Man on Cloud Mountain-Shodo Harada Roshi-Segment 1 of 7 (Transcript)

[Original Title: Man on Cloud Mountain  YouTube Title: ZEN, Teaching of zen, Shodo Harada Roshi in America]

[Content: Talk on heaviness of ego, outside and inside approaches to problems, the utility of sesshin, discipline and meeting his teacher Yamada Roshi for the first time]


Introductory Text: Shodo Harada Roshi is the head Abbot of Sogenji, a Zen training monastery located in Okayama, Japan. Sogenji is one of the few multi-cultural and coeducational monasteries in Japan. Foreigners and Japanese, and both men and women all train together in the same Zendo or meditation hall. Before becoming Abbot of Sogenji in 1982, Harada Roshi trained for twenty years under Yamada Mumon Roshi, one of the great Rinzai Zen masters of the twentieth century. Each year since 1989 Harada Roshi has traveled to the U.S. to conduct a sesshin, or meditation retreat at Cloud Mountain, a Buddhist Retreat Center in Castle Rock, Washington.

Title: Man on Cloud Mountain

Text: September 1991, Seattle Washington


[Shodo Harada Roshi’s translator’s voice]

This is something which everyone understands very easily. Everyone is capable of sensing the situation in the world today. There’s no one who cannot sense that very deep despair that everyone feels. But its not a question of only fixing what is external. It is a question also of going within and taking care of the egoistic source of these external problems.

Today there are a lot of things being taken care of on the outside. There’s a lot of healthy food being eaten. There’s a lot of care being taken to preserve our health.  There is beginning to be care taken to preserve our planet.  People are coming to the consciousness that is needed to address these external social problems and that’s good. But even if those go to even greater lengths than they are going to now, if we don’t take care of the problem within ourselves its not going to work . No matter how much external work is done if what’s been happening inside is not being repaired its not going to help.  It’s not going to help  the inner problem. The inner problem is something each person has to do for themselves. That is the problem of the heaviness of the ego.

There’s no one who doesn’t feel that.  We can in these days say I want something delicious to eat and we can get it. I want to wear these clothes and we can put them on. I want to do this with my time and we can do it. That’s possible for anybody but when it comes to being uncomfortable with our egoistic heaviness who knows how to rid ourselves of that.

When we feel we are too self aware and too self conscious and living on our own small energy instead of a greater larger picture we don’t know what to do about that. And its the uncomfortability generated by these inner problems that brings about  a lot of our external problems.  And of course we can solve those external problems by getting what we want to eat or by doing something that we enjoy doing but in the end we will always return to this place within ourselves where we are uncomfortable with our own egoistic narrow self and this is true with more and more people. This is what the real problem is and for that reason we have zazen.  For that reason we have this practice that is designed to dig in and dig out that ego, to find that place where it isn’t happening,  to get rid of that filter, to cut away, shave away, dig into the deepest possible roots and to find that place where the water of clear mind is flowing freely.

We can’t do that unless each of us does it for ourselves.  It can’t be done by some kind of external aid. Each person has to do it and when people look at what we are doing here for example, doing a sesshin, they think what a narrow, rigid, difficult way of going about it. But compared to living all your life in this egoistic bind, its not the things we are doing here, sitting in this posture , living in this sesshin way of living, clearly it is a very very rigid and tight restrictive way of looking at how to live, but it’s for the purpose of going to the place where our ego isn’t directing our life, for realizing that place where that huge clear mind freely originates from.

To be able to realize that we have to cut away all of that egoistic noise, all of that external stimulation and return to that base where that huge clear liberated mind comes from.  Its for accomplishing that, that we live in this way and when we do that, when we return to this place, when we can feel our center free from having to be told what to do by that ego,  free from having to be controlled by that ego, then we can take that mind back out into our life in the outside world and we can start dealing with the external problems from the inside out rather than the outside in.  And that’s the only way that we are really going to be able to get rid of that egoistic heaviness anyway.  And it is for that reason that doing Zazen is so important.  To dig into that ego, to root it out, to dig it out at its deepest roots and for doing that we are doing Zazen and practicing in Sesshin.


When I was young I wasn’t very different from any other kid.  I had a very typical kind of childhood but there came a time when I had to face that dilemma like all children do about what I should do with my life and what it should be about. You see my father was a temple priest and it was typical then in Japan to do what your father does. Most kids willingly accepted that and went along with that but I had a great deal of resistance to the idea.  It wasn’t that I was required to be my father’s successor as head of the temple since I had an older brother, but it was more simply because I just didn’t feel like doing that. I always resisted that feeling that I was going to become a priest and taking over a temple. Instead I was going to become a psychologist and the reason I wanted to become a psychologist was because I didn’t like myself.  There were parts of myself that I really had a hard time dealing with. I couldn’t take myself the way I was . I thought the fastest way to fix that was to become a psychologist myself.  I wanted to remake those parts of myself that I felt were so contrary to what I saw in other people.  I thought becoming a person who could understand people’s inner workings was the best way of fixing myself.

Though one day my father asked me to go to my school in Kyoto a little early to do an errand for him.  Because I went early the buses were very very crowded. I had to push through this packed crowd of people to get onto the bus and all the way to the back of the bus to find a seat.  And all of a sudden as I pushed through all these people I came upon a person who looked like someone I had never seen before.  He struck me as a most unusual, a very mysterious person, and he was wearing a robe unlike any I had seen before. It was dyed a mud color like they wear in India, and he had a presence, a face that was of such a nature that it was like he was shining or brilliant.  And I was astonished by this man sitting there in the middle of this completely busy and full bus just reading a book. People were standing up and sitting down but he was completely unconcerned with any of that, but just reading a book in deep concentration…

[end of transcript]

Video Details

Created by Michael Yeager
Translation by Priscilla Storandt
Music by Jon Grossman

KnowledgePath Video
P.O. Box 94, Issaquah, WA 98027

Other segment transcripts available:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7