Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sitting In Chairs Is Not Zazen (part one million and seven)

My interview on conscious.tv is up. But it's kind of hard to find. First you have to go to this page:

http://www.conscious.tv/nonduality.html

Then you'll get a screen that looks like this:



See how I've circled where it says "traditions" and put an arrow showing where it is? Click there and it takes you to another page and on the top of that page on the right hand side you'll see my interview. Click on me and enjoy! Or go to this convenient link and see if that works http://bcove.me/5evkpoh3. I'm embedding it at the bottom of this page, but I'm using a new program that I'm not totally sure about.

Today I am in Antwerp, Belgium. I caught the intercity rail out of Brentwood, Essex yesterday, changed to the Hammersmith & City tube line at Liverpool Street station, arrived at King's Cross/St. Pancras, made my way to the Eurostar line, took a train under the English Channel and soon arrived in Bruxelles Midi station. There my friend Isabelle and her sister Melissa picked me up and drove me to Antwerp with a quick stop for some frietjes covered in mayonnaise and ketchup.

This weekend I'll be running two events in Antwerp; a talk on Saturday and a day of zazen on Sunday. Information can be found at http://www.rsyoga.eu/. Go to that page, then click on "workshops," then click on "12-13 November 2011 - Brad Warner - Antwerpen" and it's all there in plain Dutch.

Last weekend I led a day of meditation in Brentwood, Essex. Let me tell you a little about that.

The Brentwood Meditation Group has been active since 2004. They have a lot of regular members who come each week to share silent meditation in a sort of ecumenical style, not tied to any particular tradition. Most of their members sit on chairs.

I was invited as a guest of this group to present what it is that I do to them. In this case, the fact that people were sitting on chairs was shoganai as we say in Japan. It can't be helped. It's just the way things are. What can ya do? Shoganai is a very useful and utterly untranslatable phrase.

In other words, I wasn't about to go in as a guest and tell a group who'd been practicing in some way that they couldn't do the thing they do the way they'd been doing it for years.

But I did tell them that sitting in chairs was not zazen. Zazen is a physical practice. To sit in a chair and call it zazen is incorrect. It's not that sitting on a chair will lead you to Satan and cause your eternal soul to burn forever in Hell. It's not evil. It's just not zazen.

It's like yoga. If you went to a yoga teacher and bent over slightly at the waist then told him, "THIS IS DOWNWARD FACING DOG! IT'S MY DOWNWARD FACING DOG! I DO MY DOWNWARD FACING DOG MY WAY!" Your yoga teacher would probably inform you that bending slightly at the waist is not downward facing dog. The position yogis call downward facing dog looks like this:



If you were really, really stiff your yoga teacher would work with you until your downward facing dog looked less like a slight bend at the waist and more like the photo above. But until you got into something at least a little like the photo, no decent yoga teacher would call that downward facing dog. It's not.

In the context of yoga it's easy for people to understand the difference between the two. But people tend to think of meditation as a mental activity. They tend to believe that the posture is just arbitrary, and that they can do zazen in any posture they like. They often tend to think that anyone who says otherwise is somehow taking away their inalienable right to do what they chose. But that's not true. Nobody's trying to take away your rights.

It's just that zazen looks like this:



You don't have to do the full lotus posture. Let me say that again since everyone seems to miss it when I say it:

You don't have to do the full lotus posture.

But you do need to be sitting on a cushion with your knees on the floor. Sometimes you can put extra cushions under your knees. You can also use a seiza bench, although I'm not the biggest fan of those. But that can be zazen too.

If someone really cannot do anything closer to zazen than sitting on a chair, well then that's shoganai too. They can sit on a chair. Tonen O'Connor, of the Milwaukee Zen Center is one of the best zazen teachers in America. She's had extensive knee surgery and she sits on a bench that's been modified to give her something close to the traditional posture (it's not a chair, though). But she's a special case. Maybe you are too. I don't know.

I do know this, though. I'll whisper it since it tends to make people mad when I say it.

(Sitting on a cushion with your knees on the ground is not that hard.)

Shhhhhhhhhh.....

