Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shikantaza and Jijuyu Zanmai

Shikantaza (just sitting) and Jijuyu Zanmai (self-fulfillment Samadhi)

In order to understand jijuyu zanmai, (self-receiving oneness Samadhi) one has to understand the underlying principle of shikantaza. as presented by Dogen Zenji.

Jijuyu Zanmai may be translated
ji-as self or in oneself,
ju-to receive or accept,
and Yu-to use, work or function in concentrated union. 
It implies that we receive oneness and we use it.
Samadhi has had many translations, among them concentration or single-mindedness.  It is the place where there is no discrimination between you and zazen (subject and object merged).

 I like Uchiyama Roshi’s translation of Samadhi as Right Acceptance.  The deep acceptance of life as it is in each moment.   This acceptance rests deep in our bodies. This acceptance allows us ease and the ability to patiently receive all that is happening both universal and particular.  This acceptance really allows the self to settle into the self.  The word settled is so evocative of the type of groundedness and stability that aligns with Samadhi.

Shikantaza also has various meanings. 
Shikan means just or only.
Ta means to hit.
Za means to sit
Literally it means to hit “sitting” exactly on the nose of the moment.  The “ta” really intensifies the sitting.

Tenshin Reb Anderson spoke about this: “If you do your part and you put” just sitting” out there, you will get a response called enlightenment.  It’s already there, completely pervading you already but you just have to put a little energy forward in order to realize it.  It’s not exactly a little energy or a lot of energy.  But just the energy of this moment, whatever it is.  That’s why you don’t need anything else but what you’ve already got.”

In sitting practice, the mind stops at the direct and immediate bodily experience.  As Uchiyama roshi teaches, one can be constantly opening the hand of thought and letting our thoughts, ideas, and elaborations go.  ‘Just sitting’ practice is just the mind terminating on the concept of sitting. Isn’t that a great word, “terminating”?  Our minds just stay with the body, the mind and the breath, sitting.

Katagiri roshi writes, “This is zazen, without any expectation at all. It is spinning in dynamism, interconnected with the universe.  In this interconnection, all sentient beings are completely absorbed into zazen itself.”

Katagiri roshi continues to say that this Zazen itself is the practice of Buddha.  Zazen itself is non-doing.  This zazen is the real form of the self.  Zazen is a very pure sense of human activity.  We stop believing concepts and have no fabrication.  In doing zazen, the thoughts and fantasies arise but we return to zazen by letting them go.

This is called jijuyu Samadhi – the manifestation of simplicity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Approaches to Awakening

We say our practice should be without gaining ideas, without any expectations, even of enlightenment.  This does not mean, however, just to sit without any purpose.           
                                                                                    Reb Anderson Roshi

I was very interested while listening to a tape by Okamura-Roshi when he said that right after the Shobogenzo was written and after Dogen Zenji died, immediately there was a split in the interpretation of Dogen’s teaching especially concerning the use of koans and kensho or the awakening experience.

The first commentators on the Shobogenzo interpreted Dogen’s writing as very critical of koan practice.  These first commentators saw Dogen’s approach as very oppositional to the Rinzai School.  This way of thinking became the mainstream Soto understanding of Dogen’s teaching.

But there was another smaller group of interpreters who said that Dogen’s teaching was more similar to Rinzai and that his criticism was against a certain kind of shallow understanding of koan, kensho and enlightenment experiences.  His writing, they say, points out a way to deepen our understanding of the so-called enlightenment experience.  There interpretation indicates more common ground with the Rinzai School.

Suzuki-Roshi, Katagiri-Roshi, and Uchiyama Roshi were in lineages that followed the mainstream traditional understanding of Dogen’s teaching, which did not emphasis the kensho experience (even though of course it must have been present in their zendos). They call the Rinzai approach “ladder-climbing Zen”. They rather emphasized the Genjo-koan, the koan of expressing reality merged with daily life.

 My experience of this with Katagiri-roshi was his refusal to acknowledge an opening experience through talk or praise.  He was adamantly against praising people’s practice or one could say, verifying people’s experiences, because he felt that “verification” just emphasized people’s ego-centricity and the sense of a separate self.  I remember once having an opening experience and Katagiri Roshi’s answer to that was a harrumphing sound and the next thing I knew I was out of the zendo and in the kitchen as the tenzo. (the head cook).

