We touched on a lot of stuff tonight in our not-so-little pre-zazen chat (a remarkable amount really, given that there was only three of us there!)
One thing that came up is these various methods for making one's life better with positive thinking and various meditation-type practices (The Secret is the latest craze in this it seems). That stuff is all fine in its context (although it was noted that often these 'get more successful' schemes come with a very high price tag... so I suppose they do indeed work: somebody's definitely gettin' rich!), but it's good to recognise the difference between that sort of meditation or method and the 'no gain' aspect of zazen as transmitted in Buddhism. It's quite different in nature.
It is the case that we generally feel better after zazen (especially after we've been doing it regularly a while), and it may often be true that people who practice zazen regularly enjoy less stress, decreased levels of aggression, more clarity, more balanced lives, better sleep even, and other positive physiological effects... but that's not the point of it, nor should it be our motivation in zazen. In fact, if our motivation is to 'get nice stuff' or 'feel good' in zazen, then we can't really be said to be practicing zazen as it has been handed down from Buddhist ancestors. Zazen is not about achieving goals in that way at all.
Put simply, our life is often characterised by running away from things which we consider 'bad' (e.g. poverty, being an asshole/ being boring old 'me', depression, stress etc etc etc) and running to things which we consider 'good' and that will cure the 'bad' stuff (e.g. being rich, being a 'perfect, enlightened' being, having amazing meditative experiences, being happy all the time, being care-free etc etc etc...) , but zazen, if we really tuck into it and practice it sincerely, is a break from this sort of inherently circular existence of getting what we want and being 'happy' then, inevitably, loosing it and being 'unhappy' and then struggling to get what we want in order to be 'happy' again.
Zazen offers more stability than a life of just irresistibly chasing after an ethereal carrot on the treadmill driven by our habitual wants and aversions. We can just stop that 'running to' and 'running away from' activity in sitting upright and non-thinking, letting that whole drama just come and go for a time. In this way we can get a broader perspective on it. Of course, we do have to try to make things in our lives better for ourselves and others, but getting caught up in just that, to not be able to see beyond that, is the source of some serious problems in life it seems.
Master Dogen, in a chapter of Shobogenzo called 'Bussho', explains that expressing the state of a buddha, that substantially 'getting' it, is a matter of 'being without'. This great attainment, this great wisdom of the ancients, involves us dropping away our lives of wants and needs, of 'good' as opposed to 'bad', of even the senses of loss or attainment themselves... to win at Buddhism is to gain every single thing everywhere in manifesting the Ultimate Loser right here and now.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
T'was very quiet tonight in The Dock. It was our first Tuesday night back after the Christmas and snow extravaganza (have all you budding zennies gone into hibernation or something?)
Those of us there (both of us, that is!) had a nice chat about zazen and the 'sudden awakening' experiences we sometimes notice in zazen. Such experiences are referred to in Zen tradition as Kenshō.
At such times we might have a sudden realisation about ourselves, or experience a feeling of connectivity with everything around us and/or a very fine clarity and lightness in our sitting or other activities. These experiences are often a very valid part of practice... sometimes they're not though; they might just be random mental events due to our current state of body-mind (referred to as "makyo" in Zen terms), so it's important not to read too much into them as a general rule.
It seems important not to get too caught up in such experiences, especially in seeking them or trying to 'make them happen' or replicate them every time we sit. That's a sort of attachment to our own mental events which is quite contrary to just sitting and allowing every thing to come and go.
All aspects of zazen, just as it is right at this moment, are already complete in themselves. This moment of practice perfectly contains everything in its perfection and imperfection. It really doesn't need improving, and we can't improve it in that way anyway!
Zazen, every aspect of it, is the point of doing zazen and there is no realisation beyond what we are presently realising, beyond what we are presently making real.
Dosho Port posted some excellent points from Dainin Katagiri Roshi to his blog recently where Roshi says:
Peace is not inside or outside. Peace is right in the midst of the functioning of zazen. You think that by zazen you will become peaceful. At that time, peace is already outside. When you feel peaceful by zazen you feel peace inside. But this isn’t real peace and harmony. Next moment it disappears. Real peace and harmony, which is blooming from moment to moment, is not in the idea, but in the midst of the process of zazen.
Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, in an interview with a student, offers a nice touchstone to keep our heads screwed on in this regard also:
Q: Some people would like to improve themselves with spiritual practice, to get better...
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Happy New Year to All.
We're going to re-commence our Tuesday evening sittings on Tuesday the 19th of January.
The roads are a bit dodgy due to the weather here and it seems like it might be better to wait for a little while before starting up again.
We're not good with a couple of inches of ice and snow in this country: everything goes a bit pear-shaped... People in Finland and Sweden and places like that, please stop sniggering at us!
Hope everyone is safe and warm.