February 2010 Archives

Jundo and Taigu's series on Zazen for Beginners -- for, we are allalways beginners -- concludes todayalthough truly never ending, never beginning.

The most important thing to take with you, in this "race to nowhere but here," is to keep on sitting. And though this practice is beyond all thought of time and spacegive it time! Already, a few beginner folks have written me to express disappointment at not yet seeing the expected inner peace, wisdom and harmony that they thought comes within a few days from Zazen practice. Keep on sitting, give it some time!

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

Zazen is not that different from many skills in that way,  such as learning to play the piano, speak a new language. So, some frustration is to be expected, and is even part of the process as the little "self" resists being put "out of a job"... for the self resists dropping resistance, does not like to give up its likes and dislikes, selfishly fights losing its selfishness, does not know how to truly be still without need to keep moving. "Enlightenment" is neither sudden nor gradual, and thus is a lifetime practice. Things take time... do not happen overnight... and need to become a natural part of the body-mind.

The "harmony and balance" of Zazen greatly derives from learning to accept the moment with all the body-and-mind, being "at one" with what is as we drop demands and resistance to changing circumstances, thus going with the flow and being just the very flowing itself, finding stillness even as and through the motion of life, dropping desires and demands for how the frustrated "me/myself/I"' self wants things to "should be" vs. "life just as we find life". Yes, if you are having difficulty to sit still, and to drop demands and judgments of "how things should be"... it is because the self resists.

However, although there is no where to go in this practice, "nothing to attain," we do get better at it with constant practice!

As I have been heard to say many times, there is no way to do Zazen "wrong" -- even when you are doing it completely "wrong." That does not mean, though, that there is not a "right" and "wrong"way to "do" it!!

So, how does one know when one is doing it right!?! The following is the closest I can make to a litmus test for someone's Practice:

Allowing things to just be the way they are, not judging, not resisting, being with the flow, allowing "happy" days to be happy and "sad" days to be sad, all while dropping all idea of "happy" and "sad," whether really enjoying or really not enjoying... fully dropping away any and all thought of doing Zazen "right" or "wrong"... THIS IS DOING IT RIGHT. And when you are doing it right, it will usually feel like you are doing it right, for there is no resistance, and a great sense of balance.

Fighting things, wishing things were some other way that how they are, judging, resisting, going against the grain and the flow, wishing sad days were happy or happy days were happier... filled with a sense of self bumping up against all the other "selfs," with a mind held by thoughts of doing Zazen right or doing it wrong... THIS IS DOING ZAZEN WRONG. And when you are doing it wrong, it will usually feel like you are doing it wrong, for there is resistance, and a sense of imbalance.

But as well, even at those times when Zazen feels wrong, when there is resistance or imbalance... it is still right, still Zazen, still just what it is. IT CANNOT BE WRONG. This last point isvital to understanding.

So, we have to work very diligently to sit every day, and strive with great effort, all to realize that there is nothing to attain... It is the way of effortless effort. We must aim carefully for the goalless goal!

Being the "Buddha" all along, and having not a thing about you that is in need of change... that does not mean you don't have some work to do to realize truly that you are the Buddha without need of change. To realize that you are never, from the outset, in need of change is aTREMENDOUS CHANGE! There is absolutely nothing about you and the universe (not two!) to add or take away, and tasting that there is "nothing to add" is an important addition!

AND HOW DOES ONE REALIZE THAT NON-REALIZATION?

By Just Sitting to-the-marrow, radically dropping all goals, judgments, attempts to get somewhere or to achieve some realization. That gets you somewhere... a REVOLUTIONARY REALIZATION!

NOTE: Although this is the final installment in our "Zazen for Beginners" series, Taigu and I will be back next week, as usual, with more Sit-A-Longs.

ALSO NOTE: We will have our 1-hour Saturday Zazenkai sitting via netcast this weekend, which everyone can join from home LIVE or via the REAL TIME, ANY TIME recorded version, no different from the LIVE sitting. Information is at this link. Now, on to the video...

To view all of Jundo & Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments ofZazen for Beginnersclick here.

Most days, we'd best sit Zazen in a quiet room, with little noise and few distractions. The reason is simply that a peaceful, still, quiet environment helps us allow the mind to become peaceful, still and quiet, with thoughts and emotions drifting away as the mind settles down.