There's a lot of bullshit cliches about the difference between Eastern and Western people. But one of the cliches that's not bullshit is that Western people are addicted to comfort. We really are. We bitch and whine and winge whenever our comfort is compromised. Most of the people I see who claim they can't sit zazen on a cushion fall into this category. They're just being big babies about it. They need to man-up (or woman-up or transgender-up) a little. It's just not that gosh darn difficult.

But I cannot enter your body/mind and know for sure whether you're really one of those very rare people who absolutely cannot sit on a cushion or if you're just one of those extremely common people who can do it but refuses to try. There's no way in the universe I can ever be 100% certain. Only you can know that.

Some people worry about those poor unfortunates who can't sit on the floor on cushions because of health issues or whatever. But y'know what? Every time I've spoken to someone who had honest health issues that prevented them sitting on cushions we've always managed to find a way. And the people who worry about hypothetical others that can't do it pretty much never are those people. Perhaps being the champion of hypothetical others isn't so important a job. They tend to be better spokespeople for themselves in my experience.

So this weekend in Antwerp and next weekend in Manchester, England I will be allowing people to sit in chairs if they insist upon it.

I'll be glad to have their participation.

I won't be mean to them or shout at them or tell them they're doing something wrong.

I don't bite.

I always allow people to do what they want as long as it doesn't disrupt others.

People sitting on chairs will be welcome to be with us and share in the experience in their own way.

But they won't be doing zazen.

Not a big deal. It just isn't zazen if you sit on a chair, unless there really honestly is no other way you can do it. That's all.

150 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Adyashanti photo leads one initially to believe that you were going to talk about him and his teachings instead of something so incredibly boring like how to sit zazen.

Oliver said...

I have problems with my knees sometimes, too. If I have to change to sitting on a "normal" chair, it's extremely difficult for me to meditate.
You cannot sit on your "seatbones" (ischium) unless you balance on the edge. Chairs tend to be too low for me. Too much blood flows into the legs and the hands are held too high, so the shoulders won't relax either. All my attention is about my position all of the time.
The only thing that was worse was meditation in a lying position when my back was hurt years ago. If that happens again I will just not meditate at all. (Or drink 12 coffee before trying...)

Anonymous said...

I have a bad back, a scoliosis and from years sitting in an awkward position, drawing for a living, my back is all fucked up. When I learnt to meditate in a Western Buddhist Centre I told them how uncomfortable it was for me to attempt lotus and they pointed out it was fine for me to kneel and in fact it was called 'Seiza' which is quite popular in Zen. Well, I liked that cos I was starting to lean towards Zen writings, the whole Tibetan thing wasn't doing it for me as much. So that's how my practice started - kneeling, whilst sitting on two Zafus. It feels like a good solid base, the points of contact with the floor make a circle within a square when seen from above (well, kinda). Then I started reading Brad's books, which I loved, at last someone who was teaching this stuff but who seemed very accessible and had similar interests other than Buddhism. So after a while it started to bug me that I wasn't sitting 'properly' according to Brad, I made it my little ambition to try and get to lotus. I started doing stretches everyday and I sat twice for 10 min per day. Day three my back went into spasm and I was unable to work properly for three months, putting me behind on all my deadlines and fucking up the limited cash-flo of our household. I was mighty pissed off with myself. I'd like to be able to do it and I'll try again when there's less pressure on my life with regards being the household breadwinner. Meanwhile I've accepted that I'm doing what I can do, as best I can for now.

jennifer said...

I have been sitting 'zazen', knees on the floor for the last 25years. Last Sunday I decided I'd never do it again. Why? because I know that if I don't in 10 years time I will regret it.

Stuff Dogen! if it's good enough for Maitreya to sit upright, then it's good enough for me.

Brad Warner said...

Thanks for your story Anonymous at 3:06 AM.

You're one of those very exceptional people who really ought not try to sit on a cushion but who does so anyway. This is very very rare. But there are people like that.

I'm really sorry this happened to you.

Everyone is built a little differently. It's important to watch your own body carefully and see what it can do.

Uncle Willie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle Willie said...

Brad said...
"Sitting on a cushion with your knees on the ground is not that hard."

That sweeping generalization, like most sweeping generalizations, is false. (Yes, I realize that I just made a sweeping generalization about sweeping generalizations.) More accurate statements would be:

Some people do not have any difficulty sitting on a cushion with their knees on the ground.
Some people have a certain amount of difficulty, ranging from a little to a lot, sitting on a cushion with their knees on the ground.
Some people find it impossible to sit on a cushion with their knees on the ground.
With practice some of the people who have difficulty may eventually find it easier to sit on a cushion with their knees on the ground.
Even with practice some people may never be able to sit on a cushion with their knees on the ground.

