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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
JIRYU RUTSCHMAN-BYLER 39 Zhiyi’s fifth gate of practice, which I express as “Who breathes?” Sojun looked at me and had a good laugh, a good and hearty hara laugh, saying, “That has nothing to do with Zen practice!” Of course he’s right, strictly speaking. In Soto Zen, at least, we really do just sit there. Call it shikantaza, “just sitting,” “choiceless awareness,” “objectless meditation,” or what have you. It’s about just sitting there, for forty minutes (more or less), unmoving, and seeing what happens—just finding your life right there. It’s very pure in that regard, and very strict. As Kodo Sawaki and his disciples put it, it’s meditation with no toys. From that strictest perspective, all of this talk of gates—especially when they are seen sequentially—is utterly extra, beside the point. Can’t we just sit here and not miss our life? We are always trying to get somewhere. Can’t meditation finally be the place where we put that down? Yes, of course. But then here we are again, back at square one: “Playing in a garden among the cherry trees, I stretch out for a nap in my little hut.” We are well served to honestly and fearlessly reflect upon and assess our own meditation practice. What do we intend for it? How do we wish to approach it? How will we thread the needle of effort and the effortless? How will we honor exactly the life that we have right now while also doing the work required to connect with and embrace it completely? With a warm heart—diligent, not grasping, not averting, sitting still and wide open, wandering the wild gardens of meditation—may we let the practice itself be our guide. Open to exploring and experi- menting and discerning, we enter the art of breath meditation and seek for, or stumble upon, these six marvelous gates in the ocean. We can practice and know breath as giving, as patience, as energy, as ethics.