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Is zazen meditation?

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Is zazen meditation?
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12/5/10 11:37 AM
Some Zen-buddhists recently surprised me by maintaining that they don't consider zazen to be a meditation practice. How do you see that? If zazen is not meditation what is it? Why isn't it meditation?
Fabian

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
12/6/10 7:51 AM as a reply to Fabian P..
I don't know what else you'd call it... maybe they are doing it wrong? The instructions are to "sit and do nothing," but how do you do nothing? You might start thinking about something. Don't do that! You'll notice painful sensations and want to move. Don't do that! You'll notice something going on visually and start to take interest. Don't do that! I think the goal is to "do" nothing while observing everything, which sounds like a vipassana technique, but I don't know much about it so someone correct me if I'm wrong.

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
12/6/10 10:59 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
I've allways considered zazen a form of meditation too... Some kind of technique must be there... The objects will arise, whether you like it or not. Now the point is: how to deal with them. Ignoring, surpressing, noting, smiling at them...

"Zazen is not meditation" - maybe this is "Zen-Speech"... A language, which I don't master yet.

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
12/6/10 11:51 AM as a reply to Fabian P..
I like Wilber's idea of the objects of awareness as existing along a spectrum. So, for example, a kasina might be an example of one end of the spectrum--the focus of attention is one-pointed and involves a literal, physical object. As you move up this spectrum in both subtlety and broadness of focus, you start to get to objects like those listed in the later Pali commentaries ("boundless space," "neither perception nor non-perception," etc.). Someone sitting with no technique at all, other than to pay attention to this moment, is still focused on an object, in a certain sense--the object just happens to be suchness or "this, this" or whatever words you want to use. Seems to me that whatever part of the spectrum you choose to explore should be determined by your needs at whatever stage of the path you are on. You wouldn't want to spend your entire life doing nothing but candle-flame meditation, for example, and never wavering from that out of a sense that you'd discovered the "one true path" to meditation. The problem with some Zen students is that it never occurs to them to do anything other than "just sitting." It's an oversimplification. By no means do I think all Zen students or teachers are stuck in this place, but I've heard enough Zen folks complaining about this, having discovered MCTB and noting practice, to feel that it is a common-enough phenomenon. Likewise, some vipassana students never get to a place where there is "nothing to do, nowhere to go" as would be the instruction in Zen.

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
12/6/10 11:53 AM as a reply to J Groove.
Also, Adyashanti talks very amusingly about how hard it is to deal with "non-dual fundamentalists." Good stuff if you haven't read it. It seems like the Zen friends of yours in question might fall into this category!

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
12/6/10 1:23 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Beo Beoman:
I don't know what else you'd call it... maybe they are doing it wrong? The instructions are to "sit and do nothing," but how do you do nothing? You might start thinking about something.


This discussion has a link to a Shinzen Young article on doing nothing and the ensuing discussion.

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
12/7/10 12:38 AM as a reply to J Groove.
J Groove:
Also, Adyashanti talks very amusingly about how hard it is to deal with "non-dual fundamentalists." Good stuff if you haven't read it. It seems like the Zen friends of yours in question might fall into this category!


Hello,
might be... They say: "We don't meditate we just sit. We don't use a method because we don't wish to achieve anything. Methods are designed for attainments. We don't have any goal orientation. Zazen doesn't lead to enlightenment - Zazen ist enlightenment."
How can you speak with such people?

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
12/7/10 6:39 AM as a reply to Fabian P..
Fabian P.:
J Groove:
Also, Adyashanti talks very amusingly about how hard it is to deal with "non-dual fundamentalists." Good stuff if you haven't read it. It seems like the Zen friends of yours in question might fall into this category!


Hello,
might be... They say: "We don't meditate we just sit. We don't use a method because we don't wish to achieve anything. Methods are designed for attainments. We don't have any goal orientation. Zazen doesn't lead to enlightenment - Zazen ist enlightenment."
How can you speak with such people?


As Kenneth Folk would point out, these guys are absolutely correct, on one level.
However, if they haven't ever done any vipassana and really investigated gross-level objects of awareness, including all of the mind states that arise as objects when one is doing close investigation, they are very likely embedded in or identified with those phenomena. Adyashanti did all kinds of journaling, self-inquiry and other work that would very definitely NOT fall into the category of just resting the mind in suchness. It was active investigation, along the lines of vipassana. It could be that your friends are doing this kind of stuff, but it sounds like they fall into the non-dual fundamentalist camp to me. Zen has some really cool forms of investigation--koan practice and stuff, so who knows? I think the Three Trainings as taught in MCTB is really helpful. You've got to have sila, samatha--and vipassana.

RE: Is zazen meditation?
Answer
1/26/11 2:45 PM as a reply to Fabian P..
"We don't meditate we just sit. We don't use a method because we don't wish to achieve anything. Methods are designed for attainments. We don't have any goal orientation. Zazen doesn't lead to enlightenment - Zazen ist enlightenment."
How can you speak with such people?


Speak to these people by being honest, and speaking of what your actual experience of practice is; not some idealistic pretty sounding philosophical crap. I would ask your friends, Oh really, you don't meditate, you just sit, why do you sit? Why do you really sit? Why do you practice? Keep asking till you get an answer that a Five-year-old would understand. Anything less doesn't yet get to the heart.

They speak of not wishing to attain something, not having any goal orientation. That's great, but is it true? Is it what they really experience? The fact that they want to "not wish to attain something" is itself an attainment. "Having no goal" is a goal. It they think they're really there, they're probably full of crap. If they truly realized no goal/no attainments, that they would right now drop off body and mind of self and other and see into their true nature.

The non-attainment, non-goal orientation of Soto Zen is a teaching style or upaya, the Sanskrit term meaning "skillfull means." These are the different ways of teaching different people. Soto is a school of Buddhism, of the Buddha dharma; the Buddha dharma is the way, the path to enlightenment. Even in Soto, the goal, the attainment is Enlightenment. Their means of teaching this, of realizing this is through letting go of the goal oriented, attainment oriented mind, this mind which seeks something outside of themselves.

Non-enlightenment talk comes from the Zen and the Mahayana tradition at large. In some schools of Buddhism only the realization of the Absolute is seen as what matters. This is seen from the Zen perspective as the "stink" of enlightenment, the "stink" of Zen. When this realization is embodied in everything one does, when the Absolute and the Relative are in perfect accord, then, no trace of enlightenment remains, and this traceless enlightenment which continues endlessly is what is spoken about in Zen, and the Soto school. Your friends seem to be using the words of the dharma to justify their own views and practices. This is why the eightfold path begins with Right View. To steer clear of this kind of confusion. The dharma can easily be used as a means of defending our prejudices and our attachments. This is among the reasons that working with a teacher is so important.

Back to the question of "Is Zazen Meditation?" The real question is, is that question important? If so, why is it important? If Zazen is meditation, what does that mean? Many masters have given Zazen, or Zen Meditation instructions. The word literally means "seated meditation." Does that make is meditation? If Zazen is not meditation, what does that mean? What are the implications of that view? My teacher Shugen once told me, "Whatever you do, don't think you know Zazen." His teacher Daido Roshi once taught "Whatever we are running away from, whatever we desire, whatever side we're falling into, we've got to see the other side as part of the process. When finally neither side gets in the way, that's when the golden body of the Buddha manifests of itself." How do we not get caught in Zazen is meditation, or is not meditation? The truth doesn't lie in either side. It doesn't lie in both sides. Where do you find yourself?