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Thread: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

  1. #1

    SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen


    Hi,

    I BELIEVE THE FOLLOWING TO BE SO VITAL, FOR NEW AND OLD, THAT I AM GOING TO MAKE A SPECIAL REPOST.

    It is the "there is good Zazen, and bad Zazen ... but never any bad Zazen" post ...


    _________________________________________________

    Hey All,

    I would like to repost something that I think is important to really really really pierce ... about "right" Zazen and "wrong" Zazen. Someone wrote to ask if there was a general "litmus test" for when we are Practicing "right". It is also a good time to briefly review just what is "just sitting" Shikantaza, good for new folks and old folks too:

    Don't think we don't make progress in our Zen Practice even as we toss out all thought of anywhere to get. Don't think that we reach no true attainments, and that our life does not radically change, even as we drop all idea of "attainment" or a "need to change". Remember too that this "getting to nowhere to get" all takes time and diligent Practice, even as we give up all worry about "time".

    The following is the closest I come to a "litmus test" for someone's Practice, a couple of things I wrote awhile back ...

    ______________________

    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?

    Oh, and by the way ... even as there is not a thing about us to change ... still we have much greed, anger and ignorance, various harmful habits and ways, to change about us.
    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?

    Heck, if one sits long enough, one will encounter the light and clear sky that always shines right through, that all shines AS even the very darkest clouds themselves! Sky as clouds, clouds thoroughly sky!

    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, insight and brilliance..

    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, cloudiness, greyness.

    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
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-03-2013 at 01:37 PM.

  2. #2

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    This is a very helpful, clear description, Jundo, thank you!

    Oh, and by the way ... even as there is not a thing about us to change ... still we have much greed, anger and ignorance, various harmful habits and ways, to change about us.
    And this changes through the change that happens due to our zazen practice, right ?
    What I mean is, that we dont have to fight greed, anger ... but by just sitting these habits naturally disappear.

    _()_
    Peter

  3. #3

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Hello friends,

    Deep, deep thanks for this Jundo. I am unsure how I missed it the first time it was posted, but reading this was exactly what I needed at this moment.

    I am grateful for your teachings.

    Metta,

    Perry

  4. #4

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lin
    This is a very helpful, clear description, Jundo, thank you!

    Oh, and by the way ... even as there is not a thing about us to change ... still we have much greed, anger and ignorance, various harmful habits and ways, to change about us.
    And this changes through the change that happens due to our zazen practice, right ?
    What I mean is, that we dont have to fight greed, anger ... but by just sitting these habits naturally disappear.

    _()_
    Peter
    Hi Peter,

    I wish I were so optimistic about that, but I have seen enough examples of experienced and gifted Buddhists "falling down" to think it not so simple.

    Some changes happen just through sitting ... to wit, our sense of "self" in conflict with "other" softens and sometimes fades fully away. Real, abiding changes occur to us "automatically" through this Practice.

    But as far as keeping to the Precepts ... avoiding excess attachments, lust, anger, gluttony etc etc ... the Zazen sure helps and, sometimes, may be all that is needed. But at other times when temptations are in front of us, much work and willpower may be required too ... though facilitated by Zazen. I have seen few (really, I doubt any) living breathing cases of someone who "got enlightened and was thus 100% free of greed, anger, etc. and that was the end of it" outside of Buddhist story books and their hagiographies of long dead Buddhists.

    The subject of "hagiography" came up on another thread today.

    viewtopic.php?p=39761#p39761

    Ah, sure, maybe we will all be "Perfect Golden Buddhas" one day, some lives down the road ... but in the meantime, we are just Bodhisattva Bozos on the Bus, doing what we can each day.

    That does not mean this Practice is not worth it, however. It is, and is radically life changing. It is just that one must stay "on one's toes" a bit. I sometimes compare Dogen's view of ongoing "practice-enlightenment" more to an ongoing dance or "bicycle ride" than a fixed "once and for all you are done" state. Life is an ongoing dance and, no matter how gifted the ballerina, there is always the chance of a stumble at the next turn ... with some days smooth and some days more a struggle. Same with riding a bike ...

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=15407

    But don't give up dancing or bike riding, my friend, just because ya might take a small spill now and then! (at least, of course, until we are all perfect Golden Buddha Ballerinas and Bike Riders).

    (By the way, some folks get real real mad at me when I say they should drop the dream of "perfect Buddhas and Ancestors" and "once and for all enlightenment". However, that is the only way to be at one with this perfectly what it is life ... and to realize that we have the choice of "Buddha" or "delusion" in each new moment, with each new step. It is up to us with each new day.)

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thanks very much for re-posting this, Jundo. It helps.

  6. #6

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thank you Jundo,
    _()_
    Peter

  7. #7

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Thanks very much for re-posting this, Jundo. It helps.
    Agreed.

    The worth of this post can not be expressed.

  8. #8

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Jundo, this post was very helpful. I, for one, can become too comfortable in a routine and this acts as a subtle reminder of effortless effort.

    Gassho,

    Lu

  9. #9

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thank you! Work has been tough lately, and I notice that my zazen is a direct reflection of my life... It is my life. It got so bad yesterday, I was in my head fearing and angry and pointing blame, worried if I'd meet project deadlines. Then it became calm. It was as if I'd stepped into an Air Conditioned room, in from the Florida heat. Then again, it started...the fear, the anger, the clouds... etc.. Then it left. It was one of the more difficult zazen periods I've had.. I knew I was resisting, and it's hard to let go of the feelings, but when I'd let it be (just sit) it would go away.

    The resistance I put up is strong, but I'm beginning to realize it's my fault. I usually justify and protect those feelings in an effort to get away from them. But Shikantaza makes me just sit there. I can't explain it as well as you, but this practice is very, very special, and I can't hear your perspective on it enough.

