The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

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  • Stephanie

    The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    ...as I understand it is to let go of goals and experience acceptance of all passing conditions. Striving for kensho and special experiences, and striving to change or improve the self, seem to be the antitheses of a shikantaza-based practice.

    I can understand this philosophically and experientially, yet something also feels "wrong" about it to me. I find myself wondering, "What would a world in which people did not strive to change things for the better be like?" I find the practice of shikantaza extremely valuable, yet as a religiously minded person, I find I have to go somewhere outside of this school for other spiritual resources, as it is an entirely un-inspiring religion when it comes to social change and visions for a better world.

    The one thing this school really seems to offer--the possibility of living a more peaceful life--leaves me a bit cold, and almost seems immoral to me at times; I think, "Shouldn't people feel driven to change their lives and change the world for the better? Shouldn't people not be at peace with the current state of the world? Shouldn't people plugged into Truth see that there's something wrong with this world and feel driven to work for a better, more just world?" Wouldn't a true person want to do more than just passively "desist from evil," but also want to actively realize Good? And in our modern world, couldn't we say that a life of quiet acceptance of "everyday life" is a form of evil, that in its passivity allows the world's evils to go on unchallenged? We cannot say any more that a person ceases from actively accomplishing evil by simply being a nice person who does not actively seek to harm others; given that most of us buy products or enjoy benefits from enterprises that are harmful and destructive, it seems our very existence is a sort of evil if we do not take up the call to do something more than just get by...

    In 1967, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal."

    What do you all think?
  • Eika
    Member
    • Sep 2007
    • 806

    #2
    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Stephanie wrote:
    Wouldn't a true person want to do more than just passively "desist from evil," but also want to actively realize Good? And in our modern world, couldn't we say that a life of quiet acceptance of "everyday life" is a form of evil, that in its passivity allows the world's evils to go on unchallenged? We cannot say any more that a person ceases from actively accomplishing evil by simply being a nice person who does not actively seek to harm others; given that most of us buy products or enjoy benefits from enterprises that are harmful and destructive, it seems our very existence is a sort of evil if we do not take up the call to do something more than just get by...
    That is why Zen is more than just zazen.

    1. I will refrain from killing.

    2. I will refrain from stealing.

    3. I will refrain from abusing sexuality.

    4. I will refrain from speaking untruthfully.

    5. I will refrain from encouraging, delusion in myself and others.

    6. I will refrain from malicious speech.

    7. I will refrain from being proud of myself and belittling others.

    8. I will refrain from holding back in giving either Dharma or wealth.

    9. I will refrain from indulging in anger.

    10. I will refrain from defaming the Three Treasures.

    I. Do no evil.
    II. Do good.
    III. Do good for others.

    What is outside of this that could help the world?

    Gassho,
    Bill
    [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

    Comment

    • will
      Member
      • Jun 2007
      • 2331

      #3
      Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

      To save all sentient beings though beings are numberless.

      May all beings be happy
      May they be peaceful
      May they be free

      This caretaking practice is dedicated to all beings
      ---------------------------

      Zazen is not ignorance or bliss. It is Buddha. When you actualize Zazen in a balanced state, you actualize Buddha.

      When you attach to ideas of good and bad, cold and bliss, you miss the point. Keep sitting I guess.

      We, we, we. How about you just look at you for now.

      All of the thousands of Teachers who have taught thousands or millions of beings to live peacefully and balanced in this world is passive?

      All of the teachers who have travelled around the world to spread the teachings is passive?

      All the Karma that has been reversed by this practice is passive?

      Sure we can change the world, but the world also includes your balance, compassion, joy and the way you relate to others in this world.

      This idea that existence is evil by default is just something that you are thinking too much about. It seems to me.

      When we are balanced and open we can do something that needs to be done. We can do it fully, mindfully and awake.

      I'm sure there are many Zen practicioners who have done honourable things in helping others and changing the situation of this world (even if only a small part).

