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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fukan-Zazen-Gi (4) Real Situation of Zazen

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.


Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you Gudo Nishijima for this excellent teaching on Zazen. I admitt, I havn't sat for a few days. I suppose I felt uninspired. This makes me jump right back on the horse. It's funny how difficult sitting one's butt on a cushion can be when uninspired. I think this the lack of inspiration comes from some subtle kind of desire for a result.

12:12 AM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Master Nishijima, Thank you for your efforts in trying to make clear some important points in Buddhism. The total realization of philosophical problems in the second enlightenment seems to mean a complete understanding, or a conclusion to philosophical inquiry. Does this total realization of all philosophical problems mean unwavering subjective conviction on philosophical matters or does it infer complete objectiveness in viewpoint?

12:33 AM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:46 AM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Dear Oxeye and Sekishin,

If I may try a comment:

Oxeye wrote ...

Does this total realization of all philosophical problems mean unwavering subjective conviction on philosophical matters or does it infer complete objectiveness in viewpoint?

Perhaps it means to just be, here and now, with nothing necessary to ask about it.

When we do Zazen, it is a Perfect act, in and of itself. There is nothing to add to it, nothing to take away from it, no place else to be, nothing else to do. The body and mind find a natural balance, and are forgotten, as Roshi describes.

As we practice over 30 years, the "second enlightenment" is the ability to bring this into all of our life: Everything is just to be, here and now. Every act is a perfect act, nothing to add to it, nothing to take away (even when it does not feel so, even when life is not going as we might wish). The body and mind are able to maintain a natural balance in more and more situations, in the face of strife and life's complexities where most people might lose their balance.

Perhaps it means the "total realization of all philosophical problems" because, when you just take life as-it-is, just take it moment by moment, just live it and experience it as it comes with nothing to add, nothing to take away ... well, in a sense, there are no questions to ask, and everything is resolved.

By the way, there have now been hundreds of controlled studies on the physiological and neurological effects of Zazen. Here is a partial list (of several pages):

If I may say, our Roshi was pretty much on the cutting edge when, decades ago, he started describing Zazen in such modern terms of neurological effect.

Sekishin wrote ...

Doesn’t “the realization of all philosophical problems” truly mean the realization that there are no philosophical problems, but only fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles?

I think that when Dogen referred to "fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles," he meant concrete life, just as it is [in Nishijima Roshi's view and mine ... please correct me if I am wrong, Roshi].

For example, a pebble is just a pebble, just what it is, perfectly that pebble. There is no need for the pebble to compare itself to other pebbles, there is nothing to add or take away from the pepple to make it more a pebble. The pebble need not wish it were a tile or a wall. It is perfectly "pebbling" just by being itself.

When we realize the same kind of thing about ourselves, about the world, about all our acts in life ... that is a kind of (in your words) samadhi [that is] experience of the whole self ... samadhi [as the] the essence of the Universe

Gassho, Jundo

5:58 AM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Mike Doe,

Let me try this, if I may:

The word "enlightenment" appears in Buddhism in several ways. For example:

1) your "original enlightenment" or "Buddha Nature," the fact that you are already enlightened, silly billy, but just don't realize this yet. You are already like that pebble, perfectly just part of the universe now with absolutely nothing to add or take away to be more what you are and more a part of the universe ... but most humans don't realize this yet.

2) the "enlightenment" of doing Zazen. When we do Zazen, it is just a Perfect act, in and of itself. There is nothing to add to it, nothing to take away from it, no place else to be, nothing else to do. In a sense, we are immitating being a pebble, doing what that pebble does in being still and not trying to be or do something else. The body and mind find a natural balance, and are forgotten, as Roshi describes.(However, I should add that it is still a perfect act even when it doesn't feel like it ... on those days where the legs and back hurt, where the mind is running around or the body is not right. If we take Zazen as a perfect act, we even refuse to think "good Zazen day" and "bad Zazen day." Zazen is enlightenment already, even when we don't realize it. In a sense, we are trying to imitate that pebble, which is perfectly pebbling even when it does not realize it, even on those days when it doesn't feel too pebbly).

