Over at a chat forum's "Zen Buddhism" section, folks regularly get into discussions on the nature of Zazen. Often people in other traditions, such as Tibetan Buddhism, will pop in with their views on what Shikantaza ("Just Sitting") is and is not. In response, I wrote the following that I would like to post here.

The unique quality of Shikantaza, I think, is that we do not view Zazen as meditation to get from point A to point B (e.g., "getting 'enlightened' or 'becoming a Buddha'), or as a means to achieve something (even though, by realizing this profound "non-achieving", we are actually achieving something very profound!). That is, in our perspective, finding what was there all along! I may have expressed the reason for this most clearly here:

[Failing to see Zazen as complete is] failing to see life as "complete", missing the completeness of life, looking fruitlessly down some "Path" for life's missing pieces.

Failing to see Zazen as complete is precisely failing to see the universe as "complete", looking fruitlessly for what you believe was stolen from the universe and hidden away.

But I ask you: What of life is missing from life? What can possibly be missing from the universe? What are you "chasing after"?

Thus we know that nothing is lacking from Zazen itself, which --IS-- this life itself.
So, over the next couple of days, I will post some excerpts of what I wrote there. Sometimes, I was very powerful in my language as I was attempting to counter some strong misunderstanding that many folks have about Zazen [words in boldface are assertions about Zen Buddhism and Shikantaza by others that I was responding to] ...

Many of the superficial disagreements here can be easily resolved, and all questions about doctrine put aside ...

QUOTE(AllinOne @ Apr 16 2008, 03:33 AM)
... do the Buddha's own accounts of life-to-life rebirth ... count [since you, Jundo, say that your Zen practice is most focused on this life, here and now, and not on "becoming a Buddha" in some future life]? And considering that it is said that this knowledge [by Buddha of his past lives] was specifically necessary for his liberation, via knowledge of pratyika samutpada (dependent co-arising), how does that affect the this whole Buddhism business?

In a moment of Zazen, all lives are lived, each moment containing life-to-life, all Buddhas past present and future. Life-to-life is Zazen, Zazen-to-Zazen is life. The Truth of dependent co-arising is fully perceived, experienced, swallowed and spit out.

Perhaps my view of shikantaza is too limited, but if you study the suttas/sutras, you'll find that the Buddha developed very very high states of concentration, and yet realized enlightenment based on his direct perception of an infinitude of former lifetimes and other people's lifetimes. You can achieve and remain in very high dhyana for eons, but in this state the effluents are merely suppressed. At least this is my understanding.

In a moment of Zazen, all suttas are studied, concentration high and low encompassed in one instant of true seeing, all lifetimes directly known whether for self or other. Sensuality, views, becoming, and ignorance fully drop away.

"And what is the origination of the world? Dependent on the eye & forms there arises eye-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. This is the origination of the world.

In a moment of Zazen, eye and form, consciousness and contact, feeling, craving. clinging and becoming, birth, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair ... no longer bind, are dropped from mind as but a dream, the dream that is the world. In a moment of Zazen.

QUOTE(AllinOne @ Apr 16 2008, 03:43 AM)
Are you arguing for multiple co-occurring mind-streams in an individual?

In a moment of Zazen, the mind-streams are one, many and one ... co-occurring yet each completely its own. The streams flow up, back, both up and back, yet stand perfectly still.

QUOTE(AllinOne @ Apr 16 2008, 03:59 AM)
... Perhaps you are arguing for an 'all activity is Buddha' type of thing. If so, then I would retort that unless you are having direct perception into emptiness at the time of such activity, then you are still engaging in the act. And if you're having direct perception of emptiness at the time, chances are you wouldn't be doing that.

Or, maybe you are arguing that there is no doer, just the activity. To that I would retort that this particular activity is still outside the 8-fold path as it does not lead to cessation.

In a moment of Zazen, 'all activity is Buddha' 'Buddha is all activity' 'all activity is all activity' and 'Buddha is Buddha'. Emptiness is directly perceived, emptiness directly perceives, activity is without time, all time is all activity, acts engage in you engage in acts, engaging is acting you, act is youing engage.

There is no doer, just the activity. There is no activity, just the doer. Cessation leads to the 8-fold path, and nothing can be left out. In a moment of Zazen.

