16. To you who are impressed by scientific and cultural progress

We mustn’t forget that today’s science and culture have only developed out of the lowest levels of consciousness.
**
Everybody is talking about culture, but what is it besides a refinement of our illusions?
However much we iron out our drives, from a Buddhist standpoint, it’s got nothing to do with progress or civilization.
Everyone is talking these days about progress, but I wonder in which direction we’re actually progressing.
**
Everybody is talking about culture, but what kind of culture is it really? Lewd music, erotic dancing, pornographic literature – completely barbaric.
We stir up our own illusions and then complain about today’s youth and ask, “Who’s responsible for education these days?”
Faith means clarity and purity. It means settling down.
**
Everyone is talking about art, but what is it really? Men and women glued to each other. What is it besides stimulation for our sexual desires?
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No animal is as dishonest as a human being. Humans eat their party snacks and dance in a circle; they do scientific research and drop hydrogen bombs on each other.
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When you observe insects in a tank, you see how they bite into each other and hold on with all their might. It must be amusing to observe from another corner of the universe how humans stock up on atomic and hydrogen bombs.
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Acting clever while at the same time being the biggest idiots – that’s human fate.
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People love it when things are complicated. Though things are complicated enough – even when we try to keep them as simple as possible – there are still some who make an effort to be especially complicated in everything they do.
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The modern world musters up all of its knowledge just to run down a dead end street.
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Wisdom means having a thoroughly solid faculty of judgment at your disposal.
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People were idiots in the old days too. They wasted a fortune in gold and manpower building castles. And what was it all for? To bicker with each other.
Today, people are even dumber. They build atomic and hydrogen bombs in order to erase humanity with one push of a button.
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How is it that humanity itself, unlike its science, hasn’t progressed in the least?
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The Americans are only ordinary people, the Russians are ordinary people, the Chinese too are ordinary people: ordinary people who desperately compete with other ordinary people.
No matter how much coal you pile up, it’s still just coal.
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Science can build on the results of others, so it constantly makes progress. But humans can’t build on the lives of others, so they make no progress. That’s why everywhere we look we see helpless greenhorns brandishing deadly weapons – and that’s dangerous!
**
An idiot sits at the computer, a dimwit in the cockpit of the jet and a madman at the control panel of the atomic rockets – that’s the current problem.
**
In the buddha-dharma, we can’t live on what others have left behind. The reason science progresses is that it can build on what previous generations have left behind. In the buddha-dharma, it’s just the opposite – it’s to stop wanting to feed on what others have left behind.
**
Perhaps we can save our friends with atomic and hydrogen bombs – but not our enemies. Only zazen is capable of saving friends as well as enemies.
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Everyone is worried about humanity, but it’s a matter of putting an end to what ordinary people call “humanity” and turning everyone into a buddha.
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That which serves humans only leads them down a dead end.
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People negotiate the market price of objects, but this market price isn’t something you can rely on. Things whose market value can be disputed are just practical commodities. They’re products.
Buddha isn’t a product.
**
The Chinese character for “falsehood” [itsuwari ?!] means “serving humans”. Today, we consider culture and arts to be a service to humanity.
The world of culture and arts is constantly changing. Culture doesn’t mean anything more than the further development of artifice. That’s why culture is a tragedy.
What can we rely on no matter where we go? Only on life itself – which is unlimited in all directions.
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The inventions and ideas of Europeans are just playthings which have nothing to do with life itself.
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When we carefully read Marx and Engels, we realize that the whole thing is just a matter of how we split up the loot.
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Even if the whole of humanity were communist, until each and every one of us attains true freedom, we would still have this ceaseless bickering.
As long as each of us isn’t truly free, none of us can truly enjoy peace of mind.

6. To you who think the prime minister is a really special person

Alexander the Great, Julius Cesar and Genghis Khan were just big bandits. Stalin or Hitler leave even master thieves like Ishikawa Goemon or Tenichibo in the dust. They put on a good show, but in the end it was only a question of how far they could go with their daring, just like the crook, Kunisada Chūji.
