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Thread: Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part VII)

  1. #1

    Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part VII)

    It is important to understand from the very outset of beginning practice that Shikantaza (“Just Sitting”) Zazen is a radical, to-the-marrow, dropping of all need to attain, all “running after.” And we work very very diligently to attain this “non-attaining!“ Last time, I compared it to a foot race in which we keep on pushing forward for our whole lives, but knowing that each step-by-step of the race itself is perfectly “just running.“ No destination to “get to”… the trip itself is the destination.

    Why is this philosophy of Shikantaza so unique and vital to understand?

    Because in our lives, we are morning-to-night chasing after things, rarely still … whether it is dreams and goals, food on the table, fame and fortune, praise, possessions, whatever we think will “finally” make us happy and content in life, complete (once we get there, if we get there). Like a dog chasing its tail.

    How rarely are we truly still, at rest and at peace, right here.

    It may be the same in our spiritual practice, if we are always searching for something, someone, or some truth distant or just out of reach. It may be “Enlightenment”, “the Buddha” or some other Power or “secret to life” that seems so far away.

    The Practice of Shikantaza may be unique in being, unlike most other ways of seeking, a radical stopping of the search, a true union with life “just-as-it-is,” dropping all need for looking “beyond” so to make life complete here and now.

    Yet, far from being mere resignation, a half-satisfied complacency or lazy “giving up,” Shikantaza is, instead, finding what we are longing for by allowing all just to be. Life is complete when one allows life to be complete. All things are perfectly just what they are if we see them as such. The hard borders and friction between our self and the world fall away.

    By stopping the search, something precious is truly found!

    We discover stillness and peace, not by running after stillness and peace, but by being truly still and at rest. To do this, we sit on our Zafu cushion, dropping from mind all judgments of the world, all resistance… all thought that life “should be” or “had better be” some other way than just as we find it all. In this way, we find the sitting of Zazen (and all of Practice) to be a perfect act, the one place to be and the one thing to do in the universe at that moment. When we are sitting, we do not think that we “should be” someplace else, or that there is a better way to spend our time. Instead, we find each moment of sitting complete, with not one thing to add or take away from the moment.

    We discover stillness even amid the activity of life, peace without regard to whether all around is chaos! Even though we are still, we keep living and moving forward!

    Thus, we find that what we have been searching for here all along.

    (Now that I have explained a bit about the philosophy of diligently sitting to attain “non-attaining” and to achieve “nothing to achieve”, I will talk in our next episode about about what should be going on “inside the head” and with one’s thoughts during Shikantaza Zazen.)

    CLICK HERE for today’s Sit-A-Long video.

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.

  2. #2
    Thanks Jundo,

    I keep thinking that I need to go on a retreat to 'find' inner peace and stillness. More and more I am learning that I can find it anywhere. There's no place to go. I'm already home.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Thank you Jundo,

    For the longest time I was searching for inner peace and stillness without realizing that it's been within me from the beginning. All I needed to do was to be still, and be at rest.

    Gassho,
    John

  4. #4
    Thank you Jundo. I have been looking for my nose for a long time now. This is very helpful.

  5. #5

  6. #6
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kalesi View Post
    Thanks Jundo,

    I keep thinking that I need to go on a retreat to 'find' inner peace and stillness. More and more I am learning that I can find it anywhere. There's no place to go. I'm already home.
    This is so true, and so timely for me to hear!! I want to go to a Native American/yoga meditation retreat that is close to my home, in a few weeks, but we just cannot afford to pay for it right now. I've been very disappointed about this. Your post makes me realize it's ok, I can practice shikantaza in my kitchen as much as I can at a spiritual weekend retreat.

    And Jundo these words are so, so true, what a beautiful way to live!!

    We discover stillness and peace, not by running after stillness and peace, but by being truly still and at rest. To do this, we sit on our Zafucushion, dropping from mind all judgments of the world, all resistance… all thought that life “should be” or “had better be” some other way than just as we find it all. In this way, we find the sitting of Zazen (and all of Practice) to be a perfect act, the one place to be and the one thing to do in the universe at that moment. When we are sitting, we do not think that we “should be” someplace else, or that there is a better way to spend our time. Instead, we find each moment of sitting complete, with not one thing to add or take away from the moment.

    Gassho,
    Treena

  7. #7
    Senior Member Nandi's Avatar
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    Junior Member Edward E's Avatar
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    Thank you Jundo. A desperate seeking for "The Truth" has been a major cause of the mental and spiritual anguish I've dealt with over the last few years. Whenever I hear "dropping the search" I feel like I can breathe deeply and relax. It's right here and always has been!

