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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."


Blogger Mike Cross said...

Sometimes to sit in the full lotus posture seems to require a physical effort just to DO it, just to sit upright (1).

Sometimes to sit in the full lotus posture seems to require a mental effort NOT TO DO this, that, and the other, but just to sit upright (2).

Sometimes sitting upright in the full lotus posture, thoroughly enjoying the singing of the birds, does not seem to require any effort at all (3).

Therefore Master Dogen said, in the supreme teaching of Shobogenzo: Sit in lotus with body (1), with mind (2), and as the dropping off of body and mind (3).

(1) and (2) are effort on the basis of two conceptions, body and mind, (3) is effortless action itself, beyond conceptions. Discussion of the autonomic nervous system, valuable though it may be, belongs to (1), not to (3).

I do not have any evil plan to convert Dogen Samgha into an Alexander Technique group. My struggle has been just to clarify the importance of (2). Not only (1) and (3), but also (2).

During the struggle to solve this problem, I have tended to neglect other problems, and have made many mistakes, both big and small. Some of these mistakes I regret very deeply. More deeply than I am able to express in words.

Despite his advancing years, I hope that my teacher, Gudo, understands my situation.

7:10 PM, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you Nishijima Roshi for this wonderful explaination of why to sit Zazen regularly as just sitting.

Here is an excerpt I found interesting from Kosho Uchiyama Roshi's book "Opening the Hand of Thought."

Uchiyama Roshi:"As I have repeatedly said, Zazen is nothing other than the simple act of actually sitting, aiming at the zazen posture with our flesh and bones. In The Shobogenzo:Zuimonki, Dogen writes:

'Is the Way attained through the mind or body? In the philosophical schools, it is said that since mind and body are not separate, the Way is attained through the body. Yet , it isn't clear that we attain the Way through the body, because it says "since body and mind are not separate." In Zen, the Way is attained through both body and mind.

As long as we merely think about Buddhadharma with the mind (intellect), we will never grasp the Way. When we let go of our minds, and set aside our own views or understanding, the Way will be actualized. For example, Reiun [Zhiqin, in Chinese] clarified true mind (the reality of life) when he saw peach blossoms, and Kyogen [Ghixian, in Chinese] realized the Way when he heard the sound of a piece of tile hitting bamboo. They attained the Way through their bodies.

Therefore, when we completely set aside our thoughts or views and practice Shikantaza, There is no doubt that the Way is attained through the body. This is why I encourage you to practice Zazen whole heartedly.'

Uchiyama Roshi:When I say to aim at the correct Zazen posture with your flesh and bones, it is simply a restatement of "the Way is attained through the body."

Using words only in a provisional sense, I have made a lenghty explaination of Zazen in an effort to express the fact that living out Self ( Lone Wolf adds-the self which includes the whole universe, not small separate egotistical self)as the reality of life isn't a matter of words or intellet. So after you first sufficiently understand what Zazen is intellectually, the important thing is to actually practice it, aiming at the posture of zazen with your flesh and bones, without any regard for words or intellect."

2:00 AM, June 02, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Gudo Nishijima- I recently discovered you have answered & commented on the all the blog question & comments on this blog site. Thank you so much for your effort and time to clearify Buddhism and Zazen. It is very helpful and encouraging.

5:56 AM, June 02, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

As a blind follower of Gudo’s Zazen teaching, I have spent 25 years caring so much about my own posture.

For a brief period, I may even have become the world champion of caring about my own posture.

Nowadays I endeavor to drop my former view. By sitting in lotus and not caring about our physical posture, we can all realize true uprightness, not only me.

Even a bent old man can realize this uprightness, if he really understands the Buddha’s teaching. That is, if he sees in practice both form and non-form, he can meet the tathagata.

2:24 PM, June 02, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

When we chose “without intention” as a translation of MU-I, more than 12 years ago, that decision was also influenced by our failure explicitly to recognize, at that time, the importance of the mental side of Zazen.

