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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Zazen (3) The Real Entity of Zazen

Master Dogen's criteria of Zazen
Now we have met the problem of what Zazen is, and I think that Master Dogen instructed us with four criteria.

(1) Hi Shiryo : Not Thinking : Hi is a word of denial, which means "not", or "different," and Shiryo means "consideration." Therefore Hi Shiryo means "not thinking." The words "not thinking" describe one important meaning of Zazen. Zazen is never mental consideration, nor perception, but it is an act itself.

But among miscellaneous Buddhist Sects, there is a Buddhist Sect called the Zen Sect. The Zen Sect seems to insist that Zazen is a practice in which practioners are to be diligent at thinking about philosophical problems. So the teacher gives his students some stories concerning philosophical discussions, which are called Koans. Then his students make their efforts to understand the meaning of the stories during their Zazen practice. But this interpretation of practicing Zazen is absolutely wrong.

Master Dogen taught us that Zazen is never a practice of considering something, never a practice of intentional thinking, but Zazen is sitting in the traditionally regulated posture. Therefore we should think that Zazen is never intellectual consideration, but the act of sitting itself in the regulated posture.

We, human beings, have been so accustomed to think that the central points of civilization are intellectual consideration and the sensory perception of external stimuli. But in Buddhism, we do not think so. We Buddhists think that the central point of our civilization is our intuitive ability to directly grasp the actual situations of the Universe as they truly are. So Buddhism reveres the practice of Zazen, because with Zazen we can experience the total reality, directly and actually.

(2) Shoshin Tanza : Regular Sitting in the True Posture : Zazen does not only include mental factors. It also includes physycal factors. So Master Dogen describes his second criterion of Zazen as Shoshin Tanza. Sho means "true," or "to make something true," Shin means "body," Tan means "regularly," and Za means "to sit." Therefore the words "Shoshin Tanza" suggest just to sit regularly in the true posture.

Zazen is a kind of action, and an act of being. So it is not limited to mental factors, the condition of our mind, but it always includes the factors of our physical condition. Master Dogen held that the body and mind are one entity. When we make the body balanced through regular sitting in the true posture, naturally the mind is also balanced. Therefore, it is a very good attitude for us to take care of the physical posture in Zazen.

(3) Shinjin Datsuraku : Dropping body and mind : These words have been misunderstood so much throughout the ages. The misunderstanding is due in part to the fact that these words are related with the function of the autonomic nervous system. Prior to the 19th century, human beings did not have any knowledge about the autonomoc nervous system, and so they did not know the true meaning of dropping body and mind. But the true meaning of dropping body and mind is very much related to the function of the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is divided into two parts, they are the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Often these two functions are imbalanced, in conflict, one emphasized over the other. For example, if the sympathetic nervous system is emphasized too much and is imbalaced, we may be prone to too much activity, too much thinking, even anxiousness. If the parasympathic is emphasized too much and is imbalanced, we may be prone to being dull, lethargic, lazy, lacking self-motivation. But when we are practicing Zazen,the strength of the sympathetic nervous system, and the strength of the parasympathetic nervous system become equal, balanced. And we automatically have the consciousness that the function of the sympathetic nervous system, in its extreme forms, has vanished, and the function of the parasympathetic nervous system, in its extreme forms, has vanished.

Therefore in Zazen, when our autonomic nervous system has become balanced, the situation of the autonomic nervous system seems to be as if it were in a state of "plus/minus=zero." So we have consciousness as if our body and mind have been lost. This does not mean that the balanced state of Zazen is a blank nothingness, that the sensate ability of the body no longer exists, that the thinking ability of the mind no longer exists. Rather, it means that the balanced state of Zazen is the end of living in a state of extremes, the end of one side being emphasized too much over the other, the vanashing of life out of balance. This is the true meaning of Dropping body and mind, or Shinjin Datsuraku. Of course, there was no knowledge of the autonomic nervous system before the 19th century, and so it was very natural for human beings not to have a true interpretation of Shinjin Datsuraku, or Dropping body and mind, before the 19th century.

We may also understand the dropping of body and mind as representing the dropping of both the materialistic and idealistic/spiritualistic points of view.

(4) Shikan Taza : Just to sit : As I wrote, Zazen is never intellectual consideration, nor is it sense perception. Zazen is just action, or a real act at the present moment. Therefore Zazen can never be consideration, can never be perception. Rather, it is just sitting. And so Master Dogen said, "Just sit!" That is the meaning of Shikan Taza, or Just to sit. Then we can recognize that Master Dogen recommended us to "Just Sit!."

In such a meaning it is completely useless for us to just think about Zazen, or to just engage in looking at others practing Zazen.

