I'm Martin, a non-sectarian "Dzochenpa" with strong Soto roots in my past and I am firmly convinced that there is ultimately no difference between (unfortunately secret) Dzogchen mengagde teachings and Shikantaza. It is important for me to know what Zen practitioners think of them.
One short definition of Shikantaza is: Just sitting. This is complementary to the task: Just sit. Or: Sit down and do nothing. Or: Sit down and leave everything as it is. Or: Sit down and don’t focus on anything. Or: Sit down and be natural. The deeper meaning of these tasks is exactly the same. But what is meant by the term “deeper meaning“?
Task: Just sit. But now you may practice: "just sitting", instead of just sitting.
Different possible Dzogchen-menagde introductions:
Task: Do nothing. But now you may practice: “doing nothing”, instead of doing nothing.
Task: Leave everything as it is. But now you may practice: “leaving everything as it is”, instead of leaving everything as it is.
Task: Don’t focus on anything. But now you may focus on “non-focusing”, instead of not focusing on anything.
Task: Behave yourself completely natural. But now you may practice “completely natural behavior”, instead of behave yourself completely natural.
If you are practicing these tasks, you’re like the client of a hypnotist. You automatically fabricate and grab his suggestions because you hold specific expectations for the session. And an artificial state of mind is the result. But primordial nonpractice has nothing to do with suggestions and hypnosis. Rather, it is the exact opposite of a self-hypnosis like meditation. Do that please absolutely clear.
One is practicing these tasks, because of grasping. It’s important to detect this process exactly. If I tell you for example, that I have no name and you answer: “Hello no-name“, you fabricate an artificial reified-concept out of the fact, that I have no name. In our special case one fabricates a reified-concept out of these tasks and a quality like “just sitting’nes” seems to appear and permeates experience. That’s consciousness; a fabricated state of mind. This quality is reified-identified with experience and because of that one want to get something very specific from these tasks. That brings us right back to the start of this circle of ignorance. All this only because of fabrication.
How can you break out of it? Recognice the difference between practiced “leaving everything as it is” and factual ‘leaving everything as it is’ exactly .. and leave everything as it is. That’s primordial unfabricated looseness. Since it is completely unfabricated, the reified-concepts of an origin or source or subject or object .. doesn’t matter naturally from itself. This knowledge is an immediate obvious fact, not just a thought or insight like: “It doesn’t matter naturally from itself.” It’s impossible to understand knowledge trough consciousness, because knowledge is primordial inseparable from appearances; so everything is like a vivid reflection. This expression is called transparency.
Note A: It’s not a vivid reflection, it’s like a vivid reflection. Don’t misunderstand the term “vivid reflection” in a reified sense. You can’t understand transparency through consciousness.
Note B: Don’t think: “There’s nothing to do”. That’s just an idea, just thinking, just like philosophy. The task must be implemented. And there are two ways to implement the task. As unfabricated fact, or grasping. As primordial nonpractice, or practiced nonpractice. For a person who is still on the ordinary path of training, when he follows one of these tasks, in the first time it is unavoidable not to practice one of these tasks, because ones own consciousness is the expression of grasping and fabrication. But if you realize the difference between your fabricated task and the factual unfabricated task, primordial natural looseness is immediate obvious. Since it is completely unfabricated, the reified concepts of an origin or source doesn’t matter naturally from itself.
Conclusion: The task: “Just sit”, can be the beginning of recognicing the process of fabrication and if this process is fully understood, it can be the beginning of primordial natural looseness, which is completely unfabricated.“Knowing” does not mean perception; for perception is of little measure. It does not mean understanding; for understanding is artificially constructed. Therefore, this “knowing” is “not touching things”, and “not touching things” is “knowing”. (..) Thought” is itself “knowing”, without dependence on another’s power. “Its knowing” is its form, and its form is the mountains and rivers. These mountains and rivers are “subtle”, and this “subtlety” is “mysterious”. (Dogen, Zazenshin)
From your Soto-Perspective, can you define important differences, or not? Big sorry for my bad english