On the other hand, their has been a line of Soto lineage holders who have felt the need to deepen their satori experience and have gone to Rinzai teachers and done the koan training of that school.  Yasutani roshi, Aiken Roshi,  Phillip Kapleau Roshi, and Maezumi roshi have all been in the school of using koan practices and emphasizing kensho.  These teachers may use Dogen’s teaching in their schools but have quite a different approach and emphasis then the mainstream Soto tradition.

I have always known this to be an extremely sensitive point in the teachings.  It has helped me to learn the history of this split.  This tension between schools has existed for hundreds of years.  Various teachers over the centuries have had different approaches and have tried to merge these dichotomies in different ways.   This study of history has made me more tolerant of all the different ways to practice and to release the ever-present fundamentalism of “my school is Right!”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Spontaneous enlightenment

Do we see enlightenment and delusion as two separate things as people commonly believe?  (Jijiyu Zanmai). What does Dogen’s practice-realization mean in terms of our directed efforts in practice to awaken from our stories and see the truth of life?  Or how do we actually live if The Circle of the Way is happening simultaneously in every moment. These questions are actually quite similar to Dogen’s original question as he embarked on his pilgrimage to China.  If we are always absorbed in inherent enlightenment, always present in the mystery of life, why do we have to practice?  Or what is practice?

Dogen placed great emphasis on understanding enlightenment as seen without the veil of our human perceptions.  He wanted us to know enlightenment within boundless time and space, which he incredibly and poetically expressed in Jijiyu Sanmai in the Shobogenzo fascicle Bendowa.  He did not want us to see enlightenment as an event, a moment, or a certain experience in the timeline of our life but rather as the actually process of living.

Dogen wishes us to understand how to live as clearly and directly as we can, without the two veils of the human mind.

1.     The veil of our reactive emotions which centralize around an “I, me or mine” and our likes and dislikes – our egocentric preferences.
2.     And the veil of our perceptions and hidden assumptions.  Our assumptions, as the Diamond sutra explains: of

a.     A self
b.     A “being”
c.      A life span
d.     A soul – something solid that exists endlessly

Another way of looking at the veil of perceptions is to divide it into:

1           1.     spatial – attached to self and being, seeing things as solid and individual units
2.    temporal – attached to life and rebirth, and the idea of a linear timeline
       3.    conceptual – attached to dharmas and no-dharmas, or being and non-being

Edward Conze wrote that no separate dharma can possibly be perceived without a subjective act of perception taking place.  He explained “the word “perceptions” comes from per-cap and capio which means “to take hold of, seize, grasp” but to seize on anything, either a dharma or a no-dharma, or enlightenment and delusion, automatically involves an act of preference bound up with self interest, self-assertion, and self-aggrandizement and therefore unbecoming to the selfless.”

I think this is the way Dogen feels about the enlightenment-delusion duality.  If we locate enlightenment with a certain time and a certain place, it’s actually being perceived through the misunderstandings of our assumptions – our veil of perceptions.  In many of his writings, Dogen tries to break open our categorizations of enlightenment (kensho and satori) and bring it to an understanding of boundless space and time.

He writes in Jijuyu Zanmai:  If practice and enlightenment were separate as people commonly believe, it would be possible for them to perceive each other.  But that which is associated with perceptions cannot be the standard of enlightenment because deluded human sentiment (our two veils of emotional reactivity and perceptions) cannot reach the standard of enlightenment.

So to understand practice-realization, we have to understand the effort of practice and the letting go that comes from inherent enlightenment.  There is an effort to be aware and there is a letting go of our assumptions, to drop into a reality that is not shaped by our karmic consciousness.  We need to be settled in the self, which means to me, alive and present in the true reality of this moment without adding on our mental commentary and evaluation.  As Katagiri Roshi often said,  “your activity here and now is right in the middle of the functioning of the universe.”  As we mature our awareness of the working of the universe and its inherent enlightenment, our practice becomes spontaneous, non-perceptual and let go of self-consciousness. This stream of awakening is enlightenment, which never excludes any being or never moves a speck of dust or destroys a single form. (Jijuyu zanmai).  In this clarity, enlightenment and delusion are not seen as opposites and we have truly awakened to the aliveness of this moment.

This is in accord with Dogen’s writing in “Daigo” that says, Daily life reflects realization.  We are able to freely utilize the realization and realization disappears through the act of letting go.