Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The First Enlightenment : Zazen (2) Theoretical Explanation

1) Philosophy of Act

When we want to explain the theoretical side of Zazen, there is a problem, which we should take care of first. That is the fact that Zazen itself does not belong to the area, which belongs to our mental consideration, or which belongs to our sensuous perception, but it actually belongs to the area of act. In the Buddhist philosophy, it is a very important criterion that we always follow the fundamental priciple of The Four Philosophies, that is, idealism, materialism, philosophy of act, and reality itself. And furthermore those four are divided into the two groups, that is, the one is idealism and materialism, and the other is philosophy of act and realism. And among them idealism and materialism are very popular in Euro-American civilization, which have been maintained since the ancient Greco-Roman civilization. Because the two philosophies of idealism and materialism both belong to intellectual philosophies, and in the Eur0-American civilization such kinds of intelectual philosophies have developed so enormously and so excellently.
But in the case of Buddhist philosophy, the most important area of philosophy is not the former part of intellectual philosophies, but the latter part of practical philosophy. In Buddhism, we have two kinds of philosophical areas of Secular Truth (samvrti-satya) and Real Truth (paramarta-satya). The Secular Truth is our intellectual philosophy of idealism and materialism, but the Real Truth is completely different from the intellectual philosophy. The Real Truth is much different from intellectual philosophy, and it is just the philosophy, which can be established in the area of real act. The real act is much different from a concept of act, and the real act is just done only at the present moment. The real act can never exist in the past, and it can never exist in future, but the real act is always done just at the present moment only. And such a kind of real time suports our act at the present moment, and so even though we, human beings, are so much restricted by the circumstances of cause and effect, just at the present moment we can be perfectly free, because the present moment is so short like a width of a razor's edge, and so the pearl on the razor's edge is also very accidental, whether it falls to the right side or to the left side. So when we think about our situation of the real act, it is necessary for us to think it on the basis of philosophy of act. And just our act of Zazen practice at the present moment of sitting has also inevitably such a kind of real act, and so when we consider the real situation of our Zazen, it is also necessary for us to think about the real situation of Zazen on the basis of Buddhist realistic phase.
Therefore when we think about the philosophical meaning of Zazen, we should think about the problem of Zazen on the basis of actual philosophy too.

2) It is defferent from thinking

When we listen to the word Zazen, we usually supose the existence of something, which is usually called consideration. Because we, human beings, are living beings, which have the most developed brain among many living beings. And at the same time we are usually accustomed ourselves so much to think about miscellaneous problems in our daily life. Therefore even in the case of Zazen, we are prone to think that Zazen might be also an kind of consideration. But
the substance of Zazen is never to consider something. Therefore in the case of Master Yakusan Igen, who was a Chinese Buddhist Master from the 8th century to 9th century, proclaimed that Zazen is "Hishiryo, or not to think" exactly.
When we think about the meaning of practicing Zazen, because of their common idea of getting the enlightenment, we usually think that the aim of practicing Zazen is to consider miscellaneous kinds of philosophical problems for getting their true answers, but this interpretation of Zazen is a completely misunderstood interpretation of Zazen. And in an extremely ridiculous case, Buddhist monks are given from their Master some Buddhist story called Koan, and think the meaning of the story in their practice of Zazen. But such a kind of habit in Zazen is the most extremely misunderstood case of Zazen.
The true content of Zazen, however, is not to consider something, but the true content of Zazen exists in the efforts not to think anything. It is true that the excellent considering ability of humam beings is just the most important value of human beings, but at the same time the excellent human ability to consider sometimes manifests itself as a cause of misunderstanding, as a cause of painful thoughts, as a cause of worry, as a cause of failure, as a cause of fighting, as a cause of regret, and so forth. It is impossible for us to deny the existence of such unhappy conditions, which have occured from the extremely excellent human considering ability.
Therefore we can guess that even Gautama Buddha himself might worry about to stop his own so excellent thinking ability sometimes, but he have to notice that it is very difficult and almost impossible for him to stop his so excellent and so sharp consideration. But it is very difficult for us to stop our cosideration in our daily life actually. Therefore in the case of Gautama Buddha we can suppose that he was also suffered from difficulty of stopping consideration, and we can think that because of stopping his consideration, he entered into the practice of Zazen.