But once in awhile, maybe every two or three weeks or so, I recommend yousit Zazen in a truly disturbing place. Today, I am sitting Zazen in one of the busiest, brightest, noisiest parts of downtown Tokyo -- to make the point that the true quiet room is within us as much as out. In fact, if we always need a calm and tranquil environment in order to reach the balance, stillness, ease, and freedom of this practice, then I believe Zazen loses much of its power. It is right at the eye of the storm that one can know stillness, and in the middle of chaos that we can taste peace.

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

So, for that reason, I hope everyone will sit, once in awhile, in a truly disturbing, disagreeable, ugly, noisy, smelly, busy, and distracting place. In a stinking garbage dump, next to a construction site with jackhammers pounding, at an Ozzy Osbourne concert, in a game room, while crushed in a crowded city bus or parked in a parking lot off a busy highway. (As I did here a few years ago:follow this link.)

We can drop all thoughts of beautiful or ugly, moving or still, noisy or silent, chaotic or peaceful .. and just sit as what remains.

Following is our sitting today, in downtown Tokyo. Unfortunately, the broadcast signal cut out after only 30 seconds (just another disturbance of life that we sit with). So, the talk and starting bells are gone. However, what I wrote above is pretty much the point, or you can please join me for that sitting next to a busy American highway, at the LINK above. A sitting time of 25 to 30 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo & Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments ofZazen for Beginnersclick here.

Rev. Taigu, who walks the walk, talks and walks us through the ways of  "walking Zen," called Kinhin.

What's the main difference between walking Kinhin and seated Zazen? Well, the first is standing up while the other is sitting down! Other than that, not so much.

Kinhin is typically walked between long sessions of seated Zazen, not only to stretch the legs, but as a practice with the same attitudes of balanced body-mind and diligent non-attaining as all Zazen... walking walking walking ahead vibrantly and sincerely, yet with no place in need of going... no place we can go.

Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

Usually, when the bell rings twice, marking the transition from Zazen to Kinhin, we rise from sitting, face toward our cushion (the Zafu), fluff and straighten it before placing it safely out of the way, bow (Gassho) toward the cushion, turn 180 degrees toward the right and bow toward the open room, then turn (left usually, 90 degrees) and begin Kinhin starting with the right footAs Taigu will demonstrate, we take about half a step at the top of each breath (although, if walking in line with a group of people, we also try to keep up and evenly spaced with the group too). We walk in an unhurried way, slowly circumambulating  the perimeter of the room or seating area, back toward where we began. In the few minutes that we usually walk, however, we likely don't travel so very far. (Again, distance is not the point.) It is best not to walk directly in front of the Buddha statue in the room, and to give a slight nod of the head in respect if needing to do so. When the bell or clappers mark the end of Kinhin, we quickly move ahead, returning to our sitting place, bowing toward the room, turning right and bowing toward our cushion, then sitting again.

It is as simple as one foot in front of the other!

Today's Sit-A-Long (or, rather, 'walk-a-long') video follows

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments ofZazen for Beginnersclick here.


ntroducing Insta-Zazen! ©

Last time, I said that true Zazen is not a matter of sitting, standing, walking, running, floating in a pond or flying through the air. ALL OF LIFE, each instant and every action, is "Zazen" when lived as such, with the same vigorous, sincere stance of "attaining non-attaining," and vibrant "doing non-doing" that we've pointed to for so many days in this beginners' series.

That does NOT mean, however,that we can give up "Zazen" on our sitting cushion, cross-legged or the like and facing the wall or floor. Please don't misunderstand!

"All of life" is Zazen -- but only - seated Zazen is Zazen, too, and is indispensable. (Please remember that Zen teachers often speak out of both sides of their no-sided mouths). In other words, every moment of the day can be a chance to practice Zazen in its all encompassing meaning, but one must still sit Zazen the old fashioned way as well, quietly letting thoughts go, facing the wall or floor. (In Soto Zen, it was traditional to sit facing the wall, but floor-facing has become about as common in the West). Do not misunderstand that point.

Still, the fact is that we can and should practice Zazen anywhere. This Practice is not limited by time or place, on or off the cushion. Anything, anywhere, anytime is Zazen if tasted as such.

