I would like to criticize some Soto Zen Teachers for how we may be teaching Shikantaza (I know that all the Soto Teachers fully understand what I say. My point is merely whether we are conveying the message clearly enough).

    Yes, we teach the importance of sitting in a balanced way, be it in Lotus, Seiza, on a chair or the like. We may show students how to place the mind on the breath, the Hara, how to "return to the posture" or sit boundlessly or some other way. We may tell folks about "opening the hand of thought", letting thoughts and emotions go without getting caught in them. Yes, we emphasize that our way is "Goalless" sitting, and that one should leave at the door thoughts of "gaining enlightenment" or some extra-ordinary state ...

    ... but do we emphasize enough how Extra-Ordinary (beyond all small human weighing of "ordinary or extra-ordinary") Sitting Zazen Truly is? Are we too focused on the mechanics of sitting (as important as such is), and not on the Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha which sitting manifests? Do we teach that a moment of Zazen is Buddha Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole that completes and allows all of life? Are we afraid of sounding too starry eyed about Zazen? Do we point students sufficiently to the Timelessness of sitting for a time, that Zazen is the One and Only Place to Be in that Moment of Sitting, holding all the Sutras? Do we teach that Zazen is a Sacred Complete Act? A Moment of Sitting As Enlightened Sitting, Gainless-Enlightenment-Gained?

    Perhaps we are too focused on presenting Zazen as "just sitting" without getting to the heart of sitting as "Just All Reality, Every Mountain and Stone, All the Buddhas and Ancestors Sitting This Sitting"?

    Master Dogen, when writing of Zazen, would remind us (this from Zanma-O-Zanmai. It makes my words seem quite understated!):

    Now crossing the legs of the human skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, one crosses the legs of the king of samādhis samādhi. The World Honored One always maintains sitting with legs crossed; and to the disciples he correctly transmits sitting with legs crossed; and to the humans and gods he teaches sitting with legs crossed. The mind seal correctly transmitted by the seven buddhas is this.

    The Buddha Śākyamuni, sitting with legs crossed under the bodhi tree, passed fifty small kalpas, passed sixty kalpas, passed countless kalpas. Sitting with legs crossed for twenty-one days, sitting cross-legged for one time — this is turning the wheel of the wondrous dharma; this is the buddha’s proselytizing of a lifetime. There is nothing lacking. This is the yellow roll and vermillion roller [that hold all the Sutras and Commentaries]. The buddha seeing the buddha is this time. This is precisely the time when beings attain buddhahood.

    He pulls no punches.

    And now turning from Teachers to Students, I wag my finger a bit more. So many (most?) who try Shikantaza for a time do not truly understand what it means to be wholly still, to not need to run after the next diversion or teaching or practice or book or entertainment. Or, they misunderstand our "goalless" sitting as some kind of complacency.

    My biggest "complaint" about folks?

    Most find it so hard to drop the "running here and there, chasing this and that" in life and "Just Sit" in Wholeness, "Just Sit" Buddha. Most are so used to looking for the answers "somewhere over the next hill" that they can't stop running, looking for the "next shiny thing". (Like the eye looking all around for the eye) I have spoken about that many time before:


    Oh, some folks "get it", what it truly means to find Stillness amid both life's stillness and motion, Silence that sings as quiet or music or the noise of bombs exploding. But other folks don't "get it", or take it that we are pushing merely complacency, resignation and passivity, which is not the case.

    We are not preaching slogans from greeting cards, not tranquilized dullness, not a foresaking of vibrant curiosity and questioning, not prescribing a drug to bring numbness ... but Crystal Clarity and Wholeness.

    Rising up from the cushion, whether lighting incense or changing a baby diaper, in the temple or the office, in a forest or the city streets ... we get done what needs to be done, move forward though no place to go. One might then be able to manifest that same Ordinary-Extra-Ordinary Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha, Fully Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole, holding all Timeless-Time & Space, the One and Only Place to Be, a Sacred Act Complete ... in every moment and small action of life.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: FINGER WAGGING at SOTO TEACHERS & STUDENTS started by Jundo View original post
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. Mp's Avatar
      Mp -
      I actively embrace the wondrous wholeness of sitting ... Thank you Jundo.

