Man on Cloud Mountain-Shodo Harada Roshi-Segment 6 of 7 (transcript)

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

[Content: breathing and concentration in zazen, the problems of humanity, the death of Yamada Mumon Roshi and his legacy]


[Shodo Harada Roshi’s translator’s voice]

I was there energetically but I wasn’t heavy any more. What had happened to me on the mountain had turned my life around and had changed me in that time. Just because we sit in zazen doesn’t mean that our mind will naturally, because of that, become clear and empty of any egoistic filter. But by beginning in that way we can come to this place where we are able to think of others more than ourselves. Human beings in general are always centered on what their own needs are, what is good for them what is best for them and have very little time to consider what is better for other people. Because of this we have people all the time struggling and bumping into other people’s wishes. And feeling that what they want is more important than what someone else wants. In fact the time when the Zen teaching has been the most popular is the time when there has been the most struggle among human beings.

Only with this kind of practice can the mind become wide and expansive beyond what the ego wants all the time. Our minds no matter how hard we try not to be, no matter how hard we try to control them,  our minds are continually bombarded by egoistic wishes, by egoistic expressions by egoistic things that just come out of nowhere. Therefore, along with the breathing and the posture we have to practice the concentration which comes with the exhalation. As we exhale to that very final point we count a number. Always with the breath in your tanden, breathing out the final most possible point in your breath, never letting go of your concentration, keeping always focused on that no matter how many different thoughts come in. Letting go of them not worrying about them not giving attention to them. But just focusing on that breath. And if you do that over and over again, keeping the top of your body relaxed, keeping yourself solid so that your breath can come out without a lot of motion that’s distracting you. Keeping your breath always coming out to that very last point from your abdomen.

If you breath from a high place, if you breath up here only, then it tends to make it even more emotional. And being ruled by emotions and your ego is not the point. You are trying to go in the opposite direction from that. So keeping your breath low is very important. If you can develop that breath by doing it over and over and over not just on the cushion but in all places of your life you come to a state of mind where your mind is truly wide and open.  And when you come to this open state of mind because you have become clear and serene within yourself, in this kind of sitting, you reach the point where the breath goes on for a long time and you’ve come to that place where the egoistic noise is quieted.

Those egoistic noises don’t ever go away but we don’t pay attention to them any more. And when you keep focusing on your breath and not paying attention to them what comes is this huge expansive state of mind that was there from the very beginning. And so you are able to live. The more you practice the more easily it comes. You come to it, this state of mind and by living in this state of mind you are able to let go of that small minded view of what’s best for you and think what does this person need what does this situation want, what is the most appropriate way to behave right now, what can I do for this not what can this do for me, and how can I be helped by this situation rather what can I do to help others in this situation. It comes naturally in that case and this is just exactly what this world needs right now. This world is so scrambled up like other times in history because everyone is just flaunting their desires, flaunting their egoistic ways of thinking about things saying what they want to say about anything that their opinions are strong about and discussing that instead of letting go of all that and just becoming that huge wide mind that embraces everyone and allows them to do what they need to do, allows them to  get what they need. Letting go of your own needs, knowing that those things aren’t what is so important. Not because you are trying, or think you have to. Because when your egoistic clutter is dissipated there is no longer a need to defend and go for that stuff any more. You can let go into the huge mind that is there for everyone.

Many people may wonder how just sitting there and doing this kind of counting how that is going to get you to this place where you can get rid of this ego which is so strong and is always numbing your real feelings and your larger mind. But in fact if you just sit, become a fool to it, repeat it, go on with it, continue, it is guaranteed that breathing from the tanden, exhaling as long as you can and inhaling naturally will get you to that place where that mind is wide and expansive. And if you can get to that place then living your everyday life will be full of that kind of energy and that kind of width and breadth And in fact the energy in that width and breadth comes from that kind of breathing. People say it is foolish just sitting down like that but it isn’t a matter of doing it because someone is telling you to. Sitting in this posture and doing this kind of aligning of your breath and mind wouldn’t have been done for this many centuries if it didn’t really get you to a place that is this important. So it may seem like a small thing and people may decide not to practice because they don’t believe in it.  But you just have to become a fool in this practice and just go on with it continuously and repetitively and without allowing any gaps. And if you do it in this way then the huge mind comes of its own and if you sit in this way and then you come to this place and you naturally want to share it with other people. And if other people can see this and understand that it is possible to realize their true nature in this way then they are going to want to develop this kind of mind too. And in that way you are passing it around just by becoming it

You may ask what good is this small clear state of mind for solving the problems of humanity if we are only one mind in many.  But what other way is there to do it?  If one person becomes clear and the things that are usually confused and complicated in the outside world can be seen by them in their clearest way, then that way of seeing things is passed on to everyone around them. And the world begins to become easier to deal with and clearer for everybody who can stay in this widened mind. And that passes around to others. And in this way the purpose of zazen, this focused practice is to bring all of us to this more peaceful and centered way of living and seeing the world.


We believe we should live like those who have come before us. But to be concerned with possessions and money is not the way it has to be done. When my teacher Yamada Mumon Roshi moved from the monastery in Kobe, where he had lived for some twenty years, to become abbot in Kyoto he just one day got up and left carrying only one thing, his wrapping cloth holding only his diary, leaving everything else behind. All the things he had gathered and accumulated for 27 years. Most people usually clean up and organize around themselves in apprehension of death. Mumon Roshi had no attachment to that or the idea of doing that. When he died never even having a cold for over 27 years, in the 5 days before his death he just became a little weaker. He left as someone taking off their clothes smoothly passing on. There are things which Mumon Roshi in his physical life couldn’t completely finish and I have taken them on for him. Or more than that. Though Mumon Roshi’s physical life ended with his physical body, that true life energy keeps going and I am simply continuing the expression of that in the way that Mumon Roshi gave light to. When someone is as deeply enlightened or touches the true source as directly as Mumon Roshi did, there will always be someone around who is deeply impressed by that person’s state of mind. And when that person who is moved and impressed and keeps that going, then people around them are again moved and full of wonder at that. And that’s how that keeps working. It is because the deep enlightenment of the Buddha or the deep understanding and love and compassion of Christ were like that, that people have been impressed and felt that deeply and kept…

[end of transcript]

Other segment transcripts available:

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