Showing posts with label Shikantaza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shikantaza. Show all posts

Wrote in Reddit: 

IMO Just Sitting (nothing but sitting) is like actualizing anatman. In seeing just the seen, in hearing just sound, in sitting just sit (shikantaza = just sitting).

"Shikantaza is to practice or actualize emptiness." - Shunryu Suzuki

"The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice realization of totally culminated enlightenment." - Dogen

"SHIKANTAZA IS MEDITATION IN its simplest form. There are only three elements: body, mind, and breath. No gimmicks. Nothing to hold on to. Not even the breath. Breath is still present, of course, but we're not fixed on it. Earlier in this book I talked about tranquility (shamatha in Sanskrit) and awareness (vipashyana in Sanskrit). In shikantaza, these two are not separate. The mind settles, but not on a particular point. In shikantaza, Awareness is objectless and subjectless—there's no "you" who does shikantaza. It's as if concentration has been filed down to a single point—yet, at the same time, has expanded outward and is taking in everything: sights, sounds, feelings, sensations, thoughts, movements. And this Awareness is sizeless and timeless. In shikantaza we discover that there is no clear distinc-tion between self and other. Are you breathing? Or are you being breathed? You need not answer. There is no essential difference. Awareness is general and without location. It's been this way all along, but only now is it clear and obvious."

  • Zen teacher Steve Hagen, "Meditation Now or Never"

"Buddha said in the Agama Sutras (Soh: Referring to Bahiya Sutta): "In the seen is just the seen, in the heard is just the heard." Our six senses are naturally free and unobstructed. So, in sitting meditation, just sit like that, letting the six senses function naturally and freely. Don't interfere with them, not even non-interfering interference. In essence, there isn’t an "I" watching or listening there. Thus, zazen is about allowing all phenomena to prove there's no you, not about you proving there's no you. The key is here; don't get it wrong. When you try to prove there's no you, an "I" is already there proving it. Is that forgetting the self? No!

So, how do all phenomena prove there's no you? What exactly are these phenomena?

The seen forms, heard sounds, smelled scents, tasted flavors, felt sensations of cold and heat, the arising and passing thoughts. All these phenomena are constantly telling you, there's no me! There's no me!"

"The six senses are truly just present, operating naturally within the true and unobstructed reality. This is the so-called natural, unobstructed functioning of the six senses. It's so natural, a matter of course. Only in the genuine practice of zazen, at that very moment, do you realize our mind is incredibly vast, its applications infinite. The six senses function naturally: eyes seeing forms, ears hearing sounds, nose smelling scents, tongue tasting flavors, body feeling touches, mind perceiving phenomena. All actions and movements are the Dharma Body. The six senses are unimpeded, free from attachment or aversion, equally interacting with arising and ceasing conditions, naturally liberated. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha himself said, if you can genuinely let all phenomena prove there's no you, sitting zazen honestly in this way, just the time it takes for an ant to crawl from your nose to your forehead is more beneficial than sitting for ten, a hundred years with an 'I'. If you seek the Dharma with yourself for a hundred billion years, it's impossible, forever impossible. Because there's an "I" wanting to become a Buddha!"Shikantaza," this method, is the authentic practice of zazen. Sitting in that moment is performing the Buddha's dignified conduct, Buddha's actions. The moment without delusion is Buddha's dignified conduct, hence this is called the method of great ease."

"I' is not right, 'no I' is not right, but meditation is happening! What thing is meditating? What is meditating? How do you resolve this? Some more enlightened Zen masters, like Zemu Xingdao, sometimes say 'meditation is meditating' for the sake of instruction, for convenience in teaching. Because he is experienced, whatever he says is right. Or in English, 'the universe is universing', the universe is sitting the universe, the universe is the universe. Some people, upon hearing this, might be even more baffled."

 Shikantaza and Zazen

Recently many people who conversed with me had breakthroughs. It is my belief that each one of us, especially those who knows and have insight, have a duty to share with others.

