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Thread: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

  1. #1

    Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    Hi, Jundo.

    I remembered today that you mentioned that there was some discussion/disagreement about bodhidharma's wall-gazing. You said you were going to come back to that discussion, but I don't recall ever seeing a post. I you haven't, I'd enjoy hearing about this if you have the time to post about it. If not, it is not a burning question, just mild curiosity, . . .


    Gassho,
    Bill

  2. #2

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    Hi Bill,

    Well, to make a long story short ... it is Soto tradition to sit Zazen facing a wall, as this is said to be how Master Bodhidharma sat ...



    But some recent historical research indicates that this may be a mistranslation, and the actual phrase in the old teachings may be closer to "sit like a wall", i.e., sit with your senses and mind as firm and steady as a wall, no matter what comes.

    Also, I conducted an informal survey of members on the list-serve for the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (the association of Soto Zen teachers in North America), and I was very surprised to find that many many teachers are breaking tradition, and have folks sit facing into the room all or half of the time. One reason is probably the influence of the Maezumi Roshi lineage, which is a mix of Rinzai and Soto practice.

    Anyway, I do not care so much now which way people sit. If they sit facing into the room, their eyes should still be aimed downward at the floor, about a metre or so in front of their legs. So, it is really about the same thing as staring at the wall. We are open to the world, and our eyes are open about 2/3rds. But we are not thinking about what we are looking at, and are seeing everything without focusing on or pondering anything in particular.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    Thanks Jundo.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  4. #4

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Anyway, I do not care so much now which way people sit. If they sit facing into the room, their eyes should still be aimed downward at the floor, about a metre or so in front of their legs. So, it is really about the same thing as staring at the wall. We are open to the world, and our eyes are open about 2/3rds. But we are not thinking about what we are looking at, and are seeing everything without focusing on or pondering anything in particular.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Happened to discuss this the other week with a Monk who said that we should be using our peripheral vision, not looking at the wall or a spot, but more allowing the eyes to take everything in, to let it (the reality of there and then?) enter us. I found it a very useful way of thinking about it.

    In gassho, Kevin

  5. #5

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    Quote Originally Posted by Longdog

    Happened to discuss this the other week with a Monk who said that we should be using our peripheral vision, not looking at the wall or a spot, but more allowing the eyes to take everything in, to let it (the reality of there and then?) enter us. I found it a very useful way of thinking about it.

    In gassho, Kevin
    Hi Kev,

    Yes, but folks should also not be trying to do anything unusual with the eyes or focus. People write me all the time who, for example, try to force themselves to take in everything in the room, no have the eyes alight anywhere, let the vision go out of focus. Often, they end up with headaches.

    It is natural for the eyes to settle on a particular spot, or move from spot to spot. Just don't think about the spot(s), or shut out and reject anything else in the room.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    I tried to sit facing the wall and with the face to the open room. In the second case I did as Jundo said, eyes aimed forward to the floor.
    It is hard to explain in words, but when I sat with the face to the room it somehow felt better. Like the wall somehow brought some sense of isolation. At least that's what came to mind after the sitting.

    On the topic of focus: I do not know if belongs in the "strange things"-box, but to me it feels like "opening" the vision, realizing the stuff that is on the far left and right, somehow adds to the sitting, while focussing on a certain point (in the middle) makes it harder to calm the mind down.

  7. #7
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    I notice that if my sitting space is uncluttered and has relatively unobtrusive decor, I can sit facing center. But if available sitting space is cluttered or otherwise distracting (and my spaces vary with family activity at the time), I need to find a wall. My favorite sitting space is actually the bathroom -- sounds silly, but we have a pleasant, clean bathroom decorated with a serene color scheme.

  8. #8

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    It is hard to explain in words, but when I sat with the face to the room it somehow felt better. Like the wall somehow brought some sense of isolation.
    Facing a wall, sitting towards the room, are what they are. There is no isolation. Just the wall etc.

    All kinds of things will come up in practice. I have always faced a wall when sitting Zazen, and have no plans of stopping that anytime soon.

    Gassho

  9. #9

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    Quote Originally Posted by StephanCOH
    I tried to sit facing the wall and with the face to the open room. In the second case I did as Jundo said, eyes aimed forward to the floor.
    It is hard to explain in words, but when I sat with the face to the room it somehow felt better. Like the wall somehow brought some sense of isolation. At least that's what came to mind after the sitting.

    On the topic of focus: I do not know if belongs in the "strange things"-box, but to me it feels like "opening" the vision, realizing the stuff that is on the far left and right, somehow adds to the sitting, while focussing on a certain point (in the middle) makes it harder to calm the mind down.
    Quote Originally Posted by murasaki
    I notice that if my sitting space is uncluttered and has relatively unobtrusive decor, I can sit facing center. But if available sitting space is cluttered or otherwise distracting (and my spaces vary with family activity at the time), I need to find a wall.
    Yes, this is all a fact ... so long as you realize too that, ultimately, the only true "wall" "open room" "isolation" "opening of vision" "calm mind" or "disturbed mind" "clutter" and "unobtrusive decor" is "up to you", "within in and without out", "just you and empty of you". To know that taste is the true "Calm Mind".

    Master Dogen and other teachers instruct us to sit Zazen in a quiet room, facing a wall. But they also instruct that there is nothing which is not Zazen. Thus, while it is good to sit in a quiet room as it aids a calming of the mind ... ultimately, the only wall you are facing is of your own making, the true "Quiet Room" sweeps in the whole universe (and is Quiet even when not quiet).

    And that is neither an understatement nor an exaggeration!

    Gassho, J

  10. #10

    Re: Question for Jundo: Wall sitting/Wall gazing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Yes, this is all a fact ... so long as you realize too that, ultimately, the only true "wall" "open room" "isolation" "opening of vision" "calm mind" or "disturbed mind" "clutter" and "unobtrusive decor" is "up to you", "within in and without out", "just you and empty of you". To know that taste is the true "Calm Mind".
    Thanks, that sounds like a good direction to walk up to.

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