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Thread: How to do Shikantaza

  1. #1

    How to do Shikantaza

    what is shikantaza?

    how to do shikantaza?

    why do i have to figure it out?

    shikantaza is what happens when you sit
    just sit
    sit anyway
    just get out of the way

    jundo might say it is sitting as buddha
    taigu might say it is being aware of what is happening
    uchiyama might say it is coming back again and again to just sitting
    someone else might say not getting lost in thought is shikantaza
    but it doesn't matter

    you may do these when you sit but not doing any of this doesn't make it not-shikantaza
    all these methods are just pointers
    the moment you take a "method" and call it shikantaza then regret arises when you notice you are not following the method
    you don't accept what is happening when it doesnt fit into the method, whether it is getting lost in thought or feeling drowsy or something else
    the method puts boundaries around what needs to happen during sitting and what should not
    the method might also tell you to accept whatever else is happening, but as long as the mind has a method, i don't think we can do away with the boundaries it creates

    so just sit without defining it, sit with the confusion and lack of direction, sit with your concerns on how ineffective it could be, letting go/letting be of the meditator or the one that is trying to get it right
    a method might give you the feeling that you are going somewhere, when you take out the method you directly face that idea of going somewhere and the fear of going nowhere

    all of this is crap too
    just throw it away and sit
    sit, it doesn't matter how you do it as long as you don't fight it
    Last edited by shikantazen; 07-24-2013 at 03:35 AM.

  2. #2
    Oh my Buddha, FINALLY this guy is coming to his senses!


    Gassho, J

    PS - That still does not mean that just sitting any old way, like a bump on a log, twiddling one's thumbs or taking a nap is "Shikantaza". It would not be, even though there is no method or boundary on what is "Shikantaza".
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-24-2013 at 04:14 AM.

  3. #3

  4. #4
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Great... thank you


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    Kōshin / Leo

    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  5. #5
    Well said! I suppose the contradiction inherent in "just sitting" which is really MORE than just sitting but truly ISNT MORE than just sitting is what makes it Shikantaza

  6. #6


    If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
    ~ Dogen Zenji

  7. #7
    Great, Sam!


  8. #8
    To quote myself (something I am very good at) ...


    [O]ur “goalless sitting” in Zazen is –not– merely sitting on our butts, self-satisfied, feeling that we “just have to sit here and we are Buddha“. Far from it. It is, instead, to-the-marrow dropping of all need and lack. That is very different. Someone’s “just sitting around” doing nothing, going no where, complacent or resigned, giving up, killing time, is not in any way the same as “Just Sitting” practice wherein nothing need be done, with no where that we can go or need go ...

    ... So, if someone were to think I am saying, “All you need to do in Zazen is sit down on one’s hindquarters, and that’s enough … just twiddle your thumbs in the ‘Cosmic Mudra’ and you are Buddha” then, respectfully, I believe they do not get my point. But if they understand, “There is absolutely no place to be, where one needs to be or elsewhere where one can be, than on that Zafu in that moment, and that moment itself is all complete, all-encompassing, always at home, the total doing of All Life, Time and Space fully realized” … they are closer to the flavor.


    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. ...

    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, insight and brilliance..

    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, cloudiness, greyness.

    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.

    Gassho, J

  9. #9
    By the way, Sam ...

    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    jundo might say it is sitting as buddha
    taigu might say it is being aware of what is happening
    I say it is Buddha sitting Buddha ... Buddha-Buddhaing-Buddha.

    But I also feel that Taigu did not say quite what you say he said. This his from his amazing "How To Sit", and is not just "being aware of what is happening" ...

    In [Zazen], endless delusions will appear and disappear. Dreams and shadows will arise, let them come and go. Even these thoughts are the very stuff the original ground is made of. In the mountain state, how could the big sky obstruct clouds roaming and drifting? How could a cloud hide the vast blue body? Blue sky or clouds, same origin. Just be awake to the scenery of the body- mind and as you drift away, just come back, here and now. And come back again. You may put your mind in the palm of your left hand, be aware of the vertical spine, being awake to sounds without following them; ultimately there is nothing to do and nobody to do anything. Let not knowing manifest.