One of them I spoke to broke through from I AM and one mind to the anatta realization. See: Michael’s Breakthrough . I offered some advise and recommended him to join his nearby Zen center of John Daido Loori’s lineage (located in New Zealand). I also recommended him to read this book:

An excerpt from the book:


Feb 21, 2019 | Articles

Taigen Dan Leighton

Preface to the book, The Art of Just Sitting, edited by Daido Loori, Wisdom Publications, 2002

One way to categorize the meditation practice of shikan taza, or “just sitting,” is as an objectless meditation. This is a definition in terms of what it is not. One just sits, not concentrating on any particular object of awareness, unlike most traditional meditation practices, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, that involve intent focus on a particular object. Such objects traditionally have included colored disks, candle flames, various aspects of breath, incantations, ambient sound, physical sensations or postures, spiritual figures, mandalas including geometric arrangements of such figures, or of symbols representing them, teaching stories, or key phrases from such stories. Some of these concentration practices are in the background of the shikan taza practice tradition, or have been included with shikan taza in its actual lived experience by practitioners.

But objectless meditation focuses on clear, non-judgmental, panoramic attention to all of the myriad arising phenomena in the present experience. Such objectless meditation is a potential universally available to conscious beings, and has been expressed at various times in history. This just sitting is not a meditation technique or practice, or any thing at all. “Just sitting” is a verb rather than a noun, the dynamic activity of being fully present.

The specific practice experience of shikan taza was first articulated in the Soto Zen lineage (Caodong in Chinese) by the Chinese master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157; Wanshi Shogaku in Japanese),and further elaborated by the Japanese Soto founder Eihei Dogen (1200-1253). But prior to their expressions of this experience, there are hints of this practice in some of the earlier teachers of the tradition. The founding teachers of this lineage run from Shitou Xiqian (700-790; Sekito Kisen in Japanese), two generations after the Chinese Sixth Ancestor, through three generations to Dongshan Liangjie (807-869; Tozan Ryokai in Japanese), the usually recognized founder of the Caodong, or Soto, lineage in China. I will briefly mention a couple of these early practice intimations in their Soto lineage context before discussing the expressions of Hongzhi and Dogen.

Shitou/ Sekito is most noted for his teaching poem Sandokai, “Harmony of Difference and Sameness,” still frequently chanted in Soto Zen. Sandokai presents the fundamental dialectic between the polarity of the universal ultimate and the phenomenal particulars. This dialectic, derived by Shitou from Chinese Huayan thought based on the “Flower Ornament” Avatamsaka Sutra, combined with some use of Daoist imagery, became the philosophical background of Soto, as expressed by Dongshan in the five ranks teachings, and later elucidated by various Soto thinkers. But Shitou wrote another teaching poem, Soanka, “Song of the Grass Hut,” which presents more of a practice model for how to develop the space that fosters just sitting. Therein Shitou says, “Just sitting with head covered all things are at rest. Thus this mountain monk does not understand at all.”[1]So just sitting does not involve reaching some understanding. It is the subtle activity of allowing all things to be completely at rest just as they are, not poking one’s head into the workings of the world.

Shitou also says in Soanka, “Turn around the light to shine within, then just return. . . . Let go of hundreds of years and relax completely. Open your hands and walk, innocent.” According to Shitou, the fundamental orientation of turning within, also later described by Hongzhi and Dogen, is simply in order to return to the world, and to our original quality. Letting go of conditioning while steeped in completely relaxed awareness, one is able to act effectively, innocent of grasping and attachments. So the context of this just sitting suggested by Shitou is the possibility of aware and responsive presence that is simple, open-hearted, and straightforward.

