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Thread: The Backwards Wisdom of Shikantaza

  1. #1

    The Backwards Wisdom of Shikantaza


    The root of human suffering (Dukkha) is found in our countless desires and our need to change life's circumstances to satisfy those desires. Many of those desires are extreme, unending, the source of disappointment and anger when frustrated, as well as the trigger for other harmful emotions such as jealousy, anxiety and the like. Thus, we might think that we must achieve all those goals and desires to be happy, remove one by one the endless targets of our anger, sadness, fear and other such emotions in order then to feel satisfied. We think we need to work to fix these things to fix them.

    However, the surprising twist of Shikantaza is that one sits feeling radically satisfied just by the act of sitting, putting down all measures of some "lack" in sitting, desiring nothing but sitting when sitting, whereby the root for disappointment, anger, comparisons, despair, fear, frustration and our other desires drops away, and thus Dukkha drops away. The goal of sitting is sitting, which is satisfied by sitting. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, there is simply nothing more to desire, nothing else to change or fix, during the time of sitting ... and that fact changes and fixes a lot about what ails us, because the anger, fear and all the rest lose their fuel. The anger and fear evaporate by radical acceptance of what is (including sometimes even our feeling anger or fear), by our not demanding or wishing anything else but sitting while sitting, which acceptance thus changes how we are and how we experience life, thus nullifying the anger and fear. Counter-intuitive.

    Another counter-intuitive fact about Shikantaza is that we do not care about (neither while sitting, nor at other times) what is called "Kensho," an experience of the hard borders of self and the world dropping away, and all phenomena flowing in and becoming each other and all. Nor do we hope for pleasant "Samadhi" concentrative states while sitting. We do not seek for anything in the whole wide world while sitting other than sitting, which sitting we take (as a matter of profound trust) to be itself the action and embodiment of Buddhas and Ancestors sitting just by our sitting. We sit needing nothing, neither Kensho nor no Kensho, neither Samadhi nor no Samadhi, for all we need for completion is to sit ... and we are sitting.

    However, the funny thing that may happen is that, by the very action of sitting just to sit, with its accompanying equanimity and leaving aside other desires, whether following the breath or sitting in 'open awareness,' the hard borders between self and the rest of the world may soften, sometimes fully drop away, and all phenomena are tasted to flow in and out, and become each other and all reality. For some folks, it is a sudden and profound experience of such which may last a short or long time. For other folks, it is more a subtle wisdom that gets into the bones over time. He who walks through the mist slowly, and she who dives into the ocean deeply, both become just as wet ... in fact, both prove to be the very ocean flowing all along. A sudden and steep Kensho or a slow and subtle Kensho is all still Kensho, still the very same wisdom.

    Likewise, Shikantaza is always perfect, Samadhi or not. But another funny thing is that our sitting with trust in sitting's perfection, nothing else sought, simply following the breath or openly aware, can bring about rich experiences of Samadhi. It is like a present that one receives when one stops wanting it, stops trying to get it, stops making any effort for it at all (like those Chinese finger cuffs that release us only when we stop stuggling)! Samadhi happens, and that is good!

    Thus another counter-intuitive wisdom of Shikantaza is that Zazen is good, just as good, still perfect even when Samadhi --does not-- happen. Each day, each moment of sitting, is just what it is. Zazen, and all this life and world, are never lacking, an attitude which causes the frustration, the anger, the fear and regret, to all fall away. Thus, as wisely-weird as it may sound, this very sitting not to change, not to attain anything, attains something most profound that truly changes us and all our encounter with the world. It is a most profound dropping of the demands, frictions and separations of body and mind, sometimes deep, sometimes light, sometimes not at all (yet, even then, as a matter of faith, we know that the moon is always shining even at those times when hidden behind the clouds).

    Then, rising from the cushion, returning to this world of problems to solve, things to fear, places to go, many things to change or lacking, we set to work ... but now, with the knowing deep in our bones of nothing to change, nothing to fear, nothing lacking, no where else to go.

