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Thread: Zen beyond Zazen

  1. #1

    Zen beyond Zazen

    Hi all

    I have been meditating on and off for a number of years and I would say over the last 18 months I have made the shift and understanding into doing my daily Zazen.

    What I feel I am struggling with now is what does a zen practice mean beyond my daily Zazen?

    Despite all my reading I find it hard to understand what practical things if any, beyond sitting each day, should i do. Is it really enough just to do the daily 30-40 minutes sitting?

    Sorry to have to ask such a question

    Gassho
    Andrew
    SAT today

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewH View Post
    Hi all

    I have been meditating on and off for a number of years and I would say over the last 18 months I have made the shift and understanding into doing my daily Zazen.

    What I feel I am struggling with now is what does a zen practice mean beyond my daily Zazen?

    Despite all my reading I find it hard to understand what practical things if any, beyond sitting each day, should i do. Is it really enough just to do the daily 30-40 minutes sitting?

    Sorry to have to ask such a question

    Gassho
    Andrew
    SAT today
    Oh, life! All of it!

    Bring the equanimity and flowing, choicelessness and silence, acceptance and wholeness that is experienced on the cushion, into the rest of life ... back into the world which is also ups and downs, friction, choices and noise, things we cannot except, this and that and all the broken pieces.

    Can one come to know that flowing-friction, choiceless-choices, silent-noise, acceptance-non-acceptance all at once as one, in the world of 10,000 pieces that are whole?

    Also, learn to live gently, forsaking excess desire and clutching attachments, anger and violence, jealousy and such.

    It is practice, realized at the cross-roads of every act, word and thought. It is all we do around here, in fact!

    Sorry to run to so many words.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Hi Andrew

    One thing you might like to do is read How to Cook Your Life which is a commentary on Dōgen's 'Instructions for the Zen Cook' (Tenzo kyōkun).

    Although it centres around the life of the tenzo, it is really a guide to living a Zen life (if there is such a thing). Dōgen was very impacted by his encounters with several tenzo while he was practicing in China and it hugely influenced his approach to Zen.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewH View Post
    Hi all

    I have been meditating on and off for a number of years and I would say over the last 18 months I have made the shift and understanding into doing my daily Zazen.

    What I feel I am struggling with now is what does a zen practice mean beyond my daily Zazen?

    Despite all my reading I find it hard to understand what practical things if any, beyond sitting each day, should i do. Is it really enough just to do the daily 30-40 minutes sitting?

    Sorry to have to ask such a question

    Gassho
    Andrew
    SAT today
    Andrew,

    Thanks for asking that question, I too have been wondering this same thing!

    Sorry for running a little long here...

    I have been working on bringing my practice beyond daily zazen into my moment to moment life (very imperfectly!). I have been trying to be mindful of my thoughts and stopping and recentering myself when I catch myself going down negative rabbit holes. I have also been trying to practice mirror mind when it comes to my fears, cravings, etc... And see things more neutrally instead of adding a bunch of uncecessary "I, me, my" to them (I'm also working on accepting that I simply can't do all of this all of the time, I just do the best I can do and not berate myself when I find I am way off the path lost in lala land.)

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today

    Sent from my LG-H910 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    It's kind of funny Andrew, your question actually makes me feel a little better about when life gets crazy and I don't have time to be as involved with reading, practicing Zen forms, and attending ceremonies as I would like. I always find time to stop and sit sometime during the day, and then try to carry the stillness and completeness with me, as Jundo suggests. Treeleaf is for those of us who are practicing with families, jobs, illnesses, or COVID quarantine!

    Of course, if you have the time, then there are lots of things you can add to your sitting practice, many of which you can find here in the beginner's section. The first would be to go through Jundo's beginner series sit-a-longs, and the Buddha and Bodhisattva basics. In the sticky thread "suggested books and media" you can find some material that piques your interest, if you like to learn that way. (Kokuu's suggestion of How To Cook Your Life is a great one!)

    Attending our weekly Zazenkai in the "Weekly/Daily Zazenkai sittings" thread (in your case, you might want to sit with the recordings, since they will be live in the wee hours of your morning) would be a great introduction to liturgy and how Zen folks practice together. We like to post in the thread when we sit with the recordings to wave to everyone and say hi!

