You are perfect Buddha Mind

To Live is just to Live

In Chan and Zen on March 13, 2009 at 8:12 pm


Based on Shakyamuni Buddha’s experience and the experience of the buddhas of the past, the main point of Dogen Zenji’s teaching is that zazen is just to become present in the process of zazen itself; this is shikantaza. It is not something you acquire after you have done zazen. It is not a concept of the process; it is to focus on the process itself.

It is very difficult to understand this because even though we are always in the process, we don’t focus on it. There are even many schools in Buddhism that still handle Buddhism as a concept. But real Buddhism is to focus completely on the process itself. The process is you.

Zazen is completely different from other meditation. It is not a matter of philosophical or metaphysical discussion. All we have to do is do what we are doing, right now, right here. Whatever kind of experience we have through zazen is secondary. Whatever happens, all we have to do is to be constantly present right in the middle of the process of zazen. This is the beginning and also the end. You can do it; it is open to all people, whoever they are. This is shikantaza.

We are already exactly peaceful and harmonious. But still, when we do zazen, we want to try to be peaceful. Trying to be peaceful is no longer to be peaceful. Just sit down. We do not have to try or not try or say that we do not care. If I say something is this way, immediately you rush and try to grasp it. And then if I say it is not this way, you immediately try to grasp that. Then I say it is not that either, and then you are confused. Finally, you say you are neutral, but that is not good either. What we have to do is realize we are Buddha; this is a big koan for us. This practice is called shikantaza and is our koan for our whole life. There are hundreds of koans, but those koans are just leaves and branches, that is all; the root is shikantaza. We have to understand this. This is perfect peace, perfect harmony.

We are always thinking about something, always trying to acquire something. Some people criticize Soto Zen, because it teaches not to expect enlightenment, to just sit down. They say if one cannot expect enlightenment, then what are we doing? Even Soto priests do not always understand what shikantaza is. Then if they are criticized, their faith starts to wobble. This is very common. This is to be a human being, and includes not only my friends, and others, but it includes me. If someone criticizes us, then our faith starts to wobble.

If we look around, there are many things for people to be interested in. Very naturally, we think some other way would be better. So we pick it up and use it. But if we are wobbling, our feet are already not completely grounded. It is just like walking during a big earthquake. Even though we believe we are walking stably, we are not.

If we are going to walk, we have to walk stably, no matter what happens. This is completely beyond being a matter of discussion. To walk in stability means to just walk. “Just walk” is to be present in the process itself. The process of walking is exactly that our body and mind are nothing but the process. There is no gap between us and the process. This is shikantaza; this is to be peace. We are peaceful, we are harmonious from the very beginning. That is why we should not expect to acquire peace. Take off all conceptual clothes, and then what is left? Finally, there is nothing to think about. All we have to do is just plunge in.

For twenty-five hundred years the Buddha has been teaching us that we are buddha, that we lack nothing of the highest enlightenment. Still we do not completely understand, and even though we understand, it has not settled down in our hearts. That is why we have to practice constantly. We have to practice because we have a mind.

Mind is tranquility; it means peace and harmony. What is wrong with mind? Nothing is wrong with mind. What is wrong is that for many years we have given our mind the chance, the environment, the circumstances for it to be a monkey mind. Monkey mind means the mind is always going out, in many directions, picking up many things that are fun and exciting. If we always leave the mind to take its own course, finally before we are conscious of it we are going in a different direction than we expected and we become completely confused. That is why we have to take care of mind. We have to take care of chances, circumstance, time, and occasions.

For zazen, we arrange the circumstances in the Zendo so that it is not too bright or too dark, not too cold or too hot, hot dry or wet. We also arrange the external physical conditions, such as our posture and the amount of food we eat. If we eat too much we fall asleep pretty easily, so we have to fill just sixty or seventy percent of our stomach. Also, we keep our eyes open, because if we close our eyes we might fall asleep, or we are more likely to enjoy ourselves with lots of imaginings and daydreams.

Next we arrange our internal physical conditions, that is, our heart, our intestines, our stomach, and our blood. But these things are beyond our control, so how can we take care of them? The only way is to take care of the breath. If we take care of the breath, very naturally internal physical conditions will work pretty well. This is important. If we arrange the circumstances around our body, our mind, and all internal and external conditions, then, very naturally, the mind is also engaged in our activities. Then we are not bothered by the workings of our mind; the mind does not touch the core of our existence; it is just with us, that is all. When all circumstances are completely peaceful, just our center blooms. This is our zazen; this is shikantaza.

