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Thread: Dropping Body - By Jundo

  1. #1

    Dropping Body - By Jundo

    Hi,

    In our Shikantaza Way, Mind and Body are “not two.” Sometimes we speak of the body, sometimes of the mind, yet always just “bodymind.” Sitting in a balanced, stable and still way helps facilitate balance, stability and stillness of mind. As well, a balanced, stable and still mind allows one to feel so in body. All are integrated, in a feedback loop. Thus, we seek to sit Shikantaza Zazen in a balanced, stable and still posture as we can.

    However, this fact can also lead to some misunderstandings about posture and the body from a Shikantaza “radical non-attaining” point of view.

    Master Dogen wrote in Shobogenzo Zanmai-O-Zanmai [Nishijima-Cross]:

    My late master [Jujing Zenji] says, “To practice [za]zen is to get free of body and mind. Just to sit is to have attainment from the beginning. … ” … Even if some physically understand sitting to be the Buddha-Dharma, none has realized sitting as sitting. How then can any be maintaining and relying upon the Buddha-Dharma as the Buddha-Dharma? This being so, there is sitting with the mind, which is not the same as sitting with the body. There is sitting with the body, which is not the same as sitting with the mind. And there is sitting that is free of body and mind, which is not the same as “sitting that is free of body and mind.”
    Just to sit is to have attainment from the beginning, and to be truly "Free" of body and mind is not necessarily what we think of as “being free.” To truly be “Free” is not a matter of always feeling free to do as one wishes (rather, it is to sit in the wish to be as one is). A Buddha's “Balance, Stability and Stillness” is not necessarily the same as always feeling “balanced, stable and still” in human terms. A Buddha's “Balance” is at the still heart of all bodily balance AND inbalance, and like a body suspended in space, has no up or down or right or left, or any place to fall. The Unmoving “Stability” of Zazen is known even as the greatest quaking and shaking that life can muster. “Stillness” or “Silence” as felt and heard in a Buddha's Ear is found in quiet places or on the most disturbing and noisy battlefield. “Freedom” is not the earthly freedom from rules and walls (the lesson taught in the highly restricted life of the monastery), and Zazen is truly Unbound.

    As the embodiment of this Truth and Freedom, Shikantaza Zazen must be sat with the student profoundly trusting deep in her bones that sitting itself is a complete and sacred act, the one and only action that need be done in the whole universe in that instant of sitting. Sitting itself is whole and thoroughly complete, and the single performance of crossing the legs (or sitting in some other balanced posture) is the realization of all that was ever sought, that there is simply no other place to go in the world nor thing left to do besides sitting such sitting. Do not seek anything from your Zazen, whether “enlightenment” or to become “Buddha” or anything at all. Just Sit! I sometimes compare Shikantaza to the children’s puzzle of “Chinese finger-cuffs” which are escaped, not by forceful effort and pulling harder, but by non-resistance and letting go; by dropping the hunt for “enlightenment”, by giving up the chase, by allowing all to rest in the complete wholeness and acceptance of Just Sitting, by quenching all thirsts in the sheer satisfaction of sitting alone, one thus realizes a freedom and way of being which otherwise alludes us in this world of endless chasing and constant dissatisfactions. What a relief this is in this busy world, where we chase after achievements, are overwhelmed with tasks that feel undone, and feel that there are endless places to go … even in our spiritual practice.

    Unfortunately, it is very common for people to bring a functional orientation and emphasis on attainng ordinary “balance, stability and stillness” into Zazen by attaining the “right posture” or manipulating the body in some way in order to feel some extra ordinary or unusual sensation in body or mind. Some descriptions advise to do X with the breath to realize some deep concentration, to do Y with the spine to release some special energy or the like. Sometimes there is a fetishizing of the physical manipulation and holding of a perfect “Lotus Posture” in a way not found in Master Dogen's writings. This overlooks the true meaning of a Buddha's “Balance, Stability and Stillness” and turns Zazen into just another goal oriented tool to achieve some nice feelings or some deep spiritual experience, not the radical Achieving of that Liberation of Nothing Remaining to Achieve.

    For example, in all his available writings, Dogen Zenji never describes Zazen's posture except in the most general terms. His instructions on breath merely state to let “long breaths be long, short breaths be short” and to breathe naturally. He does describe “upright sitting,” and the two Lotus Postures in very general outline, but not much beyond that. In fact, his entire emphasis seems to be more about the sacredness of the act of sitting itself, and sacredness of the posture itself because it is the traditional act of a Buddha, rather than any special need to manipulate the posture in more specific ways. We sit so because it is a ritual embodying a Buddha's sitting, a "non-method" method, not a technique to induce some effect (and thus the "effect" of realizing our original Buddhaness is realized in Freedom from all search for effect!). I even believe that, if faced with modern folks who may struggle with the Lotus, old Dogen would not have objected to any chair sitting, Seiza or other reasonable posture. As he wrote in Fukanzazengi, although giving barebones instructions for the posture of sitting, “How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?” and “The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized.”