When discussing zazen, Dogen regularly quotes a saying by Shitou’s successor, Yaoshan Weiyan (745-828; Yakusan Igen in Japanese). A monk asked Yaoshan what he thought of while sitting so still and steadfastly. Yaoshan replied that he thought of not-thinking, or that he thought of that which does not think. When the monk asked how Yaoshan did that, he responded, “Beyond -thinking,” or, “Non-thinking.” This is a state of awareness that can include both cognition and the absence of thought, and is not caught up in either. Dogen calls this, “The essential art of zazen.”[2]

These early accounts would indicate that there was already a context of Caodong/ Soto practitioners “just sitting” well before Hongzhi and Dogen. The Soto lineage almost died out in China a century before Hongzhi, but was revived by Touzi Yiqing (1032-1083; Tosu Gisei in Japanese), who brought a background in Huayan studies to enliven Soto philosophy. Touzi’s successor, Furong Daokai (1043-1118; Fuyo Dokai in Japanese) was a model of integrity who solidified and developed the forms for the Soto monastic community. It remained for Hongzhi, two generations after Furong Daokai, to fully express Soto praxis. Hongzhi, easily the most prominent Soto teacher in the twelfth century, was a literary giant, a highly prolific, elegant, and evocative writer who comprehensively articulated this meditation practice for the first time.

Hongzhi does not use the actual term, “just sitting,” which Dogen quotes instead from his own Soto lineage teacher Tiantong Rujing (1163-1228; Tendo Nyojo in Japanese). But Tiantong Monastery, where Dogen studied with Rujing in 1227, was the same temple where Hongzhi had been abbot for almost thirty years up to his death in 1157. Dogen refers to Hongzhi as an “Ancient Buddha,” and frequently quotes him, especially from his poetic writings on meditative experience. Clearly the meditative awareness that Hongzhi writes about was closely related to Dogen’s meditation, although Dogen developed its dynamic orientation in his own writings about just sitting.

Hongzhi’s meditation teaching is usually referred to as “silent, or serene, illumination,” although Hongzhi actually uses this term only a few times in his voluminous writings. In his long poem, “Silent Illumination,” Hongzhi emphasizes the necessity for balance between serenity and illumination, which echoes the traditional Buddhist meditation practice of shamatha-vipashyana, or stopping and insight. This was called zhiguan in the Chinese Tiantai meditation system expounded by the great Chinese Buddhist synthesizer Zhiyi (538-597). Hongzhi emphasizes the necessity for active insight as well as calm in “Silent Illumination” when he says, “If illumination neglects serenity then aggressiveness appears. . . . If serenity neglects illumination, murkiness leads to wasted dharma.”[3]So Hongzhi’s meditation values the balancing of both stopping, or settling the mind, and its active illuminating functioning.

In his prose writings, Hongzhi frequently uses nature metaphors to express the natural simplicity of the lived experience of silent illumination or just sitting. (I am generally using these terms interchangeably, except when discussing differences in their usages by Hongzhi or Dogen.) An example of Hongzhi’s nature writing is,

A person of the Way fundamentally does not dwell anywhere. The white clouds are fascinated with the green mountain’s foundation. The bright moon cherishes being carried along with the flowing water. The clouds part and the mountains appear. The moon sets and the water is cool. Each bit of autumn contains vast interpenetration without bounds.[4]

Hongzhi here highlights the ease of this awareness and its function. Like the flow of water and clouds, the mind can move smoothly to flow in harmony with its environment. “Accord and respond without laboring and accomplish without hindrance. Everywhere turn around freely, not following conditions, not falling into classifications.”[5]

In many places, Hongzhi provides specific instructions about how to manage one’s sense perceptions so as to allow the vital presence of just sitting. “Respond unencumbered to each speck of dust without becoming its partner. The subtlety of seeing and hearing transcends mere colors and sounds.”[6] Again he suggests, “Casually mount the sounds and straddle the colors while you transcend listening and surpass watching.”[7]This does not indicate a presence that is oblivious to the surrounding sense world. But while the practitioner remains aware, sense phenomena do not become objects of attachment, or objectified at all.