    The paths which emphasize Kensho, or reaching deep Samadhi states are marvelous, wonderful paths! Even when I stick up for the uniqueness of Shikantaza, Just Sitting that Hits the Mark, I --never-- mean to put down such paths, and they are good paths for those who choose to walk them. But, I say to those folks too, please try to understand, and do not discount, the marvelous, wondrous path to right here, choiceless and this, which is Shikantaza.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-10-2022 at 07:09 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Realizing our mind is already like a mirror, no need to clear the dust off of it. Thank you Jundo

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Tomás ESP View Post
    Realizing our mind is already like a mirror, no need to clear the dust off of it. Thank you Jundo

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH
    And thus, without moving a finger, all the dust clears off, even as some dust (but, hopefully, not the anger and really destructive dust) sometimes remains.



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-10-2022 at 10:02 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Tomás ESP View Post
    Realizing our mind is already like a mirror, no need to clear the dust off of it. Thank you Jundo

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH
    Great analogy. When we are happy, Zazen reflects the happiness. When we are sad, we are just sad in Zazen. Yet, in Zazen, we are not dragged by any of the state. We end up understanding to the core what equanimity is without really it being an objective at the start.

    Gassho,
    Sat,
    Lah,
    Suuko.

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

  6. #6


    Juki

    sat today and lah
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

  7. #7
    Thank you Jundo


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  8. #8


    Doshin
    St

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    whether following the breath or sitting in 'open awareness,'
    So Jundo, do you think is ok for someone focus on the breathing? Maybe on a difficult day or when sitting somewhere noisy?

    Gassho, Kiri
    Sat/Lah
    希 rare
    理 principle
    (Nikos)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiri View Post
    So Jundo, do you think is ok for someone focus on the breathing? Maybe on a difficult day or when sitting somewhere noisy?

    Gassho, Kiri
    Sat/Lah
    Jundo will know best, but on hard days I sometimes focus very slightly on the breath while keeping an open awareness of everything else. Almost like watching TV without losing awareness of everything else. You are watching the movie, but you are not lost in the movie. What I find most important though is to fully trust that despite having a difficult day, everything is fundamentally OK.

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Tomás ESP View Post
    Jundo will know best, but on hard days I sometimes focus very slightly on the breath while keeping an open awareness of everything else. Almost like watching TV without losing awareness of everything else. You are watching the movie, but you are not lost in the movie. What I find most important though is to fully trust that despite having a difficult day, everything is fundamentally OK.

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH
    Lovely words.

    Yes, when the mind is really storming on a hard day, or for new folks who don't know how to disentangle from thought even a bit, it is good to follow (we don't count) the breath, just keeping attention there.

    For the long haul, it is good to learn to transfer the attention to "open, spacious awareness," focused on everything and nothing in particular, just letting thoughts come and go without grabbing on and playing their game.

    Tomas' way seems like a bit of both as one, lovely (I am going to steal that description)

    As to the noisy place, it is fine to follow the breath ... but remember that "noise is just noise," the disturbance is largely between your own ears. Perhaps you might sit accepting the noise as "just what is," and not be disturbed or caught up by the noise. (If it is so loud that it endangers your hearing, however, well, that is a different story. But short of that ... I have even "sat" Zazen at rock concerts. )

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    Sorry to run long
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiri View Post
    So Jundo, do you think is ok for someone focus on the breathing? Maybe on a difficult day or when sitting somewhere noisy?

    Gassho, Kiri
    Sat/Lah
    The thing about that, in my view is that focusing on breath BECAUSE of noisy environment means we run away from what is an alleged distraction, the noise, in order to get somewhere else. I say, let the noise be noise and let yourself be noise as well for a little bit.

    Sat Today
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
    Join me on Insight Timer
    Help me feed those in need by joining my Share The Meal team HERE

  13. #13
    "As counter-intuitive as it sounds, there is simply nothing more to desire, nothing else to change or fix, during the time of sitting ... and that fact changes and fixes a lot about what ails us, because the anger, fear and all the rest lose their fuel". Said so many ways before, but this is SO good, Jundo. Thank you.