I think that Gudo has always recognized intuitively the importance of the mental side. This is why I do not give up, although my attitude may seem crazy to some readers of this blog. It is not a question of asking Gudo to change his fundamental Buddhist attitude, but of clarifying it less erroneously than before, both to himself and to others.

As occured in many many cases during our translation parternship, it was up to me to clarify in words what Gudo knew intuitively but failed to clarify in words. In the case of MU-I, I failed to clarify what I should have clarified.

So I am clarifying it now.

MU-I means without artificiality, without pretension, without an unconscious agenda. In short, natural.

Gudo’s original translation of MU-I was “natural.” But because MU means “without,” I wanted to preserve the negative. So we ended up with the translation “without intention,” but this translation is wrong.

MU-I does not mean without intention. A person without intention is a dead person. MU-I no HITO does not mean a dead person. It means a person who is extremely alive and clear in their intentions, their life-force having been liberated in Zazen from the prison of unconscious conceptions and selfish attitudes.

Without intention, there is no sitting in the full lotus posture, viz:
(1) We should intend to do something, that is to sit upright in the full lotus posture with our physical body.
(2) We should intend that, in our sitting in the full lotus posture, that sitting does not remain forever enslaved to our unconscious physical habit. In short, we should intend to wake up.
(3)) We should just sit (SHIKAN TAZA), effortlessly, without intention.

Intention is like the effort one has to make to prime a pump. Just sitting is like the water flowing, simply as a natural response to gravity.

A person who is beyond study and without their own unconscious agenda has very strong and clear intention to prime the pump. They should not be called “a person without intention.”

2:49 AM, June 03, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

In do not know for sure who 123twist is, but I have a good friend with what seems to be a similar tendency to 123twist. In his youth, this friend was an athlete and so he naturally brought a very muscular approach to Zazen; he was a very serious and intense man of strongly held ideas, and when these deeply held attitudes, views and ideas were challenged, he became very aggressive towards the person who challenged them.

Therefore, although the words of 123twist seem to have a hurtful intention, and even though those words hurt me in fact, I think that they are just symptomatic of the struggle of a very sincere man, a man whose real intention is not to hurt others but only to serve the Buddha’s truth.

Master Dogen said:
(1) Sit in the full lotus posture with the body.
(2) Sit in the full lotus posture with the mind.
(3) Sit in the full lotus posture dropping off body and mind.

The attitude of “ready, steady, GO,” works well for (1), but not so well for (2) and (3). So, even though the attitude of “1,2,3 GO,” got us here, now is just the time for us to drop it off.

One out of three is a very good start. We can at least be grateful for that.

But seriousness and intensity do not work well for (2) and (3). It might be necessary for 123twist, as it has proved necessary for my good friend, to rediscover a sense of humour.

Drunken Monkey writes of the right mindset. But in (2) and (3), when we notice that we are stuck in a right mindset, we should drop it off at once. If we notice, while sitting in lotus, that we have got a right mindset, we should again be grateful: it is an opportunity inwardly to laugh at ourselves.

True uprightness is a very serious matter, the most serious matter in the Universe. But it has to do with opposing gravity, and so being heavy about it does not work.

In preaching this to 123twist, I am just preaching it to myself. I hope my old good friend hears it too.

5:51 PM, June 03, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Beyond (1) postural/mechanical self-adjustment/self-balancing, and (2) thinking oneself up, there is a state of (3) forgetting oneself in the act of opposing gravity.

Balance of the autonomic nervous system is Gudo's attempt to clarify what the state in (3) is. I think such explanation also belongs to (1), because it based on the physical conception. Even though Gudo's attempt might be a kind of mistake, I revere it, because behind it there is a finger pointing to the moon.

Opposing gravity is an attempt to describe what the ACT in (3) is. Of course words cannot be the act itself, but "opposing gravity" is an attempt to describe what the act in (3) is.

Talk of "doing it correctly" or "balancing weight" belongs to the ordinary understanding of the lower level, (1).

6:25 AM, June 04, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

When Gudo Nishijima Roshi says "I do not emphasize (1) and (2), but I emphasize just (3)."