    And if you visit the "Practices" section of Treeleaf, you will see that there are three sticky threads that say "Recommended:" Daily Metta Practice, Nurturing Seeds Practice, and At Home Liturgy. With sitting, that's pretty much the core of our practice.

    Looking forward to seeing you around the Zendo

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

  6. #6
    Andrew,

    I am not a teacher so I seldom add to these questions but I will share when I asked something similar years ago Jundo said be a good person. I work on that each day and sit. That is me. Best for you on your journey.

    Doshin
    St

  7. #7
    I quite liked Gil Fronsdal's book Steps to Liberation: The Buddha's Eightfold Path. The book takes you through the 8-fold path over the course of 8 months, and in addition to the reading, each month he has 4 weekly exercises. I found it a great way to bring teachings into my own experience and practice.

    Just a thought. And more Buddhist than specifically Zen, so I'm not sure it's a fit for what you are looking for.



    Gassho,
    Jim
    STlah

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    I quite liked Gil Fronsdal's book Steps to Liberation: The Buddha's Eightfold Path. The book takes you through the 8-fold path over the course of 8 months, and in addition to the reading, each month he has 4 weekly exercises. I found it a great way to bring teachings into my own experience and practice.

    Just a thought. And more Buddhist than specifically Zen, so I'm not sure it's a fit for what you are looking for.



    Gassho,
    Jim
    STlah
    A very different practice from Soto Zen and Shikantaza, however. Gil, although he has some Zen experience, is more of a mindfulness and Vipassana teacher.

    Our steps are each a total arrival, and there is no destination yet we keep walking forward each day.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-02-2021 at 02:34 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    A very different practice from Soto Zen and Shikantaza, however. Gil, although he has some Zen experience, is more of a mindfulness and Vipassana teacher.

    Our steps are each a total arrival, and there is no destination yet we keep walking forward each day.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Thank you, Jundo. If I may ask a question, then, is it okay to do Shikantaza and still do teachings and practices from other Buddhist traditions? Or is the idea that part of the Soto Zen path to give up all other Buddhist practices?

    Gassho,
    Jim
    STlah

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    Thank you, Jundo. If I may ask a question, then, is it okay to do Shikantaza and still do teachings and practices from other Buddhist traditions? Or is the idea that part of the Soto Zen path to give up all other Buddhist practices?

    Gassho,
    Jim
    STlah
    Hi Jim

    Well, that depends how it is done.

    When practicing Shikantaza and the "non-gaining" aspects of Zazen, as well as some of the accompanying practices, Shikantaza is the only thing, nothing more needed, nothing lacking, nothing to add or take away. The main reason is that Shikantaza is a medicine for our constant need for getting something more, the grass is greener over the fence, try the next self-help book or shiny practice, something is lacking and needs to be fixed. During the time of practicing Soto Zen, we learn the non-gaining, radical equanimity of Zazen, which even carries over into our active life off the cushion.

    HOWEVER, that said, there are many other wonderful paths and practices in Buddhism. We have introduced some into our Sangha, such as Tonglen and Metta. if one is going to mix and match various practice, one must also leave ample space to thoroughly master the non-gaining, every step is arrival, thorough trust in the complete nature of Shikantaza.

    After Zazen, our practice is to bring that attitude of complete non-demanding and allowing, deep in the bones, back into this life of things to fix, goals to attain, improvements to make. We get back to a world of many things to do besides Shikantaza, but now with the wisdom of Shikantaza in our hearts too. That can include the practice of many other Buddhist or other religious ways, but their gaining ideas should be handled wisely.

    Of course, Treeleaf is a Dojo to practice Shikantaza, so here we practice Shikantaza. As I sometimes say, tennis is a wonderful sport, and so is football, but don't play football on a tennis court with rackets. (In fact, in Shikantaza, all the field is already the goal, and there are no opposing teams ... yet we keep playing and moving down the field.)

