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Your Zazen Is The Zazen Of The Buddhas

by Taizan Maezumi Roshi

At this time of the passing of the temple seal, we pay tribute to our founding abbot Maezumi Roshi by offering this teisho. On the occasion of this teisho, Maezumi Roshi was ill and was persuaded by his students to spend much of this sesshin in bed, taking care of himself. On the last day of sesshin, January 27, 1989, he came to the zendo, ill and coughing, and delivered these closing remarks.

In our practice, sitting is the key. Zazen is the center activity. How can we sit best? There are different schemes involved in sitting. For example, some of you just sit and some of you work on koans. The key question is how can each of you sit most effectively?

I remember when Yasutani Roshi (and Harada Sogaku Roshi) talked about shikantaza (just sitting). He would say that when you do shikantaza, you should have faith. When you work on koans, you should have faith. This faith has a particular connotation -- faith in the sense that you can do shikantaza. Or working on koans, faith in the fact that you can take care of the koan.

When you do shikantaza, have faith in the fact that your zazen is the same zazen as the zazen of the Buddhas and Patriarchs. Have this kind of faith. Then, just sit. Since your zazen is the same zazen as that of the Buddhas, you don't need to worry about anything: just sit. Appreciate that your zazen is the zazen of the Buddha. The zazen of Shakyamuni Buddha is okay; the zazen of the Buddhas and Patriarchs is okay. In other words, you are not sitting; Buddha is sitting.

In Zen terms we say honsho myoshu. Honsho means intrinsic enlightenment; myoshu, subtle practice. We say practice and enlightenment, or realization, are one. How is it one thing? When you sit, your zazen is the zazen of the Buddhas. Your zazen is sitting Buddha, or Buddha's zazen. So your practice is realization itself, enlightenment itself. Your zazen becomes anuttara samyak sambodhi itself. Have this kind of faith.

Usually when you do zazen, zazen becomes a cause to create some kind of effect, such as enlightenment, frustration, anger, or whatever arises. That is the wrong way to do zazen. Your practice is not something by which you attain some place else or something else. Your practice itself is a fulfillment of honsho myoshu, the originally enlightened life.

" . . . have faith in the fact that your zazen is the same zazen as the zazen of the Buddhas and Patriarchs."

It's not a matter of not expecting anything, or not striving to attain something else, but rather you don't need to. It's already here. That's what your life is. It's very, very true. Dogen Zenji says, "the Way is intrinsically, perfectly manifesting right here." Where? Always here! Realization or attaining enlightenment is nothing but to become aware of this fact, do you see? Our life as is. Everything is here.

How do we make our practice really effective? When you do shikantaza, just really do shikantaza. Let that shikantaza be the zazen of the Buddha. Then sit. Don't let yourself and Buddha be separate. Don't discriminate between Buddha and yourself. Just sit. Don't think about it, don't interpret your sitting. Try sitting in this way. That is the best practice. Just do it, and see how it goes.

When you work on koan, really work on koan. Koan is the absolute fact, truth, or evidence of life. What is that life? That life cannot be any other than this life that we are living. What is it? Some say it's Buddha, or Buddha mind, or Buddha nature, or empty, or Best Way, or the Supreme Way. Different words for the same thing.

What is it? I like that koan in which a monk asked Master Gensha, "What is the Buddha mind?" Gensha answered, "Shujo shin, sentient-beings mind." All-beings mind. The monk asks further, "What is all-beings mind?" (Roshi laughs) Gensha responds, "Buddha mind."

In our heads we create the difference between Buddha mind and all-beings mind. Of course, a very important function of the mind is to discriminate, or to be discursive, but we shouldn't make a problem of this functioning. This is a very important part of koan practice. So a koan can be very effective to cut through the discriminating mind.

" . . . Don't let yourself and the Buddha be separate . . .
just sit in this way, and see how it goes . . . "

When you sit shikantaza, you don't know what to do with this discriminating or discursive mind. It goes on and on and on, endlessly (laughing). How do you stop it? You can't stop it! Stopping this discursive mind is not the solution. So even shikantaza, just sitting itself becomes a koan.

Remember, when you sit, this very basic principle that practice and realization are one. Don't make practice and realization separate. How can you do this? Allow your zazen to be the manifestation of the intrinsically enlightened life itself. When thoughts come up, it's okay. Just let thoughts come up and let them go. Then, just sit. Try it.

When you sit in this way, then sitting, standing, walking, lying down all together becomes sitting. You will see a very new vision, new perspectives of life opens up for you. I appreciate your zazen as the most precious Dharma itself. In fact, your zazen is the most precious Dharma. That's what I most appreciate.

So, honsho myoshu, the subtle practice of intrinsic enlightenment, is a basic Soto tenet. Or, appreciating the intrinsic realization in our subtle practice. Let's not chase after something, but let's appreciate this very life, all the activities of life, as the manifestation of the intrinsic realization itself.

Let's just steadily keep on going.

Copyright 1999, Zen Center of Los Angeles

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