Suzuki Shunryū Rōshi and Striving

Now, as for striving and Sōtō Zen - I bet you've it said heard before - Sōtō Zen is about no-gaining mind. And sometimes those who make this one-chopstick assertion cite the Heart Sutra's "no attainment." And yet, the Heart Sutra also teaches "no eyes" - does that suggest that vision isn't an aspect of the Sōtō Way?

In their mistaken adventure to portray Sōtō Zen as they do, Suzuki Rōshi is often quoted. It turns out, though, that Suzuki Rōshi's perspective on striving and no-gaining mind was not one dimensional.

This is much like his attitude toward kōan: "We don't know how much our understanding is limited. That is why you have to study kōans. Kōans will open up your mind" (August 24, 1967). For more on this, click here.

As for striving mind, below you'll find an excerpt from a recording from Tassajara, September 10, 1968. It was among a bunch of tapes that were recently discovered. In this passage, Suzuki Rōshi strongly emphasizes striving (gaining) mind. The context for this is an exchange with Trudy Dixon, who was editing the transcripts for Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. She had been diagnosed with the cancer that killed her the following year at the age of 30.

Suzuki Roshi says:

"Dharma is the thing to which every one of us has been striving for and will strive for.... It is not only you, but all the [ancestors] and sages have been striving for it, and you are one of them. And you should [feel pity] for the people who do not strive for it, who don't have a good chance to realize the necessity of striving for it.

"To realize the necessity of striving for it is the point to which we are making our best effort. There's no other point to strive for. Since you have realized the necessity of striving for it, you are already one of the [ancestors] and you gained that state.

"Don't think Buddha and [ancestors] were quite free from birth and death. They are still striving for it in the name of various sentient beings. It is most valuable thing that you realized the necessity of striving for it." (29:14)

There you have it. Keep it well.

Note: Thanks to Kyoko Henkel Sensei for sharing this!