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Thread: Shikantaza as NON-Method NON-Acting

  1. #1

    Shikantaza as NON-Method NON-Acting

    The following is meant mostly for beginners to Shikantaza, but is also for all of us sometimes when we might forget for a time and need to remind ourselves that day why we sit ...

    ...

    "Shikantaza" is often taught these days as little more than "sit in a stable posture, follow the breath, don't grab thoughts, have no goals." That doesn't cut it. Unfortunately, such a bare bones description leaves a vital aspect out of 'Just Sitting' Shikantaza.

    Instead, Shikantaza Zazen is truly what Soto Priest and Historian Taigen Dan Leighton calls an "enactment ritual."

    (http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/...actment_ritual)

    As strange as it may sound, Shikantaza has much in common with "method acting" in theater, in which one pretends with all one's heart & body and throws oneself physically into a role, all to embody and inhabit the character and bring the role to life. Method acting is defined as, "a technique of acting in which an actor aspires to complete emotional identification with a part." Shikantaza also has much in common with certain Tibetan meditation forms in which one visualizes a Buddha, and pretends to feel the qualities of that Buddha, all to bring the Buddha to life embodied as oneself. There is also an element of faith involved (some might prefer the words "deep trust" because "faith" carries some baggage for them) in which one has faith or "deep trust" at the outset in the completeness and fruition of the sitting until the sitting actually proves itself complete, in large part due to that same faith and trust.

    HOWEVER, because what is being embodied has radically nothing to attain, nothing lacking, no action required beyond sitting for sitting's sake (thus no method to the method), let's call this "Non-Method Non-Acting." The beginning student embodies such role of radical non-attaining.

    Let me try to explain more:

    A "method actor" on Broadway gets totally into a role with mind and body, pretending to be her character, sometimes even off the stage. In Shikantaza, one enacts/pretends/sits through faith in such manner as if a method actor playing the role of Buddha sitting in the satisfaction of completeness. One convinces oneself through faith and method acting that "Zazen is complete, the one place to be and act needed in the universe." It is a feeling subtly held, not particularly verbalized during Zazen. One convinces oneself that one is feeling such fact in one's bones, and one has faith in its truth.

    One sits dropping judgments, except a feeling of trust in the subtly positive nature of Zazen (meant to reflect the subtly positive nature of reality, also something upheld through faith and pretending if necessary.) Not grabbing thoughts, not wallowing in judgments, and a balanced posture are all extremely important. However, "dropping all goals" is often misunderstood: One radically drops all goals because one comes to know sitting itself as the pinnacle of existence and the only goal needed to attain (again, a matter of faith and self-convincing at first). One sits with sitting as the only goal, the one action necessary in the whole universe in that time of sitting. Sitting itself is the goal asked and answered, the challenge both made and achieved in one swoop. Pretend it is so if necessary, until one knows it is so.

    Then, ipso facto, like the case of a method actor playing "Hamlet" who actually comes to embody Hamlet (or a Tibetan practitioner visualizing Taira who comes to life as Taira) ... one hypnotizes oneself into making such facts real. In other words, by truly feeling and believing so, it becomes a fact that there is no other place or act to do in that moment in all reality, and sitting itself comes to feel in actuality as the pinnacle of life. As other desires and judgments are dropped away besides sitting, and as thoughts of before or after are dropped away, we say that "sitting sits sitting" or "body mind is dropped away."

    Through this self-convincing, one really experiences the completeness of the moment, the flawlessness of the experience, the wholeness of life.

    I call this a "non-self fulfilling prophesy" in which the embodiment and goallessness fill one and flow as one, at first through faith and make-believe for the beginnner, which results in Zazen being experienced as totally fulfilled and fulfilling in actual reality. One might say that, by first pretending, one catches on and catches up to what has been true all along, and faith proves out. Zazen comes to be sat as the one place to be, the one act to do, needed in that moment. The hard divisions of "self" and "other" soften or fully drop away. There is a flowing Wholeness (sometimes misleadingly called "emptiness") which is felt to sweep in and out of all the separate things of the world, including you and me.

