Reader on Shikantaza

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Turtle Clan
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Reader on Shikantaza

Post by Turtle Clan » Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:54 pm

https://www.upaya.org/uploads/pdfs/shik ... reader.pdf

Dear Friends,

It is of questionable value to ask you to read these venerable texts about something that is “beyond thinking.” But I have compiled this reader for those of us who enjoy the encouragement and discoveries of great practitioners.

Bodhidharma “discovered” shikantaza as he sat for nine years facing the wall of his cave at the back of abandoned Shaolin Monastery. Zen Masters Hongzhi and Dogen established shikantaza firmly in our lineage eight hundred years ago. Since then millions have practiced “just sitting”, but who has realized this subtle and wonderful practice?

Shikantaza, or just sitting, is the most direct of practices in all of Buddhism. It is the method of no-method, and invites us to just sit in stillness and openness, perceiving things simply and directly as they are, without engaging in thought, including thoughts of motivation. An approach that requires no mediation of technique, shikantaza is a fully embodied and wholehearted practice that is direct, intimate, and uncontrived.

Great teachers have expounded richly on shikantaza, but in the end and in the beginning, it is really up to you and to me to “just sit.” The words, both written and thought, have to drop away sooner or later.

As you practice, you are invited to relax. These readings are a resource. They are not the source. You may realize the source if you “just sit.”

Two hands together,
Roshi Joan
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jundocohen
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by jundocohen » Wed Jul 29, 2020 2:12 am

I might say that, as is just natural and to be celebrated in every way, Roshi Joan is coming from her own mixed "Rinzai-Soto" flavor of practice, as also does the late, great Daido Loori.

Rev. Sheng-yen is more of his own fashioned, rather new ways of Silent Illumination which, personally, I would not call "Shikantaza" at all. This is just my view, although he usually said the same thing himself (that Shikantaza is not the same.)

The writings of Uchiyama and Okumura are, in my little neck of the woods, more what "Shikantaza" is on about.

Gassho, Jundo

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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by Turtle Clan » Fri Jul 31, 2020 10:30 pm

Kōbun Chino Otogawa

Introduction to Aspects of Sitting
http://web.stanford.edu/%7Efunn/zazen_i ... tting.html

SHIKAN TAZA
(pages 14 -15)

The great pleasure, the great accomplishment of your way-seeking is in
the realization of sitting. This form of sitting, this place to sit
on this earth, this time to sit, the twentieth century, all have lots
of problems. The shikan taza way is giving birth to the Buddha seed.
It is not a person becoming a better person, it is the actualization
of what we are. To sit in shikan taza is very uncomfortable at first.
It's rather more peaceful to sink into a warm soft couch and have a
nice drink. That's peace, we may say. But to recover our basic view of
sanity and clarity, to see how everything actually arises and falls moment
after moment is how take this sitting posture. Awakening, continuous
awakening is nothing but our basic nature. Putting that awakening into
some form as so-called being, as a man or a woman, explains what shikan
taza is. When you jump into the Buddha's world, you place yourself in the
center of annuttara-samyaksambodhi. That is shikan taza's real meaning,
real action. Shikan-taza is immeasurable, it's unthinkable. You can
use your entire system of knowing, but it is impossible to completely
understand it. Shikan taza sounds very strong. Shikan is understood as
identical to zaza. Shikan means "pure", "one", "only for it". Ta is a
very strong word. It shows moving activity. When you hit, that movement
is called ta, so "strike" is ta. Za is the same as in the word zazen,
sitting. To express the whole character, shikan taza is actually quite
enough, but not enough until you experience it. Shikan taza is sitting
for itself. You may say pure sitting for itself, not for something else.
Shinjin datsu raku is the same as shikan taza. Shinjin is "body/mind".
Body/mind is nothing but our whole life. This cannot be seen in two ways;
body/mind is one thing. Datsu is "to refrain", and "to drop from".
When you are dreaming some terrible dream, and the dream is cut off,
that is called datsu. When you get rid of that dream, that also is
called datsu. When you have a sword, the action of pulling a sword
from its sheath is called datsu. So datsu has a very strong meaning of
freeing from something. Another way to express it is : to have conquered
something which hindered your existence, like attachments, delusions,
or misunderstandings. Zazen itself is cutting off those conditions.
When we are dreaming, even if it is later called a dream, while we are
dreaming it is a real thing. This night is almost the same as last night,
but you cannot call last night back. You can remember how you were
yesterday, but at this point, we don't have yesterday. Yesterday only
gave time and space for now, so we can be completely in present time.
Datsu is the succession of time from today to tomorrow; datsu of now
is the next moment. This moment is the next moment. This is the way
our life is going on. It sounds like an intuitive, ordinary philosophy
of life. Everyone can feel it: "Oh, it is, it is!" Usually no one pays
attention in that way, being with the present and seeing and feeling that
yesterday is behind us like a rope. We are on top of the rope, or karma,
and it just goes on and on like knitting. So last year someone might
have said, "You are crazy", and you thought there was something to it.
A strong impression makes unreal existence real and real existence unreal.

