I would like to criticize some Soto Zen Teachers for how we may be teaching Shikantaza (I know that all the Soto Teachers fully understand what I say. My point is merely whether we are conveying the message clearly enough).
Yes, we teach the importance of sitting in a balanced way, be it in Lotus, Seiza, on a chair or the like. We may show students how to place the mind on the breath, the Hara
, how to "return to the posture" or sit boundlessly or some other way. We may tell folks about "opening the hand of thought
", letting thoughts and emotions go without getting caught in them. Yes, we emphasize that our way is "Goalless" sitting, and that one should leave at the door thoughts of "gaining enlightenment" or some extra-ordinary state ...
... but do we emphasize enough how Extra-Ordinary (beyond all small human weighing of "ordinary or extra-ordinary") Sitting Zazen Truly is? Are we too focused on the mechanics of sitting (as important as such is), and not on the Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha which sitting manifests?
Do we teach that a moment of Zazen is Buddha Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole
that completes and allows all of life? Are we afraid of sounding too starry eyed about Zazen? Do we point students sufficiently to the Timelessness of sitting for a time, that Zazen is the One and Only Place to Be in that Moment of Sitting, holding all the Sutras?
Do we teach that Zazen is a Sacred Complete Act? A Moment of Sitting As Enlightened Sitting, Gainless-Enlightenment-Gained?
Perhaps we are too focused on presenting Zazen as "just sitting" without getting to the heart of sitting as "Just All Reality, Every Mountain and Stone, All the Buddhas and Ancestors Sitting This Sitting"?
, when writing of Zazen, would remind us (this from Zanma-O-Zanmai
. It makes my words seem quite understated!
Now crossing the legs of the human skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, one crosses the legs of the king of samādhis samādhi. The World Honored One always maintains sitting with legs crossed; and to the disciples he correctly transmits sitting with legs crossed; and to the humans and gods he teaches sitting with legs crossed. The mind seal correctly transmitted by the seven buddhas is this.
The Buddha Śākyamuni, sitting with legs crossed under the bodhi tree, passed fifty small kalpas, passed sixty kalpas, passed countless kalpas. Sitting with legs crossed for twenty-one days, sitting cross-legged for one time — this is turning the wheel of the wondrous dharma; this is the buddha’s proselytizing of a lifetime. There is nothing lacking. This is the yellow roll and vermillion roller [that hold all the Sutras and Commentaries]. The buddha seeing the buddha is this time. This is precisely the time when beings attain buddhahood.
He pulls no punches.
And now turning from Teachers to Students, I wag my finger a bit more.
So many (most?) who try Shikantaza
for a time do not truly understand what it means to be wholly still, to not need to run after the next diversion or teaching or practice or book or entertainment. Or, they misunderstand our "goalless" sitting as some kind of complacency.
My biggest "complaint" about folks?
Most find it so hard to drop the "running here and there, chasing this and that" in life and "Just Sit" in Wholeness, "Just Sit" Buddha. Most are so used to looking for the answers "somewhere over the next hill" that they can't stop running, looking for the "next shiny thing". (Like the eye looking all around for the eye)
I have spoken about that many time before:
Oh, some folks "get it", what it truly means to find Stillness
amid both life's stillness and motion, Silence
that sings as quiet or music or the noise of bombs exploding. But other folks don't "get it", or take it that we are pushing merely complacency, resignation and passivity, which is not the case.
We are not preaching slogans from greeting cards, not tranquilized dullness, not a foresaking of vibrant curiosity and questioning, not prescribing a drug to bring numbness ... but Crystal Clarity and Wholeness
Rising up from the cushion, whether lighting incense or changing a baby diaper, in the temple or the office, in a forest or the city streets ... we get done what needs to be done, move forward though no place to go. One might then be able to manifest that same Ordinary-Extra-Ordinary Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha, Fully Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole, holding all Timeless-Time & Space, the One and Only Place to Be, a Sacred Act Complete ... in every moment and small action of life.