Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shikan Taza, or Just practice Zazen

Shikan means "solely, or just," and Taza means "practice Zazen!" Therefore the words Shikan Taza means "Just practice Zazen," and so it means that Zazen is just Action, but it is never a only verbal expression of Zazen. Zazen is just Action, which has been utilize as a practice to have our ANS balanced.

Therefore the practice of Zasen is just useful when it is just actually practiced, but it is perfectly useless for us to explain or discuss Zazen only verbally.

However, actually speaking, people usually like to speak or discuss Zazen verbally, but exactly speaking, people usually do not like to practice Zazen actually.

And so Master Dogen proclaimes that "Do practice Zazen actually." That is just the meaning of words "Shikan Taza."

34 Comments:

Blogger rgn said...

Are you familiar with the Nike brand of shoes? Their slogan is "Just do it!" Online now there are many people giving detailed talks about zazen when perhaps they should be saying, "Just do it!" :)

9:18 PM, April 30, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Nishijima Roshi,

Do you remember the times when you first began doing zazen?

After 1.5 years of practice, I still find it very hard to do zazen 30min at home. I have plenty of time in my schedule, but something of me gets very uneasy and I stop.

Idealistically I can think there is no reason to stop, but actually I do. Did you ever experience this?

9:45 PM, April 30, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

Dear Sensei,

I doubt whether it is true that: "people usually do not like to practice Zazen actually".

I doubt whether I know anything more joyful than Zazen.

So far,
Ran

11:08 PM, April 30, 2009  
Blogger Cristian said...

Dear Master, as you say in relation to the practice of daily zazen, I can do to ensure proper training if you do not have a teacher who taught me the practice directly. Is it enough just to sit and practice? Is it enough just to read books and train according to what they say?. Their response is very important to me and that since 5 years ago began to practice zazen I noticed a continuous improvement in my life, but I wonder if this is enough.
After barely understand the four philosophies of Buddhism significantly change my life, but I wonder if the study of books alone is enough to balance my life.



Cristian Leon
Puerto Montt
Chile

2:57 AM, May 01, 2009  
Blogger Cristian said...

Dear Master, as you say in relation to the practice of daily zazen, I can do to ensure proper training if you do not have a teacher who taught me the practice directly. Is it enough just to sit and practice? Is it enough just to read books and train according to what they say?. Their response is very important to me and that since 5 years ago began to practice zazen I noticed a continuous improvement in my life, but I wonder if this is enough.
After barely understand the four philosophies of Buddhism significantly change my life, but I wonder if the study of books alone is enough to balance my life.



Cristian Leon
Puerto Montt
Chile

3:02 AM, May 01, 2009  
Blogger Sai said...

Dear Reverend Nishijima,
Thank you for your wonderful blog. Please excuse my simple questions. How long should one practise Zazen in one session? Would 15 minutes to start be okay? Is it better to do several 10 or 15 minute sessions or fewer 30 minute sessions?
Also does it make sense to tell a 69 year old man who has never done Zazen to start now. Is it even possible for some one like that to start?

thank you very much
Sai

10:22 AM, May 01, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear rgn San,

I know the Nike brand of Shoes well, and I perfectly agree with your idea "Just do it!"


Dear Lauren San,

Yes, I remember the time when I first began doing zazen.

If it is difficult for you to practice Zazn 30 minutes, please try, for example, 15 minutes, or 20 minutes Zazen, first.

When I was very young, I also stop my Zazen sometimes, but after I have accustomed to Zazen, it has become impossible for me to stop the habit of Zazen at all.

Therefore I say that I have also the same situations as you when I was young.


Dear Ran K. San,

I think that if "people usually like to practice Zazen," I think that almost all people in the world will practice Zazen everyday.

I agree with your idea about Zazen too.


Dear Cristian Leon San,

It is true that if we practice Zazen everyday, there is no problem of anything to which we should worry about it.

I think that it is perfectly sufficient for us to practice Zazen to live our own life pleasantly.

To read books is only useful for getting knowledge, but it is not sufficient for us to get knowledge only, but we need our balanced ANS to live our daily life adequately.

If we continue our daily practice of Zazen, we can always keep our balanced ANS already, and so if we continue our daily practice of Zazen, there is nothing to worry about in our daily life at all.

It is very important for us to understand the four philosophies of Buddhism, but it is only getting knowledge for us to understand the theory, and so it is necessary for us to get tha balanced ANS by practicing Zazen everyday too.


