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Thread: Shikantaza?

  1. #1

    Shikantaza?

    so, what's to be done with the breath during shikantaza?

  2. #2
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Shikantaza?

    You should stop breathing.

    Kirk

  3. #3

    Re: Shikantaza?

    OH noooooo--you mean I've been doing it wrong all this time? :twisted: ann

  4. #4

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    so, what's to be done with the breath during shikantaza?
    Hi Craig,

    Buddhism does have some forms of meditation that emphasize ways of breathing to bring about certain mental states. Also, in Soto Zen, we do teach counting the breaths and such as a way to settle the mind for beginners. Also also, different teachers, even within the Soto school, will teach somewhat different perspectives on this.

    However, generally, we do not do anything with the breath, except to allow it to find its own, natural , easy rhythm. Master Dogen (the founder of the Soto lineage in Japan) did not really say much about breathing. In fact, I often think that he could have said more (breathing is so important in the martial arts, for example). But, Dogen did not really seem to say much more than "know that long breaths are long, short breaths are short ... and that they are neither long nor short'. And breathe from the tanden [the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel], but know that they come and go no where.

    About breathing during zazen, Dogen Zenji said in The collection of Dogen Zenji's formal speeches and poems (Eihei-koroku), vol. 5: ... In Hinayana, there are two elementary ways (of beginner's practice): one is to count the breaths, and the other is to contemplate the impurity (of the body). In other words, a practitioner of Hinayana regulates his breathing by counting the breaths. The practice of the Buddha-ancestors, however, is completely different from the way of Hinayana. An ancestral teacher has said, “It is better to have the mind of a wily fox than to follow the way of Hinayana self-control.” Two of the Hinayana schools (studied) in Japan today are the precept school (Shibunritsu) and the school based on Abhidharma-kosa (Kusha).


    There is also the Mahayana way of regulating breathing. That is, knowing that a long breath is long and that a short one is short. The breath reaches the tanden and leaves from there. Although the exhalation and inhalation are different, they both pass through the tanden. When you breathe abdominally, it is easy to become aware of the transiency (of life), and to harmonize the mind.


    My late teacher Tendo said, “The inhaled breath reaches the tanden; however, it is not that this breath comes from somewhere. For that reason, it is neither short nor long. The exhaled breath leaves from the tanden; however, it is not possible to say where this breath goes. For that reason, it is neither long nor short”. My teacher explained it in that way, and if someone were to ask me how to harmonize one's breathing, I would reply in this way: although it is not Mahayana, it is different from Hinayana; though it is not Hinayana, it is different from Mahayana. And if questioned further regarding what it is ultimately, I would respond that inhaling or exhaling are neither long nor short.

    http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/how ... zazen.html
    It is, after all, goalless "just sitting".

    We usually just let the breath settle into a natural rhythm. I find that 2 or 3 breaths per minute is a sign of a very balanced Zazen. Let it come and go so naturally that you forget you are breathing.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: Shikantaza?

    thank you for the posts. i tried to 'not breath' and, well, i passed out. didn't seem to work.... :lol:

    btw-love sarcasm.

    anyway, i have tried counting the breath and 'resting in the breath' and i just get so frustrated with it. now, if i understand this correctly, in shikantaza, we 'radically do nothing with the breath'. that's what i like about it, however, my understanding was that shikantaza came after a time of practicing counting breaths. so i have been confused. lately, i have basically just been sitting, goaless. no counting, no resting with. just sitting and when i find that i start following a thought, feeling, sensation, etc. i come back to just sitting, breathing, etc. sounds too simple, am i on the right track?
    thanks again-
    craig

  6. #6

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Huh. I've always found that when I become relaxed and do not focus on my breathing as I do shikantaza, my breath naturally becomes longer and sinks to my dan tien (tanden, sorry. Using the chinese qigong version). If I pay attention to my breathing, I find that I tense up :shock: and my breath never does become relaxed or come from/to my tanden.

    Lara

  7. #7

    Re: Shikantaza?

    After reading somewhere when I started my Zazen that someone really doing Zazen only breathes 3 times a minute, I started to really get annoyed with my breathing and I'd feel really tense. I'd be breathing really deeply but I'd get tired quickly.
    Now I've realised that when you leave the breath alone it quietens by itself and is as fast or as slow as it needs to be.I hardly notice it when I'm doing my Zazen now. There's no longer this big intake of breath and exhalation.
    So like Sunshine, really. And yeah, the breath seems to drop too, to the stomach area. Naturally.

