Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dharma talk - What is “kind speech?"

Today i had the honor of attending (at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center) a talk by Rev. Juukou Nakano, Sotoshu Specially Dispatched Teacher,
Head Priest of Chorakuji Temple, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, who is currently touring zen centers in the US - Domo arigato gozaimashita! This post contains an excellent message from Head Priest of the Sotoshu, Omichi Kosen Zenji.

The following is from materials that were handed out.


Rev. Juko Nakano -

This will be my first trip to the United States as a Sotoshu Specially Dispatched Teacher. I know that in many different respects the United States is different from Japan: lifestyle habits, culture, traditions, and so forth. Even though there are these differences, it’s great to hear that the Sotoshu teaching has spread widely throughout the United States.

At the beginning of the Sotoshu sutra “The Meaning of Practice and Enlightenment”, there are the words, “The most important issue of all for Buddhists is the thorough clarification of the meaning of birth and death. If the buddha is within birth and death, there is no birth and death.”

In Zen, we say that life and death are one. Our peace of mind must be this way of living Zen and endeavoring at it every day.
This year in August, I had a zendo built on the grounds of Chorakuji. It has been 142 years since the last zendo existed here. It is a place to practice zazen with 32 tan. I have vowed that this facility must be the cornerstone, the heart and soul, for the temple members and local people.

Let’s find a balance between body and mind.
Let’s refresh body and mind.
Let’s maintain body and mind.

Adjust the posture, adjust the breath, and put the mind in order. A calm place to sit within the busyness we experience every day. Let’s sit again with a quiet mind. A moment of ease in our daily life. First, with our realigned sitting posture, let’s correct our everyday life and then begin to do what needs to be done. Through zazen, let’s approach our community life positively, opening up the temple widely, cherishing the various connections we have with people. By taking advantage of this place of rejuvenation, let’s create these bonds that are the pillar of spiritual life.

I have my shortcomings as a teacher, but I would like to work toward being a better teacher, by using the power I’ve cultivated in everyday life until now and by being in accord with the words of the Head Priest.


A Message from the Head Priest of Sotoshu, Omichi Kosen Zenji - An Official Notice Regarding Teaching Activities in 2010:

We are now directly encountering many problems of life including the matter of global climate change as well as other disasters, wars, discrimination, poverty, and suicide. Each of these problems is deeply connected with the three themes that Sotoshu focuses on: respect for human rights, the establishment of peace, and conservation of the environment.

Keizan Zenji taught,
“Always dwell in the mind of Infinite Compassion, and dedicate the boundless merits of zazen to all sentient beings.”
Let us harmonize posture, breath and mind every day, feeling the warm presence of Buddhas and family ancestors. Then we can live a deeply compassionate life, recognizing the preciousness of our own lives, each of which is mutually supported and deeply bound together.

While mutually valuing the other person - standing in their shoes and experiencing their suffering - thinking, then acting - let us take the initiative in practicing generosity, kind speech, beneficial actions, and sympathetic-identification so that an ideal society where we live together in peace can be realized.

Dogen Zenji taught,
“While we are living our present life, we should happily practice kind speech.”
“Kind speech” means the words uttered from our kind and loving heart, wishing that all people may live a happy life and enjoy a peaceful state of mind. It is said that this practice of kind speech fully contains the practice of generosity, beneficial action and sympathetic cooperation within itself. So for this year again we focus on “kind speech” as a pillar of our practice.

Kind speech is the conduct of the bodhisattva who, whether he or she is experiencing joy or sorrow in life, always cares about and supports others and leads them to the Buddha Way.

To recite “Namu Shakyamuni Butsu" (Homage to Shakyamuni Buddha) is the foundation of kind speech.

Let us set an example of practicing generosity, kind speech, beneficial action and sympathetic cooperation. May we realize an ideal society where people live harmoniously, recognizing their shared suffering, thinking and acting with empathy toward others.


Head Priest of the Sotoshu, Omichi Kosen Zenji

What is “kind speech?"

“Kind speech” refers to words or actions that come out of a caring heart, and the basis of a caring heart is the loving-kindness of a bodhisattva toward sentient beings. When we are calm and peaceful, we are able to understand others well and with empathy. The words (actions) emanated from that state flow forth sometimes strict, sometimes gentle and compassionate.

Snippets edited from Wikipedia resources:


Sōtō Zen (Ch. Caodong), or the Sōtō school (Sotoshū) is (with Rinzai and Ōbaku), one of three sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism.

The Sōtō sect was first established as the Caodong sect during the Tang Dynasty in China by Dongshan Liangjie in the 9th century, which Dogen Zenji then brought to Japan in the 13th century. Dogen is remembered today as the co-patriarch of Sōtō Zen in Japan along with Keizan Jōkin. One of the signature features of this school is found in its practice of Shikantaza, a particular approach to zazen which is sometimes referred to as "just sitting" or "silent illumination."


Shikantaza is a Japanese term for zazen introduced by Rujing and associated most with the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, but which also is "the base of all Zen disciplines." According to Dōgen Zenji, shikantaza i.e. resting in a state of brightly alert attention that is free of thoughts, directed to no object, and attached to no particular content—is the highest or purest form of Zazen, zazen as it was practiced by all the buddhas of the past.

"Zazen" - calligraphy handed out by Rev. Nakano at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center on October 23, 2010


Zazen is at the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, "opening the hand of thought." Once the mind is able to be unhindered by its many layers, one will then be able to realize one's true Buddha nature. In Zen Buddhism, zazen (literally "seated meditation") is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind and experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment.

For more about Zen & Buddhism visit the page "Master of the Shakuhachi"

Sonoma Mountain Zen Center was formed by Jakusho Kwong-roshi in 1973 to continue the Soto Zen lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi and to make everyday Zen available to people in Sonoma County. We are situated on 80 acres of rolling hills and mountainous land, located 11 miles from the town of Santa Rosa. Our sangha consists of a small residence and a larger membership that joins us in Zen practice from the local area, as well as other parts of the United States and Europe.

Links --

SOTOZEN-NET official site (english)
A Message from the Head Priest of Sotoshu
Dogen Zenji
Keizan Zenji
Zen Buddhism
Sōtō Zen

see also:

Workshop at the Zen Center with Issho Fujita

Master of the Shakuhachi
& about Zen & Buddhism

SMZC Mandala Bazaar

Dharma Wheel artwork & About Dharma

"juko nakano"

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