      Don't fit everything into a narrow category please.

      Gassho Will
      [size=85:z6oilzbt]
      To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
      To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
      To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
      To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
      [/size:z6oilzbt]

      Comment

      • Charles
        Member
        • Feb 2008
        • 95

        #4
        Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

        Originally posted by Stephanie
        The one thing this school really seems to offer--the possibility of living a more peaceful life--leaves me a bit cold, and almost seems immoral to me at times; I think, "Shouldn't people feel driven to change their lives and change the world for the better? Shouldn't people not be at peace with the current state of the world? Shouldn't people plugged into Truth see that there's something wrong with this world and feel driven to work for a better, more just world?"
        I think that feeling driven and not being at peace aren't prerequisites for working to relieve suffering.

        To put it another way: we aren't morally obligated to feel anything, only to act. I'm not required to feel horrible in order to help people who feel horrible; and, in my experience, I'm more effective in action when I don't feel horrible. If anything, I owe it to other people to hold myself together -- to resist depression and anguish -- so that I can be useful.

        As a practical example, I've given a lot of emotional support to someone close to me this year, someone who's suffering from depression and who's having a hard time mustering the energy to keep going. I've been able to do this only because I'm not suffering in the same ways.

        Originally posted by Stephanie
        "Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal."
        I think I don't need to believe anything about anyone burning anywhere in order to speak out. But as far as I can tell, this practice doesn't demand that we remain silent.

        --Charles

        Comment

        • Chris H
          Member
          • Feb 2008
          • 41

          #5
          Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

          I found a passage in Uchiyama Roshi's Opening the Hand of Thought that speaks to your questions. I've had some of the same concerns as you Stephanie.

          The mother takes care of her child, but in doing so, she's not sacrificing herself; on the contrary, with a nurturing love she looks after the child as her own life. The Lotus Sutra says, "The three worlds are my possessions, and all sentient beings therein are my children." This is the fundamental spirit of Buddhism, and the source of this spirit is nothing other than settling in the zazen that precedes all distinctions.

          In other words, for the person who sits zazen, vow is nothing other than the practitioner's own life; so we see all encounters—with things, situations, people, society—as nothing but our own life and we function solely with the spirit of looking after our own life. Therefore, like the mother's caring for her child, we aim to function unconditionally and tirelessly and, moreover, to do so without expecting any reward.

          It is not to profit personally or become famous that we take good care of things, devote ourselves to our work, love those whom we encounter, or demonstrate our concern for social problems. I take care of my own life—I take care of the world as my own life—moment by moment, and in each situation I enable the flower of my life to bloom, working solely that the light of buddha may shine.
          This is essentially what Alberto eloquently stated in the "Tying Up" thread.

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39065

            #6
            Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

            Hi Steph,

            First, thank you Bill & Will for citing the Precepts, the Four Vows. That is at the heart of our Practice, right with Zazen. Thank you Charles and Chris for wise perspectives too.

            Steph, I think you still mischaracterize a lot of stuff! You do not need to see our teachings in the narrow way you say. I have told you that before. :wink:

            There is absolutely nothing about our practice that stops us from changing the world, leading a revolution if we want. Certainly, our "acceptance" of the world is anything but "complacency". We are free to feed the hungry, comfort the needy, protest a war, find a cure for a disease ... and we are free to do none of those things. But the Precepts, and our view of the inter-connectness of all beings, would certainly push us down the former path of charity and compassion. I consider the Buddha to have been a revolutionary, as much as Che' or MLK!

            And as to finding inspiration and spiritual meaning ... we believe that you need to look inside yourself, and all around the very place where you are standing ... maybe as much or more than you need to look to the sky for inspiration. If you are uninspired, perhaps you are not seeing what is right in front of your eyes. That is our view.

            Bottom line: How you choose to act (or not act), how you choose to see life: Largely up to you.