  8. #8

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    now, if i understand this correctly, in shikantaza, we 'radically do nothing with the breath'. that's what i like about it, however, my understanding was that shikantaza came after a time of practicing counting breaths. so i have been confused. lately, i have basically just been sitting, goaless. no counting, no resting with. just sitting and when i find that i start following a thought, feeling, sensation, etc. i come back to just sitting, breathing, etc. sounds too simple, am i on the right track?
    thanks again-
    craig
    Hi Craig,

    Yes, "radically do nothing with the breath".

    I teach that counting or following the breath should be practiced for perhaps a few weeks (or a few months at most) to build some ability to sit with focus and stillness (some teachers have people counting breaths for years and years which, while perhaps a wonderful way of practice, is not Shikantaza). "Counting/following" the breath is just training wheels on the bike, and soon the training wheels must come off and natural balance allowed.

    Shikantaza is "radical non-doing", radical goallessness, to-the-marrow non-attaining. However, it is vital to know that "radical non-doing" is worlds away from merely "sitting doing nothing, attaining nothing". I post the following description from time to time:

    So, we have to work very diligently to sit every day, and strive with great effort, all to realize that there is nothing to attain ... It is the way of effortless effort. We must aim carefully for the goalless goal!

    Being the "Buddha" all along, and having not a thing about you that is in need of change ... that does not mean you don't have some work to do to realize truly that you are the Buddha without need of change. To realize that you are never, from the outset, in need of change is a VERY BIG 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 important addition!

    And how do you realize that non-realization?

    By Just Sitting to-the-marrow, radically dropping all goals, judgments, attempts to get somewhere or to achieve some realization. That gets you 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.

    Get how that goes? :shock:
    I also wrote this on thoughts during Zazen, and "doing Zazen wrong" ...


    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. So, we sit looking at the clear, open blue sky without clouds (clouds represent thoughts, the blue sky represents the mind clear of thoughts). Clouds drift in and out, while some days are very blue and some days completely cloudy without any blue sky visible. It is just the weather, which changes. The blue sky is there even when hidden by the clouds. Also, nothing "wrong" with clouds ... it is all the natural sky. Something like that. Blue sky and clouds are all the sky, do not wish to break up the sky. The sky and the weather are just the sky and the weather on any given day.

    We do not try to "silence the thoughts before they arise" in Skikantaza. It is more that we allow the thoughts that naturally drift into mind to naturally drift out of mind, much as clouds naturally drift in and out of a clear blue sky. In this way, return again and again to the open, clear blue sky.

    One of the key points about Master Dogen's approach to Zazen is to allow the clouds (of thought) to drift naturally out of mind (our thoughts of this and that, likes and dislikes, judgments, events, etc) and we come back again and again to the clear blue sky. Do that again and again, 100 billion times and 100 billion times again. So, no need to "catch" the thoughts and chase them away, even as we seek during Zazen to find the open, blue sky.

    HOWEVER, Dogen taught "non-thinking" (also called "thinking not thinking"). That means that there is nothing "wrong" with the clouds. It is not that blue sky is "good" while clouds are "bad" (some Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies imply that). We allow the clouds to drift out of mind, but neither do we resent the clouds when present or on very cloudy days. Even on those days when the sky is all cloudy, and not an inch of blue is present, the blue sky is still there behind the clouds. WE DO NOT SEEK TO BREAK UP OR RESIST ANY PART OF THE SKY, CLOUDS OR BLUE ... It is all the unbroken sky. Understand?

    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.

    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.

    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.
    I hope that helps. And by the way, as we "do" Zazen", Zazen does us ... and ultimately there is just the "doing" ... .

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: Shikantaza?

    thank you to everyone who has replied. i have discussed this with several practitioners and have just been blown off before now. it's great to hear people's experiences as well as some down to earth teaching. i too have found that concentrating on my breath just made me too aware of my breathing and at times i felt like i could hyperventilate. anyway, i think i have counted long enough and am beginning to understand, intellectually, more about shikantaza. thanks again for the responses.
    gassho-
    craig

  10. #10

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Hi,

    Reading all this has really helped. I recently started sitting Shikantaza after counting/following my breath for about a year. Actually, now I'm doing both. I usually sit twice a day so one time I'm with the breath and the other is Shikantaza.

