Selections from Shikataza
(The Way of Zazen Recommended to Everyone)
by Eihei Dogen Zenji
The Way is complete and universal.
How can we distinguish practice from enlightenment?
The Vehicle of Reality is the Self.
Why should we waste our efforts trying to attain it?
Still more, the Whole Body is free from dust.
Why should we believe in a means to sweep it away?
The Way is never separated from where we are now.
Why should we wander here and there to practice?
Yet, if there is the slightest deviation, you will be as far from the Way as heaven is from earth.
If adverse or favorable conditions arise to even a small degree, you will lose your mind in confusion.
Even if you are proud of your understanding, are enlightened in abundance, and obtain the power of wisdom to glimpse the ground of buddhahood; even if you gain the Way, clarify the mind, resolve to pierce heaven, that is only strolling on the border of the Buddha Way.
You are still (almost always) lacking the vivid way of emancipation.
Moreover, consider Sakyamuni-Buddha, who was enlightened from birth; to this day you can see traces of his sitting in straight posture for six years.
And Bodhidharma, who transmitted the mind-seal; even now you can hear of the fame of his facing the wall for nine years.
These ancient sages practiced this way.
How can we people of today refrain from practice!
Therefore, cease studying words and following letters.
Learn to withdraw, turning the light inwards, illuminating the Self.
(Doing so), your body and mind will drop off naturally, and original-Self will manifest.
If you wish to attain suchness, practice suchness immediately.
Now, for zazen, a quiet room is best.
Eat and drink moderately.
Let go of associations, and put all affairs aside.
Do not think of either good or evil.
Do not be concerned with the operation of your intellect, volition, and consciousness.
Stop considering things with your memory, imagination, and contemplation.
Do not seek to become a Buddha.
(To be Buddha) has nothing to do with the forms of sitting or lying down.
Usually, a thick zaniku is put on the floor where you sit, and a zafu is placed on it.
You may sit in either kekkafuza (the full-lotus position) or hanafuza (the half-lotus position).
In kekkafuza, first put your right foot on your left thigh, and then your left foot on your right thigh.
In hanafuza, just place your left foot on your right thigh.
Your clothing should be loose but neat.
Then put your right hand palm up on your left foot, and your left hand palm up on your right palm.
The tips of your thumbs should be lightly touching.
Sit upright, leaning neither to the left nor right, neither forward nor backward.
Your ears should be in line with your shoulders; your nose should be in line with your navel.
Place your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Close your lips and jaw.
Always keep your eyes open.
Breathe quietly through your nose.
Having regulated your posture, exhale completely and take a breath.
Sway your body from left to right a few times.
Sit stably in samadhi.
Think of not-thinking.
How do you think of not-thinking?
This is the essential way of zazen.
[from the notes: When we are sitting, we do not follow our thoughts, nor do we stop them. We just let them come and go freely. We cannot call it thinking because the thoughts are not grasped. If we simply peruse our thoughts, it is just thinking; it is not zazen. We cannot call zazen not-thinking either, because thoughts are coming and going like clouds floating in the sky.
When we are sitting, our brain does not stop functioning, just as our stomach is always digesting. Sometimes our minds are busy; sometimes our minds are calm. Just sitting, without being concerned with the conditions of our mind, is the most important point in zazen. When we sit in this way, we are one with Reality, which is beyond thinking. To say it another way, Reality manifests itself through our body and mind.]
The zazen which I am talking about is not learning (step-by-step)
It is simply the dharma-gate of peace and joy (nirvana).
It is the practice-enlightenment of the ultimate Way (bodhi).
In doing zazen, the Koan manifests itself; it cannot be ensnared.
When you grasp this, you are like a dragon with water, or a tiger in the mountains.
You must know that the true dharma manifests itself in zazen, and that, first of all, dullness and distraction are struck down.
When you rise from sitting, move your body slowly and stand up calmly.
Do not move abruptly.