Another aspect of Hongzhi’s practice is that it is objectless not only in terms of letting go of concentration objects, but also objectless in the sense of avoiding any specific, limited goals or objectives. As Hongzhi says at the end of “Silent Illumination,” “Transmit it to all directions without desiring to gain credit.”[8]This serene illumination, or just sitting, is not a technique, or a means to some resulting higher state of consciousness, or any particular state of being. Just sitting, one simply meets the immediate present. Desiring some flashy experience, or anything more or other than “this” is mere worldly vanity and craving. Again invoking empty nature, Hongzhi says, “Fully appreciate the emptiness of all dharmas. Then all minds are free and all dusts evaporate in the original brilliance shining everywhere. . . . Clear and desireless, the wind in the pines and the moon in the water are content in their elements.”[9]

This non-seeking quality of Hongzhi’s meditation eventually helped make it controversial. The leading contemporary teacher in the much more prominent Linji lineage (Japanese Rinzai) was Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163; Daie Soko in Japanese). A popular historical stereotype is that Dahui and Hongzhi were rivals, debating over silent illumination meditation as opposed to Dahui’s Koan Introspection meditation teaching. Historians have now established that Hongzhi and Dahui were actually good friends, or at least had high mutual esteem, and sent students to each other. There was no such debate, at least until future generations of their successors, although Dahui did severely critique “silent illumination” practice as being quietistic and damaging to Zen. However, Dahui clearly was not criticizing Hongzhi himself, but rather, some of his followers, and possibly Hongzhi’s Dharma brother, Changlu Qingliao (1089-1151; Choryo Seiryo in Japanese), from whom Dogen’s lineage descends.[10]

Dahui’s criticism of silent illumination was partly valid, based on the legitimate danger of practitioners misunderstanding this approach as quietistic or passive. Dahui’s critique was echoed centuries later by Japanese Rinzai critics of just sitting, such as Hakuin in the seventeenth century. Just sitting can indeed sometimes degenerate into dull attachment to inner bliss states, with no responsiveness to the suffering of the surrounding world. Hongzhi clarifies that this is not the intention of his practice, for example when he says, “In wonder return to the journey, avail yourself of the path and walk ahead. . . . With the hundred grass tips in the busy marketplace graciously share yourself.”[11]The meditation advocated by both Hongzhi and Dogen is firmly rooted in the bodhisattva path and its liberative purpose of assisting and awakening beings. Mere idle indulgence in peacefulness and bliss is not the point.

The other aspect of Dahui’s criticism related to his own advocacy of meditation focusing on koans as meditation objects, explicitly aimed at generating flashy opening experiences. Such experiences may occur in just sitting practice as well, but generally have been less valued in the Soto tradition. The purpose of Buddhist practice is universal awakening, not dramatic experiences of opening any more than passive states of serenity. But contrary to another erroneous stereotype, use of koans has been widespread in Soto teaching as well as Rinzai.

Hongzhi himself created two collections of koans with his comments, one of which was the basis for the important anthology, the Book of Serenity. Dogen also created koan collections, and (ironically, considering his reputation as champion of just sitting meditation) far more of his voluminous writing, including the essays of his masterwork Shobogenzo, “True Dharma Eye Treasury,” is devoted to commentary on koans than to discussion of meditation. Dogen was actually instrumental in introducing the koan literature to Japan, and his writings demonstrate a truly amazing mastery of the depths and breadth of the range of that literature in China. Steven Heine’s modern work, Dogen and the Koan Tradition, clearly demonstrates how Dogen actually developed koan practice in new expansive modes that differed from Dahui’s concentrated approach.[12]Although Hongzhi and Dogen, and most of the traditional Soto tradition, did not develop a formal koan meditation curriculum as did Dahui, Hakuin, and much of the Rinzai tradition, the koan stories have remained a prominent context for Soto teaching. Conversely, just sitting has often been part of Rinzai practice, such that some Soto monks in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries went to Rinzai masters for training in just sitting.

Although a great deal of Dogen’s writing focuses on commentary on koans and sutras, and on monastic practice expressions, the practice of just sitting is clearly in the background throughout his teaching career. Dogen builds on the descriptions of Hongzhi to emphasize the dynamic function of just sitting.