            Gassho, Jundo
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Ryumon
              Member
              • Apr 2007
              • 1689

              #7
              Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

              I don't see what any sort of practice - call it what you like; religious, spiritual, mental, psychological - has to do with helping others. While such a practice may enable you to see the world more clearly and understand what goes on - including suffering - there's nothing in the package of that practice that includes a "save the world" attitude. The precepts may tell you that, but the precepts are not sitting, they are an additional part of the worldview you adopt (or not) when doing this practice.

              Kirk
              ---
              Ryūmon (Kirk)
              流文

              SAT/LAH

              I know nothing.

              Comment

              • Jundo
                Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                • Apr 2006
                • 39065

                #8
                Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                Originally posted by kirkmc
                I don't see what any sort of practice - call it what you like; religious, spiritual, mental, psychological - has to do with helping others. While such a practice may enable you to see the world more clearly and understand what goes on - including suffering - there's nothing in the package of that practice that includes a "save the world" attitude. The precepts may tell you that, but the precepts are not sitting, they are an additional part of the worldview you adopt (or not) when doing this practice.

                Kirk
                Hi Kirk,

                I rather disagree with some of that.

                Whether you decide to help others or not, or "save the world" or not, is up to you. However, if you decide that helping others is part of the package, then it just is ... and then your Practice includes helping others. What is more, a Practice focused only on yourself is a poorer Practice, I think.

                I also think that the Precepts are sitting itself, and are as important to our Practice as sitting. It is a mistake to take the sitting without the Precepts. You can, but it is a little dangerous ... like running a bank without limits and ethical guidelines, very risky.

                Gassho, Jundo
                ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                Comment

                • Shui_Di
                  Member
                  • Apr 2008
                  • 210

                  #9
                  Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                  Hi Kirk...

                  I think precept is not something like a national law, and you will be punished if you don't do it.
                  I think the precept is just the nature of a human being. Even a tiger know how to love her child, not to do harm to her child, but to be helpful to her child, without learning in "tiger school". it's just its nature.

                  Human being also the same, the precept is not something that we should do, but something that we will do "naturally" when we see "the real dragon" (I got the word "real dragon" from Fukan-Zazengi).

                  So, precept is Zazen, and Zazen is precept.

                  And about "saving the world", ... I think if we can do the precept, we have saved the world. Even in the smallest act, if we try our best not to do harm, being healthful and helpful, we have saved the world (of course not whole of the world, but you know 1000 steps started from 1 step).

                  And I think if Jundo didn't want to save the world, then there will be no Treeleaf now :P

                  Gassho, Shui Di
                  Practicing the Way means letting all things be what they are in their Self-nature. - Master Dogen.

                  Comment

                  • Ryumon
                    Member
                    • Apr 2007
                    • 1689

                    #10
                    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                    My point is that you don't need to sit to abide by the precepts, and you don't need to abide by the precepts to sit. Traditionally, in zen, they go together, but there's no inherent reason why they should.

                    Kirk
                    ---
                    Ryūmon (Kirk)
                    流文

                    SAT/LAH

                    I know nothing.

                    Comment

                    • Eika
                      Member
                      • Sep 2007
                      • 806

                      #11
                      Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                      Originally posted by kirkmc
                      My point is that you don't need to sit to abide by the precepts, and you don't need to abide by the precepts to sit. Traditionally, in zen, they go together, but there's no inherent reason why they should.

                      Kirk
                      Except that to call it "Zen" they need to be together. Otherwise, it is shikantaza, that is, a particular practice, devoid of all moral/ethical/philosophical trappings. There is a reason we call Zen Zen and shikantaza shikantaza. One is a portion of the other, not the entirety.

