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Thread: Wall Facing

  1. #1

    Wall Facing

    Hi All,

    I've come to a bit of indecision in my practice at the moment regarding wall facing or not wall facing.

    I appreciate that facing a wall when sitting is traditional for soto zen and that it helps to reduce distractions, and I used to sit facing a wall for a while for these reasons.

    However I have recently changed to sit in front of my altar, with my eyes resting on the Buddha statue, looking but not looking. The reason I changed is because I felt the altar was essentially being ignored by my facing a wall while sitting.

    I have sat facing a wall the last couple of sits though, and I have noticed that I am able to let go of body-mind better and gain-non-gain a deeper sense of emptiness; better able to feel-not-feel the dance, dancers and dancing (to paraphrase Jundo). Facing the wall I'm often distracted by my eyes focussing, defocussing and refocussing on the wall and looking for patterns etc, though of course that is training in itself.

    So I put this out to the sangha; do you guys think it matters much whether you face a wall or not? Should I return to wall facing out of respect for tradition or should I stick to what is more upaya for me?

    Thanks everyone



    Sat Today
    Breathe...Relax...Let Go...

  2. #2

    You are attached to your face.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    Hello Ryan,

    When we face the wall, we face Buddha. When we face the world, we face Buddha and Buddha faces us. =)


    #sattoday #facing #thewall #facing #buddha

  4. #4
    Well, I would say that Buddha cannot be faced or not faced and is always faced. I doubt the Buddha feels ignored. If you look at the Buddha, do not be looking. If not looking at the Buddha, always be seeing.

    Why do we sit facing the wall or not? Traditionally, Soto Zennies would "face the wall". I actually think it is better for less experienced sitters to do so, as it reduces the sensory stimuli, thereby facilitating calming the mind. Rinzai folks and, in the West, many groups in the Harada-Yasutani Lineage (through the Maezumi Roshi Lineage and others) who combine Soto and Rinzai Practices, sit facing inwards.

    I tend to encourage folks to "face the wall", but it is not so important. I believe that the sitters' "looking downward toward the floor" also reduces sensory stimulation, so the effect is about the same. For more experienced sitters, I do not believe that it matters ... and, in fact, we should develop the ability to sit anywhere, however noisy, busy or distracting.

    I was surprised when, a couple of years ago, I conducted an unofficial poll among teachers who are members of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of North America, and found that most of the Soto teachers seemed to be open to sitting either way.

    Anyway ... the historical reason may be a mistranslation of Bodhidharma, regarded as the First Patriarch of Ch'an or the Zen tradition, and a writing long attributed to him (The Two Entrances and Four Practices) that used the term in Chinese "biguan/pi-kuan". Historian Heinrich Dumoulin discusses Bodhidharma's wall-contemplation.

    "In an ancient text ascribed to Bodhidharma, his way of meditation is characterized by the Chinese word pi-kuan, literally wall-gazing or wall-contemplation. Except for the word pi-kuan, the same passage is found in a Mahayana sutra; it reads: "When one, abandoning the false and embracing the true, in simplicity of thought abides in pi-kuan, one finds that there is neither selfhood nor otherness, that ordinary men (prthagjana) and saints (arya) are of one essence." (Zen Enlightenment, p. 38).
    The actual meaning of "wall gazing" may not be a literal "sit while gazing at a wall", but closer to "sit as if a wall seeing". Nobody really knows what the term originally meant however. The great Zen Historian Yanagida Seizan has (ala Shikantaza) interpreted the term to denote a sort of witnessing of the world with the steadfast detachment of a wall in which one “gazes intently at a vibrantly alive śunyatā (emptiness).”

    So, whether facing the wall, or away from the wall ... just sit, without thought of in or out.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - And, yes, when sitting in Rome, sit as the Romans sit.

  5. #5
    Does an altar have Buddha nature...?


    -sat today-

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Shingen View Post
    When we face the wall, we face Buddha. When we face the world, we face Buddha and Buddha faces us. =)
    alternatively, or maybe additionally...
    When we face the wall, we face the wall. When we face the world, we face the world and the world faces us.

    step lightly... stay free...

  7. #7
    Hi Ryan,

    Like Jundo said, I think facing the wall is nice when one begins sitting. And I also think is by no meas a disrespect for the Buddha or your altar. When we sit we do it in deep connection with the Universe and the Buddha.

    Just sit, gaze to the floor.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  8. #8
    Thank you for your help everyone
    I can see now that I'm attached to altar/not altar and forgetting that all things are equally Buddha, or equally emptiness and that whether I face a wall or not I am still facing Buddha, Buddha faces me and I am facing myself - not self
    From a practice standpoint though I'll continue to face the wall (though of course the wall is no less Buddha), let go, just sit and gaze intently at a vibrantly alive śunyata

    Thank you again everyone



    Breathe...Relax...Let Go...

  9. #9
    Ryan, I have wondered about this too. Along with the many interpretations above, let me offer one more, that came to me during a difficult period. Maybe the wall I'm gazing at is all the chatter, conditioning, and self-preoccupation going on in my head? Maybe this gazing is just hanging out with it all, being able to hold all the grasping and aversion in a calm place......

    It's interesting to me how your kind of question begins to unpeel layers like an onion. No one final "right" answer.
    _/st\_ Shinzan

  10. #10
    I prefer to face a wall or (usually) just the ordinary stuff in a room because it is not interesting. Facing the wall is boring, and being bored is worse than death.. I mean just sit and be bored for a little while. Giving up to boredom takes discipline. Getting nothing. I think we can find a million little ways to keep zazen fascinating and clutchy.

    Just talking though my hat, please take with a grain of salt.


    sat today

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy View Post
    alternatively, or maybe additionally...
    When we face the wall, we face the wall. When we face the world, we face the world and the world faces us.


    Distinction is good fun.

    Thank you for the moment.

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

  12. #12
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.

    Most of the time, im sitting alone in a kitchen.

    Sometimes it's daytime.

    I too, am attached to my face.

    a student

    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

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