Shikan is translated as wholeheartedness, which seems to be sort of a psychological state or pattern. But shikan is not a psychological pattern. Shikan is exactly becoming one with the process itself. Literally, za of taza is zazen, and ta means to hit; so, from moment to moment, we have to hit the bull’s-eye of zazen itself.

This is not a technique. In the sword of practice of kendo, one has to hit right in the middle of the opponent’s head to get a point. This is not a technique; it is the practice that has been accumulated day after day. Our practice must be very deep, unfathomable, and then we can hit the bull’s-eye. Shikan is exactly taza-full devotion to zazen itself, that is, to the process itself and not to a concept. This is the practice of zazen mentioned by Buddhas and ancestors

Dogen Zenji says in “The King of Samahis Samadi”: “Even though some may have known experientially that sitting is the Buddha-dharma, no one knows sitting as sitting.”

Even in Dogen Zenji’s time, no one knew this except his master, Rujing. Sitting as sitting is just the process of zazen itself; this is exactly life and death. If we look at our life, it is very clear. How often in our lives have we had feelings of happiness, unhappiness, pros and cons, success and failure? Countless numbers of times. But we are still alive.

Regardless of whether or not we awaken to how important the essence of human life is, basically we are peaceful and harmonious. In other words, our life is just a continuation of living; that is all “being living” constantly. That is why everyone can survive, no matter what happens. Is it our effort that makes it possible for us to survive for twenty years or forty years? No. Is it our judgment? No. Strictly speaking, it is just a continuation of becoming one with the process of living, that is all. This is the essence of living. The truth of living is just to live. This is a very simple practice

Dainin Katagiri (1928-1990)

Excerpted from The Art of Just Sitting, Second Edition: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza by John Daido Loori


The Great Perfection: The Approach to Dzogchen Meditation

In Dzogchen, Vajrayana on March 12, 2009 at 5:45 pm


Leave alone whatever arises in the mind.
Let there be vivid perception of the here and now.
Intuit the liberating aspect of pure being.
Whatever arises seems like the reflection in a mirror, but there is no duality of viewer and vision- they are one in the space of emptiness.
Appearance and emptiness are indivisible.

There is a holistic existential state, a flawless and seamless reality field, nothing other than undivided pure being.
No intellectual concepts are valid.
Penetrate to the essence.
Thoughts and emotions dissolve upon their inception.
Thoughts and their release are simultaneous- like the simultaneous drawing and vanishing of a figure traced in water- uninterrupted arising and reflexive release.
Watch the release of thoughts at their inception.
Sustain recognition of the primal awareness of pure being.

Suffering is released at the moment of its inception naturally and reflexively.
No matter what thoughts or emotions appear- anger, desire, joy, sorrow and so forth- if they are perceived just as they are, not inhibiting them or trying to change them, then they are perceived as the free play of pure being, and they are spontaneously released and dissolved into the pure ground of their arising.
They dissolve instantaneously, like a figure drawn on water.

All is released in the ground of primal purity without stress or strain, neither coming into existence nor ceasing to be.
Ultimate perfection is totally indeterminate, neither existing nor not existing.
There is nothing other than undivided pure being, utterly beyond definition, utterly beyond conception.
Penetrate to the essence- the total presence of singular pure being.
Total presence.
Sarva Mangalam.

(Adapted from Dzogchen-meditation instructions presented in: Dowman, K. The Flight of the Garuda. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003 )

Look, Listen, See

In Advaita Vedanta, Master Phrases on March 11, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Shankara - Advaita Vedanta

Learn to look without imagination, to listen without distortion: that is all. Stop attributing names and shapes to the essentially nameless and formless, realize that every mode of perception is subjective, that what is seen or heard, touched or smelled, felt or thought, expected or imagined, is in the mind and not in reality, and you will experience peace and freedom from fear. – Nisargadatta Maharaj

There is no such thing as a person. There are only restrictions and limitations. The sum total of these defines the person. The person merely appears to be, like the space within the pot appears to have the shape and volume and smell of the pot.

By all means attend to your duties. Action, in which you are not emotionally involved and which is beneficial and does not cause suffering will not bind you. You may be engaged in several directions and work with enormous zest, yet remain inwardly free and quiet, with a mirror like mind, which reflects all, without being affected.

When you demand nothing of the world, nor of God, when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing, then the Supreme State will come to you uninvited and unexpected. – Nisargadatta Maharaj