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Thread: Did Dogen teach Shikantaza?

  1. #1

    Did Dogen teach Shikantaza?

    Hi all

    Interesting podcast from Upaya Zen Center on the origins of Shikantaza by Dogen scholar Steven Heine. There is mention (around 39 minutes in) of Jundo's criticism of Griffith Foulk's recent essay on Dogen:


    This is part of a symposium on Dogen including teachers Roshi Joan Halifax, Kaz Tanahashi and Natalie Goldberg as well as Steven Heine:

    Last edited by Kokuu; 10-08-2015 at 10:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Interesting ... thanks for the share Kokuu. =)



  3. #3
    I look forward to listening.

    My objection to the Grif Foulk article in my review at Amazon, which Steve Heine mentions, can be summarized as follows ...

    The balance of the essays in this collection are of the usual high and informative level found in all the Steven Heine books. Well worth reading and tremendously valuable for all of us with interest in Dogen and Soto Zen. However, I feel that one essay detracts from that to such a degree, that I wish to lodge this small protest and complaint.

    ... It is almost as if Dr. Foulk is setting up a "strawman" Soto Zen that does not really exist in anyone's mind, and describes a "Shikantaza" Zazen based on some naive "goallessness" and literal "non-attaining" missing the subtle intent of those words, a viewpoint that nobody I know in the Soto world holds or ever has. ...

    ... Foulk points out that Dogen never specifically used the term "Shikantaza" in Fukanzazengi, Zazengi and other descriptions of Zazen. This might be true. But what Dogen decribes as "thinking-non-thinking" and "putting aside all involvements and suspending all affairs ... not aiming to become a Buddha ... not thinking good or bad ... not judging true or false" seems to be pretty much what I think (and non think) of as "Shikantaza". Beyond that, Foulk should then also mention the fact that, in Fukanzazengi and elsewhere, Dogen offers very specific instructions on what to do with body and mind during Zazen ... the clothes to wear, how to fold the legs, how to think non thinking, etc. ... yet what Dogen does not mention as part of these details on how to sit is any instruction such as "take up a Koan phrase" "look at a Koan" or the like. Why would Dogen leave that out of Fukanzazengi and the like if it was so important as an aspect of Zazen in which he is mentioning so many details of the process of sitting such as "Do not think good or bad" and "rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking"? He would have mentioned taking up or looking at a Koan or Koan phrase if such was some part of the process of sitting.

    Dogen lived and breathed Koans. The Shobogenzo, the Koroku and his other writings are chock full of Koans, wall to wall Koans, and we modern Soto teachers dance with Koans too. There is no surprise here, and has not been in the vast majority of the Soto world for a long time, at least not since folks rediscovered and actually read the Koan-filled writings of Dogen. Yet this is a bit of another issue from whether we are to sit immersed in a Koan or a phrase from a Koan engaged in Koan Introspection Zazen in the manner of Ta Hui. After pages and pages in which Foulk merely underlines the point that Dogen preached Koans and expected his students to do as much, Foulk concedes (bottom of page 33), "One thing Dogen did not do with Koans, however, was use them as objects of contemplation in the manner recommended by Dahui. That Chan master advocated fixing the mind on the "keyword" of an old case ... "

    ... Next, Dr. Foulk makes a rather big deal of the fact that Soto folks (or some strawman version he whips up) believe in a "goalless" Zazen in which there is "nothing to attain" thus foresaking "attainment". Does any Soto Teacher truly believe that there is no marvelous attainment (perhaps attained, however, by non-attaining!)? Is there a member of the SZBA or any Soto Teacher anywhere who actually understands Dogen to be advocating some pointless, dead sitting which foresakes enlightenment? Dr. Foulk seems to take "goalless" as meaning "goalless", something all of us understand in much more subtle ways.

    More of my growling here ...

    Gassho, J

    SatToday (Shikantaza, whatever ya call it).

    PS - I have now listened to the talk and Dr. Heine seems for much of it to dance all around the central question "Did Dogen Teach Shikantaza", talking about many side topics and other people in history, mostly in China without really getting to Dogen. He only gets to Dogen very late in the talk and his conclusion at the end that, yes, Dogen taught Shikantaza.
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-08-2015 at 03:28 PM.

  4. #4
    Thank you for those Kokuu.

    Thank you Jundo for your commentary.



  5. #5
    Specious-good word

    Sat Today

  6. #6

    Let's sit . . .

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

  7. #7
    I have now listened to the talk and Dr. Heine seems for much of it to dance all around the central question "Did Dogen Teach Shikantaza", talking about many side topics and other people in history, mostly in China without really getting to Dogen

    I agree. Found it interesting but could have been focussed on the question at hand.


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