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Thread: Which of these two is correct Zazen?

  1. #1

    Which of these two is correct Zazen?

    I feel there are multiple descriptions of what Shikantaza is. I'm confused which one is accurate


    Description 1:
    Don't manipulate or control your awareness (attention) or any objects of awareness (breath, posture, mantra, present moment, emptiness etc...) in anyway. Let your awareness do whatever it needs to do. If your awareness/attention is caught up in thought, then that is where it needs to be at that moment. There is nothing wrong with it. Of course this doesn't mean we continue to think when we "realize we are caught up" (in other words, "the return happens"). If we continue to think, that will not be non-doing anymore. When the return happens, we just continue to sit. The important thing to remember here is that there is no preference given to "return" (or to being in the current moment) over getting lost in thoughts. It is complete no-preference sitting and trusting that awareness goes and does where it needs to go or what it needs to do. No manipulating or directing awareness. As Genpo Roshi says this essential non-doing and utter freedom of Shikantaza wears down the mind.


    Description 2:
    Sit and aim at returning to the present moment or posture. When you realize the present moment is not being attended to, then get back to the present moment or posture briefly and then continue to sit. We don't focus or try to stay on the posture or present moment. When "the return happens" we just briefly check the posture or attend to the current moment and then continue to sit silently. Zazen is not staying in the moment or with the posture but this returning again and again is itself Zazen.


    Which one is the correct description and why do you think so?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    I feel there are multiple descriptions of what Shikantaza is. I'm confused which one is accurate


    Description 1:
    Don't manipulate or control your awareness (attention) or any objects of awareness (breath, posture, mantra, present moment, emptiness etc...) in anyway. Let your awareness do whatever it needs to do. If your awareness/attention is caught up in thought, then that is where it needs to be at that moment. There is nothing wrong with it. Of course this doesn't mean we continue to think when we "realize we are caught up" (in other words, "the return happens"). If we continue to think, that will not be non-doing anymore. When the return happens, we just continue to sit. The important thing to remember here is that there is no preference given to "return" (or to being in the current moment) over getting lost in thoughts. It is complete no-preference sitting and trusting that awareness goes and does where it needs to go or what it needs to do. No manipulating or directing awareness. As Genpo Roshi says this essential non-doing and utter freedom of Shikantaza wears down the mind.


    Description 2:
    Sit and aim at returning to the present moment or posture. When you realize the present moment is not being attended to, then get back to the present moment or posture briefly and then continue to sit. We don't focus or try to stay on the posture or present moment. When "the return happens" we just briefly check the posture or attend to the current moment and then continue to sit silently. Zazen is not staying in the moment or with the posture but this returning again and again is itself Zazen.


    Which one is the correct description and why do you think so?
    They are both zazen and they are both not zazen. I don't mean to sound zennie; what I mean to say is that both are missing something, which I would call an opening up, a blossoming, blooming into an expansive present. In both, the non-aim is the same: open into the present, where you already are. In the first, the emphasis is on the functions of the mind (thinking, awareness); in the second, the emphasis is on the function of the body (posture) - you can do either, but in both, drop body-mind. In the first, drop mind. In the second, drop body. In sitting in any way, drop body-mind.

    What does dropping body-mind mean?

    I don't know; all I can say is that it is an opening into the openness which is always there and which you are. Sometimes it happens, sometimes we sit returning and returning, returning to clear sky (clear mind) returning to still posture (clear body); in both, stop worrying about returning and realize you are always already returned (not easy, I know).

    Gassho,
    a
    Shōmon

  3. #3
    Also, I'd say, these questions are your koans: sit with them.

    gassho
    Shōmon

  4. #4
    Alan,

    Thanks for your reply. The significant difference between the above two methods that I see is this.

    Second one specifically aims at coming back to posture/current moment. There is a clear intent there to return. The downside of this is that it can lead to more worrying/judgements when you are getting more caught up. Even though the teacher might tell you not to worry, the method itself can make the student feel his zazen is not going well on days there are too much thoughts. Similarly on days you are returning back well, it can make you feel it is going great. This is not good either. Also this method seems like a technique and not like a method less method.

    The first method has no preference to either return or getting caught up. This definitely leads to less worrying as whatever happens is okay. There is no instruction to anchor the mind to present moment or posture. So as a downside will this lead to more day dreaming? Not that day dreaming is bad, giving the mind full freedom as Suzuki roshi says (like giving a big open field to a raging bull) will wear it down.

