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安谷 (白雲) 量衡 Yasutani (Hakuun) Ryōkō (1885-1973)
(Hakuun Shitsu Ryoko Zenji Dai Osho)
Paul David Jaffe
YASUTANI HAKUUN ROSHI
A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
[This document constitutes a verbatim fragment (pages 2-13) of the June 1979
MA Thesis in Asian Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
by Paul David JAFFE entitled:
"The Shobogenzo Genjokoan by Eihei Dogen, and Penetrating Inquiries into the
Shobogenzo Genjokoan, a commentary by Yasutani Hakuun"
All copyrights to this document (C) 1979 belong to Paul David Jaffe.
This electronic material by the Coombspapers SSRDB is intended to draw attention
to the existence of P.Jaffe's largely unknown pioneering work and to facilitate
it's eventual printing. It also hopes to aid scholarship concerning the history
of Zen Buddhism in the West.]
Yasutani Hakuun Roshi (1885-1973) was a fiery and controversial figure in
20th century Zen Buddhism. He was highly respected for his deep realization
and compassionate teaching, but was also criticized for his polemical stand
against "one sided" teachings and his severe manner of expressing himself.
We can see within a few pages of his writings what seems a strange mixture
of harsh criticisms of certain teachers as having degraded the Buddha way
and a sincere gratitude for their efforts in guiding him.
It seems that both his early life and his training under Harada Sogaku Roshi
(1870-1961) contributed to his synthesis of the practices and insights
emphasized in the Soto and Rinzai sects respectively. He was especially vocal
concerning the point of kensho, seeing one's true nature. He spoke more
openly about it then anyone of his times, going so far as to have a public
acknowledgement of those who had experienced kensho in a post-sesshin 
ceremony of bowing in gratitude to the three treasures. He was sometimes
criticized for his overemphasis, but according to Robert Aitken Roshi, a
successor in Yasutani's lineage, "I think that Yasutani Roshi's hope was that
people could get a start, and with that start they could deepen and clarify it
through koan study. I think that actually Yasutani Roshi placed less
emphasis on kensho than the people who are criticizing him, because the
people who are criticizing him are regarding kensho as some sort of be-all
and end-all, and he didn't look at it in that way at all." 
Yasutani was so outspoken because he felt that the Soto sect in which he
trained emphasized the intrinsic, or original aspect of enlightenment--that
everything is nothing but Buddha-nature itself--to the exclusion of the
experiential aspect of actually awakening tothis original enlightenment. His
dharma successor, Yamada Koun Roshi, has written, "His main purpose was to
propagate the indispensable place of kensho, Realization of the Way, in Zen."
 On the other hand, he criticized the tendency in the Rinzai sect to become
attached to levels and rankings,- and of absolutizing the efficacy of koans
without adequate regard to the realization of emptiness, to which many of
the koans point.
In 1954, some ten years after his dharma transmission, and after certain
post-war restrictions were lifted, Yasutani established his organization as an
independent school of Zen. The group, Sambokyodan (Fellowship of the
Three Treasures), broke with the Soto school in which he was ordained,
asserting a position of direct connection with Dogen and no longer
recognizing the authority of the sect's ecclesiastical leaders. Such an action
had been strongly advocated by his teacher Harada Sogaku. 
Yasutani Hakuun Roshi's early background sheds some interesting light on
his subsequent development. There is a miraculous story about his birth: His
mother had already decided that her next son would be a priest when she was
given a bead off a rosary by a nun who instructed her to swallow it for a safe
childbirth. When he was born his left hand was tightly clasped around that
same bead. By his own reckoning, "your life . . . flows out of time much
earlier than what begins at your own conception. Your life seeks your
parents."  "It is as if I jumped right into this situation since while I was
still in her womb my mother was contemplating my priesthood."  When
he studied biology in school this story seemed ridiculous, but later he wrote,
"Now, practicing the Buddha Way more and more, understanding many more
channels of the Buddha Way, I realize that it is not so strange but quite
natural. My mother wanted me to become a priest, and because I was
conceived in that wish and because I too desired the priesthood, the juzu
[rosary bead] expressed that karmic relation. There is, indeed, a powerful
connecting force between events. We may not understand it scientifically,
but spiritually we know it is so."  So, in time he came to fully accept this
story and treat it as a concrete symbol of "his deep Dharma affinity." 
The family he was born into was quite poor; he was adopted by another
family when he was very young. At the age of five he was sent to a country
temple named Fukuji-in near Numazu city. His head was shaved, and he was
educated by the abbot, Tsuyama Genpo. His training at this time was very
strict and meticulous, but also very loving, and left a deep impression on him
throughout his life. At the age of eleven he moved to a nearby temple,
Daichuji, which like Fukuju-in belonged to the Rinzai sect. After a fight with
an older student, however, he was forced to leave. When later he was placed
in another temple, this time it was one of the Soto sect, Teishinji, and it was
here that he became a monk of the Soto sect under the priest Yasutani Ryogi,
from whom he took his name. At the age of sixteen he went to study under
Nishiari Bokusan Zenji (1821-1910) at Denshinji in Shimada, Shizuoka
prefecture and served as his attendent. Nishiari was well-known both for
having served as the leader of the Soto sect, and for his Shobogenzo keiteki
(The Opening Way of the Shobogenzo).  The Keiteki is a record of his
lectures on twenty-nine chapters of the Shobogenzo and is generally
considered an important and authoritative work. In the preface of the work
here partially translated (Shobogenzo sankyu: Genjokoan) Yasutani says of
However, beginning with Nishirari Zenji's Keiteki, I have examined closely
the commentaries on the Shobogenzo of many modern people, and though it
is rude to say it, they have failed badly in their efforts to grasp its main
points. . . .
It goes without saying that Nishiari Zenji was a priest of great learning and
virtue, but even a green priest like me will not affirm his eye of satori. . . .
. . . the resulting evil of his theoretical
Zen became a significant source of later events.
. . . So it is my earnest wish, in place of Nishiari Zenji, to correct to some
degree the evil which he left, in order to requite his benevolence, and that
of his disciples, which they have extended over many years.
Further, he tells us that during this period of his life, when he was sixteen or
seventeen, he had two questions. The first was why neither Nishiari Zenji
nor his disciples gave clear guidance concerning kensho when it was
obvious from the ancient writings that all the patriarchs experienced it. The
second concerned what happens after death. He was unable to receive clear
answers or come to an understanding.
Through his twenties and thirties Yasutani Roshi continued his training
with several other Buddhist priests. He also furthered his education, going to
a teacher training school and then beginning a ten year career as an
elementary school teacher and principal. At thirty he married and started
raising a family which was to produce five children.
In 1925, at the age of forty, he returned to his vocation as a Buddhist priest.
Soon after, he was appointed as a Specially Dispatched Priest for the
Propagation of the Soto sect, travelling around giving lectures. "However,"
he wrote in 1952 in the epilogue to Shushogi Sanka (Song-in Praise of the
Shushogi),  "I was altogether a blind fellow, and my mind was not yet at
rest. I was at a peak of mental anguish. When I felt I could not endure
deceiving myself and others by untrue teaching and irresponsible sermons
any longer, my karma opened up and I was able to meet my master Daiun
Shitsu, Harada Sogaku Roshi. The light of a lantern was brought to the dark
night, to my profound joy." 
Harada Roshi was a Soto priest, educated at the Soto sect's Komazawa
University. His sincere searching brought him to study with Toyota Dokutan
Roshi (1841-1919), abbot of Nanzenji, the head temple of the branch of Rinzai
Zen known by the same name. After completing koan study and becoming a
dharma successor, Harada became abbot of Hosshinji, a Soto temple,
transforming it into a rigorous and lively training center. 
Yasutani Roshi sat his first sesshin with Harada Roshi in 1925 and two years
later at the age of forty-two was recognized as having attained kensho. Some
ten years later he finished his koan study and then, at the age of fifty-eight,
received dharma transmission from Harada Roshi on April 8, 1943. 
Yasutani Roshi's career as a Zen teacher was devoted and single-minded. He
was head of a training hall for monks for a short while, but gave it up and
applied his efforts primarily toward the training of lay practitioners. His
years leading a family life and working as an educator no doubt both
influenced him in this direction and prepared him for the task. During the
next thirty years he held over three hundred sesshins, led numerous regular
zazen meetings, and lectured widely. In addition, he left almost one hundred
volumes of writings. 
Already in his late seventies, Yasutani Roshi first travelled to the United
States in 1962, at the instigation of some of his American students. He held
sesshins in over half a dozen cities, and due to an enthusiastic response made
six more visits continuing through 1969. He has exerted a profound
influence on the budding American Zen tradition through direct contact
with many students and through his relationships with several of the
leading Zen teachers in America today. Yasutani has also become widely
known and indirectly influenced many people through the book Three
Pillars of Zen, compiled by Phillip Kapleau and published in 1965. It contains
a short biographical section on Yasutani Roshi and also his "Introductory
Lectures on Zen Training," "Commentary on the Koan Mu," and the somewhat
unorthodox printing of his dokusan interviews with ten western
Kapleau was the first westerner to study with Yasutani Roshi. This was in
1956 after Kapleau had studied for three years at Hosshinji under the
guidance of Harada Roshi. After some twenty sesshin with Yasutani, the
Roshi confirmed Kapleau's kensho experience which is one of the cases set
down in Three Pillars. It was Kapleau who first suggested to Yasutani Roshi
that he visit America. In 1966 Kapleau founded the Rochester Zen Center,
which now has several hundred students in Rochester as well as several
affiliated sitting groups in Canada, the United States and Europe. 
Another of Yasutani's early American students was Robert Aitken, who first
sat with him in 1957. Aitken's steadily deepening interest in and practice of
Zen started when he was picked up off Guam by the Japanese during the
Second World War, and found himself in the same internment camp as R. H.
Blyth, the author of Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics. Aitken,
along with Kapleau, was instrumental in arranging Yasutani's original
journey to the U.S. and on that and subsequent trips through 1969 hosted him
for sesshins at Koko-an, his small Zen center in Honolulu, and in 1969 at the
newly established Maui Zendo. Aitken says of Yasutani, his only teacher
during this period, "He devoted himself fully to us. We felt from him the
importance of intensive study, of dedication and also something of
lightness." Aitken further characterizes- him as "like a feather but still full
of passion," and having "a ready laugh." Aitken studied further with
Yasutani Roshi and his successor Yamada Koun and received transmission
from Yamada in 1974, making him the first westerner to become a dharma
successor in the Yasutani/Harada lineage. Aitken Roshi's Diamond Sangha
now includes two practice centers in Hawaii and about 100 students, and he
periodically conducts sesshin in Tacoma, Washington; Nevada City,
California; and Australia.
Eido Tai Shinamo (1932- ) first met Yasutani Roshi in 1962 when he was a
young monk who had spent about two years in Hawaii.  His own teacher
Nakagawa Soen Roshi took him to meet Yasutani one day. Soen Roshi was
planning a trip to the U.S. and invited Yasutani to join him, which he agreed
to do. Then he invited Eido to go along also. Shortly before the trip Soen
Roshi cancelled his plans due to the illness of his mother. Eido was left to
accompany Yasutani as his attendant and translator. The following year Eido
again accompanied Yasutani to America and they continued on around the
world together. On Soen's request Yasutani guided Eido in his koan study.
Later Eido wrote, "During his seven times teaching pilgrimage, from the
very beginning to the end, I was fortunate enough to serve him as an
attendant monk and as an interpreter. I received great teaching from him in
many ways." "He was a brilliant master." Eido Roshi, who received
dharma transmission from Soen Roshi in 1972, is now the leader of the New
York Zendo in Manhattan and the Dai Bosatsu Zendo in the Catskill mountains
of New York state, and has affiliate groups in Washington D.C., Boston and
Philadelphia. Altogether some 300 students are guided by Eido Roshi.
Maezumi Taizan Roshi, who came to America in 1956, has become a dharma
successor of Yasutani. Originally having come to the United States to serve in
the Soto Zen Mission in Los Angeles, it was here in 1962 that Maezumi first
met Yasutani Roshi. Maezumi, a young priest at the time, had, perhaps, a
particular affinity with Yasutani. In addition to having been born into,
raised, educated and trained in the Sotc tradition, he had also done koan study
with Osaka Koryu Roshi, a lay master in the Rinzai school. When Yasutani
Roshi came to Los Angeles, Maezumi started to do koan study with him.
Between Yasutani's several trips to America and Maezumi's trips to Japan to
continue his study, the two developed their relationship further. On
December 7, 1970, Maezumi received the seal of dharma succession. Since he
is also a dharma successor of Kuroda Hakujun Roshi in the Soto tradition, and
Osaka Koryu Roshi in the Rinzai tradition, Maezumi Roshi holds a unique
At the Zen Center of Los Angeles which was founded by Maezumi in 1966,
Yasutani Roshi's approach of integrating the emphasis of the Soto and Rinzai
schools seems to be taking root in America. The fact that this community of
about 100 people affords the possibility of a family-based practice also
reflects, in part, Yasutani Roshi's emphasis on lay practice. The community
includes several families with children; there is even a cooperatiye child
care program. The Zen Center of Los Angeles has over 200 members who
practice under the guidance of Maezumi Roshi.
This background of Yasutani Roshi's role in Zen Buddhism shows him to be
an important figure in transplanting it to a new continent.
[... Notes 1-3 have been omitted from this document... - the Coombspapers]
4 Sesshin ***ideographs*** is a fixed period of intensive practice of
zazen. In Japan five days or a week is the most common length of time.
5 Three treasures (Skt.: triratna; J.: sambo): Buddha, dharma and sangha.
In Zen the three terms are also taken respectively as symbols of
oneness, multiplicity and the harmony between the two.
6 Rick Fields, Buddhist America, unpublished manuscript in progress.
7 Koun Yamada, "The Stature of Yasutani Hakuun Roshi," in Eastern
Buddhist, n.s., 7.2 (1974): 119.
8 Ibid., 120.
9 Hakuun Yasutani "My Childhood," trans. by Taizan Maezumi from Zen
and Life (Fukuoka: Shukosha, 1969). in ZCLA Journal, 3.3 & 4 (1973): 34.
10 Ibid., 32.
11 Ibid., 32-34.
12 Yamada, "Stature," 118.
13 Nishiari Bokusan ***ideographs***, Shobogenzo keiteki
***ideographs*** ed. by Kurebayashi Kodo ***ideographs***, 3 vols.
(Tokyo: Daihorinkaku, 1965).
14 Yamada, "Stature," 116-117.
15 Shushogi ***ideographs*** is an anthology of selections from
Dogen's writings compiled in 1890 for use by followers of the Sot8
16 Yamada, "Stature," 109.
17 Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, The Hazy
Moon of Enlightenment (Los Angeles: Center Publications, 1978), p.
18 Japanese Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's birthday on April 8.
19 Tetsugyu Ban, "Dharma Words," in ZCLA Journal, 3.3 & 4 (1973): 26.
20 Dokusan ***ideographs*** is a formal, private interview between the
master and the student, usually conducted during periods of zazen.
21 Figures for students in this section are necessarily rough. I have
gathered information primarily from conversation with members of
these various centers.
22 Personal interview, May 8, 1979.
23 The relationship between Eido and Yasutani is described in Nyogen
Senzaki, Soen Nakagawa and Eido Shimano, Namu Dai Bosa (New York:
Theatre Arts Books, 1976), pp. 182-188.
24 Mui Shitsu Eido,"White Cloud," in ZCLA Journal, 3.3 & 4 (1973): 50.
25 Ibid., 51.
Yasutani Roshi's Last Poem
A Bibliography of the Works of Yasutani Roshi
A Chronology of the Life of Yasutani Roshi
”Yasutani Roshi Memorial Issue”
ZCLA (Zen Center of Los Angeles) Journal, Vol. 3, Nos. 3 & 4, Summer/Fall 1973, pp. 6, 62-64.
Edited by John Daishin Buksbazen
PDF: Philip Kapleau: The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment
1st edition: Tokyo (John Weatherhill) 1965
I / YASUTANI-ROSHI'S INTRODUCTORY LECTURES ON ZEN TRAINING
Editor's Introduction 3
A Biographical Note on Yasutani-roshi 24
1 / Theory and Practice of Zazen 26
2 / Precautions to Observe in Zazen 34
3 / Illusory Visions and Sensations 38
4 / The Five Varieties of Zen 41
5 / The Three Aims of Zazen 46
6 / Individual Instruction 49
7 / Shikan-taza 53
8 / The Parable of Enyadatta 54
9 / Cause and Effect Are One 57
10 / The Three Essentials of Zen Practice 58
11 / Aspiration 60
II / YASUTANI-ROSHI'S COMMENTARY ON THE KOAN MU
Editor's Introduction 63
The Commentary 71
III / YASUTANI-ROSHI'S PRIVATE INTERVIEWS WITH TEN WESTERNERS
Editor's Introduction 83
1 / Student A (Woman, Age 60) 96
2 / Student B (Man, Age 45) 105
3 / Student C (Man, Age 43) 107
4 / Student D (Woman, Age 40) 121
5 / Student E (Man, Age 44) 122
6 / Student F (Woman, Age 45) 123
7 / Student G (Man, Age 25) 125
8 / Student H (Woman, Age 37) 133
9 / Student I (Man, Age 30) 134
10 / Student J (Woman, Age 33) 136
PART ONE / TEACHING AND PRACTICE
Yasutani-roshi's Introductory Lectures on Zen Training
Westerners eager to practice Zen yet lacking access to a qualified master have always faced an imposing handicap: the dearth of written information on what zazen is and how to begin and carry it on. Nor is this lack confined to English and other European languages. In the writings of the ancient Chinese and Japanese Zen masters which have come down to us there is little on the theory of zazen or on the relation of the practice of zazen to enlightenment. Neither is there much detailed information on such elementary matters as sitting postures, the regulation of the breath, concentration of the mind, and the incidence of visions and sensations of an illusory nature.
 Zazen is not "meditation" and for this reason we have retained this Japanese word throughout. Its precise meaning will become clear as teh book progress. Pronounced "zah-zen," each syllable is accented equally.
There is nothing strange in this. Sitting in zazen or meditation has been so accpeted as the approved path to spiritual emancipation throughout Asia that no Zen Buddhist had first to be convinced that through it one could develop one's powers of concentration, achieve unification and tranquility of mind, and eventually, if one's aspiration was pure and strong enough, come to Self-realization. An aspirant, therefore, was simply given a few oral instructions on how to fold the legs, how to regulate the breath, and how to concentrate the mind. Through the painful process of trial and error and periodic encounters (dokusan) with one's teacher,, one eventually learned in a thoroughly experiential way not only proper sitting and breathing but also the inner meaning and purpose of zazen.