    This sitting is without object or intention. Just the clear, non judgmental, panoramic attention to what arises here and now. Don't be attached to your thoughts of understanding or not understanding, of being right or wrong, break free from the realm of desires and intentions , be still, be the full body of reflection without judging self or others. To sit like this is to live and thoroughly experience the great question, to fully pierce it and penetrate it.

    Gassho, J

  10. #10
    Sam, man, this is pretty awesome.


  11. #11
    jundo, you said it many times there is no wrong or right zazen but it never got into my thick head
    i just thought that it is a philosophy or ideal; not an instruction or one for practice
    agree with you that it is not lazy/sleepy sitting, not that my agreement matters

    many senior students gave me wonderful suggestions and pointers but i never got it. i was searching for the perfect method. that i could call shikantaza. "whatever is happening" being shikantaza sounded silly.

    my post above might sound as if it is against methods. may be it is. my main point was that calling any method shikantaza limits "shikantaza" to that method. it doesn't do shikantaza justice, no matter how good the method is.

    i tried following methods. my sitting felt like a struggle. where is the acceptance that all zen teachers talk about. most teachings say zazen is being aware yet non-manipulative/accepting of your experience. but all methods seem to be focusing only on the first part, being aware. my mind was too busy following the method, trying to stick to the method, trying to come back to present moment and trying to be aware. though the methods also say to accept all of my experience, i felt i am so busy trying to follow the method that it left no space to accept myself. may be if you follow the method long enough acceptance comes by itself.

    i see the problem not with the method but in my definition of shikantaza to be the method.

    i find it easier though to let things be as is, when i don't follow any method. i am not running after trying to be aware, trying to be present. i am calling where i am present. i see whats wrong with me asking all those questions.

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Oct 2010

    Thank you for this post.


    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  13. #13
    I eat this up. Never get tired of hearing about the simplicity of Just Sitting, the "gate of joy and ease."
    In gassho to all here,
    "Know that the practice of zazen is the complete path of buddha-dharma and nothing can be compared to is not the practice of one or two buddhas but all the buddha ancestors practice this way."
    Dogen zenji in Bendowa

  14. #14
    Hi everyone ,

    since we are on the subject I have a question about the practical side of sitting shikantaza. Not a very important one, just curious.

    Sometimes, when sitting for an extended period, my body temperature rises up to the point of real sweating. Not something weird but more like a good workout! While sitting, it does not get in the way and it is not noticed but when the bell of my timer sounds, ending the session, I find myself soaked sometimes ( wearing a bandanna now while sitting) I know it is not the outside temperature or anything. It has to do with the process of sitting itself. As far as I know, I'm not straining my body or wiggling on the zafu. Has anyone have this experience?



  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Enkyo View Post
    Hi everyone ,

    since we are on the subject I have a question about the practical side of sitting shikantaza. Not a very important one, just curious.

    Sometimes, when sitting for an extended period, my body temperature rises up to the point of real sweating. Not something weird but more like a good workout! While sitting, it does not get in the way and it is not noticed but when the bell of my timer sounds, ending the session, I find myself soaked sometimes ( wearing a bandanna now while sitting) I know it is not the outside temperature or anything. It has to do with the process of sitting itself. As far as I know, I'm not straining my body or wiggling on the zafu. Has anyone have this experience?


    Hi Enkyo,

    You mean even in winter, or in a cold air conditioned room??? Hmmm.

    There are certain kinds of yogic meditation that are said to do so, changing metabolism (traditionally put down to Ki and inner energies and such). The Tibetans are well known for their Tummo technique ...

    I believe I have done something similar a few times, sitting in a nearly unheated Japanese temple during a Sesshin in the dead of winter. Feeling an inner fire, I sure felt like I was warming up. (Not Shikantaza, by the way ... just something I played with during a cold Sesshin).

    Otherwise, unless one is sitting Shikantaza very intensely (Yasutani Roshi once spoke of sitting with the sweat pouring down one's brow, not a common way to sit), then I don't think so.