Thus, to bridge the gapless gap between "on the cushion" and all of life "off the cushion," I highly recommend to everyone JUNDO's PATENTED "INSTA-ZAZEN" © throughout each day.
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(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")
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You don't even have to "sit" for these "Insta-sittings."
 Also, an Insta-Zazen © can be of any length, starting from but a moment until infinite time (really the same when all is timeless!). We do Insta-Zazen © at points in our day when just a bit of "Zen Mind"© will change our perspective on all things, when a touch of balance will bring life into balance...
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Just standing in a creeping postal line, in the dentist's chair, when the car won't start on a cold morning, when driving and stuck in traffic, when the computer crashes, the baby is teething, waiting for the crossing light to change, the toast to toast, wherever and whenever... just do what you do in Zazen, with the Lotus Position fully optional (It tends to get in the way while driving or having a root canal, although it might work in the postal line if you keep pushing along.).
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This is actually not such a radical departure from "traditional" practice. You see, life in a Zen monastery is filled with countless opportunities to bring the "Way of Non-Seeking" tasted on the cushion into daily activities: What's the difference between the Kinhin (walking Zazen) line and the postal line? Even monks need to wash the windows and do the laundry (folding and sorting socks is an excellent time for a bit of "Folding Zazen"), and monastery life, like all of life, is filled with its challenges, tedious tasks and frustrations. Each place is a place for Practice.
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In fact, if what we do on the cushion stays only on the cushion, what's the point?
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So, please try Jundo's Patented Insta-Zazen © sittings throughout your day. In fact, for a limited time only, three (3) Insta-Zazens © can substitute for one (1) traditional sitting. (That is, if you're sitting a minimum of (one) 1 or more traditional sittings each day. That's still indispensable!).

Today I sit a bit on the train, between stations. There is no talk today, no opening or closing bells, not even sound. No special lesson. Just a guy sitting Zazen on the train...

To view all of Jundo & Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments ofZazen for Beginnersclick here.

I want to continue the freeing theme of Rev. Taigu's several posts in this series on Sitting Posture. We each should find the way(s) right for our own body, and posture is something fluid ... changing... often during a single sitting.

So, I am also about to break a cardinal rule upheld by many in the "Soto Zen' world" (not the first time). However, I hereby officially state that I do not think that the "Lotus" postures (although lovely and balanced if one is able to do them) are necessarily the best postures for most beginners and even most older folk (especially those with older knees, like me!). I suggest the Burmese posture, as shown in the photo above, but seizaor bench sitting, or even sitting in a chair (if done carefully) can be right for many people.

Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

In fact, true Zazen is not a matter of sitting, standing, walking, running, or flying through the air. Rather, Zazen is any or all of those actions if approached as "Shikantaza" (with that whole philosophy of sincere, dedicated "non-doing" we've been talking about every day in this series). As a matter of fact, our Treeleaf Sangha is a place where many folks join us for "sittings" via video and netcast because they are restricted to bed, are in wheelchairs, or are sitting with pain or other such conditions. In that case, I remind everyone that we "sit" wherever and with whatever is. The Buddha, when really very sick, "sat" like this ...

As a matter of fact, about the only reason I don't "sit" that way much of the time is because it is too easy to fall asleep! But, truly, one can sit Zazen anywhere, any time, in almost any situation (a subject we will continue in our next talk, too) ...

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of Zazen for Beginnersclick here.

Rev. Taigu Turlur riffs a bit more on Kannon Bodhisattva in sitting:

"People often describe the path of Zen as being relatively dry, lacking heart and not emphasizing sufficient compassion. This is, of course, a misconception. Kannon or Kanzeon is a much revered figure in our tradition, and rather than prostrating in front of a statue, our tradition invites us to cultivate Avalokitesvara's mind in our very life, to sit and act out of the space of Kannon. When one does so, Kannon fades away, if Kannon sits, moves, speaks or sings, it cannot be aware of itself. There is only room and consciousness for the sitting, moving or speaking."

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments ofZazen for Beginnersclick here.

As we continue our look at "Zazen for Beginners" (we are all alwaysbeginners): a reminder that this should not be just about "you." That's why we take a Bodhisattva's Vow to "Save all sentient beings."

