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Thread: No Reason for Zazen

  1. #1

    No Reason for Zazen

    I wish I was better at communicating this point (I fail miserably time and again):

    There is no reason whatsoever to sit Zazen ... nothing to attain from Zazen ... nothing to fill with Zazen ... nothing to do in Zazen ... no best time for Zazen, no way to measure Zazen ... nothing to fix or upgrade with Zazen ... no prize from Zazen ... no ideal posture or clothing for Zazen ... no desires to satisfy in Zazen ... no way to get free by Zazen, no place to go with Zazen ... no improvement from Zazen ... no grand realization to expect from Zazen ...

    Thus, we sit Zazen each day. Zazen is indispensable.

    We sit Zazen each day, for it is the very best medicine for our human hunger to attain, to judge, to fill a void, to measure, to upgrade, to fix, to do, to do right, to win, to conquer, to get free, to go, to arrive, to improve, and all the rest ...

    ... and such release from the hunger to attain, fill, do, win, be right and all the rest is, thereby, the greatest freedom, conquest, attainment, filling, arriving, rightness and realization. One truly attains and gets somewhere most right, flowing with release from all need to get somewhere, attain and make things right, and the prize beyond measure opens everywhere. Such a Grand Realization! The little "self" which seeks, judges, feels lack, measures gain, wishes to fix and "do" is thus put to rest, and drops away ... whereupon Zazen just sits Zazen.

    Yes, there are some things we should do in Zazen to do it right, such as sit in a balanced posture, breathe naturally, not grab thoughts, let thoughts go. But if folks are trying "to do" in Zazen, and do it "right," rather than sit in freedom from all need to "do" while dropping all measures of "wrong vs. right" ... they are doing Zazen wrong by any measure! The more one seeks to be free, the further one is from freedom. The more one reaches for the brass ring, the further the ring drifts away.

    Then, rising from the sitting cushion, perhaps we can return to our daily life of things to attain, problems to fix in this life, and places to go ... all while knowing, deep in the bones, that there is also nothing to attain (and never was), no wrong to fix or elsewhere to go in life. With such awareness, we set to work fixing, going, doing what needs to be done in our busy day and troubled world. Nothing is lacking, yet there are hungry children to feed.

    It is so hard to explain to the many folks who sit to attain, improve, get, arrive, upgrade and be better and best that the best way to attain-what-cannot-be-attained, improve-what-cannot-be-improved, reach-what-cannot-be-reached and "upgrade" what has no up or down ...

    ... is to thoroughly drop all aim to attain, improve, get, fix, grab and measure in Zazen and, thereupon, in all of life with its endless things to do, measure and fix.

    I wish I was better at saying it.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-08-2020 at 12:32 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2


    Doshin
    St

  3. #3


    Doshin
    St

  4. #4
    Gassho to this profound wisdom.

    Deep bows _/\_
    Van
    Satlah

    Sent from my HD1913 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    I think you expressed this very well. Thank you for the teaching.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  6. #6
    Wonderfully useless.
    Thank you.

    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  7. #7
    Perfectly explained just before saying. Perfectly heard just before hearing. _()_ _()_ _()_

    gassho
    doyu sat/lah today
    I'm a visiting unsui from Bird Haven Zendo. Take what I say with a box of salt. Mmm!

  8. #8
    Thank you roshi!

    Can we say that zazen is a realization of emptiness? A practical way to live the 'form is empty, emptiness is form' of the Heart Sutra?

    Gassho, Nikolas
    Sat
    Last edited by Nikos; 03-05-2020 at 08:59 PM.

  9. #9
    Member Hokin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    Ixtlahuacan De Los Membrillos, Mexico
    Thank You Jundo!
    Your reflections are always welcome in my heart...very helpful indeed!

    Gassho.
    Arya.
    Sitting Sat Today.

  10. #10
    Lovely, Jundo.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  11. #11


    Washin
    sattoday
    Kaido (有道) Every Way
    Washin (和信) Harmony Trust
    ----
    I am a novice priest-in-training. Anything what I say must not be considered as teaching
    and should be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

  12. #12
    Thank you very much for that wonderful text, jundo

    Gassho

    Ben

    St

    Enviado desde mi PLK-L01 mediante Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho
    STlah
    James

  14. #14

  15. #15
    Thank you Jundo!