3) The "enlightenment" that comes when we finally realize what this whole Buddhist thing is about. It may, as Roshi describes, take a lifetime, for it is nothing other than making that attitude of 2) function in your whole life, making it all a perfect moment-by-moment of Zazen (and, let me add, even when it does not always feel like it too).

Now, there are also other ways the word "enlightenment" or "Satori" are used:

4) The perfect "Final Satori" that happens when you die. That is when you turn to dust, your brain runs quiet, and thus, we can say that you return to a universe which you never truly left in the first place. Obviously, all conflicts will be eliminated when there is nothing more to conflict. When that pebble turns to dust, there will be nothing to bang into all the other pebbles, nothing to suffer the heat of summer or the cold of winter. Now, in 2) and 3) we are (of course) "dropping body and mind" even while we have a "body and mind," so it is a rather a "dropping body and mind" in the way possible while still really having a body and mind. But, when you are cold and dead, well, body and mind sure are dropped. (By the way, in Zen, we take no stance on what will happen, if anything, after death ... whether, for example, some Mind will still be there, and some awareness or not. We say that it is something that will take care of itself, nothing we can do anything about, so in Zen we just focus on living life now).

5) Some types of Buddhist (usually in the Pali scriptures and in other Eastern Traditions too) interpret "Satori" as trying to do No. 4) even in this life. It is trying to extinquish the senses, switch off the emotions, to deny the flesh, even while the heart still beats (possibly even trying literally to stop the heart too temporarily, in some extreme Yoga). It is IMHO some form of seeking escape from this world, of finding something wrong with this body and the senses. I this view, "Nirvana" is this state, the Heaven, that comes when we make our escape from this world and this body.

Some practitioners even become quite adept at this type of practice ... (for example, Nisagardatta seems to have been pretty good at 5), although his life seems to have been reduced to a little room where people would visit him for short interviews, and he never was able to quit smoking). And, even if some people can attain a type of Yoga like this, it is not very useful for most of us with families and jobs ... unless you want to give it all up for a little room or cave.

Look, after the Buddha died, Buddhism took a million different forms ... I will only speak for myself and my understanding of Zen Buddhism in saying that we are not trying to do 5), not trying to escape the body or extinquish anything. In a sense, we are dropping body and mind while happy to have body and mind. We let the senses be (even if, in doing so ... and this is a very important point ... we thus become in Zen much less prisoners of the senses.)

6) Some folks will claim that, when they "attained" Buddhist "Enlightenment" they became "Perfectly Realized," no turning back, in the meaning that they are ever, always "perfect" forever and ever, are some great "Zen Master" or "Guru." Usually, these folks wish you to buy their books and tapes or take their seminar (Brad has done some great writing on the charlatans, and I have my own list). My responce is that, YES! we ARE PERFECTLY WHAT WE ARE in the sense of No.s 1) 2) and 3) above, and our Zen practice is to let us realize that in our lives. But, if you think that, after Satori, your feet won't stink, and your boss or your wife won't drive you crazy sometimes ... you are doing the Zen of hollywood movies.

In fact, if you find one of those guys who really, really has "THE ANSWER," please let me know. I will quit Nishijima and join you at the feet of the Swami or Messiah. I don't think it will happen, and I have never heard of it really happening (Ram Dass has a lovely recent book about how he realized he was a bit of a poser in his yoth after he had his stroke a couple of years ago, was lying on the ground still scared of death despite all his years of yoga, and then had to deal with people helping him go to the bathroom and learning to walk again. He realized that "enlightenment" in this life may be a bit more complicated than even he thought).

Finally, on Hui Neng ... I am going to leave that topic for now. First off, it is not clear that Hui Neng actually himself wrote the Platform Sutra, second the Platform Sutra (like Xin Xin Ming) is open to a variety of translations and interpretations and, third, even within some forms of Zen Buddhism, a very idealistic, romanticized vision of "enlightenment" can creep in quite often. Having not read Hui Neng for quite awhile, I will not comment.

