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Thread: Shikantaza as Kensho

  1. #1

    Shikantaza as Kensho




    (A response to Dosho Port and his article: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/zen-...A2fqJICx9vGuL8)

    Kensho, "Seeing the Nature" is said to be beyond words, and yet (said Katagiri Roshi) we often gotta say something. Thus, let us speak of a dropping away of the divisions of self and other, me you and all things, where all is whole, all pours in and out of all else, each and every fully hold each and all, and then we get up to dance. One could speak of our sitting on the throne of the universe, but this throne is shared with every other creature, grain of sand, star, rusty tin can and old bloody bandage in the universe. Better than "Seeing the Nature," 見性 is "Seeingnature" or "Natureseeing," or "sEeNaTuRiNg," as there is no separation of the seen and seer, even as we continue to live in this world of seers and things seen, me and you, stars and bloody bandages.

    Realizing this "NAtseeuriNG" is vital in Soto and all Zen traditions, not only in the sense of having some experience or taste of such, but in then getting up off our asses and leaving the Zen garden, thus to "realize" this in the world by making it real in the living of life.

    In the Rinzai and mixed traditions, one way (not all do this, but many) to experience such is to push push push on a Koan phrase, winding oneself up like a tightly wound spring which, when it suddenly pops and unwinds, may leave one momentarily or for some period of time with an experience of the self dropped away. It works, it is a great path for many and is to be honored and celebrated. Of course, it can also push some into psychosis, be as dangerous as crashing one's head repeatedly against a brick wall and, frankly, I think that folks who overemphasize these one time passing moments of Kensho miss the point. Truly, if you examine closely the people who claim to have had such experiences, many (not everyone, but many) don't seem particularly wise or peaceful due to such experiences. Often, they (not everyone, but many) seek to recreate the experience, or continue their hunger to push on for the next insight or brass ring. Master Dogen was very critical of such attitudes toward Kensho, writing, "The essence of the Buddha-Dharma is never seeing the nature (Kensho)." (Shizen-Bikkhu) On the other hand, it is a great path for those others who do find their way there, so to each their own. Furthermore, the Soto way can often fall into complacency, sitting just to relax, twiddling one's thumbs. Neither way is perfect, each is perfectly what it is. One person digs rock & roll, another goes country, both great musical ways.

    But that does not mean that "Arte Unseeing" (a lovely anagram of "seeing nature") ain't vital in Soto too, for our way is to sit and be AS the nature, AS the Seeing, As the Buddha's Eye and all seen within this Buddha's Realm, including the sacred, glorious rusty tin cans. Our way of going about this, however, is a bit counter-intuitive, the very opposite of the push push push. I sometimes compare what we do to those trick Chinese finger cuffs. Remember those?

    You pull and you pull, thinking you must escape or obtain something ... and the cuffs just tighten. However, completely give up, relax, stop trying ... and you slip right out. Well, the way to relax and be still is not to try to "relax and be still" ... but to release, relax and be still. Let it be, let it go ... We sit in Non-pursuit, right to the bottom of the bottomless sea. Notice that "non pursuit" is not complacent, giving up, "not pursuing." Rather, it is radical, to the marrow, dropping away of all need either to pursue or not pursue in its grand equanimity, at home right here, neither chasing nor running away.

    We are not seeking a particular state of awareness in Shikantaza. Neither are we sitting and twiddling our thumbs. Rather, one is sitting as a Buddha Sitting, honoring all that is, no other place in need of going, the whole universe pouring in and out of right here and this sitting. Sitting is Reginae Tunes itself! (I love these Kensho anagrams! ) Of course, sometimes such states will come, sometimes they will not come. We just move on, seeking nothing by not seeking ... thus finding everything. You see, it is the little "self" that needs, feels "lack," wants to "get" somewhere other than where it is, cannot be still. It hungers for special states, and compares these "special states" with the rest of the world as if all of it ... even the cans and bandages ... were not sacred and special too. Thus, to just "Sit Just to Sit" Zazen without seeking to find ... puts the "self" out of a job, body-mind dropped away.

    Now, sometimes it is a softening of the borders of self and all the world, and sometimes it is a more radical dropping in which all differentiation of self and other, this thing and that, may fall away. Sometimes, over long practice, one may realize that one's bones have become as soaked with this wisdom, gradually over time, as if one had passed through a waterfall in a moment. So gradual, we may not notice that our gown is gathering dew, becoming as wet as the ocean with time. For others, it comes at once - just as wet.

    And, you know, every so often, the heavens do open and the angels sing too!

    (The recent article by Dosho seemed to completely miss this point. )



    Thus, JUST SIT! ...


