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May 05, 2011


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Here is a short excerpt from a teaching by Tenshin Reb Anderson on Suzuki Roshi’s Teaching of Shikantaza:

He would often say that our practice is just to sit. Then he would say that this may sound easy, but that actually it is rather difficult to understand what it means to just sit. In order to help us understand what this just sitting really is he went on to say that it is just to be ourselves. Finally, he made it clear, at least to me, that we could not just be ourselves by ourselves alone. We can only just be ourselves and thus realize the just sitting practice of the Buddha ancestors by practicing in the same manner as the entire universe and all beings. Perhaps other Soto Zen teachers have taught just sitting in this way, but I have not heard it so clearly from anyone but Suzuki Roshi. I deeply appreciate the way he stressed this point.

Suzuki Roshi taught that in order to actualize our way of just sitting by being ourselves, we must express ourselves fully. So paradoxically, realizing the selflessness of just sitting depends on full self-expression. Full self-expression in turn can only be realized by meeting and practicing together with all loving beings in the entire universe. Therefore, he taught that to realize the full function of the practice of just sitting, we must go and meet face-to-face with our teacher. Such meetings offer the opportunity to settle completely into the truth of just sitting. Only when we meet intimately with another person can we fully be ourselves. As the “Lotus Sutra” says, “Only a Buddha together with a Buddha can thoroughly master the Buddha-dharma.”


Before first enlightenment, zen buddhism as means of training the mind to focus on the only important "thing" (pure mind or One mind) is very much like a spiritual navy SEAL training. Less then 1% of all applicants manage to go through all the way until the first bhumi (awakening of the bodhisattva within). The rest are half measures, lazies, self-pitying/loathing bums, possessed with ideas of life, family, future and similar idiocy. Simply the average pop-buddhist joe that cant hack it and "rings the bell" leaving the compound with the tail between his legs.

I remember hearing Alan Watts speak disparagingly about the 'abuses' of zazen.

Digress: I can't seem to access the comments section on your other blog to leave a comment. I just wanted to comment about: "like a spoon that cannot taste the soup it holds." This is very descriptive of many situations.

This is true what you say about Soto-Zennists being determined by their sitting practice (I have to add, some of the school's masters make the concession to reality in that they expand their just-sitting on everyday living in that it becomes just-everyday-living). However, doesn't the same apply for modern Rinzai-Zennists in the West and th East: The strict and formal koan practice they are obsessed with where you enter level after level turns Zen practice into some kind of tools Zen. Lin-Chi himself as the name giver of the sect never practised with koans, didn't he?

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