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HomeZenAssume The Unthinkable: Awakening the Archive, Tape 20

Assume The Unthinkable: Awakening the Archive, Tape 20

To take heed to this speak, “Assume The Unthinkable,” see the Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive the place it’s listed on the suitable aspect.

This speak was given by Suzuki Roshi at Tassajara on December 4, 1967.


Shunryu Suzuki at Tassajara 1969

Portrait of Shunryu Suzuki at Tassajara, 1969. Picture by Rowena Pattee Kryder.

This speak comes from the center of the second sesshin at Tassajara, in December 1967. In contrast to the intense warmth of the summer time sesshin, college students would have been grappling with lengthy hours of sitting within the chilly, because the zendo didn’t get any direct solar within the winter. Not all of the talks from the week can be found – if Suzuki Roshi was lecturing twice a day, which he usually did in sesshin, we’re lacking one speak from the second day, and each talks from the third. This speak, from the fourth day, had someway been ignored, regardless of being on the identical reel as the prevailing speak from the second day.

Throughout the week, Suzuki Roshi had two overlapping themes. For the primary time, he turned his consideration to “Fukanzazengi,” one in every of Dogen’s earliest texts, during which he units out not simply the tactic for sitting zazen, however its worth and pivotal function in Buddhism. A number of talks embody Suzuki Roshi studying and commenting on passages of the interpretation by Reiho Masunaga.

Alongside this, he was speaking in regards to the hara, or tanden, as some extent of focus throughout zazen, in a manner that he didn’t do in another lectures; maybe he felt {that a} monastic sesshin was the one acceptable time to be educating about this, at the same time as he particulars how power within the hara is ” crucial apply for oriental arts even” (6:53).

This focus permits the coed to develop stability and inward energy, which, mixed with the highly effective silence of sesshin, creates the potential for understanding that all the pieces is a part of one’s personal thoughts: “To review one thing is to seek out out what you may have discovered earlier than. To listen to one thing is to listen to what you may have studied. And on this manner your thoughts at all times develop itself by itself. Nothing from outdoors comes into your thoughts. All of the exercise is the self-activity of your individual thoughts.” (10:16)

Having established this context, Suzuki Roshi guides his college students by the koan on the coronary heart of the “Fukanzazengi,” on this translation rendered as “Assume the unthinkable. How do you suppose the unthinkable? Assume past pondering and unthinking.”

He suggests “often if you suppose, you consider one thing. However pondering thoughts—in case your pondering thoughts directed reverse manner, that’s to suppose unthinkable. Your thoughts continues to be clear, however there is no such thing as a object.” (37:47). He follows Dogen’s instance, first by making a really concrete analogy to permit the thoughts to know what is difficult to know. The solar is at all times simply shining, he says, but when an object seems, the solar will probably be shining on that. Then he additionally makes use of one in every of Dogen’s typical strategies, turning what seems to be a query into a press release, as he suggests Dogen himself is doing by asking “how do you suppose the unthinkable.” “How is the way in which,” Suzuki Roshi insists, earlier than happening to conclude “unthinkable pondering is how.”

The invitation to his college students, in the midst of this week of intensive sitting, is identical as Dogen’s exhortation in his writings: don’t think about you may grasp one reply and be glad with it; examine additional.


  • To view all the talks which have at the moment been launched and to study extra about this challenge, see the Suzuki Roshi Audio Archive.
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