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

    Sent from my Pixel 3a using Tapatalk

  16. #16

    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  17. #17
    The more I sit, the more I appreciate these words, Jundo. The more I appreciate the words of Dogen. To just sit and expect nothing ... that is liberation, and we are free from the very beginning. It is as the Buddha said: "netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā" ("This is not mine. This I am not. This is not myself").

    Gassho
    Kyōsen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  18. #18
    Gassho

    Nanrin

    Sat today

  19. #19
    The simplest, yet most elusive concept. You explain it well- it's just easier said than done!

    Thank you, Jundo.

    Gassho.

    Jen.
    SatToday

  20. #20

  21. #21
    Thank you Jundo Roshi.
    Tai Shi
    sat
    Gassho
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

  22. #22
    TBH, I won't do the practice if there is no gaining. Right now I am acting as if I believe there is nothing to gain and nothing will change / improve and sitting with no expectations.

    I don't really know why teachers keep bringing "no gaining" but here are some guesses.

    1) Zazen is a sudden enlightenment practice unlike gradual one like vipassana where the stages are clearly laid out. In zazen nothing happens for a while and all of a sudden you realize the oneness with everything (like brad warner's oneness experience when he was trying to cross the bridge). So I feel teachers discourage gaining ideas and looking for progress as this is a sudden practice and nothing much seems to happen for a while. The student will only be disappointed if they look for signs of progress.

    2) The sense of self is itself an illusion (you don't exist) and hence this illusory self can never theoretically get anything

    3) The idea of "improving", going somewhere, gaining something (adding to yourself) all of these will only make this sense of self stronger just like all worldly pursuits do. There can be a pitfall where the student is using zazen too the same way.

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST
    Last edited by shikantazen; 03-15-2020 at 03:42 AM.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post

    I don't really know why teachers keep bringing "no gaining" but here are some guesses.
    Hi Sam,

    If you pay careful attention, you will note that teachers do not bring up “no gaining”. Students do and so teachers are forced to address “no gaining”. There are a million things to direct our attention to. If attention is focused on “no gaining” then there is “no gaining”. If attention is not focused on “no gaining” then there is “no gaining”. Don’t make “no gaining” with your mind and then its not a problem. It’s just sitting.

    I hope this helps.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  24. #24
    Hello Sam,
    imho 'nothing to gain' does not automatically mean 'nothing will change'.

    Just writing with my very limited understanding... I might be totally off.

    I don't think that Zazen, as taught by the Soto school, is a practice of sudden enlightenment, imho quite the opposite is the case...
    Letting it sink into the bones over the years of continuous practice.
    The Rinzai school seems to be teaching this 'sudden enlightenment' way.
    Of course, this does not mean, that it might not happen this or that way.

    I think that it's difficult finding words for what Zazen is about, because it's about practically experiencing something beyond words and thinking.
    Pondering koans for invoking something comparable to 'no gaining' just 'being' Zazen, doesn't work well for me.
    To me, Zazen is about resting in a state of non-dual, non-discriminating, non-active-thinking, non-self-centered, non-wanting, just-pure-being.
    Everything is already there, there is nothing to gain... If anything... dropping all the layers of Self-invented delusion... is 'gained'.
    But that is dropping... giving away... letting go... not 'gaining'.

    Maybe over the years, some of what is experienced while sitting Zazen might ooze into the Self, the acting person.
    It does. But I am not sitting with that intention.
    I am sitting because of sitting. Pure being.

    Reading the above, I am not sure that it's what I wanted to say, but I tried...
    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  25. #25
    Hi Sam,

    Thank you for raising this interesting point.

    My understanding is according to Dogen the Circle of the Way is always complete and Practice-Enlightenment is one and the same. So there is nothing to gain in practice. We suffer because of attachment and discrimination, so zazen is the best medicine for these ailments. To have gaining idea is another attachment. However, it's true that most or all of us come to practice to gain or look for something, but practice should eventually shred this idea as well. Just my humble opinion.

    https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/fund...gens-thoughts/
    Fundamentals of Dogen’s Thoughts

    This is an excellent article on master Dogen's thoughts, which talk about The Circle of The Way.

    Gassho,
    Van
    Satlah _/\_

    Sent from my HD1913 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by vanbui; 03-15-2020 at 09:46 AM.

  26. #26
    Sam,

    Do you know that you have been making about the same comment, repeatedly, for years, and l have responded again and again about the same way? Here is one example from 2013!

