Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Suzuki Shosan quotes - I

Suzuki Shosan is among the most dramatic personalities in the history of Zen. Born in the province of Misawa (present day Aichi Prefecture) in 1579, he became a retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1541-1616), who unified Japan after the battle of Sekigahara. At age 41, after being enlightened by deities claiming to be the Nió, the guardians of the temple gate, he became a monk and developed a highly original teaching style strongly imbued with the warrior spirit. The warrior’s life, Shosan believed, was particularly suited to Zen study because it demanded vitality, courage, and "death energy," the readiness to confront death at any moment. Emphasizing dynamic activity over quiet contemplation, Shosan urged students to realize enlightenment in the midst of their daily life.

Advice to warriors :
Do your job with your mind as taut as an iron bow strung with wire. This is the same as Zen meditation.

Use your mind strongly even when you walk down the street, such that you wouldn’t even blink if someone unexpectedly thrust a lance at your nose. All warriors should at all time be in such state of mind in everyday life.

There is a practice designed to enter the Way of Buddha by means of your profession. You should apply this idea, that a man born in a house of valor, polishing a sword and sporting a bow, should always exert the strongest attention, as if he were marching right into an army of ten million men.

The strongest men and the greatest martial arts masters are born that way, so no effort can attain that; but when it comes to exerting our whole heart and disregarding our lives, to whom should we be inferior? No one should think he’ll lose, even to the greatest warriors. Why is that? Because if you back off such a person, who will back off you?

Thus consider that you are always on duty, required to firmly apply your full attention. If you slack off, you’re useless. 

Remember such a stable and firm attitude is itself meditation practice. There is no other method of concentration to seek. Buddhism itself is about applying full attention steadily, without being disturbed by external things. Developing a confident attitude that is never pained or vexed or worried or saddened or altered or frightened is called attaining Buddhahood.

There are those who discuss the amount of rewards and size of entitlement of those who have exercised considerable military ability, put their lives on the line, ground down their bones, and become famous. They are foolish! Why not do a warrior’s deed, costly though it be, for the sake of loyalty? People who think of rewards are nothing but military merchants.

There are myriad different methods of practice, but essentially they amount to no more than overcoming thoughts of yourself. The source of suffering is ego, the thought of self. To know this is reason. Once you know the reason for suffering, your sense of duty evokes effort to extinguish the thought of self with a genuine courageous mind. Fools can’t understand the source of misery and happiness; people without a sense of duty cannot break the bonds of life and death.

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