Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dogen's instructions on what to do while sitting zazen

I have read some things by "Zen teachers" lately implying that Dogen taught people a kind of "objectless" meditation, urging students to "let go" of thoughts. Some even suggest that Dogen's teaching exalted some kind of detached state of "pure awareness" and that Dogen exhorted students not to employ their intellect during sitting meditation.

I would like to ask Dogen himself about it.

Master Dogen, what should we do during the very time of our sitting?

"At the very time of your sitting, you should examine exhaustively whether the total world is vertical or horizontal. At that very time, what is the sitting itself? Is it wheeling about in perfect freedom? Is it like the spontaneous vigor of a leaping fish? Is it thinking? Or not thinking? Is it doing? Is it non-doing? Is it sitting within sitting? Is it sitting within body and mind? Or is it sitting that has cast off sitting within sitting, sitting within body and mind, and the like?"
Dogen, Shobogenzo, Sammai-O-Zammai, Waddell & Abe, p.100

Okay, thank you for clearing that up.

To read this passage in the context of the whole essay, please follow this link to the translation by Carl Bielefeldt:

Sammai-O-Zammai

3 comments:

Jordan said...

I am curious as to why you do not put this into context with the first paragraph.

Abruptly transcending all realms, to be greatly honored within the quarters of the buddhas and ancestors—this is sitting with legs crossed. Trampling the heads of the followers of alien ways and the legions of Māra, to be the one here within the halls of the buddhas and ancestors—this is sitting with legs crossed. Transcending the extreme of the extremes of the buddhas and ancestors is just this one dharma. Therefore, the buddhas and ancestors engage in it, without any further task.
From the SZTP.

Ted Biringer said...

Jordan, thank you for your comment.

In this post I was trying to make the point that, for Dogen, Zazen did not exclude the use of our minds. I singled out this passage because it, like many throughout the Shobogenzo, provides an unmistakable emphasis on utilizing our ability to think, investigate, question, and analyze "at the very time of our sitting."

But I see your point about context-- this passage alone could lead to the notion that true Zazen does not include the whole body/mind. I will attach a link to the essay so others can read the entire work for context.

Thanks again, gassho-
Ted

Jordan said...

One teacher used the term psychophysical; it is a bit of a clumsy word to me, to many syllables. But I think it gets the point across well.
Meaning to say my body and mind are not separate. Nor is my mind separate form my body, this psychophysical being is not separate at all.

I hope you are enjoying my sometimes gruff dialog. I think sometimes one of us may be saying that the foreigner wears a red beard, while the other is insisting that the red beard is worn by a foreigner. We may also be unclear as to who is who?

What fun!

By the way, in a few days, this may come in handy.