One day Yao-shan Wei-yen (750-834), one of the well-known Chinese Ch'an master, was asked by the host of the monastery to give his sermon to the assembly who for a long while was expecting his teaching. Yao-shan said: "Strike the bell."
FOLLOWING THE BREATH AND SIKANTAZA
The practice of counting the breath or following the breath is the most basic and popular in almost of the sects of Buddhism. It was established and practiced by the Buddha himself even after he attained the Supreme Enlightenment. Whenever he got tiime he did it, day or night. It's simple and easy, everyone can do it if they like. When inhaling, the practitioner would know it very clearly and entirely the inhaling breath, when exhaling he would know it very clear and entirely the exhaling breath. When it is practiced correctly, the practitioner is in calmness, steadiness, and joy. So, it can be said that the practice of breathing is for anyone who like to do it, whether he is a beginner or an advanced one. Meanwhile, just sitting and not concentrating on any particular object is another form of zazen. Generally speaking, it is for practitioner who is already pretty good with breath practicing. In this form of practice, the practitioner would not have anything to rely on, such as breath or any object to lean on as in counting or following the breath. It requires more awareness, in another words, it is awareness at all the time when sitting. So, might be said that it is a little bit more difficult for a beginner. And it was mainly practiced among the practitioners of Soto Zen, and it's called Shikantaza (in Japanese) which means stopping (mental activities) and seeing in sitting. Which one is better for a practitioner: following the breath or just sitting and not concentrating on any object? It depends on the character of the practitioner. He can take the one that fits him best. Afterall, both of them are the means to help the practitioner settle his mind ready for a mutation might happen at anytime or never at all.
Chon Tri 01/21/2011
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