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Thread: Steadfast sitting?

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Steadfast sitting?

    I'm currently reading Beyond Thinking, a selection of texts from the Shobogenzo. I'm page 37, the term "steadfast sitting" is used often. This doesn't show up in the glossary. Is this a translation of shikantaza?


    (Posted from my iPhone; please excuse any typos or brevity.)
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Hmm... not sure what the original phrase would have been, from what I get from that translation is that it just means dedicated zazen. Not just a hobby or something that we want to to, but something as natural as need to breathe and eat perhaps?

    Gassho, John

  3. #3
    Hi Kirk,

    I believe that "steadfast sitting" is Tanahashi's rendering of "Shikantaza". I have found a variety of translations ... upright sitting, sitting that hits the mark or spot, just sitting. The following information is from Wiki, but I believe it is reliable ...

    ... means, "nothing but (shikan) precisely (da) sitting (za)."[1] In other words Dōgen means by this, "doing only zazen whole-heartedly" or "single-minded sitting."[2][3] Shikantaza implies "just sitting", and according to author James Ishmael Ford, "Some trace the root of this word to the pronunciation of the Pāli vipassana, though this is far from certain."[4] Author Steve Hagen describes the Japanese word in four parts: shi means tranquility, kan means awareness, ta means hitting exactly the right spot (not one atom off), and za means to sit.[5]
    A translation of "shikantaza" offered by Kobun Chino Otogawa[6] provides some additional insight into the literal meaning of the components of the Japanese word:
    Shikan means pure, one, only for it. Ta is a very strong word. It shows moving activity. When you hit, that movement is called ta, so strike is ta. Za is the same as in the word zazen, sitting.[7]
    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Thanks. That's what it "felt" like in the context, and I was surprised that's it's not in the otherwise detailed glossary.


    (Posted from my iPhone; please excuse any typos or brevity.)
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    I know nothing.

  5. #5
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Last night, I was looking on my iPhone, and didn't find any quick answers, hence my first post. But just now, I did some searching, and there's nothing that suggests that steadfast sitting is shikantaza. Read page 34 of this PDF:

    http://www.upaya.org/uploads/pdfs/shikantazanreader.pdf

    John Daido Loori translates the same term as "sitting in steadfast composure." It sounds more like a mental state than shikantaza. But he doesn't give much of a definition either...

    So I'm curious. Especially because this bit about Yaoshan's Non-Thinking is an interesting part of the Shobogenzo.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc View Post
    Last night, I was looking on my iPhone, and didn't find any quick answers, hence my first post. But just now, I did some searching, and there's nothing that suggests that steadfast sitting is shikantaza. Read page 34 of this PDF:

    http://www.upaya.org/uploads/pdfs/shikantazanreader.pdf

    John Daido Loori translates the same term as "sitting in steadfast composure." It sounds more like a mental state than shikantaza. But he doesn't give much of a definition either...

    So I'm curious. Especially because this bit about Yaoshan's Non-Thinking is an interesting part of the Shobogenzo.
    Sorry, Kirk, not sure what your question is. No reason to get lost in words and translations of words here. Sitting Body, Sitting Mind, Sitting BodyMind ... Sitting Body and Mind dropped away ...

    If you would like to read some Dogeny Word-Jazz on Yaoshan's Koan ...

    The great Dogenenologist Carl Bielefeldt has it this way:

    Once, when the Great Master Hongdao of Yueshan was sitting [in meditation], a monk asked him, "What are you thinking of, [sitting there] so fixedly?"
    The master answered, "I'm thinking of not thinking."
    The monk asked, "How do you think of not thinking?"
    The Master answered, "Nonthinking." <2>

    Verifying that such are the words of the Great Master, we should study fixed sitting, we should participate in the correct transmission of fixed sitting. This is the investigation of fixed sitting transmitted in the way of the buddha. Although he is not alone in "thinking fixedly", Yueshan's words are singular: "thinking of not thinking". Thinking is the very "skin, flesh, bones and marrow"; "not thinking" is the very skin, flesh, bones and marrow. <3>

