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Thread: Question Regarding Where to Sit

  1. #1

    Question Regarding Where to Sit

    Apologies in advance if this question was covered already somewhere and I couldn't find it.

    I know that in our practice, we are supposed to be facing a wall.
    But let's say that one day I had the opportunity to practice in a Japanese rock garden.

    Would this be OK? Or should I still carve out some time to sit facing a wall?

    I know this question seems overly picky, but as I'm new here, I want to make sure that I am practicing well, and in the prescribed manner.
    I know that, essentially, "anywhere" is a place for practice, buuuuuuttt I want to make sure that my formal daily practice is in sync with the community here and that my formal practice isn't "sloppy".

    Thanks in advance for the help!

    Gassho,
    Eddie
    SatToday

  2. #2
    I know that in our practice, we are supposed to be facing a wall.
    But let's say that one day I had the opportunity to practice in a Japanese rock garden.
    Jundo can give you the final nod but I don't see a problem with that at all.

    In fact he has sat outside for the Zazenkai at times when the weather is nice.

    Just as long as it isn't a sloppy rock garden, I reckon you're good to go!

    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.

  3. #3
    Yes. Actually, sit "facing the wall" is traditional in Soto Zen, and does help reduce (not close completely shut. however, just as we keep our eyes about 1/3 open) sensory stimulation to the outside world. But, in fact, probably it is a misunderstanding of an old teaching attributed to Bodhidharma to sit "like a wall," meaning to sit with the uprightness, equanimity and imperturbability of a wall.

    A survey I did informally of many Soto teachers many years ago showed that many also sit facing into the room, looking downward to the floor.

    And, as you mentioned, one can and should sit about anywhere ... in a hospital bed, a space capsule heading to the moon, rocking a child, or a busy city. This is part of the "We're All Beginners" series ...

    Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (21)
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...nners-%2821%29

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLentAHand
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Let me quote an older post ...

    ===========

    ... 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

    STLah

    PS - And, yes, when sitting in Rome, sit as the Romans sit.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Thank you to everyone that has replied!

    And I honestly wish I had access to a Japanese rock garden right now!

    Also, I had previously watched the Zazen for Beginners series and just wanted to say that I very much enjoyed it!
    Thank you for tolerating my picking over minutia! I'm sure that I will get the hang of things as I reside here.

    Gassho,
    Eddie
    SatToday

  6. #6
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    This is where I'm sitting and doing Shikantaza at the moment. One is my view. One is the curtain's view.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST

    Sent from my SM-A205YN using Tapatalk
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Onka View Post
    This is where I'm sitting and doing Shikantaza at the moment. One is my view. One is the curtain's view.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST

    Sent from my SM-A205YN using Tapatalk
    Lovely Japanese garden, Onka! Perfect for Zazen!

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    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).”
    Well that confuses things... There's a whole element of the practice that could be the result of a mis-translation. It makes you wonder.... (And I say this as someone who long worked as a translator, and is aware how mistakes can be influential.)

    Gassho,

    Kirk

    SAT
    -----
    I know nothing.

  9. #9
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Lovely Japanese garden, Onka! Perfect for Zazen!

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    It is indeed perfect. But a desert landscape where runners like Shinshi, even amongst the magnificent harshness find beauty in the rhythm of every stride and the richness of life in seemingly impossible conditions.
    Shikantaza is indeed a gift.
    Thank you for teaching us Jundo.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST

    Sent from my SM-A205YN using Tapatalk
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  10. #10
    I sit weekdays in front of my computer putting ceremonially my Rakusu. This precious garment bestowed by or Sangha, a gift because my left hand is weak cannot hold cloth, needle and thread. I sit with computer 8:30 am CDT with Zendo friends. In front on computer Gassho from my office chair with arm rests so I donít fall out. And I am quiet. Turn to Zazen and quiet say my chant to myself. Count breath until I no longer count breath and there is my breath and silence, there in my basement quietly for 30 minutes and bell suffice and bow with Gasho in hands folded. Quietly I meet my day. I have never told anyone. Not even wife, but sometimes cat Pepper visits when I sit. Luckily computer isnít on the floor, then cat meow and exits. I guess Iím peaceful enough these days to attract our cat. I guess Iím Peaceful these days.
    Tai Shi
    sat/ lah
    Gassho


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Let me quote an older post ...