    ... for this JUST SITTING is Ange Reunites, Argentine Sue, Autre Engines and Genia Tenures too.




    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Sorry to run long
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thank you for this teaching.

    Gassho
    Van
    Sat lah

    Sent from my SM-G998B using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Thank you for this, Jundo. You already replied to my question on Kensho and Satori on Facebook. So, I'd stay quiet.

    Gassho,
    Sat,
    Suuko.

    Sent from my M2101K7BNY using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-04-2022 at 09:37 AM.
    Has been known as Guish since 2017 on the forum here.

  4. #4


    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Suuko View Post
    Thank you for this, Jundo. You already replied to my question on Kensho and Satori on Facebook. So, I'd stay quiet.

    Gassho,
    Sat,
    Suuko.

    Sent from my M2101K7BNY using Tapatalk
    May I respond here too, in case anyone is curious?
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    May I respond here too, in case anyone is curious?
    I think it will be useful, Sensei. It has been on my mind for a while.

    Gassho,
    Suuko.

    Sent from my M2101K7BNY using Tapatalk
    Has been known as Guish since 2017 on the forum here.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Suuko View Post
    I think it will be useful, Sensei. It has been on my mind for a while.
    You asked there ...

    Wikipedia says that Kensho is a first experience of enlightenment which can be expanded which Satori is the deep experience of enlightenment. I know we just sit and drop all but would like your views on it!
    I responded ...

    My view is ... don't trust Wikipedia! I defined Kensho in my essay, and Satori is basically a generally word for awakening ... which can have may meanings depending on who one is asking. I define Satori as I wrote above in my essay, but in Soto Zen it is also how one brings this to life in one's way of living life. Thus, we speak of "practice-realization" or "practice-enlightenment."

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Jundo,

    would you say Dosho's description of how Soto-Shu changed after Japan was forciibily opened incorrect?

    The practice you describe seems in step with what I have read from Dogen. Are the changes better described by incorporating devotional elements such as the Shushogi which we have discussed here before.

    Speaking of awakening and Koans in Soto, how is the Denkoroku used in Soto?

    I have a copy of Nishijima Roshi's translation of the Shinji Shobogenzo, I wanted it to help understand refrences to the Zen stories in Shobogenzo and other books.

    Nishijima's commentary seems to point more to an interpretation of these Koans as short stories that can teach us something rather than paradoxical mysteries to unlock.

    Similiar to folk tales and or biblical parables.


    But what do I know?

    Gassho,

    Greg
    ST

    Sent from my SM-N981U using Tapatalk
    Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

  9. #9


    From the article referenced:
    " It is a phenomena way up near the height of irony that a version of Soto Zen, largely the result of desperate efforts to modernize by imitating what some Japanese Soto Zennists thought was Western, was copied by Westerners as traditional Japanese practice."

    I'm curious how others perceive this conundrum... and does it really matter? Can we start from any old point of ignorance and get to the meat and potatoes of practice?


    Tobiishi sat today, lah
    It occurs to me that my attachment to this body is entirely arbitrary. All the evidence is subjective.

  10. #10
    Hi Greg,

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor View Post
    Jundo,

    would you say Dosho's description of how Soto-Shu changed after Japan was forciibily opened incorrect?
    Yes, it is not quite right. Most ordinary people in Japan who were parishioners of Zen temples centuries before that time had no interest in Zazen or the intricate doctrines of Zen practice. The temples were a place of ancestor spirit worship primarily. Since the 17th century, Japanese were forcibly assigned to their neighborhood temples without regard to denomination as a method of social control to keep out Christianity and its missionaries (even the extent to which the samurai were into Zen is wildly exaggerated). In fact, only in modern times, in Japan and the west, have many lay people become interested in Zazen and the deeper aspects of Zen practice.

    When Christianity again threatened after Perry opened Japan, there were many proposals to counter this. One was to let Soto common parishioners get into chanting because they still could not handle Shikantaza. That was largely rejected and, while the average Soto practitioner is still not into Zazen, they did continue to turn to the temples for ancestor veneration. What Dosho conveniently leaves out of his story is that many did get into Shikantaza, Dogen and all the rest ... in both Japan and the west ... like us! One might say that real Soto Shinkantaza lay practice first blossomed after the country opened, and Zazen became popular with many folks in the lay world.

    The practice you describe seems in step with what I have read from Dogen. Are the changes better described by incorporating devotional elements such as the Shushogi which we have discussed here before.
    Shushogi was another attempt at the same time as above, to counter Christianity, by cutting and pasting Dogen, leaving out all mention of Zazen, and leaving primarily teachings on ethics and Karma. It is not popular in the west at all, and really not many people are interested in it in Japan either.

