Kobun Chino Otogawa's Lecture on


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'd 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.

Page 1 of 16 Aspects of Sitting


Year after year our physical posture becomes polished; by repeated sitting
our muscles become very refined, not pulling one way.  When your muscles
become very balanced you are able to feel almost nothing is there. All
your intestines, your bones, are in the same balance.  When our body is
able to take the right posture, when you sit as if no one is sitting
there, you feel yourself.  The way to find your best posture is to
focus your attention on the feeling of your body.  It's hard to say
what it is  an inner eye, an inner sensation which is able to observe
every part of your body.  When you are awake, you feel every part of
your body:  its surface, a little bit inside, deep inside, all parts.
When you take the best posture you can possible reach, at that time you
are weightless, and you aren't aware of your effort to keep that posture.
The point is to have a stretched spine, with your neck straight along
the spine.  When you slightly lean right or left or backward you can
find which point is your straight posture.  This is related to the
incredible pull of gravity.  A thousand million lines of gravity pull
you down.  You swing your body from left to right, and finally you come
to one point.  It doesn't continue that way.  We again crumble down,
so we have to again build it up.  Maybe every twenty minutes or so you
have to re-do it.  It is a very natural position, but we have incredible
habits which are hard to correct.  Every time we correct our sitting
position, we always go back to a more comfortable position.  To have
the foot soles facing upward is very important.  To have the soles
going upward, with your feet pressing down on your thighs, is not an
accidental discovery, but a polished discovery.  They should be like that,
because then there is a very grounded sensation of being on the earth,
not flowing or flying purposelessly in the air.  The eyes should be kept
open, and hopefully see through everything, because your seeing is not
"your" seeing.  So you should see through.  All our sense organs are
finely constructed awakenings.  You don't have to stare.  As you notice,
all information from the sense organs come together moment after moment
and the "mind eye" is always functioning.  Everyone actually has it,
it is not newly opened.  It's very easy to mess up your posture just
by rolling your eyeballs around.  If you come back to keeping your eyes
still, then something opens up.  Your sitting still is like a person who
just shot an arrow, and a moment later the result is there.  What you
know is the sense that the arrow is moving all right.  It has left your
realm, but you sense it's running well.  Stillness is like that.  In the
stillness you see intuitions are going all right; you sense every kind
of intuition.  The form of the human body is continuity of karmic force.
Without parents, you wouldn't exist here; without you, your children,
all next generations could not exist.  So in this sense, to have a body
on this earth has a very karmic reason and result.  Without this karmic
condition, you cannot exist as the expression of ultimate force.

Page 2 of 16

Aspects of Sitting

You can say there is a "right posture" for sitting.  Many times during
sesshin you hit that "right posture", then swing away from it, and then
go back to it.  You understand what right posture is for you.  You can
see it, perceive it.  It relates with your mind state at that time.
Right posture in sitting creates the contents of sitting from all that
you have been experiencing up to now.  It requires detachment from your
desire to do it; you let it happen by itself.  So right posture is not
that you are doing sitting; right posture itself is the sitting, and
the system of your whole body is going into that posture.  The period of
sitting is not your own sitting.  Physically you feel it is your sitting
you do.  The inner view of one's sitting, which is utterly an external
view, too, includes your personal existence.  It includes everything,
from which your mind is continuously working.  The arising of memories,
whatever you have experienced, is always there.  No matter whether
you deny them or accept them, they are there.  Not only that, but as
time passes, the contents change.  So posture is how to keep going,
how to keep the posture you have taken.  As you notice, this physical
condition of existence is a very dynamic thing which you cannot stop.
It goes by itself.  Maybe, all things go by themselves; you are that,
and you are able to experience and feel it.  Sitting is always pointless,
you know.  When we touch sitting with this body, it feels like putting a
thumb on paper:  "This is it", touching time / space, or creating matter
in time / space.  That's how I feel when I sit.  The more sitting goes
still, almost stopping, the more it feels like time stops.  At that
time there is no more distinction between this body and actual things.
Things feel as if they are extensions of the body.  It's not a frozen
kind of realization, but the very powerful presence of the sensation that
you are really there as what you are, what things are, without naming
each thing that's there.  Even not what you are is also there.  I mean,
the thing which holds the phenomenal, experiencial phenomena as your
own body is also yourself.  You may say time / space, or space / time,
or simply void, or something like that.  Phenomenon / noumenon together
are there.  A slight move of mind causes lots of insights out of past
experience, and out of images you have been making toward the future.
It causes imagination about the relationship of all people and situations
in the present time with no distinction between past, present and future,
just the enormous dynamic of where you live, what's there, all existing
as yourself.  This body is a very fine thing at such a time, continuously
pressing this sitting spot.  If you sit slanted yet your mudra is perfect,
it is strange.  It is the same sitting while you imagine that you are
dancing somewhere.  No one can see it; only you yourself can feel it.
But dance is dance and sitting is sitting is sitting, so when you sit
you must sit instead of thinking of some fantastic things.  But it is not
necessary to develop consciousness of the self along.  You have to release
that conscious self – about – yourself.  Otherwise you will be caught by
"sitting very well".  Those kinds of wave of mind are not necessary.
The time of sitting is timeless, actually.  When you take the right
position you have nothing to think about anymore, nothing to bring up from
any place, past or future.  That which can be call the present moment,
where you are and what you are, actually is there.  So that the physical
posture we take in sitting is a part of whole posture, where it is,
actually.  Many, many things meditate because, essentially, everything.