You should see that to transcend both ordinary people and sages, and to die sitting or standing, depends on the power of zazen.
Moreover, your discriminating mind cannot understand how buddhas and patriarchs taught their students with a finger, a pole, a needle, or a mallet, or how they transmitted the Way with a hossu (fly-chasing stick), a fist, a staff, or by shouting.
Needless to say, these actions cannot be understood by practicing to attain superhuman powers.
These actions come from the practice which is prior to discriminating mind.
Therefore, do not consider whether you are clever or stupid, and do not think of whether you are superior or inferior.
When you practice wholeheartedly, it is truly the practice of the Way.
Practice-enlightenment cannot be defiled.
Making the effort to obtain the Way, is itself the manifestation of the Way in your daily life.
The Buddhas and patriarchs, both in this world and other worlds, in India and in China, preserved the Buddha-seal in the same way and expressed the Way freely.
They just practiced sitting and were protected by zazen.
Although their characters were diverse, each of them practiced the Way of zazen wholeheartedly.
There is no reason to leave your own seat at home and take a meaningless trip to the dusty places of other countries.
If you make a false step, then you will miss the Way, even though it is before your eyes.
You have already been given a human body which is vital, so do not spend your time wastefully.
Since you are endowed with the essential functioning of the Buddha Way, why presume worthless pleasures that are like sparks from a flint?
Furthermore, your body is like a drop of dew on a blade of grass; your life is like a flash of lightning.
Your body will disappear soon, your body will be lost in an instant.
You, honored practitioner, after learning in a partial way like blind people who touched various parts of the elephant (to figure out what it was like), please do not be scared by the real dragon.
Devote yourself to the Way which indicated Reality directly.
Respect those who realize their Self and no longer seek anything outside.
Be in accord with the buddha’s bodhi.
Succeed to the patriarchs’ samadhi.
If you practice suchness continuously, you will be suchness.
The treasure-house will open of itself, and you will be able to use it at will.
Selections from Shobogenzo Benodowa
(Talk on the practice of the Way)
by Eihei Dogen Zenji
All Buddha-tathagatas alike solely have been transmitting the genuine dharma and actualizing anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (incomparable awareness). For this, there has been an excellent way, which is supreme and absolute (unfabricated). This way has been transmitted without deviation only from Buddha to Buddha.
The criterion of this dharma is jijuyu-zanmai [the samadhi of the Self which is not separated from others]. For dwelling and disporting oneself freely in this samadhi, practicing zazen in the right posture is the true gate. Although this dharma is abundantly inherent in each person, it is not manifested without practice; it is not attained without realization.
For all the patriarchs and buddhas who have been dwelling in and maintaining the buddha-dharma, practicing proper sitting in jijuyu-zanmai has been the true way to actualize enlightenment.
Both in India and China, those who have attained enlightenment have been following this way of practice. This is because each teacher and each disciple have been intimately transmitting the genuine Way, receiving and maintaining the true spirit of practice.
According to the unmistakenly handed down tradition, this buddha-dharma, which has been singularly and directly transmitted, is supreme beyond comprehension. From the time you begin to practice under a teacher, (the special practices of ) incense burning, bowing, nenbutsu, as well as the practices of repentance or of reading sutras are unnecessary. Simply practice zazen, dropping off body and mind.
When one shows the buddha-seal with one’s whole body and mind, and sits properly in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the whole world becomes the buddha-seal, and all space in the whole universe becomes enlightenment. Therefore, all buddha-tathagatas increase the dharma-joy of their own original ground, and revivify the adornments of the way of awareness.
Also all living beings in the dharma-worlds of the ten directions and in the six realms - hell dweller, hungry ghost, animal, asura, human being, and heavenly being - simultaneously become pure and clear in body and mind, become aware of the ground of absolute liberation, and manifest their own original face. At this time, all things realize their absolute enlightenment and all things together utilize the buddha-body. They immediately transcend the boundary of enlightenment, and properly sit under the kingly bodhi-tree. Also, at this same time, they turn the incomparable dharma-wheel, manifesting the profound prajna which is ultimate and unfabricated.
