February 26, 2018

Zazen Is Not Everywhere

You might have come across the idea that everything is zazen or zazen is everything. People who are not very interested in zazen, but read a lot of books about Buddhism and Eastern philosophy like to say that it is not necessary to follow a particular path, to follow  a certain kind of Buddhist teaching, because to them everything is Buddhist teaching. So zazen is also something universal. To them, because zazen is everywhere, it is not necessary to sit in a certain posture. 

These people are right, but also wrong. They are right because Buddhist teaching is really everywhere and zazen is nothing special, so even if you wash the dishes, zazen is there, too. Zazen has some kind of universal nature, so it has to be found in all kinds of activities. But at the same time, zazen is a particular way of sitting. So it is not just "everything" or "nothing". It is also a very precise way of sitting. If you say that zazen is just anything, it is not very complete, it is quite narrow minded. But if you say that zazen is a particular way of sitting, it is only half of the whole picture. Master Dogen said that zazen has nothing to do with sitting, lying, or standing. It is not a kind of sitting, yet it is a very solid, a very realistic, a very vivid thing. It cannot be replaced by ideas or thinking only. So people who only talk about zazen without practicing zazen cannot understand zazen completely. And the same thing is true about Buddhist teaching. Although it is everywhere, you don't know what is everywhere, unless you penetrate things through and through, not relying on words and ideas only, but relying on your complete experience of things, which are beyond words and ideas. Then, beyond words and ideas, you cannot really say much about reality of things, other than encourage yourself and others to experience reality of things.

Because Buddhist teaching is something fundamental, we cannot say it is only here, in a Buddhist temple, or a Buddhist book, or in the posture of zazen. It is really expressed through all kinds of things. But it is expressed vividly, not in words. So people who have not experienced the vivid presence of things don't know what is so vivid about Buddha's experience.

We should not forget that zazen is really beyond words and categories, so it cannot be limited by a certain kind of posture. But only in this particular posture it is possible to confirm the universal nature of Buddhist teaching. Also, when we hear that right now, at this moment, sitting in Buddha's posture, you already are perfectly a buddha, that doesn't mean it is not necessary to make any effort. It doesn't mean that we can practice zazen just two minutes once a month. If we experience the immediate realization of Buddha, then we lose interest in counting seconds or minutes, and we naturally want to return to the posture of immediate Buddha. Buddha is something immediate, but this immediacy has to be confirmed over and over again, it is never completed. We can never satisfy our desire to return to our Buddha nature. This hunger makes us return to the zendo over and over again. But it is not some kind of frustration or feeling incomplete, it is rather enjoying this opportunity to wake up over and over again. So even if we realize the Buddhist truth at this moment, we cannot wait for too long and want to realize the Buddhist truth again. We always forget what the Buddhist truth is, actually we must forget what the Buddhist truth is, because if we kept the Buddhist truth, we would make it stiff and consequently dead. There is no rigidity in the truth so it has to be forgotten and discovered over and over again. So even if immediately we become a buddha in zazen, it is never enough. It doesn't mean we want to sit in zazen for two, three or four hours trying to accumulate some kind of experience. It mustn't be like that. It is rather sitting as if we forgot what we wanted to do or achieve, so after all we sit without waiting for anything to happen, without feeling proud after some experience or feeling frustrated as if some experience was not coming. We can sit for ten minutes, half an hour, one hour, two hours, but we must always forget how long and where, and always return to the immediate reality of buddhas. So in the world of people, it is necessary to fit our practice, our schedule, into the world of people, to match the sitting with different daily tasks. It is not dying in zazen or falling asleep in zazen or trying hard to attain enlightenment in zazen. It is just practicing zazen every day for some time and doing something very simple, very "not intellectual".  

The universal nature of zazen is important. Without this universal nature of zazen, it is impossible to practice zazen correctly. The essence comes out from the universe, not our thinking or imagination. Because people forget the universal nature of things and being, they have too many problems. But when we realize these problems come from the universal, original clarity of all things, these problems are not so difficult to solve.

We might say there are two floors in the universe. The first floor, or in British English, the ground floor, means everything is perfect and no change or solution is necessary. The second floor, or the first floor in British English, is a floor where almost everything is a problem, there are thousands of mistakes everywhere and people are trying hard to improve things or give up trying to improve things. So when somebody says: "I practice zazen, but I have problems. You don't practice zazen, but you don't have problems. How come?" This is talking about the second floor of the universe. The second floor is always busy and difficult, excited or messed up. It is the law of cause and effect, the karma of the universe. If you practice zazen only on the second floor, you may be surprised how little effect zazen has on your life. But the universal nature of zazen, the fact that zazen is not just a posture, it means that zazen is practiced both on the first floor and the second floor. The first floor is the universal nature of things, the essence of things, which is impossible to find here or there, it is neither mine nor yours, and yet it is both mine and yours. So no matter if you practice zazen or not, it doesn't matter. But to somebody, who has become interested in Buddha's teaching, to say that you don't have to practice zazen, it is very misleading.

Actually, we should always forget what it's like to practice zazen. So we always want to experience zazen again, to see what it's like. To practice zazen with others means that we can leave our personal agenda and join buddhas. Use this particular body and mind and immediately leave this body and mind through this simple action of sitting. This practice won't make us better than those who don't practice zazen, but it will help us match our own efforts of Buddha with the efforts of Gautama Buddha. When you just practice and do not put your practice into any categories, then there is no difference between you and the Buddha, who did not put himself or anything into any categories. Yet he experienced that which is not put into categories and is very lively and bright. 

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