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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
27 spring 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Zazen That Amounts to Nothing I am presenting is from my Zen practice and my nembutsu chanting. Reporting from the experience of actual practice is quite different from that which so many people have drawn their conclusions up to now. For example, people who view others in the wondrous pos- ture of zazen see them as feeling cool in the heat of summer or comfortably warm while sitting during the cold winter. The fact is, however, that for those actually practicing Zen meditation in summer, because their bodies are confined in the heat, they become hotter and hotter; and for those practicing in winter, because they are immobile, the cold penetrates their bodies and they become colder and colder. It also appears to those seeing it from the outside that people practicing zazen are clearly sitting in a state of satori. There are times of course when one may have that feeling. However, for the most part that is not the case. Thoughts float by one after another as if the practitioners were watch- ing TV, or, in a daze, the practitioners may have been dream- ing that they were doing zazen properly. (In the latter case it will appear to an observer as if the practitioners are sleep- ing, rocking back and forth as though rowing a boat.) The ones actually practicing zazen, however, would be waking up countless times either from thoughts that float through the mind or from drowsiness. You may think that with this type of zazen it wouldn’t make a difference whether you practiced it or not, but in fact it does. Just as you can hear sounds much more clearly when you are quiet, when you practice zazen, sitting quietly, you will become aware of delusions that float around your head, which you normally would not notice. When you fervently work at letting go of those delusions as they appear, you will be practicing splendid zazen. When you reflect on this practice after you have spent time in zazen, you will truly understand this process. The time you spend practicing will allow you at Y ou can’t practice true zazen if your prac- tice is for the sake of seeing positive results. There are many who say, “I once practiced zazen and felt clear-headed and I want to experience that feeling again,” or, “After my first Zen retreat, the landscape completely changed—everything sparkled. However, I’ve never experi- enced a similar feeling since then.” True zazen is not about problems revolving around your little self. Whether you feel good or bad, you just sit, throwing out discriminating thoughts about the little self. That is the zazen of jijuuyuu zanmai, or “samadhi of the self,” taught by Zen master Dogen. In my teacher Sawaki Roshi’s words: “Zazen is the self making itself the [true] self.” If I am to express it, I’d say: In your zazen practice whatever you see is your self which is only the true self. When you seek an object other than your self, it can lead you to some kind of goal, if you practice a zazen in which “all is the self and only the self” from the start, there is no place to go. That is why it is called “zazen which amounts to noth- ing.” Sitting where “there is no place to go,” “a zazen which amounts to nothing,” or “the self which is only the self” is more important to this practice than anything else. Zazen in which there is no intention to seek anything elsewhere, or to gain or rid oneself of something, can be referred to as “unstained zazen.” There is a popular notion permeating the world regarding zazen and nembutsu (reciting the name of Amida Buddha): Once you experience satori through Zen meditation or expe- rience a settled mind through chanting Amida Buddha it is as though a red light has turned green and you become com- pletely refreshed, and the feeling never changes. I have to say that talk like this is nothing more than a fairytale. I say this based on the person I am today, having fancied myself from youth as a reporter on the quest for myself, prac- ticed zazen from age thirty up to my early sixties and having chanted Amida Buddha from my mid-sixties. So the reporting true zazen is not for the sake of seeing positive results, says Kosho Uchiyama. (photobottom):photographerunknown,(phototop):oviduman