Still more, since there is a way through which anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (ultimate awareness) of all things intimately and imperceptibly helps one another in their turn, this zazen person drops off body and mind without fail, cuts off previous impure and defiled views and thoughts, and being in accord with genuine buddha-dharma, assists the buddha-work in each and every place where buddha-tathagatas practice, which are as infinite as atoms.
In this, they broadly influence the people who have the capacity to go beyond buddhahood, and vigorously exalt the dharma which always goes beyond buddhahood. At this time, the earth, grass and trees, fences and walls, stones and pebbles; all things in the dharma-worlds in the ten directions carry out the buddha-work.
Consequently, those who receive the benefit of wind and water in those places are all enabled to awaken imperceptibly by buddha’s exceedingly subtle and inconceivable transforming power, and manifest the enlightenment which is at hand.
Since those who receive and use water and fire, all circulate buddha’s transforming power of original enlightenment, so too, others who live and talk with them, are all mutually endowed with the infinite virtues of buddha. Together they all extensively disperse this virtue and circulate the inexhaustible, ceaseless, ungraspable, and immeasurable buddha-dharma inside and outside all dharma-worlds.
Such things, however, do not enter the perceptions of those people because they take place in the quietness of samadhi without any fabrication, and because they are directly enlightened.
If practice and enlightenment are separate, as ordinary people think, each should be perceived apart from the other. That which is associated with perception cannot be the standard of enlightenment. This is because deluded human-sentiments cannot reach the standard of enlightenment.
And although both mind (subject) and object appear and disappear within the stillness of samadhi, neither moving the slightest bit of dust nor breaking any form, the great buddha-work and profound skillful teaching is carried out. This is because it takes place in the realm of self-receiving and self-employing (jijuyu). The grass, trees, and earth influenced by this transforming function endlessly radiate a great light and express the profound and ungraspable dharma.
The grass and trees, fences and walls, expound and exalt the dharma for all living beings, both ordinary people and sages.
Ordinary people, sages and all living beings, in turn express and exalt the dharma for the grass and trees, fences and walls. The realm of being aware by oneself and causing others to become aware is endowed with the nature of enlightenment, lacks nothing, and unfailingly allows the standard of enlightenment to be actualized.
Therefore, since this zazen is one with all things and completely permeates all time, even one person sitting in zazen only for a short time, performs in the past, present, and future the everlasting and transforming buddha-work within this inexhaustible dharma universe.
This zazen is one and the same practice and one and the same enlightenment for each and every thing both subject and object.
This is not limited only to sitting practice; it is like the melodious sound made by striking emptiness, continuing endlessly before and after the hammer hits it. Not only the person doing zazen, but everything else as well, is endowed with original practice based on the original self, and is immeasurable.
You must know that even if with the buddha-wisdom an immeasurable number of buddhas in the ten directions all together try to know the full extent of the virtue of one person’s zazen, they can still never reach its limit.
“There are many gates to enter buddha-dharma. Why do you solely recommend zazen?”
“Because this is the true gate of the buddha-dharma.”
“Why is this alone the true gate?”
“The great master Sakyamuni truly transmitted the genuine way of attaining the Way. Also, the buddhas of the past, present, and future, all alike, attained the Way through zazen. For this reason, zazen has been handed down from one to another as the true gate.
In addition, the patriarchs in India and China all attained the Way through zazen. Therefore, I now teach the true gate to human and heavenly beings.”
As for the practice of zazen; those who have not yet realized the buddha-dharma must attain enlightenment through practicing the Way of zazen. What can those who have already clarified the true buddha-dharma expect from doing zazen?
Although it is said that one should not relate dreams to fools, or give oars to woodcutters, I will give you further instruction.