Page 3 of 16

Aspects of Sitting


We complain about our sitting that sometimes we suffer with so much
pain in our legs, necks, or backs.  But pain is always there.  You have
just noticed it.  When you walk on steep hills it shows up.  It's not
something you just produced.  It is there.  When you stop climbing the
mountain, that pain goes away.  But you know, it is still there.  We call
it pain, but it is simply a force which came along with our existence.
In that force there is always pain if there is any sense able to feel it.
When I let this stick down, it touches the ground, and both feel pain.
But they don't say so.  When something grows up, when something is born,
that intensity of force lets us feel that pain is there.  Along with pain,
there's very incredible joy, too, like a change of color.  So if you just
see the good part or pleasant part of an activity and wish to avoid the
pain of cutting cold or heat, then actually you are limiting yourself by
not letting the force swing from one end to the other.  So what happens
is, your scale of sensation gets smaller and smaller; finally you feel
that you come to a painless place, a very comfortable place, not hot,
not cold, not high, not so deep.  You stay about in the middle—and
discover there is incredible pain in there.  Not to be able to get out
of it causes lots of pain again.  Often when pain begins to control your
mind, your visions of a painful situation begin to occur because your
whole body is reacting and your breathing starts fluttering without your
noticing it.  In an exciting situation deep breath will help when you
have so much pain.  I call it  the silver thread.  It goes straight down
from the tip of your head through your spine to the tail bone.  This is
very important.  In breathing, the out-breath is like pouring water to
wash your pain.  As it goes slowly through your body, you let it slide
out from your legs.  You can see this when a woman is in labor, making a
groaning sound. That is how you go with pain.  Maybe you shouldn't groan
in the zendo!  But it's very natural.  We all groan, as the breath goes.
Without actually making that sound, you can breathe in the same way.

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Aspects of Sitting


Protecting zazen is like raising your own child:  you raise zazen.
Especially when you understand that your formal existence as a man or
woman actually is a big question.  Because you have such immense energy,
such desire, you beat yourself up, you mistreat yourself.  And if you are
seeking some kind of fantastic experience to straighten yourself, again
you are mistreating yourself.  So the important thing in doing zazen is
to protect zazen.  When you sit in the street, for example, you discover
that siting in the house is protecting zazen.  If you sit naked on the
beach, tides continuously come to your body and in ten minutes you'll
understand that's not a place to sit.  Direct wind where you're sitting
is not so good.  Clean air is very important to sit in and breathe in.
Plants are very important for that.  Mountains and woods are very good
places to sit.  Fasting is not so good for a long sitting of a week
or a month; it is a kind of radical thing to do.  Also not so good is
eating a big meal or taking some kind of chemical right before you sit.
Light is important for sitting.  You can sit any time—midnight or daytime.
The best is indirect sunlight, not direct.  You can swing from one extreme
to another to find how far you can go.  Just remember the middle way.