This is my understanding of Gudo Nishijima's comment:
(1) Materialism
(2) Idealism
(3) Realism (Zazen or act in the present moment.)

4:16 PM, June 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

I think Master Dogen’s attitude in Zanmai-o-zanmai is incredibly affirmative to sitting in the full lotus posture.

Therefore he said,
(1) We SHOULD sit in the full lotus posture even on the basis of the limited conception that this self is a physical body -- a spine which has to be balanced relative to gravity, an autonomic nervous system which comes into balance naturally et cetera, et cetera.
(2) We SHOULD sit in the full lotus posture even on the basis of the opposite limited conception that this self is mental -- something that decides to do or not do, think or not think.
But, above all, Master Dogen emphasized:
(3) We SHOULD sit in the full lotus posture as the dropping off of body and mind.

To think that the real meaning of “sitting in lotus as dropping body and mind” (3), can be understood on the basis of mechanical understanding of upright posture, combined with physiological explanation of the autonomic nervous system, is absolutely not true. Such understanding and explanation belongs to (1). The real meaning of (3) is transmitted not by such explanations but is transmitted face-to-face, one-to-one, through personal contact with a true teacher.

Therefore I totally defer to my Master’s teaching that it is solely vital for us, wearing the kesa and with heads shaved, just to sit in the full lotus posture, that very action of just sitting in the traditional attitude (SHIKAN TAZA) being the ultimate criterion of Zazen.

If my attitude is in any way different from this traditional attitude, I should just drop off my own attitude. On this basis I ask to be allowed to try again to harmonize within Dogen Sangha, for no reason other than a desire to meet the traditional criterion, dropping off my own body and mind.

11:35 PM, June 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Dear 123twist,

I guess that you are a very sincere person -- too sincere.

"Little yellow liar" might be an abusive term, or it might be an ironic expression for Japanse golden buddha who uses expedient means. It depends on the mind of the writer and the reader.

There is a chapter of Shobogenzo called O-saku-sendaba. Have you ever read it, or not?

Anyway, thank you for your kind suggestion.

4:07 PM, June 05, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

ho ho mike cross.. your little yellow liar statement might mean this or it might mean that..

but what it means to me is that you are just a total prick..

2:49 PM, June 11, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Mike Cross San

Just to do is Zazen, and just to sit upright is Zazen.

The instructions "not to do" in Fukan-Zazen-Gi are the regulations of postures in Zazen, and so even those regulations "not to do" belong to the positive instructions of regulating postures.

In Zazen it is not necessary for us to enjoy the singing of the birds, but we need the efforts to continue our Zazen further.

Therefore Master Dogen taught us that it is permissible for us to think something in Zazen, and it is permissible for us, for example, to listen to the singing of the birds in Zazen, but in the ultimate state we should practice Zazen as act of sitting, which does not include the consciousness of body and mind.

By utilizing your numbers (1), (2), and
(3), there might be confusion, and so I would like to explain the situations without using the numbers. Master Dogen insisted that even though we are sometimes thinking or perceiving in our Zazen, but original state of Zazen is just the act to sit, transcending thinking and feeling.

It is not necessary for us to think whether AT is similar to Buddhism, or not.
Because, Buddhism is just Buddhism, and AT is just AT.

It is not necessary for us to regret the facts, which occured in the past, at all. Because even though we worry about the serious mistakes in the past so enormously, we can never change the fact in the past at all.

I do never affirm your so-called Buddhist opinion. which you have now, at all, and so if you like to know the true Buddhism truely, it is necessary for you to throw away your arrogant attitudes completely for studying Buddhism newly.

For Lone Wolf San

I agree with Master Dogen's opinion, and so Master Uchiyama's opinion, and your opinion, too.

4:04 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Mike Cross San

Why don't you ask me such a question for 25 years?

It is very important for us to keep the true posture during the practice, therefore Master Dogen taught us the true posture of Zazen in Fukan-Zazen-Gi so precisely.