I damaged my right knee, partly due to sitting half lotus for six years, so I do not sit zazen anymore and I do not say that I sit zazen or that I practice zen meditation. I simply meditate.

FlyingYogini said...

I get it that technically sitting in chair is not Zazen.. but why discourage people from sitting in meditation if they need to be in a chair or some other way?

rgms said...

i think one of the overlooked things about sitting in a meditation posture is that it can actually be pleasurable.

an3drew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
an3drew said...

this evening there's no-one within 2 km, no traffic and i can go out onto the porch, lean up against a pillar and listen to the voices of the different types of frogs, one lot is deeper and more recognizably froggish, while another lot sounds like crickets and just look into the misty dark with the gum trees standing there out across the paddocks and it's naturally a meditative mode !

why would i sit?


in cities and towns or even rural family life that's just not available so you have problems of providing solitude in an economic way which is really what zazen and sitting is !


you should never do anything that could remotely cause joint issues or circulation problems, when i sat 19 - 22 years ago i sat kneeling with my bum on an upright cushion which never caused me problems, however i am light and of a small build!


there is nothing special about zazen or posture, it's the stillness, silence and lack of distraction that is central


sitting with the opposite gender can be more of an issue, when i was in new zealand the retreats were just about all male so there wasn't that distraction, but the retreats in springwater in the usa had a lot of women and it really ruined the sitting and i just went for walks in the beautiful rural countryside which was a way better way to go anyway!

Fred said...

Andrew said " the retreats in springwater in the usa had a lot of women and it really ruined the sitting "

How is that, Andrew?

Fred said...

" i can go out onto the porch, lean up against a pillar and listen to the voices of the different types of frogs, one lot is deeper and more recognizably froggish, while another lot sounds like crickets and just look into the misty dark with the gum trees standing there out across the paddocks and it's naturally a meditative mode

why would i sit?"

to break the will of your ego,
which is another type of voynichism

anon #108 said...

If you take up any physical activity - lifting weights, playing football, skiing, running, playing a musical instrument, you should take it slowly. Even if you are slow and careful, the unforeseen will occur.

I'm sure it's possible for some people to bugger themselves up by sitting in the lotus posture. I'm also sure it's possible for some people not to bugger themselves up by sitting in the lotus posture.

"Sit!" Don't sit!" "Sit this way!"Don't sit that way!" "Do this!" Don't do that!" You choose. And then you see what happens.

Anonymous said...

Why should anyone be bothered about whether it's called 'zazen' or not?

Anonymous said...

the adyashanti interview is pretty cool actually. his 'big insights' from his life story, his 'experiences' and interpretations of them, are actually quite similar to how you have expressed yours Brad. Whaddaya know?

nice interview! hope you're feeling better.

Natur said...

"If you take up any physical activity - lifting weights, playing football, skiing, running, playing a musical instrument, you should take it slowly."

I think that is the most important point. If you take it slowly and listen to your body I don't think it i possible to damage your body through zazen.

I love the story Shunryu Suzuki is telling in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" about those four (?) kind of horses representing the difficulties people have with zazen(the first one running before it sees even the shadow of the whip while the worst one only runs when it feels the pain of the whip in its bones) and people believing it would be great to be the best horse, especially if they perceive themselves to be the worst one. But actually Suzuki roshi says that the worst one might have the least trouble in actually practicing zen and not just getting lost in an idea of zen.

Tom Swiss said...

If you're interested in sitting in a "proper" zazen posture, there is a set of stretches called the makko-ho that may be of interest: http://zencenterofdenver.org/GettingStarted/zazenstretches.html (You can also expand them into a qi gong sort of exercise: http://www.path-to-stillness.com/MakkoHo.html )

I came to my zazen practice, such as it is, through the martial arts. (Seido Karate: http://www.seido.com/about-seido/seido-philosophy) So the idea "this is uncomfortable, deal with it, it'll make you stronger" was right there at the start. I was first taught to sit in seiza right on the floor (without a bench or zabuton), and came to use a bench later. A few years ago I went to half- or full-lotus for my personal daily practice, while still sitting seiza in the dojo. So I've done this a few different ways.