In one of his first essays, Bendowa, “Talk on Wholehearted Practice of the Way,” written in 1231 a few years after his return from training in China, Dogen describes this meditation as the samadhi of self-fulfillment (or enjoyment), and elaborates the inner meaning of this practice. Simply just sitting is expressed as concentration on the self in its most delightful wholeness, in total inclusive interconnection with all of phenomena. Dogen makes remarkably radical claims for this simple experience. “When one displays the buddha mudra with one’s whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi for even a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment.”[13]Proclaiming that when one just sits all of space itself becomes enlightenment is an inconceivable statement, deeply challenging our usual sense of the nature of reality, whether we take Dogen’s words literally or metaphorically. Dogen places this activity of just sitting far beyond our usual sense of personal self or agency. He goes on to say that, “Even if only one person sits for a short time, because this zazen is one with all existence and completely permeates all times, it performs everlasting buddha guidance” throughout space and time.[14]At least in Dogen’s faith in the spiritual or “theological” implications of the activity of just sitting, this is clearly a dynamically liberating practice, not mere blissful serenity.

Through his writings, Dogen gives ample indication as to how to engage this just sitting. In another noted early writing, Genjokoan, “Actualizing the Fundamental Point,” from 1233, Dogen gives a clear description of the existential stance of just sitting, “To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.”[15]That we are conditioned to project our own conceptions onto the world as a dead object-screen is the cause of suffering. When all of phenomena (including what we usually think of as “ours”) join in mutual self-experience and expression, the awakened awareness that Hongzhi described through nature metaphors is present, doing buddha’s work, as Dogen says.

Some modern Dogen scholars have emphasized the shift in his later teaching to the importance of strict monastic practice, and supposedly away from the universal applicability of shikan taza practice. In 1243 Dogen moved his community far from the capital of Kyoto to the snowy north coast mountains, where he established his monastery, Eiheiji. His teaching thereafter, until his death in 1253, was mostly in the form of often brief talks to his monks, presented in Eihei Koroku, “Dogen’s Extensive Record.” These are certainly focused on training a core of dedicated monks to preserve his practice tradition, a mission he fulfilled with extraordinary success. But through his later work as well as the early, instructions and encouragements to just sit appear regularly.

In 1251 Dogen was still proclaiming,

The family style of all buddhas and ancestors is to engage the way in zazen. My late teacher Tiantong [Rujing] said, “Cross-legged sitting is the dharma of ancient buddhas. . . . In just sitting it is finally accomplished.” . . . We should engage the way in zazen as if extinguishing flames from our heads. Buddhas and ancestors, generation after generation, face to face transmit the primacy of zazen.[16]

In 1249 he exhorted his monks, “We should know that zazen is the decorous activity of practice after realization. Realization is simply just sitting zazen. . . . Brothers on this mountain, you should straightforwardly, single-mindedly focus on zazen.” (319) For Dogen, all of enlightenment is fully expressed in the ongoing practice of just sitting. That same year, he gave a straightforward instruction for just sitting:

Great assembly, do you want to hear the reality of just sitting, which is the Zen practice that is dropping off body and mind?

After a pause [Dogen] said: Mind cannot objectify it; thinking cannot describe it. Just step back and carry on, and avoid offending anyone you face. At the ancient dock, the wind and moon are cold and clear. At night the boat floats peacefully in the land of lapis lazuli.(337)

The concluding two sentences of this talk are quoted from a poem by Hongzhi, further revealing the continuity of their practice teachings. Dogen also frequently describes this just sitting as “dropping away body and mind,” shinjin datsuraku in Japanese, a phrase traditionally associated with Dogen’s awakening experience in China.[17]

For Dogen this “dropping off body and mind” is the true nature both of just sitting and of complete enlightenment, and is the ultimate letting go of self, directly meeting the cold, clear wind and moon. After turning within while just sitting, it is carried on in all activity, and throughout ongoing engagement with the world. Although just sitting now has been maintained for 750 years since Dogen, the teachings of Hongzhi and Dogen remain as primary guideposts to its practice.