But since modern people, as Yasutani-roshi points out, lack the faith and burning zeal of their predecessors in Zen, they need a map their mind can trust, charting their entire spiritual journey, before they can move ahead with confidence. For these reasons Heradaroshi, Yasutani-roshi's own master, devised a series of introductory lectures on Zen practice some years ago, and it is this material which forms the basis of these lectures by Yasutani-roshi.
This present translation is a compilation of a number of such lectures which Yasutani-roshi has given, without notes, to beginners over the past several years. No new student may receive dokusan until he or she has heard them all.
These talks are more than a compendium of instructions on the formal aspects of zazen, that is, sitting, breathing, and concentration. They are an authoritative exposition of the five levels of Zen, of the aims and essentials of zazen, and of the all-important relation of zazen to enlightenment (satori). With them as map and compass earnest seekers need not grope along hazardous bypaths of the occult, the psychic, or the superstitious, which waste time and often prove harmful, but can proceed directly along a carefully course, secure in the knowledge of their ultimate goal.
No account of the history and development of Zen, no interpretations of Zen from the viewpoint of philosophy or psychology, and no evaluations of the influence of Zen on archery, judo, haiku poetry, or any other of the Japanese arts will be found here. Valuable as these studies can be, they have no legitimate place in Zen training and would only burden aspirants' minds with ideas that would confuse them as to their aims and drain them of the incentive to practice. For this reason such studies are deliberately omitted by Yasutani-roshi.
Yasutani-roshi's emphasis on the religious aspect of Zen Buddhism--that is, on faith as a prerequisite to enlightenment--may come as a surprise to Western readers accustomed to "intellectual images" of Zen by scholars devoid of Zen insight. This derives for the most part from the teachings of Dogen-zenji, one of the imposing religious personalities of Japanese history, who brought the doctrines of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism from China to Japan. Without even a sketchy knowledge of the circumstanes of Dogen's life that led him to become a Zen monk and to journey to China, where he attained the Great Way, one would find it difficult to understand the Soto Zen doctrine which forms the core of Yasutani-roshi's own teachings.
Born of an aristocratic family, Dogen even as a child gave evidence of his brilliant mind. It is related that at four he was reading Chinese poetry and at nine a Chinese translation of a treatise on the Abhidharma. The sorrow he felt at his parents' deaths--his father when he was only three and his mother when he was eight--undoubtedly impressed upon his sensitive mind the impermanence of life and motivated him to become a monk. With his initiation into the Buddhist monkhood at an early age, he conmmenced his novitiate at Mount Hiei, the center of scholastic Buddhism in medieval Japan, and for the next several years studied the Tendai doctrines of Buddhism. By his fifteenth year one burning question became the core around which his spiritual strivings revolved: "If, as the sutras say, our Essential-nature is Bodhi (perfection), why did all Buddhas have to strive for enlightenment and perfection?" His dissatisfaction with the answers he received at Mount Hiei led him eventually to Eisai-zenji, who had brought the teachings of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism from China to Japan. Eisai's reply to Dogen's question was: "No Buddha is conscious of its existence [that is, of this Essential-nature], while cats and oxen [that is the grossly deluded] are aware of it." In other words, Buddhas, precisely because they are Buddhas, no longer think of having or not having a Perfect-nature; only the deluded think in such terms. At these words Dogen had an inner realization which dissolved his deep-seated doubt. In all likelihood this exchange took place in a formal encounter (dokusan) between Eisai and Dogen. It must be borne in mind that this problem had perplexed Dogen for some time, giving him no rest, and that all he needed was Eisai's words to trigger his mind into a state of enlightenment.
Dogen thereupon commenced what was to be a brief discipleship under Eisai, whose death took place within the year and who was succeeded by his eldest disciple, Myozen. During the eight years Dogen spent with Myozen he passed a considerable number of koans and finally received inka.
Despite this accomplishment Dogen still felt spiritually unfulfilled, and this disquiet moved him to undertake the then-hazardous journey to China in search of complete peace of mind. He stayed at all the well-known monasteries, practicing under many masters, but his longing for total liberation was unsatisfied. Eventually at the famous Tien-tung Monastery, which had just acquired a new master, he achieved full awakening, that is, the liberation of body and mind, through these words uttered by his master, Ju-ching: "You must let fall body and mind."
These words are said to have been uttered by Ju-ching at the commencement of the formal zazen period, in the early morning, as he was making his round of inspection. Spying one of the monks dozing, the master reprimanded him for his halfhearted effort. Then addressing all the monks, he continued: "You must exert yourselves with all your might, even at the risk of your lives. To realize perfect enlightenment you must let fall [that is, become empty of all conceptions of] body and mind." As Dogen heard this last phrase his Mind's eye suddenly expanded in a flood of light and understanding.
For a discussion of the significance of a single word or phrase precipitating enlightenment, see page 104.
Later Dogen appeared at Ju-ching's room, lit a stick of incense (a ceremonial gesture usually reserved for noteworthy occasions), and prostrated himself before his master in the customary fashion.
"Why are you lighting a stick of incense?" asked Ju-ching. Needless to say, Ju-ching, who was a first-rate master, and who had received Dogen many times in dokusan and therefore knew the state of his mind, could perceived at once from Dogen's walk, his prostrations, and the comprehending look in his eyes that he had had a great enlightenment. But Ju-ching undoubtedly wanted to see what response this innocent-sounding question would provoke so as to fix the scope of Dogen's satori.
"I have experienced the dropping off of body and mind," replied Dogen.
Ju-ching exclaimed: "You have dropped body and mind, body and mind have indeed dropped!"
But Dogen remonstrated: "Don't give me your sanction so readily."
"I am not sanctioning your so readily."
Reversing their roles, Dogen demanded: "Show me that you are not readily sanctioning me."
And Ju-ching repeated: "This is body and mind dropped," demonstrating.
Whereupon Dogen prostrated himself again before his master as a gesture of respect and gratitude.
"That's 'dropping' dropped," added Ju-ching.
It is noteworthy that even with this profound experience Dogen continued his zazen training in China for another two years before returning to Japan.
At the time of his great awakening Dogen was practicing shikantaza a mode of zazen which involved neither a koan nor counting or following the breaths. The very foundation of shikan-taza is an unshakable faith that sitting as the Buddha sat, with the mind void of all conceptions, of all beliefs and points of view, is the actualization or unfoldment of the inherently enlightened Bodhi-mind with which all are endowed. At the same time this sitting is entered into the faith that it will one day culminate in the sudden and direct preception of the true nature of this Mind--in other words, enlightenment. Therefore to strive self-consciously for satori or any other gain from zazen is as unnecessary as it is undesirable.
For Yasutani-roshi's comments on shikan-taza, see pp.60-62.
The conscious thought "I must enlightened" can be as much of an impediment as any other which hangs in the mind.
In authentic shikan-taza neither of these two elements of faith can be dispensed with. To exclude satori from shikan-taza would necessarily involve stigmatizing as meaningless and even masochistic the Buddha's strenuous efforts toward enlightenment, and impugning the Ancestral Teachers' and Dogen's own painful struggles to that end. This relation of satori to shikan-taza is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately it has often been misunderstood, especially by those to whom Dogen's complete writings are inaccessible. It thus not infrequently happens that Western students will come to a Soto temple or monastery utilizing koans in its teaching and remonstrate with the master over the assignment; since all are intrinsically enlightened, they argue, there is no point in seeking satori. So what they ask to practice is shikan-taza, which they believe does not involve the experience of enlightenment.
For the attitude of one such novice, see p. 147.
Such an attitude reveals not only a lack of faith in the judgment of one's teacher but a fundamental misconception of both the nature and the difficulty of shikan-taza, not to mention the teaching methods employed in Soto temples and monasteries. A careful reading of these introductory lectures and Yasutani-roshi's encounters with ten Westerners will make clear why genuine shikan-taza cannot be successfully undertaken by the rank novice, who has yet to learn how to sit with stability and equanimity, or whose ardor needs to be regularly boosted by communal sitting or by the encouragement of a teacher, or who, above all, lacks strong faith in his or her own Bodhi-mind coupled with a dedicated resolve to experience its reality in one's daily life.
Because today, Zen masters claim, devotees are on the whole much less zealous for truth, and because the obstacles to practice posed by the complexities of modern life are more numerous, capable Soto masters seldom assign shikan-taza to a beginner. They prefer to have the student first unify the mind through concentration on counting the breaths; or where a burning desire for enlightenment does exist, to exhaust the discursive intellect through the imposition of a special type of Zen problem (that is, a koan) and thus prepare the way for kensho.
By no means, then, is the koan system confined to the Rinzai sect as many believe. Yasutani-roshi is only one of a number of Soto masters who use koans in their teaching. Genshu Watanabe-roshi, the former abbot of Soji-ji, one of the two head temples of the Soto sect in Japan, regularly employed koans, and at the Soto monastery of Hosshinji, of which the illustrious Harada-roshi was abbot during his lifetime, koans are also widely used.
Even Dogen himself, as we have seen, disciplined himself in koan Zen for eight years before going to China and practicing shikan-taza. And though upon his return to Japan Dogen wrote at length about shikan-taza and recommended it for his inner band of disciples, it must not be forgotten that these disciples were dedicated truth-seekers for whom koans were an unnecessary encouragement to sustained practice. Notwithstanding this emphasis on shikan-taza, Dogen made a compilation of three hundred well-known koans, to each of which he added his own commentary. From this and the fact that his foremost work, the Shobogenzo (A Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma), contains a number of koans, we may fairly conclude that he did utilize koans in his teaching.
In Nempyo Sambyaku Soku (Three Hundred Koans with Commentaries).
Satori-awakening as Dogen viewed it was not the be-all and end-all. Rather he conceived it as the foundation for a magnificent edifice whose many-storied superstructure would correspond to the perfected character and personality of the spiritually developed individual, the woman or man of moral virtue and all-embracing compassion and wisdom. Such an imposing structure, Dogen taught, could be erected only by years of faithful zazen upon the solid base of the immutable inner knowledge which satori confers.
What then is zazen and how is it related to satori? Dogen taught that zazen is the "gateway to total liberation," and Keizan-zenji, one of the Japanese Soto Dharma Ancestors, had declared that only through Zen sitting is the "human mind illumined." Elsewhere Dogen wrote  that "even the Buddha, who was a born sage, sat in zazen for six years until his supreme enlightenment, and so towering a spiritual figure as Bodhidharma sat for nine years facing the wall." And so have Dogen and all the other great masters sat.
In his Fukan Zazengi (Universal Promotion of the Principles of Zazen).
Following Bodhidharma's example, Soto devotees face a wall or curtain during zazen. In the Rinzai tradition sitters face each other across the room in two rows, their backs to the wall.
For with the ordering and immobilizing of feet, legs, hands, arms, trunk, and head in the traditional lotus posture, with the regulation of the breath, the methodical stilling of the thoughts and unificatio of the mind through special modes of concentration, with the development of control over the emotions and strengthening of the will, and with the cultivation of a profound silence in the deepest recesses of the mind--in other words, through the practice of zazen--there are established the optimum preconditions for looking into the heart-mind and discovering there the true nature of existence.
See p.36 and section IX.
Although sitting is the foundation of zazen, it is not just any kind of sitting. Not only must the back be straight, the breathing properly regulated, and the mind concentrated beyond thought, but, according to Dogen, one must sit with a sense of dignity and grandeur, like a mountain or a giant pine, and with a feeling of gratitute toward the Buddha and the Dharma Ancestors, who made magnifest the Dharma. And we must be grateful for our human body, through which we have the opportunity to experience the reality of the Dharma in all its profundity. This sense of dignity and gratitude, moreover, is not confined to sitting bu must inform every activity, for insofar as each act issues from the Bodhi-mind it has the inherent purity and dignity of Buddhahood. This innate dignity of the human being is physiologically manifested in an erect back, since humans alone of all creatures have this capacity to hold their spinal columns vertical. An erect back is related to proper sitting in other important ways, which will be discussed at a later point in this section.
In the broad sense zazen embraces more than just correct sitting. To enter fully into every action with total attention and clear awareness is no less zazen. The prescription for accomplishing this was given by the Buddha himself in an early sutra: "In what is seen there must be just the seen; in what is heard there must be just the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste or touch) there must be just what is sensed; in what is thought there must be just the thought."
Udana I, 10 (translation by Nyanaponika Thera).
The importance of single-minddedness, of bare attention, is illustrated in the following anecdote:
One day a man of the people said to Zen Master Ikkyu: "Master, will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?"
Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word "Attention."
"Is that all?" asked the man. "Will you not add something more?"
Ikkyu then wrote twice running: "Attention. Attention."
"Well," remarked the man rather irritably, "I really don't see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written."
Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: "Attention. Attention. Attention."
Half angered, the man demanded: "What does that word 'Attention' mean anyway?"
And Ikkyu answered gently: "Attention means attention."
 From the Zenso Mondo (Dialogues of the Zen Masters), translation by Kuni Masuo and E. Steinilber-Oberlin.
For the ordinary man or woman, whose mind is a checkerboard of crisscrossing reflections, opinions, and prejudices, bare attention is virtually impossible, one's life is thus centered not in reality itself but in one's ideas of it. By focusing the mind wholly on each object and every action, zazen strips it of extraneous thoughts and allows us to enter into a full rapport with life.
Sitting zazen and mobile zazen are two functions equally dynamic and mutually reinforcing. Those who sit devotedly in zazen every day, their minds free of discriminating thoughts, find it easier to relate themselves wholeheartedly to their daily tasks, and those who perform very act with total attention and clear awareness find it less difficult to achieve emptiness of mind during sitting periods.
Zazen practice for the student begins with counting the inhalations and exhalations while seated in the motionless zazen posture. This is the first step in the process of stilling the bodily functions, quieting discursive thoughts, and strenghening concentration. It is given as the first step because in counting the in and out breaths, in natural rhythm and without strain, the mind has a scaffolding to support it, as it were. When concentration on the breathing becomes such that awareness of the counting is clear and the count is not lost, the next step, a slightly more difficult type of zazen, is assigned, named, following the inhalations and exhalations of the breath with the mind's eye only, again in natural rhythm. The blissful state which flows from concentration on the breath and the value of breathing in terms of spiritual development are lucidly set forth by Lama Govinda: "From this state of perfect mental and physical equilibrium and its resulting inner harmony grows that serenity and happiness which fills the whole body with a feeling of supreme bliss like the refreshing coolness of a spring that penetrates the entire water of a mountain lake... Breathing is the vehicle of spiritual experience, the mediator between body and mind. It is the first step towards the transformation of the body from the state of a more or less passively and unconsciously functioning physical organ into a vehicle or tool of a perfectly developed and enlightened mind, as demonstrated by the radiance and perfection of teh Buddha's body...The most important result of the practice of 'mindfulness with regard to breathing' is the realization that the process of breathing is the connecting link between conscious and subconscious, gross-material and fine-material, volitional and non-volitional functions, and therefore the most perfect expression of the nature of all life."
Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, by Lama Govinda (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1960). pp. 151-52.
Until now we have been speaking of zazen with no koan. Koan zazen involves both motionless sitting, wherein the mind intensely seeks to penetrate the koan, and mobile zazen, in which absorption in the koan continues while one is at work, at play, or even asleep. Through intense self-inquiry--for example, questioning "What is Mu?"---the mind gradually becomes denuded of its delusive ideas, which in the beginning hamper its effort to become one with the koan. As these abstract notions fall away, concentration on the koan strengthens.
It may be asked: "How can one concentrate devotedly on a koan and simultaneously focus the mind on work of an exacting nature?" In practice what actually happens is that once the koan grips the heart and mind---and its power to take hold is in proportion to the strength of the urge toward liberation---the inquiry goes on ceaselessly in the subconscious. While the mind is occupied with a particular task, the questio fades from consciousness, surfacing naturally as soon as the action is over, not unlike a moving stream which now and again disappears underground only to reappear and resume its open course without interrupting its onward flow.
Zazen must not be confused with meditation. Meditation involves putting something into the mind, either an image or a sacred word that is visualized or a concept that is thought about or reflected on, or both. In some types of meditation the meditator envisions or contemplates or analyzes certain elementary shapes, holding them in the mind to the exclusion of everything else. Or students may contemplate in a state of adoration a Buddha or a Bodhisattva image, hoping to evoke in themselves parallel states of mind. They may ponder such abstract qualities as loving-kindness and compassion. In Tantric Buddhist systems of meditation, mandalas containing various seed syllables of the Sanskrit alphabet---such as Om, for example---are visualized and dwelt upon in a prescribed manner. Also employed for meditational purposes are mandalas consisting of special arrangements of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other figures.
The uniqueness of zazen lies in this: that the mind is freed from bondage to all thought-forms, visions, objects, and imaginings, however sacred or elevating, and brought to a state of absolute emptiness, from which alone it may one day perceive its own true nature, or the nature of the universe.
Such initial exercises as counting or following the breath cannot, strictly speaking, be called meditation since they do not involve visualization of an object or reflection upon an idea. For the same reasons koan zazen cannot be called meditation. Whether one is striving to achieve unity with a koan or, for instance, intensely asking, "What is Mu?" one is not meditating in the technical sense of this word.
Zazen that leads to Self-realization is neither idle reverie nor vacant inaction but an intense inner struggle to gain control over the mind and then use it, like a silent missile, to penetrate the barrier of the five senses and the discursive intellect (that is, the sixth sense). It demands energy, determination, and courage. Yasutani-roshi calls it "a battle between the opposing forces of delusion and bodhi." This state of mind has been vividly described in these words, said to have been uttered by the Buddha as he sat beneath the Bo tree making his supreme effort, and often quoted in the zendo during sesshin: "Though only my skin, sinews, and bones remain an my blood and flesh dry up and whither away, yet never from this seat will I stir until I have attained full enlightenmetn."
This statement is made from the standpoit of practice or training. From the standpoint of the fundamental Buddha-mind there is nodelusion and no bodhi.
The drive toward enlightenment is powered on the one hand by a painfully felt inner bondage---a frustration with life, a fear of death, or both--and on the other by the conviction that through awakening one can gain liberation. But it is in zazen that the body-mind's force and vigor are enlarged and mobilized for the breakthrough into this new world of freedom. Energies which formerly were squandered in compulsive drives and purposeless actions are preserved and channeled into a unity through correct Zen sitting; and to the degree that the mind attains one-pointedness through zazen it no longer disperses its force in the uncontrolled proliferation of idle thoughts. The entire nervous system is relaxed and soothed, inner tensions eliminated, and the tone of all organs strengthened. Furthermore, research involving an electrocardiograph and other devices on subjects who have been practicing zazen for one to two years has demonstrated that zazen brings about a release in psychophysical tension and greater body-mind stability through lowered heart rate, pulse, respiration, and metabolism. In short, by realigning the physical, mental, and psychic energies through proper breathing, concentration, and sitting, zazen establishes a new body-mind equilibrium with its center of gravity in the vital hara.