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Oh, and a quick reminder: We will have our 1-hour Saturday Zazenkai sitting via netcast this weekend, which everyone can join from home LIVE or via the REAL TIME, ANY TIME recorded version, no different from the LIVE sitting. Information isat this link. Now, on to the video...

Here's today's "Zazen for Beginners" video.

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of Zazen for Beginnersclick here.

Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part XVI)

We sit Zazen "dropping all thoughts of right and wrong, good and bad"... taking life just as it comes, without judgment...

But, gee, don't some think that we Buddhists have no sense of "right and wrong."

WE MOST CERTAINLY DO!

(If you are going to do this Zen thing, ya have to learn the art of experiencing life from seemingly incongruous perspectives: For example, all paths up life's mountain go just where they go, are what they are, lead where they lead... But some leadright off a cliff!)

Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

I mean, we drop all resistance to life, drop all ideas of how life "should be" vs. "how it is" ... yet,hand-in-hand (like the other side of a single coin), we also know that some ways of leading life do great harm, cause pain, bring suffering to us and to those around us.

Thus, the Bodhisattva Precepts are at the heart of our Practice. NOT hard and fast laws or "Commandments from Heaven," each precept is rather an arrow pointing out a good path -- toward a life of peace, gentleness, balance, moderation, health, satisfaction. They guide us to avoid the taking of life, stealing, abusing others, abusing our bodies, engaging in anger, harsh speech, and wrong actions...

All the Precepts basically come down to this: One is guided to seek, as one can, not to do harm... and to live in a way that is healthful and beneficial to oneself and others. (Oneself and others are not truly separate, by the way.) .

Living by the Precepts supports and sustains the Practice of Zazen, because one simply cannot taste the sweet fruits of our Practice if filled with anger, violence, greed, and excess. (And in such a case, all of your life, and maybe the lives of those you impact, will likely be a mess too!) In turn, the Practice of Zazen supports and nurtures living by the Precepts.

In fact, Zazen is living by the Precepts, Living by the Precepts nothing besides Zazen.

Early in one's Buddhist Practice, one should begin to learn about each of the Buddhist Precepts and seek to take them to heart.

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of Zazen for Beginnersclick here.

Sitting the body-mind, there is neither inside nor outside. Both, and none of them.

Not caught by distractions, forms, not sucked into inner dreaming, we are the open gate, open threshold of both eyes settled in a serene gaze, not trapped by the world, nor away from it. Looking at nothing in particular, we are looking at everything.

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

To subscribe to the RSS for the "sit-a-longs" and be notified of new postings, click here.

Every moment of Zazen is complete, sacred, a perfect action, with not one thing to add, not one thing to take away. When we sit Zazen, we are a Buddha sitting.

And all of this life and world can be known too as sacred, a jewel, with not one thing to add, not one thing to take away. Perfectly just-what-it-is.

But we have to be very cautious here, not misunderstand ... Saying that there is "no place to go, no destination" does not mean that there are not good and bad paths to get there! Saying "there is nothing that need be done" does--not--mean there is nothing to do. Saying that "nothing is in need of change" does--not--mean that "nothing is in need of change."  :shock:

Saying "we are already Buddha" is not enough if we don't realize that, act like that! Click throughto watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

Simple, exaggerated example ...

Perhaps a fellow sits down to Zazen for the first time who is a violent man, a thief and alcoholic. He hears that "all is Buddha just as it is", so thinks that Zen practice means "all is a jewel just as it is, so thus maybe I can simply stay that way, just drink and beat my wife and rob strangers". Well, no, because while a thief and wife-beater is just that ... a thief and wife-beater, yet a Buddha nonetheless ... still, someone filled with such anger and greed and empty holes to fill in their psyche is not really "at peace with how things are" (or he would not beat and steal and need to self-medicate). In other words, he takes and craves and acts out anger and frustration because he does not truly understand "peace with this life as it is" ... because if he did, he would not need to be those violent, punishing ways.

If the angry, violent fellow truly knew "completeness", truly had "no hole in need of filling", "nothing lacking" everything "complete just as it is" ... well, he simply would not have need to do violence, steal and take drugs to cover his inner pain.

You see ... kind of a self-fulfilling Catch-22.

