There are many small variations in Shikantaza
, teacher to teacher. One has to place and focus (and simultaneously not place/focus
) the mind somewhere!
So, for example, Uchiyama Roshi was a "bring your attention back to the posture
" guy. Nishijima Roshi is a "focus on keeping the spine straight
" fellow, and there are others who emphasize focusing on the breath or the Hara
(also called the "Tanden
", the traditional "center of gravity" of the body, and a center of Qi energy in traditional Chinese medicine) ...
Some recommend following the breath for a lifetime, others for just a time.
All are forms of Shikantaza
... so long as the objectless nature of sitting is maintained even if focused on an object.
In fact, all forms of Shikantaza
have an "object of meditation", a place to focus or place the mind to build concentration and quiet the thoughts (hopefully to soften the border and pass through "object" and "subject"), while dropping all effort to attain and releasing all judgments. At Treeleaf, I teach counting the breaths, or observing the breath, merely as a way to settle the mind for beginners or to settle down on particularly cloudy, stormy days. As our central "objectless" object of meditation, I recommend open, spacious sitting centered on everything and nothing at all ... sitting with open, spacious awareness ... sitting with the whole world but without being lost in trains of thought (which I also sometimes describe as having the mind focused on "no place and everyplace at once"). That open stillness is our "object of concentration". My reason for that is simply that I believe it makes it a bit easier to take this practice off the Zafu and out into the world.
If you need a place to feel you are "placing the mind", I recommend on the top of the palm in the left hand while in the Mudra
(another traditional place for the focus in Shikantaza
). Yet, keep that "spacious, unobstructed, everywhere and no one place" emphasis.
If you have not read it before (or even if you have)
, Uchiyama has one of the most elegant "diagrams" of Shikantaza's way in his book "Openning the Hand of Thought". Lovely.
Please go here, search the word "line", find page 52, entitled "Waking Up To Life", and read to page 60 (about the diagram drawing on page 54) ... notice especially the part where he says "Zazen is not being glued to line ZZ'" (what I might call "returning to the clear, open, blue sky 10,00 times and 10,000 times again
http://books.google.com/books?id=fOU_1v ... ne&f=false
Whether you focus on the posture, the breath, the top of the left hand, the Hara
, or the sensation of clear, open blue sky (with clouds drifting out)
that I recommend ... one should eventually sometimes attain to an open, unobstructed, holding everything without discrimination or division
feeling ... What Uchiyama calls "line ZZ" in his essay, and what I call clear open sky.
However, I say "sometimes" (and Uchiyama says "don't stay glued to ZZ") because the whole thing is the trip, reject nothing ... not the thoughts and emotions that drag you away from ZZ", not the clouds which sometimes block the clear blue sky. It is all life, all perfectly what it is. Sometimes it will be "bare awareness", sometimes awareness of this or that. Drop all judgments, drop all goals and need to get someplace else or to be any other way.
Yet, nonetheless, return again and again to ZZ, to the clear blue sky (allowing the thoughts and emotion clouds to drift away). If you notice you are engaged in trains of thought, release them, drop them, and return to ZZ. Repeat endlessly.
All that, at once, is "Shikantaza