STORIES, BOOKS & MEDIA
ZAZEN MEDITATION GUIDE - Chapter 15. Continuing Your Practice
The continuation of your practice is very important, it might be more important than the posture you are have been taking. Your continuation of zazen practice can be maintained through every activity in your daily life. This means both before and after you attain kensho (seeing into one's own nature).
What do these words mean? When your mind clings to any object outside or inside, for example: a beautiful flower, an attractive woman … or a good feeling, a loving image, a high-minded thought or an image of the flower or of the woman, it is deluded with that object. You will get suffering, because everything changes, appears and disappears every time. Nothing will be with you forever. When you see something appear in front of you, you know it. And when it disappears, you also know that, and you let it go as it comes. When it disappears you no longer have its image in your mind.
- You can do breath counting, or breath following, or shikantaza, or working with a koan while you are walking, or standing, or lying, or even running when your practice has matured, provided that your backbone is straight but not stiff in a natural way. Your breaths in harmony with your movement.
- The lying posture as done by the Buddha is like this: The head points to north and rests upon a pillow with the height holding it in a way the neck will not bend to any direction. Both feet point south and the left leg should be straight, resting on the straight right leg. That is, your body leaning on its right side. The backbone from head to bottom should be straight naturally. The direction of this lying posture is in line with the magnetic field of the earth.
- If you can master your practice well and you sit without sleepiness, without makyo, then you also can do the same while you are sleeping or dreaming. This means when you sleep well, your mind is in a state that settles. If you have a sound sleep then you do not have any dreams at all. If you have in any case, a dream while you are sleeping, that is your mind did not settle, you need to awaken yourself in your dream. It's a dream and not real at all. You should master yourself in your dream. Do not let your dreams master you.
- The continuation of zazen practice can be done with any work you do in everyday life with one condition: Do one job at a time with your whole attention. This is considered equal to zazen. In this way, it is your mind that "sits" not your body in the formal postures. Just become one with what you are doing.
- Not clinging" can be said to be one of the best zazen practices. It also can be said that the Way of the Buddha is the way of "no-clinging" or the way of "view-cutting".
This is like a mirror which reflects anything in front of it, and when the thing is gone, there is no trace left to the mirror.
You do not want it to stay with you because you like it. You do not want it come because you do not like it. This is called "no-clinging" or "view-cutting".
This is what the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Hui-neng once said in his "Platform Sutra": "Do not cling to the emptiness inside, and do not cling to objects outside."
In other words, I would like to say:
"What is existent or what is not.
This depends on what you think.
It's like the moon's reflection in the water,
That's why a man of true wisdom does not cling to it."
What is the enlightenment alike?
One of the important questions you might want to ask may be like this: "What is the enlightenment alike?" or "What is the enlightenment?"
Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen School, said: "It is like a person who drinks the water will know it's cold or hot."
Thach Liem, a Vietnamese Soto Zen master who lived in the late 17th century, gives us an example to illustrate it as follows:
"It [enlightenment] is like a man who has a duel to death with another man. They dated to meet at some place to solve their life-and -death problem. Just before the daybreak, the man woke up and got things ready to go. When he put the socks on his feet, he was in such a hurry, he put one sock on one foot and then looked for the other one but he couldn't find it.. He searched for it in many different drawers but he could not find it in there. He looked for it beneath his bed, then went over the shelves on the walls, but in vain. He started searching for it in other rooms and neither could he find it. He got very upset with it, then he sat down on a bed and thought. He kept thinking and thinking and searching for it. Suddenly his eyes looked down, its sight hit went to the sock on his foot and he recognized the two socks are on one foot! He immediately took one off and put it on the other foot and felt so happy. He now knows that the sock was right here, on his foot. To be enlightened is also easy like that. Therefore, there is a Zen saying that goes like this: "When you were searching for it, even your shoes made of steel would be worn and torn by traveling long and far but you found nothing. Then when you suddenly see it, you realize that no hardworking is needed to seek and find." 1
For me, it would be like this: "It's like a person who was in a bad dream and felt very unhappy. Suddenly, his head fell off the pillow and he woke up. There is no more dream or unhappiness."
What did Zen masters of old attain in Zen?
Another question might be raised here because you, as a practitioner, need to know what or where you are going to get after all your trying and trying, sitting very hard day and night, or you are just curious about it, like a monk asked Lung-ya, a Chinese Zen master:
- What did old Zen masters attain when they entered the ultimate stage?
It is a queer answer, isn't it? Try to prove it for yourself.
- They were like burglars sneaking into an empty house.
As we see so far, enlightenment is neither miracles nor supernatural powers. But why is it said that's it's very wonderful and lot of people wish to be enlightened? It sounds like what Zen master Lin-chi (Rinzai) once said:
"When you get hungry, eat your rice;
when you get sleepy, close your eyes.
Fools may laugh at me,
But the wise will know what I mean." 2
Latterly, a monk heard the words and said to another Zen master:
-Everyone does the same.
The master said:
"- No, not the same.
Do you think you can do what Lin-chi means?
- What's the difference?
- When people eat, they do not only eat their rice but also think a lot of other things. And when they go to bed, they do not just sleep but they dream of many things."
If you say: "I can" or "I cannot", you already miss what Lin-chi means.
The Process of Practice and Realization
Another important question you might want to ask is, "What is the process of practice and realization?" or "Where does a practitioner start, what phases will he go through and what state he will end up with?"
Ching-yuan Wei-hsin, a Chinese Zen master, tells us about what he had done in his autobiography like this:
"For thirty years in the past, this old monk [he called himself] before started to study Zen and had seen mountains were mountains and waters were waters.
I think these simple words of Zen master Wei-hsin described clearly the complete process of practice and realization in Zen. Would you like to put yourself in practicing and prove that if he were wrong?
1 translated from Vietnamese.
Until when I met my good Dharma teacher showed me the entrance, then to me, mountains were not mountains and waters were not waters at all.
Now in the state of joyfulness and solitude, everything-as it-is, I see mountains are just mountains and waters are just waters." 3
2 from "Lin-chi lu" translated by Burton Watson, 1999.
3 translated from Chinese.
End of ZAZEN MEDITATION GUIDE - Chapter 15. Continuing Your Practice
Previous Chapter «
» Next Chapter
Purchase posters, art prints, media (music CD & DVD)
by Hugh Sitton
→Puchase this Item
→More Art Prints & Media
→Zen & Buddhism books