Thus, our "goalless sitting" in Zazen is -not- merely sitting on our butts, self-satisfied, feeling that we "just have to sit here and we are Buddha". Far from it. It is, instead, too-the-marrow dropping of all need and lack. That is very different. Someone's "just sitting around" doing nothing, going no where, complacent or resigned, giving up, killing time, is not in any way the same as "Just Sitting" practice wherein nothing need be done, with no where that we can go or need go, for all is faced 'head on' and energetically as already whole and complete ... even while we realize that the choices we make in life have consequences, that how we choose to walk the walk in this life, and the directions we choose to go, do make a difference!

For this reason, through our Zazen practice, we can taste that each second of life is a perfect arriving, there is no place to go or to which we need go. Yet, we have to know that, despite having ever and always already arrived, we keep living nonetheless, and how we do that is very important. The choices we make have consequences. So, if someone were to think I am saying, "All you need to do in Zazen is sit down on one's hindquarters, and that's enough ... just twiddle your thumbs in the 'Cosmic Mudra' and you are Buddha" then, respectfully, I believe they do not get my point. But if they understand, "There is absolutely no place to be, where one needs to be or elsewhere where one can be, than on that Zafu in that moment, and that moment itself is all complete, all-encompassing, always at home, the total doing of All Life, Time and Space fully realized" ... they are closer to the flavor.

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Then, if they rise up from the Zafu ... sensing that they are "Buddha" ... and thus try to act in life a bit more how a Buddha would act, they get the point.

Zazen seeks no change, needs no change, is complete and whole ... and that realization works a revolutionary change.

But saying "there is nothing in need of change, we are always whole and completely who we are" ... does not mean that there is not much about us in need of change to allow us to live well! (Zen teachers talk out of both sides of a no sided mouth! ) We can live seeing life from both angles... as complete, yet sometimes with much perhaps to repair ... as all paths the same, but with some that lead off a cliff ... at once.

Does that make sense ... in a Zenny way?

(Oh, and a reminder ... We will have OUR 4-hour MONTHLY ZAZENKAI SITTING via NETCAST this weekend, which everyone can join from home LIVE or by the REAL TIME, ANY TIME recorded version, no different from the LIVE sitting. Information is at this link.)

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of Zazen for Beginnersclick here.

To subscribe to the RSS for the "sit-a-longs", and be notified of new postings, click here.

More in our series on "How To" Zazen ...

In "Just Sitting" Zazen Practice, we learn to take life like the weather ... Whatever comes, comes.

Thus, we practice sitting on the cushion with energy, dedication and effort ... all while dropping all goals, dropping all need to attain, dropping all judgments, dropping all resistance. Each moment on the cushion is complete, sacred, a perfect act, with not one thing to add, not one thing to take away.  What is attained thereby is attaining non-attaining.

And in this way, we encounter a way to live with energy, dedication, striving, moving forward in life ... all without need to attain, taking all as it comes. Action and stillness, all at once. No separation from life, just as it is. Each moment of life is complete, sacred, with not one thing to add, not one thing to take away  ... even when not as we think it "should be", even as we work to make better what needs to be made better.

Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

There is no bad Zazen, not even the "bad" Zazen, when the mind is filled with storming clouds of thoughts and emotions. There is no Zazen that is incomplete, even though we turn again and again to letting the thoughts and emotions drift from mind.

There is no bad weather, even the "bad" weather. The rain is just the rain ... the sunshine, just the sunshine ...  even though we might desire one more than the other. We can put on our boots, seek shelter, even while letting the rain just pour down, sometimes soaking us to the bone. Acceptance, and running for cover, at once!

Likewise, there is no aspect of life that is incomplete, although there are many things about it we may wish to to change, wish were otherwise, must work to repair. Acceptance, and wish for change/working for change, at once!

This is the taste of life ... complete even when not as we desire ... that we can learn to taste inShikantaza Zazen.

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of Zazen for Beginnersclick here.

To subscribe to the RSS for the "sit-a-longs", and be notified of new postings, click here.

Rev. Taigu continues his comments for "beginners" on allowing sitting to just sit ... to open, to blossom ...

He talks a bit about legs flowing into the ground, the hands in mudra, the gently closed mouth, where the head is let to head ... and other bits of the whole ... directing, not 'doing' ...

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

To subscribe to the RSS for the "sit-a-longs" and be notified of new postings, click here.