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June 27, 2013


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You continually take a misunderstanding of Dogen and present it as Dogen's teaching.


Distorted, superficial, and superstitious notions concerning Dogen’s teachings on zazen-only abound in the contemporary Zen community. The majority of these distortions can be remedied by simply learning to appreciate the difference between metaphorical or mythopoeic language and the language of literal description, coupled with clear grasp of the basic principles of Buddhist nonduality. Many factors, including superficial views of emptiness and imitators attempting to cash in on the success of genuine Zen, have contributed to simplistic notions of seated meditation (zazen) over the course of Zen’s history. The fallacious notions of zazen embraced today are fundamentally the same as those that have dogged Zen throughout its history.

The most common fallacies combine elements of simplification and superstition; simplifications portraying zazen literally, as “sitting” (the physical posture of sitting), and superstitions about zazen (the simplistic literal sense) being the only element necessary to realize Zen liberation. Not infrequently it is even suggested that “just sitting” (in the literal sense) is enlightenment itself. Commonly dressed up in trite slogans about “no goals,” “nothing special,” “just this,” etc., zazen - the very keystone of Zen practice-enlightenment - is pawned off as a simple arrangement of the body-mind in a proscribed posture of physical sitting. Shobogenzo asserts what common sense already suggests concerning such notions:

Even if some appear to understand physical sitting to be what the Buddha taught, they have not yet grasped that ‘sitting there’ means “Just sit there!”

Shobogenzo, Zammai-ō Zammai, Hubert Nearman

Despite Shobogenzo’s clear instructions, the classical Zen teachings, and common sense however, such notions continue to be accepted and applied by groups and individuals far and wide. Routinely arranging their body-mind in an upright, cross-legged sitting posture for measured periods of time, such groups and individuals honestly believe they are enacting “what the Buddha taught.” This shallow mimicry of the Buddha’s enlightenment is, in their view, the “just sitting” that Dogen taught.


The problem with zazen is not zazen but Dogen Zenji's interpretation of it. Dogen made it into something that it was never intended to be.

Hakuin can praise zazen but it is not Dogen's that he praises. We should keep in mind that his final awakening came while reading the Lotus Sutra and hearing a sequence of churrs from a cricket.

Zazen is a way to practice which limits distraction and the tendency to shift about nervously. Nobody has ever seriously contended that there is anything magical about the posture of zazen, or that one can't practice in other postures, as part of daily life. You are continually castigating the practice, yet Hakuin's Wasan Zazengi, Song in Praise of Zazen, declares it to be "the very gate of liberation" and "the Pure Mahayana" itself. Don't you think you sound somewhat silly constantly, flatly contradicting him? Do you think he was some kind of nincompoop? What credentials do you have to take such a position? I greatly value your writings on this blog, especially about the sutras and your own experiences, but some of your bugaboos strike me as just plain wacky.

I owe you a mountain of gold!


I have never come across any specific instructions. The term "eka" or "one" has a lot of different meanings in Sanskrit. But focus/singularizing is required rather than forming ideas of what pure Mind or undisturbed Mind is. After one sees it, so to speak, then one is able to perfect (paramita) the distinction (prajna) between pure Mind and mind that is constantly being distured with thoughts, internal dialogue, etc.

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