I am afraid that, if we do not keep the spine straight vertically, whether miscellaneous thoughts or perceptions occurs in your mind during Zazen every moment, or not.

Actually speaking, when we keep our spine straight vertically, then we feel the uprightness. In your case before practicing Zazen, can you understand the Buddhist teaching? Aren't the concepts of "form and non-form" as a kind of deception?

For 123Twist San

I agree with your ideas.

8:49 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

An emotional reaction to a stimulus is a physical event, involving a disturbance of the autonomic nervous system.

A decision not to be distracted by emotional reactions, but to devote oneself to just sitting, is a mental event.

But an actual moment of just sitting in the lotus posture is neither a physical reaction nor a mental event. It is body and mind naturally dropping off, and the original face appearing.

Through the existence of even one such moment, all questions in Buddhist philosophy have been perfectly answered already. So that there are no problems at all. Only fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles.

7:29 AM, June 19, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Mike Cross San

Buddhist philosophy is based on the fusion of body and mind, and so the separation of body and mind in Buddhism is just for explanation. Therefore there is no reason for us to emphasize the mental side especially.

If I have always recognized intuitively the importance of the mental side, why is it necessary for you to recommend me to be mental much more?

Of course my English ability is so poor, and so I need always an assistant of a native speaker to help me in my English translation. But in the case of MU-I, it is just a Buddhist interpretation, and so I have to decide it by myself.

Isn't it too late to clarify it now?

I think that you have arrived at the true meaning of MU-I now.

I would like to know the reason why the words "without intention" wrong is.

We can never say that a person without intention is a dead person. Without intention human being can live, and a man without intention can enjoy his best life.

Transcending intention we can sit in Zazn actually. Therefore your three kinds of explanations are useless.

Intention is not only the first decision, but a continuous idea of getting something, for example, fame or profit.

To prime the pump is not so important, but sitting in Zazen without intention is important.

For Grim San

I would like to ask the same two questions as yours to Mike Cross San.

If we can economize the time of discussion, it might be very happy.

For Drunken Monkey San

I like to discuss miscellaneous philosophical problems, but I think that it is necessary for our discussions to be logical at every moment.

Thank you very much for you reading my blog.

For Mike Cross San

Why do you think that The attitude of "ready, steady, Go" works well for (1)? Is it only your emotional supposition? I think that when we think about Buddhist philosophy, we should be much more logical.

Why seriousness and intensity do not work well for (2) and (3)? Is it only your joke? Are you responsible for what you wrote?

I think that what Mike Cross San wrote to 123twist San and Drunken Monkey San are insane, or not, I do not know.

For MikeDoe San

I can understand clearly what you write, and so it is impossible for me to understand what Mike Cross San wrote in this blog is.

For Drnken Monkey San

Thank you very much for your exact understandings of Zazen.

I feel very happy when I read true interpretation of Buddhism.

For Mike Cross San

Unfortunately what you write recently is completely difficult for me to understand, and so I would like always to pass reading your comments.

For Lone Wolf San

Thank you very much for your clear understanding of my Buddhist thoughts.

For MikeDoe San

I agree your idea that "there is just sitting."

Thank you very much for your so exact and understandable explanation of Zazen.

I feel very happy because I can feel actually that the future of Buddhism seemes to be very hopeful.

For Mike Cross San

I would like to pass your comments.

For 123Twist San

Thank you very much for your kind understanding my position. I have decided today that I will stop all my answers to Mike Cross San's comments totally. Because thinking my age as 86 years old, and my job, which needs more few years, I have to economize my life as much as possible, and so I have found the necessity that I have to stop spending time to answer Mike Cross San's comments.

Reading your comments and many other members' comments, I feel that it is very important for me to continue the blog further, and at the same time it is so important for me to economize time because of promoting Buddhism.

For Mike Cross San

I would like to pass your comments.

For Drunken Monkey San

I agree with your idea to MikeDoe San's explanation of Zazen.

For Oxeve San

Thank you very much for your encouragement for me.

2:38 PM, June 19, 2006  

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