Your view that practice and enlightenment are not one is heretical. In the teaching of the buddha-dharma, practice and enlightenment are one and equal. Since this is the practice of enlightenment, the beginner’s practice of the Way itself is the whole of original enlightenment. Therefore when instruction about the attitude toward practice is given, it is said that you should not expect enlightenment apart from practice. This is because the practice itself is original enlightenment being directly pointed out.
Since it is the enlightenment of practice, enlightenment is endless; since it is the practice of enlightenment, practice is beginningless.
Therefore both Sakyamuni-Buddha and the venerable Mahakasyapa were received by and used by the practice of enlightenment. Great master Bodhidharma and Eno the sixth patriarch also were turned around by the practice of enlightenment. The way of dwelling in and maintaining the buddha-dharma has always been like this.
By nature, practice cannot be separated from enlightenment. Fortunately, undivided genuine practice has already been transmitted to us. Our practice of the Way as beginners attains undivided original enlightenment in the ground of absolute Reality.
You must know that, in order not to defile enlightenment inseparable from practice, buddhas and patriarchs constantly urge us not to let up in our practice. When we let go of genuine practice, original enlightenment fills our hands; when we become free from original enlightenment, genuine practice is carried on throughout our whole body.
(The King of Samadhi)
by Eihei Dogen Zenji
That which directly goes beyond the whole world is kekkafuza (sitting in full-lotus). It is what is most venerable in the house of the buddhas and patriarchs. That which kicks away the heads of non-buddhists and demons and enables us to be inhabitants of the innermost room of the house of the buddhas and patriarchs is kekkafuza. Only this practice transcends the pinnacle of the buddhas and patriarchs. Therefore, the buddhas and patriarchs have been practicing zazen alone, without pursuing anything else.
We must know that the whole world of zazen and the whole world of other things are totally different. Realizing this, we must clarify and affirm the arousing of bodhi-mind, practice, awareness, and nirvana of the buddhas and patriarchs.
There is sitting of the mind, which is different from sitting of the body.
Sakyamuni Buddha said to his Assembly:
“If you sit in kekkafuza, samadhi is actualized in your body and mind.
The virtue of zazen if respected by all people.
It is like the sun illuminating the world.
Sleepiness and laziness which obscure the mind are removed.
If one keeps one’s body upright, one’s mind does not become dull.
The mind is upright, the intention is right, and one is not entangled in thoughts.
One must be aware when one’s mind runs around in distraction, or when one’s body leans or sways, and allow them (body and mind) to return to sitting upright.
Actualize and enter samadhi, being aware of the various kinds of wandering thoughts and distractions. Practice in this way and realize and enter the ‘king of samadhis’.”
Now, we must know clearly that kekkafuza itself is the king of samadhis. Kekkafuza itself is realizing and entering this samadhi.
All other samadhis are the attendants of this king of samadhis.
Kekkafuza is a straight body, straight mind, straight body and mind, the buddhas and patriarchs themselves, practice-enlightenment itself, the essence of buddha-dharma and Life itself.
Sakyamuni Buddha always upheld and maintained kekkafuza. He intimately transmitted kekkafuza to his disciples, and taught it to lay people.
His sitting for twenty-one days, or his occasional sitting in kekkafuza itself turns the wheel of the true-dharma. This is the essence of the teachings of his whole life. It lacks nothing. Kekkafuza is the essence of all of the sutras.
The first patriarch, Bodhidharma, came to China from India and sat zazen at Shorin temple with crossed legs, facing the wall, for nine years. Since then, the essence of the buddha-dharma has penetrated throughout China. The life-blood of Bodhidharma is nothing but kekkafuza. Before the first patriarch went to China, people in the East did not know kekkafuza. It was after he came from India that it became known.
Therefore, living in a community of practitioners, sitting in kekkafuza wholeheartedly day and night, without pursuing anything else, for one’s whole life, is the king of samadhis.
Selections from Shobogenzo Zuimonki
(The Sayings of Dogen Zenji)
recorded by Koun Ejo Zenji
The meaning of reciting the Precept-sutra day and night, and of observing the precepts single-mindedly is nothing but doing shikantaza in accord with the practice of the ancient masters.