    As well, we have in our Sangha various individuals with physical disabilities and health conditions, some who need to sit or recline on the floor, some who are in chronic pain. Especially for them, sacred Sitting is not a matter of some “proper posture” but of realizing in their bones that the posture they can muster is proper for that “is what is.” This is the Balance, Stability and Stillness of a Buddha's heart even when the body is less than the human being might desire.

    It is my belief that what Dogen and the Buddha (also very silent on posture in the Teachings we have) truly meant is a posture that can be taken and then forgotten as best one can. As best one can, assume the posture that one's body allows that is as upright, balanced, stable and still as possible (in ordinary terms) because it helps to allow balance, stability and stillness in mind in ordinary terms. We sit in the Lotus when we can (or some other balanced posture like Burmese, Seiza or in a chair), facing the wall in the quietest room we can muster as it is good to sit in a place and way that allows us to settle a bit from all our running around in the noisy city streets. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, we seek to sit each day in a quiet and still room, with as quiet and still a heart and mind as possible, all to realize that it was never just about sitting or ordinary quiet and stillness at all! As strange as it sounds, we sit each day in a quiet room, in balanced posture as we can, all to realize that Buddha is Everywhere, what need to sit at all? Thus we sit! (A Koan). If our body just will not cooperate because of health condition and pain, then it is more vital to realize an inner Quiet and Stillness which fully accepts that fact, and is truly At Home with one's uncooperative body.

    It is good to realize the ordinary balance, stability and stillness that we can (hard to do when slouching in front of the TV bombarded with sensory overload), all to realize the True Balance, Stability and Stillness that is present all along, even in the ugly news and flood of words pouring from the TV! However, the real meaning of “dropping body” is then to drop concern with the body, pay it “no nevermind,” radically accept things as they are including one's poor health conditions, thus to find the True Posture of Balance, Stability, Stillness … the Silence which is all silence and the greatest earthly noise. Then, getting up from the cushion (or the chair, assuming that the body allows), we return to this world of daily movement, hustle and bustle and noise. Then we can realize that a Buddha's true Stillness and Silence is found even at the heart of all that sensory overload, inside a monastery's walls or in a hospital bed, in both quiet places and right in the noisy city streets, in every shape and form that the body can take.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-29-2018 at 11:40 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thank you for these words Jundo, I need to remember them when I start to get hung up on form and discouraged because sciatica or arthritis in my neck prevent me from sitting Burmese style.
    It's also good to talk about sitting amongst the hustle and bustle of life; I very rarely sit in quiet surroundings, but the sound of cars, motor scooters, the espresso machine in next door's cafe, my neighbours rap music, my upstairs neighbours toilet flushing, all of these things have become my ambient meditation music, in which it is possible to find Buddha's Stillness and Silence, because that doesn't depend on any of those things.
    Gassho
    Meitou
    Satwithyoualltoday, amongst the sounds of building works.
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  3. #3
    Thank you for this teaching Jundo.

    Soto Zen's emphasis on radical non-attainment is what motivates me, whereas the emphasis on prescriptive physical form can be very off-putting, particularly when it appears to suggest that endurance of physical pain is necessary. Several modern Soto and Rinzai accounts of zazen or enlightenment suggest that tolerating pain is necessary to achieve enlightenment, which seems ironic and at odds with the Middle Way and modern interpretations of the dharma.

    When I watch videos about monastery life or read about traditional Soto Zen practice, I'm struck by what appears to be harsh discipline and rigidity concerning form. An example would be sitting for days with one's head bowed to be granted access to a monastery, or the use of a stick when a monk slouches in zazen. This seems consistent with other accounts of medieval Japan, less so with the middle way or modern interpretations of the Dharma. Could you please say a little more about this?

    Gassho,
    Enjaku
    Sat LAH
    援若

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Enjaku View Post
    Thank you for this teaching Jundo.

    Soto Zen's emphasis on radical non-attainment is what motivates me, whereas the emphasis on prescriptive physical form can be very off-putting, particularly when it appears to suggest that endurance of physical pain is necessary. Several modern Soto and Rinzai accounts of zazen or enlightenment suggest that tolerating pain is necessary to achieve enlightenment, which seems ironic and at odds with the Middle Way and modern interpretations of the dharma.

