Man on Cloud Mountain-Shodo Harada Roshi-Segment 4 of 7 (transcript)

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

[Content: mountain training, pivotal moments, enlightenment as a return to basic consciousness on a daily basis, science replacing spiritual practice ]


[Shodo Harada Roshi’s translator’s voice]


I took everything out of the monastery. I left prepared for never coming back and I headed for the mountains. And I went here and there in the mountains sitting by myself, sitting as hard as I could. Not even knowing what day it was Not even knowing how much time I was spending there. I just went and sat and sat and sat in various places in the mountains. And I remember well I was in this one place when I was between Yamaguchi prefecture and Hiroshima prefecture I was sitting on top of this one mountain. I hadn’t seen anyone for many days and suddenly someone was coming up the mountain. Of course in the mountains people are friendly to each other because there are not so many people in the mountains. I was doing zazen there and they asked if I was a person of training. And I told them yes I was and they asked how long I had been there, what I was doing.  And then they told me how lucky I was. And at these words I was so deeply struck that my whole life was again changed. They said to me we are also a people of a kind of practice we do the chanting of the Buddha’s name but we aren’t lucky like you that we can take our whole life and give it up for training. We have to work from Monday to Saturday. In our tiny time of freedom from Saturday night to Monday morning we come up on the mountain and practice our chanting of the Buddha’s name. But you are so lucky you are able to devote your whole life to training. And we are so envious of you that you are able to do that.

At that I was completely knocked out. I realized the deep meaning of what they were saying. For them it was quite straightforward and nothing in particular, but it made me realize what I had been missing. I had been doing, in my own small narrow way, exactly what I wanted to do. What they were having to do was in a social situation of having to work, having to keep their training going, having only a very small amount of time to devote to it totally And here I was already blessed to get this chance to give everything I had to training to devote myself completely to training.  And I was running away from that and cutting myself off, shutting myself up in a small narrow place in my mountain training all by myself.

And I realized right then the mistake I was making and I went right back to the monastery. I knew what I had to do now And at that moment it was like all of my burdens dropped off, as if someone had hit me on the back and everything was awakened within. I realized there was nothing I needed to do for myself in the first place. If every moment that came along I just took it as it was then there was nothing that could be a problem to me any more.

That small narrow way in which I had been looking at my enlightenment, my thing to have to do. I have to do this for myself. That is what had been bothering me all along from the very beginning. Through that day on the mountain when I realized that there was no self to be bothered with it.  I had been crushing myself and making myself miserable  worrying about this problem of my enlightenment  and realizing it for myself making my self come to a conclusion that was, in fact, found in the living of every single day. If I did nothing, if I didn’t even worry about my problems things always came to me. And those things that came to me in every single day, to accept those was my training and my way of expressing my enlightened mind. No matter what it was that came to me every day, the next thing that came, the next situation I found myself in, to live that totally as my training was what I had to do.  Not to go isolate myself up on a mountain closed off from everyone, turning them all away and worrying about my own small state of mind. That wasn’t the point at all. But to go and be what every day brought to me that was my practice and my expression of my enlightenment. And ever since I realized that my whole life has been completely different. I know there is no problem for myself because there is no one there to feel that there is a problem. Just to take what every day brings and do that with my best, total, whole hearted effort as a person of practice. That was the way to live.


Often enlightenment or kensho or satori is considered to be some kind of unusual experience or something external or some kind of special phenomenon. But it’s not like that. There may be some kind of sudden revelation or some kind of sudden perception, but its not something that is that unusual or that strange or foreign that we come upon or that comes upon us. What it is, is the ability to see without any interruption of the ego, without any filtering of the ego.  And since we are all walking around seeing things through our ego filter almost all the time, to suddenly be able to see without that filter is a surprise. But it is nothing that we have ever not had.

They say that the mind of a baby is something that we can compare this to. A baby isn’t seeing things from an egoistic place. It is seeing directly and clear. It is the exact same kind of thing when we are seeing without the ego filter. We see that there is nothing to be analyzed in it. When you are seeing a flower you are not thinking that it is red or seeing a bird you are not thinking what its name is. You are just seeing directly. When we talk about enlightenment we are talking about that mind which is perceive at every moment without  the obstruction of an egoistic filter. The experience of that mind and realizing where it is and realizing where it is coming from is what is called enlightenment or kensho or satori. It is not some kind of supernatural state of mind that we are able to enter or that comes upon us.  It is not like some kind of altered state of consciousness to think that we are trying to do this practice for some kind of narrow experience for the individual. Thinking that we are going to come upon some big experience some day. This is a very low level understanding of what this enlightenment is.

It’s a return to our basic state of consciousness which we possess all the time but are always cluttering up with extraneous views and with the ego. The ego is consistently on top of us. It is always, always there. And if we can succeed in clearing it out what we can see without it is truly surprising. And that kind of surprise, that kind of wonder, that kind of enjoyment and joyfulness is obvious and it does truly happen. The difference for that ego is a big difference. but it’s not something we come to externally.  It’s something we come to internally. We realize it by getting rid of things not by adding on an abnormal state. And once we realize this state once we recognize this we say, ah this is that mind that is without all those things.  And then to live every moment without that egoistic filter on that inner eye, that is what has to be done, that is the real goal and that is the larger part of our training practice. Once we have recognized that new way of seeing, that new eye, an inner eye, once we have encountered that then we must nurture the ability to encounter every moment of our lives from that clear pure place. To live in that is the most important part of the practice. To be able to take that clear mind which is not covered by ego, to keep that going, to live in that place all the time that is what has to be done. Until we know what it is, we can’t keep it going. So that first understanding of where that clear place is, is often what people sometimes call enlightenment or kensho or satori. But to be able to come to every moment with that state of mind that is what’s most important.

We need this clear pure mind because everyone is so far beyond knowing what to do about the terrible situation they are in. And this is true on many different fronts. For example, people used to be able to believe in God. In the olden days there was a real sense of belief in something, for children especially. And you could really take that in and find comfort and guidance and direction in it. But nowadays people who are really able to believe in God, and not go to church for some functional reason or because it looks good socially, but actually have that belief are blessed with that belief and they are very few. Instead what has come to replace that is a belief in science and technology. The worlds that are beginning our lives to a convenient place. Where everything can be produced and understood analytically and scientifically. This instead is what people are counting on and be reconfirmed by. But science and technology are filling our world with a lot of technical material riches without giving us anything spiritual. They have taken away our ability to believe in something which is not able to be seen with our five senses and replaced it with nothing more than material advantage and convenience.

[end of transcript]

Other segment transcripts available:

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