Aspects of Sitting Meditation

Shikan Taza

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 come back.


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