D. T. Suzuki: The Supreme Spiritual Ideal

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.

— Alan Watts, “The 'Mind-less' Scholar”

from Masao Abe (Editor)
A Zen Life : D.T. Suzuki Remembered
Weatherhill, New York & Tokyo (1986), page 191

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