Jundo Cohen - Treeleaf Zendo · Shikantaza is..... · Soto Zen Buddhism · Teachings of Dogen

The point of Shikantaza – Jundo Cohen

Posted Feb 9 2019 on the Soto Zen Buddhism Facebook pages

Here (if ya ask me 🙂 ) is -THE- key point of Shikantaza Zazen that is unique and subtly unlike most any other way of “Objectless” meditation … thus Shikantaza is not even really “meditation” at all (if ya ask me 🙂 ) …

Shikantaza, as Master Dogen expressed such, is rather unlike Silent Illumination and other flavors of Objectless Meditation because the mere act of sitting itself, crossing the legs [or today, sitting in a chair etc. if there is physical need], is sacred, whole and complete, not one drop of anything more to add or take away, the Alpha and Omega just by crossed legs. Sitting is a Buddha’s sitting. One sits because sitting is the one act necessary in the universe, much as a mountain mountains, a tree trees and stars star, thus sitting sits.

Yes, it like other objectless practices in its basic ways: One is best to be alert enough not to fall asleep (although if one does sleep, that is sacred Zazen too which is whole and complete nonetheless). One should not grab or hold on to trains of thought (although, even if one does get tangled in thought, that is still perfect Zazen which is whole and complete without a flaw). One should not wallow in emotions, and should sit with equanimity (although, even if not feeling equanimious on a certain day, that is also excellent Zazen because, as strange as it sounds, our sitting embodies a sacred wonderful *something* that is totally not dependent in the least on the presence of thoughts and emotions OR their absence, and it does not matter one lick whether on a certain day we experience clarity or cloudy mind … because our sitting is a kind of faith and trust that the moon of wisdom is always shining, seen or unseen, even when hidden behind the clouds).

Thus, all one needs to do is sit. Yes, best if one does not fall over, best if one does not fall asleep, best if one is not tangled in thoughts and runaway emotions. However, our way is to drop radically any motives, methods, goals, needs or judgments apart from “sitting itself is the sacred act, and to merely cross the legs is arrival at the goal.” Crazy, but we believe that when the Buddha saw the morning star he put down all need and desire for even one drop more.

This is the vital little twist that Master Dogen placed upon Silent Illumination when he returned from China (although, as a side note, what was taught as “Silent Illumination” back then may have been closer to “Just Sitting” Shikantaza than what is taught in some books today as “Silent Illumination.” However that is a topic for another time). It is the reason that Master Dogen went “over the top” in many of his descriptions of Shikantaza as sacred.

From Shobogenzo-Bendowa:

Zazen, even if it is only one human being sitting for one moment, thus enters into mystical cooperation with all dharmas, and completely penetrates all times; and it therefore performs, within the limitless universe, the eternal work of the Buddha’s guiding influence in the past, future, and present.
… The practice is not confined to the sitting itself; it strikes space and resonates, Like ringing that continues before and after a bell. … Remember, even if the countless buddhas in ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, tried with all their power and all their buddha-wisdom to calculate or comprehend the merit of one person’s zazen, they could not even get close

From Zanmai-o-Zanmai:

Abruptly transcending all realms, to be greatly honored within the quarters of the buddhas and ancestors—this is sitting with legs crossed. Trampling the heads of the followers of alien ways and the legions of Māra, to be the one here within the halls of the buddhas and ancestors—this is sitting with legs crossed. Transcending the extreme of the extremes of the buddhas and ancestors is just this one dharma. Therefore, the buddhas and ancestors engage in it, without any further task.
… The Buddha Śākyamuni, sitting with legs crossed under the bodhi tree, passed fifty small kalpas, passed sixty kalpas, passed countless kalpas. Sitting with legs crossed for twenty-one days, sitting cross-legged for one time — this is turning the wheel of the wondrous dharma; this is the buddha’s proselytizing of a lifetime. There is nothing lacking. This is the yellow roll and vermillion roller [of all the Sutras and Commentaries]. The buddha seeing the buddha is this time. This is precisely the time when beings attain buddhahood.

That Dogen fella was not much for understatement! 😉

Sitting for sitting’s sake is sacred, complete, fruitful fruiting fruition, perfect even when imperfect, instantly Buddha just by crossing the legs, the Moon itself embodied in the posture itself and shining seen or unseen..

Gassho, J

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