Page 5 of 16


You cannot really tell what breathing is.  We are very interesting
existence.  As soon as a mother gives birth to her child, a separate
body, the child starts to breathe by himself or herself.  Before that,
the mother is breathing for the child.  What kind of breathing you do
while you sit is an important issue: How the inside of your mouth, your
tongue, your teeth should be.  You should keep no air in your mouth.
It sounds strange to say this, but can you do it?  When you tighten the
upper and lower rows of your teeth, using your jaw muscles, the teeth
firmly touch and press each other.  Your alertness gets very strong.
But don't force the jaw muscles as some students do.  Let your tongue
touch the upper dome of your mouth.  Let your breath go through your nose
and straight to your lungs.  This helps especially when you become drowsy.
Naturally, saliva comes into your mouth, but you shouldn't swallow it all
at once.  Little by little you should let it go down without noticing it.
If you notice it, it comes more and more and you have a problem.  Saliva
is very important.  If you really sense the texture of the inhalation,
when the air comes in and how you feel when the air goes out, you will
have a different feeling.  If you just count the breath, you miss it
all.  That's too bad.  This is a very important moment you are living.
There really is no time to count.  Counting is a skill you use to quiet
a restless mind, a fast mind, or a cluttered mind.  It's very helpful to
finish up your breath just before you move into the zendo.  "Finish up"
means to take your finest breath for sitting instead of crashing into the
room and starting to sit and beginning work on your breath.  That's too
late.  Kapleau Roshi's book The Three Pillars of Zen made counting the
breath a popular method of sitting in this country, because it was one of
the few readable texts years ago.  But as you sit and get more familiar
with your sitting posture and the dynamics of your body and mind, counting
your breath becomes a very small part of practice.  It is like knitting
a sweater during sitting.  It's better not to do it.  I mean, definitely,
you have to do it some time.  It can be used as a crutch before you sit.
Maybe ????????? the zendo you can start counting:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, 8, 9, 10, straighten your breath, then drop counting right there,
and sink into sitting.  I'm not denying the instructions you had; the
means of counting is what I'm talking about.  Depending on each person,
there is an inner image of what breathing when sitting is.  As you notice,
there is also a physical element of sitting, and invisible element of
sitting which we call mind.  We do mind-sitting, body-sitting, and we let
the breath sit.  Three aspects of sitting exist because we can observe
our sitting from three angles.  We breathe naturally and appreciate our
breath and really understand what the breath does to our body and mind.
To really connect the three:  body, mind, and breath, is the point, not
counting breathing.  As Suzuki roshi mentioned, you should not go all he
way in exhaling.  You inhale about 80%, with the sense that you could go
a little bit more.  With  that strength you come back.  So, it is like
drawing a circle with no gap between exhaling and inhaling.  With the
contracting of the diaphragm and expanding of the stomach sometimes
the whole body expands and contracts.  The important point is to have
no gap between the end of exhalation and the beginning of inhalation.
It's like a hand pump.  Water always goes the same direction, but the pump
handle goes almost all the way up like this, and almost all the way down.

