Shobogenzo apparently usually begins with Bendowa, and is about meditation. In Zen meditation is called Zazen, and the method of Zazen is described in Fukanzazengi or here, and discussed in Ch2 in Brad’s “Jerk”.
I must first note that Brad describes what he follows as Buddhism, this is somewhat of a surprise to me. There are a myriad of Buddhisms, and within those Buddhisms there are disagreements, so for Brad to describe his Soto Zen as Buddhism is divisive – whether I agree with Shobogenzo or not. But for someone who lives his life as a Buddhist speaker, reference to this type of correctness is conceivably tedious as those who are listening to him are probably his branch of Zen.
Whilst always being attracted to the real-speak of Brad it was when I read that Buddhadasa promoted Zen that I got into it more. Having done so, once I had got into practising Zazen I looked into Shobogenzo. And when reading Bendowa I was attracted to the letting go of mind and body so reminiscent of Buddhadasa’s “removal of I and mine from the 5 khandas”.
I was already hooked on Bendowa – had not really read past it, and then Brad applied the “jerk” filter to that chapter. What grabbed me was that part of Bendowa which apparently is known as Jijuyo Zanmai and is “bradded” on page 4. This has helped me clarify meditation for the time being.
Because of the method of Zazen we have right concentration. Zazen makes us stare at the wall, and keep bringing the attention back to staring at the wall. This is just concentration – plain and simple. It reminds me of Dharma Dan whose meditation was using the breath as object and then focussing on extending the stage after breathing (stage 1 in, 2 hold focus, 3 breathe out, 4 hold focus) where there is just concentration.
I cannot recall there having been insight during my zazen. This is interesting in two ways. It shows things are not right yet. And it shows that maybe it was not right insight under the old method. I did not use breathing as an object of meditation – the usual vipassana object. Once the daily grind fell away, sometimes insights came – give link. Today in Zazen I kept thinking about the problem with my teeth as well as this blog the insight for which I had days ago.
Reading Jujiyo Zanmai [p4] brought some clarity but care needs to be taken. Jujiyo Zanmai is translated as “the Samadhi of Receiving and Using the Self” [p2], and here the Self refers to the whole universe of the quote above. There is an anatta issue here – no self. The Self is not personal, it is not I or mine. This “Self and self” issue is raised much with Hinduism, theosophy and that part of Buddhism influenced by it. For many Self becomes confused with the personal, perhaps that bit of Gaia or Unity that is apportioned to the person whereas anatta of Buddhism clearly talks of no self. Because of the capitalisation there is a clear intended difference (from self), but it is still open to misconception. Knowing anatta first helps understand this. There is an interesting meditation I occasionally used – breathing in sunnata – emptiness. I sometimes feel that the focus is a block – I am doing it wrong, but today I moved to natural focus moving away from focus that could conceivably be mind; receiving and using sunnata could be an alternative to this.
“Real Buddhists all say that zazen is the best thing ever” [p4]. This paraphrase is typical of Brad’s approach as a good number of Buddhists would not know what zazen is, possibly even some real Buddhists. However the intent is very straightforward – you must meditate. I met online a number of Theravada intellectuals who could not meditate, I surmise that attachment to the intellectual sankhara (khanda) got in the way. The only exception to the need for meditation is the one Buddhadasa put forward, that maybe there would be someone totally naturally in harmony and automatically receive the truth – conceivable?
Perhaps the most important is an understanding that comes from “If one person sits zazen, being right in body, speech and mind for just one moment, the whole universe enters this state”. I think of the whole universe entering this state as being a form of insight, or vice versa.
Brad talks about enlightenment – not a word I like. He has a specific meaning and it refers to this “whole universe entering this state”. This can happen for a moment, and any description falls short. I don’t mind this although I would prefer not to use the word “enlightenment”. This tends to obviate claims of enlightenment such as Adyashanti or U G, or maybe knocks on the head claims of enlightened being with implications of permanent enlightenment. “So-called enlightenment experiences are not the finishing line” [p8] leads me to think that this Brad enlightenment fits in better with enlightenment as jhanas rather than enlightenment as nirvana. Whilst I don’t understand all that is spoken of jhanas, the jhanas that I know are of deep insight, bliss, the muse presence etc – discussed here link to blog. Maybe the different levels of jhanas could reach up to the level of the whole universe entering. “And what, bhikkhus, is right concentration? Here, bhikkhus, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. With the subsiding of thought and examination, he enters and dwells in the second jhana, which has internal confidence and unification of mind, is without thought and examination, and has rapture and happiness born of concentration. With the fading away as well of rapture, he dwells equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, he experiences happiness with the body; he enters and dwells in the third jhana of which the noble ones declare: ‘He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which is neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of mindfulness by equanimity. This is called right concentration” [Samyutta Nikaya 45, as part of a description of the 8-fold path]. As in the quote bliss or rapture happens with jhanas, however the bliss is not to be attached to. This “enlightenment” that comes with right concentration of zazen is also not to be attached to.
The “whole universe entering” is not explicitly said in Theravada, but is very interesting. It adds to understanding of synchronicity and coincidence, and helps explain Unity “…. and receives the imperceptible mutual assistance of all things in the entire universe” [p4]. I am less likely to have a car accident or break my wrist if I am meditating!!
Attaining experience (jhanas) through concentration is meditation. What if you don’t get an experience? Keep going, zazen does you good. Just keep doing it.
Posts Tagged ‘Shobogenzo’
This zazen is taking its toll on my body.
OK I’m 64 in 2 days, and I’ve not always looked after myself. But for 9 years now I have been on a cheewajit diet – vegan and fish. I have not always been healthy in that time. I went through periods of healing, and thought things would be good only to find at the end of the healing that I had a chronic lung problem, a problem I still have when there is wind. But I am active and mostly OK.
I mentioned in a recent blog what I considered was balancing matching the therapeutic treatment for my knee and resulting problems. But what’s going on is far more than that. I remember when doing Tai Chi, and the instructor, Brian, talking about 10 points of alignment and lungs dropping. The zazen is working mind and body dropping so maybe that is what it is. But there is all kinds of stuff happening including a certain amount of gasping at breath – my lung issue.
Over the years I have used “letting-go” techniques, especially when I let go of Nancy when I was in Nyanga. I have used these since letting go of any small amount of stress that arose during retirement. I am surprised to feel that there is much that is not “aligned” – except for the knee and its consequences.
Yet there is still more than this going on as there is weirdness at night. In the middle of the night I woke up it wasn’t a nightmare, and then I thought about being trapped in an enclosed coffin – a bit like George Clooney in . A huge localised fear came over me, and then I thought about not being attached and free from fear – and it went. The previous night I had woken as if there was a shell all around me – as if separating, and then I said “there is no me” and it went. I put all of this down to the zazen; good stuff.
I suppose this is all dropping mind and body – maybe I just want that. I hope I keep it up, it is hard but what good must it be doing.