    I think I get that when we sit Shikantaza we let go of our likes and dislikes, judgements, goals, trying to change something, ideas of enlightened and unenlighted, Samsara and Nirvana. When these sort of thoughts arise or any thoughts for that matter we just let them pass away naturally 'untouched'. If we realise that we have been drawn in by a thought we drop it and carry on 'just sitting'.

    I guess with following the breath for a while I have got used to bringing my attention back to a definite point when I realise that it has wondered. Like training a puppy to sit. So in Shikantaza when we realise that we've pursued a thought, if we don't bring our attention back to our breath (or any other point), what do we do?

    My slight confusion at the moment is what it means exactly to 'just sit'. Do we have our concentration in any particular place? If I have it right, there is no object of concentration (like the breath) in Shikantaza. Are we kind of being 'The Watcher' of our thoughts? When we say we bring our attention back to 'just sitting', does that mean there is some attention in the actual act of sitting, attention in the body? Or is it not that we drop any conceptions we have of our body too? So it's basically that any conception of anything which floats into our mind is just left alone and forgotten?

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated (and practised :wink: ).

    Gassho,
    David

  11. #11

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Quote Originally Posted by Borsuk

    I think I get that when we sit Shikantaza we let go of our likes and dislikes, judgements, goals, trying to change something, ideas of enlightened and unenlighted, Samsara and Nirvana. When these sort of thoughts arise or any thoughts for that matter we just let them pass away naturally 'untouched'. If we realise that we have been drawn in by a thought we drop it and carry on 'just sitting'.
    Nicely said.


    I guess with following the breath for a while I have got used to bringing my attention back to a definite point when I realise that it has wondered. Like training a puppy to sit. So in Shikantaza when we realise that we've pursued a thought, if we don't bring our attention back to our breath (or any other point), what do we do?

    My slight confusion at the moment is what it means exactly to 'just sit'. Do we have our concentration in any particular place?
    I like to say that we are focused on "everything, and nothing in particular". We might say that everything, the whole universe, is our "object of concentration". Our eyes are 1/3 or 2/3 open, and we see things in our vision (the floor, a chair, a lamp, whatever is in the room) ... yet we do not think about them, do not label them as particular objects. We certainly do not judge them (ugly carpet, favorite chair, nice lamp, etc.) They are just there.

    And the whole world is "just there" too.

    You can also just focus on the sitting posture itself as the "whole universe" in microcosm. Traditionally, that was the Lotus Posture, but I think it is no matter if people are sitting Burmese, on a Seiza bench, etc. Just know that sitting (simply crossing the legs and straightening the back) is a perfect act, completely what it is, the only act in the whole universe in that moment. There is nothing else to do, no other place to be (or where you can be) in that moment.

    There is just sitting, simply sitting, in that moment.

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Borsuk, Jundo,

    i think this is tibetan..."Mind like the sky, body like a mountain, breath like the wind"

    Thanks for the questions and comments. Borsuk, you read my mind. sitting tonight, i had your same question. return to what? i have been so caught up in meditation as 'doing something' that it is such a radical idea to just sit. i am still a bit caught up in 'returning to something', but i like what Jundo said about nonjudgement. there were a few moments tonight when i was just sitting...then the baby cried :P .
    glad to find some kindred spirits. i have been wanting to get back into running, so i am using this zen idea to just run. no goals etc. here's to practicing!
    craig

  13. #13

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    ... there were a few moments tonight when i was just sitting...then the baby cried
    crying baby just crying = just sitting

    A monk asked Baso (Mazu), "Why do you teach that Mind is Buddha?" Baso replied, "To stop a baby's crying." The monk asked, " What is it like when the baby stops crying?" Baso answered, "No Mind, no Buddha."

  14. #14

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Thank you for these teachings on Shikantaza. They are very helpful.

    Gassho,
    Eric

  15. #15

    Re: Shikantaza?

    Yes, thank you indeed everyone for the questions and responses Here's to kindred spirits and practising!

    Gassho,
    David

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