Zen and Zazen

Zen

Definitions from THREE PILLARS OF ZEN By Philip Kapleau. There are some additions by Vinaire as indicated.

.

ZEN:

An abbreviation of the Japanese word zenna, which is a transliteration of the Sanskrit dhyana (ch’an or ch’anna in Chinese), i.e., the process of concentration and absorption by which the mind is tranquilized and brought to one-pointedness.

As a Mahayana Buddhist sect, Zen is a religion whose teachings and disciplines are directed toward Self-realization, that is to say, to the attainment of satori, which Shakyamuni Buddha himself experienced under the Bo tree after strenuous self-discipline. The Zen sect embraces the Soto, Rinzai, and Obaku sects.

.

ZAZEN (pronounced “zah-zen,” each syllable accented equally):

Zazen is the principle discipline of Zen. Zazen is not “meditation”. In the broad sense zazen embraces more than just correct sitting. To enter fully into every action with total attention and clear awareness is no less zazen.

The prescription for accomplishing this was given by the Buddha himself in an early sutra: “In what is seen there must be just the seen; in what is heard there must be just the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste or touch) there must be just what is sensed; in what is thought there must be just the thought.”

[Added by Vinaire]

The primary purpose of Zazen then is to “be there” with total attention, so that one may perceive what is there with total clarity. Here thinking becomes part of the perception because one can perceive solutions clearly.

In zazen, spiritual progress may be measured by how many delusive thoughts (prejudice, jealousy, fixed ideas, etc.) a person has been able to let go. This is a gradient process that may sometimes occur in huge steps. It is one of these huge steps that are looked upon as enlightenment.

.

SATORI:

The Japanese term for the experience of enlightenment, i.e., Self-realization, opening the Mind’s eye, awakening to one’s True-nature and hence of the nature of all existence. See also “kensho.”

.

KENSHO (lit., “seeing into one’s own nature”):

Semantically, kensho and satori have virtually the same meaning, and they are often used interchangeably. In describing the enlightenment of the Buddha and the Patriarchs, however, it is customary to use the word satori rather than kensho, the term satori implying a deeper experience.

.

KOAN (Ch., kung-an; pronounced in Japanese as two syllables, ko-an}:

Its original meaning in Chinese was a case which established a legal precedent. In Zen a koan is a formulation, in baffling language, pointing to ultimate Truth. Koans cannot be solved by recourse to logical reasoning but only by awakening a deeper level of the mind beyond the discursive intellect. Koans are constructed from the questions of disciples of old together with the responses of their masters, from portions of the masters’ sermons or discourses, from lines of the sutras, and from other teachings.

The word or phrase into which the koan resolves itself when grappled with as a spiritual exercise is called the wato (Ch., hua tou) . Thus “Has a dog the Buddha-nature?” together with Joshu’s answer “Mu!” constitutes the koan; “Mu!” itself is the wato.

Kōan zazen involves both motionless sitting, wherein the mind intensely seeks to penetrate the kōan, and mobile zazen, in which absorption in the kōan continues while one is at work, at play, or even asleep. Through intense self-inquiry–for example, questioning “What is Mu?”–the mind gradually becomes denuded of its delusive ideas, which in the beginning hamper its effort to become one with the kōan. As these abstract notions fall away, concentration on the kōan strengthens.

.

SHIKAN-TAZA:

Shikan-taza is a mode of zazen which involves neither a koan nor counting or following the breath. Shikan means “nothing but” or “just” while ta means “to hit” and za “to sit”. Hence Shikan-taza is a practice in which the mind is intensely involved in just sitting.

The very foundation of shikan-taza is an unshakable faith that sitting as the Buddha sat, with the mind void of all conceptions, of all beliefs and points of view, is the actualization or unfoldment of the inherently enlightened Bodhi-mind with which all are endowed. At the same time this sitting is entered into in the faith that it will one day culminate in the sudden and direct perception of the true nature of this Mind—in other words, enlightenment. Therefore to strive self-consciously for satori or any other gain from zazen is as unnecessary as it is undesirable.

