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Thread: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

  1. #1

    Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    I have often heard people say that “meditation is focusing and concentrating on one thing so intently you exclude all else.” This also ties in a little with a post I saw around what we should focus on during zazen. Jundo has made mention of the several parts of the body that some teachers suggest you focus on, some the spine, some the hands, most the breath. I think it is important to remember that these are just aids to assist in the development of your zazen practice. Much like the words, symbols, allegories and metaphors that we use when we talk about Zen practice, a practice “beyond words”, assist us on our never-ending journey to realize our Buddha-nature.

    I think that zazen is “ focusing on “One” thing so intently that you include all else.”

  2. #2

    Re: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    I agree. It's a bit of human psychology (not that I know anything about that); we have a hard time just sitting down and focusing on nothing and everything at once. Posture, mudra, breath, all of these give us a rope to start repelling down the cliff. So we focus on one and when something, a thought or sound perhaps, arises, we integrate it. It's important, I feel, that there is an understanding of "focus on this, but don't reject anything else." That's the problem I had when I began meditation, no one told me to allow everything else to come and be as it is. I just thought that I had to adhere strictly to my point of focus.

    10,000 times and 10,000 times again, no matter how far you seem to have drifted - wake up!


  3. #3

    Re: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    Hi Christopher,

    While I correct my posture when I notice myself focusing on thoughts, I don't think I actually -focus- on it during zazen. For me, it's more about dropping everything so my mind is as spacious and open as the clear blue sky (I've been waiting to fit line in!)



  4. #4

    Re: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    So we focus on one and when something, a thought or sound perhaps, arises, we integrate it.

    I do this also. Of course, sometimes it just results in my focus hopping from breath, to posture, to the bird out front, to the car driving by, back to the breath, no WAIT - the posture! And on and on and on... ops:

  5. #5

    Re: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    So we focus on one and when something, a thought or sound perhaps, arises, we integrate it.

    I do this also. Of course, sometimes it just results in my focus hopping from breath, to posture, to the bird out front, to the car driving by, back to the breath, no WAIT - the posture! And on and on and on... ops:
    Indeed, this happens for me especially when I hear a conversation going on. Best to just let it sound like "Blah blah blah" I guess :P

  6. #6

    Re: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    I will come back to this thread, for there are really some lovely insightful insights expressed by folks here. Thank you.

    In the meantime, I have to run to a doctor's check-up.

    So, I thought it might be interesting just to post a little about Buddhist history here. There really has been a kind of tug-o-war throughout the history of Buddhism, including within the Zen corner of the Buddhist world (and maybe throughout all forms of meditation schools too, Buddhist and not) between the "deep concentration folks" and the "open spacious awareness folks" (which does not mean that we are unconcentrated and distracted, by the way) ...

    This will give a little taste of that ...


    also, the rest of that thread was pretty good too.

  7. #7

    Re: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    Remember also, that the "One" I am talking about isn't some cosmic singularity either. Rather, it's the "One" of one organism, one system, independant of anything else because it is singular, but at the same time interdependant because it's made up of you and me, Jundo, Joshu, that dog from the koan, oceans, trees, birds, rocks, thorns, sad memories, Diet Coke, Saturn, etc. Everything goes into making this boundless, interconnected, yet independant "One". Including the void of the Heart Suttra. Even that state of emptiness, of potential, is connected and irremovable, yet entirely independant from this "One" and because of that, this "One" is void. This is related to shikantaza because when we go back to that "blue sky mind", the emptiness and void of shikantaza where we focus on nothing and sit with everything, the void we are experiencing contains everything, and everything we experience is void. This is how we focus on nothing in particular while including everything.

    Again, this is my oppinion based on my practice and what little realization I may have attained up to this point. Jundo, as always, will need to check to see if I still have my eyebrows.

    Case 71: Suigan's "Eyebrows"

    Towards the end of summer, Suigan instructed the assembly, saying,
    "All summer I've preached to you, my brothers. Look here, are Suigan's
    eyebrows still there?"
    Hofuku said,
    "The robber's heart is terrified!"
    Chokei said,
    "They are well grown!"
    Unmon said,

    Though I am no where near Suigan's practice, I like this term because it was said that anyone who preached a false Dharma would loose their eyebrows.

  8. #8

    Re: Focus in Zazen (one person's oppinion)

    Lovely lovely

    The one as not one ... as an old bathrobe ...