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...ll=1#post99571

    But, let me try once more ... maybe this time will sink in ...

    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    TBH, I won't do the practice if there is no gaining. Right now I am acting as if I believe there is nothing to gain and nothing will change / improve and sitting with no expectations.
    Saying that there is "no goal" and "nothing to attain" --does not-- mean that there is nothing to attain, and that sure changes everything! lf one is on a mountain, one does not get to the mountain by looking for the mountain, but instead by realizing that one has been on the mountain walking the mountain (and is the mountain walking!) all along. The way to true peace and satisfaction is not to hunger for satisfaction and fight for peace, but to rest and drop all hunger. The way to escape from those Chinese thumb cuffs that tighten and tighten the more one pulls and pulls is to stop resisting and yield completely. Capiche?


    One more: Does the wave "gain" the sea when it realizes that it has been the wetness of the sea all along? ls anything "gained" to the water when it rises up in the "birth" of a wave, or lost when the wave "dies" by fading back into the sea? Not one drop is added to the waters or taken away. Sam, you are the wave looking for the water. And that make you just all wet!

    1) Zazen is a sudden enlightenment practice unlike gradual one like vipassana where the stages are clearly laid out. In zazen nothing happens for a while and all of a sudden you realize the oneness with everything (like brad warner's oneness experience when he was trying to cross the bridge). So I feel teachers discourage gaining ideas and looking for progress as this is a sudden practice and nothing much seems to happen for a while. The student will only be disappointed if they look for signs of progress.
    Not really. As Brad often emphasizes with his experience on the bridge story, sometimes such things happen and they are wondrous ... then your Zen teacher says when you tell him, "that's nice, but nothing to see here, go eat an orange," and then we move on and realize that all the world is enlightenment. Otherwise, it is like being on a bus trip to the Grand Canyon thinking that the wonder is just at the Grand Canyon, but missing the point that the whole trip is the wonder ... and the bus, the road, the scenery, the Canyon, the orange, the other passengers are just you, and you just all that whole. Some folks emphasize the open Canyon too much, missing the dust right under their feet, the sky above and their own life in between.

    ln fact, some very wise passengers never even get to the Canyon, never have some opening experience, but realize just as much to the bone that they are the Buddha Bus Trip all along.

    ln either case, Soto Zen is BOTH "sudden" and "gradual" (Rinzai Zen really is too) because we realize that every inch of the trip is suddenly and thoroughly and immediately the trip as we gradually head on down the Dharma road.

    2) The sense of self is itself an illusion (you don't exist) and hence this illusory self can never theoretically get anything
    Yes, the self is an illusion of the mind which separates "you" from the whole ... and yet, for Soto folks, the whole is also "you" (and everything) as the whole (and everything) pours back into you and everything, making each precious and as real as real can be.

    3) The idea of "improving", going somewhere, gaining something (adding to yourself) all of these will only make this sense of self stronger just like all worldly pursuits do. There can be a pitfall where the student is using zazen too the same way.
    This is true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Hi Sam,

    If you pay careful attention, you will note that teachers do not bring up “no gaining”. Students do and so teachers are forced to address “no gaining”.
    Not sure about that. l raise "no gaining" ad nauseum, again and again ... in the OP at the start of this thread in fact.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-15-2020 at 03:09 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  27. #27

    No Reason for Zazen

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    Not sure about that. l raise "no gaining" ad nauseum, again and again ... in the OP at the start of this thread in fact.
    Not sure about that. My (student) lack of understanding of “no gaining” on other threads once again forced Jundo (teacher) to raise “no gaining” in this thread again. If I (student) just kept my mouth shut on other threads Jundo (teacher) would have “no gaining” to talk about...



    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

    This is a baby gorilla from the Fort Worth Zoo. Somehow it gets away with harassing much much larger gorillas.
    Last edited by Jishin; 03-15-2020 at 02:27 PM.

  28. #28
    Just sitting with what is.

    Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  29. #29
    Gassho,

    Thanks all for your replies.

    Why don't we just tell the student not to expect to see signs of progress (unlike other practices) and not be too focused on enlightenment. Telling there is nothing to gain seems like a mental trick and even lying. The final oneness experience does change things. Without clinging to the illusory self, life is a lot less suffering.

