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Thread: My mother wants to learn zazen. Can I teach her?

  1. #1

    My mother wants to learn zazen. Can I teach her?

    Hi all,
    After I received Jukai last month, my mother asked me if I could teach her how to sit. I would love to teach her our wonderful practice, but I do not wish to overstep my bounds. As I am not a priest or unsui, would it be wrong to show her zazen? If it is, how should I introduce it to her? Thanks everyone.

    Gassho,
    Hotetsu

    #SatToday
    Forever is so very temporary...

  2. #2
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Hotetsu View Post
    Hi all,
    After I received Jukai last month, my mother asked me if I could teach her how to sit. I would love to teach her our wonderful practice, but I do not wish to overstep my bounds. As I am not a priest or unsui, would it be wrong to show her zazen? If it is, how should I introduce it to her? Thanks everyone.

    Gassho,
    Hotetsu

    #SatToday
    I think that's great. Teach her what you have learned from our teachers on sitting and posture.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today.

  3. #3
    Mp
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyotai View Post
    I think that's great. Teach her what you have learned from our teachers on sitting and posture.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today.
    Kyotai ... yuppers, wonderful Hotetsu. =) Go with what you know and everything else will find its place in time. But, if you do have any specific questions, we are always here to answer them for you. =)

    Here is a great resource that Jundo provided in the "A Few Shikantaza Misunderstandings thread".

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I - "Just Sitting" is only to sit in the "Full Lotus Position" and no other position:

    Japanese culture can be a bit rigid and incessant on the one "right" way to do any action, be it to pour a cup of tea (this is a cultural aspect of the traditional arts) or crossing the street, and about pushing oneself to conform to that 'One Way or the Highway' ... called a 'Kata' (if anyone has martial arts experience). Such teachers may tend to emphasize that the one and only way to sit Zazen is in the "Lotus Position". Here is a little description of "Kata" (I cannot verify the source of the following, but I can verify the conclusion from 20 years living in Japan):


    On the other hand, as with Oryoki eating (a wonderful example of "Kata"), there is a beauty in the fixed form that one literally can lose ones' 'self' in. So, "Kata" is also a very very good thing, don't misunderstand me on that point. Conforming to "classic" form has very many beneficial aspects. I am a big big fan of Oryoki and other Kata practices, and I teach them. In fact, Dogen seems to have only talked about the Lotus Position (no seiza benches for him in the 13th century), and my own teacher, Nishijima says that folks should sit in the Lotus Position (and he is not too open to alternatives ... he rightly says that some folks reject the Lotus position and such before really giving it a try). Uchiyama Roshi has said some things in his book that place him more or less in that category.

    But when this is carried too far, the "Lotus Position" itself can come to be thought of as having some "magic power", or fetishized as working some miraculous psycho-physiological effect on the body to lead to "Satori". But that is not the meaning, I believe, of "sitting in the Lotus Position is enlightenment itself".

    It is, rather, "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment'. The Lotus Position itself is not the point. It is "doing one pure act in one moment". (Although, truly, the Lotus Position does have many advantages in allowing us to forget the body, and balance the body, leading to balance in mind ... chair sitting, for example, is just not as good in that way)

    Well, in the fat thighed, bad back West, many folks just cannot manage the Lotus Position. So, the emphasis has changed slightly: As opposed to "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment' ... it has changed to 'sitting as a pure act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment'. In other words, "sitting in a chair is enlightenment itself' is true too if approached with that attitude. Do "chair sitting" as a Kata!

    By the way, while Dogen and others emphasized that sitting Zazen is "enlightenment itself", they also taught that everything is "Zazen" if approached that way. Dogen sometimes said that Zazen is only sitting (not walking, running, standing or lying down), but he also said that Zazen is walking, running, standing or lying down (that guy knew how to talk out of both sides of his mouth!) So, I teach that perspective too here at Treeleaf.

    2- The point of "Shikantaza" is "Not Thinking".

    All through the history of Buddhism, and many Eastern religions, has been the emphasis by some on attaining states in which thought and perhaps all consciousness are extinguished in various ways. There are forms of meditation that do reach such states. We may even, at times, experience this in our "Shikanataza" meditation. However, I believe that Dogen's meaning of "think not thinking = non-thinking" is much more subtle than this, much more practical. Dogen wrote this in his Fukanzazengi ...


    I describe "nonthnking" in another way too, for example, as having "thoughts, goals, likes and dislikes" on one channel ... while simultaneously dropping "thoughts, goals, likes and dislikes" on another channel, not two. It is not about always being in a state of deep Samadhi in which thoughts (and even consciousness) vanish. There is no evidence in Dogen's writings that he meant such states or that, if such a state were sometimes tasted (which we do taste), we should remain there. (I know some drugs you can inject in your veins that will get you "there" faster than Zazen!). Nor is this practice about being in a coma or a deep deep sleep. Rather, it is about being alive and awake!