    "all things return to the one - to where does the one return?"

    Hekiganroku - The Blue Cliff Record- Case 45: Joshu's "Cloth Robe"

    A monk asked Joshu,
    "The ten thousand Dharmas [1] come down to one.
    What does the one come down to?"
    Joshu said,
    "When I was living in the Province of Sei, I made a cloth robe.
    It weighed seven pounds."

    [1]: The word "Dharma" means here "phenomenon". "Ten thousand Dharmas" means,
    therefore, "all things that exist in the world of phenomena".
    Your eyebrows are horizontal and your nose is vertical.

    Gassho, J

    PS -- For folks new to Shikantaza and our practice here ... this old post may be helpful ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Janne H

    I´ve just begun reading Zen Mind, Beginners Mind and Shunryu Suzuki is describing the practice of zazen and he seems to emphasize that one should always follow the breath. I don´t understand, I thought he was in to shikantaza, just sitting with no object, as a Soto priest?

    Or maybe I´m wrong about there not being any points of focus in this practice, as we are using the open awareness as an "objectless object" in our way of practice. So too there can be other objects to use in this practice?

    Hi Janne,

    There are many small variations in Shikantaza, teacher to teacher. One has to place and focus (and simultaneously not place/focus) the mind somewhere!

    So, for example, Uchiyama Roshi was a "bring your attention back to the posture" guy. Nishijima Roshi is a "focus on keeping the spine straight" fellow, and there are others who emphasize focusing on the breath or the Hara (also called the "Tanden", the traditional "center of gravity" of the body, and a center of Qi energy in traditional Chinese medicine) ...

    Some recommend following the breath for a lifetime, others for just a time.

    All are forms of Shikantaza ... so long as the objectless nature of sitting is maintained even if focused on an object.

    In fact, all forms of Shikantaza have an "object of meditation", a place to focus or place the mind to build concentration and quiet the thoughts (hopefully to soften the border and pass through "object" and "subject"), while dropping all effort to attain and releasing all judgments. At Treeleaf, I teach counting the breaths, or observing the breath, merely as a way to settle the mind for beginners or to settle down on particularly cloudy, stormy days. As our central "objectless" object of meditation, I recommend open, spacious sitting centered on everything and nothing at all ... sitting with open, spacious awareness ... sitting with the whole world but without being lost in trains of thought (which I also sometimes describe as having the mind focused on "no place and everyplace at once"). That open stillness is our "object of concentration". My reason for that is simply that I believe it makes it a bit easier to take this practice off the Zafu and out into the world.

    If you need a place to feel you are "placing the mind", I recommend on the top of the palm in the left hand while in the Mudra (another traditional place for the focus in Shikantaza). Yet, keep that "spacious, unobstructed, everywhere and no one place" emphasis.

    If you have not read it before (or even if you have), Uchiyama has one of the most elegant "diagrams" of Shikantaza's way in his book "Openning the Hand of Thought". Lovely.

    Please go here, search the word "line", find page 52, entitled "Waking Up To Life", and read to page 60 (about the diagram drawing on page 54) ... notice especially the part where he says "Zazen is not being glued to line ZZ'" (what I might call "returning to the clear, open, blue sky 10,00 times and 10,000 times again") ... ne&f=false

    Whether you focus on the posture, the breath, the top of the left hand, the Hara, or the sensation of clear, open blue sky (with clouds drifting out) that I recommend ... one should eventually sometimes attain to an open, unobstructed, holding everything without discrimination or division feeling ... What Uchiyama calls "line ZZ" in his essay, and what I call clear open sky.

    However, I say "sometimes" (and Uchiyama says "don't stay glued to ZZ") because the whole thing is the trip, reject nothing ... not the thoughts and emotions that drag you away from ZZ", not the clouds which sometimes block the clear blue sky. It is all life, all perfectly what it is. Sometimes it will be "bare awareness", sometimes awareness of this or that. Drop all judgments, drop all goals and need to get someplace else or to be any other way.

    Yet, nonetheless, return again and again to ZZ, to the clear blue sky (allowing the thoughts and emotion clouds to drift away). If you notice you are engaged in trains of thought, release them, drop them, and return to ZZ. Repeat endlessly.

    All that, at once, is "Shikantaza".

    Gassho, J

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