    "The monk asked, 'How do you think of not thinking?'" Indeed, while "not thinking" may be old, here it is "how do you think"? Could there be no "thinking" in sitting "fixedly"? How could [it] fail to penetrate beyond sitting "fixedly"? If we are not the sort of fool that "despises what is near", we ought to have the strength, we ought to have the "thinking", to question sitting "fixedly". <4>

    "The master answered, 'Nonthinking'." Although the employment of "nonthinking" is "crystal clear", when we "think of not thinking", we always use "nonthinking". There is someone in "nonthinking", and this someone maintains us. Although it is we who are sitting "fixedly", [our sitting] is not merely "thinking": it presents itself as sitting "fixedly". Although sitting "fixedly" is sitting "fixedly", how could it "think" of sitting "fixedly"? Therefore, sitting "fixedly" is not the "measure of the buddha", not the measure of the dharma, not the measure of awakening, not the measure of comprehension. <5>
    http://scbs.stanford.edu/sztp3/trans...anslation.html
    Gudo Nishijima - Chodo Cross have it this way ...

    While Great Master Yakusan Kōdō1 is sitting, a monk asks him, “What
    are you thinking in the still-still state?”2 The master says, “Thinking the concrete
    state of not thinking.” The monk says, “How can the state of not thinking
    be thought?” The master says, “It is non-thinking.”3
    [4] Experiencing the state in which the words of the great master are like
    this, we should learn in practice “mountain-still sitting,”4 and we should receive
    the authentic transmission of “mountain-still sitting”: this is the investigation
    of “mountain-still sitting” that has been transmitted in Bud dhism. “Thinking
    in the still-still state” is not of only one kind, but Yakusan’s words are one
    example of it. Those words are “Thinking the concrete state of not thinking.”
    They include “thinking” as skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, and “not thinking”
    as skin, flesh, bones, and marrow. The monk says, “How can the state
    of not thinking be thought?” Truly, although “the state of not think ing” is
    ancient, still it is “How can it be thought about!”5 “In the still-still state” how
    could it be impossible for “thinking” to exist? And why do [people] not understand
    the ascendancy6 of “the still-still state”? If they were not the stupid people
    of vulgar recent times, they might possess the power, and might possess
    the thinking, to ask about “the still-still state.” The great master says, “It is
    non-thinking.” This use of “non-thinking” is brilliant; at the same time, whenever
    we “think the state of not thinking,” we are inevitably using “non-thinking.”
    In “non-thinking” there is someone, and [that] someone is main taining
    and relying upon me. “The still-still state,” although it is I, is not only “thinking”:
    it is holding up the head of “the still-still state.” Even though “the stillstill
    state” is “the still-still state,” how can “the still-still state” think “the stillstill
    state”? So “the still-still state” is beyond the intellectual capacity of Buddha,
    beyond the intellectual capacity of the Dharma, beyond the intellectual capacity
    of the state of realization, and beyond the intellectual capacity of understanding
    itself.
    http://www.bdkamerica.org/digital/dB...enzo2_2008.pdf
    Shasta Abbey puts it ...

