I recently had occasion to reread the lecture “Breathing” in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”. Out of curiosity, I then looked for a transcript of the lecture in the Shunryu Suzuki archives set up by David Chadwick.
There are differences between the two versions. Here are the last three sentences from “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”:
So when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated on your breathing. This kind of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being. Without this experience, this practice, it is impossible to attain absolute freedom.
(“Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”, edited by Trudy Dixon, Weatherhill 1971 p 27)
Here are the same sentences from the transcript, with the differences highlighted:
So, when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated in your breathing and this kind of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being. If so, how you should use your mind is quite clear. Without this experience, or this practice, it is impossible to attain the absolute freedom.
(“Thursday Morning Lectures”, November 4th 1965, Los Altos; emphasis added)
The transcript is annotated, “(Not Verbatim) Los Altos box title: Swinging Door”.
There’s a sentence that’s omitted in the “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” version: “if so, how you should use your mind is quite clear”. The transcript may not be verbatim, but I would guess that Suzuki did say something along these lines.
There’s a particular transition in zazen that I believe Suzuki was referring to. Here’s a description I made of that transition:
The presence of mind can utilize the location of attention to maintain the balance of the body and coordinate activity in the movement of breath, without a particularly conscious effort to do so. There can also come a moment when the movement of breath necessitates the placement of attention at a certain location in the body, or at a series of locations, with the ability to remain awake as the location of attention shifts retained through the exercise of presence.
The mind is “concentrated in the breathing” when the movement of breath necessitates the placement of attention. If the presence of mind continues the placement of attention by the movement of breath, then the role of the mind is clear–that’s the way I read the transcript.
Suzuki ended his lecture by asserting that “without this experience, or this practice, it is impossible to attain the absolute freedom”. Gautama the Buddha also mentioned freedom, in the context of “the ceasing of action”:
And what… is the ceasing of action? That ceasing of action by body, speech, and mind, by which one contacts freedom,–that is called ‘the ceasing of action’.
(SN IV 145, Pali Text Society IV pg 85)
The action that could be expected to cease was a particular kind of action, the action of “determinate thought”:
… I say that determinate thought is action. When one determines, one acts by deed, word, or thought.
(AN III 415, Pali Text Society Vol III pg 294)
I wrote about the “ceasing of action” in a recent post:
A central theme of Gautama’s teaching was the cessation of “determinate thought” in action, meaning the cessation of the exercise of will or volition in action. A cessation of the exercise of will could be attained, said Gautama, through the induction of various successive states of concentration. As to the initial induction of concentration, Gautama declared that “making self-surrender the object of thought, one lays hold of concentration, one lays hold of one-pointedness of mind”.
I begin with making the surrender of volition in activity related to the movement of breath the object of thought. For me, that necessitates thought applied and sustained with regard to relaxation of the activity of the body, with regard to the exercise of calm in the stretch of ligaments, with regard to the detachment of mind, and with regard to the presence of mind. I find that a presence of mind from one breath to the next can precipitate “one-pointedness of mind”, but laying hold of “one-pointedness of mind” requires a surrender of willful activity in the body much like falling asleep.
When the location of attention can shift anywhere in the body as a function of the movement of breath, and the activity of the body in inhalation and exhalation follows solely from the location of attention, there is a feeling of freedom.
I am more grateful than ever to David Chadwick for his efforts to preserve and make public the historical records of Shunryu Suzuki and his teaching.