After explaining Fukan-Zazen-Gi, I would like to add some concrete knowledge on Zazen.
(1) Without practicing Zazen everyday, it is useless for us to practice Zazen
Zazen is a practice to realize the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system. Because the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system is a momentary state, if we have lost the balance for some reason in our daily life, it is necessary for us to practice Zazen as soon as possible to recover the balanced state at once. Therefore Master Dogen also recommended us to practice Zazen four times a day regularly.
However, there are many differences in human societies since the time when Master Dogen lived, and so we should select the lifestyle, which is convenient for our daily practice of Zazen. Nowadays most of us live in modern capitalistic societies, and so we usually need to get monetary income regularly. Therefore, if we want to continue our practice of Zazen everyday, we need to find an adequate time to practice Zazen, which is suitable to our daily life and also allows us time to get some monetary income regularly. In my case, I practice Zazen in the morning for 30 minutes, and in the evening also 30 minutes after retiring from Dogen Sangha in Ichikawa City. Therefore I would like to recommend all people in the world to practice Zazen everyday following their own adequate schedule.
(2) Misunderstanding of "Satori," or "Enlightenment"
It is true that there is a fact, which is called "Satori," or "enlightenment" in Buddhism, but in fact there are so many misunderstandings of enlightenment in Buddhism.
For example, some insist that if we are practicing Zazen diligently, our mental and physical conditions change suddenly, and a miraculously splendid situation manifests itself at once. But it is very important for us to notice that those kinds of miraculously splendid facts do never manifests on the earth at all. Such stories come from an exaggarated apparition, or a fantastic pretention. Because we are just living in the real world, and in the real world it is impossible for us to meet such miraculous facts at all. If we are affirmative to idealistic philosophy, we can imagine the possibility of such a fantastic story. But we, Buddhists, who are just realists, should never believe in such an idealistic story.
At the same time there is another story, which is also related to so-called enlightenment. Some Buddhist practioners insist that if we practice Zazen intensively and enormously, we can meet very strange physical situations, in which we can experience unusual and fantastic situations. If we follow an unhealthy schedule and practice Zazn in unhealthy conditions, it is true that we have to meet many kinds of physical disorders, or confusion, and we will lose our healthy and stable condition at once. Therefore it is necessary for us to think in accord with what is true, and that is that we always need to be healthy.
So there is much confusion in Buddhism, which has come from the misunderstanding of enlightenment. In the case of Master Dogen, when he was in Japan before visiting China, he had also the same misunderstanding of enlightenment. At that time he was also very dilligent in practicing Zazen in order to get enlightenment. But while visiting China, he met Master Tendo Nyojo. And Master Tendo Nyojo proclaimed that "To practice Zazen is just throwing away both consciousnesses of body and mind. If we just practice Zazen, we can get the state (of enlightenment) just from the beginning at once." Hearing this from Master Tendo Nyojo, Master Dogen realized what enlightenment was. And he noticed that the first enlightenment is just to practice Zazen itself.
(3) The True Enlightenment
The true enlightenment in Buddhism is just to practice Zazen itslf. In the Euro-American Civilization, from which we have received so many benefits, there are two kinds of value. One is the very sharp and exact intellectual consideration, which has been produced by so many excellent philosophical thinkers, and the other is the direct and clear sensuous beauty, which also has been produced by so many excellent fine artists.
However, in Buddhism we are making our efforts to transcend both intellectual consideration and sense perception to find the real world itself.
Therefore, relying upon the practice of Zazen when we make our autonomic nervous system balanced, the sympathetic nervous system, which is the cause of intellectual thoughts, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the cause of sense perception, become plus/minus/zero, and we, human beings, can live in the real world, or the world of the truth directly. This is just the first enlightenment. In another words, when we practice Zazen every day, and when we are keeping our autonomic nervous system balanced, it is just the time when we are enlightened.
And if we continue our practice of Zazen every day, we can keep our balanced autonomic nervous system every day, and so we can think about all kinds of philosophical problems on the basis of realism, leaving from idealism and materialism. I think that this experience includes the very valuable and very strong power to erase our former idealistic or materialistic life habits, and we can just live in reality completely.