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Aspects of Sitting

During sitting your breath should be very regular, very smooth, with
almost no effort, not noticing that the air is gone, or has come in.
Breath has an incredible range of volume, strength, and speed.  There
are hundreds of techniques you can use, depending on your health and
emotional condition.  Like playing an instrument, singing, or drawing
as you breathe; there are many ways.  The basic point is not to push or
pull, but to let it go.  The ancient Sanskrit word for breath was prana.
This is translated ki in Japanese, or chi in Chinese.  Ki, as in aikido,
ki is vitality.  Sometimes it is called seiki:  life-vitality.  And this
soft part where the intestines are is called hara in Japanese.  Hara is
also called kai:  the ocean of ki.  Our vitals are here.  When you have
no strength in the hara you feel very week.  When you are full of energy
this part is full of energy.  When you chant you let your voice come
out from this part center of your stomach.  Basically ki comes out and
informs the shape of your mind.  The contents of your mind are that voice.
The ideal, in sitting, it to forget the breath.  You may breathe as you
like; there is an incredible variety in the speed of breathing and even
the emotion of breathing.  So if you want to observe your breathing,
you should do it for months and months without trying to control it.
My feeling is that each breath is an independent thing.  It arises and
goes and some thoughts go with it.  Your cannot bring them back; that's
it.  It's the same as your heart beat; your whole body is needing it.
So if you can forget the breath, then you are having perfect breath.
I suggest that you keep your best posture:  straight, upright posture—that
naturally takes care of the breath.  From deep breath, which carries
your awareness with it, to very shallow breath, which also carries your
awareness, you have to choose the best breath between them.  You can be
aware of the texture of your breath, from rocky breath to silk-like breath
and finally to transparent breath, like a transparent string of breath.
You can feel which is the best breath for sitting.  Try to sit and pay
attention to how your breath goes.  Each time you sit your body condition
is different, so each time you must try to find your best breath and
stay with that.  I always feel breathing is like drawing a circle.
It is best to get really familiar with your breath.

Page 7 of 16

Aspects of Sitting


We don't do this practice expecting to obtain something by doing it.
This is a very different kind of action.  In one sense, it's quitting
human business, and going to the other side of the human realm.  Have you
noticed your face changing moment after moment when you are facing
the wall?  When you pay attention to exactly how you feel, you feel how
it changes.  It is such a slight change no one would notice if someone
observed you; it's like one flame of fire is sitting on the cushion.
Every moment the texture of the flames is different.  You experience
this from morning zazen to night zazen.  In every sitting there's a very
different feeling.  Each breath, all different.

* * * *

Student:  For years I always preferred to sit by myself, and every time I
had to sit with a group, it was always more difficult.  I had problems I
didn't have by myself.  Kobun:  The difficulty wasn't sitting together;
the difficulty was yourself!  Wanting to be alone is impossible.
When you become really alone you notice you are not alone.  In other
words, we stop our vigorous effort towards ideal purity.  Purity is just
a process.  After purity, dry simplicity comes, where almost no more
life is there, and your sensation is that you are not existing any more.
Still, you are existing there.  You flip into the other side of nothing
where you discover everybody is waiting for you.  Before that, you are
living together like that; day, sun, moon, stars and food, everything is
helping you.  But you are all blocked off, a closed system.  You just
see things from inside toward the outside, and act with incredible
systematic logical dynamics, and you think everything is all right.
When noise or a chaotic situation comes, you want to leave that situation
to be alone.  But there is no such aloneness!  It is very important to
experience the complete negation of yourself which brings you to the
other side of nothing.  People experience that in many ways.  You go to
the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute.
You see yourself as part of the absolute, so you have no more insistence
of self as yourself.  You can speak of self as no-self upon the absolute.
Real existence is only absolute.

* * * *

We experience some kind of dying in sitting, which relates with what's
true and what's not true.  What's not true dies, so we suffer.  We wish
to hand on to the self which we believe exists.  The contents of what
"I" means, or the pieces of the idea of the self are consistent, but
when you sit you observe no substance in those pieces of self.  If we
try to achieve some awakening or enlightenment, it doesn't succeed.
We hear that sitting is to clarify the true nature of the self, but it
seems nothing is clarified, nothing happens.  You just spend time and
have lots of pain and a stumbling mind.  If you sit all day you have a
good sitting once or twice, but when you compare the good sitting with
the rest of have a very regretful mind.  "What was I doing.  Drowsy.
Powerless sitting."

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Aspects of Sitting

Doubt arises in this.  What is it?  Is this all right?  Are you ok?
Your mind is in a different place than sitting.  I wish you would sit
alone sometimes for several days.  If you sit alone, although there are
many dangerous situations to fall into, you feel you can clarify your
right intention, your strict attitude about taking care of yourself.
If we sit together like this you think "Because other people sit, this
might be alright!  This must be the way."  If something more important
than your concern about yourself occurs, of course you quit sitting and
plunge into taking care of that.  Actually, for each of us the opportunity
of sitting is the same as sitting alone.

