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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
fall 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 45 Zazen That Amounts to Nothing by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi 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 experience a settled mind through chanting Amida Buddha, it is as though a red light has turned green and you become completely refreshed, and the feeling never changes. I have to say that talk like this is nothing more than a fairy tale. For example, people who view others in the wondrous posture 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 watching TV, or, in a daze, the practitioners may have been dreaming that they were doing zazen properly. (In the latter case it will appear to an observer as if the practi- tioners were sleeping, 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. Whether we are referring to the practice of zazen or the recitation of the nembutsu, it is a big mistake to think that the practice will open up in you a special state of mind or a unique environment. The reality is that anyone truly involved in one of the practices will at least realize there isn’t any special state of mind. To the contrary, if you think there is a special state of mind, you are involved in nothing more than the creation of delusion. When the true living power of zazen manifests, a very subtle movement occurs. Because of its subtlety, it is not easy to grasp; all we can do is practice it. So there is no need to trouble yourself over the proper effect of zazen. Just dive in and sit, or recite the nembutsu. At that time, if you practice zazen, the world of zazen will open to you, and if you recite the nembutsu, the world of nembutsu will open to you, in a clarity in which your personal thoughts will have no meaning. That is what we call shikantaza (just sitting) or “other power” nembutsu (the nembutsu that doesn’t come from your thoughts). At any rate, spending time in the practice of this kind of zazen or nembutsu recita- tion for a little while is without a doubt a splendid activity for us. Spring 2011 (Opposite) Bodhidharma (Daruma) on a Reed Artist unknown Japanese, 14th century (FACINgPAgE)WilliamsturgisbigeloWcollection,11.6312.photograph©Fall2017museumoFFinearts,boston