Suzuki can be compared to Bodhidharma. He planted the seeds in the West, and Zen became, in the Western climate and mind, a new fashion. Suzuki was very much disturbed by it. He was not introducing a new fashion, he was introducing a new revolution and a new style of being. But the West understands things only in that way – every two or three years a new fashion is needed; people become bored with the old.
And Suzuki was received with joy, because he had brought something which no Christian or Jew was even able to comprehend. He attracted many people of the new generation; a few of them remained true to the master to the very end. Many traveled to Japan just because of Suzuki. Hundreds of Zen classics were translated in Western languages because of Suzuki. Now it is possible to talk about Zen and still be understood, and the whole credit goes to a single man, Shunryo Suzuki.
It has never to be forgotten that words don’t exist without context. If you forget the context, whatever you will understand is going to be wrong. If you understand the context, it is impossible to misunderstand.
Berkowitz was crossing Washington Avenue on Miami Beach when he was hit by a passing auto. Several passersby picked him up and laid him down on a bench. A kindly, silver-haired lady approached the injured man and asked, “Are you comfortable?”
“Ehhh! I make a living,” sighed Berkowitz.
In the Jewish context he could not understand the word comfortable in any other sense than in the sense of making a good living. He said, “Yes.” He has the accident, but he cannot understand the word comfortable in the present context of accident. Perhaps he may be dying, perhaps he is badly hurt, but his context remains as his old mind which thinks only of money, earning.
This has to be remembered while you are studying Zen – the differences of context.
It is said: To arrive at the truth, the German adds, the Frenchman subtracts, and the Englishman changes the subject!
I have heard…
You can always tell a man’s nationality by introducing him to a beautiful woman. An Englishman shakes her hand, a Frenchman kisses her hand, an American asks her for a date, and a Russian wires Moscow for instructions!
Can you please say something about the difference between the spiritual question, “Who am I?” and the psychological trauma of “Who am I?”?
It is exactly the difference I was just talking about – the difference between the ego and the self.