Anyway, sorry for the long and inelegant post. I just speak from my personal experience of Zazen, and what seems to be working pretty well in my complex life.

Gassho, Jundo

5:51 PM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:05 PM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Dear Mike Doe,

Let me add one more face of "enlightenment" (I am sure there are more):

Enlightenent 2.5) are those "Ah Ha" moments, great and small, when the pebble suddenly feels everything drop away, at "One with the Universe," all questions resolved for no one remaining to ask them, no one to be asked.

Those peak experiences are cool. Now, forget about them, forget about chasing after them. You can't live with your head like that. Get back to the "Just Sit Zazen" of 2), and the "Just Live Life" of 3).

Anyway, I have said too much.

Gassho, J

7:30 PM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger element said...

Master Nishijima,
Thank you very much for your teaching.

I still have a question about breathing.

I often heard the instruction that in zazen we should concentrate on the breathing.

Like Dogen said in Eihei Koroku many Zen Masters say that:
We should not count the breath and we should not breath deep intentionally by using the abdomen.
Breath should come and go naturally.

But after that the same Zen Masters say:
In order to calm the mind we should concentrate on the breath.

Is this also a wrong understanding?

12:07 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Dear Big Fish,

Thank you for posting Master Keizan's ZAZEN-YÔJINKI.

It is worth noting that Keizan, although practicing and preaching the very same philosophy of Zazen as Master Dogen, was always a bit more flowery, magical and taken by concepts of Mikkyo (esoteric Buddhism) in his writings compared to Dogen. This can be seen at various points in contrasting Keizan's words with Master Dogen's rather more "down to earth" Fukanzazengi. Even Dogen was not completely free of such things, not surprising at all when discussing people living in the culture of the supersticious Middle Ages.

The scholar, Bernard Faure, has a good book on the subject of Keizan: "Visions of Power"

The tendency has always been found in Chan and Zen, and what is special about Dogen is how much he avoided it. Anther scholar of Zen's history, T. Griffith Foulk, wrote:

"Modern scholars, as I noted earlier, have often contrasted the "pure" Zen of Dogen with the "syncretic" Zen of Keizan and the later Soto school. Dogen's "purity" in Zen is associated with a rejection of ritual and with an emphasis on the exclusive practice of zazen. ... Keizan's Zen is characterized by modern scholars as having been "diluted" by prayer services (kito) and other elements of esoteric Buddhist (mikkyo) ritual presumed to have been introduced to increase the popular appeal of Zen among the laity. But the prayer services, sutra chanting services (fugin), offerings to the Arhats (rakan kuyo) and other rituals cited as evidence of the influence of Japanese esotericism on post-Dogen Soto Zen are all found in Chinese Ch'an monastic codes, and are not unprecedented in Dogen's writings."

What is perhaps very modern about Dogen is how much he is free of all that despite the culture of the times in which he lived and the traditions he inherited.

Perhaps Nishijima Roshi will correct me if my understanding of history is off?

Anyway, I am sorry to violate Keizan's injunction:

Though you should not begrudge anyone the dharma, do not preach it unless you are asked. Even if someone asks, keep silent three times

Gassho, Jundo

5:20 AM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger element said...

"You should regulate your breathing as follows: open your mouth for a little while, letting long breaths be long and short breaths be short, and harmonize it gradually. Follow your breath for a while; when awareness comes, your breathing will be naturally harmonized. After that, breathe naturally through your nose."

5:31 AM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger element said...

Thank you Jundo for making clear that difference.
Maybe what Keizan says about breathing
is still too much?

5:14 PM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger gniz said...

Just want to point out...I said if we stopped the drama, namecalling, flame-wars, that basicaly the traffic to this blog would stop.
And the evidence is that is happening. Look at how many comments were in the previous three or four blogs and then look at how many comments are on this blog.
The next post will have even less.


3:33 AM, July 29, 2006  

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