    Gassho,

    Cyril

  10. #10

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Quote Originally Posted by cyril
    It was one of the more difficult zazen periods I've had..
    ... most difficult, yet very fruitful?

    I often compare this practice to Ai-ki-do ... wrestling with the life-self-world (not three) ... seemingly by being very still at the center of all ...



    Well, sometimes we are up ... sometimes down ... sometimes we need to sweat and get some bruises ... the hard matches are often where the strong practice occurs ...

    ... all to find that we are ultimately just wrestling with ourselves.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thank you Jundo Sensei for the re-repost. This one is so helpful it could easily be reposted monthly! in fact I bookmarked it so that I may easily refer to it in the future

    Jundo wrote:
    "fully dropping away any and all thought of doing Zazen 'right' or doing it 'wrong' ... THIS IS DOING IT RIGHT."

    Wonderful! _/_

    I firmly believe that all Zazen is "good" Zazen because it is through it's very practice, that we will drop all ideas of good and bad, right and wrong! Even though, at times, it may be in need of improvement it is always perfect as it is!

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Agreed: gassho on a great repost.

    For a while, I thought, "This is a great zazen session!" then "Oh, bummer, crappy zazen there," then "Hey, this good zazen doesn't translate post-sitting! What happened?!?" then "Wow, bad zazen makes for good times off the cushion!" then "Uh oh, I thought that bad zazen made for good, or was it the other way around, or..."

    Well, it took a while, but now when I notice that I'm judging good/bad I think, "Ah, there you are, once again, judging your sit," and -- thank goodness -- it fades.

    Most of the time.

  13. #13

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thank you for this wonderful discussion Jundo Sensei. Being fairly new to all this it is hard to let go of thoughts related to right and wrong zazen practice. So for now I will just sit with no concern for " right or wrong" and let my practice take me where I go.

    Gassho,
    Josh

  14. #14

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    I'm slowly working through past posts - learning as I'm going along.

    I'm a little unclear about the role of the breath when sitting? Is coming back to the breath the equivalent to pushing the thoughts away?
    I find it helps to 'calm' the mind but the breath doesn't seem to be emphasized/utilized in zazen?

    Gassho

    Willow

  15. #15

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Hi Willow,

    The emphasis on breath depends on the teacher. Breath is a wondrous practice, and some Buddhist forms of meditation ... such as described in the very old Anapanasati Sutta ... are centered on the breath and can be a lifetime practice. Some teachers of Shikantaza teach it as centered on counting or following the breath, although I find this to be usually among Shikantaza teachers who teach it as a preliminary to Koan Introspection Zazen.

    Here, the approach to breath is described in the following post:

    viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2917&p=41798&hilit=breath#p41 798

    I also once wrote this ...


    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

  16. #16

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thanks Jundo - that all makes sense and in a way a relief.

    Once I've calmed the mind with focussed breath - it's better then to let go - else I become jittery
    worrying about what my breath is doing.

    Gassho

    Willow

  17. #17

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thanks Jundo, this cleared up some questions I have been having.

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Engineer Seimyo's Avatar
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    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thank you Jundo for posting this. It was very timely.

    Gassho,
    Chris

  19. #19

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Learned a new vocabulary word: "tanden."

  20. #20

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The emphasis on breath depends on the teacher. Breath is a wondrous practice, and some Buddhist forms of meditation ... such as described in the very old Anapanasati Sutta ... are centered on the breath and can be a lifetime practice. Some teachers of Shikantaza teach it as centered on counting or following the breath, although I find this to be usually among Shikantaza teachers who teach it as a preliminary to Koan Introspection Zazen.

    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.
    I've been practising anapanasati for quite a while. Basically using the breath as an "anchor", allowing the mind to settle and then seeing what arises.
    I assume this isn't the same as Shikantaza, but I'm still not clear what Shikantaza actually involves.

    Could anyone say in a nutshell what the practice is?

    Thanks.

  21. #21

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Quote Originally Posted by Porpoise
    Could anyone say in a nutshell what the practice is?

    Thanks.
    Well ... you should watch all the short beginners videos for the full story ...

    viewforum.php?f=20

    ... but I might say that Shikantaza is radical, to the marrow, just sitting without thought of judging or attaining ... boundless, allowing, wide open awareness ... without getting tangled in thoughts and emotions ...

    ... which radical dropping of all need to get somewhere ...

    ... truly is a constant Wondrous Arrival, and really Getting Somewhere!

    Try this little description too:
    A VITAL REMINDER ON ZAZEN -- by Jundo
    viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2816

    Gassho, J

  22. #22

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Thank you Jundo and to all the posters in this thread. My main practice is metta so it is taking me some time to let shikantaza sink in but it is well worth the effort. I am as always unsure if I am doing it right but just letting the dhammas arise and pass away of their own accord and not giving n to the impulse to micro-manage my experience is enough to keep me coming back to this practice. Mettaya.

    Gassho,

    Mike

  23. #23

    Re: SPECIAL REPOST: Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    Just the other day I told my wife, after a sit, "I think I'm doing it wrong..." This actually clears up the frustration I'd felt at feeling so distracted during Zazen. Thank you Jundo!

    _/_
    Jigetsu

  24. #24
    Thank you Jundo ... I always enjoy your clear and simple approach to the teachings.
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  25. #25
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jundo.
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  26. #26
    Thank you, Jundo, as always.

    _/\_
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  27. #27
    Jundo and all the posters,

    Gassho.

    Thank you for the insights.

    Charlie

  28. #28
    Just what I needed to read today.
    Gassho
    Lee

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