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Thread: The Counter-Intuitive Approach to Mental Disturbance in Shikantaza

  1. #1

    The Counter-Intuitive Approach to Mental Disturbance in Shikantaza

    The following may be very counter-intuitive to some..

    How radical is our "Just Sitting" as "what is," without goal or demand in Shikantaza?. Here's an answer:

    In most forms of Zazen or meditation, there is good and bad, successful and not successful sitting. In Shikantaza, it is impossible by definition to have any bad or unsuccessful sitting. Simply sitting is, ipso facto, success. Good or bad, successful or unsuccessful judgments are washed away in automatic "Good Sitting which is Successful Just By Sitting" (one possible way to translate the meaning of the word "Shikantaza" right there). Unlike most forms of meditation, that means that even those sometime days of angry, confused, cloudy, wallowing in emotions sitting is "good, successful sitting."

    However (now the wondrous twist, the tricky catch!), when one truly lets each and every sitting be itself, good and successful just by being itself, there is thus something transcendent of anger, confusion, cloudiness and wallowing simply by letting "anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing" (and all conditions of life) just be "anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing" (and all conditions of life as they are). As strange as it sounds, one is thus "free" of anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing even in the continued presence of anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing, as much as in their absence too. The "anger, confusion, cloudiness and wallowing" is completely transformed in Wisdom and Clarity by our non-resistance and equanimity about even our passing feelings of resistance and lack of equanimity. So long as one is sitting, with the act of sitting as all that is demanded of the act of sitting, this is the universe in fruition.


    We are always trying to "fix" life. Take a head filled with "restlessness, anxiety and worry" during Zazen. The cause of the "restlessness, anxiety and worry" is precisely our dissatisfaction with the state of things, need to fix and resistance to how things are. I am not proposing to wallow in "restlessness, anxiety and worry." Rather, the radical dropping of need to fix ... including to fix anything including some passing "restlessness, anxiety and worry" ... is precisely the contentment that is the cure for "restlessness, anxiety and worry." If we did not feel dissatisfaction and a need to resist and fix the present conditions of life, we would not feel any "restlessness, anxiety and worry" about those conditions. Rather counter-intuitive, but true.

    Thus, don't think that allowing oneself to feel anger and wallowing is really just wallowing. Of course, we do not intentionally wallow or boil in anger and, to the extent we can, we just breathe, letting the thoughts and emotions go without grabbing on or wallowing as we can. Rather, radical acceptance of "just what is" including passing anger and wallowing thus transforms the anger and wallowing into a kind of clarity about anger and wallowing, a light that shines through anger and wallowing! Funny how that works.

    The result is that (in a 'form is emptiness'/'blue sky is just precisely the rain clouds' way of experiencing reality both ways at once) "anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing" proves to be both there and not there at once.

    It is a subtle handling of "anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing" by radically not trying to take any action whatsoever to handle it ... a bit like solving the problem by totally ignoring the problem thus rendering the problem not problematic, or like living with "terrorists" of the mind who no longer constitute "terrorists" when we just do not react and ignore their acts of "terrorism" (thus allowing them to do their thing, blowing up idea buildings and tossing emotion bombs, no more rejected than a table in the room where we sit or rain on the eaves or reflections in the mirror. The "terrorism" is ended when we respond with equanimity not terror, and the terrorists lose their power. Worldly TNT is one thing, but mental bombs of emotion lose their power when we simply meet them with equanimity. If you resist and react, you feed the terrorists. If you ignore them, the bullies lose their power as bullies.) One might experience "anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing" as just passing theatre to be observed placidly (observing one's lack of placidity placidly!). Absolutely nothing is needed or sought besides sitting, which is complete however and whatever it is.

    Thus, please don't think that the meaning of what I write is that we should just twiddle our thumbs or bathe in an orgy of "anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing" or ""restlessness, anxiety and worry." That is not the meaning of Shikantaza. This radical non-doing transforms our experience of anger etc. It transforms by radically allowing and dropping resistance to "what is," thus abandoning all need to change and transform at all.

    The counter-intuitive Wisdom of Shikantaza Zazen.

    Gassho, J


    I came across a passage from Okamura Roshi today which made a similar point:

    Sometimes this world [during Zazen sitting] becomes very bright, and sometimes a person may feel he or she understands everything. It may seem at this time that there is no doubt or question remaining about anything; everything is okay as it is. But that is just a condition arising from the states of the body, mind, temperature, humidity and all other conditions of our lives. These conditions are not the important point of our practice. Our practice is to keep an upright posture in any condition; we just go through all conditions. ...Sometimes we have no clouds at all with a completely blue sky, and this is very beautiful. More often we have different kinds of clouds coming and going. Sometimes more than half of the sky is covered with clouds, and sometimes the entire sky is completely covered with clouds, or even storms arise. There are many different kinds of conditions we must sit through in zazen, but the purpose of our practice does not include controlling the weather. The important point is to maintain this upright posture in whatever conditions we encounter. ...When we sit zazen, many different kinds of thoughts come up. We may think some thoughts are really good ideas, yet in zazen we have to let go of them; we open the hand of thought. Whether we like our ideas or whether we experience negative feelings about something, we try to let go because that is zazen. I think this letting go is the way we are free from our clinging, our preferences, our systems of value, and our ways of thinking. This zazen itself is freedom from attachment.
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-12-2018 at 03:15 AM.

  2. #2
    Always a lovely reminder, thank you as always Jundo. =)



  3. #3
    Wonderful. Thank you, Jundo .


  4. #4
    Yes, yes, yes. From a professional wallower, lol.


  5. #5
    In Christianity, mortification; in Pure Land, ta riki; in surfing, hanging loose; in skating, rolling with it. In all cases, it's an important reminder to do the best we can and stop worrying about circumstances past that.

    Gassho, Michael

  6. #6
    As you know, Jundo, this is particularly relevant for me recently, if you substitute “grief and wallowing “ for “anger and wallowing.” I found that trying to ignore my feelings didn’t help until I allowed myself to experience them fully and explore them, and then once they were a known and understood quantity, they could just be there without threatening my peace. I’m grateful for the lesson.

    SatToday/wallowed yesterday

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    清 道 寂田
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Rendulic View Post
    In Christianity, mortification; in Pure Land, ta riki; in surfing, hanging loose; in skating, rolling with it. In all cases, it's an important reminder to do the best we can and stop worrying about circumstances past that.

    Gassho, Michael
    Well, different roads, same mountain.

    Gassho, J


  8. #8
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    May 2015
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    Gassho Jundo

    And this post of Jundos contains so much great info on PureLand and Zen, esp. the second link which I had on my iPad before it departed.

    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  9. #9
    Thank you.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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