Seikan Cech, 3

Interview with Seikan Cech

MP:

Everything you are saying here is wonderful. I am enjoying the Trojan horse metaphor AND that of ideas being out-of-body states. There is something more I want to ask about structure and the body. I am trying to get clear on my inquiry. The body has its intelligence - the unconscious, spontaneously expressing itself as nature.

This is natural structure. We, as pure awareness witnessing nature, the body, etc. have the idea to meditate - to sit and be still and then we do it. Where did the idea come from? We have a sense of what it can do for us, and so we find ourselves sitting. We follow an impulse (nature). Is it like water wanting to level? I want to understand your take on all of this.

Seikan:

Where the idea to sit comes from? My take on it is that these sorts of questions are interesting, but trying to answer them is of little relevance to meditation practice. It becomes just another trajectory into more ideas. Practicing Zen meditation is about just sitting, not about why we do it. As the term "practice" suggests, it is something practical rather than speculative or metaphysical. As Zen master Kodo Sawaki Roshi (1880-1965) described it: "To practice Zazen is to do self with the self by the self ... which is one with the universe".

MP:

So the actual sitting is a mystery? Perhaps it is just what is done, and there is no reason to understand the why of it. You refer to structure as being so important. Why sit? Why meditate? Why not something else? I understand the quote too. I do. But "to do self with self by self" by imposing structure on self?

Seikan:

No, sitting is no mystery. It is manifestly precise and clear. As for the "why" of sitting, yes, there is no need to try and create "understanding" here. Again, our wanting to understand is understandable, however it is a different pursuit and in a different realm. "Just sitting" is its own pursuit and its own end. As our thinking mind starts to settle, our sitting can start to know itself - that is, our body can sit itself, the breath can breathe itself, pains can feel themselves, sounds can be sounds, and so on.

Dogen Zenji (1200-1253), founder of Japanese Soto Zen, famously summed it up as follows: "To practice the Way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe." As we read this, though, it is important to be very clear that it speaks of something beyond intellectual understanding. So when we think we "understand", it is a good reminder that we have actually missed the point and are back in the realm of ideas. Likewise with Sawaki's saying, "doing self with the self by the self". To start thinking that we know only moves us further away from Zen practice.

So another saying by Sawaki Roshi may be more useful in this context - "What is Zazen good for? Absolutely nothing! This has got to sink into your flesh and bones until you actually practice what is truly good for nothing. Until then, your Zazen is just good for nothing." Sawaki's advice helps to bring us back to the essence of Zen meditation practice, without the usual detours into our ideas and expectations. Basically the choice is between either sitting for its own sake, or else engaging in other pursuits - such as developing ideas, or watching TV. The choice becomes clear and simple, and the practice of just sitting is itself very concrete and simple.

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