Aspects of Sitting Meditation

What is zazen, shikan-taza? What kind of sitting are we doing here? There is a little misunderstanding about so-called Zen or Buddhist life; I'd like to clear it up a little bit, and reassure your sense of basic confidence that however you are is the way it should be. I mean daily life, however you manage your daily life, that is how it should be. For a long time this sitting was done only in a closed society like a monastery. It was the traditional way of protecting the quality of this practice.

My basic intention is to really open this sitting opportunity to everybody who is ready to do it and enjoy it. No division between monks and nuns, young and old. I want you to understand this kind of practice. Some people trained in a monastery or communal situation with well set schedules and regulations may have a quite a difficult time with almost no rules. People come and go and there is no scolding and no one carrying a stick to beat you like an old rug or dumb man. Many people say that's not sitting, but I believe this is the real sitting!

Whoever sits, that person's mind embraces the whole situation , centered by that person. So each person has full responsibility and full understanding by themselves for what sitting means to them. The teaching is within that person. Each person's sitting includes how they live, how they think things, where they came from. Nothing is missed, nothing is needed to change from how you are actually living to how it should be. There is no "should be" kind of thing. In one sense, it's a terrible state, the hardest kind of operation. There is no crunch, nothing to hang onto to order your mind.

I say you cannot call this Zen or Buddhism. Then what is it? People get mad a me! They ask, "Then what are you?" To have no identification is so insecure in one sense; people are very shaky sometimes. But as you notice, no one forces you or orders you to do this. My great hope is for success in a real sense, for satisfactory practice in this sitting.

I would like to reveal the natural nature of sitting fully as it is. If I put some concept on this and make you understand what I think is a ideal way to sit, I would be a kind of special gardener who fixes boxes and lets you go through to become square bamboo. Or I would be an automatic newspaper man who runs a newspaper, whoever comes, I would just put you in the machine and make you flat and you would come out a squished being, or something like this!

In Japan there is still a strong force of tradition where monasteries closed people out from sitting. Now it is like a secret teaching has been brought to us from a deep secret place; no one knows how valuable it is. People in Japan still feel strongly that sitting shouldn't be done so easily. A sort of hoarding of teaching is going on. But even if this treasure is brought to us, this kind of treasure is not seen by people, so there is actually no danger. The only danger is if you guide people the wrong way with it. In this sense, Dogen Zenji was very right, if you want to do zazen or any kind of practice properly, the only way to master it is to study with the right teacher.

Too much talk about zazen or shikan-taza is not so good for you. It's impossible to teach the meaning of sitting. Until you really experience and confirm it by yourself, you cannot believe it. It has tremendous depth, and year after year this gorgeous world of shikan-taza appears. It's up to you to cultivate it. Because you are Buddhas yourselves, you can sit. Dogen named this sitting "great Gate of Peace and Joy". Simply, it is peaceful, eternally peaceful, pleasurable and joyful. Shikan-taza doesn't have the name of any religion, but it is, in its quality, a very true religious way to live.

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