  5. #5
    I don't think these are good enough definitions. There might be better ones. But the best thing you could do is to just try it out. For, we may talk about various definitions of shikantaza now, but we will miss the oportunity to just sit right now.
    "Stone by stone- a pallace!"
    Serbian proverb

  6. #6
    Hi guys,

    I think together they sum it up quite nicely? It's both. The one is addressing one side of sitting the other a different side.


    Right posture and right concentration/ thinking not-thinking ( or the "magic eye" ) together lead to dropping off body-mind.

    No contradiction there, just a focus on two different issues in sitting.

    Enkyo

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    I think you are thinking about it too much.

    How long have you been sitting? If only a recent practice, I would suggest you sit and explore this by not trying to explore anything at all. Don't use words. Just sit. It is cliche, but it is often the hardest thing for us to do...to just literally sit there.

    Don't overthink it. Do it.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Shudo Dosho - Ordained Priest-in-Training
    With your help and guidance from Jundo & Taigu
    I am learning, but please take what I say with a
    grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r View Post
    They are both zazen and they are both not zazen. I don't mean to sound zennie; what I mean to say is that both are missing something, which I would call an opening up, a blossoming, blooming into an expansive present. ...

    What does dropping body-mind mean?

    I don't know; all I can say is that it is an opening into the openness which is always there and which you are. Sometimes it happens, sometimes we sit returning and returning, returning to clear sky (clear mind) returning to still posture (clear body); in both, stop worrying about returning and realize you are always already returned (not easy, I know).

    ...

    Also, I'd say, these questions are your koans: sit with them.
    Yes, lovely.

    The questions presented are a bit like a child asking how to ride a bicycle ... what do I do with my feet, how do I sit on the seat, how to I find my balance??? While riding on a Spring day, do you ponder such points, analyzing how one is keeping poised on two wheels ... or just find one's balance, sit and ride?

    One vital aspect not mentioned by you, however, is this (from an old talk) ... so please be re-MIND-ed ...

    ---------------------------------------------

    I came across a discussion on the internet this week about "how to Shikantaza" ... and much good and solid advice was given. Some folks follow the breath, some "Just Sit" in boundless spaciousness, some advised this or that on the posture and letting thoughts go. All wise and good, and talk of posture, focus and such are all a necessary setting of the stage.

    However, in my view (and that is all it is, and hopefully a viewless view too) SOMETHING VITAL WAS LACKING AND LEFT OUT OF THE CONVERSATION, something without which Zazen is perhaps left incomplete and lacking ...

    ... TO WIT, THAT NOTHING IS EVER LACKING, EVER MISSING, EVER INCOMPLETE, EVER NOT FULLY HELD AND FULLY REALIZED IN A MOMENT OF ZAZEN! A moment of sitting is THE BUDDHA, THE PURE LAND, NIRVANA ATTAINED! Each instant of Zazen is the only act, the only place to be, in and holding all time and space in that moment!

    The meaning of that may confuse some folks ... but those who don't get it JUST DON'T GET IT (in my view and viewless anyway)!

    What don't they get?

    That to realize that one is never, from the outset, in need of change is an earthshaking 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 vital addition! Just Sitting to-the-marrow, radically dropping all goals, judgments, dropping all desire to get somewhere and attain a realization ... gets one 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.

    Posture, breath, not grabbing onto or stirring up thoughts, living by the Precepts ... all are vital to our Way. Yet, neither are they sufficient. Zazen is not some "method", some "process" or "recipe". There is no "method" for there is "no goal" or destination!

    Why?

    By sitting the Wholly Holy Whole without need for change ... there is thus the most radical change of no longer wishing for change or needing change amid the every changing changeless ... thereby Shikantaza is the perfect medicine for the dis-ease and dis-satisfaction of Dukkha.

    SHIKANTAZA MUST BE SAT AS THE ONE AND ONLY PRACTICE NEEDED AND ALL COMPLETED. In fact, rising from the cushion, all of life's acts ... the most mundane ... can thus be encountered as each and all Whole and Sacred too. Likewise, daily chanting, bowing or praying are each "Shikantaza" when encountered as Wholly Holy Whole. In fact, Zazen itself ... though never less than complete ... is not enough, and all of life and ethical living is our place of practice and realization! Not one piece of life is left out as 'Shikantaza' seen for such. Yet ... we sit Shikantaza seated Zazen each day as our way is to sit.