Psychological Studies on Zen, edited by Yoshiharu Akishige.
Hara literally denotes the stomach and abdomen and the functions of digestion, absorption, and elimination connected with them. But it has parallel psychic  and spiritual significance. According to Hindu and Buddhist yogic systems, there are a number of psychic centers in the body through which vital cosmic force or energy flows. Of the two such centers embraced within the hara, one is associated with the solar plexus, whose system of nerves governs the digestive processes and organs of elimination. The other center is associated with the tanden, a point of concentration, roughly the width of two fingers, located below the navel in the center of the lower belly. Hara is thus a wellspring of vital psychic energies. Harada-roshi, one of the most celebrated Zen masters of his day, in urging his disciples to concentrate their mind's  eye (that is ,the attention, the summation point of the total being) in their tanden, would declare: "You must realize"---that is, make real---"that the center of the universe is the pit of your belly!"
"Psychic" here does not relate to extrasensory phenomena or powers but to energies and body-mind states which cannot be classified either as physiological or psychological.
For further information about him, see pp. 303-306.
See "mind" in vocabulary section.
To facilitate a direct experience of this fundamental truth, the Zen novice is instructed to focus the mind constantly at the tanden and to radiate all mental and bodily activities from that point. With the body-mind's equilibrium thus centered in the hara region, gradually a seat of consciousness, a focus of vital energy, is established there which influences the entire organism.
That consciousness is by no means confined to the brain is shown by Lama Govinda, who writes: "While, according to Western conceptions, the brain is the exclusive seat of consciousness, yogic experience shows that our brain-consciousness is only one among a number of possible forms of consciousness, and that these, according to their function and nature, can be localized or centered in various organs of the body. These 'organs,' which collect, transform, and distribute the forces flowing through them, are called cakras, or centers of force. From them radiate secondary streams of psychic force, comparable to the spokes of a wheel, the ribs of an umbrella, or the petals of a lotus. In other words, these cakras are the points in which psychic forces and bodily functions merge into each other or penetrate each other. They are the focal points in which cosmic and psychic energies crystallize into bodily qualities, and in which bodily qualities are dissolved or transmuted again into psychic forces." 
 Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, p.135.
Settling the body's center of gravity below the navel, that is, establishing a center of consciousness in the tanden, automatically relaxes tensions arising from the habitual hunching of the shoulders, straining of the neck, and squeezing in of the stomach. As this rigidity disappears, an enhanced vitality and new sense of freedom are experienced throughout the body and mind, which are felt more and more to be unity.
Zazen has clearly demonstrated that with mind's eye centered in the tanden the proliferation of random idea is diminished and the attainment of one-pointedness accelerated, since a plethora of blood from the head is drawn down to the abdomen, "cooling" the brain and soothing the autonomic nervous system. This in turn leads to a greater degree of mental and emotional stability. Thus, one who functions from the hara is not easily disturbed. Such a person is, moreover, able to act quickly and decisively in an emergency because his or her mind, settled in the hara, does not waver.
With the mind settled in the hara, narrow and egocentric thinking is superseded by a broadness of outlook and a magnanimity of spirit. This is because thinking from the vital hara center, being free of mediation by the limited discursive intellect, is spontaneous and all embracing. Perception from the hara tends toward integration and unity rather than division and fragmentation. In short, it is thinking which sees things steadily and whole.
The figure of the Buddha seated on his lotus throne--serene, stable, all-knowing and all-encompassing, radiating boundless light and compassion--is the foremost example of hara expressed through perfect enlightenment. Rodin's "Thinker," on the other hand, a solitary figure "lost" in thought and contorted in body, remote and isolated from his Self, typifies the opposite state.
The ability to think and act from the hara is, like joriki, only indirectly related to satori and not synonymous with it. Satori is a "turning about" of the mind, a psychological experience conferring inner knowledge, while hara is no more than what has been indicated. Masters of the traditional Japanese arts are all accomplished in thinking and acting from the hara---they would not merit the title "master" if they were not---but few if any achieve satori without Zen training. Why not? Because their cultivation of hara is essentially for the perfection of their art and not satori, the attainment of which presupposes, as Yasutani-roshi points out in his introductory lectures, faith in the reality of the Buddha's enlightenment and in their own immaculate Buddha-nature.
With body and mind consolidated, focused, and energized, the emotions respond with increased sensitivity and purity, and volition exerts itself with greater strength of purpose. No longer are we dominated by intellect at the expense of feeling, nor driven by the emotions unchecked by reason or will. Eventually zazen leads to a transformation of personality and character. Dryness, rigidity, and self-centeredness give way to flowing warmth, resiliency, and compassion, while self-indulgence and fear are transmuted into self-mastery and courage.
Because they know from centuries of experience this transforming power of zazen, the Japanese masters have always placed greater reliance on zazen to foster moral conduct in their disciples than upon the mere imposition of the precepts from the outside. Actually, the precepts and zazen, both grounded in the identical Buddha-nature, which is the source of all purity and goodness, are mutually reinforcing. The strongest resolution to keep the precepts will at best be only sporadically successful if it is not supported by zazen; and zazen divorced from the disciplined life which grows out of a sincere effort to observe the precepts cannot but be weak and uncertain. In any case, contrary to what is believed in some sects of Buddhism, the precepts are not just simple moral commandments which anyone can easily understand and keep if they have the will to. In reality their relative-absolute sense cannot be grasped as living truth except after long and dedicated zazen. This is why Zen students are normally not given the book of problems called Jujukinkai, which deals with the ten cardinal precepts from the standpoints of the Hinayana doctrines, the Mahayana, the Buddha-nature itself, Bodhidharma's view, and Dogen's view, until the very end of their training, when their enlightenment and zazen power have deepened and matured. Indeed, the Japanese and Chinese masters stress that only upon full enlightenment can one truly know good from evil and, through the power of zazen, translate this wisdom into one's everyday actions.
That a strong sense of social and personal responsibility is inherent in the spiritual freedom of the deeply realized person was made clear by Yasutani-roshi in response to a question addressed to him in America by a group of university students: "If, as we have been led to believe, satori makes clear that past and future are unreal, is one not free to live as one likes in the present, unconcerned about the past and indifferent to the future?"
In reply Yasutani-roshi made a dot on the blackboard and explained that this isolated dot represented their conception of "here and now." To show the incompleteness of this view, he placed another dot on the board, through which he drew a horizontal line and a vertical one. He then explained that the horizontal line stood for time from the beginningless past to the endless future and the vertical for limitless space. The "present moment " of the enlightened individual, who stands at this intersection, embraces all these dimensions of time and space, he emphasized.
Accordingly, the satori-realization that one is the focus of past and future time and space unavoidably carries with it a sense of fellowship and responsibility to one's family and society as a whole, alike to those who came before and those who will follow one. The freedom of the liberated Zen person is a far cry from the "freedom" of the Zen libertine, driven as the latter is by uncontrolled selfish desires. The inseparable bond with all human beings that the truly enlightened feels precludes any such self-centered behavior.
As well as enriching personality and strengthening character, zazen illuminates the three characteristics of existence which the Buddha proclaimed: first, that all things (in which are included our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions) are impermanent, arising when particular causes and conditions bring them into being and passing away with the emergence of new causal factors; second, that life is pain; and third, that ultimately nothing is self-subsistent, that all forms in their essential nature are empty, that is, mutually dependent patterns of energy in flux, yet at the same time are possessed of a provisional or limited reality in time and space, in much the same way that the actions in a movie film have a reality in terms of the film but are otherwise insubstantial and unreal.
Through zazen the first vital truth---that all component things are ephemeral, never the same from one moment to the next, fleeting manifestations in a stream of ceaseless transformation---becomes a matter of direct personal experience. We come to see the concatenation of our thoughts, emotions, and moods, how they arise, how they momentarily flourish, and how they pass away. We come to know that this "dying" is the life of every thing, just as the all-consuming flame constitutes the life of a candle.
That our sufferings are rooted in a selfish grasping and in fears and terrors which spring from our ignorance of the true nature of life and death becomes clear to anyone compelled by zazen to confront oneself nakedly. But zazen makes equally plain that what we term "suffering" is our evaluation of pain from which we stand apart, that pain when courageously accepted is a means to liberation in that it frees our natural sympathies and compassion even as it enables us to experience pleasure and joy in a new depth and purity.
Finally, with enlightenment, zazen brings the realization that the substratum of existence is a Voidness out of which all things ceaselessly arise and into which they endlessly return, that this Emptiness is positive and alive and in fact not other than the vividness of a sunset or the harmonies of a great symphony.
This bursting into consciousness of the effulgent Buddha-nature is the "swallowing up" of the universe, the obliteration of every feeling of opposition and separateness. In this state of unconditioned subjectivity I, selfless I, am supreme. So Shakyamuni Buddha could exclaim: "Throughout heaven and earth, I alone am the honored One." Yet since awakening means also an end to being possessed by the idea of an ego-I, this is as much a world of pure objectivity. Therefore Dogen could write: "To learn the Way of the Buddha is to learn about oneself. To learn about oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to experience the world as pure object. To experience the world as pure object is to let fall one's own body and mind and the 'self-other' body and mind." 
Shobogenzo, first chapter, called the "Genjo Koan."
To help awaken us to this world of Buddha-nature, Zen masters employ yet another mode of zazen, namely, the chanting of dharanis and sutras. A dharani has been described as "a more or less meaningless chain of words or names that is supposed to have a magical power in helping the one who is repeating it at some time of extremity." As phonetic transliterations of Sanskrit words, dharanis have doubtlessly lost much of their profound meaning through the inevitable alteration of the original sounds. But as anyone who has recited them for any length of time knows, in their effect on the spirit they are anything but meaningless. When chanted with sincerity and zest they impress upon the heart-mind the names and virtues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas enumerated in them, removing inner hindrances to zazen and fixing the heart in an attitude of reverence and devotion. But dharanis are also a symbolic expression in sound and rhythm of the essential truth of the universe lying beyond the realm of the discriminating intellect. To the degree that the discursive mind is held at bay during the voicing of dharanis, they are valuable as another exercise in training the mind to cease clinging to dualistic modes of thought.
A Buddhist Bible, edited by Dwight Goddard (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1952), p. 662.
The intoning of sutras, while also a mode of zazen, fulfills yet a further purpose. Since they are the recorded words and sermons of the Buddha, sutras do in some degree make a direct appeal to the intellect. Thus for those whose faith in the Buddha's Way is shallow the repeated chanting of sutras eventually leads to a measure of understanding, and this serves to strenghen faith in the truth of the Buddha's teachings.
In another sense sutra-chanting can be compared to an Oriental ink painting of, say, a pine tree in which most of the picture consists of white space. This empty space corresponds to the deeper levels of meaning of the sutras which the words adumbrate. Just as in the picture our minds are brought to a heightened awareness of the white space because of the tree, so through the reciting of sutras we can be led to sense the reality lying beyond them, the Emptiness to which they point.
During the chanting of sutras and dharanis, each of which varies in tempo, the chanters may sit, stand, or engage in a succession of kneelings and prostrations or make repeated circumambulations in the temple. Frequently the intoning is accompanied by the steady thumping of the mokugyo or punctuated by the sonorous reverberations of the keisu. When the heart and mind are truly one with it, this combination of chanting and the throb of percussion instruments can arouse the deepest feelings and bring about a vibrant, heighened sense of awareness. At the every least it provides variety in what could otherwise become a somber and rigorous discipline of unrelieved Zen sitting. In a week's sesshin few could endure hour after hour of just sitting. Even if this did not prove to be unbearably difficult, it would still doubtlessly bore all but the most ardent. Zen masters, by prescribing various kinds of zazen--that is, sitting, walking, chanting, and manual labor--not only reduce the risk of ennui but actually increase the effectiveness of each type of zazen.
Dogen attached great importance to the proper positions, gestures, and movements of the body and its members during chanting, as indeed in all other modes of zazen, because of their repercussions on the mind. In Tantric Buddhism particular qualities of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are evoked by the devotee through certain positions of the hands (called mudras) as well as body postures, and it is probably from the Tantric that this aspect of Dogen's teaching derives. In any event, the prescribed postures do induce related states of mind. Thus to chant the Four Vows while kneeling, with the hands in gassho (palms together), as practiced in the Soto sect, evokes a reverential frame of mind less readily felt when these same vows are chanted seated or standing, as in the Rinzai sect. Similarly, lightly to touch the tips of the thumbs in seated zazen creates a feeling of poise and serenity not so easily attainable with the hands clenched.
Conversely, each state of mind elicits from the body its own specific response. The act of unself-conscious prostration before a Buddha is thus possible only under the impetus of reverence and gratitude. Such "horizontalizings of the mast of ego" cleanse the heart-mind, rendering it flexible and expansive, and open the way to an understanding and appreciation of the exalted mind and manifold virtues of the Buddha and Dharma Ancestor. So there arises within us a desire to express our gratitude and show our respect before their personalized forms through appropriate rituals. These devotions when entered into spontaneously with a non-discriminating mind endow the Buddha figure with life; what was formerly a mere image now becomes a living reality with the singular power to obliterate in us awareness of self and Buddha at the moment of prostration. Because in this unthinking gesture our immaculate Bodhi-mind shines brightly, we feel refreshed and renewed.
In the light of these observations on the interaction of body and mind, we can now consider in fuller detail the reasons why Zen masters have always stressed an erect back and the classic lotus posture. It is well known that a bent back deprives the mind of its tension so that it is quickly invaded by random thoughts and images, but that a straight back, by strengthening concentration, lessens the incidence of wandering thoughts and thus hastens samadhi. Conversely, when the mind becomes free of ideas the back tends to straighten itself without conscious effort.
Through a sagging spine and the consequent multiplication of thoughts, harmonious breathing often becomes superseded by quickened or jerky breathing, depending on the nature of the thoughts. This soon reflects itself in nervous and muscular tensions. In these lectures Yasutani-roshi also points out how a slouching back saps the mind's vigor and clarity, inducing dullness and boredom.
This all-important erectness of the spine and parallel tautness of mind are easier to maintain over a long period if the legs are in the full- or half-lotus posture and the attention concentrated in the region just below the navel.
 The hara (see p.79).
Moreover, since body is the material aspect of mind and mind the immaterial aspect of body, to assemble the hands and arms and the feet and legs into a unity at one central point where the joined hands rest on the heels of the locked legs, as in the full-lotus posture, facilitates the unification of mind. Lastly, the lotus posture, in which the two knees and the seat form a triangular base of great stability, creates a sense of rootedness in the earth, together with a feeling of an all-encompassing oneness, void of the sensation of inner or outer. This is true, however, only when this position can be assumed and maintained without discomfort.
For all these reasons Zen, as the embodiment of the Buddha's essential teaching and practice, has throughout its long history followed the Buddha's method of sitting as the most direct and practical way to attain emptiness of mind and, utimately, enlightenment.
This is not to imply, however, that zazen cannot be practiced or awakening attained unless one sits in the full- or half-lotus posture. Zazen can in fact be effective even in a chair or on a bench or while kneeling, provided the back is straight. In the last resort what ensures success in the quest for enlightenment is not a particular posture but an intense longing for truth for its own sake, which alone leads one to sit reguarly in any fashion and to perform all the affairs of daily life with devotion and clear awareness. But zazen has always been regarded as fundamental to Zen discipline simply because centuries of experience have demonstrated that it is the easiest way to still the mind and bring it to one-pointedness so that it may be employed as an instrument of Self-discovery. In the long history of Zen, thousands upon thousands have come to awakening through zazen, while few genuine enlightenment experiences have taken place without it.  If even the Buddha and Bodhidharma, as Dogen reminds us, had need to sit, surely no aspirant can dispense with zazen. Kensho (or satori) is but the first sight of Truth, and whether this is merely a glimpse or a sharp, deep view, it can be enlarged through zazen. Moreover, it is well to remember that unless fortified by joriki--that is, samadhi strength, the particular power developed through zazen--the vision of Oneness attained in enlightenment, especially if it is faint to begin with, in time becomes clouded and eventually fades into a pleasant memory instead of remaining an omnipresent reality shaping our daily life. What we must not lose sight of, however, is that zazen is more than just a means to enlightenment or a method for sustaining and enlarging it, but is the actualization of our True-nature. Hence it has absolute value. Yasutani-roshi makes this vital point clear in these lectures as well as in his encounters with ten Westernes.
See section IX for the various correct postures.
The Sixth Dharma Ancestor, Hui-neng (638-713), is the most notable exception. In his autobiography he recounts how he attained enlightenment in his youth upon hearing the Diamond sutra recited by a monk. Evidently he had never practiced formal zazen before.
For a discussion of joriki, see pp. 53-54. See also "Samadhi" in the vocabulary section.
There can be no doubt that for most Westerners, who seem by nature more active and restless than Asians, sitting perfectly still in zazen, even in a chair, is physically and mentally painful. Their unwillingness to endure such pain and discomfort even for short periods of time undoubtedly stems from a deeply entrenched conviction that it is not only senseless but even masochistic to accept pain deliberately when ways can be found to escape or mitigate it. Not unsurprisingly, therefore, do we have the attempt on the part of some commentators, obviously unpracticed in Zen, to show that sitting is not indispensable to Zen discipline. In his The Way of Zen (pp. 101,103) Alan Watts even tries to prove, by citing portions of a well-known dialogue, that the Zen masters themselves have impugned sitting. The following is our translation of the dialogue:
Ma-tsu was doing zazen daily in his hut on Nan-yueh Mountain. Watching him one day, Huai-jang, his master, thought, "He will become a great monk," and inquired:
"Worthy one, what are you trying to attain by sitting?"
Ma-tsu replied: "I am trying to become a Buddha."
Thereupon Huai-rang picked up a piece of roof tile and began grinding it on a rock in front of him.
"What are you doing, Master?" asked Ma-tsu.
"I am polishing it to make a mirror," said Huai-jang.
"How could polishing a tile make a mirror?"
"How could sitting in zazen make a Buddha?"
Ma-tsu asked: "What should I do, then?"
Huai-jang replied: "if you were driving a cart and it didn't move, would you whip the cart or whip the ox?"
Ma-tsu made no reply.
Huai-jang continued: "Are you training yourself in zazen? Are you striving to become a sitting Buddha? If you are training yourself in zazen, [let me tell you that the substance of] zazen is neither sitting nor lying down. If you are training yourself to become a sitting Buddha, [let me tell you that] Buddha has no one form [such as sitting]. The Dharma, which has no fixed abode, allows of no distinctions. If you try to become a sitting Buddha, this is no less than killing the Buddha. If you cling to the sitting form you will not attain the essential truth."
Upon hearing this, Ma-tsu felt as refreshed as though he had drunk an exquisite nectar.