Dear Sai San,

Of course it is very nice for you to practice Zazen for 15 minutes first.

I think that it is very great fact for a 69 year old person who has never done Zazen to start it now.

Thank you very much.

1:21 PM, May 01, 2009  
Blogger k said...

Dear Roshi,

My motivations to do the practice are very selfish and not really noble. I get this idea that my practice won't help if I do not have the "correct" motivation. But does it really matter?

If my motivations are not good, but then every time I sit I make the effort toward the right posture, letting go all thoughts, to just sit, will this be enough to be benefited by the practice?

Thank you very much for your time!

5:29 PM, May 01, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Drar k San,

Zazen should not have any motivation, and so just to sit is the True Zazen. Therefore your Zazen is just the True Zazen.

So we should think that having no motivation is the true Zazen, and so in practicing Zazen, having no motivation, just to sit making our efforts toward the right posture, letting go all thouhts, to just sit, is Zazen,

7:50 PM, May 01, 2009  
Blogger Al said...

Roshi,

When reading the teachings of Sawaki Roshi and Uchiyama Roshi, we often hear the phrase, "Zazen is good for nothing". This seems quite different from the way you present it.

Along the same lines we here, "just let thoughts come and go" and "you don't do zazen, zazen does you."

Could you give me your take on these phrases?

Regards,

Al

8:16 PM, May 01, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

Is it the case that aiming toward the right posture (our effort to keep the spine upright) itself is always the right posture and so there is no "right posture" at which to arrive?

I ask this because I believe there is a tendency in Zen for the posture of zazen to be held as an object of idealistic belief.

Regards,

Harry.

12:02 AM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger rgn said...

Sai, I am also 69 years old. After many years of study it finally became clear to me that thinking was not going to solve anything. I started doing zazen a few months ago. I highly recommend it at any age.

12:09 AM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Nishijima Roshi,

Today I was reading again Dogen's discussion of non-thinking and not-thinking, which includes the two ancestors talking about the purpose of zazen. I still find the discussion difficult to penetrate, but it brings to me a question about experience during zazen.

I have many thoughts during zazen. Sometimes very "empty" thoughts which might even be a very short time of not thinking, but then many thoughts about "can I stay sitting any longer", or my work situation or other things.

I think it is correct that thoughts are okay, and I should just let them be, but I wonder if the chaos nature of my thoughts will change with time.

You have been doing zazen for very many years. Has your experience "inside" zazen changed with time. Has your experience been like the ox herding pictures (十牛) somehow?

Regards

2:43 AM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Al San,

What Master Kodo Sawaki and Uchiyama Kosho San says is true.

Zazen is just as Zazen, and so Zazen is nothing for other than Zazen. Therefore the two Masters say that "Zazen is just for Zazen."

"Just let thoughts come and go" suggests that when some kinds of thoughts appears in Zazen inevitably, there is no way for us to endure it for a moment.

Zazen is not idea, but Zazen is just Action itself.

My interpretations are like above.


Dear Harry San,

To keep our efforts making our posture better is our Action, but never our idea, and so it is just Zazen.

Generally speaking in idealistic civilization it is very difficult for us to find the clear difference betwen idea and Action.

To correct the posture is just Action, and so it can never be idea at all.


Dear Al San,

The aiming toward the right posture is just idea, but our effort to keep the spine upright itself is just Real Action.

To keep our posture regularly is never idea, but Action itself.


Dear rgn San,

I agree with your idea perfectly. Thinking does not solve anything practically.

Therefore, Sai San, I would like to ask you to follow rgn San's advice.


Dear Lauren San,

I would like to ask you to think about the problem on the basis of ANS. ANS always includes both SNS and PNS, and so the functions of SNS and PNS are working always together. In other words we can think that our thinking function and our feeling function are always working together.

But when the function of SNS and PNS actually have the same strength, the function of consideration and the function of perception have become equal, and so the function of consideration and the function of perception have become to be the same as if to be +/- = zero. That state is called Samadhi in Buddhism, which seems to be no consideration and no conception. And that is just the state of Zazen.

Therefore we can think that when we can put our ANS into the state of equality between SNS and PNS, we can experience the state that consideration seems to be zero and perception also seems to be zero.

Therefore by practicing Zazen if we can keep the situations of equality between SNS and PNS, we can have the state of zero consideration and the state of zero perception.

When Master Kodo Sawaki and Master Uchiyama Kosho were living, this schientific explanations were not clear yet, but nowadays this schientific explanation can never be denied, and so we have to follow such a schentific explanations without fail.