1. Shitou does not use the words for “shikan taza,” but the reference to the iconic image of Bodhidharma just sitting, or “wall-gazing” in his cold cave with quilt over his head is unquestionable. For “Soanka” see Taigen Dan Leighton, with Yi Wu, trans., Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi, revised, expanded edition (Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2000), pp. 72-73.

2. In Dogen’s Fukanzazengi; see Kazuaki Tanahashi, editor, Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen(Boston: Shambhala, 1999), p. 55; or the groundbreaking translation by Norman Waddell and Masao Abe later in this book.

3. Leighton, Cultivating the Empty Field, pp. 67-68 (reprinted in this book). For more on Hongzhi and his meditation teaching, see also Morton Schlutter, “Silent Illumination, Kung-an Introspection, and the Competition for Lay Patronage in Sung Dynasty Ch’an” in Peter Gregory and Daniel Getz, editors, Buddhism in the Sung(Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1999), pp. 109-147.

4. Leighton, Cultivating the Empty Field, pp. 41-42.

5. Ibid., p. 31.

6. Ibid., p. 30

7. Ibid., p. 55.

8. Ibid., p. 68.

9. Ibid., p. 43.

10.Schlutter, “Silent Illumination, Kung-an Introspection” in Gregory and Getz, Buddhism in the Sung, pp. 109-110.

11. Leighton, Cultivating the Empty Field, p. 55.

12. Steven Heine, Dogen and the Koan Tradition: A Tale of Two Shobogenzo Texts(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994).

13. Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Dan Leighton, trans. The Wholehearted Way: A Translation of Eihei Dogen’s Bendowa with Commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi(Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1997), p. 22.

14. Ibid., p. 23.

15. Kazuaki Tananhashi, editor, Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen(New York: North Point Press, division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1985, p. 69.

16. Eihei Koroku, Dharma Discourse 432, from Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, trans. Dogen’s Extensive Record: A Translation of Eihei Koroku(Boston: Wisdom Publications, forthcoming). All later quotes from Eihei Koroku in this preface are from this translation, identified in the text after the quote by Dharma Discourse number.

17. See Leighton, Cultivating the Empty Field, pp. 20-23; reprinted later in this book.


    Огњен Пушац
    What practice does she do?

  • Yin Ling
    Огњен Пушац Samatha and vipassana 🙂

  • Огњен Пушац
    Yin Ling would shikantaza be something similar to samatha?

  • Yin Ling
    Hmm.. I am not sure exactly what Shikantanza entails.
    But I did do some “do nothing” meditation or you can call it “open awareness” midway. And now even.
    And I find that both Samantha and vipassana intermix .
    Actually I did a lot of stuff lol, my teacher was trying really hard to break down my “self” along the path. She call it my toolbox 🧰 haha.
    She probably can see my conditions and prescribe me the medicine becusse she told me not everyone will work with what she gave me to do.
    I’m careful of advising , hence.

  • Огњен Пушац
    Yin Ling I get it. Thank You for Your sincere answers 🙏. Is it too much to ask who Your teacher is?

  • Yin Ling
    Огњен Пушац I won’t put it out in public coz she doesn’t want publicity and I have to respect her privacy. But if you are sincerely looking for a teacher you could personally message me any time. 🙂

  • Soh Wei Yu
    Yin Ling Shikantaza (只管打坐) is actualization of anatta. As Hong Wen Liang often said, shikantaza is not "meditation". And it is not "you" meditating or "you" sitting. Sitting is sitting. Universe is sitting.

  • Ryan Weeks
    Soh Wei Yuthere are several very different understandings of shikantaza, be careful. I like yours. But most people think of shikantaza as sitting down and doing nothing, then expecting realization. But it is rare. Yours only makes sense after some realization. Before that, you have to break through somehow. And sitting doing nothing is not usually enough.

  • Ryan Weeks
    Since shikantaza is literally "only/just sitting" and is interpreted dogmatically by most in Soto Zen these days.