    Deep bow.

    st
    東西 - Tōsei - East West
    there is only what is, and it is all miraculous

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Tosei View Post
    ... Said so many ways before ...
    Yes, I am a broken record, saying the same over and over ... but that is because I believe it to be so basic, and so true.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Thank you for your teaching Jundo.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.
    E84I - JAJ

  16. #16
    Thank you Jundo, it's always inspiring to read your explanations on Shikantaza.

    Gassho, Doğukan.
    Sat.

  17. #17

    Wonderful!

    Thank you Jundo, this is a wonderful note, an "anthem" without compelling one to stand - just sit!


    Frank
    ST

    Rikishin
    ST

  18. #18


    Gassho,
    Koushi
    STLaH
    理道弘志 | Ridō Koushi

    Please take this novice priest-in-training's words with a grain of salt.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    remember that "noise is just noise," the disturbance is largely between your own ears.


    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH

  20. #20
    Classic teaching by Suzuki Roshi on noise and sound ...

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    If you have never listened to Suzuki Roshi's wonderful talk on the difference between "sound" and "noise," please do. (Spoiler Alert: basically, this difference is our judgment and reaction between one's ears).


    Except in extreme situations where excess noise can actually be harmful to the ears, sleep cycle and the like, we just sit in equanimity and acceptance.

    On the other hand, Zazen sitting time also is a partial sensory deprivation experience when we can. Master Dogen recommended this in Fukanzazengi ...

    For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs.

    The reason is that, while there is absolutely no difference between silence and noise/stillness and motion/peace and disturbance apart from the human heart and our human measures, sitting as we can in a quiet and still way helps us better realize so. Ultimately, however, the real "Peace and Stillness" is in our heart, between our ears, and not a matter of the outside environment.

    So, in our "always beginners" series of talks, I recommended this ...

    Most days, we’d best sit Zazen in a quiet room, with little noise and few distractions. The reason is simply that a peaceful, still, quiet environment helps us allow the mind to become peaceful, still and quiet, with thoughts and emotions drifting away as the mind settles down.

    But once in awhile, maybe every couple of weeks or so, I recommend that you sit Zazen in a truly disturbing place.

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...nners-%2821%29
    On the other hand, if usually sitting in noisy places, sometimes seek out quieter places. Mix it up.

    Thus, in our Zen Way, there were times to sit in the city, times to head to the mountains and a quiet hut.

    However, in fact, there is no perfectly quiet place. At our Zendo in Tsukuba, for our Saturday morning Zazenkai, birds can usually be heard chirping prettily in the surrounding trees ... but also, a truck or cars will frequently be heard rushing down the nearby road, carpenters banging fixing a neighbors roof, or a military helicopter passing overhead (I do not know why, but our house must be on some route they use to one of the nearby bases). It has become one of the most powerful teaching tools I have for new students. I tell them that it is not to think "Oh, the birds are very lovely and peaceful ... but the trucks and helicopters disturb my nice Zazen". Rather, "the birds are singing as birds ... the trucks are trucks ... the copter just copters. Do not think one pleasant but the other ugly or detracting from the atmosphere. Then, there is a certain quiet and stillness that one can come hear behind and sounding right through all the sounds and noise."

    I learned this sitting many a morning at Nishijima Roshi's old Zendo ... located right next to a NOISY child's playground and a highway. At Taisoji temple, it was traffic sounds from the street outside and the train passing every few minutes. There are really no quiet Zendos or monasteries. Oh, sure, there are the moments of bird tweets and breezes, but then there are stomach rumbles, shuffling feet in the hall, kyosaku stick strikes. When I was sitting at Sojiji Head Monastery, the loudspeaker pages during Zazen ... "Yamamoto Roshi, Call on Line 3." Trucks outside, not to mention my tinnitus which is always there.

    CONCLUSION: There has never been perfect quiet until the heart is quiet amid any noise. Thus, we sit "as what is," in equanimity and non-resistance even in "noisy" places (absent some extreme, harmful noise that can be avoided, and even with such noise if it cannot be avoided!). At other times, please seek out still and quiet places to sit (although know that, even then, there is not true silence unless the heart is still and silent). Mix it up, sitting in all kinds of places.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21

    The Backwards Wisdom of Shikantaza

    Thank you Jundo.