    In other words, in Shikantaza, "Fake it timelessly until 'you' make-non-make 'it'" (meaning that there is no "you" to make some separate "it," that is how whole it proves to be.)

    So, at the start, pretend and trust that Zazen is whole and complete, the one thing to do which brings life to fruition ... and let it become so. Lights, Curtain up.

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-06-2018 at 10:09 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Through this self-convincing, one really experiences the completeness of the moment, the flawlessness of the experience, the wholeness of life.


    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  3. #3
    Thank you so much for this teaching Jundo.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH

  4. #4
    Thank you, Roshi.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  5. #5


    Gassho
    Meishin
    Sat today lah

  6. #6
    I posted the following in a Facebook discussion, and want to emphasize it here:

    First, in the above, I am mostly writing for beginners (or maybe for all of us on those days when "Shikantaza" is just Shitcan-Taza" :-) ... pardon my language. Once in awhile, it is just tough, and only faith and a lot of self persuation gets me or keeps me on the cushion, even after all these years.) So, yes, I am speaking mostly for beginners.

    Also, this is a very subtle trust in the practice, deep in the bones. It is what keeps the new (or sometimes old) student from doubting and feeling, "Why am I sitting here, wasting my time, just sitting here when I could be somewhere else."

    After awhile, that trust comes to fruit, and the "only this" is in the bones. Most days, I do not need convincing at all.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    So I should sit as the embodiment of Buddha ? I've tried avoiding or letting go of such thoughts, as I've seen them as attainment, is that wrong ..... I know no wrong?
    But should I now embrace thoughts of Buddha nature and let everything else go. Sorry just a little conflicted.


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart



    Sat Today / lah

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Seishin View Post
    So I should sit as the embodiment of Buddha ? I've tried avoiding or letting go of such thoughts, as I've seen them as attainment, is that wrong ..... I know no wrong?
    But should I now embrace thoughts of Buddha nature and let everything else go. Sorry just a little conflicted.
    Hi Seishin,

    It is a subtle, unvoiced feeling that one holds in the bones. It is not an idea that one should voice or think about overtly in Zazen. It is just a silent sense.

    It is just the same as what I have taught here about Shikantaza for all these years, sitting Zazen as a whole and complete act, a sacred sitting, with not one other place to go or thing to do, with sitting the Alpha and Omega. It is exactly what I have been preaching since we opened the doors on this place.

    There is no "attainment" in such sitting as Buddha's complete and self-fulfilled sitting, sitting for sitting's sake.

    Does that help?

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9

    Tairin
    Sat today
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  10. #10
    Thank you


    Sat2day

  11. #11
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Seishin,

    It is a subtle, unvoiced feeling that one holds in the bones. It is not an idea that one should voice or think about overtly in Zazen. It is just a silent sense.

    It is just the same as what I have taught here about Shikantaza for all these years, sitting Zazen as a whole and complete act, a sacred sitting, with not one other place to go or thing to do, with sitting the Alpha and Omega. It is exactly what I have been preaching since we opened the doors on this place.

    There is no "attainment" in such sitting as Buddha's complete and self-fulfilled sitting, sitting for sitting's sake.

    Does that help?

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    Yes I think so, at least that's what I've been trying to do. Maybe this just shook me off balance at little. During my sitting I'm content that I don't need to be doing anything else or to be anywhere else. But tonight I sat with thoughts of Buddha like characteristics, calm peaceful loving but realized I was chasing such thoughts and allowing them to surface. So I just returned to the breath and focused on that until the usual deluge of random thoughts started drifting by.

    Guess this made me question my practice. But I reckon its moving in the right direction, well at least i hope so.

    Std
    Seishin


    Sent from my NEM-L51 using Tapatalk


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart



    Sat Today / lah

  12. #12
    Maybe this just shook me off balance at little. During my sitting I'm content that I don't need to be doing anything else or to be anywhere else.
    Seishin, I can relate.