To his own translation Mr. Watts adds (p. 113): "This seems to be the consistent doctrine of all the Tang masters from Hui-neng [the Sixth Patriarch] to Lin-chi [Rinzai]. Nowhere in their teachings have I been able to find any instructions in or recommendation of the type of zazen which is today the principal occupation of Zen monks." Evidently he overlooked The Zen Teaching of Huang Po (as translated by John Blofeld), where we find Huang Po, who died in 850, advising (p.131): "When you practice mind-control (zazen or dhyana), sit in the proper position, stay perfectly tranquil, and do not permit the least movement of your mind to disturb you." Surely this is clear proof that zazen as it is carried on in Japan today was an established practice even in the Tang era, as indeed it was in the Buddha's time.
Moreover, to construe the dialogue quoted above as a condemnation of zazen is to do violence to the whole spirit of the koan. Far from implying that sitting in zazen is as useless as trying to polish a roof tile into mirror--though it is easy for one who has never practiced Zen to come to such a conclusion--Huai-jang is in fact trying to teach Ma-tsu that Buddhahood does not exist outside himself as an object to strive for, since we are all Buddhas from the very first. Obviously Ma-tsu, who later became a great master, was under the illusion at the time that Buddhahood was something different from himself. Huai-jang is saying in effect: "How could you become a Buddha through sitting if you were not a Buddha to begin with? This would be as impossible as trying to polish a roof tile into a mirror." In other words, zazen does not bestow Buddhahood; it uncovers a Buddha-nature which has always existed. Furthermore, through the act of grinding the tile Huai-jang is concretely revealing to Ma-tsu that the polishing is itself the expression of this Buddha-nature, which transcends all forms, including that of sitting or standing or lying down.
The Sixth Dharma Ancestor in his Platform sutra states: "If one did not have the Buddha-mind within oneself, where would one seek the true Buddha?"
To guard against their disciples' becoming attached to the sitting posture, Zen masters incorporate mobile zazen into their training. It is emphatically not true, as Mr. Watts states, that today the principal occupation of Zen monks is sitting. Except for a total of six weeks or so in the year when they are in sesshin, Japanese Zen monks in training spend most of their time working, not sitting. At Hosshin-ji, which is more or less typical of most Japanese Zen monasteries in this respect, monks usually sit for an hour and a half in the morning and for about two to three hours in the evening. And since they normally sleep about six or seven hours, the other twelve or thirteen hours of the day are spent on such labors as working in the rice fields and vegetable gardens, cutting wood and pumping waters, cooking, serving meals, keeping the monastery clean, and sweeping and weeding its extensive grounds. At other times they tend the graves in the cemetery adjoining the monastery and chant sutras and dharanis for the dead both in the homes of devotees and in the monastery. Additionally Zen monks spend many hours walking the streets begging food and other necessities, to learn humility and gratitute, as part of their religious training. All these activities are deemed to be the practice of mobile zazen since they are to be performed mindfully, with total involvement. Huai-hai's famous dictum, "A day of no work is a day of no eating," animates the spirit of the Zen monastery today as strongly as it ever did.
Without zazen, whether it be the stationary or the mobile variety, we cannot speak of Zen training or discipline or practice. The Huai-jang koan and all others point to the Buddha-mind with which we are endowed, but they do not teach how to realize the reality of this Mind. The realization of this highest truth demands dedication and sustained exertion, which is to say the pure and faithful practice of zazen. The attempt to dismiss zazen as unessential is at bottom nothing more than a rationalization of an unwillingness to exert oneself for the sake of truth, with the obvious implication that in fact no real desire for truth exists. In his Shobogenzo Dogen takes to task those who would identify themselves with the highest ideals of the Buddha yet shirk the effort required to put them into practice:
The great Way of the Buddha and Dharma Ancestors involves the highest form of exertion, which goes on unceasingly in cycles from the first dawn of religious truth, through the test of discipline and practice, to enlightenment and Nirvana. It is sustained exertion, proceeding without lapse from cycle to cycle...
This sustained exertion is not something which people of the world naturally love or desire, yet it is the last refuge of all. Only through the exertions of all Buddhas in the past, present, and future do the Buddhas of past, present, and future become a reality...By this exertion Buddhahood is realized, and those who do not make an exertion when exertion is possible are those who hate Buddha, hate serving the Buddha, and hate exertion; they do not want to live and die with Buddha, they do not want him as their teacher and companion...
Quoted in Sources of Japanese Tradition, edited by Williamm Theodore de Bary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), pp. 250-51.
A Biographical Note on Yasutani-roshi (1885-1973)
At the age of eighty Zen Master Hakuun Yasutani undertook an extended stay in America to expound the Buddha's Dharma. In so doing he evoked the spirit of the redoubtable Bodhidharma, who in the latter years of his life turned his back on his native land and went forth to distant shores to plant the living seed of Buddhism. Yet for Yasutani-roshi this was but one more remarkable event in a life marked by unique achievements.
After his seventy-fifth birthday he wrote and published five complete volumes of commentaries on the koan collections known, respectively, as the Mumonkan, the Hekigan-roku, the Shoyo-roku, and the Denkoroku, and on the Five Degrees of Tozan (Go-i in Japanese). Altogether this series comprises a feat unique in the modern history of Zen.
A Zen name meaning "White Cloud." See "clouds and water" in vocabulary section.
Such writing was but one facet of his extensive teaching activity. Besides holding monthly sesshin of from three to seven days at his own temple in the suburbs of Tokyo, and periodic sesshin in Kyushu and Hokkaido, the southern and northern extremes of Japan, every week he conducted a number of one-day sesshin (zazenkai) in the greater Tokyo area. Among other places these included one of the large universities, several factories, the Self-Defense Academy, and a number of temples.
Twice he has traveled to the West. On his first trip to America, in 1962, he held sesshin of from four to seven days at Honolulu; Los Angeles; Caremont, California; Wallingford, Pennsylvania; New York; Boston; and Washington, D.C. The following year he repeated his sesshin in America and expanded his activities to include lectures on Zen in England, France, and Germany.
Husband, father, schoolmaster, and ultimately Zen master Hakuun Yasutani did not achieve his present distinction by avoiding the pains and joys incident to the life of the ordinary person but in experiencing and transcending them. In this his life reflects the Mahayana ideal that Self-realization is for the householder no less than the celibate monk.
Yasutani-roshi was born of a pious Buddhist mother and a father who was a pastry shop owner in a small village. At five he had his head shaved, symbolizing his induction into the Buddhist monkhood, after which his parents, following the custom of devout families of the time, sent him to live in a temple so that he might absorb a religious atmosphere and become influenced in the direction of the priesthood.
He remained at this temple until he was twelve, performing the chores of a neophyte, attending primary school, and receiving an education in the fundamentals of Buddhism from the head priest. Upon his thirteenth birthday he became a novice at a large Soto temple. Then followed two more years of public school education, five years at a seminary conducted by the Soto sect, and eventually four years at a teachers' training school.
At thirty Hakuun Yasutani married and began to raise a family, which in time numbered five children. Nominally a priest, he took a position as an elementary school teacher to support his growing family since no temple was then available. He continued to teach for six years, and upon promotion to principal served another four years in the same school.
Despite the burdens of raising a family of five and the demands of his job, throughout the years he had continued, under various teachers, the zazen he had commenced many years earlier--at the age of fifteen, to be exact. While these teachers were generally recognized as among the foremost masters of the Soto sect, the fact that they dealt with satori in vague generalities made its actual realization seem remote and chimerical. Always he felt in want of a genuine master, a Buddha-like figure who could set his feet on the true path. At forty he finally found him in Harada-roshi, and with this meeting his life took a decisive turn.
He relinquished his principalship, became a temple priest in fact as well as name, and began attending sesshin reguarly at Harada-roshi's monastery, Hosshin-ji. At his second sesshin he attained kensho with the koan Mu.
Yasutani-roshi was fifty-eight when Harada-roshi gave him his seal of approval (inka shomei) and named him a Dharma successor. This signal honor implied that his spiritual insight was deep and his capacity to teach proven.
Like his modest temple, Yasutani-roshi was simple and unaffected. His two meals a day included neither meat, fish, eggs, nor alcohol. He could often be seen trotting about Tokyo in a tattered robe and a pair of sneakers on his way to a zazen meeting, his lecture books in a bag slung over his back, or standing in the crowded second-class inter-urban trains. In his utter simplicity, his indifference to finery, wealth, and fame, he walked in the footsteps of a long line of distinguished Zen masters.
Yasutani-roshi died in his temple in Tokyo on March 28, 1973, at the age of eighty-eight. He was about to take his breakfast when he toppled over and, without pain, passed away. A week earlier his strength had begun to fail and he took more rest from his heavy teaching schedule. Three days before he drew his last breath he administered the precepts to twelve persons in a forty-five-minute ceremony called jukai. Afterward he confided to a close disciple, "That is my last jukai. I went through it on sheer will power."
1. Theory and Practice of Zazen
What I am about to tell you is based upon the teaching of my revered teacher, Daiun Harada-roshi. Although he himself was of the Soto sect, he was unable to find a truly accomplished master in that sect and so went to train first at Shogen-ji and then Nanzen-ji, two Rinzai monasteries. At Nanzen-ji he eventually grasped the inmost secret of Zen under the guidance of Dokutan-roshi, an outstanding master.
A Zen name meaning "Great Cloud." See "clouds and water" in vocabulary section. His other name is Sogaku.
While it is undeniably true that one must undergo Zen training himself in order to comprehend the truth of Zen, Harada-roshi felt that the modern mind is so much more aware that for beginners lectures of this type could be meaningful as a preliminary to practice. He combined the best of each sect and established a unique method of teaching Zen. Nowhere in Japan will you find Zen teaching set forth so thoroughly and succinctly, so well suited to the temper of the modern mind, as at his monastery. Having been his disciple for some twenty years, I was enabled, thanks to his favor, to open my Mind's eye in some measure.
Before commencing his lectures Harada-roshi would preface them with advice on listening. His first point was that everyone should listen with their eyes open and upon him--in other words, with their whole being--because an impression received only through the hearing is rather shallow, akin to listening to the ratio. His second point was that each person should listen to these lectures as though they were being given to oneself alone, as ideally they should be. Human nature is such that if two people listen, each feels only half responsible for understanding, and if ten people are listening each feels one's own responsibility to be but one tenth. However, since there are so many of you and what I have to say is exactly the same for everybody, I have asked you to come as a group. You must nonetheless listen as though you were entirely alone and hold yourselves accountable for everything that is said.
This discourse is divided into twelve parts, which will be covered in some eight lecture sessions. The first involves the rationale of zazen and direct methods of practice; the next, special precautions; and the following lectures, the particular problems arising from zazen, together with their solution.
In point of fact, a knowledge of the theory or principles of zazen is not a prerequisite to practice. Students who train under an accomplished teacher will inevitably grasp this theory by degrees as their practice ripens. Modern students, however, being intellectually more sophisticated than their predecessors in Zen, will not follow instructions unreservedly; they must first know the reasons behind them. Therefore I feel obligated to deal with theoretical matters. The difficulty with theory, however, is that it is endless. Buddhist scriptures, Buddhist doctrine, and Buddhist philosophy are no more than intellectual formulations of zazen, and zazen itself is their practical demonstration. From this vast field I will now abstract what is most essential for your practice.
We start with Buddha Shakyamuni. As I think you all know, he began with the path of asceticism, undergoing tortures and austerities which others before him had never attempted, including prolonged fasting. But he failed to attain enlightenment by these means and, half-dead from hunger and exhaustion, came to realize the futility of pursuing a course which could only terminate in death. So he drank the milk-rice that was offered him by a concerned country girl, gradually regained his health, and resolved to steer a middle course between self-torture and self-indulgence. Thereafter he devoted himself exclusively to zazen for six years and eventually, on the morning of the eight of December, at the very instant when he glanced at the planet Venus gleaming in the eastern sky, he attained perfect enlightenment. All this we believe as historical truth.
The traditional Japanese term is O-Shaka-sama. It is both respectful and intimate. The O and sama are honorifics, and rather than attempt an arbitrary translation of them, I have followed the usual English rendering of this title. (See "Buddha" in vocabulary section.)
Other accounts say six years elapsed from the time he left his home until his supreme enlightenment.
The words the Buddha uttered involuntarily at this time are recorded variously in the Buddhist scriptures. According to the Kegon (Avatamsaka) sutra, at the moment of enlightenment he spontaneously cried out: "Wonder of wonders! Intrinsically all living beings are Buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because people's minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this." The first pronouncement of the Buddha seems to have been one of awe and astonishment. Yes, how truly marvelous that all human beings, whether clever or stupid, male or female, ugly or beautiful, are whole and complete just as they are. That is to say, the nature of every being is inherently without a flaw, perfect, no different from that of Amida or any other Buddha. This first declaration of Shakyamuni Buddha is also the ultimate conclusion of Buddhism. Yet human beings, restless and anxious, live half-crazed existences because their minds, heavily encrusted with delusion, are turned topsy-turvy. We need therefore to return to our original perfection, to see through the false image of ourselves as incomplete and sinful, and to wake up to our inherent purity and wholeness.
The most effective means by which to accomplish this is through zazen. Not only Shakyamuni Buddha himself but many of his disciples attained full awakening through Zazen. Moreover, during the 2,500 years since the Buddha's death innumerable devotees in India, China, and Japan have, by grasping this selfsame key, resolved for themselves the most fundamental question of all: What is the meaning of life and death? Even in this day there are many who, having cast off worry and anxiety, have emancipated themselves through zazen.
Between a supremely perfected Buddha and us, who are ordinary, there is no difference as to substance. This "substance" can be likened to water. One of the salient characteristics of water is its conformability: when put into a round vessel it becomes round, when put into a square vessel it becomes square. We have this same adaptability, but as we live bound and fettered through ignorance of our true nature, we have forfeited this freedom. To pursue the metaphor, we can say that the mind of a Buddha is like water that is calm, deep and crystal clear, and upon which the "moon of truth" reflects fully and perfectly. The mind of the ordinary person, on the other hand, is like murky water, constantly being churned by the gales of delusive thought and no longer able to reflect the moon of truth. The moon nonetheless shines steadily upon the waves, but as the waters are roiled we are unable to see its reflection. Thus we lead lives that are frustrating and meaningless.
How can we fully illumine our life and personality with the moon of truth? We need first to purify this water, to calm the surging waves by halting the winds of discursive thought. In other words, we must empty our minds of what the Kegon (Avatamsaka) sutra calls the "conceptual thought of the human being." Most people place a high value on abstract thought, but Buddhism has clearly demonstrated that discriminative thinking lies at the root of delusion. I once heard someone say: "Thought is the sickness of the human mind." From the Buddhist point of view this is quite true. To be sure, abstract thinking is useful when wisely employed--which is to say, when its nature and limitations are properly understood--but as long as human beings remain slaves to their intellect, fettered and controlled by it, they can well be called sick.
All thoughts, whether enobling or debasing, are mutable and impermanent; they have a beginning and an end even as they are fleetingly with us, and this is as true of the thought of an era as of an individual. In Buddhism thought is referred to as "the stream of life-and-death." It is important in this connection to distinguish the role of transitory thoughts from that of fixed concepts. Random ideas are relatively innocuous, but ideologies, beliefs, opinions, and points of view, not to mention the factual knowledge accumulated since birth (to which we attach ourselves), are the shadows which obscure the light of truth.
So long as the winds of thought continue to disturb the water of our Self-nature, we cannot distinguish truth from untruth. It is imperative, therefore, that these winds be stilled. Once they abate, the waves subside, the muddiness clears, and we perceive directly that the moon of truth has never ceased shining. The moment of such realization is kensho, i.e., enlightenment, the apprehension of the true substance of our Self-nature. Unlike moral and philosophical concepts, which are variable, true insight is imperishable. Now for the first time we can live with inner peace and dignity, free from perplexity and disquiet, and in harmony with our environment.
I have spoken to you briefly about these matters, but I hope I have succeed in conveying to you the importance of zazen. Let us now talk about practice.
The first step is to select a quiet room in which to sit. Lay out a fairly soft mat or pad some three feet square, and on top of this place a small circular cushion measuring about one foot in diameter to sit on, or use a square cushion folded in two or even a folded or rolled-up blanket. Preferably one should not wear trousers or socks, since these interfere with the crossing of the legs and the placing of the feet. For a number of reasons it is best to sit in the full-lotus posture. To sit full-lotus you place the foot of the right leg over the thigh of the left and the foot of the left over the thigh of the right. The main point of this particular method of sitting is that by establishing a wide, solid base with the crossed legs and both knees touching the mat, you achieve repose and absolute stability. When the body is immobile, thoughts are not stirred into activity by physical movements and the mind is more easily quieted.
If you have dificulty sitting in the full-lotus posture because of the pain, sit half-lotus, which is done by putting the foot of the left leg over the thigh of the right and the right leg under the left thigh. For those of you who are not accustomed to sitting cross-legged, even this position may not be easy to maintain. You will probably find it difficult to keep the two knees resting on the mat and will have to push one or both of them down again and again until they remain there. In both the half- and the full-lotus postures the uppermost foot can be reversed when the legs become tired.
For those who find both of these traditional zazen positions acutely uncomfortable, an alternative position is the traditional Japanese one of sitting on the heels and calves. This can be maintained for a longer time if a cushion is placed between the heels and the buttocks. One advantage of this posture is that the back can be kept erect easily. However, should all of these positions prove too painful, you may use a chair.
See section IX for sketches of all these postures, including one widely used in the Southeast Asian Buddhist countries.
Next rest the right hand in the lap, palm upward, and place the left hand, palm upward, on top of the right palm. Lightly touch the tips of the thumbs to each other so that a flattened circle is formed by the palms and thumbs. The right side of the body is the active side, the left the passive. Accordingly, during practice we quiet the active side by placing the left foot and left hand over the right members, as an aid in achieving the highest degree of tranquility. If you look at a figure of the Buddha, however, you will notice that the position of these members is just the reverse. The significance of this is that a Buddha, unlike the rest of us, is actively engaged in the task of liberation.
After you have crossed your legs, bend forward so as to thrust the buttocks out, then slowly bring the trunk to an erect posture. The head should be straight; if looked at from the side, your ears should be in line with your shoulders and the tip of your nose in line with your navel. The body from the waist up should be weightless, free from pressure or strain. Keep the eyes open and the mouth closed. The tip of the tongue should lightly touch the back of the upper teeth. If you close your eyes you will fall into a dull and dreamy state. The gaze should be lowered without focusing on anything in particuar, but be careful not to incline the head forward. Experience has shown that the mind is quietest, with the least fatigue or strain, when the eyes are in this lowered position.
The center of gravity of the body-mind should be about two inches below the navel.