    Gassho
    Bobby
    SatTodayLAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Bobby; 02-13-2022 at 11:28 AM.
    🙏🙏🙏

  22. #22
    Thank you, Jundo.

    Gassho.
    Enis
    SatTodayLAH

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Classic teaching by Suzuki Roshi on noise and sound ...

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    If you have never listened to Suzuki Roshi's wonderful talk on the difference between "sound" and "noise," please do. (Spoiler Alert: basically, this difference is our judgment and reaction between one's ears).


    Except in extreme situations where excess noise can actually be harmful to the ears, sleep cycle and the like, we just sit in equanimity and acceptance.

    On the other hand, Zazen sitting time also is a partial sensory deprivation experience when we can. Master Dogen recommended this in Fukanzazengi ...

    For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs.

    The reason is that, while there is absolutely no difference between silence and noise/stillness and motion/peace and disturbance apart from the human heart and our human measures, sitting as we can in a quiet and still way helps us better realize so. Ultimately, however, the real "Peace and Stillness" is in our heart, between our ears, and not a matter of the outside environment.

    So, in our "always beginners" series of talks, I recommended this ...



    On the other hand, if usually sitting in noisy places, sometimes seek out quieter places. Mix it up.

    Thus, in our Zen Way, there were times to sit in the city, times to head to the mountains and a quiet hut.

    However, in fact, there is no perfectly quiet place. At our Zendo in Tsukuba, for our Saturday morning Zazenkai, birds can usually be heard chirping prettily in the surrounding trees ... but also, a truck or cars will frequently be heard rushing down the nearby road, carpenters banging fixing a neighbors roof, or a military helicopter passing overhead (I do not know why, but our house must be on some route they use to one of the nearby bases). It has become one of the most powerful teaching tools I have for new students. I tell them that it is not to think "Oh, the birds are very lovely and peaceful ... but the trucks and helicopters disturb my nice Zazen". Rather, "the birds are singing as birds ... the trucks are trucks ... the copter just copters. Do not think one pleasant but the other ugly or detracting from the atmosphere. Then, there is a certain quiet and stillness that one can come hear behind and sounding right through all the sounds and noise."

    I learned this sitting many a morning at Nishijima Roshi's old Zendo ... located right next to a NOISY child's playground and a highway. At Taisoji temple, it was traffic sounds from the street outside and the train passing every few minutes. There are really no quiet Zendos or monasteries. Oh, sure, there are the moments of bird tweets and breezes, but then there are stomach rumbles, shuffling feet in the hall, kyosaku stick strikes. When I was sitting at Sojiji Head Monastery, the loudspeaker pages during Zazen ... "Yamamoto Roshi, Call on Line 3." Trucks outside, not to mention my tinnitus which is always there.

    CONCLUSION: There has never been perfect quiet until the heart is quiet amid any noise. Thus, we sit "as what is," in equanimity and non-resistance even in "noisy" places (absent some extreme, harmful noise that can be avoided, and even with such noise if it cannot be avoided!). At other times, please seek out still and quiet places to sit (although know that, even then, there is not true silence unless the heart is still and silent). Mix it up, sitting in all kinds of places.
    As an experiment, I am going to choose the worse music for me and listen to it while I keep my equanimity and sit Zazen.

    Gassho,
    Sat,
    Lah,
    Suuko.

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

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Suuko View Post
    As an experiment, I am going to choose the worse music for me and listen to it while I keep my equanimity and sit Zazen.

    Gassho,
    Sat,
    Lah,
    Suuko.
    No, no. Even I can't do that!





    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    No, no. Even I can't do that!
    ... but you are a zenmaster! Hakuin: but not a dead one



    aprapti

    sat

    hobo kore dojo / 歩々これ道場 / step, step, there is my place of practice


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    No, no. Even I can't do that!





    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Still better than ABBA

    Gassho
    Sat

  27. #27

  28. #28
    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

  29. #29
    Thank you for the lesson Sensei,


    SaToday
    Diana

  30. #30
    Thank you

    Gassho, Warren

    Sat Today

  31. #31
    Thank you

    Gassho, Woz

    Sat Today

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