I must disagree with an3drew's statement that "there is nothing special about zazen or posture". We are physical beings, and what we do with our corpus is what we do with our "Self". (Not that either of those has a separate existence, everything is empty, yada yada yada.)

Positioning the body has an effect on the mind. Hold your hands up in tight fists in an aggressive posture, put a snarl on your face, and it will affect your thoughts and feelings; put a smile on your face, open your hands in a giving gesture, and you will feel differently.

I'm probably going to utterly fail to be clear here, or just plain get it wrong, but...the posture of zazen, so far as I understand it, should be one that allows the body stable balance without necessitating tension in the back or shoulders. Because we habitually carry tension there, when we sit we can become aware of this habit of the bodymind. What are you holding there? Do you want to continue carrying it? Have you considered putting it down?

At the same time, there is some effort -- remember Right Effort? -- in getting the legs into the posture, and making that effort helps keep the difference between zazen and sleepy time.

The Buddha used the metaphor of a stringed instrument for practice; if the strings are too loose, they don't sound, while if they're too tight, they snap. I suspect most of us could stand to tune up at least a semitone; but there are some fine, old delicate instruments out there that just can't be tuned to concert pitch anymore, it puts too much stress on them. So you adapt, transpose or use a capo or whatever.

Mysterion said...

accommodation

Apuleius Platonicus said...

worst. post. by. brad. warner. ever.

"Sitting on a cushion with your knees touching the floor is not zazen." Now THAT would be actual zen teaching. "Sitting in chairs is not zazen." That is just bullshit.

oh well. shoganai.

anon #108 said...

Very well put, if I may say so, Tom Swiss. What you wrote made a lot of sense to me.

Natur wrote: "...If you take it slowly and listen to your body I don't think it i possible to damage your body through zazen."

Sadly, it seems that some people will experience difficulties or do themselves damage despite taking great care. I don't think we can guarantee that we'll always correctly hear 'what our bodies are saying', or that our bodies will always give us advance notice of what they're up to.

Geoff Cline said...

Sit down (on the floor, with knees crossed somehow) and spine straight) and shut up....the revised edition.

'nuff said.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.

anon #108 said...

On the floor, Geoff?

Surely you mean on a cushion on the floor - so as to raise the buttocks above the knees, so as to allow the spine, shoulders, neck and head to align naturally and with minimum effort, so as to allow all the other bits and bobs to whatever and so forth. Then shut up.

Anonymous said...

AMAZING to see the comments after this article.

People coming out of the woodwork to defensively state their case(s) as to why they can't sit in the manner prescribed by an internet blogger OR to argue (defensively) how wrong the internet blogger is.

What does that say about any or all of us? (What does it say about me that I should post this?)

Rob Myers said...

My teacher, Jisho Warner (no relation) says "You can sit in a chair; it's just harder."

Work with your teacher to find a posture where the head and spine are upright, balanced, without support or muscular strain, and the belly is not scrunched, but relaxed.

These are the postures that allow body and mind to settle together, in "wakeful resting" (Dogen?)

Having to sit in a chair does not condemn you to a life of delusion. Your path will be harder. Our sangha is getting old, and we have these wedge-shaped chair cushions that somewhat push you out of the chair so you can establish a balanced tripod. It's better than the average chair, but...

The kindest thing my teacher ever did for me was to work with me on posture. (I'm tall, and it took a taller zafu to create a balanced tripod of knees and butt.)

mike papas said...

Chairs Zazen sitting in not is.

Anonymous Bob said...

"People sitting on chairs will be welcome to be with us and share in the experience in their own way.

But they won't be doing zazen."

You have been very consistent on this point and it seems perfectly reasonable. Full or even half lotus isn't possible for everyone. But with some effort it can be good for your knees. It has benefitted my knees as well as my back if nothing else. But it's not for everyone.

Anonymous said...

You know, in all my years of experience, I was always under the impression that Buddhist practice was about working with, and transforming the mind, not contorting your body (or your mind for that matter).

It is generally accepted by all good teachers that the meditation posture is a position where your spin is straight (but not perfectly straight or strained), your body relaxed, your head slightly leaning forwards, naturally being held by your neck. In that way, you can let the effects of gravity work.