    In fact, I had typed a long answer to Jundo's "method acting" teaching, explaining why the term "acting" would have really put me off as a newcomer to zazen (and still does).
    But I cancelled the post, seeing that Jundo is only choosing a new metaphor to explain a feeling I can understand, and I think vital for zazen.

    This "feeling" or attitude is hard to put into words, and as with all words, some will help some practitioners while other people (like you and me) will feel like asked to put a second head on their own.

    So, I respect and enjoy what Jundo is telling us over and over, though not every metaphor fits me.

    Then, maybe, I do not know enough about method acting - I associate it with quite intense, radical behaviour (walking through town dirty and drunk because your next role will be someone in these circumstances).
    Entering extreme outer or emotional states one would not experience in one's ordinary life.
    Because these associations of my mind do not fit Shikantaza for me, I agree that not everyone's mind will enjoy the "method acting"-metaphor.

    Gassho,
    Jika
    sattodaywithoneheadonlywhichisalreadyonetoomuch
    治 Ji
    花 Ka

  13. #13
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jika View Post
    Seishin, I can relate.

    In fact, I had typed a long answer to Jundo's "method acting" teaching, explaining why the term "acting" would have really put me off as a newcomer to zazen (and still does).
    But I cancelled the post, seeing that Jundo is only choosing a new metaphor to explain a feeling I can understand, and I think vital for zazen.

    This "feeling" or attitude is hard to put into words, and as with all words, some will help some practitioners while other people (like you and me) will feel like asked to put a second head on their own.

    So, I respect and enjoy what Jundo is telling us over and over, though not every metaphor fits me.

    Then, maybe, I do not know enough about method acting - I associate it with quite intense, radical behaviour (walking through town dirty and drunk because your next role will be someone in these circumstances).
    Entering extreme outer or emotional states one would not experience in one's ordinary life.
    Because these associations of my mind do not fit Shikantaza for me, I agree that not everyone's mind will enjoy the "method acting"-metaphor.

    Gassho,
    Jika
    sattodaywithoneheadonlywhichisalreadyonetoomuch
    Jika

    Thank you, your reply pretty much sums up what I was thinking. Maybe the analogy is just not for me. It gave me the impression I should be consciously projecting thoughts of Buddhahood and cultivating these while sitting but I know that's not the case, arguably that's more for my off-zafu life (which of course is not one not two). The conflict for me with that interpretation, was my head would be full of Buddha shaped clouds and would lead to much entanglement. As I've only been sitting for a couple of years, I still find my self frequently caught up by random thoughts, which seem to drag me off somewhere, until I shake off the mist and return to the breath - of course for the whole process to repeat. Some days its worse than others but from comments on for example Insight, I know we all go through the same process, so it does not put me off sitting, just an acceptance that it part of the process, as all the past Masters have taught. Guess I was concerned I could be hanging out a huge web of Buddha thoughts, that would drag me down in an inescapable vortex.

    Hey like most westerners, maybe I'm just over thinking all this, so will continue just sitting


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart



    Sat Today / lah

  14. #14
    Guided by the wise voices here, to avoid any confusion that the role for beginners to embody entails something to do and something to attain, I changed the title: .

    SHIKANTAZA as NON-METHOD NON-ACTING

    I also added some words to explain:

    HOWEVER, because what is being embodied has radically nothing to attain, nothing lacking, no action required beyond sitting for sitting's sake (thus no method to the method), let's call this "Non-Method Non-Acting." The beginning student embodies such role of radical non-attaining.

    No extra heads required.


    Perhaps I just muddle it more.

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-06-2018 at 10:21 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Thank you for this teaching.

    Enjaku
    Sat LAH
    援若

  16. #16
    Thank you, Jundo.

    Deep bows,
    Jika
    s.t.
    治 Ji
    花 Ka

  17. #17
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart



    Sat Today / lah

  18. #18
    Member Geika's Avatar
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    Without attempting to look too deeply, I think I know exactly what you mean, Jundo.