The spinal column must be erect at all times. This admonition is important. When the body slumps, not only is undue pressure placed on the internal organs, interfering with their free functioning, but the vertebrae by impinging upon nerves may cause strains of one kind or another. Since body and mind are one, any impairment of the physiological functions inevitably involves the mind and thus diminishes its clarity and one-pointedness, which are essential for effective concentration. From a purely psychological point of view, a ramrod erectness is as undesirable as a slouching position, for the one springs from unconscious pride and the other from abjectness, and since both are grounded in ego they are equally a hindrance to enlightenment.
Be careful to hold the head erect; if it inclines forward or backward or sideward, remaining there for an appreciable length of time a crick in the neck may result.
When you have establish a correct posture, take a deep breath hold it momentarily, then exhale slowly and quietly. Repeat this two or three times, always breathing through the nose. After that breathe naturally. When you have accustomed yourself to this routine, one deep breath at the beginning will suffice. After that, breathe naturally without trying to manipulate your breath. Now bend the body first to the right as far as it will go, then to the left, about seven or eight times, in large arcs to begin with, then smaller ones until the trunk naturally comes to rest at center.
You are now ready to concentrate your mind. There are many good methods of concentration bequeathed to us by our predecessors in Zen. The easiest for beginners is counting incoming and outgoing breaths. The value of this particular exercise lies in the fact that all reasoning is excluded and the discriminative mind put at rest. Thus the waves of thought are stilled and a gradual one-pointedness of mind achieved. To start with, count both inhalations and exhalations. When you inhale concentrate on "one"; when you exhale, on "two" and so on, up to ten. Then you return to "one" and once more count up to ten, continuing as before. If you lose the count, return to "one." It is as simple as that.
For additional information on concentrating the mind, see p.144.
As I have previously pointed out, fleeting thoughts which naturally fluctuate in the mind are not in themselves an impediment. This unfortunately is not commonly recognized. Even among Japanese who have been practicing Zen for five years or more there are many who misunderstand Zen practice to be a stopping of consciousness. There is indeed a kind of zazen that aims at doing just this, but it is not the traditional zazen of Zen Buddhism. You must realize that no matter how intently you count your breaths you will still perceive what is in your line of vision, since your eyes are open, and you will hear the normal sounds about you, as your ears are not plugged. And since your brain likewise is not asleep, various thoughtforms will dart about in your mind. Now, they will not hamper or diminish the effectiveness of zazen unless, evaluating them as "good," you cling to them or, deciding they are "bad," you try to check or eliminate them. You must not regard any perceptions or sensations as an obstruction to zazen, nor should you pursue any of them. I emphasize this. "Pursuit" simply means that in the act of seeing, your gaze lingers on objects; in the course of hearing, your attention dwells on sounds; and in the process of thinking, your mind adheres to ideas. If you allow yourself to be distracted in such ways, your concentration on the counting of your breaths will be impeded. To recapitulate: let random thoughts arise and vanish as they will, do not dally with them and do not try to expel them, but merely concentrate all your energy on counting the inhalations and exhalations of your breath.
Shojo Zen (see p.51).
In terminating a period of sitting do not arise abruptly, but begin by rocking from side to side, first in small swings, then in large ones, for about half a dozen times. You will observe that your movements in this exercise are the reverse of those you engage in when you begin zazen. Rise slowly and quietly walk around with the others in what is called kinhin, a walking form of zazen.
Kinhin is performed by placing the right fist, with thumb inside on the chest and covering it with the left palm while holding both elbows at right angles. Keep the arms in a straight line and the body erect, with the eyes resting upon a point about two yards in front of the feet. At the same time continue to count inhalations and exhalations as you walk slowly around the room. Begin walking with the left foot and walk in such a way that the foot sinks into the floor, first the heel and then the toes. Walk calmly and steadily, with poise and dignity. The walking must not be done absentmindedly, and the mind must be taut as you concentrate on the counting. It is advisable to practice walking this way for at least five minutes after each sitting period of twenty to thirty minutes.
Your are to think of this walking as zazen in motion. Rinzai and Soto differ considerably in their way of doing kinhin. In Rinzai the walking is brisk and energic, while in traditional Soto it is slow and leisurely; in fact, upon each breath you step forward only six inches or so. My own teacher, Harada-roshi, advocated a gait somewhere between these two and that is the method we have been practicing here. Further, the Rinzai sect cups the left hand on top of the right whereas in the orthodox Soto the right hand is placed on top. Harada roshi felt that the Rinzai method of putting the left hand uppermost was more desirable and so he adopted it into his own teaching. Now even though this walking relieves the stiffness in your legs, such relief is to be regarded as a mere by-product and not the main object of kinhin. Accordingly, those of you who are counting your breaths should continue during kinhin, and those of you who are working on a koan should carry on with it.
This ends the first lecture. Continue to count your breaths as have instructed until you come before me again.
2. Precautions to Observe in Zazen
In this second lecture I am going to change your breathing exercise slightly. This moring I told you to count "one" as you inhale and "two" as you exhaled. Hereafter I want you to count "one" only on the exhalation, so that one full breath [inhalation and exhalation] will be "one." Don't bother counting the inhalations; just count "one," "two," "three," and so forth, on the exhalation.
It is advisable to do zazen facing a wall, a curtain, or the like. Don't sit too far from the wall nor with your nose up against it; the ideal distance is from two to three feet. Likewise, don't sit where you have a sweeping view, for it is distracting, or where you look out on a pleasant landscape, which will tempt you to leave off zazen in order to admire it. In this connection, remember that although your eyes are open you are not actually trying to see. For all these reasons it is wisest to sit facing a wall. However, if you happen to be doing zazen formally in a Rinzai temple, you will have no choice but to sit facing others, as this is the established custom in that sect.
In the beginning, if possible, select a room that is quiet as well as clean and tidy, one which you can regard as speical. It may be asked whether it is satisfactory to do zazen on a bed so long as the room is clean and free from noise. For the ordinary healthy person the answer is no; there are any number of reasons why it is difficult to keep the mind in proper tension on a bed. A bedridden person, of course, has no choice.
You will probably find that natural sounds, like those of insects or birds or running water, will not disturb you, neither will the rhythmic ticking of a clock nor the purring of a motor. Sudden noises, however, like the roar of a jet, are jarring. But rhythmic sounds you can make use of. One student of mind actually attained enlightenment by utilizing the sound of the steady threshing of rice while he was doing zazen. The most objectionable sounds are those of human voices, either heard directly or over the radio or television. When you start zazen, therefore, find a room which is distant from such sounds. When your sitting has ripened, however, no noises will disturb you.
Besides keeping your room clean and orderly you should decorate it with flowers and burn incense since these, by conveying a sense of the pure and the holy, make it easier for you to relate yourself to zazen and thus to calm and unify your mind more quickly. Wear simple, comfortable clothing that will give you a feeling of dignity and purity. In the evening it is better not to wear night clothes, but if it is hot and a question of either doing zazen in pajamas or not doing it at all, by all means wear the pajamas. But make yourself clean and tidy.
The room ought not to be too light or too dark. You can put up a dark curtain if it is too light, or you can use a small electric bulb if it is night. The effect of a dark room is the same as closing your eyes: it dulls everything. The best condition is a sort of twilight. Remember Buddhist zazen does not aim at rendering the mind inactive but at quieting and unifying it in the midst of activity.
A room with plenty of fresh air, that is neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter, is ideal. Punishing the body is not purpose of zazen, so it is unnecessary to struggle with extremes of heat or cold. Experience has shown, however, that one can do better zazen where on feels slightly cool; too hot a room tends to make one sleepy. As your ardor for zazen deepens your will naturally become unconcerned about cold or heat. Nevertheless, it is wise to take care of your health.
Next let us discuss the best time for zazen. For the eager and determined any time of day and all seasons of the year are equally good. But for those who have jobs or professions the best time is either morning or evening, or better still, both. Try to sit every morning preferably before breakfast, and just before going to bed at night. But if you can sit only once--and you should sit at least once a day--you will have to consider the relative merits of morning and evening. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. If you find that either morning or evening is equally good and you ask which I recommend (because you can sit only once a day). I would say the morning, for the following reasons. No visitors come early in the morning, whereas in the evening you are likely to be interrupted. Also, morning--at any rate in the city--is much quieter than evening since fewer cars are on the streets. Furthermore, because in the morning you are rested an somewhat hungry, you are in good condition for zazen, whereas in the evening, when you are tired and have had your meal, you are likely to be duller. Since it is difficult to do zazen on a full stomach, it is better not to sit immediately after a meal when you are a beginner. Before a meal, however, zazen can be practiced to good advantage. As your zeal grows it won't matter when you sit, before, after, or during a meal.
How long should you do zazen at one sitting? There is no general rule, for it varies according to the degree of one's eagerness as well as the maturity of one's practice. For novices a shorter time is better, you sit devotedly five minutes a day for a month or two, you will want to increase your sitting to ten or more minutes as your ardor grows. When you are able to sit with your mind taut for, say, thirty minutes without pain or discomfort, you will come to appreciate the feeling of tranquility and well-being induced by zazen and will want to practice regularly. For these reasons I recommend that beginners sit for shorter periods of time. On the other hand, should you force yourself from the beginning to sit for longer periods, the pain in your legs may well become unbearable before you acquire a calm mind. Thus you will quickly tire of zazen, feeling it to be a waste of time, or you will always be watching the clock. In the end you will come to dislike zazen and stop sitting altogether. This is what frequently happens. Now even though you sit for only ten minutes or so each day, you can compensate for this briefness by concentrating intensely on the counting of each breath, thus increasing its effectiveness. You must not count absentmindedly or mechanically, as though it were a duty.
In spite of your being able to sit for an hour or more with a feeling of exquisite serenity, it is wise to limit your sitting to periods of about thirty or forty minutes each. Ordinarily it is not advisable to do zazen longer than this at one sitting, since the mind cannot sustain its vigor and tautness and the value of the sitting decreases. Whether one realizes it or not, a gradual diminution of the mind's concentrative intensity takes place. For this reason it is better to alternate a thirty- or forty- minute period of sitting with a round of walking zazen. Following this pattern, one can do zazen for a full day or even a week with good results. The longer zazen continues, however, the more time should be spent in walking zazen. In fact, one might advantageously add periods of manual labor to this routine, as has been done in the zen temple since olden times. Needless to say, you must keep your mind in a state of clear awareness during such manual labor and not allow it to become lax or dull.
A word about food. It is better to eat no more than eighty percent of our capacity. A Japanese proverb has it that eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man; the other two sustain the doctor. The Zazen Yojinki (Precautions to Observe in Zazen), compiled about 650 years ago, says you should eat two-thirds of your capacity. It further says that you should choose nourishing vegetables--of course meat eating is not in the tradition of Buddhism and it was taboo when the Yojinki was written--such as mountain potatoes, sesame, sour plums, black beans, mushrooms, and the root of the lotus; and it also recommends various kinds of seaweed, which are highly nutritious and leave an alkaline residue in the body. Now, I am no authority on vitamins and minerals and calories, but it is a fact that most people today eat a diet which creates too much acid in the blood, and a great offender in this respect is meat. Eat more vegetables of the kind mentioned, which are alkalinic in their effect. In ancient days there was yang-yin diet. The yang was the alkaline and the yin the acid, and the old books cautioned that a diet ought not be either too yang or too yin. This is substantially what I have just told you.
There comes a point in your sitting when insights about yourself will flash into your mind. For example, relationships that previously were incomprehensible will suddenly be clarified and difficult personal problems abruptly solved. If you don't jot down things that you want to remember, this could bother you and so interfere with your concentration. For this reason when you are sitting by yourself you may want to keep a pencil and notebook next to you.
3. Illusory Visions and Sensations
This is the third lecture. Before I begin I will assign you a new way of concentration. Instead of counting your exhalations, as heretofore count "one" on the first inhalation, "two" on the next inhalation, and so on, up to ten. This is more difficult than counting on the exhalation, because all mental and physical activity is performed on the exhaled breath. For instance, just before pouncing, animals take breath. This principle is well known in kendo fencing and judo, in which one is taught that by carefully observing his opponent's breathing his attack can be anticipated. While this exercise is difficult, you must try to practice it as another means of concentrating your mind. Until you come before me again you are to concentrate on counting the inhalations of your breath, not audibly but in the mind only. It is not advisable, however, to follow this practice for long. If you are working by yourself, a week would be sufficient.
Makyo are the phenomena--visions, hallucinations, fantasies, revelations, illusory sensations--which one practicing zazen is apt to experience at a particular stage in his sitting. Ma means "devil" and kyo "the objective world." Hence makyo are the disturbing or "diabolical" phenomena which appear to one during zazen. These phenomena are not inherently bad. They become a serious obstacle to practice only if one is ignorant of their true nature and is ensnared by them.
The word makyo is used in both a general and a specific sense. Broadly speaking, the entire life of the ordinary person is nothing but a makyo. Even such Bodhisattvas as Monju and Kannon, highly developed though they are, still have about them traces of makyo; otherwise they would be supreme Buddhas, completely free of makyo. One who becomes attached to what he or she realizes through satori is also still lingering in the world of makyo. So you see, there are makyo even after enlightenment, but we shall not enter into that aspect of the subject in these lectures.
In the specific sense the number of makyo which can appear are in fact unlimited, varying according to the personality and temperament of the sitter. In the Ryogon [Surangama] sutra the Buddha warns of fifty different kinds, but of course he is referring only to the commonest. If you attend a sesshin of from five to seven days' duration and apply yourself assiduously, on the third day you are likely to experience makyo of varying degrees of intensity. Besides those which involve the vision there are numerous makyo which relate to the sense of touch, smell, or hearing, or which sometimes cause the body suddenly to move from side to side or forward and backward or to lean to one side or to seem to sink or rise. Not infrequently words burst forth uncontrollably or, more rarely, one imagines he is smelling a particularly fragrant perfume. There are even cases where without conscious awareness one writes down things which turn out to be prophetically true.
Very common are visual hallucinations. You are doing zazen with your eyes open when suddenly the ridges of the straw matting in front of you seem to be heaving up and down like waves. Or without warning everything may go white before your eyes, or black. A knot in the wood of a door may suddenly appear as a beast or demon or angel. One disciple of mine often used to see visions of masks--demons masks or jesters' masks. I asked him whether he had ever had any particular experience of masks, and it turned out that he had seen them at festival in Kyush when he was a child. Another man I knew was extremely troubled in his practice by visions of Buddha and his disciples walking around him reciting sutras, and was only able to dispel the hallucination by jumping into a tank of ice-cold water for two or three minutes.
The southermost of Japan's main islands.
Many makyo involve the hearing. One may hear the sound of piano or loud noises, such as an explosion (which is heard by no one else), and actually jump. One disciple of mine always used to hear the sound of a bamboo flute while doing zazen. He had learned to play the bamboo flute many years before, but had long since given it up, yet always the sound came to him when he was sitting.
In the Zazen Yojinki we find the following about makyo: "The body may feel hot or cold or glasslike or hard or heavy or light. This happens because the breath is not well harmonized [with the mind and needs to be carefully regulated." It then goes on to say: "One may experience the sensation of sinking or floating, or may alternately feel hazy and sharply alert. The disciple may develop the faculty of seeing through solid objects as though they were transparent, or he may experience his own body as a translucent substance. He may see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Penetrating insights may suddenly come to him, or passages of sutras which were particularly difficult to understand may suddenly become luminously clear to him. All these abnormal visions and sensations are merely the symptoms of an impairment arising from a maladjustment of the mind with the breath."
Other religions and sects place great store by experiences which involve visions of God or deities or hearing heavenly voices, performing miracles, receiving divine messages, or becoming purified through various rites and drugs. In the Nichiren sect, for example, devotees loudly and repeatedly invoke the name of the Lotus sutra, to the accompaniment of vigorous body movements, and feel they have thereby purged themselves of their defilements. In varying degree these practices induce a feeling of well-being, yet from the Zen point of view all are abnormal states devoid of true religious significance and therefore only makyo.
What is the essential nature of these disturbing phenomena we call makyo? They are temporary mental states which arise during zazen when your ability to concentrate has developed to a certain point and our practice is beginning to ripen. When the thought-waves that wax and wane on the surface of the mind are partially calmed, residual elements of past experiences "lodged" in the deeper levels of consciousness bob up sporadically to the surface of the mind, conveying the feeling of a greater or expanded reality. Makyo, accordingly, are a mixture of the real and the unreal, not unlike ordinary dreams. Just as dreams are usually not remembered by a person in deep sleep but only when one is half asleep and half awake, so makyo do not come to those in deep concentration or samadhi. Never be tempeted into thinking that these phenomena are real or that the visions themselves have any meaning. To have a beaufitul vision of a Buddha does not mean that you are any nearer becoming one yourself, any more than a dream of being a millionaire means that you are any richer when you awake. Therefore there is no reason to feel elated about such makyo. And similarly, whatever horrible monsters may appear to you, there is no cause whatever for alarm. Above all, do not allow yourself to be enticed by visions of the Buddha or of gods blessing you or communicating a divine message, or by makyo involving prophecies which turn out to be true. This is to squander your energies in the foolish pursuit of the inconsequential.
But such visions are certainly a sign that you are at a crucial point in your sitting and that if you exert yourself to the utmost, you can surely experience kensho. Tradition states that even Shakyamuni Buddha just before his own awakening experienced innumberable appear, simply ignore them and continue sitting wholeheartedly.
4. The Five Varieties of Zen
I shall now enumerate the different kinds of Zen. Unless you learn to distinguish between them, you are likely to err on decisive points such as whether or not satori is indispensable in Zen, whether Zen involves the complete absence of discursive thought, and the like. The truth is that among the many types of Zen there are some which are profound and some shallow, some that lead to enlightenment and some that do not. It is said that during the time of the Buddha there were ninety or ninety-five schools of philosophy or religion in existence. Each school had its particular mode of Zen, and each was slightly different from the others.
All great religions embrace some measure of Zen, since religion needs prayer and prayer needs concentration of mind. The teaching of Confucius and Mencius, of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, all these have their own elements of Zen. Indeed, Zen is spread over many different activities of life, such as the tea ceremony, Noh, kendo, judo. In Japan starting with the Meiji Restoration, less than a hundred years ago, and continuing up to the present, there have sprung up a number of teachings and disciplines with elements of Zen in them. Among others I recall Okada's System of Tranquil Sitting and Emma's Method of Mind and Body Cultivation. Recently one Tempu Nakamura has been zealously advocating a form of Indian Yoga Zen. All these different methods of concentration, almost limitless in number, come under the broad heading of Zen. Rather than try to specify them all, I am going to discuss the five main divisions of Zen as classified by Keiho-zenji, one of the early Zen masters in China, whose categories, I feel, are still valid and useful. Outwardly these five kinds of Zen scarcely differ. There may be slight variations in the way the legs are crossed, the hands folded, or the breathing regulated, but common to all are three basic elements: an erect sitting posture, correct control of breathing, and concentration (unification) of mind. Beginners need to bear in mind, however, that in the substance and purpose of these various types there are distinct differences. These differences are crucial to you when you come before me individually to state your aspiration, for they will enable you to define your goal clearly the better that I may assign you the practice appropriate to it.
