practice zazen. This is the interpretation of precepts and the understanding of our zazen.

Thank you very much.

� Copyright San Francisco Zen Center 2013

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