I do never believe in the adequacy of the ox herding pictures at all. I think that it is just an unreliable romantice story, which has been produced by an irresponsible person actually.

12:19 PM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger Regina said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

almost everybody who got in touch with zen has heard the story about the oxherding pictures. Especially in Asia they are regarded as the core of buddhism.

Why don't you believe in the adequacy of them? Does it have someting to do with the basic motivation that may be full of a certain intention or purpose?

As I understood your teachings and fully follow your advice you mainly refer to the natural development that will manifest if we practice zazen constantly.

Would you explain your view of the oxherding pictures in more detail, please?

Best wishes
Regina

5:32 PM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger Will said...

"Quote
Nishijima:
However, actually speaking, people usually like to speak or discuss Zazen verbally, but exactly speaking, people usually do not like to practice Zazen actually.[/quote]

LOL

Gassho

10:36 PM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Regina San,

The reason why I do not believe in the story about the oxherding pictures comes from idea that such a kind of romantic story does never occur on the earth at all.

According to the Buddhist theory, time is not a series of line, but like a series of points, which are separated from point to the next point separatedly.

Therefore I do not believe that the story is a real fact, which has actually occurred, but the story is just a story, which is produced by a story-teller.

Because of such reason, I never believe in the story, which has actually occurred, at all.

Therefore I actually recognize that the story is just a story, and so it is impossible for me to think that the
story has occurred actually.


Dear Will San,

I think that a person, who do not like to practice Zazen, might be affraid of
practicing Zazen because of their supposition.

Because I haven't heard any complaint from a person, who is enjoying the practice of Zazen everyday, and so I am affraid that people, who complain the difficalty of Zazen, might be people, who do not practice of Zazen diligently.

9:37 PM, May 03, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

An interesting question has arisen on another blog regarding Master Dogen's view of 'the self' in contrast to some modern ideas of 'the self'.

As modern people we may be informed by the ideas of psychologists (such as Freud) and so we may make certain assumptions as to what Master Dogen meant when he referred to 'the self' (we might think he meant something like a modern concept of the ego). Of course, many modern psychological ideas of 'the self' did not exist in Dogen's time, and even if they did they seem fundamentally different to what Dogen Zenji was pointing to.

What do you think Dogen Zenji meant when he said 'the self' such as in the phrase from Genjo-koan: 'to study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self'?

This phrase suggests to me that 'the self' to Dogen Zenji, in terms of Buddhist practice/study at least, was nothing other than the whole contents of zazen.

Regards,

Harry.

11:41 PM, May 04, 2009  
Blogger Regina said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

according to Dogen's Uji a herdsman is time and an ox is time as "pine trees are time and bamboos are time". Simultaneously this "existence-time has the virtue of passing in a series of moments." (Nishijima-Cross)

Maybe a good storysteller wanted to catch peoples attention to look for the dharma, using it like a metapher. We will never know if this sory has ever occured actually.

How do you explain:
"When people first seek the Dharma, we are far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to us, we are a human being in our original element."(Genjokoan, Nishijima-Cross)

Best wishes
Regina

12:43 AM, May 05, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry San,

I think that what Master Dogen indicates using the word "WARE, or ONORE" can never be equal to the modern "Igo" at all. "WARE, or ONORE" must be much more wider than "Ego."

The meaning of "the self" in Genjo-koan is actually ourselves. Therefore "to study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self," suggests that "to study ourselves by practicing Zazen, is just to study ourselves directly relying upon the practicing Zazen. And to practicing Zazen is just the Action, by which we become ourselves directly. Therefore after becoming ourselves by practicing Zazen, it is not always necessary for us to remember ourselves, and so we can forget ourselves."

In such a meaning Master Dogen recommended us "Just practice Zazen.


Dear Regins San,

In Buddhist philosophy we think that everything in the world can exist really just at the present moment.

Therefore Master Dogen's expression that a herdsman is time, an ox is time, "pine trees are time and banboos are time" are never metaphors, but they are clear insistences that every things and phenomena in the Universe clearly exist really just at the present moment, or time.

We, who are living now in the Universe in the 21st Century, usually do not know that we are just living at the present moment.

But actually speaking, this facts have been found by Gautama Buddha in the fifth or fourth Century B.C., and if we want the true meanings of Gautama Buddha's teachings, it is necessary for us to come back to the real historical situations fundamentally.

Therefore in our Buddhist research we should study the true meaning of Buddhism profoundly.

1:37 PM, May 05, 2009  
Blogger Sylvie said...