QUOTE(Butsu'in @ Apr 16 2008, 11:27 AM)
... As per the quote that I posted a bit ago... it fits quite perfectly with the Theravadan view that celibacy is a pre-requisite for Nibbana.

If we are to go and say that some words in the suttas/sutras are not the words of the Buddha and some are... then where does that leave us? We might as well say that none of them were spoken by the Buddha.

In a moment of Zazen, the universe's virginity is restored, for it can never be lost, Buddhas speak the Sutra's words, Sutra's words speak the Buddha. Sutras speak Sutras, Buddhas speak Buddhas. No Buddhas no words, no words no Buddha.

QUOTE(Huifeng @ Apr 16 2008, 01:38 PM)
[I think because the Buddha wished his listeners to remember what he said.
He often states the progress of learning dharma something like this:

approach a teacher,
have faith in the teacher,
lend ear to the teacher,
remember what one has heard,
consider what one has heard, (assumes memorized)
ask questions about what one has heard, (assumes memorized)

In a moment of Zazen, teachers are approached, relied upon, heard, remembered and fully realized. Teachers hear teachers and student remember students.

In a moment of Zazen.

Gassho, Jundo

QUOTE(riv::: @ Apr 17 2008, 01:04 AM)

But once you get up off your cushion and sit down at the computer, or go to work, or talk to someone, complexities, disputes, dualistic thoughts and such are not vanquished so simply and easily...

Not holding to views, at all, that does make a difference (seems to me).

Can you do that, Jundo?

Hi Riv,

I will reiterate what I wrote yesterday:

Realization need not be an "either/or" situation. The Buddha knew perfection, yet in an imperfect human body in an imperfect world. This is the perspective of Shikantaza ... we hold views even as all views are dropped.

The Way of Shikantaza, especially as taught by Dogen, might be termed living life on several seemingly conflicting (to a non-Buddhist perhaps) channels or perspectives, at once, hand and hand without conflict. To give a couple of quick examples, we learn to drop all "likes" and "dislikes", goals and expectations on one channel ... EVEN AS we have to have many likes, dislikes, goals and expectations to live in the world (human beings cannot function in the world without some). The result is something like having goals that we can work hard to achieve and sometimes care about intensely while SIMULTANEOUSLY having complete equanimity about whether they are achieved or not! No conflict there.

We can call this "life on two levels that are not even one"

In a like way, we learn to live in time while, on another channel, we taste timelessness. We live in the world of life and death while dropping all thought of "life" and "death". There are many more twin visions like this, and we experience them all at once.

So, we see the falsity of the senses, the fiction of the "self" ... even as we go through life as if the senses and the self are really real. So, we do not reject the self as much as "see through it" (like knowing that a theatre play is just a fiction, but watching it anyway ... that theatre play is our life, after all, so we might as well live it). We are not attached to sense objects EVEN AS we must experience them as human beings. Here but (on another level) not here. We consider this to be living in Samsara that is just Nirvana, Nirvana is just Samsara.

And in living life, moderation, non-attachment to the sensual, balance and a harmless life, abiding by the Precepts are of central import.

[Now, you ask about whether Buddhist practice will lead us to "perfect realization", whether the Buddha was "perfect", whether we can learn to always act "perfectly" in all situations ...]

I believe that many Buddhists are stuck in the idea that "perfect" must mean (1) perfect by human standards of how we would wish the world and people to be ideally in our selfish judgments, our small ideas of what is best (2) something that is not "imperfect", also viewed through our eyes and little brains. A moment of Shikantaza contains and surpasses all such judgments and conflicts of view, making the Buddha's "Perfect Realization" something quite otherwise than most people think when they hear words such as "Perfect" or "Imperfect".

Is a flower "perfect" or "imperfect"? Is a weed "perfect" or "imperfect" Is a garden of weeds and flowers "perfect" or "imperfect"? Humans may tend to see a garden overrun with weeds as "imperfect", yet does the garden have such standards for itself? Is "perfection" merely to pull all the weeds out of the garden, leaving flowers alone? Or is "perfection" to live perfectly knowing that sometimes there are flowers, sometimes there are weeds, and that is perfectly the way the world is.

Yet, despite that, we live in moderation, abide by the Precepts, act gently as we can ... in other words, pulling those weeds that can be pulled.

And through it all we sit Zazen. A moment of Zazen is all of this. Thus Zazen is perfect, Buddha is perfect, the garden is perfect.

Gassho, Jundo