One piece of your body on top of the other. A firm base. Relaxed, but sturdy.
This allows the body to relax, allows the mind to be within the body without distraction and allows mindful awareness to arise naturally.

You used the example of yoga. No good yoga teacher would ever encourage someone to continue, or strain into a position that would either lead to extreme discomfort, pain or even long term physical damage.

I'll finish with a quote to really hit home about what I am trying to say.

"In Buddhism, the term 'life' refers to this mind, not to the physical body. There is a continuity, and ongoing sense of knowing, of being awake, that goes on life after life. We practice meditation in order to improve this stream of being, which is the life of the mind, not the life of the body.
It is this stream of life, this stream of knowing, that needs to be liberated." ~ Tsoknyi Rinpoche

Uncle Willie said...

1) Maintain awareness of your neurological (mental) activity at all times.

2) Maintain awareness of your musculoskeletal (physical) activity at all times.

3) If you cannot maintain awareness "at all times" then just do the best that you can and don't worry about it.

Anonymous said...

So Brad is now the authority on what is and isn't zazen? Okaaay. Hey Brad, there are people in their 60's and 70's doing retreats who's bodies are so ravaged by medical conditions that they cannot sit cross legged or seiza. They have actually done so many retreats over the years that zazen has actually destroyed their bodies especially their lower backs. Sitting crosslegged is the best position for zazen but let's not fool ourselves into believing that it is some kind of panacea for all your physical and mental ills. Sitting on the cushion for hours a day is actually unnatural for the body and overtime body parts will degrade, perhaps even faster because of this unnatural cross legged position.

Zazen is the main tool of self-exploration in the practice of zen, but to confuse this one tool as the be-all-and-end all of a 2000-plus-year tradition is a bit narrow minded

Manny Furious said...

Of course Brad is probably correct. Zazen is specifically Zazen. But Zazen isn't a magical activity that leads one to peace, love and happiness and all that other shit. He's also right in that "Westerners" are quite averse to discomfort. So what? Maybe "Easterners" are too attached to discomfort?

The view I find most palatable for my own taste is the one put forth by Sifu Shi Yan Ming, a Shaolin monk who has lived in New York for about two decades. I'm paraphrasing here, but basically he says that sitting meditation is uncomfortable for some people. He doesn't see this as a problem, so he teaches that people should meditate in any way, shape or form that benefits them. Better to find those meditative practices which one prefers to do. One's meditative practices are limited only by the kind of actions that can be done by the human body. With the right frame of mind, any act can be meditation. Painting, washing the dishes, exercise, sitting, etc.

This view doesn't sit well with the quietists, who seem to believe that one's body must be still in order for the mind to be still. But "stillness" and "action" are only abstract concepts. Words created by the mind to entertain itself.

As another poster said, Zazen is only one tool. For some it's the preferred tool. For others, perhaps they haven't found a good use for it.

Brad Warner said...

Thanks Rob Myers.

Brad Warner said...

I like what Tom Swift says too.

Brad Warner said...

Not that everyone else is Satan or anything.

an3drew said...

“I'm also sure it's possible for some people not to bugger themselves up by sitting in the lotus posture. ”

humans have weak lower backs, it's a evolutionary design stuff up from the move to being able to walk on two legs from walking on fours like the other great apes

particularly there's recent  research  showing we have a problem with less dense bone on the vertebrae which helps improve load shock spreading when we walk , but the downside is it erodes quicker as we get older and interestingly the other great apes have much denser vertebrae bone and don't have this problem as they get older, rather maintaining vertebrae bone density !


i don't think the knees are designed that great either

as you get older the blood thickens and the arteries fur up, or rather it used to be as you got older but autopsies on soldiers dieing in iraq and afganistan show what should be healthy young men having the cardiovascular characteristics of men 20 or thirty years older which is the way things are now !

an3drew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
an3drew said...




“ why would i sit ? ”

fred replies :


“to break the will of your ego,


which is another type of voynichism”



fred, my brains like swiss cheese, i fall through the holes all the time


my ego was broken before i was born, it's just been a case of discovering it !


you are not here because you are normal or whole,


why not let that process of discovery occur ?


there are, have been and will be billions of damaged people in the world, what tiny tiny percentage move from that to some understanding about the nature of life and infinity?

