Monday, September 19, 2016

How to meditate Zen (Master Dogen)

Ven. Eihei Dogen's Fukanzazengi (1227), Soto Zen Text Project, Stanford University (translation); Jeff Albrizze (, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
Carrying firewood: First the ecstasy then the laundry...but someone forgot the ecstasy.
"Learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward." - Dogen
Universally Recommended Zazen Instructions
This pivotal Zen text, which was written in 1227 by Eihei Dogen, the Japanese monk who brought Zen from China to Japan, was one of the first pieces he wrote when he returned.

It opens with an introduction that answers the question that led him to go to China in the first place: 

If we are originally endowed with the Buddha nature [the potential for enlightenment], why is it been necessary for us to seek enlightenment or even to engage in spiritual practice?
The Way is originally perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent on practice and realization? The true vehicle is self-sufficient. What need is there for special effort?

Indeed, the whole body is free from dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice?
Stare until the heart-mind settles.
Yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth [lofty space and firm ground]. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind [heart] is lost in confusion.

Suppose you are confident in your understanding and rich in enlightenment, gaining the wisdom that knows at a glance, attaining the Way and clarifying the mind, arousing an aspiration to reach for the heavens.

You are playing in the entrance way, but you are still are short of the vital path of emancipation.
Start sitting with a group; it's easier.
Consider the Buddha: although he was wise at birth, the traces of his six years of upright sitting can yet be seen. As for Bodhidharma [who brought Buddhism to China from South India], although he had received the mind-seal, his nine years of facing a wall is celebrated still. If even the ancient sages were like this, how can we today dispense with wholehearted practice?

Therefore, put aside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest. If you want to realize such, get to work on such right now.

Roshi Jeff Albrizze
For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately [not so much as to become dull and drowsy, not so little as to be restless and hungry]. Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs.

Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?

At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and  put a cushion on it. Sit... More
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