    Gassho,
    Eddie

  9. #9

  10. #10
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Jundo, thank you

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  11. #11
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    I sit each day with a very busy mind, racing and thinking about this, that and the other. It feels like a struggle to let these thoughts go during zazen. My question is, do I continue to focus on letting these thoughts go (over and over again for the entire 1/2 an hr sitting) or should I instead focus on my breathing with the same goalless-goal in mind as I sit.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    I sit each day with a very busy mind, racing and thinking about this, that and the other. It feels like a struggle to let these thoughts go during zazen. My question is, do I continue to focus on letting these thoughts go (over and over again for the entire 1/2 an hr sitting) or should I instead focus on my breathing with the same goalless-goal in mind as I sit.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    Hi Joyo,

    First, let me say for the benefit of newcomers that "Let them go" means something like "let them drift away", not "let them go crazy" or "let them just spin on and on". We open the hand of thought, let them drift away like clouds that came into view and drift away over the horizon of a clear blue sky.

    I usually say that we do not "focus on letting thoughts go", and instead just "let the thoughts go". It is the difference between, for example, "focusing on walking" and "just walking", a natural act. If we focus on walking or focus on riding a bike, instead of just naturally walking or riding, we tend to fall over! Just breathe without "trying to breathe".

    Maybe a better analogy (because "letting thoughts go" is a "not doing something" more than a "doing" like walking or the like) is to just not stick you hand on the hot stove, and in that way we do not latch onto the thoughts like we do not grab a hot stove top. One does not need (I hope!) to focus on not touching the stove, and simply does not do so. Relax, and just do not grab onto the thoughts or stir them up.

    Let them swim by, like a fish who ignores and does not get caught on a hook.

    We sometimes say to sit like a mirror, for a mirror does not judge or reject (or crave) anything reflected in it. It does not need to try or focus on doing so.

    I recommend focusing on your breathing for a few minutes at the start of sitting, then moving into open, spacious awareness of everything and nothing in particular. Sit vibrantly, with sitting as the only place to be or act for doing, and with equanimity. However, one can also focus on and follow the breath on days when really really plagued with runaway thoughts and emotions as if in a hurricane.

    Does that help?

    Gassho, j
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-06-2014 at 04:52 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  13. #13
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Hello Jundo, wow, that was a very timely reply, thank you. Yes, it does help. I felt, for awhile, like I really understood shikantaza and my sitting was going well, even on busy-mind days there was still the illuminating "clear, blue sky." However, lately it just seems like during zazen I'm tense, the muscles around my eyes tense up and I'm trying so hard to let everything go. So, thank you for this, I will read this prior to sitting today so it is fresh in my mind.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  14. #14
    Hi, I find it hard to completely understand what the "clear blue sky" could be.

    When I sit, most of the days I have almost the same experience Joyo told.
    I keep coming down to the ZZ' line as Uchiyama Roshi would say. But many times it is only after I've been caught in the train of thoughts for several minutes.
    When it happens constantly, I feel frustrated. I guess I have to remember to not have a preliminary idea of what my zazen session should be like.

    Sometimes I experience a state of complete stillness, for a short time and right after I think of staying there it vanishes. There are no thoughts, but I'm not avoiding them.
    Is that the "clear blue sky" you describe, Jundo?
    Sometimes closing my eyes, helps me to keep out of thoughts trains and be centered again.

    If I just sit, with my mind at its will, my thoughts will inevitably drift me, something has to be done with the mind to keep it under control.
    How does one domesticate all those wild horses?

    Gassho,
    Walter
    Gassho,Walter

  15. #15
    I believe you are experiencing such all the time, but just don't realize. Like the sun and sky always hidden behind clouds, always there even when unseen.

    The clear blue sky is a Traditional way to describe Silent Illumination, Walter. It is not necessarily a total stillness ... although sometimes so. However, it need not be still. Like the sun and sky, it is there even when clear or even when dark and rainy.

    The clear blue sky is a Boundless, Open, Unobstructed, Whole and Peaceful light that shines in, between, right through and right as all the things of life. The is no resistance, and only completeness, even as we encounter the painful and broken parts of life we so resist. I cannot say much more until such is experienced, the purpose of Zazen. When one knows, one knows. I described such a little with this week's Koan ...

    Case 46: Tokusan's Completion of Study
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...NIMITY-Case-46

    Shunryu Suzuki said this in a talk ...