    Speaking of awakening and Koans in Soto, how is the Denkoroku used in Soto?
    The Denkoroku is still read in Soto (we went through each of its chapters a few years ago here). It is a largely fictional account of the "official" story of the Zen lineage. It contains many stories of awakening. Awakening is vital in Soto Zen, and our practice here too. Here is a typical example, in this case a recounting of the awakening of Master Xuedou Zhijian ...

    The forty-ninth patriarch was Zen Master Xuedou Zhijian. When Zongjue was at [Mount] Tiantong, one day he entered the hall and said, “The Worldhonored One spoke with a hidden meaning, but it was not concealed to Kashyapa.” When the master heard this, he was suddenly awakened to its profound meaning. Standing there in the ranks with the others, his tears fell. He unconsciously burst out, “Why haven’t I heard this before?” Zongjue finished his talk and summoned the master. He asked, “Why were you weeping?” The master replied, “The World-honored One spoke with a hidden meaning, but it was not concealed to Kashyapa.” Zongjue gave his approval, saying, “You must be the one that Yunju predicted.”

    I hope that such "ah hah" moments happen to folks here at Treeleaf all the time.

    I have a copy of Nishijima Roshi's translation of the Shinji Shobogenzo, I wanted it to help understand refrences to the Zen stories in Shobogenzo and other books.

    Nishijima's commentary seems to point more to an interpretation of these Koans as short stories that can teach us something rather than paradoxical mysteries to unlock.

    Similiar to folk tales and or biblical parables.
    No, they are all teaching stories, and not written just to sound strange or to be torn apart and chewed on as a phrase during Zazen. However, as teaching stories, they embody and express, with poems, humor, actions and irony, the "strange-wise logic" of Zen ... where, for example, "one hand clapping" refers to the sound of emptiness.

    Koans are vital to the Soto Way, Dogen's writings are commentary and dance with wall-to-wall Koans. It is just that we do not usually chew on them in Zazen, looking for the big booming Kensho.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-05-2022 at 05:54 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11


    Gassho
    Washin
    stah
    Kaidō (皆道) Every Way
    Washin (和信) Harmony Trust
    ----
    I am a novice priest-in-training. Anything that I say must not be considered as teaching
    and should be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

  12. #12
    The memories are shadows of what I have experienced, they are not the experiences.
    The experiences have gone, but the memories remain. - 安知 Anchi


    STLah

  13. #13
    Thank you for taking the time to write this Jundo. It's so interesting that in this time of my life, after many years of seeking and pushing, both my therapist and this Sangha see Shikantaza as the fundamental practice. And my body-mind-heart seem to agree. How lovely.

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat
    Last edited by Tomás ESP; 02-05-2022 at 12:32 PM.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor View Post
    Jundo,

    would you say Dosho's description of how Soto-Shu changed after Japan was forciibily opened incorrect?
    Greg,

    I turned your question into a much longer response for the Facebook folks. It expands basically on what I wrote you above.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    What and Who Dosho Leaves Out ...

    Further response to Dosho Port and his article: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/zen-...A2fqJICx9vGuL8

    Dosho Port's article also contains a certain incompleteness in its recounting of history. He writes:

    In 1853, you see, Commodore Perry steamed into Edo Bay with a squadron of US Navy ships, some twenty-five times bigger than anything that the Japanese navy had at the time. This unleashed a stream of cause and effect that eventually took the steam out of the Soto tradition’s focus on training and awakening monks, and shifted it to a model inspired by Western Protestantism that appealed to householders with practices based on faith in Dogen (a convenient substitute for Jesus Christ) and karma teachings.

    According to the Bukkokuji monk Kogen, the tension between this movement and the traditional emphasis of Soto Zen burst into public view in 1928 when Professor Kaiten Nukariya published a front page article titled “True Faith,” taking the position that by using scholarship, studying the doctrine, and having faith it is possible to clarify the principles of Zen. Professor Nukariya’s article was the first of many in what became known as “The Showa Dispute About True Faith.”

    Professor Nukariya’s article prompted a strong response, largely from senior monastic teachers, especially from Daiun Harada Roshi [the great purveyor of Koan Introspection Zazen]. Harada Roshi’s position was that only through practice and great enlightenment is one able to grasp the truth of Zen, and that scholars without experience of actual practice and actual awakening are simply followers of common sense and science, and have no authority to speak about and define Zen.
    Dosho is right about much of that, but leaves a few key facts and people out of the story.

