Rev. Taigu Turlur is a teacher at our friend Sangha, the Blue Mountain White Cloud Hermitage. Born in France in 1964, he started Zazen early — at age 13! — and received Shukke Tokudo ordination in 1983 — at age 18! — from Rev. Mokudo Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage, and Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2003. A lifelong student and servant of sewing the Kesa (Buddhist robes), he now resides near Osaka, Japan.
Taigu will be speaking on sitting with the body … as body-mind are not two.
Taigu writes …
Sitting with our body-mind is the very heart of our tradition. How to sit? You will find on line a lot of information about it. People tell you what you should be doing or what you should not. In some Zendos, firm hands may correct your posture so it looks as if it gets closer to what they imagine to be the real thing. In some instances, Zen practice may nurture in us an army-like attitude, alongside we may display some arrogance and intolerance and sit like huge stones, filled with tensions and knots.
I would like to invite you to something slightly different.
Tricks and methods can work to a certain extent. We may receive very helpful instruction and guidance, but eventually, we are alone and it is within and with this body-mind of ours that we sit. The problem is that everybody is different and you cannot correct somebody’s sitting from outside. The activity of sitting is to allow the flower of the Dharma to blossom, to let sitting sitting us and not to force the body into a rigid-fixed composure.
I am not an expert at sitting. I have no diploma about body-work or the like. Although I started sitting more than thirty years ago, it feels like yesterday. So please, take my words with great caution. I would like to provide a few directions and invite you to start where you are with who you are. Beware of not cultivating a particular thought or of toying with a certain idea during sitting, for instance, the picture of the flower blossoming is just a metaphor to give you a flavor or the balanced way to release the lower part of the body into the ground, it is not supposed to be present in your mind during sitting itself. Sitting itself is free of any clinging, so in Shikantaza, following the breath, counting the breaths, or focusing on a koan are not required. It is coming to a place where through not-doing and not-knowing one enjoys the complete and vast scenery of things-as-it-is. Sitting is to realize , not just intellectually, but through our whole body-mind that nothing is lacking, that our being is imperfectly perfect. Sitting is to strip the doing and thinking habits, which is what we can truly call karma, and return to our true home, always where we are. And please, just be humble, forget your knowledge and experience, drop your bag at the gate of sitting, if you keep the weight of a straw or even a tiny thread, it’s extra. To be a beginner is to come to sitting as a beginner. It is open to everybody. As Master Dogen guided in Fukanzazengi…
In general, a quiet room is good for Zen practice, and food and drink are taken in moderation. Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down?
Usually on the place where we sit we spread a thick mat, on top of which we use a round cushion. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture. To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh. Let clothing hang loosely and make it neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other.
Just sit upright, not leaning to the left, inclining to the right, slouching forward, or arching backward. It is vital that the ears vis-à-vis the shoulders, and the nose vis-à-vis the navel, are caused to oppose each other. Let the tongue spread against the roof of the mouth. Let the lips and teeth come together. The eyes should be kept open. Let the breath pass imperceptibly through the nose.
Having regulated the physical posture, breathe out once, and sway left and right. Sit still, “Thinking that state beyond thinking.” “How can the state beyond thinking be thought?” “Non-thinking.” This is the vital art of sitting-zen.
What is called sitting-zen, sitting-meditation, is not meditation that is learned. It is the Dharma-gate of effortless ease. It is the practice and experience that gets to the bottom of the Buddha’s enlightenment. The laws of the Universe are realized, around which there are no nets or cages. To grasp this meaning is to be like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger before a mountain stronghold. Remember, true reality spontaneously emerges, and darkness and dissipation vanish at a stroke.