Shikan-taza is a heightened state of concentrated awareness wherein one is neither tense nor hurried, and certainly never slack. It is the mind of somebody facing death. In the beginning tension is unavoidable, but with experience this tense zazen ripens into relaxed yet fully attentive sitting.

.

[Added by Vinaire]

ENLIGHTENMENT:

Enlightenment is the state in which a person is effortlessly “being there” with total attention. The clarity of his (or her) perception and thinking is perfect in the sense that he is able to observe the universe as it is, and realize the solutions to perplexities rapidly in their entirety.

.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • vinaire  On October 20, 2018 at 6:43 AM

    Buddhism forms the spiritual basis of science. Buddhism is as objective as science is, but in the spiritual arena.

    The objectivity of spirituality is the present. It is the concept of EMPTINESS used as the reference point of all phenomena in the East, which leads to its objectivity.

    NOTE: There is a difference between the concepts of VOID and EMPTINESS. Void implies “absence of material; pure space”, but emptiness implies “absence of all phenomena including material and space”.

  • vinaire  On October 20, 2018 at 7:25 AM

    We may reformulate Scientology processes as koans.

    Here is a koan, “What was the Face you had before you were born?” This could be run in a solo Scientology session like a command. The TRs must be in.

    Your fixed ideas, assumption, etc. may come up. Become aware and let go. Do this until nothing more is coming up. Check this out for a reasonable amount of time.
    .

  • vinaire  On October 21, 2018 at 8:32 AM

    Genuine shikan-taza cannot be successfully undertaken by the rank novice. Elementary exercises are “To unify the mind through concentration on counting the breath”; and “to exhaust the discursive intellect through the imposition of a special type of Zen problem (i.e., a koan).”

  • vinaire  On October 21, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    The student starts his zazen practice with motionless zazen posture. He counts the inhalations and exhalations of his breath in natural rhythm and without strain. Thus, the mind has a scaffolding to support it. This process helps to still the bodily functions, to quiet discursive thought, and to strengthen concentration. This is done until concentration on the breathing becomes such that awareness of the counting is clear and the count is not lost.

    Next exercise is to follow the inhalations and exhalations of the breath with the mind’s eye only, again in natural rhythm.

    Subsequent exercises are self-inquiry through koans to denude mind of delusive ideas. When you become aware of the koan, there is a tension that keeps self-inquiry going automatically in the background during zazen.

    “Such initial exercises as counting or following the breath cannot, strictly speaking, be called meditation since they do not involve visualization of an object or reflection upon an idea. For the same reasons koan zazen cannot be called meditation. Whether one is striving to achieve unity with his koan or, for instance, intensely asking, ‘What is Mu?’ he is not meditating in the technical sense of this word.” ~ The Three Pillars of Zen

  • vinaire  On October 21, 2018 at 8:56 AM

    It took Buddha six years using zazen to attain enlightenment. With the technical advances of today it should be possible to get enlightenment much faster.

    Enlightement is the state in which a person is effortlessly “being there” with total attention. The clarity of his (or her) perception is perfect in the sense that he is able to observe the universe as it is. The clarity of his thinking is perfect in the sense that he is able to resolve perlplexities rapidly and completely.

    The primary purpose of Zazen then is to “be there” with total attention, so that one may perceive what is there with total clarity. Here thinking becomes part of the perception because one can perceive solutions clearly. Zazen is akin to meditation but not quite. There is sitting zazen, walking zazen, etc. In zazen the eyes are half open. The effort in zazen is to attain fully aware one-pointed attention.

    At the moment of enlightenment Buddha spontaneously cried out: “Wonder of wonders! Intrinsically all living beings are Buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this.” That was a major realization.

    The spiritual improvement is, therefore, measured by how many delusive thoughts (prejudice, jealousy, fixed ideas, etc.) a person has been able to let go through zazen. This is a gradient process, that may sometimes occur in huge steps. It is one of these huge steps that are looked upon as enlightenment.

    But there is no end to this process. An enlightened person effortlessly continues in the mode of zazen, continually getting realizations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: