Continuing our “How to” series on Zazen…
Shikantaza “Just Sitting” is an unusual way of meditation, and might be compared to running a long distance foot race in a most unusual way. In most ordinary races, people run to win something, seeking to cross the finish line at the end of the course, far down the road and over distant hills. So the runners keep on pushing ahead, striving with all their might to get to that goal, the crossing of which will finally make them victors. In Zen, that distant goal is sometimes called “Enlightenment.”
And in Shikantaza too, we do not give up. We keep pushing ahead diligently with our practice, step by step and inch by inch, seeking the goal. However, the “goal” turns out not to be where we thought it was, and the way of its crossing not as first imagined.
For, in Shikantaza we must come to realize that the “goal” is not the crossing of some far off line. Instead, each step-by-step of the race itself IS the destination fully attained, the finish line is ever underfoot and constantly crossed with each inch. Each step is instantaneously a perfect arriving at the winner’s tape!
To know that there is no finish line to cross even as we run the race, no target to hit, is to perpetually arrive at the finish line with each stride, ever hitting the target, always arriving home. But despite the fact that the “trophy” was ours all along, we do not give up, do not sit down at the starting line, do not quit and jump out early from the race (of our practice, our life). We do not turn back or waste time. For that reason, some call our Practice a great, constant striving for the “Goalless goal.”
In Shikantaza, 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. In other words, we keep on running running running, knowing that we belong in this race, and there is no grander place to be!
As I have mentioned before, in sitting, we drop 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. No matter how it is going, or the direction it takes, we drop –to the marrow – all thought that the race should be turning out some other way. In other words, we learn to go totally with the race’s flow.
And thus, the goal is constantly crossed underfoot even as we keep on running forward… yet we persist in running until we cross the line of thoroughly realizing that fact of the line’s true location in each step, then keep on running more steps after steps because all of life turns out to be “Practice.” The very act of running brings the race — and the Buddha’s teachings — to life. So, we keep on running despite no need to”get.”
Radically dropping, to the marrow, all need to attain, add or remove, or change circumstances 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!
Attaining non-attaining is the Prize!
It is a marvelous way to practice, and wonderful way to live all of life : constantly moving forward with energy and effort, living vigorously, yet knowing that there is no place to “get to,” and we are constantly already home.
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.