Thinking about D T Suzuki

“The rocks are where they are- and this is their will. The rivers flow- and this is their will. The birds fly- this is their will. Human beings talk- this is their will. The seasons change, heaven sends down rain or snow, the earth occasionally shakes, the waves roll, the stars shine- each of them follows its own will. To be is to will and so is to become.”

An anecdote from Alan Watts’, “The ‘Mind-less’ Scholar”

I remember D. T. Suzuki’s address to the final meeting of the 1936 World Congress of Faiths at the old Queen’s Hall in London. The theme was “The Supreme Spiritual Ideal,” and after several speakers had delivered themselves of volumes of hot air, Suzuki’s turn came to take the platform. “When I was first asked,” he said, “to talk about the Supreme Spiritual Ideal, I did not exactly know what to answer.

Firstly, I am just a simple-minded countryman from a far away corner of the world suddenly thrust into the midst of this hustling city of London, and I am bewildered and my mind refuses to work in the same way that it does when I am in my own land.

Secondly, how can a humble person like myself talk about such a grand thing as the Supreme Spiritual Ideal?… Really I do not know what Spiritual is, what Ideal is, and what Supreme Spiritual Ideal is.”

Whereupon he devoted the rest of his speech to a description of his house and garden in Japan, contrasting it with the life of a great city. This from the translator of the Lankavatara Sutra! And the audience gave him a standing ovation.

D.T.  Suzuki by K T Sato: “Suzuki has been called many things by many people: the greatest Zen man in the world, a great Buddhist philosopher, a brilliant religious thinker, an eminent speaker on Eastern philosophy and so forth. For me, however, none of these epithets truly describe him. They just reveal how he appeared to his audience, each title standing for a part of what he was. D. T. Suzuki was a human being without a title. His radiant personality, ever present to me even now, was firmly rooted in his own self as a human being. He was quite simply himself, nothing more and nothing less.”

D T Suzuki said: “Not to be bound by rules, but to be creating one’s own rules — this is the kind of life which Zen is trying to have us live.”


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