3) Balance of the autonomic nervous system

In that situations, why is it necessary for us to keep the authentic posture? To such a question we can answer to the question that when we keep the authentic posture, the human autonomic nervous system has become balanced, and we can come back to our authentic and original conditions at once. Of course in the age, when Gautama Buddha lived, the people at that time had never noticed the scietific knowledge of the autonomic nervous systems. But in the lifestyle of Gautama Buddha, who has pursued only the Truth, and does not have any regret to sacrifice everything for pursuing the Truth, we can suppose that it can not be so difficult for him to recognize the fact that when he regulate his posture exactly as the same as the authentically regulated posture, he can realize the fact that some kind of very peaceful and serene state actually manifest itself.
At the same time, however, even though in the ancient India such a kind of very affirmative and realistic viewpoint was found, it could not be avoidable as historical facts for the very intellectual and rigorous Europian civilization since the ancient Greco-Roman Age not to become free from the very restrictive confrotation between intellectual idealism and materialism.
But the historical expansion of Euro-American civilization since the 20th and 21st centuries seems to be very revolutional and very progressive to me. Because the human history has been saying "Good-bye!" to idealism and materialism, and it is pursuing a new principle of monistic realism, and now we are pursuing a gorgeous state, as if we were enjoying colorful flowers in the sunny brightness of sunshine. And I think that the basis, on which we can have so optimistic viewpoint of realism, might be our important recognition of the existent balance in the autonomic nervous system. Relying upon the belief in the balance of the autonomic nervous system, we can throw away the former criteria of ideas and matters completely, and we can rely upon the real fact of realism absolutely.
In the 13th century, when it was very dangerous for human beings to navigate the ocean by ship, Master Dogen dared to navigate the ocean to China, and the very important teachings from Master Tendo Nyojo was "The pacticing Zazen is just getting rid of dody and mind." But actually speaking these words are very difficult to understand actually, and so even though there were so many interpretations of them in the past, but actually speaking it was very difficult for us to understand the true meaning of the words. Recently, however, because of the highly developed modern physiology and psychology, we can interpret the words that the body suggests the function of the parasympathetic nervous system, and the mind suggests the function of the sympathetic nervous system. And when the strength of the parasympathetic nervous system, and the strength of the sympathetic nervous system, have become equal, we can have the perfectly balanced autonomic nervous system. And just at that time we can have recognition that the strength of body and the strength of mind seem to be plus/minus/zero, and so we can have consciousness of losing body and mind. I think that this interpretation of "Shin Jin Datsuraku" must be true. Shin means the body, and Jin means mind, and Datsuraku means getting rid of, therfore "Shin Jin Datsuraku" mean getting rid of body and mind. Master Tendo Nyojo gave these words to Master Dogen as the mostly exact expression of real state in Zazen practice.
Therefore we can think that the true meaning of practicing Zazen has been transmitted through Gautama Buddha, Master Nagarjuna, Master Bodhidharma, Mster Dogen, and to us, who are living on the earth now in the 21st century. And we can think that it is the human duty for us to keep the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system at every moment, to keep the healthy condition of our body in our daily life, to be perfectly sincere in our real act at every moment, and to realize the Truth in our moral lives.

4) Just to sit

Therefore we can say that Zazen is just a kind of action. So Master Dogen, relying upon Master Tendo Nyojo's words, in Shobogenzo (72) Zannai-o-zanmai that "Just to sit is to have attainment from the beginning." And the meaning of the words are just that if we practice Zazen, the enlightenment has been got from the beginning of the practice at once. Zazen is not a method of getting enlightenment, but it is just the enlightenment itself. Zazen is just the practice itself, which is just the enlightenment. There is only the real practice of Zazen, and it is not true that relying upon the practice of Zazen, the enlightenment aproaches gradually, but just to practice Zazen is just the enlightenment itself. In other words the balanced state of the authomic nervous system is just enlightenment.
Of course it is not true that the balance of the autonomic nervous system only exists in Zazen, but the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system exists in almost all human sincere efforts of doing something. By the way, however, even though we can insist that it is possible for humam beings to keep the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system at every moment theoretically, but actually speaking it is almost impossible for us to maintain the balanced autonomic nervous system throughout a day without practicing Zazen. Therefore our ancestral Master Gautama Buddha has picked up the best posture from miscellaneously many kinds of postures of Yoga practice, that is, the half-lotus posture and the full-lotus posture as the best posture of Zazen practice.
Therefore, relying upon our daily efforts to practice Zazen, which Gautama Buddha has selected in the ancient time, we can practice the best posture of Zazen regularly everyday for accumulating the best conditions of our body and mind.
In such a meaning the practice of Zazen is the whole contents of Buddhism itself, and we can say that to practice Zazen is the all of the Truth.