Relying upon such a habit we can think about all philosophical problems on the basis of realism every day. When we have solved all philosophical problems on the basis of Buddhist realism, then the perfect understanding of all philosophical problems on the basis of Buddhist realism will come. This is called the second enlightenment.
Reading the examples of Chinese Buddhist Masters, for example, Master Joshu Jushin, and Master Reiun Shigon, they both needed more than 30 years to get the second enlightenment. It takes rather a long time. But it is not necessary for us to worry about the fact that it takes too much time to get the second enlightenment. Because if we practice Zazen every day, we can enter into enlightenment itself at once. In other words we can get the enlightenment every day, so there is no problem for us to worry about it.
(4) Concepts of Emptiness (Ku), or Nothingness (Mu), are Completely Wrong
In the Buddhist societies today, many people insist that the fundamental Buddhist philosophy is a kind of nihilism, and many Buddhist thinkers insist that the fundamental Buddhist theory is that this world is not the real world, and that such nihilistic thought is Buddhism.
But I think that this interpretation of Buddhism is completely wrong. This wrong understanding Buddhism as nihilism comes from the very seriously incorrect translation of Master Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamaka-karika by Kumarajiva, an ancient Indian scholar of the Chinese language. Mulamadhyamaka-karika was written around the 3rd Century by Nagarjuna, and in 4th Century Kumarajiva translated Mulamadhyamaka-karika into Chinese. But when I read Mulamadyamaka-karika in Sanskrit directly, it is very clear that Kumarajiva didn't understand the true meaning of Mulamadhymaka-karika at all. Therefore the translation of Mulamadyamaka-karika in Chinese by Kumarajiva does not express any true meaning of MMK (from here I would like to use the abbreviation of MMK) at all. But Kumarajiva's translation was done as a part of the Chinese governmental translating project, and so his translation was authorized in China, and the influence of it was enormous in the Oriental societies. Therefore, in Mahayana Buddhism in the Oriental societies, the orthodox Buddhist thinkers usually insist that Buddhism is a kind of nihilism, which insists that the world is not real, but that it is an abstract image of emptiness.
However when we read MMK in Sanskrit carefully from the original text, MMK is just an example of the fundamental Buddhist thought, which explains that Buddhism is just Realism, which clearly believes that this world really exists.
(5) Realism in MMK
When we read the original text of MMK in Sanskrit, it is very clear that MMK is a book which insists that Buddhism is just a realistic philosophy. This is without doubt. MMK is divided into 27 Chapters, but even reading only the 1st chapter, it is very clear that Buddhism is just a realistic philosophy without fail.
The 1st chapter of MMK is entitled "pratyaya" in Sanskrit, which means belief, or faith. So we can interpret that Nagarjuna proclaims the fundamental Buddhist thoughts, which pervade throughout the total MMK. In this chapter Nagarjna desribes that this world is the real world, where everything exists really as it is. Therefore I selcted the title of "Reliable Facts" as the title of the 1st chapter in my English translation.
The 1st chapter includes 14 verses,. In the 1st verse, Nagarjuna insists that "subjectivity" is not real, and also "objectivity" is not real. "Subjectivity" is a tanslation of Sanskrit word "svata", and "objectivity" is a translation of Sanskrit word "parata". I interpret that the word subjectivity means our thoughts, which we produce in our brain, and the word objectivity means our sense perception, which stimulate our sense organs. Therefore I understand that Nagarjuna proclaimed that ideas, which are produced in our brains, are not real, and sense perception, which is excitement in our sense organs, is also not real. And so I interpret that Nagarjuna denies both the real existence of ideas and of sense stimuli. This suggests that Nagarjuna fundamentally denies both idealistic philosophies and materialistic philophies exactly.
I think that the Buddhist idea, which denies both idealism and materialism, is a very important point, when we want to understand Buddhist philosophy, because the absolute denial of idealism and materialism in Buddhism suggests that Buddhism has a rather strong criticism of intellectual consideration. However, where can we find any kind of philosophy, which is different from intellectual philosophy? Related to this question, Buddhism proclaims fundamentally the existence of practical philosophy, which is dimensionally different from intellectual philosophy. Therefore, even though this absolutely strong denial of idealism and materialism seems to be some kind of affirmation of nihilistic Buddhist thoughts, which was Kumarajiva's wrong interpretation, the fact is never like that at all.