    Fail to emphasize this point(in my view, and that is all it is ... hopefully viewless too) and one is just teaching meditation, milk toast, perhaps a kind of shikantaza ... but not SHIKANTAZA!
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-22-2013 at 02:01 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Dosho nailed it,
    _()_
    Myoku

  10. #10
    Okay, let me state the exact questions I have about the above two methods

    While doing Shikantaza, do I

    - Sit with an intent to return or no? The second method says aim at returning to posture/current moment and keep coming back to it whenever you are lost. When I sit like this, it feels more like a control aspect added and doesn't feel like Shikantaza. It feels like any other meditation "method"
    - Is Shikantaza more like the first one where we don't control our attention/awareness in anyway? If we are not directing our awareness, will it work as Suzuki roshi's simile of the raging bull left in an open field? Or is it not the right way to do shikantaza as it can lead to day dreaming

    I don't agree I am thinking too much. These are very basic questions and these methods are not the same. They can result in different outcomes if practiced.

    And I sit every day. 3-5 sittings Daily. It is not like I am just thinking about the method but not doing any sitting.

  11. #11
    Hi,

    I would sit with nothing to return to and nobody to return ... no coming or going ...

    ... and when lost in trains of thoughts and tangles of emotions, one let's them go, stops grabbing on, and returns to such "nothing to return".

    I am not sure if that helps or just muddles things more.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi,

    I would sit with nothing to return to and nobody to return ... no coming or going ...

    ... and when lost in trains of thoughts and tangles of emotions, one let's them go, stops grabbing on, and returns to such "nothing to return".

    I am not sure if that helps or just muddles things more.

    Gassho, J
    I too am of this mindset. When I sit, I just sit. Even though I may be saying to myself, "I am feeling stressed, out of sorts, or I want that calm state, so I best go sit .... When I actually sit, I drop all those conversations with myself and just be. Be with what ever comes and what ever is.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  13. #13
    Shikantazen,

    In my own practice of zazen I don't really see a difference between "awareness" and "returning to the moment". For me awareness is the moment. You say "If your awareness/attention is caught up in thought" – that's not awareness, that's being caught up in a thought. Awareness is being aware that you're caught up in a thought and not giving any more fuel to it.

    Jundo doesn't really advocate it here but if I find myself caught up in thoughts and they just wont go I switch to following the breath.

    Hope this helps.
    Gassho,
    Andy

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by andyZ View Post

    Jundo doesn't really advocate it here but if I find myself caught up in thoughts and they just wont go I switch to following the breath.

    Hope this helps.
    I suggest that it is fine to do so when really really really caught up in tangled thoughts and storming emotions, but then suggest returning to "open spacious awareness of everything and nothing in particular" as soon as one settles down a bit.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ath+long+short


    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Thanks all. It helps.

    The funny thing is all my questions come up only when I have a so called "bad meditation" which is usually the first one in the day. When the meditation is good, there is a sense of energy/concentration like thing and just sitting seems to be enough and all these questions don't matter.

    I am considering this; how about doing my mantra meditation (same like the breath meditation) in the morning and evening which lasts for about 20 min each and then doing just sitting after a small break after each of those mantra meditations. Does anyone here do something like that? Like breath meditation followed by shikantaza everyday?

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Thanks all. It helps.

    The funny thing is all my questions come up only when I have a so called "bad meditation" which is usually the first one in the day. When the meditation is good, there is a sense of energy/concentration like thing and just sitting seems to be enough and all these questions don't matter.

    I am considering this; how about doing my mantra meditation (same like the breath meditation) in the morning and evening which lasts for about 20 min each and then doing just sitting after a small break after each of those mantra meditations. Does anyone here do something like that? Like breath meditation followed by shikantaza everyday?
    I don't think mixing is a good idea. If you're used to meditating with some kind of support, such as mantra or a breath it's more difficult to meditate with nothing to "rely" on after that, which shikantaza is in a way. At least that was my experience and I totally understand why Jundo is saying to use this in "emergencies" only.
    Gassho,
    Andy

  17. #17
    Hi SZ,

    You still seem to have an idea about "good" and "bad" meditation, and achieving some sense of "energy/concentration".

    You really really really need to get the following (link below) ... for "good" Zazen transcends "good and bad", while "bad" meditation is judging what's good and what's bad. Leap free of "good and bad", into something Good ... jump through the True Wordless Mantra that transcends "energy/concentration" or not, into a singularity so whole it can be either "concentrated" or "unconcentrated" in 84,000,000,000 pieces. Dogen called this "Zazen Samadhi", which is even wider than the states of concentration often thought of as "Samadhi", because it holds all the world and everything else, wholly and omitting nothing.

    Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    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).


    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...nd-Wrong-Zazen

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-22-2013 at 03:47 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    The funny thing is all my questions come up only when I have a so called "bad meditation" which is usually the first one in the day. When the meditation is good, there is a sense of energy/concentration like thing and just sitting seems to be enough and all these questions don't matter.
    Hi guys,

    OK, maybe very zenny but there is no good or bad sitting!
    Personally I think the "bad" ones, the ones we relay need to apply ourselves, maybe the most productive sessions, because that's when we are in that "I don't know" state. Sometimes we may think: "this is not so good" but we should just sit and let it be. Measuring if it is good or waiting for the sitting to feel right, already is hunting for something, chasing the wind and not shikantaza. Sticking to something that feels right, is sticking too just like struggling to change something we feel is not so good. Just leave it there. Tomorrow or later today, sit again and notice the difference. Nothing changed, you did!

    So just let this pass like a cloud in the sky I think, but that's just me

    Gassho

    Enkyo

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    NOTHING IS EVER LACKING, EVER MISSING, EVER INCOMPLETE, EVER NOT FULLY HELD AND FULLY REALIZED IN A MOMENT OF ZAZEN![/b]
    Yes, that is the thing. Thank you for the reminder Jundo.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  20. #20
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    A teacher once described the mind that dwells on thoughts, worries, scenarios while sitting in zazen as "hitchhiking" rides on a cognitive highway.
    One central advice was that it wasn't the aim of sitting to be continuously finding things to think about, to go on yet another "ride".
    But, it's also not the aim to suppress thought and/or to beat yourself up (to whatever degree you wish to employ it) when you instantly wake up to knowing you've been on a ride. The waking up pretty much is it in terms of "what to do about it". There is...just takes care of it. There you are, just! sitting. And yeh, it's hard to use words like "you" because....there you go, a duality of you, the sitting, the environment of floor, wall, mat, clothing, breathing air.

    Uchiyama Roshi describes this a bit in "Opening the Hand of Thought" p. 52 in a section called 'Waking up to Life' and I wish I could clip n paste, but can't.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Don't just DO something, SIT there!^^

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by YuimaSLC View Post

    Uchiyama Roshi describes this a bit in "Opening the Hand of Thought" p. 52 in a section called 'Waking up to Life' and I wish I could clip n paste, but can't.
    This may do for some people:

    http://books.google.co.jp/books?id=f...ife%20&f=false

    Those few pages (52 to 60) are one of the clearest descriptions of the internal experience of Shikantaza and "thinking-non-thinking".

    Uchiyama Roshi was a "come back to the posture" fellow, and I emphasize more "come back to open spacious awareness of everything and nothing in particular" (and others might speak of breath or the "hara" or the like) ... but all the same really.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-25-2013 at 03:08 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    I feel there are multiple descriptions of what Shikantaza is. I'm confused which one is accurate


    Description 1:
    Don't manipulate or control your awareness (attention) or any objects of awareness (breath, posture, mantra, present moment, emptiness etc...) in anyway. Let your awareness do whatever it needs to do. If your awareness/attention is caught up in thought, then that is where it needs to be at that moment. There is nothing wrong with it. Of course this doesn't mean we continue to think when we "realize we are caught up" (in other words, "the return happens"). If we continue to think, that will not be non-doing anymore. When the return happens, we just continue to sit. The important thing to remember here is that there is no preference given to "return" (or to being in the current moment) over getting lost in thoughts. It is complete no-preference sitting and trusting that awareness goes and does where it needs to go or what it needs to do. No manipulating or directing awareness. As Genpo Roshi says this essential non-doing and utter freedom of Shikantaza wears down the mind.


    Description 2:
    Sit and aim at returning to the present moment or posture. When you realize the present moment is not being attended to, then get back to the present moment or posture briefly and then continue to sit. We don't focus or try to stay on the posture or present moment. When "the return happens" we just briefly check the posture or attend to the current moment and then continue to sit silently. Zazen is not staying in the moment or with the posture but this returning again and again is itself Zazen.


    Which one is the correct description and why do you think so?
    I agree with Dosho. "To seek great mind with thinking mind is certainly a grave mistake."

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