... by dropping all need and effort to attain enlightenment ...
... thus, enlightenment immediately attained!
It is often said that our Shikantaza way is about "not seeking", being "goalless", abandoning the need and search for "enlightenment" ...
It is also said sometimes that, in "just sitting," we best drop all desire to be peaceful ... happy ... and just allow the world "as it is" (which includes our quite often being anything but feeling peaceful and happy) ...
But let me get on my soapbox and makes some things clear, set all straight:
Who ever said that there is "nothing to find" in, through and as this practice of "not seeking", no place to "get", no treasure to snare at the end of the rainbow?
Not me. I never would say such a thing. Then why pursue this path?
Who ever said there is no "enlightenment" to be achieved? I never would say that. It would not be Buddhism in that case.
What's more, this practice lets us be happy, joyful. Who said not? Not me.
Ya really got to pay attention to what is being said. You see:
Just because we are "not seeking" does not mean we are "not seeking" ... nor that there aren't wondrous marvels thus to find!
To the marrow sitting free of seeking ... is a dandy way thus to find that which can only be found by sitting radically free of seeking. Realizing that there is no where to "get to", and no place you can get or need get ... is finally getting somewhere that will revolutionize life, and put your "you" out of a job. One gets very far, one finally arrives ... by sitting still.
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 irreplaceably important addition!
By being "goalless" we hit the goal ... a goal which is hit by being thoroughly goalless.
In seeing the ordinary as sacred ... we find (as Hakuin Zenji wrote) "this earth where we stand is the Pure Lotus Land, and this very body the body of Buddha". This very life is it!
Yes, the key is "not me" ... because that "me" is a trouble maker of frictions with the "not me" world. But depriving the "me" of its fuel, dropping body-mind, the friction vanishes. The way to "drop body-mind" is to drop all thought of achievement of "dropping body-mind" and all other need for achievement ... which results in a very major achievement, namely, the "dropping of body-mind."
And, yes, finally ... this practice makes me happy, joyful, deep down and pervading. It is an abiding happiness and joy at a life in which I do not need to, and will not, feel happy and joyful all or much of the time. And that makes me happy! It is a Peace which sweeps in all peace and war, is at home with all ... at peace in, as and with a life that is oftimes anything but peaceful, thus True Peace.
See how that all works?
For more details on this wacky, crazy, Koany, Zenny way of inside out, Alice through the looking glassness ... the BRILLIANCE of our path of silently-illuminated "Non-attaining" ...
HEED CLOSELY THE FOLLOWING!
"Shikantaza" Zen practice is a radical, to the marrow, dropping of the self's demands that something needs to be attained to make this world "right", that something must be added or removed from our lives to make life complete, that something is defective and needs to be changed., that we need to get some place to find our "True Home".
HOWEVER, radically dropping, to the marrow all need to attain, add or remove, or change in order to make life right and complete --IS-- A WONDROUS ATTAINMENT, ADDITION and CHANGE TO LIFE! Dropping all need to "get somewhere" is truly finally GETTING SOMEWHERE! The True Home is here and everywhere! Abandoning all need in life's race to cross some finish line over a distant hill, is simply arriving at the finish line which is our every step!
ALL THAT, even as we continue to move forward, make choices, have preferences ... LIVE! Moving forward, yet as still and unmoving as a mountain or a stone ... having choices and preferences while choices and preferences are fully dropped, and we drop all demands to get somewhere ... living passionately, yet not a prisoner of passions ... at once, the still mountains walking, the stone women dancing ...
We fix what needs to be fixed .. in this world, in our life ... all without thought of something to repair. We clean what needs to be cleaned ... the messes and disasters and filthy oil spills ... yet there is no "clean" or "dirty".
GOT HOW THAT WORKS?
All the conflict and division is dropped from mind ... with other related clutter and clatter like thoughts of this and that, self and other ... and, in doing so, the body-mind of self (being out of a job) drops away too!
ZAZEN ANSWERS GREAT QUESTIONS AND MYSTERIES
You bet your sweet kind of non-existent ass it does!
For the first time in our sentient lives ... perhaps since the womb ... life is without the division of "self" and "other". The intimate wholeness and interpenetration of all this life=self=world is just who we are. We are as whole and complete and unbroken as raindrops are falling rain, a breeze but the gently moving air. All barriers and resistance tumbles away.
Like all warm blooded animals, humans feel we must hunt, improve, capture life, attain goals and reach "success" ... yet, for the first time, this practice allows us to experience life as the stones and trees and stars and mountains. Do stones feel that they must get somewhere, achieve something to be more "stoney"? Does little Mt. Tsukuba feel some sense of lack and inferiority when it considers and compares its life to tall Mt. Everest? Is there a star in the sky that thinks "I do not belong in this universe, and this is not my place and time"? Do birds move through the sky leaving traces?
Can we be more as the flowers and trees which, naturally sprouting from the ground, growing, reaching for the sun, seeding life generation to generation ... yet toil not, have no goal or thought of achievement? Flowers achieve, yet without thought of achieving!
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
And thus we sit Zazen ... as a sacred act, as natural whole holy ... as a flower reaching for the sun.
In Zazen, we learn to see and penetrate the deep interpentration and interbeing of all things, all time, all events, all beings. Phenomena on worlds countless light years away, and the dew on the nearest blade of grass are each as much "you" as the winking and blinking of your own eye.
In that way ... the mystery of life and death is no mystery at all ... for the simple reason that there never was a separate self to be born, thus no separate self to die. Where is the air when the wind stops to blow? Where does the sea "go" when the single wave vanishes? We are as the little wave, looking for the water and afraid of what lies ahead when it crashes on the beach!
The human mind imposes judgments on the life=self=world ... it is "good" it is "bad" ... it is "starting here" and "ending there" ... it is "originating in the past" and "rolling toward the future" ... etc. etc. Instead, our Zen practice gives rise to a reality without judgment, destination, here vs. there ... past future --or-- present (for by what measure is "now" without any other time to compare it to?). What remains is alive and very GOOD!
For the first time perhaps we experience reality in what, to ordinary minds, is typically considered contradictory ways ... moving forward in actively living, yet always right here.
It might even allow us a glimpse of the "non-origin" of all reality ... beyond small human ideas of "created vs. uncreated" "finite vs. infinite" "beginning vs. what was before the beginning?" "ending vs. what comes after the ending?" "purpose vs. no purpose". What is one's foundation, original face without all thought of source, here/there, coming and going?
What remains when all that is dropped away? SPEAK! SPEAK!
Yet the wind blows, the star shines, the flower reaches for the sun.
Oh, sure, there are some mysteries that this practice won't tell you much about, such as God's favorite ice cream flavor, whether Big Foot really exists, whether Clapton or Santana or Page is the greater guitar player, whether a circle is just a round square.
However, those other resolved and dissolved mysteries are enough.
CAUTION: Of course, this must NOT be understood merely intellectually, and instead actually made the living practice of our life ... thus, all that Zazen! Chasing that which cannot be chased, attaining that which need not and cannot be attained.
Now, someone has also rightly pointed out that Zen is not a solution to many of life's problems. Zazen is not a "self help tool". It will not let you avoid growing old, cure your cancer, repair your broken marriage, or even fix your flat tire. It will not add one thing to your life, nor make any improvement in it whatsoever.
And realizing that is instantly a solution to all your problems ... because they are not problems when you do not resist them as problems, and when all separation of "me" from "them" drops away.
... body-mind is dropped away when all resistance to life is dropped away ... putting the self on the shelf ...