                      Bill
                      [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

                      Comment

                      • Dainin
                        Member
                        • Sep 2007
                        • 351

                        #12
                        Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                        Deleted

                        Comment

                        • chicanobudista
                          Member
                          • Mar 2008
                          • 864

                          #13
                          Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                          Originally posted by Keith
                          Originally posted by Jundo
                          I consider the Buddha to have been a revolutionary, as much as Che' or MLK!
                          Please don't mention Che and MLK in the same sentence. They were very different; and Che was not what some have made him out to be.
                          Though I may disagree with your take on Che, I do agree that MLK and Ernesto Guevara come from different political perspectives in so far as revolutionary change in a society. Though, it's worth mentioning that MLK is far more revolutionary than what is portrayed in most mainstream history books.
                          paz,
                          Erik


                          Flor de Nopal Sangha

                          Comment

                          • will
                            Member
                            • Jun 2007
                            • 2331

                            #14
                            Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                            Indeed. When Zazen is fully active there really is no need for precepts I think. However, we are not superhuman Zen machines. We are not always mindful and we have bad habits. The precepts for each person perhaps are used in a different way. When we are not aware of what we are doing the precepts are a good way to keep us on track.

                            It is better not to act at all, than to act in dellusion. Most of the time we actually are running around deluded, so let's see. You get angry at someone or tell someone something which causes a tense, sad or angry feeling. Now with the precepts they give us a guide. Do not criticize others. We have enough to do with our own habit and practice. Yet it is tempting. It is all tempting when we have such a small self. We are bound to do all kinds of stuff for all kinds of imaginary reasons.

                            I don't know about you, but when I started sitting I was apt to follow all kinds of thoughts and cravings. Most (I think) have to sit for a time before there Zazen brings them to a point where the precepts naturally arise.

                            When we are intimate with the body and have an awareness of it, we start to see how we should take care of it. When we actually taste the things we are putting in their mouth, we don't really need to indulge so much.

                            When we have intelligence to act in a situation with right view, right effort, right understanding, and intelligence then we can just throw all the precepts away or give them to someone else.

                            Some of us already know something, so we don't really need a guide, but some of us are in the dark. Some of us get flustered. Some of us are bound by our misunderstanding and small mind. Some of us might use Zazen practice for our own profit. Some of us might wander here and there. Of course there is no right or wrong really. Just intelligent sense.

                            Now let me give you an example of something:

                            I live in a apartment building with a lot of University students. They throw garbage and break beer bottles on the ground. So I told them. I don't understand why they do this? Is this good for the environment? etc.(I knew why they do it from a practice perspective). It just seemed like I needed to tell them this. At first I was a little shaky, not very mindful and a little angry (not angry at them, but just wanted to get the point across). I sat down for a minute payed attention and then calmed down. I talked with one of the students who said they won't do it anymore. They will put it in the trash now. We picked up the pieces and put them in the trash. I have told them things on a couple of occasions. They might see me as some asshole, but it's not really for my benefit that they do that.

                            Now I got the feeling after dealing with that situation, that who am I to tell them what to do? I am not sure if it was right action. I feel it was right or good, but perhaps could have been handled in a different way because I see how my own practice is lacking.

                            Gassho
                            [size=85:z6oilzbt]
                            To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
                            To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
                            To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
                            To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
                            [/size:z6oilzbt]

                            Comment

                            • Stephanie

                              #15
                              Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

                              Will, I'd think you'd have lived long enough by now for life to have knocked that unrealistic idealism out of you. If you sit around waiting until you're perfectly free from delusion or bad habits to act on behalf of realizing good for others, you're never going to end up doing anything but sitting around. Plenty of un-enlightened, flawed people have done amazing things to actualize social justice, while plenty of so-called "enlightened" individuals, who have been given Dharma transmission by respected teachers, who have sat hours and hours of zazen over years and years, have done a lot of horrible and destructive things and harmed a lot of people. Zazen isn't a magic pill that takes away your human foibles. It certainly can (but does not necessarily) help you deal with situations better and more clearly, but it's not a prerequisite for effective, compassionate activity in the world. Also, in my opinion, zazen is only as useful as the life in which it is practiced.

                              I like what Shui Di said.

                              Gassho--

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