    Is it possible that you are usually a sweaty guy, and just notice it when sitting?

    Also, I have sweat many times when sitting, but that is usually due to sitting in several layers of priest robes in the hot of summer.

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    May 2010
    Dublin, Ireland
    Hi Enkyo,
    Yes, I've had this too a few times. It was like sitting in a sauna during Zazen, even though the room temperature was normal and I was dressed appropriately for the temperature. It last happened to me on a Sesshin with Paul Haller. He told me just to ignore it and it would go away. And that's what happened. But someone at the retreat, someone into yoga, said it was 'kundalini' ... The chi or energy that Jundo mentions above.

    To be honest, I followed Haller's advice and didn't pay any more attention to it. I also didn't place any special significance on the kundalini (or whatever you call it!) explanation. And this hasn't happened for a long time.

    Jundo asks some good questions here that are worth considering. I've been know to sweat after a particularly hot curry!

    Otherwise, as long as there is no pressure on your heart that you're worried about (like over doing it in the sauna), then I'd just ignore it too.

    That's just my take.

    Thank you for your practice.
    Myozan Kodo
    Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
    Dublin, Ireland

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

  17. #17
    Hahahaaha. Don't have any of those heavy robes on. Too much of a burden! Yes, I understand what you say Jundo. We often notice and find out things about ourselves when sitting still, that's is not the case here I think? It's not all the time, sometimes. Like right now it is very hot in Holland and little Enkyo kept it dry while sitting so far .

    Oh well, just asking. Not a very big deal anyway, not thinking much of it.

    Thank you Jundo


  18. #18
    A Rinzai book I read once said that Shikantaza should only be practiced for short periods of time as the effort involved in proper practice could raise body temperature and cause sweating. It may just be you are working harder than the rest of us slackers

    Tummo has certainly been measured to increase body temperature and I believe there is footage of monks in the Himalaya wearing just a cotton robe and even drying wet towels with their body heat. The technique is very specific, though, and focussed on producing just that result although the physiology involved is still not understood.


  19. #19
    Thanks Andy. Is that the technique used by some people on youtube when siting naked in the snow for 40 minutes? I always took that for a fake vid. (or lots of vodka like the Russian Ice guy ). I've red somewhere about Indian Swamis living at high altitudes wearing nothing and living in a cave. Always good to know there is still some magic and mystery in this world. So there was a real academic study into this?



  20. #20
    It might be that you have seen or might be fake. gTummo is one of the Six Yogas of Naropa and a widely practiced vajrayana technique in Tibetan Buddhism. I only ever did the preliminary breathing parts and suspect I would be pretty rubbish as a snow melter!

    There has been real academic study, though, which Jundo posted too:



  21. #21
    Strong kung fu Sam!

    Gassho, John

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I337 using Tapatalk 4 Beta

  22. #22
    Senior Member Heion's Avatar
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    Apr 2013
    Tallahassee, Florida
    I love it! You are becoming much more wise! I like doing Shikantaza while I walk, even though it is opposite to sitting. There is something about it, just enjoying each step on a journey forward with no destination in mind and allowing the sensations to flow in and out. It's a bit philosophical and it is easier to bring into life considering I have to walk around everywhere up here at the music center!

    One more week to go and I shall be back in Tallahassee


    P.S. What would lazy sitting be then, if not Shikantaza? I know it is not a beneficial state, but I am just wondering where it would be.

  23. #23
    Yup, I love it. Well said.
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  24. #24
    RE: Tummo meditation, a great article just came out this year in PlosOne looking into some of the mechanisms for the temperature changes associated with tummo meditation. They used all kinds of high-tech gadgets (EEG etc). The paper has a series of two studies, one with experienced meditators and one with individuals newly learning Tummo. I am happy to email it to anyone who is interested. The conclusions were that 1) the "vase breathing" part of the meditation causes thermogensis on its own, and that 2) the meditative visualization component serves to sustain the temperature increases and to enhance them. Meditation-naive participants were able to fairly readily increase their temperatures within a normal range if memory serves.


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