I have been doing Zazen all wrong!

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  • shikantazen
    Member
    • Feb 2013
    • 361

    I have been doing Zazen all wrong!

    NOTE FROM JUNDO: PLEASE SEE MY RESPONSE BELOW.


    This is not a philosophical thread. I just realized I have been doing Zazen all wrong till this point. I started only 3 months back so it is not such a bad thing.

    What I was doing: Just sitting doing nothing. When awareness comes back by itself to the current moment, then just sit silently again doing nothing.

    The correct way: Sit and be present to what is happening in the body-mind. Connect to your senses, listen to what is happening, feel the sensations in the body, attend to whatever is happening in the current moment in your body, watch for the thoughts in your mind. Doing this anchors your awareness to the present moment.

    Hopefully I described it right and my practice might still evolve as time goes. Please correct it if you see anything wrong. This whole Zen thing is so confusing! But it works.
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-23-2013, 03:10 AM.
  • shikantazen
    Member
    • Feb 2013
    • 361

    #2
    I have found that the following things are recommended

    - Be actively aware of what's happening in your immediate present, body, mind (This means listening to every sound, feeling the sensations in your body, being aware of your thoughts)
    - Be aware of your posture, your whole body sitting there (Keep bringing your attention to your body sitting there, feeling your weight on the cushion etc...)

    Charlotte J Beck recommends the first approach in her famous "Everyday Zen" book. This is what all the ancient spiritual teachers are talking about. As Taigen says in his introduction in the "The Art of Just Sitting"

    Objectless meditation focusing on clear, non judgemental, panoramic attention to all of the myriad arising phenomena in the present experience

    - Sam

    Comment

    • jus
      Member
      • Nov 2012
      • 77

      #3
      sam, as somebody new to seriously starting to practice, I didn't understand this either, and think that I have been doing it the first way you described as well, although starting up I always thought it was the latter way. which I think I was more or less asking (but more round about-ly) in one of my first replies on here. gassho, justin

      Comment

      • shikantazen
        Member
        • Feb 2013
        • 361

        #4
        Am glad it helped; Everyone keeps saying "Just Sit" and that is very misleading.

        It is funny that I read Beck's book and the method described a month back and dismissed it as not zazen. I think she is the only person I read who clearly outlines the practice. Adyashanti's book too had a chapter on this and I took it out of my earlier thread about his method thinking that it is not important. The lesson learnt is that whenever some teaching doesn't seem to agree with what I already know, then I must be wrong!

        Comment

        • Risho
          Member
          • May 2010
          • 3179

          #5
          It really is as simple and as complicated as just sitting. Countless ancestors giving and receiving the teachings, and I'm still not doing it right

          Seriously, it is tricky. We have to figure it out for ourselves. We never get it. We never, ever get it. It's a continual process of just sitting. I've only been doing it a couple of years; sometimes it feels like I'm doing it "right", but mostly it doesn't. It doesn't matter, just sit... then just sit some more until the sitting sits you (yes I'm stealing that from Taigu ). Literally, when the sitting sits you, you don't know what's going on because you are not separate from the sitting to know. I've caught a glimpse of that, but mostly the pesky watcher judges or does it's thinking type thing.

          Gassho,

          Risho
          Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

          Comment

          • Brian Roessler
            Member
            • May 2012
            • 25

            #6
            In addition to the very excellent zazen instructions provided in various places here by Jundo & Taigu, I will not be alone I'm sure in directing you to Opening The Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama for what may be the clearest explication of shikantaza practice.

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39474

              #7
              Hi Sam,

              I appreciate your enthusiasm. You have asked umpteen timeless-times now, and I keep encouraging the following. If you keep asking me, I will keep telling you the same:


              First, one's sitting is not "doing something", nor is it "doing nothing". One sits beyond and through all mental divisions of "doing/not doing" "something/nothing". Just drop all such questions, categorizing and judging from mind, and sit. One sits as Buddha ... beyond all divisions of this and that ... and sitting sits you. It is sometimes called "doing-non-doing" or "thinking-non-thinking".

              Next, a corollary of the above, one can "do Zazen wrong" ... largely by thinking about "right" and "wrong". One sits beyond and through all mental divisions of "right vs. wrong". Read here:

              Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen
              Hi, I BELIEVE THE FOLLOWING TO BE SO VITAL, FOR NEW AND OLD, THAT I AM GOING TO MAKE A SPECIAL REPOST. It is the "there is good Zazen, and bad Zazen ... but never any bad Zazen" post ... _________________________________________________ Hey All, I would like to repost something that I think is important to


              Next, please sit with the following boundless-attitude as one's bones (when sitting ... When rising from the cushion, live such when living!):

              Seated Zazen is our ONE AND ONLY practice, for by the very nature of Shikantaza ... when sitting Zazen, there is nothing more to do, nothing more that need be done, no addition needed nor anything to take away. Zazen is complete and whole. No other place to be in all the world, no other place we must (or can) run to. Nothing lacks, all is sacred, and Zazen is the One Liturgy. It is vital to be sat by Zazen with such attitude. Thus, Zazen is sat each day as the One and Whole Practice. If one sits any other way, if one sits with any sensation of "'I' need to fill some hole that is not Whole" ... one kills Zazen, gets nowhere. If one sits Zazen, one need do no other practice!
              I also encourage placing the mind with "everything and nothing in particular", but the real keys are above. The following is --NOT-- Shikantaza that I am aware of, but some kind of intentional observing, listening, watching, anchoring. It very much misses the point (If Joko Beck recommended it, she was sometimes of a Vipassana bent in some moments).