Khru said...

This is...without a doubt...the best comment thread to the absolutely worst post ever seen on Bradley's blog.

john e mumbles said...

"shut down and sit up?" I like it.

anon #108 said...

I believe that's "Sit up and shut down," jem. Even better! :)

Rick said...

Feh! Look what these guys do:

http://cookdingskitchen.blogspot.com/2011/10/1000-day-challenge.html

Mysterion said...

DEVO 1977

Mysterion said...

zazen = sit down and shut up







I got it, right away.

Mysterion said...

THIS author has been removed by the post.

Anonymous said...

MINDFULNESS IN PLAIN ENGLISH is a book that those of you who truly want to sit for the rest of your days would do well to read. Instead of worrying about whether what you "do" fits within some online guy's definition of "zazen," you could simply sit and let that be that.

It's not about fitting into some imagined club of like-minded people. Just sit every day and live your life.

Anonymous said...

http://books.google.com/books?id=Q_ZzgoJIPO0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=mindfulness+in+plain+english&hl=en&ei=RtW5Tu_GNsjdiAKsquTCBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

There's a link for you to at least part of the book.

Anonymous said...

Mindfulness in Plain English [PDF]

john e mumbles said...

Yeah, 108 yer right; good mash ups & Mysterion, thanks for the memories!

Here's brand new Tom Waits, "Satisfied" with Keith Richards on guitar...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHn_Kb4Dz40

john e mumbles said...

Anonymous, thanks for the MIPE book link. Here's a very good introductory article on anapanasati:

http://www.tricycle.com/-practice/stepping-towards-enlightenment

(If it flies, I have to pay, maybe you won't?)

Anonymous said...

JEM, how'd you know? so kind, thanks :)

actually I've been brushing up with Mahasi Sayadaw lately and Anapanasati is next.

john e mumbles said...

Maybe you already have it, but anyway, here's Mahasi's entire PROGRESS OF INSIGHT book:

http://books.google.com/books?id=M2S-7-lWzHIC&printsec=frontcover&sig=gcbxMt7nkW6V_n3zkhm3Ab4glR8&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

an3drew said...

"you could simply sit and let that be that."

"that" in my observation is schizophrenia when the brain gets too entrained in it's own way of thinking which most posters on this board or even all suffer from

an3drew said...

brad warner is a writer and i think writing is a perspective that needs looking at because the process is broadening in a way that all here are in need of and would benefit from

a very good  video  of ray bradbury talking about writing

Anonymous said...

Hello Brad,

Of course sitting on a chair is not zazen. Maybe it is chairzen. Or Isuzen (if I got it right)

Only thing I want to say about difference between Westerners and Asians, is that It takes some more time for Westerners to learn to sit like that. Because many Asian people are used to sit on the ground or to crouch, almost from the day they are born. This makes them less stiff in the legs and hips.... so they have a little head start.... But indeed everybody can practice to sit in zazen.

Greetz,

Pjotr

Uncle Willie said...

Tibet Invades China

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/08/beijing-tibetan-buddhist_n_1080890.html

Fred said...

Dogen said that you take the
backward step into the light. Now,
how can you take a backward step,
if you are sitting in full lotus?

Well, it's metaphor for what
happens when you drop your mind
and body. And that's metaphor for
there's no inside or outside.

If there's no inside or outside
does it matter how " your " mind
directs " your " body to position
itself so that " you " can
realize this?

sdddd said...

Speaking of metaphors, this one just sold for $43M !!

skatemurai said...

I just wonder, have Brad Facebook account? :-)

Ali said...

Massoud

chu said...

Skatemuri, Brad does have a facebook account. In fact I think he might have more than one.

Alan_A said...

Mixed feelings about all this. I was encouraged by Brad's writings to get myself into quarter-lotus. It was a different and in many respects better meditation experience than the seiza bench, because of the increased stability and also what seemed to be a bit of an endorphin rush as I passed the 20-minute mark. So that was interesting. Unfortunately I also brought myself right up to the brink of some fairly worrisome injuries - in particular knee-ligament strains and shin splints, as a result of my trying to force my knees down in spite of not enough hip flexibility. So I've had to back off, sometimes to seiza, sometimes to easy pose. Easy pose, if done with the hands on the thighs, not the knees, stabilizes the back in a way similar to lotus, without (for me) the knee issues.