The first of these types we call bompu, or "ordinary," Zen as opposed to the other four, each of which can be thought of as a special kind of Zen suitable for the particular aims of different individuals. Bompu Zen, being free from any philosophic or religious content, is for anybody and everybody. It is a Zen practiced purely in the belief that it can improve both physical and mental health. Since it can almost certainly have no ill effects, anyone can undertake it, whatever religious beliefs they happen to hold or if they hold none at all. Bompu Zen is bound to eliminate sickness of a psychosomatic nature and to improve the health generally.
Through the practice of bompu Zen you learn to cnocentrate and control your mind. It never occurs to most people to try to control their minds, and unfortunately this basic training is left out of contemporary education, not being part of what is called the acquisition of knowledge. Yet without it what we learn is difficult to retain because we learn it improperly, wasting much energy in the process. Indeed, we are virtually crippled unless we know how to restrain our thoughts and concentrate our minds. Furthermore, by practicing this very excellent mode of mind training you will find yourself increasingly able to resist temptations to which you had previously succumbed, and to sever attachments which had long held you in bondage. An enrichment of personality and a strenghening of character inevitably follow since the three basic elements of mind---that is, intellect, feeling, and will---develop harmoniously. The quietist sitting practiced in Confucianism seem to have stressed mainly these effects of mind concentration. However, the fact remains that bompu Zen, although far more beneficial for the cultivation of the mind that the reading of countless on ethics and philosophy, is unable to resolve the fundamental problem of human existence and one's relation to the universe. Why? Because it cannot pierce the ordinary person's basic delusion of himself or herslef as distinctly other than the universe.
The second of the five kinds of Zen is called gedo. Gedo means literally "an outside way" and so implies, from the Buddhist point of view, teachings other than Buddhist. Here we have a Zen related to religion and philosophy but yet not a Buddhist Zen. Hindu yoga, the quietist sitting of Confucianism, contemplation practices in Christianity, all these belong to the category of gedo Zen.
Another feature of gedo Zen is that it is often practiced in order to cultivate various supranormal powers or skills, or to master certain arts beyond the reach of the ordinary person. A good example of this is Tempu Nakamura, the man whom I mentioned earlier. It is reported that he can make people act without himself moving a muscle or saying a word. The aim of the Emma Method is to accomplish such feats as walking barefooted on sharp sword blades or staring at sparrows so that they become paralyzed. All these miraculous exploits are brought about through the cultivation of joriki, the particular strength of power which comes with the strenuous practice of mind concentration, and of which I shall speak later in greater detail. Here I will simply remind you that a Zen which aims solely at the cultivation of joriki for such ends is not a Buddhist Zen.
Another object for which gedo Zen is practiced is rebirth in various heavens. Certain sects, we know, practice Zen in order to be reborn in heaven. This is not the object of Zen Buddhism. While Zen Buddhists do not quarrel with the idea of various strata of heaven and the belief that one may be reborn into these realms through the performance of ten kinds of meritorious deeds, they themselves do not crave rebirth in heaven. Conditions there are altogether too pleasant and comfortable and one can all too easily be lured from zazen. Besides, when one's merit in heaven expires one can very well land in hell. Zen Buddhists therefore believe it preferable to be born into the human world and to practice zazen with the aim of ultimately becoming a Buddha.
I will stop here and at the next lecture conclude the five types of Zen.
I have now discussed with you the first two kinds of Zen, namely, bompu and gedo. Before going on to the next three types I am going to give you another method of concentration: experiencing the breath. For the time being stop counting your breaths and instead concentrate intently on following your inhalations and exhalations, trying to experience them clearly. You are to carry on this exercise until you come before me again.
The third type of zen is shojo, literally meaning "small vehicle." This is the vehicle or teaching that is to take you from one state of mind [delusion] to another [enlightenment]. This small vehicle is so named because it is designed to accommodate only one's self. You can perhaps compare it to a bicycle. The large vehicle [Mahayana], on the other hand, is more like a car or bus: it takes on others as well. Hence shojo is a Zen which looks only to one's own peace of mind.
Here we have a Zen which is Buddhist but a Zen not in accord with the Buddha's highest teaching. It is rather an expedient Zen for those unable to grasp the innermost meaning of the Buddha's enlightenment; i.e., that existence is an inseparable whole, each one of us embracing the cosmos in its totality. This being true, it follows that we cannot attain genuine peace of mind merely by seeking our own salvation while remaining indifferent to the welfare of others.
There are those, however---and some of you listening to me now may be among them--who simply cannot bring themselves to believe in the reality of such a world. No matter how often they are taught that the relative world of distinctions and opposites to which they cling is illusory, the product of their mistaken views, they cannot but believe otherwise. To such people the world can only seem inherently evil, full of sin and strife and suffering, of killing and being killed, and in their despair they long to escape from it.
The fourth classification is called daijo, great vehicle [Mahayana Zen, and this is a truly Buddhist Zen, for it has as its central purpose kensho-godo, that is, seeing into your essential nature and realizing the Way in your daily life. For those able to comprehend the import of the Buddha's own enlightenment experience and with a desire to break through their own illusory view of the universe and experience absolute, undifferentiated Reality, the Buddha taught this mode of Zen. Buddhism is essentially a religion of enlightenment. The Buddha after his own supreme awakening spent some fifty years teaching people how they might themselves realize their Self-nature. His methods have been transmitted from master to disciple right down to the present day..So it can be said that a Zen which ignores or denies or belittles enlightenment is not true daijo Buddhist Zen.
In the practice of daijo Zen your aim in the beginning is to awaken to your True-nature, but upon enlightenment you realize that zazen is more than a means to enlightenment--it is the actualization of your True-nature. In this type of Zen, which has as its object satori-awakening, it is easy to mistakenly regard zazen as but a means. A wise teacher, however, will point out from the onset that zazen is in fact the actualization of the innate Buddha-nature and not merely a technique for achieving enlightenment. If zazen were no more than such a technique, it would follow that after satori zazen would be unnecessary. But as Dogen-zenji himself pointed out, precisely the reverse is true; the more deeply you experience satori, the more you perceive the need for practice.
See p. 313.
Saijojo Zen, the last of the five types, is the highest vehicle, the culmination and crown of Buddhist Zen. This Zen was practiced by the Buddhas of the past--namely, Shakyamuni and Amida--and the expression of Absolute Life, life in its purest form. It is the zazen which Dogen-zenji chiefly advocated and it involves no struggle for satori or any other object. We call it shikan-taza, and of this I shall speak in greater detail in a subsequent lecture.
See "Amida" in vocabulary section.
In this highest practice, means and end coalesce. Daijo Zen and saijojo Zen are, in point of fact, complementary. The Rinzai sect placed daijo uppermost and saijojo beneath, whereas the Soto sect does the reverse. In saijojo, when rightly practiced, you sit in the firm conviction that zazen is the actualization of your undefiled True-nature, and at the same time you sit in complete faith that the day will come when, exclaiming, "Oh, this is it!" you will unmistakably realize this True-nature. Therefore you need not self-consciously strive for enlightenment.
Today many in the Soto sect hold that since we are all innately Buddhas, satori is unnecessary. Such an egregious error reduces shikan-taza, which properly is the highest form of sitting, to nothing more than bompu Zen, the first of the five types.
This completes my account of the five varieties of Zen, but unless I now tell you about the three objectives of zazen my presentation of these five types, especially the last two, will be incomplete.
5. The Three Aims of Zazen
The aims of zazen are three: (1) development of the power of concentration (joriki), (2) satori-awakening (kensho-godo), and (3) actualization of the Supreme Way in our daily lives (mujodo no taigen). These three form an inseparable unity, but for purposes of discussion I am obliged to deal with them individually.
Joriki, the first of these, is the power or strength which arises when the mind has been unified and brought to one-pointedness in zazen concentration. This is more than the ability to concentrate in the usual sense of the word. It is a dynamic power which, once mobilized, enables us even in the most sudden and unexpected situations to act instantly, without pausing to collect our wits, and in a manner wholly appropriate to the circumstances. Those who have developed joriki are no longer slaves to their passions. More fully in command of both themselves and the circumstances of their lives, such people are able to move with real freedom and equanimity. The cultivation of certain supranormal powers is also made possible by joriki, as is the state in which the mind becomes like clear, still water.
The first two of the five kinds of Zen I have spoken about depend entirely on joriki. Now, although the power of joriki can be endlessly enlarged through regular practice, it will recede and eventually vanish if we neglect zazen. And while it is true that many extraordinary powers flow from joriki, nevertheless through it alone we cannot cut the roots of our illusory view of the world. Mere strength of concentration is not enough for the highest types of Zen; concomitantly there must be satori-awakening. In a little-known document handed down by Master Sekito Kisen, the founder of one of the early Zen sects, the following appears: "In our sect, realization of the Buddha-nature, and not mere devotion or strength of concentration, is paramount."
The second of these aims is kensho-godo, seeing into your True nature and the same time seeing into the ultimate nature of thie universe and "all the ten thousand things" in it. It is the sudden realization that "I have been complete and perfect from the very beginning. How wonderful, how miraculous!" If it is true kensho, it substance will always be the same for whoever experiences it, whether that one be the Buddha Shakyamuni, the Buddha Amida, or any one of you gathered in this temple. But this does not mean that we can all experience kensho to the same degree, for in the clarity, the depth and the completeness of the experience there are great differences. As an illustration, imagine a person blind from birth who gradually begins to recover his sight. At first he can see very vaguely and darkly and only objects close to him. Then as his sight improves he is able to distinguish things a yard or so away, then objects at ten yards, then at a hundred yards, until finally he can recognize anything up to a thousand yards. At each of these stages the phenomenal world he is seeing is the same, but the differences in the clarity and accuracy of his view of that world are as great as those between snow and charcoal. So it is with the differences in clarity and depth of our experiences of kensho.
The last of the three objectives is mujodo no taigen, the actualization of the Supreme Way throughout our entire being and our daily activities. At this point we do not distinguish the end from the means. Saijojo, which I have spoken of as the fifth and highest of the five types of Zen, corresponds to this stage. When you sit earnestly and egolessly in accordance with the instructions of a competent teacher--with your mind fully conscious yet as free of thought as a pure white sheet of paper is unmarred by a blemish--there is an unfoldment of your intrinsically pure Buddha-nature whether you have had satori or not. But what must be emphasized here is that only with true awakening do you directly apprehend the truth of your Buddha-nature and perceive that saijojo, the purest type of Zen, is no different from that practiced by all Buddhas.
The practice of Buddhist Zen should embrace all three of these objectives, for they are interrelated. There is, for instance, an essential connection between joriki and kensho. Kensho is "the wisdom naturally associated with joriki," which is the power arising from concentration. Joriki is connected with kensho in yet another way. Many people may never be able to reach kensho unless they have first cultivated a certain amount of joriki, for otherwise they may find themselves too restless, too nervous and uneasy to persevere with their zazen. Moreover, unless fortified by joriki, a single experience of kensho will have no appreciable effect on your life and will fade into a mere memory. For although through the experience of kensho you have apprehended the underlying unity of the cosmos with your Mind's eye, without joriki you are unable to act with the total force of your being on what your inner vision has revealed to you.
Likewise there is an interconnection between kensho and the third of these aims, mujodo no taigen. Kensho when manifested in all your actions is mujodo no taigen. With perfect enlightenment (anuttara samyak-sambodhi) we apprehend that our conception of the world as dual and antithetical is false, and upon this realization the world of Oneness, of true harmony and peace, is revealed.
The Rinzai sect tends to make satori-awakening the final aim of sitting and skims over joriki and mujodo no taigen. Thus the need for continued practice after enlightenment is minimized, and koan study since it is unsupported by zazen and scarcely related to daily life becomes essentially an intellectual game instead of a means by which to amplify and strengthen enlightenment.
On the other hand, while the practice advocated in the official quarters of the Soto sect today stresses mujodo no taigen, in effect amounts to little more than the accumulation of joriki, which, as I pointed out earlier, "leaks" or recedes and ultimately disappear unless zazen is carried on regularly. The contention of the Soto sect nowdays that kensho is unnecessary and that one need do no more than carry on daily activities with the Mind of the Buddha is specious for without kensho you can never really know what this Buddha mind is.
These imbalances in both sects in recent times have, unfortunately, impaired the quality of Zen teaching.
This concludes the discussion of the three aims of zazen.
For a poetic description of the differences between Rinzai and Soto, the following from an unpublished manuscript of the late Nyogen Senzaki may be of interest: "Among Zen students it is said that 'Rinzai's teaching is like the frost of the late autumn, making one shiver, while the teaching of Soto is like the spring breeze which caresses the flower helping it to bloom.' There is another saying: 'Rinzai's teaching is like a brave general who moves a regiment without delay, while the Soto teaching is like a farmer taking care of rice field, one stalk after another, patiently.'"
6. Individual Instruction
Continue to practice the exercise I gave you last time, namely, concentrating on your incoming and outgoing breaths and endeavoring to experience each breath clearly.
This lecture will deal with dokusan (individual instruction which is the time allotted for bringing all problems pertaining the practice before the roshi in private. This tradition of individual teaching started with the honored Shakyamuni himself and has continued unbroken until today. We know this because one of the great masters of Tendai, Chisha-daishi, in his systematizatioin of all the sutras under Eight Teachings and Five Periods, lists the Secret Teaching, which corresponds to dokusan.
Without this individual guidance we cannot say that our practice of zazen is authentic. Unfortunately, since the Meiji period, nearly a hundred years ago, dokusan has virtually died out in the Soto sect, continuing only in the Rinzai tradition. If we compare zazen to a journey on which some start rapidly and then slow down, others begin slowly and later accelerate their pace, some find one phase of the journey more hazardous than another, and all carry different burdens of luggage (that is, preconceived ideas), we can begin to understand why individual guidance in dokusan cannot be dispensed with.
It may be asked why it is necessary to keep dokusan secret. Since nothing immoral is involved, why can it not be open and in public? First of all, since we are ordinary people, with ego, in the presence of others we are inclined to make ourselves out to be better than we are. We cannot bare our souls and stand naked, as it were. Likewise we hesitate to speak the whole truth for fear of being laughed at. Or if the roshi scolds us, using harsh language, we become more concerned with the effect of this on others than in listening to him open-mindedly.
There is yet another reason for privacy in dokusan. After your first experience of kensho you move from koan to koan as your understanding deepens, and were others to be present when you demonstrated these koans, listening to the master's replies, they might think, "Oh, so that's the answer!" without fully understanding the import of the koan. Obviously this would hurt their practice, for instead of coming to their own realization and presenting it to the master, they would remember that this was an acceptable answer but that was not, and thus, to their own detriment, their koan practice would degenerate to mere intellection. For these reasons you should remain silent when asked about a koan which the questioner has not yet passed. Irresponsible talk may lead to other harmful consequences. Rumors may spread that one is savagely beaten in dokusan, for example, giving Zen an undeservedly bad name. Therefore do not discuss your koans with anybody, not even your best friends or members of your family.
It is precisely this violation of the secrecy which formerly surrounded the koan system that has brought about a steady deterioration in Rinzai teaching. What I am about to say does not apply to lay people, who are generally serious in their practice. But in the monasteries, where there are monks who resent the entire training, being there in the first place only to serve the period required to inherit the resident priesthood of a temple, this problem becomes serious. In monasteries where the discipline is faulty an older monk will often say to a younger one: "What koan are you working on?" When told the older one will say: "Do you understand it?" "No." "All right, I will tell you the answer," the older monk says, "and you buy me some cake in return." An accomplished teacher can tell whether the answer authentic or not, but if for some reason he himself becomes lukewarm, he may accept an answer which is not the monk's own. This practice may not be particularly harmful if such a monk spends only two or three years at a monastery before becoming the resident priest of a temple, as his duties there will not require his evaluating another's kensho. But it can happen that there is no opening when he completes this minimal training, so that he may remain at the monastery for perhaps eight or ten years, going through the entire koan system with answers which are not his own. Finally, as is the custom in the Rinzai sect when one completes all the koans, one receive the title of teacher. In this way one with no real understanding becomes "qualified" to guide others. This insidious practice is undermining Zen teaching. Soto scholars studying Zen academically justifiably attack the koan system on just these grounds.
The next point concerns what questions are appropriate during dokusan. All questions should relate to problems growing directly out of your practice. This naturally excludes personal problems. You may feel that the privacy of dokusan offers an excellent opportunity for the discussion of personal or theoretical matters, but you must bear in mind that there are others waiting and that if you take up problems other than those of your practice, you are hindering them. Properly, you may ask about your stomach, for instance, if it is growling, or about your teeth hurting so that you cannot eat, or about visions you may be experiencing. You should not, however, ask about Buddhist doctrine or comparative philosophy or the difference between one sutra and another. You may ask anything so long as it arises directly out of your practice.
The procedure for a new student is to make a monetary offering to the roshi before taking dokusan. Why, it may be asked, all this formality? Dokusan, it cannot be emphasized too strongly, is not a frivolous matter. While everyone is free to practice zazen and to listen to the roshi's commentary at sesshin, the essential character of dokusan is the forming of a karmic bond between teacher and disciple, the significance of which is deep in Buddhism. Dokusan therefore is not to be taken lightly. Moreover, since what passes between the teacher and the student in dokusan concerns problems of a deep and ultimate nature, only the truth must be spoken between them. Very often in public meetings one hesitates to say things which might offend others, but this is not so in dokusan, where the absolute truth must always prevail. For these reasons the proprieties which establish this relationship are not to be slighted.
It is proper to wear ceremonial dress to dokusan, but as this is not insisted upon nowadays you may wear anything which is presentable. When dokusan is announced take a position in line behind the bell outside the zazen hall. When your turn comes and you hear my hand-bell, strike the bell in front of you twice and come to this room. You should not come dashing in, as that would cause confusion and you would not be in a frame of mind to benefit from dokusan. Neither should you saunter in, for there are others waiting. It was the custom originally to make three prostrations at the threshold, three in front of the teacher, and then three more at the doorway when you left, but this has now been abbreviated to three prostrations altogether, one at each of the places mentioned.
In making your prostrations you should touch the tatami mat with your forehead, your hands extended in front of your head, palms upward. Then, bending your arms at the elbows, raise your hand palms upward, several inches above your head. This gesture of receiving the feet, the lowliest members of the Buddha's body, symbolizes humility and the grateful acceptance into your life of the Way of the Buddha. Unless you have submerged your ego, you cannot do this. Bear in mind that the roshi is not simply a deputy of the Buddha but actually stands in his place. In making these prostrations you are in fact paying respect to the Buddha just as though he himself were sitting there, and to the Dharma.
