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Thread: On 'Sankon Zazen Setsu: Three Kinds of Zazen Practitioners' by Keizan Zenji

  1. #1

    On 'Sankon Zazen Setsu: Three Kinds of Zazen Practitioners' by Keizan Zenji


    Which is better, Soto or Rinzai, Shikantaza or Koan Instrospection?

    Both! Neither! In fact, the medicine depends on the needs of the patient.

    I recommend Shikantaza, radical Just Sitting, to many folks because it is a powerful medicine for what ails so many of us these days. The little "self" with its constant, morning to night chasing after goals and tasks, judging this and that, friend and foe, win and lose, worried about tomorrow, either longing or regretting the past ... that little self is "put out of a job" when one sits in the radical goallessness of Shikantaza with nothing more to do but sitting in the fulfillment of sitting's sake, this moment of our sitting precisely the embodi-mindment of a Buddha sitting, no other task to do, nothing to judge apart from the completeness of sitting shining deep from the bones, letting thoughts go of this and that, not judging friend or foe (thus discovering the great Wholeness and Friendhship of all reality), nothing lacking thus nothing to win and nothing to lose, precisely in this moment free of past and future, thereby the little self just dropped away. It is HEAVEN & EARTH unlike the "just sitting on their ass, twiddling their thumbs, wallowing in mindmud, wasting time" that some partisan folks try to paint who do not know this Shikantaza (Sadly, some meditation teachers these days do, in fact, teach such kinds of "bump on a log sitting," it is true as the critics charge, but Shikantaza need not, must not be like that!)

    Koan Introspection Zazen is excellent for folks who need to TNT through the obstructions of self. Personally, I felt that it pushed me even further into the need to attain (special concentration states and "Kensho" experiences, in this case), to feel the heavy pressure of good and bad and the sharpness of lack, chasing hard the goal of "Kensho" openning. In point of fact, however, that is the power of such practice, for it strives to cure the disease by diving even deeper into the very disease of driven, hungry searching for escape, poison used to fight poison! Even so, personally, I found that its concern with the Roshi's eyeing and the attainment of "passing Koans," because it is precisely the disease of Dukkha using Dukkha to escape Dukkha, just wasn't what I personally needed. (I also questioned whether the dance in the Dokusan room actually removes obstructions as much as billed, leading to truly realized behavior. That may be oversold quite a bit. I rather prefer, personally, the "right here" application of realization in our Soto way of 'practice-enlightenment' in which the Genjo Koan, the actual dance of life's Koan, is in each moment to moment of this ordinary life. However, Rinzai practices also emphasize embodying the teachings throughout life, so it is also not that serious a distinction.)

    In the end, both Rinzai and Soto practice ultimately end up at the very same "place" of radical non-attainment and "Just This." The Rinzai folks do so by pushing very hard to get "there" (which is "Kensho" not apart from here or there) while "Just Sitters" pause and rest wholly right here (which is "Kensho" both there and here) ... and it all comes out the same.

    Master Keizan, centuries ago, seems to have come to a similar conclusion in his short essay called "Three Kinds of Zazen Practitioners." Keizan was much more open than Dogen to a variety of methods, including Koan Introspection, probably based on the mixed Soto and Rinzai background of his Teacher, Gikai. In any case, Keizan could be eclectic. Thus, despite the wording, the following is not ranking the 3 kinds of practice, but saying that they ALL are excellent (in a Zenny way of saying black is white and white is black, the ordinary is superior and the superior just ordinary), all have their place, even the "middle" practice of intensively focusing on a Koan that some folks might need to suit them. Maybe it is even good for us to mix and match, with the naturalness of the first, the intensity of the middle, the radical "Just Sitting" of the other, finding the recipes best for our own needs:

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

    Three Kinds of Zazen Practitioners by Keizan Jokin Zenji

    The [natural] person whose zazen is of the most profound type has no interest in why the Buddhas appeared in this present world. Such a one doesn't speculate about truths which cannot even be transmitted by the Buddhas and Ancestors. She doesn't doctrinalize about [teachings such as] "all things are the expression of the self" for she is beyond "enlightenment" and "delusion". Since her views never fall into dualistic angles, nothing obstructs her, even when distinctions appear. She just eats when she is hungry. She just sleeps when she is tired.

    The person whose zazen is of a medium type forsakes all things and cuts off all [worldly] relations. Throughout the entire day she is never idle and so every moment of life, every breath, is practice of the Dharma. Or else she might concentrate on a koan, eyes fixed, her view in one place such as the tip of the nose. Considerations of life and death, going and staying, are not seen on her face. The mind of discrimination can never see into the deepest unchanging truth, nor can it understand the Buddhamind. Since there is no dualistic thoughts, she is enlightened. From the far past up to right now, wisdom is always brillliant, clear, shining. The whole universe throughout the ten directions is illuminated suddenly from her brow, all things are seen in detail within her body.

    The person whose zazen is just ordinary [JUNDO: yet anything but ordinary!] views all things [boundlessly] from all sides and frees herself from good and bad conditions. The mind naturally expresses the Actual Nature of all the Buddhas because Buddha rests right where your own feet rest. Thus wrong action does not arise. The hands are held in Reality mudra and do not hold onto any scriptures. The mouth is tightly closed, as if the lips were sealed, and no word of doctrine is spoken. The eyes are neither wide open nor shut. Nothing is ever seen from the point of view of fragmentation and good and evil words are left unheard. The nose [in equanimity] doesn't choose one smell as good, another as bad. The body is not propped up and all delusion is ended. Since delusion does not disturb the mind, [in this equanimity] sorrow and joy both drops away. Shaped just like a wooden carving of the Buddha, both the substance and the form are true. Worldly thoughts might arise [during Zazen] but they do not disturb because the mind is a bright mirror with no trace of shadows.