After practicing yoga for several years, I've recently moved my practice to Unity Woods, one of the older and better U.S. yoga studios (it's in the Washington, DC area). What I've found, practicing "simple" poses in a much more detailed way, is that there's a lot of individuality to how the body works. Like most of the students, I'm ahead in some areas and behind in others. The teachers are unfailingly patient and seem inclined to say, "I'm going to keep you in the prep for headstand and you won't be going up for a while, you're not ready - but there's benefit in the prep," as opposed to, "That's not headstand, I'd never call that headstand." There's a difference. I hope to improve but don't wind up feeling like I'm falling short.

Perhaps a balance of ambition and awareness of limitations is in order. In fairness, Brad seems to trend this way in the comments. The problem with the alternative - "this is the one true zazen" - takes on a certain Life of Brian quality that probably isn't anyone's goal (or goallessness, yadda yadda, you know what I mean)...

Anonymous said...

We must be ever mindful that Dogen (Soto) speaks for Dogen (Soto) and not for the Buddha.

CAPCHA = pingu

Anonymous said...

Good one anonymous. Soto practitioners also forget that Dogen practiced with koans too. He translated the Blue Cliff Record (an ancient collection of Chinese koans) and brought it to Japan. Koan study got abandoned by Dogen because he believed they were being utilized wrongly by the monasteries. And now there's this whole misconception that Dogen was against koans in favor of shinkantaza, which is a ridiculous idea still propagated today by pretty much all Soto Sanghas in America.

anon #108 said...

Hi 11.47am,

My understanding is that Dogen collected 300 (and one) koans while in china and brought them back to Japan. It's his own collection which he copied in the original Chinese (not translated into Japanese) and not the same collection as that known as the Blue Cliff Record (although some stories may occur in both).

Dogen's great work, the Shobogenzo, is a collection of talks and writings on various Buddhist topics, usually taking as their starting point koans, excerpts from sutras or other Buddhist texts. But Dogen's instructions for, and discussions of zazen, never mention, describe or recommend what's known as "koan introspection", ie, keeping koans or parts of koans in mind during zazen.

That's what I understand from what I've read. If you've evidence to the contrary, please do tell.

Anonymous Bob said...

I think I'm going to go along with Brad on this.. zazen is the center of what he teaches. What it is in my understanding, is a tool for resting alertly. There is no reason why resting alertly can't be accomplished floating in a pool sipping a rum coco or lying on a bed watching eyelid movies, but those things are not be zazen. zazen is by definition sitting zen. Shikantaza is even further essentialized.

If you are into astral projection, levitation, mindfulness, or praying to jesus, all that is cool. but those things have nothing to do with zazen. I don't get why some people want to argue this point. Brad isn't saying that you're not a buddhist if you can't manage half lotus. I think all he's saying is sitting zazen along the lines of dogen's instruction is the traditional soto zen practice.

CAPTCHA : doaggi : I kid you not

Anonymous said...

"It is noteworthy that Dogen Zenji selected twenty- four cases from The Blue Cliff Record, nearly a fourth of the total number of cases, for inclusion in his own three-hundred-case collection of koans entitled the "Shinji Shobogenzo" ("The Shobogenzo in Chinese"). This is not to be confused with the "Kaji Shobogenzo" (The Shobogenzo in Japanese) which most modern readers think of when they mention the Shobogenzo. This latter work is heavily based upon koan interpretations and commentaries by Dogen Zenji.
We mention this because of an unfortunately widespread impression nowadays that Dogen Zenji and the Soto School represent a non-koan or even anti-koan orientation with Zen. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Like Ta Hui of the Lin Chi School, Dogen Zenji was critical of the abuses of koan study common in his day. These abuses, which essentially involved a stereotyped and overly intellectual use of koans, led Dogen Zenji to express his concern lest the clarity and vigor of Zen students fall into deeper decline. Similarly, Ta Hui's burning of The Blue Cliff Record was an expression of his concern over the misuse of koans, rather than any fundamental objection to the use of koans, verses, or commentaries as such."

--Taezan Maezumi Roshi from forward to The Blue Cliff Record

anon #108 said...