Footnote: Ishikawa Goemon (1568-1594), Ten’ichibō (first half of the 18th century), and Kunisada Chūji (1810-1850) were outlaws who lived during the Azuchi-Momoyama and Tokugawa periods in Japan. Ishikawa was a thief who, together with his gang and family, was put to death by being cooked alive in boiling water. Ten’ichibō was involved in a coup d’etat, and Kunisada was involved in various illegal activities. It is said that he helped poor farmers with the money he earned with gambling. Ten’ichibō and Kunisada were also punished with death penalty. The lives of this three gangsters provide material for many historical dramas in Japan.

What’s strange is that these gang bosses are so admired – by small-time crooks like ourselves.
Zazen goes far beyond this: when we penetrate zazen, we don’t have to steal from others anymore.
**
So you are “good”? The question is simply: good for what?
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In every age, people have been misused and misled by politicians.
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We act as if our eccentricities are what make up our true nature.
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Isn’t it clear that you’re a thief as soon as you steal someone’s property? Yet today everyone seems to believe that you aren’t guilty as long as you haven’t been caught by the police, interrogated by the inspector, convicted by the judge and finally locked up in a cell.
The same goes for corrupt politicians: as long as they can hide all evidence to the contrary, they consider themselves to be competent and successful. That shows how far group stupidity has taken us.
**
Even when the Chinese Emperor was surrounded by shrewd advisors, he always had enough “wisdom” to mislead them. This type of wisdom has nothing to do with the wisdom of the buddha-dharma.
**
You don’t have to be a Ishikawa Gozaemon to be a thief. Even somebody who’s stolen something only once, on a whim, is still a complete thief.
In the same way, Shakyamuni isn’t the only buddha. Everyone who imitates Buddha’s zazen is a complete buddha.
**
We all develop peculiar habits. The powerful, and the teachers and intellectuals who serve them, do their best to train us in these peculiarities. In this way we are tied and twisted in the most complicated ways. Religion means untying these knots.
In the end, there is only emptiness.
**
All those who rely on their political power – are they anything more than a pile of wannabe bosses?
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Everyone is trying to make themselves out to be important according to their worldly criteria. How sickening!
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What one system built, the other will destroy. What one political power accomplished, will be repealed by the next.
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The whole world is only busy trying to cover up the symptoms – and with rubbing lotion!
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When I was a child, they told me that I shouldn’t look into the eyes of the nobility, “otherwise you’ll go blind!” Terrified, I closed the shutters. Now, I’m not impressed by anyone.
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One guy sat in prison before the war,
another sat in prison during the war,
another sat in prison after the war.
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To be loyal to the orders given by whoever’s in power at the moment, a policeman has to be ready to put his life on the line in the course of duty. That’s not so easy. I couldn’t do it.
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He who seeks his true mission won’t want to pursue a career. A person who wants to become president doesn’t know where he’s going in life.
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Their election is so important to them that presidents and congressmen campaign to rally votes. Idiots! Even if they asked me to become president, I’d turn it down: “How dumb do you think I am anyway?”
**
One guy loses the presidential election, so he cries. Next time around he wins the election, and then he smiles into the camera. What makes politicians different from little children anyway? It’s exactly the same way with a crying child: you offer him some candy and already a smile breaks out on his teary face.
A little more maturity would be nice.
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Anyone who relies on his résumé is a failure.
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Ordinary people play with their status and reputation.
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Most people don’t live from their own strength. They let themselves be fed by the system.
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“He’s a great guy: he can drink two liters of wine just like that!” What’s called “good” is usually nothing special. Each clique has their own standard which they use to explain something as “good” or “not so good”.
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In the world everything’s discussed only from the standpoint of “decent” ordinary people.
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People are impressed by strange things. You only need to be a little different and the whole world is impressed.
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It’s karma that an owl can see at night. It’s karma that an otter swims quickly. It’s karma that a whale is so big. And it’s also karma that he is killed by a harpoon.
However good or bad the karma may be, it’s still only karma and nothing special. You’re clever or dumb, liked or disliked, talented or untalented – that’s all karma. And whether that makes you a minister or a beggar is also karma.
When a tomcat and a tiger have a fight, the tiger wins, but that doesn’t mean that the tiger is something special: it’s karma. That the dumb are told by the clever what they have to do and say is karma. But that doesn’t mean that the clever are better than the dumb – it’s just karma. It has nothing to do with the buddha-dharma. People are always running after their karma, but don’t let yourself be misled by karma!