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-02-2021 at 05:44 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
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    Johannesburg, South Africa
    I think that if there is a practice to get somewhere then the point has been missed. Combining practice with study is necessary. Buddhism isn’t just practice, it’s study also. We have to know the Buddha’s teachings.

    Gassho
    Clinton

  12. #12
    Do good, avoid evil, mind the precepts.

    Gassho,
    Hōkō

    SatToday and LAH

    Sent from my SM-N975U using Tapatalk
    法 Dharma
    口 Mouth

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by T@r0 View Post
    I think that if there is a practice to get somewhere then the point has been missed. Combining practice with study. Buddhism isn’t just practice, it’s study also. We have to know the Buddha’s teachings.

    Gassho
    Clinton
    Hi Clinton,

    Welcome again.

    Practice, such as just sitting Zazen, without study is apt to lack direction (very different from being goalless), to wander off into strange directions or otherwise be misunderstood. So, Zen masters such as Dogen never neglected their studies. As I sometimes say, "they would read the books before burning them, then they would reconstitute the ashes after sitting and read them again!" We read and study, although we try not to be just "arm chair" Buddhas, or to become lost in philosophy as prisoner of the books.

    It is important, however, to know that there are many many Buddhist books, and visions of Buddha, teaching many different approaches. Not all Buddhist books are the same, and sometimes they advice very different practices and perspective suited to different people.

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Thankyou everyone - I really appreciate the replies and find them really helpful and beneficial.

    I'm finding at times I have very present anxiety and stress that is self made and related to work and lockdown. I want to be able to make sure my practice cuts through all areas of my life so the responses above all really help so thankyou all

    I have bought the book "how to cook your life"

    Gassho
    Andrew
    SAT today

  15. #15
    Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
    Location
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Clinton,

    Welcome again.

    Practice, such as just sitting Zazen, without study is apt to lack direction (very different from being goalless), to wander off into strange directions or otherwise be misunderstood. So, Zen masters such as Dogen never neglected their studies. As I sometimes say, "they would read the books before burning them, then they would reconstitute the ashes after sitting and read them again!" We read and study, although we try not to be just "arm chair" Buddhas, or to become lost in philosophy as prisoner of the books.

    It is important, however, to know that there are many many Buddhist books, and visions of Buddha, teaching many different approaches. Not all Buddhist books are the same, and sometimes they advice very different practices and perspective suited to different people.

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    Hi Jundo,

    Indeed. I was a member of Shambhala when it still had a Johannesburg branch, and they are a Buddhist organisation that perhaps comes closest to the notion of non-denominationalism in that they espouse Tibetan teachings with Zen and even non-Buddhist teachings, rooted in the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, although a very controversial figure was nonetheless a master of the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism who also worked with Suzuki Roshi and studied Zen and other Japanese practices in Japan. I must say of the in-person sanghas I've been a member of (which has mainly been Tibetan Buddhist sanghas) I’ve most enjoyed being a member of Shambhala. Although I consider myself a Zen Buddhist I still participate in certain Tibetan practices as I find them beneficial. People often think that Tibetan Buddhism is ancient but actually Ch’an is much older, Tibetan Buddhism comes from the Indian Nalanda tradition which was introduced to Tibet around the 8th or 9th centuries, as far as I know Ch’an was introduced to China around the 2nd century CE. I discovered a book recently called Tibetan Zen: Discovering a Lost Tradition by Sam van Schaik. It’s all about an era in Indo-China before Buddhism became split into strictly Tibetan and Ch’an. Anyway, if I’m wrong about certain dates or facts please feel free to correct me.

    Gassho ✨💫
    Clinton

  16. #16
    You ask "...what does a zen practice mean beyond my daily Zazen?..." For me, "practice makes perfect". The more I Zazen, the more easily I can let thoughts and feelings simply drift away. And, the longer I retain a "residual affect" of calmness after sitting. And, during my day, I can more easily "recall" the calmness that I experienced on the cushion, like a "muscle memory". Riding a bus, waiting for a meeting, I can more easily experience the calmness of Zazen, even if just for a few moments. As suggested, read as much as you can, but Zen and Zazen are primarily experiential - they need to be experienced.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat

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