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Thread: Slow, Simple, Silent, Still, Sacred, Shikantaza ...

  1. #1

    Slow, Simple, Silent, Still, Sacred, Shikantaza ...

    We live in such a busy and noisy age. Events seem to be rushing ahead, faster than just a few decades ago. Our daily schedule with its demands feels so heavy, unrelenting. The images and streams of data that come pouring out of our little phones and other media are an information Tsunami, even compared to the print and TV age when I grew up.

    It is for this reason that the intentionally slow, inefficient, simple, silent ways we have of doing tasks in Zen practice are especially needed today. Sometimes, we need just to stop the 'going' altogether.

    I feel this even more important today than for the old Zen folks of 1000 or 500 years ago: In Master Dogen's time, there was no car to drive fast, no plane to fly, no screens to boot up, no microwave to heat our meals in a minute. Everyone had to walk, to stay close to home, to talk face-to-face, to amuse themselves, to cook their own meals slowly with fire. Any news from the capital came by messenger or scribbled missive, and late. Life inside the 13th century monastery was not all that different from life outside in such regard. It is so very easy for a monk to give up having a phone, computer, air conditioning and other conveniences when nobody in society has such things, and they will not even be invented for centuries to come!

    But today, we have these things to excess, and thus it is vital that, sometimes, we intentionally return as closely as we can to that 13th century lifestyle, to recall the wisdom of being slow, truly still, in life. Oh, we can keep the good points of modern life that they did not have back then (such as modern medicine, greater social equalities, science, practical transportation, widespread education, and the better aspects of the internet and communications which link us now. No need to return to leeches as medical care, women taking a back seat, peasants and illiteracy and such.) However, truly, in this onslaught of need for the 'new, new, new," and the flood of daily "news," we are poorer for it, loose ourselves in it. I just had to ask Sangha members not to rely too much on AI, but to write, feel, experience and express for themselves.

    Sometimes I get well-meaning folks who suggest that something in our Sangha can be done more efficiently, or can be better if automated. They wonder why we walk Kinhin (walking Zazen) so slow, one half step per one breath. They ask why our Oyoki meal ritual takes so long, with so much chanting before even the first bite. Why do we hand sew our Kesa ropes, not even using a sewing machine? Why do something so foolish as to waste precious time sitting, staring at a wall, not pondering things or getting something done?

    I respond to them that it is precisely because we are always running to get somewhere, striving to accomplish something, that we walk Kinhin with no destination but to "be right here" in this little step and the next. We eat in Oryoki with chants, bows and care with our implements, with equanimity about our food, to recall the miraculous chain of events whence this food comes, all the labors that go into bringing it to us, that we should not be prisoners of personal preferences as encouraged in this "fast food, eat what ya want" society with its expanding mountains of waste and expanding waist lines, that each bite is sacred and to be received mindfully. We sew our robes as a lesson that, like the act of sewing itself, our lives are one stitch at a time, not just the final destination, and even our mistakes are part of the journey.

    That word "sacred," and my saying that life is "miraculous," also cause some folks discomfort sometimes, perhaps because they carry the weight of some religion of their childhood. However, so much of Zen practice is a lesson that even the most ordinary things of life are truly special, a wonder, in just their coming to be. Even a rusty metal can by the side of the road contains atoms from the big bang and exploding stars, and so it is for you and me and every bite which sustains us. Everything is connected and brings forth everything else. This is why Master Dogen had his monks bow or chant even before the mundane acts of washing the face, cooking rice, cleaning the floor, using the toilet, taking a bath, going to sleep at night. It is all "super special," wondrous and wonderful, that we live in a life that allows the doing of just that.

    So, I recommend a little "homework" to you, as part of your practice. Oh, you do not need to spend hours at it because (alas) our lives are still so busy, who has the time? Just do this when you can. You do not need to do it every day, although it is lovely if you find the time even in some small way. Your assignment is this:

    Although there may be a faster, more efficient, more convenient way to do something, intentionally choose to do it the slower, terribly inefficient, so very tedious and time consuming way.

    Rather than taking the car to the grocery, walk with a backpack. Go slow, just notice the scenery and flowers you usually miss as you drive on by. (I would even recommend walking slow Kinhin all the way to the store and back although, frankly, that might take quite a few hours, if not days for a round trip. A regular walk is fine. Really notice, and bow with pressed palms to, all the vegetables and other foods you carefully select at the store. Feel the weight as you carry them home.) Rather than tossing the instant mix into the microwave, slow cook from base ingredients, feel the knife and notice the texture of the vegetables in your hand. Slowly wash the dishes afterward, rather than using some automatic machine. Put each implement away, recalling Dogen's words from his 'Instructions for the Cook':

    "Put what goes to a high place in a high place, what goes to a low place in a low place so that everything rests in its appropriate place."

    He also said, "In preparing the vegetables or the ingredients for the soup which have been received ... do not disparage either quantity or quality, but rather, handle all with the greatest care."