    The Precepts arise naturally from zazen whether they are the five, eight, the Great Bodhisattva Precepts, the monastic Precepts, the three thousand rules of deportment, the eighty thousand Teachings, or the supreme Dharma of the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors. No practice whatsover can be measured against zazen.

    Should only one merit be gained from the practice of zazen, it is vaster than the construction of a hundred, a thousand or a limitless number of monasteries. Practice Zazen, just sitting ceaselessly. Doing so we are liberated from birth and death and realise our own hidden Buddhanature.

    In perfect ease go, stay, sit and lie down. Seeing, hearing, understanding and knowing are all the natural display of the Actual Nature. From first to last, mind is mind, beyond any arguments about knowledge and ignorance. Just do zazen with all of who and what you are. Never stray from it or lose it.
    [Anzan & Yasuda Translation, with small adjustments incorporating Masunaga and Kennett]

    http://www.zenki.com/index.php?lang=en&page=Keizan02
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-31-2022 at 02:26 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    It is valuable to notice there is no criticism of either of the three ways though they are organized hierarchically. A far cry from the common attitude among many that “my way is the best way” ..
    I read a book once written by a Pure Land master, that used to practice Zen, but changed because he felt the Zen way was too complicated for the common people he was aiming to serve and teach. And for whatever reason, it struck me as compassionate and considerate, rather than wrong. Thanks Jundo for touching on this subject!

    Sorry for exceeding the 3 sentences!

    Sat Today
    Bion
    美音

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  3. #3
    Koan Introspection Zazen is excellent for folks who need to TNT through the obstructions of self. Personally, I felt that it pushed me even further into the need to attain
    This is what I found too. Prior to Treeleaf I spent some time with a local Sanbokyodan sangha. Nice people but I wasn’t as keen on Koan study. I really like Koans but I couldn’t shake the need to solve them. Maybe that’s the point, to sit with a Koan long enough to break past the need to solve it. Anyway, Shikantaza suits me just fine. Different strokes for different folks.

    Rereading the text from Kaizan I can’t help but think the words “profound”, “medium” and “ordinary” aren’t the result of imperfect translations to English.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    Last edited by Tairin; 07-31-2022 at 02:18 PM.
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  4. #4
    I don’t know if this is the place to ask about this, but how does one practice sitting zazen with a koan? I can understand reading, studying and reflecting on the teachings of a koan, like we do with the Book of Equanimity. But how to sit zazen with a koan?
    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by mateus.baldin View Post
    I don’t know if this is the place to ask about this, but how does one practice sitting zazen with a koan? I can understand reading, studying and reflecting on the teachings of a koan, like we do with the Book of Equanimity. But how to sit zazen with a koan?
    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH
    I am speaking as an outsider to the Rinzai tradition, although I have some small time working with Koan Introspection with a White Plum Sangha in a mixed Rinzai-Soto tradition. In some schools (some Korean teachers do this) one is assigned a single Koan for life or an extended period, and in other (the Japanese Rinzai and mixed Rinzai-Soto lines) there is a curriculum of Koan to pass through. One is supposed to hold the Koan, or just a key phrase from the Koan, in mind all through the day ... and especially during Zazen ... for example, the "MU!" from the Koan "Does a dog have Buddha-Nature or not?" One pours oneself into the Koan phrase, rather as a mantra. The aim is to induce deep "samadhi" concentration and, eventually, a breakthrough "Kensho" experience of the dropping of the self/other divide.

    Later Koans are meant to have more subtle effects and teachings, which must be approved in the Dokusan room by the teacher, with the student often presenting their sense of the Koan in poetic, non-verbal or physical ways.

    I am sure that my short description fails to do justice to the whole dance.

    Gassho, J
    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I am speaking as an outsider to the Rinzai tradition, although I have some small time working with Koan Introspection with a White Plum Sangha in a mixed Rinzai-Soto tradition. In some schools (some Korean teachers do this) one is assigned a single Koan for life or an extended period, and in other (the Japanese Rinzai and mixed Rinzai-Soto lines) there is a curriculum of Koan to pass through. One is supposed to hold the Koan, or just a key phrase from the Koan, in mind all through the day ... and especially during Zazen ... for example, the "MU!" from the Koan "Does a dog have Buddha-Nature or not?" One pours oneself into the Koan phrase, rather as a mantra. The aim is to induce deep "samadhi" concentration and, eventually, a breakthrough "Kensho" experience of the dropping of the self/other divide.

    Later Koans are meant to have more subtle effects and teachings, which must be approved in the Dokusan room by the teacher, with the student often presenting their sense of the Koan in poetic, non-verbal or physical ways.

    I am sure that my short description fails to do justice to the whole dance.

    Gassho, J
    STLah
    Thank you, Jundo.
    It’s a very different practice than Shikantaza, but it points to the same moon.
    Gassho2
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  7. #7
    Hi all

    It always seemed to me that shikantaza zazen pointed at the dropping away of body-mind right now, whereas koans seemed to aim for the same thing but by a very circuitous route. Also, the idea of passing koans suggested to me an endless chase for approval. I like pondering the koans but only with the commentary, too many cultural references for them to communicate their message to me otherwise.

    Gassho, Tokan (satlah)

  8. #8
    Soto and Rinzai are similar as described. a very interesting read. Thanks .
    Hakuun Yasutani did not want to differentiate between the two orientations. He founded Sanbo zen. and today Soto and Rinzai practice zazen together.

    Gassho!

  9. #9
    Reflecting further, I remember that dharma gates are endless, or 84,000 of them at least!

    Gassho, Tokan (satlah)

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