If you would like to know how Dogen's methods, and 'Just Sitting' Zazen,
differ from other Buddhist schools and spiritual teachings, the following's the clearest I can make it:
Dogen Zenji's teachings, and the practice of 'Just Sitting' Shikantaza, turn Zazen on its head ... and there's a very good reason for that:
Imagine you are living in a house that is not satisfactory to you, and thus you wish to find another house that is 'perfect' for you, that truly will make you happy. There are two ways to do that:
One way is to work very hard to search for such a home-of-your-dreams, to acquire it through effort, then find a way to move there to stay. You may even have to leave much of your current life behind. Many forms of Buddhist meditation and other spiritual practices are searches for a new house or place to reside, existing somewhere in our dreams. (Much of our life, in fact, is a non-stop quest to achieve things outside ourselves that will make us happy).
The other way (Master Dogen's way) is simply to drop all resistance to the house you have been living in all along, to realize that there is nowhere to 'go' in life, to cease all efforts to add to or take away from the structure, to let go of the ego's insisting on how things "should be" in order for the house to be "good" ... Then you find, in dropping that resistance, that the house you have always been in is "perfectly what it is", and you can be joyful right where you are. You can be content with that house even as, hand in hand, there is still much serious repair work to do (an acceptance-without-acceptance of the leaky windows, spiders and creaky doors. There is nothing to prevent your fixing those, even as you accept their existence).
This is not mere resignation, but one's current place revealing itself as a hidden palace
(despite the scattered and often terrible defects)
Dogen Zenji taught a path of finding our 'perfect home' through Zazen ... not by trying to 'get somewhere' or to reach some special state ... but by finding our home right on the Zafu, here and now. We drop all attempt to change, to attain, to experience something else, and we do not judge "good" or "bad" ... thus, we radically embrace things 'just as they are'.
In fact, said Master Dogen, just sitting Zazen ... merely crossing the legs and stretching the back ... is already 'Enlightenment Itself'. This 'goal-lessness' is radical: Dogen hands us the prize automatically, from the very start of the game. As we have the prize, there is no need to look even for that.
Most people think that we're practicing Zazen in order to become like the Buddhas and Ancestors, to attain what they attained, to arrive where they arrived ...
In Master Dogen's view, merely crossing the legs and straightening the back ... not only is an experiencing of what Buddhas and Ancestors experienced ... but is the natural state of being and manifesting, right here and now, the Buddhas and Ancestors themselves.
If you give up, through and through, all longing and desire for change, drop your escape ... in the complete sitting of Zazen just as it is ... you --are-- the Buddhas and all the Ancestors. By abandoning the search, there is the finding.
I beseech you, noble friends in learning through experience, do not grow used to images and doubt the real dragon. Apply yourself to the path which is directly indicated and straightforward. Revere people who are beyond study and free of the intention to achieve. Accord with the enlightened state of the buddhas. Be a rightful heir to the balanced state of the ancestors. If you practice the ineffable for a long time, you will be ineffable. The treasure-house will open naturally, and you will receive and use [its contents] as you like. [Nishijima]
Please, honored followers of Zen, long accustomed to groping for the elephant, do not doubt the true dragon. Devote your energies to the way of direct pointing at the real. Revere the one who has gone beyond learning and is free from effort. Accord with the enlightenment of all the buddhas; succeed to the samadhi of all the ancestors. Continue to live in such a way, and you will be such a person. The treasure store will open of itself, and you may enjoy it freely.[SZTP]
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