shikantaza, just sitting
Zazen is at once a bare-bone form of meditation and at the same time it is not one. Historically it’s a twice millennial practice passed on through generations by the Buddha as the unique gateway to liberating us humans from the rounds of birth and death and the suffering that comes from being trapped in Samsara, the world of delusion and ignorance. But also it is not meditation in the sense we ordinarily understand it to be.
This practice has no object and is not meant to be a means towards some end, it is not meant to take you from here to anywhere in particular. If anything it is meant to help you realize that ultimately there is no getting from here and going to there for there is no coming and going. Or if there is, there is no one doing the coming and going.
Clearly there is a paradox at the heart of Zen practice and Zen meditation.
The sitting that is nothing other than the sitting is what this practice is about. The Japanese name for it is Shikantaza : just sitting. The emphasis here is on the word just. Just being wholeheartedly in full awareness of body, mind and breath, present to the unfolding of this practice of moment to moment of just sitting. Encountering the resistances and discomforts that inevitably arise as we sit in the openness of just this moment, just this sitting, just this being.
Slowly becoming intimate with the resistances. Noticing the arising of our cravings and aversions and the tensions they create inside. Then the next moment, in the next awareness of body-mind-breath presence to this moment returning to the just sitting. Returning to the release and ease of this just sitting.
Zazen is the practice of paying one’s full attention to just this moment in its arising and falling as silence and stillness come upon you.
When there is justness in the just of sitting, being simply here present to this moment, time and space collapse, all mental categories collapse. In the absence of mental construes I face the timeless, the boundless in the sheer openness of this moment that is nothing other than this moment of : here I am, me voici!
As we inquire further into this experience we begin to get a deeper intimation of what the great Master Dogen thaught throughout his life: practice and realization are one, one doesn’t come after the other. There is no beginning to one nor end to the other, what we practice is the deep realization of our intimacy with what another great, Master Eckhart, called: the eternal now.
The just sitting strips you of whatever it is you think you need to realize, attain, work through in order to enlighten your existence.
Zazen is the art of just sitting beyond the projections of the mind, or not being disturbed by the mind's projections.
When I can just sit, just breathe, just be the being that I am, then I return quite effortlessly to a simplicity where whatever I encouter is just the being or thing that it is.
What I find compelling in the Zen way of looking at things is how we slowly begin to lose interest in projects, noble as they may be, such as enlightenment or self-realization, the more we move into experiences of immediacy, the more we sense with our pores what intimacy means. Intimacy is letting go of goals, drives and strivings.
Intimacy with ourselves, intimacy with others, intimacy with the world.
When we deeply experience intimacy we become part of what Merlou-Ponty, the French philosopher, calls, la chair du monde, the flesh of the world.
The flesh of the world is being part of the silence that opens us to intimacy, resonance and co-responding with all phenomena and beings.
To show up to this, to be here to this, hineni, is to say here I am to this moment of intimacy. To be this moment of intimacy. To become one with the spirit and flesh of just.......
If you are coming then be an expression of the intimacy of the moment of ; here I am, hineni, me voici, I am just coming....I am the coming....the sitting...the breathing...the breath....the just....the thus....
He or she who realizes justness, thusness, things are they are, things just as they are, is called in sanskrit a tathagata......
Tathagata is one of the names of the Buddha.