When we sit zazen, what precepts are not observed?; what merits are not actualized?
For a zen monk, the primary attitude for improving oneself is to practice shikantaza. Without being concerned about being clever or stupid, you will naturally improve if you practice zazen.
Once, while in China, I was reading a collection of sayings by an ancient master. At that time, a monk from Shi-chaun, who was a sincere practitioner of the Way, asked me, “What’s the use of reading recorded sayings?”
I replied, “I want to learn the deeds of the ancient masters.”
The monk asked, “What is the use of that?”
I said, “I will teach people after I return home.”
The monk asked, “Ultimately, what’s the use?”
Later, I considered the this and thought, “Learning the deeds of ancient masters by reading recorded sayings or koans or explaining them to deluded people, these are all ultimately of no use for my own practice and for teaching others. Even if I don’t know a single letter, I will be able to show it to others in inexhaustible ways if I devote myself to just sitting and clarify the Great Matter. For this reason, the monk said to me, “Ultimately, what’s the use?” I thought this to be the truth. Thereupon, I gave up reading the recorded sayings and other texts, concentrating wholeheartedly upon sitting, and was able to clarify the Great Matter.
Sitting itself is the practice of the Buddha. Sitting itself is not-doing*. It is nothing but the true form of the Self**. Apart from this, there is nothing to seek as the buddha-dharma.
[* In Japanese, fui, (also mui), means not-doing, or not-action; being natural without fabricating one’s reality through discriminations and attachments.]
[** Literally, the Japanese expression means the ‘true body of the Self’, that is, the Reality of the Self which is before discrimination.]
When I stayed at the Tendo monastery in China, while the old master Nyojo was the abbot there, we sat zazen until about eleven o’clock at night and got up at about half-past two in the morning to sit zazen. The abbot sat with the assembly in the monk’s hall, never taking one night off.
During sitting, many monks fell asleep. The abbot walked around, hit sleeping monks with his fist or his slipper, abused and exhorted them to awaken from their sleep. If they continued to sleep, he rang a bell, and called the attendants to light the candles. Suddenly he would give a speech, such as:
“What is the use of sleeping wastefully, for what then do you gather in a monk’s hall? Why did you become a monk and enter a monastery?
Consider the emperor and officials of the government; who of them leads an easy life? The emperor governs with justice.
The ministers serve with loyalty and, down to the commoners; who leads an easy life without labor?
You have avoided these labors, entered a monastery, and spend your time wastefully; after all, what is the use of this? Life-and-death is the Great Matter. Everything is impermanent and changes swiftly. Both teaching schools and Zen schools emphasize this. This evening or tomorrow morning we may die or we may become sick. Yet, we do not know how death may come about or what kind of sickness we may contract. While you are alive, for the time being, it is most stupid to pass the time meaninglessly, sleeping or lying down, without practicing the buddha-dharma. Since you are like this, the buddha-dharma is dying. When people devotedly practiced zazen, the buddha-dharma flourished throughout the country. As of late, the buddha-dharma is falling into decay because no one will promote zazen.”
With my own eyes I saw him thus encourage the monks in the assembly and make them sit zazen.
In Zen, the Way is attained through both body and mind.
As long as we only think about the buddha-dharma with out minds, the Way will never be grasped, even in a thousand lifetimes or a myriad of eons. When we let go of our minds and cast aside our views and understanding, the Way will be actualized.
Reiun, for example, clarified the True Mind (the Reality of Life) when he saw peach blossoms, and Kyogen realized the Way when he heard the sound of a piece of tile hitting a bamboo. They attained the Way through their bodies. Therefore, when we completely cast aside our thoughts and views and practice shikantaza, we will become intimate with the Way. For this reason, there is no doubt that the Way is attained through the body. This is why I encourage you to practice zazen wholeheartedly.