    Most ordinary people in Japan who were parishioners of Zen temples centuries before the time of Japan's opening had no personal interest in Zazen or the intricate doctrines of Zen and Mahayana practice. Many were illiterate peasants or people attracted to easier to understand religious beliefs. The temples were a place of ancestor spirit worship primarily, or another site for asking the Buddhas and Gods for a little good fortune and blessings in life. Since the 17th century, Japanese were forcibly assigned to their neighborhood temples without regard to denomination as a method of social control to keep out Christianity and its missionaries. (Even the extent to which the samurai as a class were into Zen has been wildly exaggerated).

    When Christianity again threatened to invade after Perry opened Japan, there were many proposals in the Soto world to counter this. One was to let Soto common parishioners develop a passion for chanting (similar to the practices of Pure Land Buddhism regarding Amida, but focused instead on Shakyamuni) because, it was felt, ordinary people still could not understand and maintain a Zazen practice, nor dive deeply into the depths of Zen and Mahayana teachings. That proposal was largely rejected in Soto-shu (not because of the efforts of the teachers that Dosho likes, but because the suggestion was widely disliked in most Soto circles). A related attempt to attract lay people to Zen practice was the creation of the so-called Shushogi in order to counter Christianity, a work which has been described as cutting and pasting Dogen, leaving out all mention of Zazen, and keeping primarily teachings on ethics and Karma. It is not popular in the west at all, and really not many people are interested in it in Japan either. https://nozeninthewest.wordpress.com...-of-mushrooms/

    Dosho is correct that many responses to Christianity's threat were proposed in Soto Zen, including many who called for modernizing and "Protestantizing," which was accompanied by some who called for "return to fundamentals." One small group among those reformers were those calling for Koan Introspection Zazen as the answer, as Dosho suggests.

    But what Dosho leaves out of his story for some reason is that many people have been able to dive deeply into Shikantaza, Dogen and sincere, dedicated Zen practice ... in both Japan and the west ... in modern times! No, not millions of people perhaps (neither Koan Introspection nor Shikantaza will ever become a mass movement, alas), but more than ever before in Japanese history (let alone American and European history). Dosho recounts the reform movement led by Harada and Yasutani Roshis, the one that Dosho likes, with their emphasis on Koan Introspection and the big Kensho. He completely omits the even greater opportunities that became available to Soto and other lay people in modern times to truly dive into Dogen, Shikantaza practice and the power of Goalless sitting. For the first time in history, east and west, Zen teachings, teachers and the education and opportunity to truly dive deep into the meaning of "Just Sitting" became open to all, including countless people outside the monastery.

    Dosho Port completely leaves out of his story folks like Homeless Kodo Sawaki, Uchiyama Roshi, Okamura Roshi and my own teacher, Nishijima, as if they did not exist or were more peddlers of some wimpy, luke warm, consumerist philosophy of watered down Zen rather than a boundless, powerful path of Just Sitting as the Buddha's and Ancestors embodied. One might say that real Soto Shinkantaza lay practice first blossomed after the country opened, and Sawaki's radical "Good for Nothing" Zazen became popular with many folks in the lay world, both in Japan and world-wide.

    Dosho just leaves all that out as if, in his strawman version of Soto Practice, the only options are between some watered down sitting (sadly, Dosho is not wrong about that being around too) and what Dosho promotes. He simply omits the powerful advocates of an enlightening path of Just Sitting which Hits the Mark that arose during the 20th century, but which continues the lifeblood of Soto Zen which extends back to Dogen and beyond.

    He should know better, and frankly, I suspect that he does.
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-06-2022 at 02:45 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Thank you for this fascinating discussion.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  16. #16
    Grazie Jundo, a well written response. Truth!

    Gassho,

    Greg
    St

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Greg,

    I turned your question into a much longer response for the Facebook folks. It expands basically on what I wrote you above.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    What and Who Dosho Leaves Out ...

    Further response to Dosho Port and his article: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/zen-...A2fqJICx9vGuL8

    Dosho Port's article also contains a certain incompleteness in its recounting of history. He writes:



    Dosho is right about much of that, but leaves a few key facts and people out of the story.

    Most ordinary people in Japan who were parishioners of Zen temples centuries before the time of Japan's opening had no personal interest in Zazen or the intricate doctrines of Zen and Mahayana practice. Many were illiterate peasants or people attracted to easier to understand religious beliefs. The temples were a place of ancestor spirit worship primarily, or another site for asking the Buddhas and Gods for a little good fortune and blessings in life. Since the 17th century, Japanese were forcibly assigned to their neighborhood temples without regard to denomination as a method of social control to keep out Christianity and its missionaries. (Even the extent to which the samurai as a class were into Zen has been wildly exaggerated).