  • Soh Wei Yu
    I like this article:
    In authentic shikan-taza neither of these two elements of faith can be dispensed with. To exclude satori from shikan-taza would necessarily involve stigmatizing as meaningless and even masochistic the Buddha's strenuous efforts toward enlightenment, and impugning the Ancestral Teachers' and Dogen's own painful struggles to that end. This relation of satori to shikan-taza is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately it has often been misunderstood, especially by those to whom Dogen's complete writings are inaccessible. It thus not infrequently happens that Western students will come to a Soto temple or monastery utilizing koans in its teaching and remonstrate with the master over the assignment; since all are intrinsically enlightened, they argue, there is no point in seeking satori. So what they ask to practice is shikan-taza, which they believe does not involve the experience of enlightenment.[5]
    [5]For the attitude of one such novice, see p. 147.
    Such an attitude reveals not only a lack of faith in the judgment of one's teacher but a fundamental misconception of both the nature and the difficulty of shikan-taza, not to mention the teaching methods employed in Soto temples and monasteries. A careful reading of these introductory lectures and Yasutani-roshi's encounters with ten Westerners will make clear why genuine shikan-taza cannot be successfully undertaken by the rank novice, who has yet to learn how to sit with stability and equanimity, or whose ardor needs to be regularly boosted by communal sitting or by the encouragement of a teacher, or who, above all, lacks strong faith in his or her own Bodhi-mind coupled with a dedicated resolve to experience its reality in one's daily life.
    Because today, Zen masters claim, devotees are on the whole much less zealous for truth, and because the obstacles to practice posed by the complexities of modern life are more numerous, capable Soto masters seldom assign shikan-taza to a beginner. They prefer to have the student first unify the mind through concentration on counting the breaths; or where a burning desire for enlightenment does exist, to exhaust the discursive intellect through the imposition of a special type of Zen problem (that is, a koan) and thus prepare the way for kensho.
    By no means, then, is the koan system confined to the Rinzai sect as many believe. Yasutani-roshi is only one of a number of Soto masters who use koans in their teaching. Genshu Watanabe-roshi, the former abbot of Soji-ji, one of the two head temples of the Soto sect in Japan, regularly employed koans, and at the Soto monastery of Hosshinji, of which the illustrious Harada-roshi was abbot during his lifetime, koans are also widely used.
    Even Dogen himself, as we have seen, disciplined himself in koan Zen for eight years before going to China and practicing shikan-taza. And though upon his return to Japan Dogen wrote at length about shikan-taza and recommended it for his inner band of disciples, it must not be forgotten that these disciples were dedicated truth-seekers for whom koans were an unnecessary encouragement to sustained practice. Notwithstanding this emphasis on shikan-taza, Dogen made a compilation of three hundred well-known koans,[6] to each of which he added his own commentary. From this and the fact that his foremost work, the Shobogenzo (A Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma), contains a number of koans, we may fairly conclude that he did utilize koans in his teaching.
    [6]In Nempyo Sambyaku Soku (Three Hundred Koans with Commentaries).
    Satori-awakening as Dogen viewed it was not the be-all and end-all. Rather he conceived it as the foundation for a magnificent edifice whose many-storied superstructure would correspond to the perfected character and personality of the spiritually developed individual, the woman or man of moral virtue and all-embracing compassion and wisdom. Such an imposing structure, Dogen taught, could be erected only by years of faithful zazen upon the solid base of the immutable inner knowledge which satori confers.
    What then is zazen and how is it related to satori? Dogen taught that zazen is the "gateway to total liberation," and Keizan-zenji, one of the Japanese Soto Dharma Ancestors, had declared that only through Zen sitting is the "human mind illumined." Elsewhere Dogen wrote [7] that "even the Buddha, who was a born sage, sat in zazen for six years until his supreme enlightenment, and so towering a spiritual figure as Bodhidharma sat for nine years facing the wall."[8] And so have Dogen and all the other great masters sat.
    [7]In his Fukan Zazengi (Universal Promotion of the Principles of Zazen).
    [8]Following Bodhidharma's example, Soto devotees face a wall or curtain during zazen. In the Rinzai tradition sitters face each other across the room in two rows, their backs to the wall.
    For with the ordering and immobilizing of feet, legs, hands, arms, trunk, and head in the traditional lotus posture,[9] with the regulation of the breath, the methodical stilling of the thoughts and unificatio of the mind through special modes of concentration, with the development of control over the emotions and strengthening of the will, and with the cultivation of a profound silence in the deepest recesses of the mind--in other words, through the practice of zazen--there are established the optimum preconditions for looking into the heart-mind and discovering there the true nature of existence.
    [9]See p.36 and section IX.
    Although sitting is the foundation of zazen, it is not just any kind of sitting. Not only must the back be straight, the breathing properly regulated, and the mind concentrated beyond thought, but, according to Dogen, one must sit with a sense of dignity and grandeur, like a mountain or a giant pine, and with a feeling of gratitute toward the Buddha and the Dharma Ancestors, who made magnifest the Dharma. And we must be grateful for our human body, through which we have the opportunity to experience the reality of the Dharma in all its profundity. This sense of dignity and gratitude, moreover, is not confined to sitting bu must inform every activity, for insofar as each act issues from the Bodhi-mind it has the inherent purity and dignity of Buddhahood. This innate dignity of the human being is physiologically manifested in an erect back, since humans alone of all creatures have this capacity to hold their spinal columns vertical. An erect back is related to proper sitting in other important ways, which will be discussed at a later point in this section.
    In the broad sense zazen embraces more than just correct sitting. To enter fully into every action with total attention and clear awareness is no less zazen. The prescription for accomplishing this was given by the Buddha himself in an early sutra: "In what is seen there must be just the seen; in what is heard there must be just the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste or touch) there must be just what is sensed; in what is thought there must be just the thought."[10]
    安谷 (白雲) 量衡 Yasutani (Hakuun) Ryōkō (1885-1973)
    安谷 (白雲) 量衡 Yasutani (Hakuun) Ryōkō (1885-1973)
    安谷 (白雲) 量衡 Yasutani (Hakuun) Ryōkō (1885-1973)