    1. Juki's Avatar
      Juki -
      Yes. Thank you. I especially like the admonition against chasing after the "next shiny thing." As any fish could tell us, usually that shiny thing is a hook.

    1. Genshin's Avatar
      Genshin -
      Thanks Jundo.

    1. arnold's Avatar
      arnold -
      Wonderful Jundo. I think that for teachers and students alike there is always a danger in expressing only one side. Perhaps the "good for nothing" is getting overstated but it's still good expression...

      ...That Zazen is wondrous, that it's "the dharma gate of ease and joy", that it is "an unsurpassable, unfabricated wondrous method" are also good modes of expression. The trick is embodying this good for nothing/wondrous practice day by day moment by moment.

      Thank you for speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

      With Gratitude,
    1. Myozan Kodo's Avatar
      Myozan Kodo -
      Very helpful Jundo.
    1. Risho's Avatar
      Risho -
      I love this sangha!


    1. Heishu's Avatar
      Heishu -
      Thank you Jundo for your wisdom, insight and guidance.

      I liked what William said about chasing after the next shiny thing. So easy to lose the focus on truth when we keep searching beyond what we have found to be fact only to become bored so soon and go wondering off on another trail.

      Still here, still just sitting, and so happy dwelling in the truth.


    1. YuimaSLC's Avatar
      YuimaSLC -
      Thank you Jundo.

      I suppose most of us easily chase after more information (books, and yes, even the latest update of our TreeLeaf community forum) for just one more piece of "missing" clarity ????

      Have you been "just sitting" this day? Have you carried "just sitting" to some more active (mindfulness) such as kinhin, or preparing the dog's meal, or kitchen work, brushing teeth?
      Because, if you haven't, perhaps don't even bother asking your questions. That's how important zazen is to living life. Stop trying to conceptually figure-it-out at the expense of essential

      What value is it to possess and study sheet music if you don't understand that the purpose of it all is to direct you to the essential activity of "you-and-the-instrument-and space-and time"
      creating MUSIC!


    1. BobSpour's Avatar
      BobSpour -
      Thanks Jundo

      so important to remember this. Or maybe 'just remember'...
      I need reminding sometimes!

    1. Kaishin's Avatar
      Kaishin -
      Thank you, Jundo, for this reminder
    1. Kyonin's Avatar
      Kyonin -
      Thank you, Jundo.


    1. Kyonin's Avatar
      Kyonin -
      Quote Originally Posted by William Anderson View Post
      ... chasing after the "next shiny thing." As any fish could tell us, usually that shiny thing is a hook.

    1. Kaishin's Avatar
      Kaishin -
      P.S. Did Nishijima Roshi talk much about this aspect of zazen?
    1. Daitetsu's Avatar
      Daitetsu -
      Thanks a lot, Jundo!

      I guess many people actually have difficulties with the simplicity! People are used to complex/complicated methods in all areas of life, and now all you are supposed to do is just sit? But there has to be something else?
      I like a lot what Taigu once said in one of his videos (can't remember which one though): "Simple, yet difficult."

      At the beginning it is easier to sit (one could argue whether shikantaza is meditation or something different) - when everything is new, something to be explored.
      When routine sets in people might lose interest (as with many other things in life).

      However, if you stay with the practice, if you totally integrate it into your daily life, there is the danger of losing it as well:
      Sitting is a bit like eating, drinking, sleeping for me - something I just do every day. However, about a month ago after I finished my daily sit, it struck me: "Wow, I have just been daydreaming all the time!" That sit was NOT zazen!
      I became aware that the attitude when sitting down is of greatest importance: to sit in Indra's Net (as Jundo put it so beautifully in the video above) - not on the zafu/bench/chair!


    1. Jundo's Avatar
      Jundo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
      P.S. Did Nishijima Roshi talk much about this aspect of zazen?
      Hi Kaishin,

      Oh yes!

      Nishijima Roshi was very much into the physical experience and effects of Zazen. He used to be a track and field runner, and sometimes compared Zazen to that ... running while still. He also believed very much (maybe even too much) in the positive mental-&-physiological effects of sitting with a straight spine in balanced posture, and that sitting with a balanced spine had certain effects to balance the nervous system.

