How to Practice · Jundo Cohen - Treeleaf Zendo

Shikantaza – Part II – Jundo Cohen Roshi

(PART II) Why Shikantaza is Complete, Boundless and Unlike Any Other Way of Zazen, Period, End of Story — by Jundo.

The following may be very counter-intuitive to some..
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How radical is our “Just Sitting” as “what is,” without goal or demand in Shikantaza?. Here’s an answer:

In most forms of Zazen or meditation, there is good and bad, successful and not successful sitting. In Shikantaza, it is impossible by definition to have any bad or unsuccessful sitting. Simply sitting is, ipso facto, success. Good or bad, successful or unsuccessful judgments are washed away in automatic “Good Sitting which is Successful Just By Sitting” (one possible way to translate the meaning of the word “Shikantaza” right there). Unlike most forms of meditation, that means that even angry, confused, cloudy, wallowing in emotions sitting is “good, successful sitting.”

However (now the wondrous twist, the tricky catch!), when one truly lets each and every sitting be itself, good and successful just by being itself, there is thus something transcendent of anger, confusion, cloudiness and wallowing simply by letting “anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing” (and all conditions of life) just be “anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing” (and all conditions of life as they are). As strange as it sounds, one is thus “free” of anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing even in the continued presence (or absence) of anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing. The “anger, confusion, cloudiness and wallowing” is completely transformed in Wisdom and Clarity by our non-resistance and equanimity about even our passing feelings of resistance and lack of equanimity. So long as one is sitting, with the act of sitting as all that is demanded of the act of sitting, this is the universe in fruition.

Thus, don’t think that allowing oneself to feel anger and wallowing is really just wallowing. Rather, radical acceptance of “just what is” including passing anger and wallowing thus transforms the anger and wallowing into a kind of clarity about anger and wallowing, a light that shines through anger and wallowing! Funny how that works.

The result is that (in a ‘form is emptiness’/’blue sky is just precisely the rain clouds’ way of experiencing reality both ways at once) “anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing” proves to be both there and not there at once.

It is a subtle handling of “anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing” by radically not trying to take any action whatsoever to handle it … a bit like solving the problem by totally ignoring the problem thus rendering the problem not problematic, or like living with “terrorists” of the mind who no longer constitute “terrorists” when we just do not react and ignore their acts of “terrorism” (thus allowing them to do their thing, blow up buildings and toss bombs, no more rejected than a table in the room where we sit or rain on the eaves or reflections in the mirror. The “terrorism” is ended when we respond with equanimity not terror, and the terrorists lose their power.). One might experience “anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing” as just passing theatre to be observed placidly (observing one’s lack of placidity placidly!). Absolutely nothing is needed or sought besides sitting, which is complete however and whatever it is.

Thus, please don’t think that the meaning of what I write is that we should just twiddle our thumbs or bathe in an orgy of “anger, confusion, clouds and wallowing.” That is not the meaning of Shikantaza. This radical non-doing transforms our experience of anger etc. It transforms by radically allowing and dropping resistance to “what is,” thus abandoning all need to change and transform at all.

The counter-intuitive Wisdom of Shikantaza Zazen.

Gassho, J

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