Next take a position about a foot in front of me and announce the nature of your practice. Simply say, "I am counting my breaths," "I am doing Mu," or "I am practicing shikan-taza." Make any questions you have brief and to the point. Should I have anything to say to you, I will sat it after you have finished. But do not come in and waste time wondering what to talk about; remember, others are waiting to see me. My ringing of this bell is your signal to bow down and leave. After that if you should remember something, you will have to bring it up at the following dokusan, because the next person will already be coming in.
Up to now you have been concentrating on your breaths, trying to experience vividly the inhaled breath as only inhaled breath and the exhaled breath as only exhaled breath. Next I want you to try shikan-taza, which I will shortly describe in detail.
It is neither usual nor desirable to change so quickly from these different exercises, but I have followed this course in order to give you a taste of the different modes of concentration.
 After these introductory lectures are completed and you come before me singly, I will assign you a practice corresponding to the nature of your aspiration as well as to the degree of your determination.
This lecture will deal with shikan-taza. Shikan means "nothing but" or "just," while ta means "to hit" and za "to sit." So shikan-taza is a practice in which the mind is intensely involved in just sitting. In this type of zazen it is all too easy for the mind, which is not supported by such aids in counting the breath or by a koan, to become distracted. The correct temper of mind therefore beomes doubly important. In shikan-taza the mind must be unhurried yet at the same time firmly planted or massively composed, like Mount Fuji let us say. But it must also be alert, stretched, like a taut bowstring. So shikan-taza is a heightened state of concentrated awareness wherein one is neither tense nor hurried, and certainly never slack. It is the mind of somebody facing death. Let us imagine that you are engaged in a duel of swordsmanship of the kind that used to take place in ancient Japan. As you face your opponent you are unceasingly watchful, set, ready. Were you to relax your vigilance even momentarily. you would be cut down instantly. A crowd gathers to see the fight. Since you are not blind you see them from the corner of your eye, and since you are not deaf you hear them. But not for an instant is your mind captured by these sense impressions.
This state cannot be maintained for long---in fact, you ought not to do shikan-taza for more than half an hour at a sitting. After thirty minutes get up and walk around in kinhin and then resume your sitting. If you are truly doing shikan-taza, in half an hour you will be sweating, even in winter in an unheated room, because of the heat generated by this intense concentration. When you sit for too long your mind loses its vigor, your body tires, and your efforts are less rewarding than if you had restricted your sitting to thirty-minute periods.
Compared with an unskilled swordsman a master uses his sword effortlessly. But this was not always the case, for there was a time when he had to strain himself to the utmost, owing to his imperfect technique, to preserve his life. It is no different with shikan-taza. In the beginning tension is unavoidable, but with experience this tense zazen ripens into relaxed yet fully attentive sitting. And just as a master swordsman in an emergency unsheathes his sword effortless and attacks single-mindedly, just so the shikan-taza adept sits without strain, alert and mindful. But do not for one minute imagine that such sitting can be achieved without long and dedicated practice.
This concludes the talk on shikan-taza.
8. The Parable of Enyadatta
In the last half of this lecture I will take up the tale of Enyadatta which comes from the Ryogon (Surangama) sutra. This is an exceptionally fine parable that will, if you reflect carefully upon it, clarify many abstruse points of Buddhism.
In the journey from India to Japan, Vajradatta, the half-demented villager mentioned in the sutra, was mysteriously transformed into the beautiful maiden Enyadatta.
This event is said to have occurred at the time of the Buddha. Whether it is true or legendary I cannot say. In any case, Enyadatta was a beautiful maiden who enjoyed nothing more than gazing at herself in the mirror each morning. One day when she looked into her mirror she found no head reflected there. Why not on this particular morning the sutra does not state. At any rate, the shock was so great that she became frantic, rushing around demanding to know who had taken her head. "Who has my head? Where is my head? shall die if I don't find it!" she cried. Though everyone told her, "Don't be silly, your head is on your shoulders where it has always been," she refused to believe it. "No, it isn't! No, it isn't! Somebody must have taken it!" she shouted, continuing her frenzied search. At length her friends, believing her mad, dragged her home and tied her to a pillar to prevent her harming herself.
The being bound can be compared to undertaking zazen. With the immobilization of the body the mind achieves a measure of tranquility. And while it is still distracted, as Enyadatta's mind was in the belief that she had no head, yet the body is now prevented from scattering its energies.
Slowly her close friends persuaded her that she had always had her head and gradually she came to half believe it. Her subconscious mind began to accept the fact that perhaps she was deluded in thinking she had lost her head.
Enyadatta's receiving the reassurance of her friends can be equated with hearing the roshi's commentaries (teisho). Initially these are difficult to understand, but listening to them attentively, every word sinking into your subconscious, you reach the point where you begin to think: "Is that really true?...I wonder...Yes, it must be."
Suddenly one of her friends gave her a terrific clout on the head, upon which, in pain and shock, she yelled "Ouch!" "That's your head! There it is!" her friend exclaimed, and immediately Enyadatta saw that she had deluded herself into thinking she had lost her head when in fact she had always had it.
In the same way, clouting in zazen is of the utmost value. To be jolted physically by the kyosaku stick or verbally by a perceptive teacher at the right time--if it is too early, it is ineffective--can bring about Self-realization. Not only is the kyosaku valuable for spurring you on, but when you have reached a decisive stage in you zazen a hard whack can precipitate your mind into an awareness of its true nature--in other words, enlightenment.
When this happened to Enyadatta she was so elated that she rushed around exclaiming: "Oh, I've got it! I have my head after all! I'm so happy!"
This is the rapture of kensho. If the experience is genuine, you cannot sleep for two or three nights our of joy. Nevertheless, it is a half-mad state. To be overjoyed at finding a head you had from the very first is, to say the least , queer. Nor is it less odd to rejoice at the discovery of your Essential-nature, which you have never been without. The ecstasy is genuine enough, but your state of mind cannot be called natural until you have fully disabused yourself of the notions, "I have become enlightened." Mark this point well, for it is often misunderstood.
As her joy subsided Enyadatta recovered from her half-mad state.
So it is with satori. When your delirium of delight recedes, taking with it all thoughts of realization, you settle into a truly natural life and there is nothing queer about it. Until you reach this point, however, it is impossible to live in harmony with your environment or to continue on a course of true spiritual practice.
I shall now point out more specifically the significance of the first part of the story. Since most people are indifferent to enlightenment, they are ignorant of the possibility of such an experience. They are like Enyadatta when she was unconscious of her head as such. This "head," of course, corresponds to the Buddha-nature, to our innate perfection. That they evey have a Buddha-nature never occurs to most people until they hear Shujo honrai hotoke nari--"All beings are endowed with Buddha-nature from the very first." Suddenly they exclaim: "Then I too must have the Buddha-nature! But where is it? Thus like Enyadatta when she first missed her head and started rushing about looking for it, they commence their search for their True nature.
They begin by listening to various teisho, which seem contradictory and puzzling. They hear that their Essential-nature is no different from the Buddha's--more, that the substance of the universe is coextensive with their own Buddha-nature--yet because their mind are clouded with delusion they see themselves confronted by a world of individual entities. Once they establish firm belief in the reality of the Buddha-nature, they are driven to discover it with all the force of their being. Just as Enyadatta was never without her head, so are we never separate from our essential Buddha-nature whether we are enlightened or not. But of this we are unaware. We are like Enyadatta when her friends told her: "Don't be absurd, you have always had your head. It is an illusion to think otherwise."
The discovery of our True-nature can be compared to Enyadatta's discovery of her head. But what have we discovered? Only that we have never been without it! Nonetheless we are ecstatic, as she was at the finding of her head. When the ecstasy recedes, we realize we have acquired nothing extraordinary, and certainly nothing peculiar. Only now everything is utterly natural.
9.Cause and Effect are One
You cannot hope to comprehend the exalted nature of Zen without understanding this lecture on inga ichinyo, the meaning of which is that cause and effect are one. This expression comes from Hakuin-senji's Chant in Praise of Zazen. Bear in mind that this lecture will not be an explanation of cause and effect in the broad sense but only in relation to the practice of zazen.
Strictly speaking, you ought not to think of zazen in terms of time. While it is generally true that if you do zazen for a year it will have an effect equal to a year's effort, and that if you practice zazen for ten years it will produce an effect proportionate to ten years' effort, yet the results of zazen in terms of enlightenment cannot be measured by the length of your practice. The fact is, some have gained deep enlightenment after only a few years' practice, while others have practiced as long as ten years without experiencing enlightenment.
From the commencement of practice one proceeds upward in clearly differentiated stages which can be considered a ladder of cause and effect. The word inga, meaning cause and effect, implies both degree and differentiation, while ichinyo signifies equality or sameness or oneness. Thus while there are many stages corresponding to the length of practice, at every one of these different stages the mind substance is the same as that of a Buddha. Therefore we say cause and effect are one. Until satori-awakening, however, you cannot expect to have a deep inner understanding of inga.
Now let us relate this to the parable of Enyadatta, of which I spoke earlier. The time she saw no head reflected in ther mirror and rushed about wildly looking for it--this is the first, or bottom, step. When her friends tied her to a pillar and insisted she had a head; when she began to think, "Possibly this is so"; when they whacked her and she yelled "Ouch!" and realized she had a head after all; when she rejoice at finding it; when finally her joy abated and having a head felt so natural that she no longer thought about it--all these are different step and degrees of progression--when viewed retrospectively, that is. As every one of these stages she was never without her head, of course but this she realized only after she had "found" it.
In the same way, after enlightenment we realize that from the very first we were never without Buddha-nature. And just as it was necessary for Enyadatta to go through all these phases in order to grasp the fact that she had always had a head, so we must pass through successive stages of zazen in order to apprehend directly our True-nature. These successive steps are causally related, but the fact that we are intrinsically Buddha, which in the parable is Enyadatta's realization that she had always had a head--this is equality, or undifferentiation.
Thus Dogen-zenji in his Shobogenzo states: "The zazen of every beginners manifests the whole of their Essential-nature." He is saying there that correct zazen is the actualization of the Bodhi-mind, the Mind in which we all are endowed. This zazen is saijojo, wherein the Way of the Buddha suffuses your entire being and enters into the whole of your life. Although we are unaware of all this at first, as our practice progresses we gradually acquire understanding and inshgt and finally, with enlightenment, wake up to the fact that zazen is the actualization of our inherently pure Buddha-nature, whether we are enlightened or not.
10. Oneness and Manyness
When you have kensho you see into the world of oneness, or equality, and this realization can be either shallow or deep; usually first kensho is shallow. In either case, you still do not understand the world of differentiation, the world that people ordinarily assume they do understand. As you continue your practice on subsequent koans your awareness of the world of oneness, of non-differentiation becomes clearer, and since it is through this world of oneness that you are seeing the world of differentiation, this latter also becomes clearer.
At the beginning, the perception of oneness is not distinct--there is still the idea of "something confronting me!" With deepening practice this barrier gradually dissolves. Even so, the feeling that others are actually oneself is still weak, and this is particularly true when these others have qualities we do not like. With a shallow kensho we resist the feeling that such people are indeed oneself. With further training, though, you are able to live a life of equality and to see that even people whom you recognize as having negative characteristics are not less than yourself. When you truly realize the world of oneness, you could not fight another even if that "other" wanted to kill you, for that person is nothing less than a manifestation of yourself. It would not even be possible to struggle against him. One who has realized the world of equality will regard with compassion even people who have homicidal intentions, since in a fundamental sense they and oneself are of equal worth. In the same way, all of nature, mountains and rivers, are seen as oneself. In this deeper realization of oneness you will feel the preciousness of each object in the universe, rejecting nothing, since things as well as people will be seen as essential aspects of yourself. This deeper awareness, mind you, comes only after your practice has fully matured.
Let us take the body as a concrete example of the absolute equality of things. In the realization of the sameness aspect, of each object having equal value, your face and the soles of your feet are not different; one is not high and the other low. Similarly, a lawbreaker is not inherently evil, nor is a law-abiding person a pillar of virtue.
Nevertheless, for society to function harmoniously, people who go against the accepted laws--who kill or steal, for example--must be segregated for the protection of others. This being true, it is clear that there is another aspect, that of relativity--in this case of moral distinctions.
To understand and act upon differences is not a simple matter. For example, one who truly understood differentiation and could function in accordance with it would never overeat; he or she would eat only when hungry, and then just enough to satisfy hunger. Ordinary people who have not yet awakened think they understand the relative, common world of distinctions, but true understanding can take place only when the aspect of oneness has been realized in depth. Having experienced the world of equality through kensho, one now sees differences in and through the aspect of sameness.
When I first came to America and looked into the faces of the people, they all looked alike. But now I can differentiate faces here quite easily. You can help people only when you are able to recognize and accept the differences among them, seeing each individual in the light of his or her own unique qualities. To do so represents an advanced state of training.
Even after kensho, when you perceive that everything is one and you are no longer confronted by an external world, you still cannot live in and through that experience. Somehow you keep returning to the previous state of mind. However, if you continue work on subsequent koans, each time you resolve another koan, that experience reaffirmed and you return to the world of non-duality with great clarity. Gradually the clarity and the ability to live in this world of oneness improve.
So there is both suddenness and gradulness in Zen training. The experience of awakening is sudden, but the integration of teh experience into your life is gradual.
To awaken quickly is not necessarily advantageous, nor is to take long time necessarily disadvantageous. When you practice earnestly each day, you are actualizing in your life the aspect of oneness. Though not even striving for enlightenment, one is gradually becoming aware of the world of equality through wholehearted, single-minded zazen.
Hearing this last, you may think, "If through wholehearted zazen in our daily life we are actualizing the kensho state of mind, what need is there to think about kensho?" As you have heard me say many times when you are involved in zazen to the point of self-transcendence, that is enlightenment manifesting itself. Therefore it is said in Zen, "One minute of sitting, one minute of being a Buddha." Zazen is the cause of which enlightenment is the effect. But since this cause and effect are simultaneous, or one, you are not consciously aware of this enlightenment. Realizing this intrinsic enlightenment--suddenly exclaiming, "Oh, this is it!"--is something else again. This latter is a distinct effect, different from "cause and effect are one," and its realization requires the strong faith that one can awaken to one's Ture-nature. This vital point must not be overlooked.
11. The Three Essentials of Zen Practice
What I am about to say is especially applicable to daijo Zen, which is specifically directed toward satori, but it also embraces saijojo, though in a lesser degree.
The first of the three essentials of Zen practice is strong faith (daishinkon). This is more than mere belief. The ideogram for kon means "root," and that for shin, "faith." Hence the phrase implies a faith that is firmly and deeply rooted, immovable, like an immense tree or a huge boulder. It is a faith, moreover, untainted by belief in the supernatural or the superstitious. Buddhism has often been ascribed as both a rational religion and a religion of wisdom. But a religion it is, and what makes it one is this element of faith, without which it is merely philosophy. Buddhism starts with the Buddha's supreme enlightenment, which he attained after strenuous effort. Our deep faith, therefore, is in his enlightenment, the substance of which he proclaimed to be that human nature, all existence, is intrinsically whole, flawless, omnipotent--in a word, perfect. Without unwavering faith in this the heart of the Buddha's teaching, it is impossible to progress far in one's practice.
The second indispensable quality is a feeling of strong doubt (daigidan). Not a simple doubt, mind you, but a "doubt-mass"--and this inevitably stems from strong faith. It is a doubt as to why we and the world should appear so imperfect, so full of anxiety, strife, and suffering, when in fact our deep faith tells us exactly the opposite is true. It is a doubt which leaves us no rest. It is as though we knew perfectly well we were millionaires and yet inexplicably found ourselves in dire need without a penny in our pockets. Strong doubt therefore, exists in proportion to strong faith.
In Zen, "doubt" implies not skepticism but a state of perplexity, of probing inquiry, of intense self-questioning.
I can illustrate this state of mind with a simple example. Take a man who has been sitting smoking and suddenly finds that the pipe which was in his hand a moment before has disappeared. He begins search for it in the complete certainty of finding it. It was there a moment ago, no one has been near, it cannot have disappeared. The longer he fails to find it, the greater the energy and determination with which he hunts for it.
From this feeling of doubt the third essential, strong determination (dai-funshi), naturally arises. It is an overwhelming determination to dispel this doubt with the whole force of our energy and will. Believing with every pore of our being in the truth of the Buddha's teaching that we are all endowed with the immaculate Bodhi-mind we resolve to discover and experience the reality of this Mind for ourselves.
The other day someone who had quite misunderstood the state of mind required by these three essentials asked me: "Is there more for believing we are Buddhas than accepting the fact that the world as it is is perfect, that the willow is green and the carnation red?" The fallacy of this is self-evident. If we do not question why greed and conflict exist, why the ordinary man or woman acts like anything but Buddha, no determination arises in us to resolve the obvious contradiction between what we believe as a matter of faith and what our senses tell us is just the contrary, and our zazen is thus deprived of a prime source of power.
I shall now relate these three essentials to daijo and saijojo Zen. While all three are present in daijo, this doubt is the main prod satori because it allows us no rest. Thus we experience satori, and the resolution of this doubt, more quickly with daijo Zen.
In saijojo, on the other hand, the element of faith is strongest. No fundamental doubt of the kind I mentioned assails us and so we are not driven to rid ourselves of it, for we sit in the unswerving faith that we are inherently Buddhas. Unlike daijo Zen, saijojo, which you will recall is the purest type of zazen, does not involve the anxious striving for enlightenment. It is zazen wherein ripening takes place naturally, culminating in enlightenment. At the same time saijojo is the most difficult zazen of all, demanding resolute and dedicated sitting.
However, in both types of zazen all three elements are indispensable,, and teachers of old have said that so long as they are simultaneously present it is easier to miss the ground with a stamp of the foot than to miss attaining perfect enlightenment.
Even while we all do zazen, our individual aspirations are not identical. These aspirations resolve themselves into four main groups or levels.
The first and shallowest level involves neither faith in Zen Buddhism nor even a cursory understanding of it. One just happens to hear about it and decides to try sitting with a zazen group or in a sesshin. Nevertheless, that out of millions of deluded people entirely ignorant of Buddhism one particular individual should be led to this 2,500-year-old, unbroken line of teacing is, in the Buddhist view, not a fortuitous but a karmic circumstance and therefore of vast spiritual significance.
The second level of aspiration is a level which goes no deeper than the desire to do zazen in order to improve physical or mental health or both. This, you will recall, falls into the first of the five classifications of Zen, namely, bompu (ordinary) Zen.
At the third level we find people who, no longer satisfied merely to increase their physical and mental well-being, want to tread the path of the Buddha. They recognize how exalted is the Buddhist cosmology, which views existence as not confined to one life-span but endlessly evolving lifetime after lifetime, with the circle of human destiny completed only upon the attainment of Buddhahood. More, they have established faith in the reality of the enlightenment experience, and though the resolve to attain it has not yet been awakened, the desire to pursue the Buddha's Way is clear and real.