Shikan taza is not what we usually think, it is truly personal deeds,
because only if one decides to sit does it appear. Sitting cannot
be fully experienced by imagination. Shikan taza has a kind of
slippery feeling to it. This means that it is easy to slip off of it.
It's quite slippery because it relates to your everyday condition.
In each sitting you have to sense it without anyone's help. There are
no techniqu4es; there is no measuring stick with which to evaluate it.
There is no way of knowing what it is or what you are doing. All kinds
of conceptualizations, ideas, hopes fall away from it. They cannot stay
in your meditation. Sitting on your cushion is not relaxation, it is the
result of all your knowledge. Every experience you have come through
sits there each time. It is very serious. Otherwise, you sit because
it feels good, and you are comfortable, and once in a while you feel an
ecstatic sensation in your body. You feel calmness, stillness, clarity,
and forget there are hungry people on this earth. You forget there are
lots of diseases which are killing people. If you do not observe that
in your sitting, you are just escaping into your desire. It happens if
you mistake or limit the focus of your sitting practice. Sitting shikan
taza is the place itself, and things. The dynamics of all Buddhas are
in it. When you sit, the cushion sits with you. If you wear glasses,
the glasses sit with you. Clothing sits with you. House sits with you.
People who are moving around outside all sit with you. They don't take
the sitting posture! Sitting shikan taza does not depend on human
intellect. It is not something you understand. It's indescribable.
We say the contents of sitting are beyond our thinking system or our
sensations. Belief or confidence is not what we usually think it is.
Doing shikan taza shows utter trust and belief in it. If you explain
shikan taza it becomes something which you don't understand, but you can
experience sitting with everything with the understanding that everything
is there, is there with you. Buddha's sitting is way beyond purity and
impurity, holiness and unholiness. It is beyond Bodhisattva's sitting,
which is endless. Bodhisattva's sitting is like a seed which never
stops flourishing; it always comes back.

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jundocohen
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by jundocohen » Sat Aug 01, 2020 6:17 am

The late great Kobun Chino lives!
The shikan taza way is giving birth to the Buddha seed. It is not a person becoming a better person, it is the actualization of what we are. ... Shikan taza is sitting for itself. You may say pure sitting for itself, not for something else. ... There are no techniques; there is no measuring stick with which to evaluate it. There is no way of knowing what it is or what you are doing. All kinds of conceptualizations, ideas, hopes fall away from it. ... You forget there are lots of diseases which are killing people. If you do not observe that in your sitting, you are just escaping into your desire. It happens if you mistake or limit the focus of your sitting practice. Sitting shikantaza is the place itself, and things. The dynamics of all Buddhas are in it. When you sit, the cushion sits with you. ... House sits with you. People who are moving around outside all sit with you. They don't take the sitting posture! Sitting shikan taza does not depend on human intellect. It is not something you understand. It's indescribable. We say the contents of sitting are beyond our thinking system or our sensations. Belief or confidence is not what we usually think it is. Doing shikan taza shows utter trust and belief in it. If you explain shikan taza it becomes something which you don't understand, but you can experience sitting with everything with the understanding that everything is there, is there with you. Buddha's sitting is way beyond purity and impurity, holiness and unholiness. It is beyond Bodhisattva's sitting, which is endless. Bodhisattva's sitting is like a seed which never stops flourishing; it always comes back.
Great, High-Octane stuff!

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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by Autumnday » Sat Aug 01, 2020 11:29 am

:bow2:

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desertwoodworker
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by desertwoodworker » Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:55 pm

Practice, and practices, are one thing.

Awakening is another.

To the extent that awakening may be a uniform and unique condition/status, confirmable by a master-teacher who has also awakened at least once, we may be grateful that there are differently-tuned practices which may lead to it, for those who cotton more to this-and-that, versus that-and-this (say).

Let's please be mightily grateful that there is more than one way to groom a Cat. It's all minutely personal, and can change with time. Your teacher can help!

:namaste: ,

--Joe

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jundocohen
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by jundocohen » Tue Aug 11, 2020 5:15 am

My little posting elsewhere today ...

CHASING BLISS in SHIKANTAZA

The question came up in our Sangha about the attaining of blissful, rapturous states in Shikantaza Zazen. Some kinds of Buddhism and other meditation practices take the reaching of very deep, profoundly blissful and rapturous states as markers of progress. In fact, to seek after pleasure may become a kind of narcotic, missing the subtle message that Illuminates both the ordinary mind AND the blissful mind to the wise.