    When I watch videos about monastery life or read about traditional Soto Zen practice, I'm struck by what appears to be harsh discipline and rigidity concerning form. An example would be sitting for days with one's head bowed to be granted access to a monastery, or the use of a stick when a monk slouches in zazen. This seems consistent with other accounts of medieval Japan, less so with the middle way or modern interpretations of the Dharma. Could you please say a little more about this?

    Gassho,
    Enjaku
    Sat LAH
    Ah, well, this is a bit of a Koan.

    Sometimes we sit short and easy, and sometimes one sits long and hard ... all to realize that it was never a matter of short or long or time.

    The monastery is rather a boot camp, not that different from the army, for young monks to sit hard with their "me myself and i." It is good practice. (Right now, our Kakunen is at a monastery where Zazen is 70 minutes per sitting, although he tells me it is possible there to walk Kinhin at any time if needed. Still, very hard practice). As I mentioned in my post, the rules and restrictions and pressures of the monastery creates the very place where one realizes "Freedom" when the mind is free despite the restrictions. The confines and walls serve to open the mind. So, intensive Practice is not a bad thing. Some of those young guys (most are about 20, most of them more interested in girls etc. than Zazen) need a bit of pressure to let the self be tamed a bit with some discipline.

    Even lay folks, if they can swing it, should try to get to Retreats of a few days or even a week or two to sample the monastic life. It is good to spend some time sitting hard, eating Oryoki, working Samu and all the rest from time to time. (--IF-- you can arrange it).

    It is also good to sit with a bit of pain sometimes. This is also a Koan, but our "Middle Way" means that we neither run toward pain, but neither should we run too quickly from ordinary pain. This was very helpful to me last year, right after my cancer surgery, when I was "reclining" Zazen in bed for many days, feeling like a horse had kicked me in the chest! So, there are times to sit with achy legs, and times to move the legs or get up. When? Hard to say. I wrote about that here:

    Itchy nose, achy leg, earthquake ... when to move, when not?
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...-move-when-not

    Some of our members sit with pain all the time, and they just have no choice. They can learn the same freedom of mind of the monks, despite the restrictions created by their health.

    The keisaku stick is also misunderstood. Sometimes it is abused, but rarely. It is merely a wakeup stick, usually welcomed by the sleepy monks. It does not really hurt.

    So, in other words ... sometimes we practice soft, sometimes we practice hard ... because sometimes life is soft and sometimes it is hard.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-28-2018 at 01:20 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Lovely Jundo, thank you for this. Whether calm or stormy when sitting, the ocean is always the same. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  6. #6
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Gassho

    Hoseki
    Sattoday

  7. #7
    We have grown accustomed to sensory overload and to always be in search of stuff. Sitting zazen is to stop all searches and just observe. Maybe that's why it is so hard for many of us?

    Thank you for this teaching, Jundo.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  8. #8
    Thank you for this teaching. Until recently, I have been better at the carrying water and chopping wood aspects of practice and appreciate the accessible (pun not intended, but welcome) approach to meditation. Accepting that the attainment of non-attainment is a life-long pursuit is a challenge for me, but I suppose I can sit with that as well.

    Gassho, Rendulic
    Sat Today

  9. #9
    Thanks Jundo.

    SAT today
    Lah

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  10. #10
    Thank you for this teaching Jundo.

    Gassho,

    Jyúkatsu
    sattoday
    柔 Jyū flexible
    活 Katsu energetic

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    We have grown accustomed to sensory overload and to always be in search of stuff. Sitting zazen is to stop all searches and just observe. Maybe that's why it is so hard for many of us?
    For sure this is a problem. Sometimes I wonder what life was like for a cowboy or shepherd before the 20th century. They’d have been alone with not much more than their own thoughts for a considerably large part of the day.


    Tairin
    Sat today
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    Thanks Jundo.

    SAT today
    Lah

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    Whenever I talk about "needing to recline Zazen" I think about you and your hockey back, from my visit to your place awhile back Rich.

    (If you to about the 1:22:00 mark, you will see what I mean) ...

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post132329

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    So, in other words ... sometimes we practice soft, sometimes we practice hard ... because sometimes life is soft and sometimes it is hard.

    Gassho, J


    Enjaku
    Sat LAH
    援若

  14. #14
    Thank you for the teaching, Jundo

    Gassho
    Washin
    sat

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Whenever I talk about "needing to recline Zazen" I think about you and your hockey back, from my visit to your place awhile back Rich.

    (If you to about the 1:22:00 mark, you will see what I mean) ...

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post132329

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Am very grateful for zazen practice and your teaching, encouragement and humour

    SAT today

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  16. #16


    Doshin
    St

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