    When Christianity again threatened to invade after Perry opened Japan, there were many proposals in the Soto world to counter this. One was to let Soto common parishioners develop a passion for chanting (similar to the practices of Pure Land Buddhism regarding Amida, but focused instead on Shakyamuni) because, it was felt, ordinary people still could not understand and maintain a Zazen practice, nor dive deeply into the depths of Zen and Mahayana teachings. That proposal was largely rejected in Soto-shu (not because of the efforts of the teachers that Dosho likes, but because the suggestion was widely disliked in most Soto circles). A related attempt to attract lay people to Zen practice was the creation of the so-called Shushogi in order to counter Christianity, a work which has been described as cutting and pasting Dogen, leaving out all mention of Zazen, and keeping primarily teachings on ethics and Karma. It is not popular in the west at all, and really not many people are interested in it in Japan either. https://nozeninthewest.wordpress.com...-of-mushrooms/

    Dosho is correct that many responses to Christianity's threat were proposed in Soto Zen, including many who called for modernizing and "Protestantizing," which was accompanied by some who called for "return to fundamentals." One small group among those reformers were those calling for Koan Introspection Zazen as the answer, as Dosho suggests.

    But what Dosho leaves out of his story for some reason is that many people have been able to dive deeply into Shikantaza, Dogen and sincere, dedicated Zen practice ... in both Japan and the west ... in modern times! No, not millions of people perhaps (neither Koan Introspection nor Shikantaza will ever become a mass movement, alas), but more than ever before in Japanese history (let alone American and European history). Dosho recounts the reform movement led by Harada and Yasutani Roshis, the one that Dosho likes, with their emphasis on Koan Introspection and the big Kensho. He completely omits the even greater opportunities that became available to Soto and other lay people in modern times to truly dive into Dogen, Shikantaza practice and the power of Goalless sitting. For the first time in history, east and west, Zen teachings, teachers and the education and opportunity to truly dive deep into the meaning of "Just Sitting" became open to all, including countless people outside the monastery.

    Dosho Port completely leaves out of his story folks like Homeless Kodo Sawaki, Uchiyama Roshi, Okamura Roshi and my own teacher, Nishijima, as if they did not exist or were more peddlers of some wimpy, luke warm, consumerist philosophy of watered down Zen rather than a boundless, powerful path of Just Sitting as the Buddha's and Ancestors embodied. One might say that real Soto Shinkantaza lay practice first blossomed after the country opened, and Sawaki's radical "Good for Nothing" Zazen became popular with many folks in the lay world, both in Japan and world-wide.

    Dosho just leaves all that out as if, in his strawman version of Soto Practice, the only options are between some watered down sitting (sadly, Dosho is not wrong about that being around too) and what Dosho promotes. He simply omits the powerful advocates of an enlightening path of Just Sitting which Hits the Mark that arose during the 20th century, but which continues the lifeblood of Soto Zen which extends back to Dogen and beyond.

    He should know better, and frankly, I suspect that he does.
    From what I understand Jundo, even if the practice is boundless, teachers take sides based on what worked/works for them!

    Gassho,
    Suuko.

    Sent from my M2101K7BNY using Tapatalk
    Has been known as Guish since 2017 on the forum here.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Suuko View Post
    From what I understand Jundo, even if the practice is boundless, teachers take sides based on what worked/works for them!

    Gassho,
    Suuko.
    Of course. Not every medicine is for every patient.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Hi,

    I hadn't really thought of practice broken down into 3 categories/stages as in the article (except perhaps reflected in descriptions of the Jhanas)
    Dosho discriminates between, insight, absorption and awakening. He describes awakening as experiencing an 'abrupt, non-dual embodiment'
    which results in a decrease in suffering that is irreversible (I guess the irreversible nature is what makes it a kensho experience?)

    I don't know, just seems we're caught in the problem of words and how do we describe these experiences - should we even try to describe them?
    To me, it sounds hierarchical, goal orientated, and ultimately problematic if our descriptive words then require a stamp of authenticity from another
    being higher up in yet another hierarchical chain?

    I've never had what I would describe as a pure kensho experience (though I would say 'yes' to spiritual or just those seemingly inconsequential 'ah-hah' moments that grace us in the course
    of our everyday lives.)
    I'm not sure how it would help my practice, or help me to be my best self to experience kensho or work towards it. But each to their own and its interesting to see the different paths we gravitate towards.

    Sorry for going over.

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat today
    Last edited by Jinyo; 02-06-2022 at 12:38 PM.

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