Generally, in Shikantaza, states of bliss and other pleasures are neither to be run toward nor turned away. In themselves, they are jewels, yet are not signs of progress. When they are present, we celebrate such. When they are not present, we celebrate such. All states and everything encountered in Zazen is a jewel, just as it is. When bliss is present, there is bliss; when something else is present, there is that.

Of course, It is vital to understand the true meaning and subtle wisdom of this "all states and everything encountered ... is a jewel, just as it is." It is not license to wallow in or cling to any thoughts or feelings that come and go, whether bliss states or any states including the sometime emotions of greed, anger, jealousy, fear, despair and other ignorance which may drift through mind. We silently bow in respect, yet disentangle from all passing conditions in Zazen, sitting in clarity and equanimity as witnesses of the entire show. Then, the complexity of this world remains, yet all is now quite otherwise. All is "just as it is," yet not at all as it was before. Suchness appears, a clear and overriding Joy, Peace and Wholeness which shines through passing pleasant or unpleasant feelings, bliss or boredom, ups or downs, life and death, washing in both the beautiful and the ugly and all the shattered pieces of life.

This is why we do not chase after bliss or other pleasant states. In neither chasing nor turning away, there is freedom.

avisitor
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by avisitor » Sat Sep 19, 2020 7:08 pm

"This is why we do not chase after bliss or other pleasant states. In neither chasing nor turning away, there is freedom."
No clinging, No avoiding
But, isn't it nature to go towards thing which bring pleasure and avoid things which bring pain?
Also, not cling to method or form such as Shikantaza
Nor turn away from our practices

Sorry, stuck in a loop.

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jundocohen
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by jundocohen » Sun Sep 20, 2020 12:23 am

avisitor wrote:
Sat Sep 19, 2020 7:08 pm

But, isn't it nature to go towards thing which bring pleasure and avoid things which bring pain?
Also, not cling to method or form such as Shikantaza
Nor turn away from our practices
It may be common human nature to run toward pleasure and avoid pain, but as the Buddha discovered, life is often pain and pleasure is not the solution. In Shikantaza, we sit beyond and right through all pleasure and pain, allow pain to be pain, pleasure just pleasure, but neither running toward nor running away, not clutching or entangled in either.

We do not cling to Shikantaza. In fact, Shikantaza is the very art of non-clinging.

Gassho, J

avisitor
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by avisitor » Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:22 am

Sorry for the side track,...
The story of the Buddha's enlightenment was told to me as
At the end of years of other practices, he sat under the Bodhi tree.
Determined not to get up unless he experience the answer to life's suffering.
Of course, my version will probably be different than others.
So, I wonder if strong determination can help during sittings???

Again sorry for the side track.

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jundocohen
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by jundocohen » Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:54 am

avisitor wrote:
Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:22 am
Sorry for the side track,...
The story of the Buddha's enlightenment was told to me as
At the end of years of other practices, he sat under the Bodhi tree.
Determined not to get up unless he experience the answer to life's suffering.
Of course, my version will probably be different than others.
So, I wonder if strong determination can help during sittings???

Again sorry for the side track.
Oh we need determination to keep on this practice, and just to keep on in this sometimes hard life, day by day.

But Buddha's enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree was taught to me a bit differently, a beautiful Middle Way. That after trying extreme practices ... of deep concentration meditations, ascetism until he was but skin and bones, holding his breath for days on end ... he sat under the Bodhi Tree, drank some nourishing rice milk, saw the star shining in all its wonder yet simplicity ...

... and realized that there was nothing more to do, nothing lacking ... star and tree and sitting and sitter and ground not apart ... sitting as easy and natural as a star shines and a tree grows ... shining star and the shined upon each shining as a jewel ...

... nothing lacking ...

Turtle Clan
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by Turtle Clan » Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:17 am

Hongzhi, Dogen and the Background of Shikantaza
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.

Endnotes:

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.

https://www.ancientdragon.org/hongzhi-d ... hikantaza/

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jundocohen
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by jundocohen » Fri Oct 02, 2020 3:07 am

One point that may be noticed from the article by Taigen is that the "Silent Illumination" that he believes Dogen encountered was not quite the stages and "deep concentration" meditation that some folks these days sometimes describe as "Silent Illumination." As Taigen writes,
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.

...

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.

...

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]
Gassho, J

Turtle Clan
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by Turtle Clan » Fri Oct 02, 2020 9:13 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 3:07 am
One point that may be noticed from the article by Taigen is that the "Silent Illumination" that he believes Dogen encountered was not quite the stages and "deep concentration" meditation that some folks these days sometimes describe as "Silent Illumination."
Some folks?

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jundocohen
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by jundocohen » Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:52 am

Turtle Clan wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 9:13 pm

Some folks?
Yes.

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desertwoodworker
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Re: Reader on Shikantaza

Post by desertwoodworker » Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:27 am

I'm still going with, "Your teacher can help'.

Don't fergetaboutit.

:namaste:

--Joe

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