* * * *

Student:  It seems like my best sitting is when I'm having a lot of
difficulty.  Kobun:  That's right, because lots of problems wake you up.
Student:  So is it good to have problems, then?  Kobun:  If there is no
problems, people begin to sleep in zazen, and that state is a little
bit funny.  Energy goes to the opposite direction when you are always
peaceful, there is no way to wake up.  By seeing into the broad distance,
by stretching your mind to a very far place to understand what is actually
going on, there is no way to sleep in zazen.  But personal exhaustion
is another subject.  Some people only choose an exhausted time to sit,
and then they fall to sleep.  That's isn't so good.

* * * *

Continuously I suggest to you that you have good posture.  That is
because posture is a sort of proof of your mind situation, a reflection
of the invisible part of your life which penetrates your body, your
physical condition.  It helps to start with good posture, and let
your mind ride on good breath, on smooth, deep, even breath coming in
and going out, which keeps you from slipping from the present moment.
As soon as you forget your breath, mind-phenomena color your breath,
and all sorts of movies go on in that breath, and your body continuously
reflects whatever goes on in those personal movies.  We like to just let
these movies go and forget them, or maybe finish them, but I don't want
to say just forget them.. The one who keeps watching, who keeps letting
the whole thing happen is a very important part of yourself.  It is not
necessarily the judgmental part of yourself, but just the observing part.

* * * *

Student:  I've been feeling I have a zillion problems and that if I work
I'll just explode.  It's hard to sit if you really have something to
work through.  Then I'm afraid of sitting.  Kobun:  Where are you going,
doing so many things?  There must be a reason to choose many things to do.
Are you going somewhere?  Student:  No.

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Aspects of Sitting

Kobun:  Then you can start sitting first, then do things one by one
afterwards.  If you want to go somewhere and have so many things to
do, sitting is foolish.  You should go and do them.  Sitting is the
rediscovery of your basic strength and your clarity.  When you begin
to do things, actually there are note so many choices.  What you really
want to do is always one or two things.

* * * *

Student:  I think I know that if we have the right attitude and good
effort, that our practice extends to everything we do.  Nevertheless,
I still find myself feeling guilty at times when I don't sit when sitting
is scheduled, because the children want to do something else, or I don't
feel good.  The guilt doesn't seem natural.  What attitude is right
not to feel this distinction between our all-pervasive practice and our
sitting practice?  Kobun:  Guilt isn't actually what is involved here.
If you are sorry to you, that is all.  If a sitting opportunity comes,
but you have lots of obligations which you wish to be involved with,
if you do them, you have to miss the sitting.  This struggle goes on
always, actually.  In other words, most of the day we feel sorry about
missing sitting.  We feel like little mice running around and around.
If you didn't do that, you could do the real thing that you want to do.
So there is very deep suffering.  The right attitude is to develop your
faith in the contents of zazen.  You cannot get out of this zazen, even
if you jump on a jet plane to fly away from zazen.  Alas, in the jet
plane jumped Buddha.  Zazen mind is an enormously big thing.  Getting up
and taking care of things is in that big mind.  You cannot attach to
zazen while you are not doing it.  Do you understand?  It seems that
if you cannot do zazen it is alright.  Don't do it.  To enjoy what you
are doing is the most important thing.  Instead of looking a zazen with
mournful eyes while washing the diapers, you enjoy what you are doing,
and when the chance comes, you sit.  Often while we are sitting a call
will come from someone asking for us to relate to them.  When important
things call you, this opportunity to sit is almost impossible to have.
So you are deeply involved with others, and most of the time you
don't regret not doing zazen because you are doing something else.
Zazen doesn't draw you from what you are supposed to be doing; simply,
you miss the opportunity to sit because there is so much emphasis on the
importance of communication.  You often feel guilty when you take off
from your daily activities to join sitting.  You feel you are doing a
personal thing, and at the same time you doubt if there is time to do it.
The best way to live is to consider the people who relate with you in
your day to day life and emphasize how they feel about your absence.
Their tremendous kindness makes you able to join this sitting practice.
Usually you don't think about your situation this deeply, since you have
such an urgency to discover your true nature.  On that level the people
you are concerned with, the people who are, concerned about you, let
you go to come waste time here.  And they literally say, "wasted time,"
when you come back with a shabby face!