The fourth level comprises those determined to realize their True self. They know this experience to be a living reality, for they have encountered people who have had it, and they are convinced they can likewise attain it. When they come before their teacher they come with an open mind and a humble heart, ready to follow whatever course he prescribes, secure in the knowledge that by so doing they can realize their goal in the shortest time.
I will now quickly recapitulate these four classes of aspirants, those who, having no particular faith in Zen, come to it through fortunate karmic circumstances; those who practice zazen through desire only to add to their physical or mental health or both; those who practice Zen out of belief in the exalted nature of the Buddha's teaching; and thosee who have a strong determination to become enlightened.
Hereafter you will come before me one by one and I will ask you what you feel to be the nature of your aspiration, that is, into which the four classes you fall. Tell me your feelings honestly. Do not add anything through pride, and do not subtract anything out of false modesty. Depending upon what you tell me, I will assign you the zazen most appropriate for you.
There is no definitive practice which applies to everyone. Generally speaking, those who put themselves in the first class are assigned the practice of counting their breaths; those in the second category the following of their breath; in the third class, shikan-taza; and in the fourth, a koan, usually Mu.
It is not wise to assign yourself a koan. Only a teacher who has given you dokusan and therefore knows your temperament, aspiration, and capabilities can, with your help assign you a suitable koan and, especially in the beginning, give you the necessary guidance.
When students come before me individually for the first time, they make all manner of curious replies. Some say: "I think I belong between the first and second classes." Others tell me: "I have a chronically bad stomach, so would you assign me a type of zazen that will help this condition?" Or sometimes a person will say: "I am somewhat neurotic; what kind of zazen would be good for that?"
Depending on the type of person and the strength of their determination, I prescribe what I believe to be a suitable practice. With stolid individuals it is usually desirable to spur them on with the kyosaku, whereas somewhat nervous or sensitive people can do better zazen without it. Only if your appraisal of your feelings is frank can i select for you the most effective practice.
Harada-Yasutani School of Zen Buddhism
This document is a part of the Zen Buddhism section of the Buddhist Studies WWW Virtual Library
Edited by Dr T.Matthew Ciolek
YASUTANI Haku'un Roshi
The Sanbô Kyôdan is a Zen-Buddhist Religious Foundation (shukyô-hôjin) started by YASUTANI Haku'un Roshi on 8 January 1954.
YASUTANI Roshi, who was born on 5 January 1885 in Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, formally became a Soto Buddhist monk when he was 13 years old. In 1925 he met HARADA Sogaku Roshi (1871-1961), and eventually became one of his Dharma successors. YASUTANI Roshi deplored how the Soto monks of the time were preoccupied with superficially carrying out Buddhist ceremonies and neglected the vital practice of realizing one's true self. So he left the Soto school and founded an independent religious foundation, the Sanbô Kyôdan, in order to re-vitalize authentic Zen among those earnest seekers of the Way, who, at that time, happened to be mostly lay people. "Sanbô," literally "three treasures," signifies the three most basic principles of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. "Kyôdan," on the other hand, means "religious organization." In this name, therefore, one can perceive YASUTANI Roshi's aspiration as well as his determination to create a religious community that purely devotes itself to maintaining the true Buddhist Way.
The genesis of the foundation reveals already that the basic character of the organization is that of the Soto line. But, following the tradition stemming from HARADA Sogaku Roshi, the Sanbô Kyôdan integrated the Rinzai method of koan study as well in its Zen training in order to bring its students effectively to the realization of their true self.
YASUTANI Roshi thus instructed a countless number of practitioners both in Japan and, from 1962 on, in Europe and the United States. In 1970 he resigned from the abbotship of the Sanbô Kyôdan and had YAMADA Kôun Roshi take the leadership of the organization. YASUTANI Roshi passed away on 28 March 1973.
Sharf, Robert H. Sanbôkyôdan Zen
Apology for What the Founder of the Sanbô Kyôdan, Yasutani Haku'un Roshi, Said and Did During World War II
by Kubota Ji'un, the 3rd Abbot of the Religious Foundation Sanbô Kyôdan
On 8 January 2000 a letter arrived from a lady who lives in the Netherlands. It reported that her husband, from the age of six until he was nine, was confined in a concentration camp in the Dutch East Indies during World War II by the Japanese army, together with his mother and sister; his father was thrown into a male camp, his elder brother was forced to labor for the railway construction in Burma. The trauma of these years has remained until today; he had to undergo brain surgery, and has had psychotherapy for more than 10 years. Not only he himself has suffered a great deal, the lady says, but also his distress has had, and still has, a great impact upon his family.
Similar tragedies have often been reported in China, Korea and other countries in South-East Asia, where Japanese militarism invaded during the war. Whenever I hear such stories, I feel great pain in my heart as a member of the nation that once initiated that horrible war; I sincerely apologize to the lady mentioned above and her husband and to all people who had to go through such excruciating experiences during the past war.
The main reason the Dutch lady raised the question is that she had read Brian Victoria's book Zen at War and felt herself betrayed by the war-time words and deeds of the founder of the Sanbô Kyôdan Yasutani Haku'un Roshi, who repeatedly praised and promoted the war. Since she herself practices Zen contemplation under Father Johannes Kopp, a Zen teacher of the Sanbô Kyôdan, it had never occurred to her that the Zen masters, whom she deeply respected, would ever glorify the waging of war.
I personally became Yasutani Haku'un Roshi's disciple at the age of 17 and kept receiving his instructions until his death. So I know very well that Yasutani Roshi did foster strongly right-winged and anti-Semitic ideology during as well as after World War II, just as Mr. Victoria points out in his book. If Yasutani Roshi's words and deeds, now disclosed in the book, have deeply shocked anyone who practices in the Zen line of the Sanbô Kyôdan and, consequently, caused him or her to abhor or abandon the practice of Zen, it is a great pity indeed. For the offense caused by these errant words and actions of the past master, I, the present abbot of the Sanbô Kyôdan, cannot but express my heartfelt regret.
If I may speak as an insider, however, during the 25 years of my practice under him I never saw Yasutani Roshi ever force his students to accept his political ideology. After all, it was his Dharma that we wished him to transmit to us; never have I aspired, therefore, to learn his ideological standpoint. Furthermore, Yamada Kôun Roshi, who was to take over as the second abbot, admonished Yasutani Roshi more than a few times for the latter's ideological inclination, and reminded him of the initial responsibility of concentrating upon the reviving of the pure Dharma, the intrinsic core of Buddhism. As a result, in 1967 -- that is, while he was still alive -- Yasutani Roshi made a radical decision to entrust Yamada Kôun Roshi with the fully authorized guidance of the Sanbô Kyôdan.
Kôun Roshi, on his part, made it manifest that the fundamental position of the Sanbô Kyôdan is to "stand at the origin point of Buddhism through the Dharma gate of Dôgen Zenji," and that our aim is to attain the salvation of humanity and to contribute to establishing world peace based on the great enlightenment experience of Shakyamuni, no matter what ethnical origin, nationality, gender or creed one may represent. This resulted in sincere dialogue with Father H.M. Enomiya-Lassalle, through whose intercession a great number of priests and sisters found their way to Zen, until Zen practice outside Japan has flourished to such an extent as we witness it today. In fact, to go back to the origin point is the only way for Japan to correct past wrongdoings and to truly contribute to the peace of the human world.
It goes without saying that the terrible Second World War drove the Japanese themselves to a devastation unheard-of. The end of the war saw the land thoroughly destroyed, and starvation and destitution assailed the entire population, regardless of age or gender. Furthermore, countless soldiers and civilians along the Soviet borders were taken into captivity and forced labor; a huge number of them lost their lives because of hunger and cold. The victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki died one of the most deplorable deaths in the world; those who survived the calamities are still suffering from illnesses caused by the radiation. To whom can we appeal to alleviate their sufferings? Truly, this is the reality of war. This century has seen humanity repeating the same folly, and countless millions of people have been compelled to undergo unspeakable agonies.
The ultimate roots of these wars lie in the ego-consciousness of human beings. Shakyamuni, through his experience of great enlightenment, confirmed that this ego-consciousness is a grave misunderstanding and delusion; he established the way of practice through which human beings can quickly wake up to the essential self of infinite and absolute oneness, as well as realize that essence in the phenomenal self. That is zazen. It is time for us to learn seriously from the experiences of the past one hundred years and to take actions based on new wisdom for the 21st century.
On this occasion, the Sanbô Kyôdan solemnly vows never to lose the origin point of Shakyamuni and to follow persistently and energetically the path of realizing the essence of our self in this world of phenomena through our zazen practice.
(1 February 2000; reprint from: Kyosho #281 [March/April 2000],translated by Satô M.)
Aus: Karlfried Graf Dürckheim
Wunderbare Katze und andere Zen-Texte
Copyright der deutschen Ausgabe © 1996 Herder Verlag Freiburg
Ein Text des Zen-Meisters Dogen, erläutert von Meister Hakuun Yasutani, übersetzt aus dem Japanischen von Fumio Hashimoto.
PDF: INTRODUCTORY LECTURES (Sôsan no Hanashi)
A newly revised English translation of the “Sôsan no hanashi,” which, originally composed by Yasutani Haku'un Roshi, the founder of the Sanbô-Kyôdan, has been in use in the San'un Zendo for decades. A similar translation is found in P. Kapleau (ed.): The Three Pillars of Zen. Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment, Tokyo (John Weatherhill) 1965, pp. 26-62.
SATO Migaku, The Sanbô-Kyôdan Society
Sanbo Kyodan Zen : The Heritage of Western Zen
I would now like to draw the reader's attention to the subject of Zen as presented in Tricyle which tends, in my opinion, to reflect Zen's most popular form in America, namely, "Sanbo Kyodan Zen" (hereafter, SKZ). For the sake of brevity, I will present a brief historical sketch of SKZ then conclude by making a few comments on SKZ's relationship with the spirit of traditional Chinese Zen.
Sanbo Kyodan (Three Treasures Association) is a contemporary lay Zen organization which was formally established by Yasutani Hakuun (1885–1973) in 1954. Based on the teachings of Harada Daiun (1871–1961), who, by the way, was Yasutani's teacher, the SKZ project of Yasutani established a new kind of Japanese Zen which was a synthesis of Sôtô and Rinzai Zen, utilizing what he believed to the best elements of each school. Owing to the dynamic vision and leadership of Yasutani, SKZ sidestepped the elder Japanese Zen institutions of Sôtô, Rinzai, and Ôbaku which in Yasutani's opinion were degenerate, being little more than religious guilds designed to promote and preserve their own special interests. As a result of Yasutani's efforts, SKZ became an organization open to the public in which anyone could participate and straightaway involve themselves in Zen's mystical pursuit of truth. Indeed, this was a great advance for Zen and helped to popularize it.
Without the need to perpetuate a "clergy", SKZ directed its attention, instead, towards the process of gaining kensho (understanding) of one's true nature. Of especial note, Harada and Yasutani were geniuses in developing the SKZ system in which the zenic experience of kensho could be realized rapidly. Subsequently, SKZ proved to be popular. Its brilliantly conceived pedagogical scheme offered anyone a chance to have an authentic ‘insight' into their true nature. During SKZ practice, for example, practitioners pushed themselves to attain a ‘first kensho' with the help of SKZ teachers who were more like coaches. And if they were lucky and kenshoed their status in SKZ immediately shot up as they were treated differently than the rest of the members who had not attained kensho. Still, after this initial awakening, there were many more levels of kensho—and much koan work to ponder.
Looking at SKZ broadly, SKZ can be categorized as "New Religion" (J. shin shûkyô) which while not being strictly a "cult" in American terms, is not traditional either. In this sense, SKZ represents more of a reform—at least a strategy to popularize Zen. Interestingly, SKZ has no legal affiliation with either Sôtô, Rinzai, or Ôbaku except perhaps a titular one as Yasutani gave up his legal standing with Sôtô, having resigned it in protest. Strictly speaking, SKZ is its own boy, so to speak, and to this day is every bit independent of Sôtô, Rinzai, and Ôbaku Zen institutions.
Key to understanding the influence of SKZ in America and Europe is Philip Kapleau's book, The Three Pillars of Zen, first published in 1965. Not really a book about Japanese Sôtô Zen or Rinzai Zen per se, rather it provides a glimpse into the inner workings of SKZ's principles through which SKZ emerged to become the dominate Zen of the West. It contains popular themes about Zen which have become the staple of present day Zennists. Yet, it would be wrong to blindly accept the material contained in The Three Pillars of Zen as being the heart of Zen—classical Chinese Zen, that is. There is much presented in Kapleau's book which is more indicative of SKZ revisionism than Zen. For one thing, SKZ does not handle koans in the traditional Chinese manner or the traditional manner used in Rinzai Zen today. In The Three Pillars of Zen there is virtually no mention of the hua-t'ou exercise of Zen master Ta-hui except an offhand reference to wato/hua-t'ou on page 336 which is left undefined. (Hua-t'ou means "antecedent-to-word" and stands for Unborn Mind before the word is spoken.) Contrasting this with Zen master Hsu Yun's treatment of the kung-an/koan exercise in Charles Luk's book Ch'an And Zen Teaching (First Series), one quickly gets the impression that there is a huge gap between the two methods. Ignored, too, in SKZ's treatment of Zen, is Buddhism, itself, more specifically, Mahayana Buddhism. In The Three Pillars of Zen Kapleau glosses that since "Zen is a special transmission outside the scriptures" Sûtras merely act "as a spur to full enlightenment" (p. 345)! Given the fact that Bodhidharma, the First Chinese Patriarch, sealed his student's kensho with the Lankâvatâra Sutra, it seems rather ironic for SKZ to regard Sûtras as a mere "spur". Without the Sûtras, as Zen master Tsung-mi points out, there is no criterion by which to check to see if one's enlightenment chimes with the Buddha's. While it is propagandized into the public mind of contemporary Zen to automatically disrate the Sûtras, there can be no question that Sutra study is necessary towards achieving a full understanding of Zen. Nevertheless, this anti-sutric attitude prevails today—and still serves to attact non-Buddhists to SKZ related teachings who ignore the Buddha's discourses. In fact, under the tenure of Yamada-Roshi who became Yasutani's successor, a number of Catholic priests and nuns joined SKZ and became recognized. Yamada felt that kensho transcended religiosity—and to a certain extent it does. But there is far more to Buddhism than kensho which its Sûtras set out to explain and which other religions cannot explain.
Most tellingly, SKZ has made a huge impact on the American and European psyche. Propagated by an active retinue of teachers they insure that Zen's hue is Sanbo Kyodan style Zen. Impressive, the list of SKZ related teachers, most of whom are no longer associated with the parent organization in Japan, reads like a Who's Who of American Zen Buddhism. Under the leadership of Yasutani, we recognize such names as Philip Kapleau, Robert Aitken, Maezumi, Joko Beck, Bernard Glassman, Peter Matthiessen, John Loori, Dennis Merzel, Ross Bolleter, and John Tarrant. This partial list does not even include their successors!
Understandably, one can conclude from what has been presented thus far that Western Zen is not balanced, as it is predominately SKZ. And that can lead to certain drawbacks. One in particular is that the slant of Zen publications may be affected by editors who are unknowingly sympathetic to SKZ related teachers and their SKZ teachings. Not a sinister plot, however, intended to control the direction of Zen, nevertheless, there needs to be some public recognition that Zen is not exclusively Sanbo Kyodan Zen. Nor does American Zen require quasi-legal Zen Buddhist associations created by SKZ teachers which serve to determine who is certified and who is not. Zen is quite free to stand on its own two feet as everyone is free to judge for themselves the Zen they deem valuable. Indeed, this is what Yasutani Hakuun would have wanted.
Why do we recite Sutras?
by Hakuun Yasutani Roshi
Eido Tai Shimano Roshi
Robert Chotan Aitken Roshi
(The founder of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, Maezumi Roshi, was a successor of Yasutani Roshi. Yasutani Roshi visited the United States each year from 1962 to 1969, holding a number of sesshins from coast to coast.)
There are three reasons why we recite sutras. First, we recite them to make an offering to Buddhist patriarchs; second, to create a noble relationship with all beings; third, to unite these first two actions with our Buddhist training.
Our action in displaying a Buddhist image and offering it incense, flowers, candlelight, and deep bows is such an expression. The greatest delight for Buddhist patriarchs is for their followers to respect, to maintain, and to spread the teaching. Therefore, we sit before an image and recite with sincerity the sutras which they composed. In this way, our sutra recitation is the expression of our gratitude to them.
Second, Buddhist followers want to have others know about and believe and realize the noble teaching of the Buddha. In order to do this, we must read sutras as often as possible. It is necessary and important to do this to establish a relationship with many people. You may ask why, then, we may read sutras alone, or before a dead person. Such recitation has value, and I will explain it to you.
We recite sutras before others as an education of their subconscious minds. On the surface, it may seem that effectiveness of teaching is limited by the extent of understanding. So, it may be thought, if we read difficult sutras, they will have no effect. However, only people who do not understand the power and subtlety of the subconscious hold such an opinion. If you have studied only a little about the subconscious, you will know that even though you do not grasp meaning with your conscious mind, you may understand very clearly with your subconscious. Or, if you do not get any conscious impression, you may already have a subconscious impression. Moreover, you will know, if you have studied the matter, that our conscious mind is influenced by our subconscious; indeed, that our subconscious operates absolute control over our character.
Now, reading sutras alone in a mountain temple is announcing Buddha's teaching to all the world, to all the universe. For our conscious minds, we need a radio station and a radio. However, on the subconscious level, all people in this world and all life in this universe receive perfectly the sutras recited by one person in a mountain temple, and they accept completely the doctrines of Buddhism.
Furthermore, if you know the grandeur and subtlety of the thinking process, you will realize that just thinking the sutras, without using the voice, has a great influence upon the people of the world.
Thus, whether or not others can see or hear, whether they are alive or long dead, if we recite sutras time and again with great conviction to the visible and invisible worlds, we permeate everywhere and guide many to Buddhism, saving all beings. Therefore, the recitation of sutras is very meaningful work.
I presume that you understand that the first two elements of sutra recitation are elements of Buddhist training. But I want to emphasize this point, that there is a great difference in effectiveness in both elements according to the way you recite the sutras--with great energy and single-mindedness, or half-heartedly.
At the same time, there is also a great difference in effectiveness in the third aspect of sutra recitation. This third element is this: if you recite sutras with great energy and single-mindedness frequently, then your own samadhi power will be strengthened and you will have a good chance for satori. Or, if you have already awakened, your satori will shine more brilliantly in your character and act more effectively in your everyday life. The most important attitude in reciting sutras is to recite with your whole spirit.
In conclusion, let me say that if you recite sutras with your whole heart, there will be no difference between zazen and your recitation.