    Tonight I am supposed to explain “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.” In—last night, we came to the point to make to clarify especially “emptiness is form,” which is rather difficult to make it clear. But actually, ... emptiness is “big mind.” And big mind as sky, which contains—which doesn’t—air or sky, empty sky. But—”empty sky,” we say, but everything grow—when plants and everything grow into the sky, sky doesn’t care, you know. And the sky is always ready to accept things in it.

    And—but our mind is not—should be like a sky, you know, our big mind. We should accept things as it is, and we should not discriminate things, as the sky doesn’t discriminate things in which many ex- [partial word]—in which many things exist. Various being is quite free in the big sky. But our mind is not so. “I like this. I don’t like this. This is beautiful. But this is not so beautiful. I like him, but I don’t like him. I like this part of him, but the other part is not so good.” In this way, our small mind always discriminate things and sometime reject things. That is small mind. So small—in the realm of the small mind there are many objects, there are many beings, and that beings exist as if they have self-nature, good nature or bad nature—a beautiful nature or ugly mean nature.
    Seung Sahn once said ...

    “Clear mind is like the full moon in the sky. Sometimes clouds come and cover it, but the moon is always behind them. Clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don’t worry about clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes and goes, comes and goes. You must not be attached to the coming or the going.”
    Shohaku Okumura says ...

    In sitting, any thought or condition of mind is like a cloud in the sky. Somehow clouds appear in the sky, changing form as they stay for a while, and then they disappear. Similar to clouds in the sky, any thought that appears in zazen simply stays for a while and then disappears. I have been practicing this style of meditation for more than 35 years, and in my experience, no thought stays in the mind forever. Everything is coming and going, and we just let things come up freely and let them go away freely. We don’t try to fight against our thoughts or any other mental condition, and we don’t try to interact with them, either. The intention is not to grasp what is coming up from your consciousness. We actually do nothing but let the things happening within the mind just flow. Yet when you become aware that you are interacting with what is happening in your mind, just stop interacting and return to the zazen posture while breathing with the eyes open. That means you let go of whatever thoughts come up, and you also don’t sleep. This is the point in our sitting practice.
    Old Master Shitou said, “The vast sky does not hinder the white clouds from flying”

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  16. #16
    This is so helpful. Thank you, Jundo.

    Gassho
    John

  17. #17
    Thanks Jundo.

    I've been chewing on this for a week now. I had trouble grasping the 'non-attaining' approach to Buddhism found in Shikantaza, especially since my approach to Buddhism has often been more goal-oriented, but I think I'm starting to get the idea.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I believe you are experiencing such all the time, but just don't realize. Like the sun and sky always hidden behind clouds, always there even when unseen.

    The clear blue sky is a Traditional way to describe Silent Illumination, Walter. It is not necessarily a total stillness ... although sometimes so. However, it need not be still. Like the sun and sky, it is there even when clear or even when dark and rainy.

    The clear blue sky is a Boundless, Open, Unobstructed, Whole and Peaceful light that shines in, between, right through and right as all the things of life. The is no resistance, and only completeness, even as we encounter the painful and broken parts of life we so resist. I cannot say much more until such is experienced, the purpose of Zazen. When one knows, one knows. I described such a little with this week's Koan ...

    Case 46: Tokusan's Completion of Study
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...NIMITY-Case-46

    Shunryu Suzuki said this in a talk ...



    Seung Sahn once said ...



    Shohaku Okumura says ...



    Old Master Shitou said, “The vast sky does not hinder the white clouds from flying”

    Gassho, J
    Thanks Jundo.

    Gassho,
    Walter
    Gassho,Walter

  19. #19
    I've been searching for some sort of understanding for a long time. I've studied many paths from buddhist to kabalah, from gnosticism to Hindu religion, from hermeticism to rosicrucianism. And in the end I always come home to my homeless home of treeleaf and shikantaza. Why? The teachings of the Buddha are mirrored in kabalah, hermeticism, the manicheans, the cathars and bogomils. Many teachings of the Sikhs and sufis resonate just as deeply. But just sitting...just sitting holds a stillness and a pure acceptance of life just as it is, that I guess I understand that the search is over. Not that I'll ever stop learning, but even though all paths lead up the mountain, I like shikantaza's scenery the best. And even though I know I'll never get to any "end of the path", I think I'll take a walk this way anyhow.
    Gassho,
    "Heitetsu"
    Christopher

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