    Some teachers of Shikanataza, often coming from a Rinzai influence, believe that Dogen meant that we should use Zazen to attain deep states of "not thinking" as the ultimate goal of practice. I don't think so (pun intended), and I see no evidence that he meant that. Or that the Buddha meant that, for that matter.

    3- "Shikantaza" should be a strenuous effort, sweat pouring from your brow as if your "hair were on fire."


    Again, I usually hear this from some lineages heavily impacted by a hard "Rinzai' approach (usually connected to the "Harada-Yasutani" school, which includes the Diamond Sangha, "Three Pillars of Zen" Kapleau Roshi, the early Maezumi Roshi/White Plum lineage, Sanbokyodan and others.). Push push push to "Break through".

    In fact, I believe that Dogen's way and meaning was much more subtle. I sometimes say that the Rinzai folks like to punch a hole through the wall separating "self" and "other" by using dynamite, while Dogen was like the air itself ... gently filling all the cracks in the bricks, both this side and the other, and even the bricks themselves until all is just as whole and clear as the air. Oh, there may be days to push ourselves hard ... times to just relax and go with the flow ... but, in all cases, just be the flowing.

    6- Something like "Shikantaza" is only for advanced practitioners.

    That was not Dogen's teaching. He recommended Shikantaza as a universal practice for everyone, and it is.

    5- "Shikantaza" is a breathing practice.

    Buddhism does have some forms of meditation that emphasize ways of breathing to bring about certain mental states. Also, in Soto Zen, we do teach counting the breaths and such as a way to settle the mind for beginners or at times when the mind may be unusually turbulent and disturbed. But I see no sign that Dogen meant counting the breath, or awareness of the breath as the heart of Shikantaza. In fact, he said quite the opposite, and just said to let the breath take its natural rhythm.

    More on "just breathing" here ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ht=breath+long

    Gassho
    Shingen

    SatToday

  4. #4
    Hi Hotetsu!

    Zazen is for everyone!

    I would say teach your mom what you know but also invite her to Treeleaf! We'll be more than happy to have her around. If that's not possible, pass her along some of the wonderful and useful materials our teachers have prepared. I'm sure she'll have great time practicing.

    Please let us know if we can be of help.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  5. #5
    Thank you to everyone for your speedy replies and wonderful advice. I'll show her the basics of sitting, then I'll show her the beginner's videos Jundo has created to explain the fine details. Again thanks to everyone. You have proven to me again why Treeleaf is the best zendo around :-).

    Warm regards and Gassho,
    Hotetsu

    #SatToday
    Forever is so very temporary...

  6. #6
    Sure, show mom!

    Explain in a way that mom will understand. Tell her not to grab on to them thoughts, let em go. Find a way for her to sit comfortably even if in a chair or the like. Lovely.

    Don't feel that you have to show her my videos. Maybe much much better just to hear from you, a wonderful sharing experience with your mom. You know her best, why should she listen to me? Forget me, you share with your mom just yourself!

    You know, in her last couple of years, my mom asked me to show her, and it was lovely. Great sharing moment, and she said she kept up from time to time during the rest of her life.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-06-2015 at 06:57 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Mp
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    You know, in her last couple of years, my mom asked me to show her, and it was lovely.
    Thank you Jundo, I too had this with my granny. Mind you hers was more lying down, but some lovely moments we shared. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    SatToday

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Virginia, USA
    Quote Originally Posted by Shingen View Post
    You know, in her last couple of years, my mom asked me to show her, and it was lovely.
    Thank you Jundo, I too had this with my granny. Mind you hers was more lying down, but some lovely moments we shared. =)
    This is awesome you guys! And I mean that in the traditional sense of the word. Thank you for sharing.

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #sattoday
    sekishi
    石志

    He/him. As a novice priest-in-training, this is simply an expression of my opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt.

  9. #9
    Lovely to share the practice with our loved ones.

    My lil' daughter many times asks me to sit with me and does for a couple of minutes, and then she gets distracted and goes away.
    At first I didn't want to be "bothered" but as I learned to "sit with what is" I stopped feeling uncomfortable having her staring at me or stopped trying to correct her posture.
    Yesterday night she sat besides me with a comic book and got bored after a few minutes and left.
    My boy sat with me once for about 10 mins, but I insisted too much on correcting his posture, so he left.

    In argentinian spanish one would call me "hincha pelotas" or "rompe pelotas" (ball breaker).

    Gassho,
    Daiyo

    #SatToday
    Gassho,Walter

  10. #10
    I'm gonna have to remember those, Daiyo 😋. Though, sadly, my Spanish has gotten pretty poor over the years because of non-use.

    Gassho,
    Hotetsu

    #SatToday
    Forever is so very temporary...

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