Dear Roshi,
the little I have so far read of Dogen, it seems to me that alongside the importance of the practise of Zazen is the absolute neccessity to drop intellect thinking in order to rely on intuition .This seems to me to be the greatest hindrance especially for westerners for it is and has been so highly regarded throughout our civilisation. I believe that it may not be possible , even with regular practise of Zazen, to fully grasp Reality unless we can drop our intellect. I'm sure that many promising practitioners actually may stray from the path because of this. Is this so ?

Kind regards,

Sylvie

4:33 PM, May 05, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

Thank-you for this explanation.

I think Master Dogen's view of 'the self' is exceptionally accurate and realistic.

When discussing Buddhism some people talk of 'the deluded self' or 'the deluded ego', but doesn't Master Dogen's broad view of self just recognise delusion, or a separate ego, as a transitory aspect of the function of 'the self'?

How can we explain the occurrence of delusion and deluded actions in the very broad context of Master Dogen's view and realisation of 'the self'?

Thanks & Regards,

Harry.

8:26 PM, May 05, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Nishijima Roshi,

Regarding Harry's question about Dogen's "self". Is this "ware" the same as the "ware" in "wareware" ("us"or "we" in english).

Does "ware" include real flesh and bone or is it limited to an idea of personality?

9:23 PM, May 05, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

The Self Master Dogen and others speak about in Buddhism is just the Reality.
Though the word "Reality" gives a more realistic, more presice, - view of it. Referring to it as "Self" or "Mind" would be idealistic to some extent at least. (- Though - again - it may be beneficial to present it from different points of view.)

The Ego - on the other hand - is no more than a certain part of us - of our being, - which is to be untied before we can see that to which Master Dogen refers to as the "Self".

A part which a Buddha is said to be free of - to no longer have.

11:56 PM, May 05, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Sylvie San,

Thank you very much for your very important question.

Because your question indicates the fundamental difference between Euro-American Civilization and Indien Buddhist Civilization.

I clearly understand that it may not be possible, even with regular practise of Zazen, to fully grasp Reality unless we can drop our intellect.

Because it is necessary for us to drop our intellect if we want to fully grasp Reality.

Reality can never be grasped by our intellect.

If we want to realize Reality, it is necessary for us to keep our ANS balanced, and we should enter into the state of Action, which can be realized by equality between SNS and PNS.


Dear Harry San,

I agree with your idea that Master Dogen's view of "the self" is exceptionally accurate and realistic.

I also agree with your opinion that Master Dogen's broad view of self just recognise delusion, or a separate ego, as a transitory aspect of the function of "the self".

Therefore we should think that the occurrence of delusion and deluded actions in the very broad context of Master Dogen's view and realisation of "the self", comes from the influence of a little stronger SNS, or a little stronger PSN.

So we, Human Beings, should always keep our ANS balanced.


Dear Lauren San,

Frankly speaking I have met the English word "ware" for the first time, and so I do not know the meaning of "ware" at all.

Therefore I would like to ask you to use the different word other than "ware", which has the same meaning as "ware", to send the same question.


Dear Ran K. San,

I am very sorry, but I could not understand the meaning of your opinion totally.

1:02 PM, May 06, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Thank-you, Roshi.

You wrote:

"Because it is necessary for us to drop our intellect if we want to fully grasp Reality."

This seems very true. At the same time it seems important to understand Buddhist philosophy intellectually based in our own real practice/experience of zazen, and it seems that great teachers such as Master Dogen and Nagarjuna used their considereable intellectual powers to expound their practice of Reality in creative ways.

In Western Buddhism there is indeed a tendancy to 'over intellectualize' Buddhism; but, on the other hand, there is also the tendancy to adopt a reactionary and idealistic 'anti intellectual' viewpoint/position which is not balanced or realistic either.

Of the two extremes I believe that the latter is more worrying as we are, among other things, thinking/intellectual beings and to deny or resist this fact may be the cause of a type of guilt or self loathing.

Thanks & Regards,

Harry.

6:50 PM, May 06, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Roshi,

Regarding "WARE", I was referring to your comment

"I think that what Master Dogen indicates using the word "WARE, or ONORE" can never be equal to the modern "Ego" at all."

I would like to understand if the Japanese word "WARE", which is often translated as "self", includes only the mental idea of self or if it includes also the body?