      However, he also expressed Zazen as something beyond the mere physicality of sitting in the Lotus Position, as something sacred and whole just in the sitting. The Sitting of Zazen is Truth, Reality. For example:

      Gudo: If you understand some points about ‘Satori’ that often have been misinterpreted in Buddhist philosophy, you will find that such experiences can manifest in life hundreds, thousands … any number of times in our lives. In Buddhism, the meaning of ‘Satori’ is nothing more, nothing less than the state of the body, the state of the mind when we are doing Zazen. Accordingly, anybody, any person, just by the fact that they are sitting Zazen, can immediately and directly enter and attain the state of ‘Satori.’ This is why Master Dogen stated, ‘[A] beginner’s pursuit of the truth is just the whole body of the original state of experience.’ A person who is sitting Zazen, no matter who that person is, should think of himself or herself as already thus attained of the state of Buddha.


      Gudo: Yes. When we engage in Zazen ….. from the first moment that we begin to do so ….., we are placed into a state of body and mind wherein we will know personally the great value inherent in Buddhism ….. Master Dogen said of this: “A beginner's pursuit of the Truth is just the whole body of the original state of experience.” The meaning here is that, when the beginner first tries Zazen, that itself is nothing other than the full and complete, authentic experience of all that is … contained just there, just then, in microcosm.

      Sekishin: But, I think that Zazen is not usually thought of in that way by most people. I think the usual conception of Zazen is as a practice pursued over years and years by monks locked in monasteries, so that one day they will undergo some great Satori experience or transformation ……

      Gudo: It is a fact that, in common perspective, Zazen is viewed much as you describe. However, Master Dogen did not understand Zazen in that way. In Master Dogen’s view, Zazen is not something which serves for purposes of an outside goal or reason other than Zazen itself ….. Zazen is the objective of Zazen. It is written in the Fukan-zazengi, ‘This sitting in Zazen is not learning Zen concentration …… It is practice-and-experience which perfectly realizes the state of Bodhi.’ This means that Zazen is not undertaken in pursuit of the goal of reaching or achieving a state. Instead, Zazen is, itself, nothing other than the practice, and the experience, which in and of itself embodies, perfectly masters and encompasses Reality. It is all right here in the Zazen, just by itself.

      Sekishin: So, I suppose that the one and only thing that is really necessary in studying Buddhism is Zazen, and that nothing else is needed.

      Gudo: Yes. Precisely so. Master Dogen used the term ‘Shikantaza’ … ‘Just Sitting’ … with the meaning that it is fully and completely enough just to do Zazen.

      [A Return to Original Self.]

      Sekishin: I understand that Master Dogen told us: ‘Just Sit.’ But what utility is there in that, really? It sounds rather pointless …..

      Gudo: Kodo Sawaki Roshi, when he was instructing me in Zazen many years ago, used to say that every time he was asked by some student, ‘What benefit will come to me from doing Zazen,’ he would answer in a booming voice ….. ‘Nothing comes from it at all!’ Sawaki Roshi would admonish all of us against the attitude of viewing Zazen as a means to a goal other than Zazen itself. He wished to strongly emphasize the sacredness inherent just in Zazen ….. that it should be done simply to be done, without objective or purpose at all.
      Gassho, Jundo
    1. Kaishin's Avatar
      Kaishin -
      Thank you for the follow-up, Jundo!
    1. Daijo's Avatar
      Daijo -
      Thank you Jundo.
    1. BrianW's Avatar
      BrianW -
      Thanks Jundo....I needed that....

    1. Ed's Avatar
      Ed -
      What womderful post Judo.
      Sitting zazen allowing body and mind to just be, not two.
      Aware of breath and heart, not focused on anything but energeticaclly aware, settled, calm is "a sacred and complete act," being empty I ask for nothing.
      How those words ring happy; interdependece, emptyness, just this, almost revealed.
      Poco a poco, solo esto. Bid by bid, just this.
      In deep gratitude,
    1. Dosho's Avatar
      Dosho -

      Thank you for this teaching.