    I often experience a kind of phenomenon, after watching certain documentaries or listening to talks (it could be anything really, not just Zen things), during which I kind of feel like I AM the person I was watching or listening to. I am suddenly able to drop all thoughts of "becoming" because I already "am", if that makes any sense. So Jundo is not describing that we try and drum up these visualizations of what we are trying to be, but to rather just become it, in an instant.

    I think...

    My point is, let's not look at this with too critical of an eye. It's not some grand hypocrisy. I believe he is simply saying to "fake it until you make it", as he has iterated a few times before. Studies have shown that simply believing you can do or be something, and having confidence, can greatly influence the "non-results."

    Gassho, sat today, lah
    迎 Geika

  19. #19
    Thank you, Jundo!

    Gassho,
    Hoko
    SatToday/LAH
    法 Dharma
    口 Mouth

  20. #20
    Hello,

    I feel the power of reading thought provoking impulses, like "acting" or "fake it"‚ as description for something, I am usually exaggerating. :-)
    Personally, after that initial "provocation", I put my mind with the following thoughts to rest…

    We act in accordance with our self image.
    Our actions are replicas of an already existing mental picture.
    When it comes to learning really new things about ourselves, this might be in our way, because we ourselves are the originator of that image. Based on our perceptions and concepts.
    We start building this self-image from day 1 of our existence. It’s well established and rules our thoughts and actions.
    It’s so easy, taking this self-image for ourself.
    It is not. It is also not a fixed thing. It is made by ourself with the tools, we still have in hands.

    Method acting, or "fake it until you make it" is an outside reference.
    A model, that is not generated inside ourselves, not based on our self image.
    One ape learning from another ape by imitation.
    Practicing this new model, being mindful, feeling what it does,
    might teach our internal ruler (self-images mistaken for self), like a student teaches the teacher or the artist teaching the muse.
    Slow, but steady.

    When I think about it again... please take this post also as part of my answer on 'What is Zen' in the bookclub ;-).

    Thank you.
    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.
    Last edited by Kotei; 07-12-2018 at 10:20 AM.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  21. #21
    Jundo, thank you for helping us see the path we are on.

    sat today

  22. #22
    Thank you for the teaching, Jundo.


    Gassho
    Washin
    justsat
    Wa (和) Harmony
    Shin (心) Heart-Mind

  23. #23
    I get what you mean Jundo, sit with the feeling "in the bones" that you´re already complete. But never tried it. Might give it a shot.


    I just sit, alert, and watch/feel what´s happening.
    If i get sucked into thoughts, a few secs later, effortlessly, i get back to watching.
    (my brain seems to automatically shut down thoughts, after a few secs)

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    One convinces oneself through faith and method acting that "Zazen is complete, the one place to be and act needed in the universe."
    This really resounded with me because particularly busy days challenged me. To feel that being on the cushion is the only place I can be at that moment just dredges up "mind waves" as Suzuki Roshi puts it.

    In short, thanks for this Sensei.

    Chelsea,
    sat today.

  25. #25
    Don't just do something - sit there. That, I find is a surprisingly hard thing to do. Many spiritualities, religions, whatever-you-want-to-call-its around the world seem to witness to that. It can especially be a challenge when you do not see 'results.' at least not right away.
    gassho,
    Sean
    sat,lah

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by sjlabat View Post
    Don't just do something - sit there. That, I find is a surprisingly hard thing to do. Many spiritualities, religions, whatever-you-want-to-call-its around the world seem to witness to that.
    gassho,
    Sean
    sat,lah
    Yes, this is so true. One of the reasons I was attracted to Zen and shikantaza in the first place.

    Thank you for this teaching, Jundo. It's a good reminder, even for those of us who have been practicing for a few years.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today/lah

  27. #27
    Thank you, Jundo, and to everyone who added to this thread.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/LAH

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