              Sit and be present to what is happening in the body-mind. Connect to your senses, listen to what is happening, feel the sensations in the body, attend to whatever is happening in the current moment in your body, watch for the thoughts in your mind. Doing this anchors your awareness to the present moment. ... Be actively aware of what's happening in your immediate present, body, mind (This means listening to every sound, feeling the sensations in your body, being aware of your thoughts)
              - Be aware of your posture, your whole body sitting there (Keep bringing your attention to your body sitting there, feeling your weight on the cushion etc...)
              Keep asking, Taigu and I will keep repeating.


              Gassho, Jundo
              Last edited by Jundo; 04-23-2013, 04:01 AM.
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Geika
                Treeleaf Unsui
                • Jan 2010
                • 4980

                #8
                It takes a lot of practice. I spent the first two years of practice thinking these questions constantly when I sat. Around the third year, it settled and clicked more. It could have clicked a lot sooner if I had just sat through the questioning.
                求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
                I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

                Comment

                • shikantazen
                  Member
                  • Feb 2013
                  • 361

                  #9
                  Hi Jundo,

                  I think I understand the method you suggest. To be honest with you I found it to be a bit vague and more importantly I haven't found similar approach recommended anywhere else. So I am a bit hesitant to follow it.

                  I had discussion with Chan teacher Guo Gu last week and he corrected my practice saying that just sitting doing nothing would cause me to space out. He suggested that I instead sit with awareness of my whole body sitting. This is very similar to what Uchiyama roshi proposes in his "Opening the hand of thought" where he says to keep coming back to sitting straight. Nishijima roshi also teaches same thing where he says straighten the back whenever you feel you are lost in thought. Bringing attention to the posture seems to be a common and pretty popular theme here.

                  Being present to whatever is happening is proposed not just by Beck. Few days back we had a thread by Koun Franz and in these instructions below http://nyoho.com/2013/04/07/an-attem...ons-for-zazen/ he says this:

                  Let in all sounds — hear the shifting of the continents, a bird turning in flight. Facing the wall, see beyond the horizon. Feel your heart beating, your lungs moving, your skin expanding and shrinking, the magnetic draw of your thumbs. Breathe in the stench and the perfume of the world. Let your tongue rest flat in your mouth, and taste.
                  Also Taigen Dan Leighton in his introduction to the famous book "The Art of Just Sitting" says

                  Objectless meditation focusing on clear, non judgemental, panoramic attention to all of the myriad arising phenomena in the present experience
                  So for whatever I am proposing above, there is more than one source confirming it. That is how I came to the understanding that those two are the best methods to anchor the mind during Zazen. Sitting with a feeling as you teach too sounds like one way to anchor the mind and I can try that to see how it works out.

                  I definitely would like to hear from Taigu too on this. I too am kind of confused that this kind of panoramic attention sounds very much like Vipassana. Sorry for my endless questioning. I am sure I'll get kicked out from the forums one day for this. lol. Thanks for your compassion and patience in repeatedly trying to answer me.

                  - Sam

                  Comment

                  • Taigu
                    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                    • Aug 2008
                    • 2710

                    #10
                    Ok Sam,

                    What keeps the waters muddy here is the will to be right, to get it right and not being wrong. As Jundo points out, shikantaza is letting go of this right and wrong. Shikantaza is whole, complete, lacking nothing. It is the boat, the bloke and the other shore in one place, in one piece, at once and timelessly. This practice is beyond skilled or unskilled, does not require a particular technique or anchoring. Why? Because it is already panoramic and broad, in other words we don t make or create a special state called panoramic mind, Deshimaru roshi used to say that it is returning to normal conditions. If you knock on the door of Chan, tibetan or Vipassana teachers they will sing you another song, not wrong, just their way.
                    So what do I do when I sit? I sometimes put my mind in the palm of my left hand, feel the uprightness of the body, indulge in Kannon s activity listening to the sounds of theO world, watch thoughts passing by like clouds in the blue sky, look at the blue sky being loved by white clouds, look at the non dual reality of clouds and sky, I also sometimes do nothing at all, actually a lot of not doing, I do all of the above surrendering to the deep faith that even asleep or distracted on the cushion, it is still zazen. I don t judge my pratice anymore, don t try to get it right or better. I have left behind a long time ago athletic and competitive practice, greedy and hungry sitting, caught by the still state, hugged by things as they are I just sit and whatever... I allow Buddha to do the job.
                    Hope this helps.

                    Gassho


                    Taigu
                    Last edited by Taigu; 04-23-2013, 05:25 AM.

                    Comment

                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39474

                      #11
                      Hi Sam,

                      Yes, I go with what Taigu says.