If you see a pretty girl, you turn your head. If you’re offered a nice sum of money, you work like crazy. You are always being misled by little things. Not being misled by karma means doing something without being misled by time.
[footnote: i.e. Living our lives in the eternal present, without being misled by a hallucinatory past or future.] **
Some are strong like lions. Others are long, like snakes. Others can see even at night, like weasels. Some have their young stolen one after the other, until the day when someone breaks their neck, like chickens. Some are taken advantage of their whole lives long, and in the end they are slaughtered and eaten, even the bones and the skin are put to use, like cows. Others always have a place on a woman’s lap, where they’re happy, like tomcats. All of that is karma. It is neither good nor bad.
In the end a person whose karma is too good falls headfirst into hell.
**
The rat is an enthusiastic worker. That’s its karma. We don’t need to pay it any respect by saying, “I wish I were as hard-working as you.”
We don’t need to be amazed either when somebody can see better at night than others – even a tomcat can do that. It’s natural that humans can’t see so well at night.
**
That a weasel sees well at night and an otter swims quickly is their karma, it doesn’t make them special. What is considered something special in the world is usually nothing more than karma. You are clever and pass every exam? That’s only karma. It doesn’t mean that you have understood anything about life.
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The world judges by strange standards: somebody sees in the dark and he’s admired by everyone. At the same time every owl sees at night and every ostrich runs quickly.
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If you throw a kitten into a tiger’s cage, it’ll be afraid and will try to run away. But the tiger will catch it and swallow it in a single gulp.
The kitten as well as the tiger embodies our weaknesses as living beings. Only Saigyō’s silver cat has it better.
[Footnote: Saigyō received this silver cat statue as a present from the Shōgun in power at the time, then gave it away to children playing outside the castle gate] **
What could be more boring than showing off your skills? Skills are only relative: they’re not really worth anything. What lies beyond your talents, that’s what matters.
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Tokugawa Ieyasu was so unlikable and cowardly! I wouldn’t want to be like him. If Ieyasu came into fashion and everyone was like him, the world would be filled with phony bills.
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Throughout history, beginning with the one in Osaka, people built many “invincible” castles. Yet in the end they all fell with their castles. Just how stupid were they anyway?
Tokugawa Ieyasu is called a sly fox. He made his mischief with talent. But was his rule eternal? No, in the end he was also just an idiot.
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When you look at heroes, East and West, past and present, you can clearly see that the strong as well as the weak didn’t do anything besides exhaust themselves and die in the end. They all gave everything they had, wearing themselves out for an illusion and accumulating bad karma.
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All beings are blind to the dharma – and that doesn’t just go for punks and hooligans. Children who are born blind to the dharma are raised by blind parents, educated by blind teachers and misled by politicians who are blind to the dharma – how could anyone around here not be blind to the dharma.
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Once there was a great madman in the Sugamo hospital who called himself “Ashiwara Shōgun”. He hung a cardboard medal around his neck and bestowed dignified words to those he met to take with them on their way. Now that the war is over, we can see clearly that what the military did wasn’t at all different. And now they want to reintroduce medals yet again.
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After winning the Russo-Japanese war, we thought we’d won colonies. But what really came of it? After losing the Second World War, we realized that we had only earned the hatred of the Russians.
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Everyone is talking about loyalty to the fatherland. The question is simply where this loyalty will take us. I too was completely convinced when I went to war against the Russians, but after our defeat, I realized that we had done something that we shouldn’t have. In any case, it’s better not to make war in the first place.
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The life and death of many depends on whether a single Stalin is born or not. Whether a single person is born or not makes a huge difference. That’s why it is so significant that the single person, Shakyamuni, was born.
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People are good as they originally are, but unfortunately they drift off in the wrong direction. That’s because they follow bad examples.
The Buddhist school, Sōkagakkai promises you happiness, but where is this happiness supposed to come from? From earning money they say! But what does money have to do with happiness anyway? Shakyamuni renounced palace and throne to go begging as a monk.
Losing your balance because of happiness and unhappiness is what’s called “illusion”.
**
Everybody’s karma is different. What’s important is the fact that everyone is pulled forward by buddha in the same way.
Dropping off body and mind means to stop wearing yourself out, and instead to trust in buddha, to let yourself be pulled by buddha.