    ===========

    ... 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.



    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

    STLah

    PS - And, yes, when sitting in Rome, sit as the Romans sit.
    That's really interesting and helpful. I only recently have had a wall-facing space (and even that isn't truly wall facing, more like bench-which-is-against-the-wall-facing) and sometimes wonder how important it is.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    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).

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Onka View Post
    This is where I'm sitting and doing Shikantaza at the moment. One is my view. One is the curtain's view.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST

    Sent from my SM-A205YN using Tapatalk
    I have sat in a very similar rock garden with a very similar view, and probably similar sounds, too. Much Metta Onka, and please get well soon!

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    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).

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    That's really interesting and helpful. I only recently have had a wall-facing space (and even that isn't truly wall facing, more like bench-which-is-against-the-wall-facing) and sometimes wonder how important it is.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    The first Zen Centre I sat with we sat with our backs to the wall and looking into the room. We were advised to look at the floor about 3 feet in front of us. Later I changed to sitting facing the wall. Sometimes Iíve sat on my deck or by a river or by a campfire or on a train or in an airport. My preference is to sit facing a wall. I find that I settle easier and am less distracted. Ultimately though I find it has more to do with my intention to sit rather than where. I often reflect on Jundoís teaching of sitting in downtown Tokyo.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    The first Zen Centre I sat with we sat with our backs to the wall and looking into the room. We were advised to look at the floor about 3 feet in front of us. Later I changed to sitting facing the wall. Sometimes Iíve sat on my deck or by a river or by a campfire or on a train or in an airport. My preference is to sit facing a wall. I find that I settle easier and am less distracted. Ultimately though I find it has more to do with my intention to sit rather than where. I often reflect on Jundoís teaching of sitting in downtown Tokyo.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    Yes same here, I often sit in my parked car since thatís the only way I will be left undisturbed. And I have done many hours of bus,train and plane zazen. At ZMM they nod to both their Rinzai and Soto roots by starting and ending the day facing the room, and the rest of the day they face the wall.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday-LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    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).

  15. #15


    Gassho/SatToday
    流道
    Ryū Dou

  16. #16
    I have mostly sat facing a wall, sometimes the back of a seat on an airplane, a few times when accompanying my wife to church I look down at the bench in front of me or at the floor of a waiting room. However where I feel most anchored is in front of a rock, a tree, a mountainside, or a far vista. The possible translation ďsit as if a wall seeingĒ gives me pause and understanding.

    Thanks to all for the discussion

    Doshin
    St

  17. #17

    Question Regarding Where to Sit

    It mattes not the direction I look. More importantly I see, yes I see others disappear and truly come into focus. I vision others deep within and in my mind I see the reality of now. This is now of appreciation, not a wall
    But what the wall represents as the pallet of paint like light in photography, or canvas upon which my richly painted reality is given away. Otherwise why sit but to find compassion for anotherís sorrow, hunger, or shelter from the storm. Sitting liberates the mind to see reality of the still point in the turning world. The bonds of selfishness are broken and in the quiet of the mind if on an operating table with the helpful knife liberating pain the surgeon sees me, the nurse affixed a pillow beneath my head and I see her strong giving hands, the teacher gives me tools of words the building blocks of civilization and society, or the judge affixes right from wrong, or escape and liberation, all this in the moment of one breath and Shikantaza come inhalation exhalation one breath of life and the moment comes into view as reality.
    Tai Shi
    sat / lah
    Gassho


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Tai Shi; Yesterday at 10:34 PM.
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

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