I was inspired by the recent threads on just sitting a bit of Zazen to relax or better deal with problems in life.
And that is all fine and good, very acceptable reasons to sit Zazen! Nothing at all wrong with that ...
Yet ... do not halt there ...
I was asked how Shikantaza Zazen is different from most other ways of meditation ... other styles of Zazen too ...
If one is sitting Zazen with the intent -- in any way -- to discover some Truth, experience something special, change one's current life, attain some exotic state of mind or special wisdom, be happier or more peaceful, pierce some mystery or conundrum, solve some problem in life, understand "life and death" or the "meaning of time", taste "oneness", or accomplish some goal or purpose --in any manner, even but one of the foregoing -- ... then that is not true "Shikantaza" by definition.
I think that one or more of the foregoing applies to most every style of meditation in some way. I think most styles of meditation pay lip service to dropping such goals and hopes ... but I think that most folks actually continue to hold such accomplishments as the "pay off" of Zazen in some manner.
In the sitting of "Shikantaza"... one radically drops (and is dropped from) all thought of discovery, 'special' or not 'special', attainment, wish for change, opposites of happy/sad peaceful/disturbed, all desire to pierce a mystery, worry of "problems" to resolve, concepts of "life" and "death" or "time", idea of "oneness" ... all purpose to accomplish some goal. All of that is dropped clean through ... even the thought of "someone to achieve" some goal too. All fully discarded, not needed in any way.
Of course, there's a lovely twist ... :wink:
For in true "Shikantaza" ... living without need to discover some Truth -is precisely- Truth discovered. The foresaking of all desire for "something special" or to change one's life in some way -is- profoundly special, working a radical change in life. Giving up all hopes of attaining exotic states of mind or special wisdom ... manifests clear & illuminating states of mind ever flowing with life's changing kaleidoscope ... and thus a panoply of the Buddha's Wisdom in many shapes and colors.
By foresaking all need for peace and happiness in one's day-to-day ... one finds the Happiness of one's day to day just-as-it-is, at home where one stands ... standing everyplace and no place in particular (a "Happiness" that does not even require one to feel "happy" all the time! ) ... and a Peace that washes away and holds all reactions to peace or disturbance (thus forsaking even the demand on life that it cause us to feel "peaceful" Now THAT's Peaceful!).
Great mysteries are resolved when dropped from mind (like asking about "how many angels on the head of a pin"), "problems" are not "problems" when we simply stop thinking of each as "problems" (even when the "problems" still remain! ... That's very important: Zen practice won't cure your cancer, return lost loved ones or even fix a flat tire ... but may change how we refuse each). "Life" and "death" are not "life" and "death" when the human mind stops cutting "life" from "death" (same for "past" and "future", thus deconstructing "time").
Many people run around (and around internet forums! ) claiming "enlightenment" because they have tasted, or can access, some feeling of "oneness". The seeker may have even seen for a time visions of "oneness beyond oneness beyond time or place" without even a separate see'r to do the seeing. They may know that that this world of "samsara" is like a dream. Such folks then proclaim themselves "enlightened" though they are "playing in the entranceway, still short of the vital path of emancipation.” Such persons mistake "oneness" or "oneness beyond beyond" for truly being "at one" with this life of chaos, division, both beauty and ugliness, peace and war. The error is that they want this world of samsara to feel like enlightenment (or want to constantly see the multiplicity through the eyes of "oneness" or "oneness beyond oneness"), but do not know the non-enlightenment of just allowing samsara to be samsara.
For by allowing samsara to be samsara, all conflicts are resolved, all thoughts and divisions of "how things must be" vanish. Instantly, samsara is not merely samsara ... for the chaos, divisions, weighing of beauty and ugliness vanish too. What presents is a Peace which is at "one piece" whether there is peace and war (not an excuse not to settle the war, by the way 8) ). The infinite complexity of life is -one- with the infinite complexity of life. Greed anger and ignorance dissipate as all tension, division, and need for reward drop away. Merely by letting the world be the world, a better world results.
In that way, the "self" is put out of a job, loses its functions, is rendered mute. For the normal work of the "self" is desiring, complaining, contrasting & dividing, wishing, regretting, remembering, anticipating, fearing etc. etc. ... Simply remove from mind-body all thoughts of desire (via faith in completeness), complaint at "how things are", contrasts and divisions, wishes, regrets, thoughts of past and future, fear ... and the "self" loses its fire and goes out. POOF!
Then, rising from where we are endlessly sitting, we can return to a world of desires, incompleteness, contrast and divisions, wishes, regrets, past and future, sometime fears. Yet, something is different about difference ... we taste the completeness of incompleteness, divisions undivided, wishes without fundamental care of attainment or not attainment ... resisted pain that is not "suffering" because we human beings embrace and allow human resistance to the painful state.
One is not "one" with the universe or "enlightened" ... but "at one" with this crazy universe, just-as-it-is. Up down up down ... YIPPEE! :dance: The roller coaster is just us! Then, even thought of "the ride" and "someone riding" is just a convenience.
True "Shikantaza" ... .