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Thread: Nice Article, Art of Zazen by Nyogen Roshi

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  2. #2

    Thank you for the link.

    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

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    Wow, you found a Goody there, Sam. One of the clearest expositions of Shikantaza** I have read in a long time. Thank you.

    Dogen says that to actualize zazen, “set aside” all involvements. Do not stand in opposition to anything. Anything. And then “let the myriad things rest.” Let it be as it is.

    He goes on to say that “Zazen is not thinking of good, not thinking of bad.” Now how often do you go in to a samu session, after a sitting block and say, “That was a bad sitting.” Good, bad? What makes that determination? Discriminating consciousness. Setting up what you accept against what you reject. It’s really neither good nor bad, it is as it is. If you sit and your breathing is short, erratic, the mind is churning, just accept it. Let it rest. Be in that state of turmoil. That’s all there is. That is what your zazen is at that point. For me, that was depressing, because I didn’t want to accept my mundane life. I didn’t want to accept what appeared to be all the limitations of the world that I existed in. But it’s an absolute necessity that you start there.

    Dogen goes on to talk about this: that you have to have faith. Faith is a tremendously important part. Faith that you are, in fact, a fully endowed buddha, not actualized yet, but in the process of actualizing. To begin that process, don’t think of good and don’t think of bad. Your sitting is as it is. How many of us hear that? When the samadhi increases, when you’re feeling very good, you can come in and say, “Yes, I had this wonderful, great sitting. It’s so enlightening. Everything just as it is.” And a bad sitting? We don’t see it. This is a very important point, a critical point. Allowing your zazen to truly settle and the samadhi to deepen by itself.

    Dogen says, “It is not conscious endeavor. It is not introspection.” It isn’t that you sit down and intentionally, with forced effort, attain enlightenment. Do not sit down with any expectations. You sit simply to sit. Expect nothing. Give up everything. Give up your hope, your fantasies, and just sit. Let the myriad things rest. As it is. Just do it.

    Don’t worry about time, don’t worry about what you could or could not do, just sit. Sit for the sake of sitting. You’re not sitting to save a sentient being, you’re not sitting to attain the Way. He says, “not introspection.” It doesn’t mean to sit and go through visualizations, analyzing, trying to figure it out. You can’t do that! Analysis won’t get it. Sitting trying to visualize something in your mind – there are practices that do that – but that is not the practice of zazen.

    Dogen goes on to say, “Do not desire to become a buddha. Let sitting or lying down drop away.” Do not desire to become a buddha. This should be rather obvious. For Dogen, zazen is the actualization of our Buddha Nature. When we truly sit. You’ve heard me say a number of times that the definition of zazen that I like is “no separation.” Isn’t that exactly what Dogen is telling us here? Set aside all involvements. Let the myriad things rest. As they are.


    You can hear the argument, “Oh, I get it. We’re the manifestation of Buddha Nature. It’s already there. I don’t have to do anything at all. I don’t have to go to Tibet to get it, or run down the street to a special building, it’s all here, just as it is. My own life. Okay, fine, why do anything?” Why? One master went so far to say that if you have not experienced it, it’s nonexistent, meaning that until you bring it out and it’s manifest, it’s nonexistent. You don’t have it. In a certain way, I like that approach. You can go into the mountains around a mine and pick up a rock made of gold ore. I don’t care how you argue the point, gold ore is not a gold ring. It has to go through the smelting process. It has to be heated, forged, pounded, burned, formed, polished. There’s a lot of work that goes into producing a gold ring. You cannot say that the stone holding the raw ore is a gold ring, although all of the properties are there and inherent within it.

    If we don’t practice and actualize Buddha Nature, then it’s the same as if it’s not there.


    The Dharma-gate: the definition Dogen uses is, “the gateless teaching, the gate of Truth.” And that’s what we are. There is nothing standing in opposition to me and the manifest Way. Dogen calls it “practice – enlightenment.” They can’t be separated. When you sit in this way, with no separation, you are a manifest buddha. Undefiled. A manifest buddha. The minute you go into the discriminating consciousness and try to judge if it’s good or bad, right or wrong, you’ll take it away from yourself. You can be stubborn for a long time, hold rigidly to your fixed notions, and if you’re lived long enough to watch people grow old, does that pay any dividends? No, it doesn’t.

    So why not come in the other direction? No one’s asking anything of you. It’s just you, on your cushion. Have faith in the Way. And then settle into this samadhi. Let everything rest. No matter how crummy you think your sitting is, don’t judge it. Just go to your practice. And I promise you, the moment you really do that, you will turn every sitting period into a good sitting, and I don’t care what the conditions are. It’s literally true.
    Nine Bows, J

    ** You may notice in the article that sometimes Nyogen Roshi speaks of Shikantaza and sometimes of Zazen centered on a Koan such as "MU", but he describes both in very similar terms. He is from the Lineage of Maezumi Roshi, who combined Soto and Rinzai Practices, including Koan Zazen Practice. However, as in this essay, often they bring Shikantaza sensibilities even into their Koan sitting.

  4. #4
    Thank you Sam, a wonderful read! =)


  5. #5
    Nice, very nice. Thank you Sam!


  6. #6
    Jundo's "wow" is making me really look forward to reading this. Thank you


  7. #7
    What a great find Sam! Definitely good instruction before I dig into the November 4-hour zazenkai.


  8. #8
    Thanks for the article. I pinned it.
    Gassho. Heisoku
    Heisoku 平 息
    Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

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    Wow 2 (as in, also )

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    Great article, thanks for posting.

    Dogen goes on to say, “Zazen is not learning to do perfect concentration.” It’s simply learning not to do anything. The old masters have said, “When I’m hungry, I eat.” That means nothing else. “When I’m sleepy, I sleep.” Nothing else. When I’m studying, I’m studying. Don’t complicate it at this point. Don’t look for explanations. Don’t set up hypothetical situ
    Dogen goes on to say, “Zazen is not learning to do perfect concentration.” It’s simply learning not to do anything. The old masters have said, “When I’m hungry, I eat.” That means nothing else. “When I’m sleepy, I sleep.” Nothing else. When I’m studying, I’m studying. Don’t complicate it at this point. Don’t look for explanations. Don’t set up hypothetical situations to see if you can disprove it. Experience it for yourself.

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    Awesome reading.
    Thank you.


  12. #12
    Yep, it's great. Been a while since i've seen a good article like this on zazen !

    Thanks a lot


  13. #13
    Finally got around to reading this. Thank you.


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    Thanks for sharing this article. It's been one of the most helpful I've read.


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    Thank you Sam. I enjoyed this very much.


  17. #17
    Thank you Sam,
    putting aside all involvements ... uhm, I have to work on this.

  18. #18
    Very nice. Thank you.
    If I'm already enlightened why the hell is this so hard?

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    Wow, this is fantastic. Thanks Sam

    Matt J

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    Thanks Sam, it was a good read.

    Sat Today!

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    My therapist has said that I am self-actualizing, and it's nice for him to think so, but I'm just me though inside I have felt so small and backward--I like what is quoted here by Dogen--that inside there is a Buddha, implying that I am becoming. so thank you for this comment.


  22. #22
    I really enjoyed the article. I particularly liked the description of zazen as being "no separation" and also the reasoning behind keeping the eyes open.

  23. #23
    This is really good. Thank you Sam



  24. #24
    Love this! I bookmarked it


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