Therefore Master Dogen said at the end of Fukan Zazen-Gi, "I beseech you, noble friends in learning through experience, do not become so accustomed to images that you are dismayed by the real dragon. Devote effort to the truth which is directly accessible and straightforward. Revere people who are beyond study and without intention. Accord with the bodhi of the buddhas. Become a rightful successor to the samadhi of the patriarchs. If you practice the state like this for a long time, you will surely become the state like this itself. The treasure-house will open naturally, and you will be free to receive and to use [its contents] as you like."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Zazen (2) Scientific Clarification of Zazen

(Zazen and the autonomic nervous system)
Recently it has become very popular for many doctors, psychologists, physiologists, and so forth, to be very diligent in trying to clarify the meaning and content of Zazen on the basis of scientific knowledge. Fortunately among them we can find many examples, which seem to be reliable. But, more than about 60 years ago, when I first began to suppose that the meaning and content of Zazen might be much related with the state of the autonomic nervous system, this kind of supposition was extremely rare. So very few people agreed with my proposition at that time. But even then I had very strong confidence that my proposition about the relation between Zazen and the autonomic nervous system might be clarified in many scientific fields relying upon the efforts of many excellent scientists. So I was very optimistic that my propositions about the relation between the scientific explanations and the real fact of Zazen practice, might be certified by many scientists' efforts very soon.

The actual progress of our civilizations was not as fast as I had hoped, and so I had to wait for many decades to meet the condition I had hoped for. But recently we have met the excellently clear situation that many scientists have been successful in clarifying scientific psychological theories of half-consciousness, or non-consciousness, and might have the ability to solve the very profoundly mystical contents of religious problems clearly.

Then I read some psychological books, which were written by an American psychiatrist, called Karl Menninger including his books, "The Human Mind," "Man Against Himself," "Love Against Hate," and others. "Man Against Himself" is a book, which explains the psychological situation of a personality, who has committed suicide. The author insists that a person, who has committed a suicide, is never a week person, but he, or she, is usually a very strong and aggressive person. Therefore first he, or she, is prone to attack some person outside. But for some reason, if his, or her attack against others outside is unsuccessful, his, or her, very strong aggressive energy, can be directed against himself, or herself, actually, and he, or she actually kills himself, or herself. Such situations are usually real in many cases of suicide. Reading this opinion, it was impossible for me to refuse the author's insistences. So I have noticed the very dangerous situations of the enormously strong aggressive attitude, and the much too strong sympathtic nervous system.

Karl Menninger's solution of the problem is that it is necessary for us to promote the function of love until love and hate become balanced. He insists that both that the much too strong sympathtic nervous system is not normal, and that the much too strong parasympathetic nervous system is also not normal. In other words we, human beings, have a duty to maintain the balance of our autonomic nervous system. Having read this, I then could understand the meaning of the Japanese and Chinese Buddhist words, "Jijuyo Zanmai." The words "Jijuyo" is divided into two parts, that is, "Jiju" and "Jiyo." "Ji" means "self," and "yo" means "to use." Therefore "Jiju" means "to receive oneseif," and "yo" in "Jiyo" means "to utilize," and so "Jiyo" means "to utilize oneself." So I understand that "to receive oneself" suggests the rather passive function of the parasympathetic nervous system, and "to utilize oneself" indicates the rather aggressive function of the sympathetic nervous system. Relying upon those considerations of Buddhist philosophy and practice, I thought that I had understood the fundamental principle of Buddhism.

(Buddhist Realism)
Therefore I think that the Age of human history, which I have divided into two parts, that is, the Age of the separation between religions and sciences, or the Age of separation between idealism and materialism, is going to end. I believe that the Age, in which, it is necessary for us to overcome the absolutely contradictory situations between these two kinds of very strong and very valuable civilizations of idealism and materialism, is about to begin. This will be the Age for establishing the ultimate philosophy of Realism. Of course, there is an absolute difference between idealism and materialism, and so logically speaking it is completely impossible for us to combine them into one. However, fortunately, because of the benevolence of Gautama Buddha, relying upon his great consideration of his Four Philosophies, we can overcome the problem of the gap between the two fundamental philosopies -- the intellectual philosophy and the practical philosophy. Therefore, utilizing Gautama Buddha's Four Philosophies we can synthesize the two fundamentally different philosophies into one.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Zazen(1)Zazen and Yoga

(Buddhist practice and Yoga)
Even though Zazen is a method of practice, which Gautama Buddha began for the first time in ancient India, hundreds years before that there was another special method of practice in India called Yoga. However, the philosophies, which exist behind Buddhist practice and Yoga, are completely different from each other. So it is absolutely impossible for us to identify Buddhism and Yoga together.

(Pursuit of thoughts)
Gautama Buddha noticed the existence of a very strong conflict between idealism, or sasvata-drsti, and materialism, or uccheda-drsti, which has always existed in almost all human civilizations. He thought that without solving this serious confict between the two fundamental philosophies, it would be perfectly impossible for human beings to become happy at all. The solution of this very serious problem, however, is something, which only Gautama Buddha has solved in the whole history of human beings for the first time. We have to say that it might have been completely impossible for even Gautama Buddha to be successful without sacrificing everything for sake of finding the Truth.

At first, Gautama Buddha thought that what was called the Truth might be something, which can be caught by intellectual consideration relying upon the function of human brain. So he first selected such a method. Gautama Buddha visited Alara Kalama, and made his efforts to get the thoughts that "people usually do not have anything originally." However, he recognized soon that it was impossible for anyone to be saved from their serious suffering in their real life in this way. But actually he continued his same attitudes further. He was taught the idea that "everyone should not consider anything, and furthermore should not consider even not to think," from Udraka Ramaputra. But in this case too Gautama Buddha could not be saved from all difficulties. So he noticed that no one can ever be saved only by some kind of thoughts at all, no matter what that thought might be.

(Ascetic life)
Then Gautama Buddha discovered that human beings can never get happiness by getting any kind of thoughts, and he recognized that it was completely impossible for human beings to get happiness only by getting any kind of thoughts. Therefore he decided to take a different way. Before that time, Gautama Buddha had believed that it was possible for him to get the tuth by having some kind of true thoughts. But he had experienced that such fact had not occured at all on the earth. Therefore he wanted to begin another method, which was also popular in ancient India, that is, asceticism.

In this practice in ancient India there were so many kinds of ascetic methods, and so Gautama Buddha went to the woods, where many ascetics were living together. Among them Gautama Buddha's ascetic life was very sincere and very hard. Because he want to get the truth relying upon his ascetic life, he never permited himself to have any kind of compromising attitude, and so it is said that he fell down into syncopic states several times. Because Gautama Buddha's attitude towards his ascetic life lacked any kind of compromising attitude, after beginning his very hard ascetic life, there had been rumors that "Gautama Buddha had died because of his severe ascetic trials." After such hard practice for many days, however, he noticed gradually that it was impossible for human beings to enter into a balanced and comfortable life relying upon any kind of ascetic life at all. Therefore one day he decided to stop his ascetic life completely. But the many other ascetic practioners thought that "Gutama Buddha has given up his ascetic life because of the painfulness of it." Therefore many ascetics in the woods laughed at him so severely. But Gautama Buddha, who was only sincere to grasp the Truth, did not have any kind of emotional reaction to this at all. He left the woods quietly and alone.

(Practice of Zazen)
Departing from his ascetic life, when Gautama Buddha walked dragging his feet along the Nairanjana River, a girl, called Sujata, from a nearby village, seeing Gautama Buddha's wretched style, presented some gruel boiled with animal milk. Gautama Buddha enjoyed such a small volume of guel enormously. We can easily suppose Gautama Buddha's very joyful situation when eating the small amount of gruel whole-heartedly. We can think that he might have wondered, "What is food?" "What is eating?" "What is it to live?" "What is Reality?"

After such experiences he had begun his normal life.

But his will to grasp the Truth had never become weak, and so he began another new practice. That was Zazen. Several centuries ago before Gautama Buddha was born, there was a rather special practice called Yoga in India already. It had so many kinds of posture in sitting. Gautama Buddha selected the best two postures among them, which were called the Half Lotus Posture, and the Full Lotus Posture. They said that among many kinds of Yoga postures those two were the most duifficult postures. But in the case of Gautama Buddha he selected the most difficult two postures from the beginning, and continuded the practice every day. And after practicing for several years, one day he practiced Zazen in the morning, and he looked at Venus in the Eastern sky. At that moment he noticed that he was never living in thoughts, nor living in sense perception, but he was just living in Reality.

This experience is the fundamental basis of Buddhist philosophy, and Gautama Buddha continued the practice of Zazen further. Before that time many Indian poeple believed in Brahmanism, which was a typical idealist philosophy. Also many poeple believed in materialism, or skepticism, which was taught by philosophers we now know as "the six non-Buddhist thinkers." Gautama Buddha found that idealism could never be the Truth, and materialism or skepticism could never be the Truth. But Realism, which he had found after his practice of Zazen, was just the Truth itself. In many miscellaneous philosophies, which have occured in human histories, almost all philosophies may belong to idealism, or materialism. But it might be almost impossible for us to find any other philosophies, which belongs to Realism. It is very strange that even though we, human beings, are always living in Reality, yet it is very rare for us to notice the important fact that we are just living in the real world. In such a meaning, we have to think about the enormously important value of Buddhism in human history. It is necessary for us to study Realism, which was found by Gautama Buddha for the first time in human history.