Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39456

    Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Hey All,

    I would like to repost something that I think is important to really really really pierce ... about "right" Zazen and "wrong" Zazen. Someone wrote to ask if there was a general "litmus test" for when we are Practicing "right". It is also a good time to briefly review just what is "just sitting" Shikantaza, good for new folks and old folks too:

    Don't think we don't make progress in our Zen Practice even as we toss out all thought of anywhere to get. Don't think that we reach no true attainments, and that our life does not radically change, even as we drop all idea of "attainment" or a "need to change". Remember too that that all takes time and diligent Practice, even as we give up all worry about "time".

    The following is the closest I come to a "litmus test" for someone's Practice, a couple of things I wrote awhile back ...


    Shikantaza is "radical non-doing", radical goallessness, to-the-marrow non-attaining. However, it is vital to know that "radical non-doing" is worlds away from merely "sitting doing nothing, attaining nothing". I post the following description from time to time:

    So, we have to work very diligently to sit every day, and strive with great effort, all to realize that there is nothing to attain ... It is the way of effortless effort. We must aim carefully for the goalless goal!

    Being the "Buddha" all along, and having not a thing about you that is in need of change ... that does not mean you don't have some work to do to realize truly that you are the Buddha without need of change. To realize that you are never, from the outset, in need of change is a VERY BIG CHANGE! There is absolutely nothing about you and the universe (not two) to add or take away, and tasting that there is "nothing to add" is an important addition!

    And how do you realize that non-realization?

    By Just Sitting to-the-marrow, radically dropping all goals, judgments, attempts to get somewhere or to achieve some realization. That gets you somewhere, and a revolutionary realization!

    Truly understanding that everything is completely beyond need for change is a complete change, and finding that there was never a place to get to is finally getting somewhere.

    Get how that goes? :shock:

    Oh, and by the way ... even as there is not a thing about us to change ... still we have much greed, anger and ignorance, various harmful habits and ways, to change about us.
    I also wrote this on thoughts during Zazen, and "doing Zazen wrong" ...

    There is no way to do Zazen "wrong" ... even when you are doing it completely "wrong".

    (That does not mean, though, that there is not a "right" and "wrong" way to "do" it).

    There is no 'bad" Zazen, even the bad Zazen. So, we sit looking at the clear, open blue sky without clouds (clouds represent thoughts, the blue sky represents the mind clear of thoughts). Clouds drift in and out, while some days are very blue and some days completely cloudy without any blue sky visible. It is just the weather, which changes. The blue sky is there even when hidden by the clouds. Also, nothing "wrong" with clouds ... it is all the natural sky. Something like that. Blue sky and clouds are all the sky, do not wish to break up the sky. The sky and the weather are just the sky and the weather on any given day.

    We do not try to "silence the thoughts before they arise" in Skikantaza. It is more that we allow the thoughts that naturally drift into mind to naturally drift out of mind, much as clouds naturally drift in and out of a clear blue sky. In this way, return again and again to the open, clear blue sky.

    One of the key points about Master Dogen's approach to Zazen is to allow the clouds (of thought) to drift naturally out of mind (our thoughts of this and that, likes and dislikes, judgments, events, etc) and we come back again and again to the clear blue sky. Do that again and again, 100 billion times and 100 billion times again. So, no need to "catch" the thoughts and chase them away, even as we seek during Zazen to find the open, blue sky.

    HOWEVER, Dogen taught "non-thinking" (also called "thinking not thinking"). That means that there is nothing "wrong" with the clouds. It is not that blue sky is "good" while clouds are "bad" (some Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies imply that). We allow the clouds to drift out of mind, but neither do we resent the clouds when present or on very cloudy days. Even on those days when the sky is all cloudy, and not an inch of blue is present, the blue sky is still there behind the clouds. WE DO NOT SEEK TO BREAK UP OR RESIST ANY PART OF THE SKY, CLOUDS OR BLUE ... It is all the unbroken sky. Understand?

    Thus, allowing things to just be the way they are, no judging, not resisting, being with the flow, allowing 'happy' days to be happy and 'sad' days to be sad, all while dropping all idea of 'happy' and 'sad', whether really enjoying or really not enjoying ... fully dropping away any and all thought of doing Zazen 'right' or doing it 'wrong' ... THIS IS DOING IT RIGHT. And when you are doing it right, it will usually feel like you are doing it right, for there is no resistance, and a great sense of balance.

    Fighting things, wishing things were some other way that how they are, judging, resisting, going against the grain and the flow, wishing 'sad' days were happy or 'happy' days were happier ... filled with a sense of self bumping up against all the other 'selfs', with a mind held by thoughts of doing Zazen 'right' or doing it 'wrong' ... THIS IS DOING ZAZEN WRONG. And when you are doing it wrong, it will usually feel like you are doing it wrong, for there is resistance, and a sense of imbalance.

    But as well, even at those times when Zazen feels 'wrong', when there is resistance or imbalance ... it is still 'right', still 'Zazen', still just what it is. IT CANNOT BE WRONG. This last point is vital to understanding.

    Yes, that is a Koan. Is it clear? Please really really penetrate in your body and mind what I just wrote.
    I hope that helps. And by the way, as we "do" Zazen", Zazen does us ... and ultimately there is just the "doing" ... .

    Gassho, Jundo
  • Tb
    • Jan 2008
    • 3186

    Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    What does the snoring buddha say?

    May the force be with you
    Life is our temple and its all good practice
    Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/


    • Dojin
      • May 2008
      • 562

      Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

      Thank you Jundo.
      it is good to read things like this from time to time to remind us of how things really are....
      well back to just doing the non-doing thing.

      Thank you for your words of guidance.
      Gassho, Daniel.
      I gained nothing at all from supreme enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment
      - the Buddha


      • Borsuk
        • Oct 2008
        • 41

        Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

        Yes, thank you very much, Jundo, for this lovely clear description of Shikantaza. It has hit the nail on the head in terms of some of the questions I have had about 'just-sitting'.

        I'm also diggin' the sprinkle of paradox



        • Shui_Di
          • Apr 2008
          • 210

          Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

          Thanks Jundo....

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


          • Igor
            • Dec 2008
            • 18

            Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

            Thanks Jundo for this post.

            Gassho, Igor


            • Kent
              • Feb 2008
              • 193

              Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

              Thank you Jundo for a vaery clear and concise explanation. I actually laminated the post and read it before I sit. gassho, Kent


              • Eika
                • Sep 2007
                • 806

                Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

                As someone who gets caught by issues of "proper technique" this post that is a welcome reminder . . . many thanks, Jundo.

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


                • Shindo
                  • Mar 2008
                  • 278

                  Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

                  Thank you Jundo
                  [color=#404040:301177ix]"[i:301177ix]I come to realize that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and star[/i:301177ix]s". - [b:301177ix]Dogen[/b:301177ix][/color:301177ix]


                  • Undo
                    • Jun 2007
                    • 495

                    Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

                    Lovely, clear and gentle.




                    • BrianW
                      • Oct 2008
                      • 511

                      Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

                      Hi all,
                      For me the sit-along "Zazen for beginners IV" was brilliant.....the blender demo is really helpful for simple minds like mine! If you haven't viewed it, I would encourage you to check it out. http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafze...zen-fo-25.html


                      • disastermouse

                        Re: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

                        Thanks for the reminder, Jundo.

                        Zen practice is so radically different from the way we've been taught to approach the world that it truly does take immense effort to remain effortless.