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Aspects of Sitting

We think we know things very well, but the things we know are still
very small.  What this sitting does to the whole situation is my question
to myself and to you, too.  There are advantages and at the same time
great disadvantages, too, because when we are actually sitting we cannot
do other things.  Actual sitting requires our entire involvement, so
whatever we really like to do besides sitting cannot be done at the time.
That is a great disadvantage.  We have to remember that, and make this
disadvantage turn to a great advantage .  That is the important point.
Once is enough to sit in this life, if the sitting is a real one.
Many sittings are better.  And whole life sitting is the best.  But it
is rare to have such luck.

* * * *

Student:  You mentioned protecting zazen the context of concentration
because when we sit we are not doing one thing; we are open to other
people, protect zazen.  Is that because we are going into a situation
where it's not safe?  Kobun:  The context in which we protect zazen
is the force of samadhi.  Samadhi is a symmetrical pattern of energy.
If you are not careful though, symmetrical energy begins to split like
broken glass, and you find unexpected results.  In other words, once in a
while you begin to feel very well-centered; whatever you say, whatever you
see is perfect.  At such a time, you get so high that you begin to preach
to other people.  After about five minutes you discover that you are at
the wrong place, because non one understands you.  Many people begin to
say that you are in a strange state.  Preaching is not necessary to do
at all; you become blind  about others if you begin to preach to them.
Joriki is the subject.  Riki  means power, like the force of wind itself.
When you grasp something, your grasping strength and the thing grasped
which pushes it back balance together.  If the is not enough force,
the thing will fall off.  If there is too much force, it will push
the thing.  That kind of balance of force in whatever to do, whatever
you speak, whatever you think, all go into the situation.  So you have
to be very careful about what kind of wish you send to other people.
This is a kind tantric teaching, though you don't have to name it that.
Thought itself, imagination itself, is a manifestation of that force.
So keep a kind spirit toward yourself and toward others, and try to
balance all things as they all should be.  That is a necessary process,
in order to use that power.  If your power is scattered in five things
everyday, maybe some day the five things will come together, thirty years
from now.  But it is a very big job.  The wisest way is to choose one,
one you really want to do.  Consign every other thing to the background
and you will begin to observe that your doing in itself is completed,
not waiting for tomorrow.  The jo in joriki means a stable strength.
Usually it appears as a capacity for accepting other people or situations
as they are, without wanting to control them  By such acceptance you
finally become yourself.  Joriki  is a very strange thing.  Unless you
sit, it never grows.

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Concentration is not sitting.  Concentration is mind.  The mind and
the conditioned situation which the mind is dealing with are one thing.
So concentration is actually another word for samadhi.  In other words,
if you a doing something, and utterly devoting yourself to it, that is
what concentration is.  So in a larger sense, sitting itself is perfect
concentration.  But in general, you cannot say sitting is concentration,
because there are hundreds of millions of concentrations The problem
here is any kind of concentration makes you ignore anything other than
that concentration.  So when you concentrate on something, don't become
afraid of your ignorance.  You had better now that you are going to
become ignorant about hundreds of things, because you picked this one.
The reason I said sitting is not concentration is that concentration still
involves the self who maintains self-tendency.  Sitting is to destroy hat
kind of thinking.  Just be there, exist there as something that was from
beginningless beginning.  From beginningless beginning everything grows,
and now will be so.  So there are dimensional differences between sitting
and concentration.  When you cook something, you do not concentrate you
attention on a particular thing.  Concentration is like clear blindness,
you are acting in it; when the work is done, the food is there.  If you
concentrate , saying, "I'll cut this squash in a real nice way," with
that kind of mind you cannot move your knife so well.  If you forget
the idea that, "I'll do a good job," then the surface consciousness may
be blind, but a very intuitive, very clear order is always working.
So you naturally know when to cut, when to stop the fire, and when
to stop cooking.  In this sense, practice and repetition of training
are always needed for concentration.  Meditation is very different.
Many times people mix up meditation and concentration.  In meditation
you cannot control yourself.  If you try to control yourself, you
never get into meditation.  Your concentration is controlling you
when you are "doing" some form of meditation.  Instead, you have to
ask your meditation, "please, please come to me.  Please work for me."
Otherwise, if you chase to get it, it will never come to you.  Even if
meditation is always is covering and accepting me, whatever I'm doing,
I don't feel it.  Recognition of the feeling of meditation is like
feeling our inhalation and exhalation.  Air is everywhere and you just
breathe a very little amount of it.  When you inhale, your whole life
is exhaled by air.  If you exhale, you are inhaled by the whole air.
So there is no conception of small and big : "I am small and meditation
is big," or "Meditation is small and I am big."  And there is no you,
there is no sense of inside or outside.  In the big world of meditation,
when two or three elements are communicating, that is concentration.
If you concentrate on every direction, that is meditation.  You do not
do it, but it happens when you are ready to accept it, or when you are
ready to be accepted by it.