    Right after Great Master Yakusan Igen had finished a period of
    meditation,1
    a certain monk asked him, “As you were sitting there all
    still and awesome like a mountain, what was it that you were thinking
    about?”
    The Master answered, “What I was thinking about was based
    on not deliberately thinking about any particular thing.”
    The monk then asked, “How can what anyone is thinking about
    be based on not deliberately thinking about something?”
    The Master replied, “It is a matter of ‘what I am thinking about’
    not being the point.”
    Having heard about this state described by Great Master Yakusan, we need
    to investigate through our training what ‘sitting as still as a mountain’ means and
    directly Transmit this, for this is how the thorough exploration of sitting as still as a
    mountain is passed on through the words and ways of Buddhas. Even though it is
    said that the way in which Buddhas think about things while being all still and
    awesome like a mountain differs, Yakusan’s way of putting it is certainly one way
    among them. It is his ‘thinking about’ not being based on deliberately thinking
    about any particular thing. It includes ‘thinking about’ as his Skin and Flesh, Bones
    and Marrow, and it includes ‘not thinking about’ as his Skin and Flesh, Bones and
    Marrow.
    The monk asked, “How can what anyone is thinking about be
    based on not deliberately thinking about something?”
    Even though the condition of not thinking about anything in particular is of ancient
    vintage, how can one possibly think about it? How can thinking not go on while
    sitting ever so still, and why did the monk not pierce through to what goes above
    and beyond simply being ever so still? Had he not been as befuddled as some are in
    our more recent, degenerate times, he would have had the ability to persist in his
    inquiry into being ever so still.
    The Master replied, “It is a matter of ‘what I am thinking about’
    not being the point.”
    Even though his statement, “It is a matter of ‘what I am thinking about’ not being
    the point,” is a gem of clarity, in our consideration of the condition of not
    deliberately thinking about anything in particular, we invariably employ what he
    described as “ ‘what I am thinking about’ not being the point.” There is a someone
    involved in not deliberately trying to think about something, and that someone is
    maintaining and supporting an I. Even though being ever so still is synonymous
    with that I, meditation is not merely an I thinking about something; it is the I
    offering up its being as still and awesome as a mountain.2
    Even though its being
    ever so still is being ever so still, how can its being ever so still possibly think
    about being ever so still?
    As a consequence, being as still as a mountain is beyond the considerations
    of Buddhas, beyond the considerations of Dharma, beyond the considerations of
    having awakened, and beyond the considerations of intellectual understanding.
    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachin...6zazenShin.pdf
    Are they saying different or the same? Are they saying the same or different? Are they saying?

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    I must say, I like this one best:

    As you were sitting there all still and awesome like a mountain

    :-)

  8. #8
    Why not put all the words aside and just DO IT ... or rather ... DO NON-DO!

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    Amen Jundo, the Shobogenzo confuses me when I try to rationalize it. Better to taste the soup (vegetarian of course) than to read about soup.
    Gassho, Jakudo.

    Sent from my GT-N8010 using Tapatalk
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, I. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Why not put all the words aside and just DO IT ... or rather ... DO NON-DO!

    Gassho, J
    Yes, thank you Jundo ... for me, this is a helpful way - sometimes to many words/questions removes me from the true meaning and that is to just sit ... Just be. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  11. #11
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Thank you Jundo. Words have their place, but conceptual thinking does try to distract me from sitting. Also Kirkmc, something really funny is that the more I sit, the more these cryptic words make sense on a deep level. Heard once (might have been from Jundo) that it's beneficial to read the Dharma with an empty mind. When reading, just read.

    Gassho, John

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Nameless View Post
    Heard once (might have been from Jundo) that it's beneficial to read the Dharma with an empty mind. When reading, just read.

    Gassho, John
    Well, there is a time to understand intellectually Buddhist, Zen and Mahayana history, philosophy and perspectives. This "Way beyond words and letters", by the way, was never completely beyond book study and "words and letters" (except for some rare radicals of centuries past). Primarily it meant to take the Sutras and other writings in small doses, not getting tangled in them, seeing right through them to the light which shines through and as the words. Know when to pick a book up, know when to put it down. Sit on a Zafu, not only in an armchair. Dogen, Bodhidharma, even 6th Ancestor Hui-Neng (though supposedly illiterate) were extremely well read and studied in the Buddhist texts. Perhaps it is better to say that we burn the books ... but only after we have read them!.

    Most of Shobogenzo, in fact, is the walking encyclopedia Dogen riffing wildly on classic Sutra and old stories ... so he has to have read them first. I recommend understanding about about the history and what all these old Buddhist, Mahayana and Zen guys were going on about ... but in small doses.

    However, then there is a time to just do-non-do ... putting the books downs and letting the thoughts go. Stop thinking about what one has read. When sitting, just sit and do not "think about" all that junk in the books.

    Then, rising from the cushion ... perhaps all that was written behind between and right thought-and-through the words will begin to come to life.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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