    Rather than vacuum our Zendo (we have a Zendo vacuum, and frankly it works great, better than any broom), I also regularly hand sweep instead ... removing the dust, little insects and leaves which blow in through the cracks in the door, before taking them outside and offering a brief bow at the end. I also bow when emptying the vacuum bag, but somehow it is not the same. Oh, I am not recommending that you forsake the clothes washer, choosing to beat your laundry on rocks by the river! But maybe iron them with attention on some days (even your undershorts, what you may not usually iron), then fold them a bit more slowly and carefully before returning them to closet or drawer. Also, turn off the screens ... even the one you are reading right now!

    Bow with pressed palms before what we usually take for granted: The refrigerator, the bath, the toilet, the diapers, the scissors, the stove. Learn to create and recite "Gatha," the little "re-MIND-ers" of the sacredness of every action, each containing a dedication thereof to all the other sentient beings. Gatha can be about almost anything peaceful and good, and can even be fun to invent (do make up your own!), with a little humor or word play. For example, I just created this one for making coffee (with a drip pot):

    May this cup awaken sleeping Wisdom,
    as each drop contains the whole universe,
    let us inhale the richness of this life
    and, for the sake of all beings,
    know the wholeness of Form and Emptiness,
    which blend together bitter and sweet, sugar and cream.

    Then, of course, do not forget to sit Shikantaza Zazen each day, sitting for sitting's sake, no place to go, nothing more to attain, no goal but sitting and no goal unfulfilled by sitting, putting down for a time the plans and measurements, judgements and considerations. No need for punching the clock, even though the bell rings at start and end. Nothing is more wonderfully "inefficient" than Zazen!

    Simply sit as a Buddha sitting, as the Morning Star shining just to shine.

    Sitting still in the posture of a Buddha Sitting ...

    ... What in the universe could be slower, stiller, simpler, more silent and sacred than that?

    Gassho, J


    Last edited by Jundo; 03-25-2023 at 11:14 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you for this teaching Jundo, it was exactly what I needed to read this morning...



    Sat today

    Sent from my Pixel 6a using Tapatalk
    Let everything happen to you: Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. - Rainer Maria Rilke

  3. #3
    This is a wonderful teaching. Thank you Jundo. Frankly I’ve been adopting many practices throughout my day to slow down and appreciate this moment.

    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  4. #4
    Thank you for this, Teacher.






  5. #5
    Something I quite like to do in this vein is making my bed. Alas, I'm not always as mindful as I might be, but I like to spend a few moments on awakening, before anything else, to just make the bed, spend a few moments quietly rearranging the blankets, knowing then that this will also mean that at the end of the day I can come home to a made bed.



  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan65 View Post
    Something I quite like to do in this vein is making my bed. Alas, I'm not always as mindful as I might be, but I like to spend a few moments on awakening, before anything else, to just make the bed, spend a few moments quietly rearranging the blankets, knowing then that this will also mean that at the end of the day I can come home to a made bed.


    And since you already seem to be in a reclining position, it is easy to get in bed ...

    Your picture is amazing. I did not know about the side-ways castles of Japan!

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-26-2023 at 05:16 AM.

  7. #7
    Hi all and thank you for this teaching Jundo

    In a wish to 'simplify' my life, one small action was to cancel my Spotify a few weeks ago. Although I love music, I decided I wanted to just listen when music occurs naturally, but also listen to the music when there is no music on a bit more too, why the need to have music on to make washing the dishes more fun, it's a wonderful experience all by itself! Removing the 'distraction' of music, and slowing down the pace where I can, allows me to be present while the washing folds itself or I stir the rice in the pot before feeding my hungry children. I highly recommend the 'unplugged' life for even just a few hours in a day, even if only possible once a month, as if it is practiced honestly and wholeheartedly it is both priceless and timeless!

    Gassho, Tokan

    Tokan (Island Nurse)
    I enjoy learning from everyone, I simply hope to be a friend along the way

  8. #8
    Heh, that's weird, I was pretty sure it was the right way up when I uploaded it. I'll see what I can do.


  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan65 View Post
    Heh, that's weird, I was pretty sure it was the right way up when I uploaded it. I'll see what I can do.

    Ah, the castle his righted itself!

    Gassho, Jundo


  10. #10
    Thank you for this teaching.


  11. #11
    Love this, thank you Jundo.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    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

  12. #12
    Thank you for sharing this Jundo.


  13. #13
    Thank you

    Gassho, Michael

  14. #14
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    Do Mi


  15. #15
    This is wonderful. Thank you so much, Jundo.

    Slow down, feel the water flowing on your hands,
    The water comfortable,
    May each dish be cleaned and my mind purified



    Sat today

  16. #16
    Inspiring, thank you for sharing, Jundo
    This is very important to remind ourselves especially in these days. I think that the instant 'chasing' or 'going after something' truly destroys the gratitude and appreciation toward life.
    As we "do not have time" to look around and just be.
    I am doing what I can to do things single-mindedly and when in stress trying to slow down and centre myself, the key is to notice what is.

    Sat Today

  17. #17
    Beautiful. Thank you Jundo!

    Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.

  18. #18

  19. #19
    This was just lovely Jundo. I have been playing with this idea this week. Very interesting.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    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

  20. #20

  21. #21
    Thank you for a timely reminder when life seems to be spinning faster and faster and even checking forum posts here can seem overwhelming after a busy period at work.




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