    I would take it as that. Just a mental trick to help the student not to focus on an end goal but on their reality and life now. I take that as I sit more, I will be less focused on the end goal and more at peace with what is

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST

    P.S. BTW, Jundo that old post of mine is about clarifying the technique of sitting. Seems different from what I asked now. Please don't point to my old posts. Reading them now is so embarassing

  30. #30
    I don’t think there is any mental trickery involved or intended. You are just sitting staring at a wall without expectations that anything will come of it.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post

    Why don't we just tell the student not to expect to see signs of progress (unlike other practices) and not be too focused on enlightenment. Telling there is nothing to gain seems like a mental trick and even lying. The final oneness experience does change things. Without clinging to the illusory self, life is a lot less suffering.

    I would take it as that. Just a mental trick to help the student not to focus on an end goal but on their reality and life now. I take that as I sit more, I will be less focused on the end goal and more at peace with what is
    Who said that there are no signs of progress? This radical "no place to go" revolutionizes our life which is ordinarily always engaged, morning to night, in changing, fixing, and hungering for progress. In Zen Practice, one learns to change, fix and move forward while, at the same time, one's heart knows there is nothing to change, nothing lacking, and never was. One knows the pay-off of "nothing ever lacking" by the effects that it begins to have in one's life, when situations are met unlike they were before. (One example, I am encountering all the fear and frustration in my own life with the current pandemic far far differently than neurotic, "Woody Allen" me might have before all this Zen practice. For one, I don't believe in death in quite the same way as 30 years ago, and I feel gratitude and completeness for all of this happening).

    It is not a "mental trick," but a whole new way to encounter reality!

    A "final oneness experience"? Is that what you want? Try morphine, because it is quicker than all this sitting! Oneness experiences are overrated. Do you know how to live in this world where "one" manifests as "two three four" and all the myriad things, people and events of the world? Do you know how not to "cling to the illusory self" while yet alive as the "illusory self" which is also as real as real can be? Do you know how to have a feeling of "oneness" and wholeness even amid life situations which include broken bones and broken hearts sometimes?

    As long as you are thinking that the "goal" or "end point" is some "oneness experience," you are missing the bus trip (and that fact that you are the bus and the road and the sky above ... even the potholes and flat tires ... the true meaning of "not one not twoness") while hoping for the momentary sojourn at the Grand Canyon.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-15-2020 at 04:47 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  32. #32
    /\



    Doshin
    St

  33. #33
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    Jundo this is beautiful

    Zazen has quickly become a cornerstone of my life, and I try to return to it constantly in my mind.
    Far from gaining anything, or achieving anything, I've noticed how much I've lost. All the extra thoughts and worries merely confuse the view

    Gassho.
    LaH
    SatToday.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  34. #34
    Thank you Jundo for your wise words
    Gassho
    SAT/LAH

  35. #35
    My problem is that I have seen myself in the hierarchy which does not exist in person or with my friends on Treeleaf Zendo. Sometimes I forget this is a Zendo, a place to practice zazen, to sit in silence, a place of not wanting, and if "I don't get what I want," I find reason for aversion. and this is attachment. I "want" To be better than. This is my wanting mind. Recognize, now just allow it. my feeling is for the inner experience of Shikantaza. I've been so afraid I am not there when sitting. And, so I become fearful of rejection. I am ashamed, but I still want the sensation. I don't really want to be alone in sitting. If I can be part of here I can feel warmth from my friends. I am sensitive to the needs of others. I may forget what I've learned.
    Tai Shi
    sat
    Gassho
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Tai Shi View Post
    My problem is that I have seen myself in the hierarchy which does not exist in person or with my friends on Treeleaf Zendo. Sometimes I forget this is a Zendo, a place to practice zazen, to sit in silence, a place of not wanting, and if "I don't get what I want," I find reason for aversion. and this is attachment. I "want" To be better than. This is my wanting mind. Recognize, now just allow it. my feeling is for the inner experience of Shikantaza. I've been so afraid I am not there when sitting. And, so I become fearful of rejection. I am ashamed, but I still want the sensation. I don't really want to be alone in sitting. If I can be part of here I can feel warmth from my friends. I am sensitive to the needs of others. I may forget what I've learned.
    Tai Shi
    sat
    Gassho
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  37. #37
    Thank you Tai Shi for your honesty and your self reflection.

    We are all learning.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  38. #38


    Gassho
    Bobby
    ST
    "When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself."
    Shunryu Suzuki

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