The Way of Zazen Recommended Universally
Written by Shaman Dogen
1. Originally, the Way is complete and universal. How can we distinguish practice from enlightenment? The Vehicle of Reality is in the Self. Why should we waste our efforts trying to attain it? Still more, the Whole Body is free from dust. Why should we believe in a means to sweep it away? On the whole, the way is never separated from where we are now. Why should we wander here and there to practice? Yet, if there is the slightest deviation, you will be as far from the Way as heaven is from earth. If adverse or favorable conditions arise to even a small degree, you will lose your mind in confusion. Even if you are proud of your understanding, are enlightened in abundance, and obtain the power of wisdom to glimpse the ground of Buddhahood; even if you gain the Way, clarify the mind, resolve to pierce heaven, that is only strolling on the border of the Buddha Way. You are still, almost always, lacking the vivid path of emancipation. Moreover, consider the Shakyamuni Buddha who was enlightened from birth, to this day you can see the traces of his sitting in straight posture for six years. And Bodhidharma who transmitted the mind-seal; even now you can hear of the fame of his facing the wall for nine years. These ancient sages practiced in this way. Why can we people of today, refrain from practice! Therefore, cease studying words and following letters. Learn to withdraw, turning the light inwards, illuminating the Self. Your body and mind will drop off naturally, and original-self will manifest of itself. If you wish to attain Suchness, practice Suchness immediately.
2. Now, for sanzen(zazen), a quiet room is best. Eat and drink moderately. Let go of all associations, and put all affairs aside. Do not think of either good or evil. Do not be concerned with either right and wrong. Put aside the operation of your intellect, volition, and consciousness. Stop considering things with your memory, imagination, and contemplation. Do not seek to become Buddha. To be Buddha has nothing to do with the forms of sitting or lying down. Usually, a thick square mat is put on the floor where you sit, and a round cushion is placed on it. You may sit full lotus position or half lotus position. In full lotus position, first put your right foot on your left thigh, and then you left foot on your right thigh. In half lotus position, just put your right foot on your left thigh. Your clothing should be loose but neat. Then your right hand palm up on your left foot, and your left hand palm up on your right palm. The tips of your thumbs should be lightly touching. Sit upright, leaning neither to the left or right, neither forward or backward. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders; your nose should be in line with your navel. Place your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Close your lips and jaws. Always keep your eyes open. Breathe quietly through your nose. After having regulated your posture, exhale completely and take a breath. Sway your body from left to right a few times. Sit stably in samadhi. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Beyond thinking. This is the essential way of zazen.
3. The zazen I am talking about is not learning (step by step) meditation. It is simply the Dharma gate of ease and joy (nirvana). It is the practice enlightenment of the ultimate awakening (bodhi). In doing zazen, the koan manifests itself; it cannot be ensnared. When you grasp this, you are like a dragon with water, or a tiger in the mountain. You must know that true dharma manifests itself in zazen, and that, first of all, dullness and distraction are struck down. When you rise from sitting, move your body slowly and stand up calmly. Do not move abruptly. You should see that to transcend both ordinary people and sages, and to die sitting or standing, depends on the power of zazen. Moreover, Buddhas and Ancestors taught their students with a finger, a pole, a needle or a mallet, and they transmitted the Way with a whisk, a fist, a staff or a shout. These actions cannot be understood by thinking or discrimination; nor known by practice to attain superhuman powers. These are the dignified conducts that are outside sound and form; these are none other than the standard which is prior to knowing and seeing. therefore, do not consider whether you are clever or stupid, and do not think of whether you are superior or inferior. When you practice wholeheartedly, it is truly the practice of the Way. Practice-Enlightenment cannot be defiled. Making the effort to obtain the Way, is itself, the manifestation of the Way in your daily life.
4. The Buddhas and Ancestors, both in this world and other worlds, in India and China, preserved the Buddha-seal in the same way and vigorously generated the wind of truth. They just practiced sitting and were protected by zazen. Although their characters were diverse, each of them just practiced the way of zazen wholeheartedly. There is no reason to leave your own seat at home and take a meaningless trip to the dusty places of other countries. If you make a false step, then you will miss the Way, even though it is before your eyes. You have already been given a human body which is functional essence, so do not spend your time wastefully. Since you are endowed with the essential functioning of the Buddha Way, why pursue worthless pleasures that are like sparks from a flint? Furthermore, your body is like a drop of dew on a blade of grass; your life is like a flash of lightning. Your body will disappear soon; your life will be lost in an instant. You, honored practitioner, after learning in a partial way like the blind people who touched the various parts of the elephant, please do not be scared by the real dragon. Point yourself to the Way which manifests Reality directly. Be in accord with the Buddhas’ awakening. Succeed to the Ancestors’ samadhi. If you practice continuously , you will be Suchness. The treasure house will open of itself, and you will be able to use it at will.
Translated by Shohaku Okumura