9:21 PM, May 06, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry San,

It is true that "Because it is necessary for us to drop our intellect if we want to fully grasp Reality," but such a situation does never be included inside the intellectual consideration, but it is included in a kind of intuition, which is completely different our intellectual consideration, or sense perception, and such a kind of intuition can be realized by the perfectly balanced ANS, or the perfect equality between SNS and PNS. And such a state is called Samadhi in Sanskrit.

Therefore such a kind of perfect equality between SNS and PNS is never be included in a kind of intellectual consideration, or sense perception, but it is just a kind of intuition, which is actually realized in the perfect equality between SNS and PNS.

Therefore it is completely impossible for us to consider the existence of overly intellectualized Buddhism, or idealistic 'anti intellectual' viewpoint/posiion on the earth at all.

In other words just the two kinds of extremes above, that is, overly intellectualized Buddhism, or idealistic 'anti intellectual' viewpoint/posiion can never exist on the earth at all.


Dear Lauren San,

I am sorry, but I have forgot completely that I have used the word "WARE" in my explanation.

I have used the word "WARE" as the meaning of "We, or we, as Human Beings," but "WARE" is not separated into body and mind yet.

1:50 PM, May 07, 2009  
Blogger Regina said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

you wrote:" And such a state is called Samadhi in Sanskrit."

I read somewhere that one cannot recognize the Samadhi of oneself.
Can you always tell when you are in the balanced state or is this just the normal state you are in?
What are the factors that make us leave the balanced state?
Is it right that in this balanced state there is no trace of "I", "self" or "ego"?

Best wishes
Regina

4:39 PM, May 07, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Regina San,

The reason why it is impossible for us to recognize the balanced situation, comes from the reason, which I explain below.

When the situation of ANS is that the strenghth of SNS is -100, and the strength of PNS is +100, even though the strength of ANS is just -100 + +100 = zero, but it does not suggest that ANS does not exist.

Even though the strength of ANS is just zero, but the volume of SNS (-100) and the volume of PNS (+100) are clearly existing without doubt.

This state is just the normal state of ANS, but the state of ANS seems to be zero without doubt perfectly.

6:34 PM, May 07, 2009  
Blogger Paul said...

Nishijima Sensei,

Dogen wrote in his "Fukanzazengi" "Think non-thinking"

Could you please shed a light on this?

Gasho

Paul

6:32 AM, May 08, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Paul San,

The words "Think non-thinking" describes the state of Zazen itself.

When our SNS is stronger, we are prone to think, and when PNS is stronger, we are prone to feel.

But when the strength of SNS and the strength of PNS are equal, the balance between SNS and PNS have realized the state of +/- = zero, and so both consideration and perception do not work, therefore the stat of Action has realized.

And then the state of no consideration and the state of no perception is called the state of Action, and just the state of Action in Zazen is called "Think non-thinking."

11:16 AM, May 08, 2009  
Blogger Mark Foote said...

Dear Gudo Nishijima, Sensei,

You really inspire me with your attempt to analyze the experience of cessation with SNS and PNS. I similarly conclude that the experience of "zazen sitting zazen", as Shunryu Suzuki described it, or "zazen getting up and walking around", as Kobun Chino Otogawa described it, has to do with kinesthesiology (that's like moving physiology). And may I compliment you on your fine English, and say that I realize how hard it must be for you to engage us all in this conversation!
My explanation would be that the ligaments/fascia stretch and generate activity, usually paired or reciprocal activity, purely through the location of consciousness and feeling. The impact of sense contact in the stretch that's already in existence as consciousness takes place is the "hit" or "strike" of shikantaza.
Nevertheless, if we do not realize the need to make an end to suffering, the witness of the conditional nature of consciousness flies by us. I have the full explanation (if incomplete) in "an unauthorized and incomplete guide to zazen"; you can google the key words, if you are interested.
Again, thank you very much for this profound effort; yours truly, Mark Foote

2:37 AM, June 10, 2009  
Blogger nando said...

Dear Roshi

I am a new entrant to Zazen. I have not read any formal precepts on Zen however, I came to doing it when I was tired of reading and not being able to progress beyond a few glimpses of insights here or there. I guess at one time my mind got tired and just wanted to let all go and thats when i just started sitting. I realized it was zazen. During my practice, i let everything happen, breath, thoughts, motivations atc.

My question is during my daily work hours I am hounded by a deep thought of my past (break-up of relationship) but when i just sit to practice, all kinds of thoughts come but that particular thought.

Please offer me suggestions on my practice.

Thanks a lot for this blog and your valubale advice.

Regards

JD

12:59 PM, October 21, 2009  

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