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Aspects of Sitting


To be born on this earth is to have the whole thing.  From the beginning
there are precise distinctions between thing, but the whole thing
is yourself.  That is how it started.  When we become deeply involved
in precise discrimination between things for a long time, we forget
our original self.  We don't lose that original nature, but we forget.
To sit is to recover that original nature fully, and to stay with it for
a while.  To get up from sitting is to gain excellent relationships with
other selves, many dilemmas, people, plant, birds, jobs.  Suzuki roshi
talks about this original self as the "Big Mind" in which everything
exists without exception.  Dogen Zenji said, "To master the Buddha's way
is to master, to clarify your own self.  Through that you can clarify he
own-selves of all others."  He said your focus is to clarify yourself,
you presence.  He also said, "It is the greatest living subject, to
clarify your own birth and death matter."  The subject is so close,
pointing to yourself like this.  If the subject is outside, we can study
it pretty well, but when you start pointing to yourself like this, it is
almost impossible.  Our fresh eye is opened toward the outside, so the
same eye cannot be used for the interior realm.  When we turn around and
make our interior world an external object, and analyze what's happening,
we usually call this psychology or religious studies.  But this kind of
study of an objectified self is not what we are doing.  How to be with
the self which rejects analysis in every way is a very important point.
What zazen causes in you is what you already have and how you actually
are, not something different from your actual existence.  Everyone of
us has some deep concern about ourselves, a wish to be a valuable being
both for ourselves and for those about whom we are concerned.  We want
to be truly important being for all.  It seems that meditation practice
gives some way to clarify yourself as an important being, as a seeker of
deep understanding about where and how you exist and what is actually
going on.  You came quite naturally to sit, without knowing that this
action has some unclear ambition in it; it points to a very natural,
unconscious confidence in your being.  To desire perfect enlightenment is
the biggest ambition you can have.  As long as you sit, you have to have
such ambition.  It is also very ambitious to want to understand other
existences.  How do you experience the existence of others?  It is very
difficult to really know that others exist, are a different existence
from yourself.  Usually what you see in others is who you are, so what
you experience is when and where you existed.  Actually we don't care
whether others exist or not, but when you reach an ultimate understanding
of yourself, a big question appears.  Is this just me existing, or are
there some people on this earth?  The model of primitive experience
is children's consciousness when they are two to three years old.
Small children don't have a sense of past and future, only the present,
and the only existence is themselves.  Even though we become a member
of society and see and are taught that there are other existences, that
children's consciousness stays with us.  The turning point comes when
we begin loving other people.  Do you remember when you began to love
beings when you were small?  Its was a very big event.  It's a kind of
opening up of other worlds with your capacity, and opening yourself at
the same time, opening up to accept other existences.  

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Aspects of Sitting

A very difficult person to meet with and understand is actually our
own self.  The whole experience of getting to know others is actually to
have a standard to reach to yourself.  Endlessly approaching the matter
of oneself is the focus of zazen practice.  Clarifying your own existence
is actually expanding your own self endlessly.  Whatever you experience
becomes yourself, and you see into yourself with the existence of others,
which is not different from yourself.

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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.

Page 15 of 16

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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