We can know this because in the 2nd verse of the 1st Chapter, Nagarjuna indicates four entities as real exsistence. The first one is the reason, or the rule of the universe, which pervades throughout the universe. The second one is the external world, where we are just living now. The third one is the present moment, when our act is done. The fourth is Reality itself, which can be identified with God. And Nagarjuna bravely asserts absolutely that there is no fifth, and so relying upon his decisive attitude, we can suppose he had very strong confidence in his own Realism.
In the 4th verse in the 1st chapter, he says that those four factors of Reality are identified with our human act at the present moment.
In the 9th verse he insists that our real act at the present moment in our daily life is just the same as the whole universe. In other words our real act at the present moment in our daily life is just the same as the whole universe itself.
And I think that this kind of Realism of Nagarjuna's must be the same as Gautama Buddha's Realism, Master Boddhi Dharma's Realism, and Master Dogen's Realism.
(6) A Place for Zazen
A place for Zazen is not always necessary to be wide, but Master Dogen says "It is sufficient enough for us to have a space, where we can keep our body to enter."
(7) The Posture
In Zazen, the true posture of Zazen is very important, and Master Dogen describes the concrete and exact postures so precisely, therefore we have to follow his instructions sincerely. For example, even in Buddhist sects in Japan, there is an example of using a chair for Zazen, but I think that such a kind of compromising attitudes should be avoided.
The most important posture in Zazen is to keep the spine from the lower part, the backbones, the neckbones, and the top of the head a little backward, into a straight and vertical line as much as possible. Therefore, to do so, it is necessary for us to pull the chin backward and downward as far as possible for fixing the total spine. Without this posture, it is difficult for us to avoid intellectual considerations during Zazen. Without the fixed posture, a relaxed posture in Zazen sometimes becomes a cause of irritation because of the difficulty to stop thinking.
(8) Method of Breathing
Even though there are so many methods of breathing in Zazen, which have been transmitted traditionally or through legends in Buddhist societies, I think that for such a problem it is very adequate for us to follow Master Dogen's teachings, which he has shown in chapter 5 of Eihei-koroku (the consecutive number in the total paragraphs is 390) as a record of his formal lecture, which has been done in the Lecture Hall. About Eihei-koroku, there is a very reliable eddition, which has been founded by Master Kishizawa I-an in the warehouse of Eihei-ji temple some decades ago. The Abbot of Eihei-ji temple, Master Niwa Rempo has reprinted this version (Kanazawa Bunko in Tokyo publishes it), So I think it might be much reliable for us to utilize this edition.
In Eihei-koroku even when Master Dogen describes the method of breathing in Zazen, he insists first on the importance of keeping the regular postue exactly, and then he describes the method of breathing. Therefore we can notice how much Master Dogen reveres the regulated posture of Zazen.
First, Master Dogen denies the regulation of breath, and the practice of keeping the mind at the highest grade, which are much revered in Hinayana Buddhism. We can interpret that Master Dogen clearly recognizes that Buddhism is never idealistic philosophy, and so he clearly notices that the idealistic efforts in Hinayana Buddhism can never be Buddhism. Therefore, even though there is the method of counting the number of breaths during Zazen in Hinayana Buddhism, Master Dogen clearly refuses such an incorrect method.
In relation to Mahayana Buddhism, even though Mahayana Buddhists sometimes insist that when the breath is long, we should recognize that it is long, and when it is short, we should recognize that it is short. In short, we should accept the real fact as it is, and we should not do any kind of intentional efforts. Therefore, in Mahayana Buddhism there is the habit to do a special breathing method, one which is done by inhaling the air by utilizing the abdomen, and exhaling the air by utilizing the abdomen. But Master Dogen also denies such a special method.
And at the end of his lecture he describes his own opinion of breathing situations, then he says that "When we are vigorous, then we practice Zazen. When we feel hungry, we eat meals, and then we feel satisfaction sufficiently." These words suggest that the practicing of Zazen is also our vigorous activity in our daily life, and so it is not necessary for us to have any kind of intellectual criteria, or strange habits. Master Dogen encourages us just to enjoy the practice of Zazen, without worrying about the intellectual interpretation.