8 Comments:

Blogger Jordan & The Tortoise said...

Master Nishajima,
Thank you for this latest teaching.

I am curious though, if you were familiar with Keido Chisan Koho Zengi’s commentary on the five types of Zen. Gedo, Bompu, Shojo, Daijo, and Saijojo. If so would you share your interpretation?

Do you completely disregard Daijo Zen as a means of practice?

Or do you believe it has a place in training secondary to Saijojo Zen?

Thank you
Jordan

10:36 AM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Ian said...

Master Nishijima

When practicing Zazen in the full lotus position, my knees began to hurt within the first 5 minutes or so of practice, and I have to revert back to a less stable position to continue. Can you recommend any kind of warm up excersise to prepare my legs for the full lotus position?

8:45 PM, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Hamza said...

Master Nishijima,

I have a question that isn't directly related to this topic. So I hope you don't mind me asking.

Can a Master or training be trusted if the Zentraining is in the form of a course for which one pays a sum of money? Is this also the regular practice in Japan?

With regards

9:26 PM, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Cuchulain said...

Roshi,

Thank you for your posts and kind instruction on Zazen. And for your insight and vision to use the modern method of communications called the Wedblog!

My question relates to the balance of the body's nervous system. When we die and shed the body, what is a balanced nervous system? And do I understand correctly that Shin Jin Datsuraku exists after the body falls away?

Furthermore, different teachers recommend concentration on different apsects of the body and mind during Zazen such as the breath, or counting, or simply the posture etc. However, after our body is finished, there is nothing to concentrate on and so how do we practice now to prepare for death?

Gassho.
Cuchulain

12:58 PM, February 13, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For jordan & the tortoise San

I suppose that you are indicating Master Keihou Shuumitsu, but he does not belong to Master Dogen's lineage, and so I do not have any interest to research him. And I think that his insistence of five kinds of Zen seems to me too much subjective, and so I do not like to rely upon such a interpretation.

I do not affirm the cocept of Daijo Zen at all.

I do not affirm also the concept of Saijojo Zen at all.


For ian San

Master Dogen indicated the value of Half Lotas Posture in Fukann-zazengi, and so when the full-lotus posture is too painful, we should use the half-lotus posture. I think that such a selection is very kind benevolence from Master Dogen.


For hamza San

I do not know the cases of other Masters, but I have got any money at all, when I taught Zazen to others during more than 60 years.


For cuchulain San

When we died, the autonomic nervous system also died, and so the balance of our autonomic nervous system, which belongs to the dead person, does not have any existense on the earth at all already. Therefore the Shin Jin Datsuraku of the dead man does not exist at any place on the earth at all.

It is our mental efforts for us to concentrate our mind into breath, or counting it, therefore we should not to do such a effort at all.

But in the case that we concentrate our body and mind to keep in the authentic posture during Zazen, it is not only a mental function, but it is just a total act, which is using both body and mind. Therefore in the case of Zazen, it is the fundamental basis of the practice for us to maintain our body and mind in the authentic Zazen posture.

2:49 PM, February 17, 2007  
Blogger Zushi said...

Dear Master Nishijima,
would you please explain me the meaning of "Shin Jin Datsuraku"?
Gassho
Zushi

5:47 PM, February 17, 2007  
Blogger Hamza said...

How do you cultivate and maintain great doubt? My motivation to pursue the truth is sometimes lacking.

thank you Master Nishijima for your time and effort

12:23 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger WILZAK said...

Master Gudo Nishijima
Much appreciation for this act of teaching Zazen. Please honor me with a most sincere question. While performing the act of Zazen without mental consideration or sensual consideration and balance of the autonomic nervous system is this anything other than act of Enlightenment. Is this act a ripening process by observation of reality? Much appreciation for your sincere actions to help all of us with deep understanding of Buddhism.

11:54 AM, February 27, 2007  

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