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  • Soh Wei Yu
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:11pm UTC+08
    Imo he cannot just teach 只管打坐 (shikantaza, only sitting) for anatta, must 参 (contemplate)
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:12pm UTC+08
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:12pm UTC+08
    yeah his explanation for zazen is like 'zuo wang' (forget self)
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:12pm UTC+08
    fusing into everything
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:12pm UTC+08
    but it seems like a stage
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:12pm UTC+08
    im not sure how that can lead to anatta
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:14pm UTC+08
    One must 参 (contemplate) the view
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:14pm UTC+08
    Because karmic tendencies r strong
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:15pm UTC+08
    However it is sincerity that counts
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:15pm UTC+08
    Otherwise it is only an experience
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:16pm UTC+08
    Unless one is truly wise otherwise it is not easy to realize ANATTA and progress to the prajna wisdom that penetrates extremes.
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:21pm UTC+08
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:21pm UTC+08
    i wonder how he leads people to anatta
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 5:52pm UTC+08
    I think his 只管打坐 (shikantaza; only sitting) is to directly experience his teachings so there is no 参 (contemplate) Koan per say but directly experience what he taught and explain.
    Soh Wei YuWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 5:54pm UTC+08
    Oic.. but experience not necessarily will have realization isnt it
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 6:13pm UTC+08
    It is not just experience, there is realization. It is just that it is a guided journey rather than a on one's own after certain pith instructions or koan.
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 7:02pm UTC+08
    Lol...but one also needs to know the insights of the individual. After certain lvl of insights spoon feeding becomes a disservice to one's progress.
    John TanWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 9:34pm UTC+08
    That said, as 洪文良has too many students, it is not possible to monitor the progress of each student
    Soh: One more comment
    Hong Wen Liang also utilize koan -- he also gave me a koan before.

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      Ryan Weeks
      Soh Wei Yu yes. The path my teacher and others, both Soto and Rinzai, teach is counting breath-->koan-->kensho and eventually shikantaza.

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