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