                      If you wish to study Silent Illumination with Chan teaher Guo Gu in the method of Rev. Sheng Yen, you should do so. It is a bit different from Master Dogen's method.

                      Also, I am absolutely sure that you confuse the trees for the forest when quoting Koun Franz, Taigen Leighton and Uchiyama Roshi. I believe you miss Koun's main point, for example, which is not to engage but to just be present with all things, "Breathe in the stench and the perfume of the world." as he puts it. He closes ...

                      Zazen is not non-doing; it is not non-thinking. Zazen is a deep, dreamless sleep on fire. It is clutching a boulder to your belly at the bottom of the cool ocean. Roots penetrate and plunge downward into the rough textures of the earth. A cloud dissolves into open sky.

                      Notice that Taigen says ...

                      Objectless meditation focusing on clear, non judgemental, panoramic attention to all of the myriad arising phenomena in the present experience

                      An open, boundless panoramic attention on everything. Taigen goes on to say in that essay ...

                      This just sitting is not a meditation technique or practice, or any thing at all. ... Dogen describes this meditation as the samadhi of self-fulfillment (or enjoyment), and elaborates the inner meaning of this practice. Simply just sitting is expressed as concentration on the self in its most delightful wholeness, in total inclusive interconnection with all of phenomena. Dogen makes remarkably radical claims for this simple experience. "When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi for even a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment."[13] Proclaiming that when one just sits all of space itself becomes enlightenment is an inconceivable statement, deeply challenging our usual sense of the nature of reality, whether we take Dogen's words literally or metaphorically. Dogen places this activity of just sitting far beyond our usual sense of personal self or agency. He goes on to say that, "Even if only one person sits for a short time, because this zazen is one with all existence and completely permeates all times, it performs everlasting buddha guidance" throughout space and time.[14] At least in Dogen's faith in the spiritual or "theological" implications of the activity of just sitting, this is clearly a dynamically liberating practice, not mere blissful serenity.
                      You are confusing the outer scaffolding with the Heart of Shikantaza. For example, all the instructions for Zazen say that, in sitting, one should take off one's shoes. But that does not mean the pointless point of Zazen is about being barefoot!

                      Reading "Opening the Hand of Thought" is an excellent recommendation.

                      Don't miss the forest while observing the trees.

                      Gassho, J
                      Last edited by Jundo; 04-23-2013, 05:42 AM.
                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                      Comment

                      • Taigu
                        Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                        • Aug 2008
                        • 2710

                        #12
                        Another suggestion, Sam.

                        Listen to the voice of Sekito Kisen. He has something to tell you:

                        I’ve built a grass hut where there’s nothing of value.
                        After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
                        When it was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
                        Now it’s been lived in—covered by weeds.
                        The person in the hut lives here calmly,
                        not stuck to inside, outside, or in between.
                        Places worldly people live, he doesn’t live.
                        Realms worldly people love, he doesn’t love.
                        Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world.
                        In ten feet square, an old man illumines forms and their nature.
                        A Great Vehicle bodhisattva trusts without doubt.
                        The middling or lowly can’t help wondering;
                        Will this hut perish or not?
                        Perishable or not, the original master is present,
                        not dwelling south or north, east or west.
                        Firmly based on steadiness, it can’t be surpassed.
                        A shining window below the green pines—
                        jade palaces or vermillion towers can’t compare with it.
                        Just sitting with head covered all things are at rest.
                        Thus, this mountain monk doesn’t understand at all.
                        Living here he no longer works to get free.
                        Who would proudly arrange seats, trying to entice guests?
                        Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.
                        The vast inconceivable source can’t be faced or turned
                        away from.
                        Meet the ancestral teachers, be familiar with their instruction,
                        bind grasses to build a hut, and don’t give up.
                        Let go of hundreds of years and relax completely.
                        Open your hands and walk, innocent.
                        Thousands of words, myriad interpretations,
                        are only to free you from obstructions.
                        If you want to know the undying person in the hut,
                        don’t separate from this skin bag here and now.


                        You could check my old words about it:




                        Gassho


                        Taigu
                        Last edited by Taigu; 04-23-2013, 06:17 AM.

                        Comment

                        • jus
                          Member
                          • Nov 2012
                          • 77

                          #13
                          thank you jundo, taigu, and everybody for replying, and of course sam for asking. i feel like lately when ive been sitting ive tossed out all previous "ideas" of meditation; vipassana, breath counting, etc. and just sit, which seemed insane to me at first. so this topic kind of threw me through a loop again. but was a good reminder. gassho, justin.

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39474

                            #14
                            Yes, just do (non-do) this one thingless thing as All, Complete, Wholly-Holy-Whole, Nothing Lacking, No Place Else To Go, Beyond Judgments, All Time and Space in this one timeless-time and Zafu space.

                            I mean, how often in life do we do anything like that?

                            Then, perhaps one can come to experience all moments of life so too.
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • Kokuu
                              Treeleaf Priest
                              • Nov 2012
                              • 6792

                              #15
                              Thank you so much for the clear instruction, Taigu and Jundo. My mind gets so fixated on doing it right that it is good to keep hearing to let that drop.

                              Gassho
                              Andy

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