Thanks for providing Taezan Maezumi's view, anon. He and I are pretty much on the same page re the two shobogenzo's. That's a relief!

Of course no one - not you, me, or even Meazumi Roshi - knows what Dogen thought about during zazen. So we only have what he wrote about it to go on.

There can be little doubt that Dogen thought Koans were truly smashing and worth pondering in all sorts of ways, but he didn't recommend koan introspection during zazen; he recommended shikantaza. Folks who want to mu and hua-tou can do so all day long, on and off the cushion, as they see fit - they have my permission and blessing. But Dogen, as far as we can tell from what he wrote, didn't do it or recommend it.

To present the debate, such as it is, as "Dogen: 'anti' or 'pro' koan? is just daft. I don't believe anyone, not even "pretty much all the soto sanghas in America" believe that Dogen was "against koans".

Perhaps we can agree on that?

Mysterion said...

Dogen was not against koan use.

Dogen was against koan abuse.

Many Soto (Linji - Rinzai) temples used koans as a kind of litmus test - to keep those with sensory impairments, mental retardation, or serious emotional disturbances away.

Certainly, Rinzai (Linji) Temples were gathering places for the intellectuals of the day - regardless of caste. (There were 22 classes of people in Feudal Japan).

Top = Tenno
Bottom = Eta

Sorry to scrape the gloss off the photo.

Fred said...

Thanks, Mysterian, for the gloss scraping

Anonymous said...

Brad's blog needs a "litmus test to keep those with sensory impairments, mental retardation, or serious emotional disturbances away".

an3drew said...

taizan maezumi was a not particularly talented alcoholic voynicher with a lineage that seems very little interested in anything else except affairs, sex and disguising psychosis enough to get by in real life !

an3drew said...

"Brad's blog needs a "litmus test to keep those with sensory impairments, mental retardation, or serious emotional disturbances away".

the need to post is the litmus test for being of that group

damaged to human is open to infinity or buddha, you just don't get it do you?

an3drew said...

fred, one of the big problems with zen is people go through a sort of simulated backward step, get a slight glimpse, but really the whole thing is inauthentic and they flounder about in verbiage like you for the rest of their lives which is 99.9% of zen teachers and advaita and non-duality and the rest of it it

you have to negotiate the getting there and getting back and remembering it or otherwise it's hopeless

it takes a ripped and continually ripped life to do that and really except that you already take the cost, it's not sensible to want

dogen was dying of TB a fair portion of his life, basho died at 50 on the road from his poor gut health, when you are being crucified you can't but help notice the crucifixion !

Fred said...

You're doing a fair bit of
floundering in verbiage yourself,
Andrew, and most of it is negative
attacks on other posters.

It is a Zen board, and some here
would consider the putdowns to be
a type of violence.

an3drew said...

yeah i am violent : o )

good

but i don't beat bad words and concepts to death like you lot !

HEY a challenge

why don't you front up and REPLY to what i say or can't you?

phoney wankers hiding behind dogen is your measure i'd say !

an3drew said...

R_R A T A TAT TAT

zen

asses

in

hat!

gun em down

kill

the

clowns

and

THAT

will

be

THAT

:

o

)

an3drew said...

the days not wasted if you write a good poem : o )

an3drew said...

sorta like firing a pea shooter at some-one and getting hit back witha cruise missle i'd say

:

o

)

Mysterion said...

Blogger an3drew said...
"sorta like firing a pea shooter at some-one and getting hit back witha cruise missle i'd say"

careful, your delusions of grandeur are showing through.

don't listen to the voices, take your meds on schedule.


CAPCHA = shessess

(a feminization of Jesus?)

john e mumbles said...

One of the last day or two's Zen calendar entries may or may not speak to topic:

"If you students of the Way do not awake to this Mind you will overlay Mind with conceptual thought. You will seek Buddha outside yourselves, and you will remain attached to forms, pious practices, and so on-all of which are harmful and not at all the way to supreme Knowledge." -Huang-Po

buddy said...

While I agree that some form of the crosslegged posture is the most stable and alert way to sit zazen, I'm just curious as to where- in terms of the history and tradition of practice- you came up with this absolute, 'sitting in chairs is not zazen'? Near as I can reckon, 'zazen' comes from the japanese 'za' to sit down and 'zen' silent meditation. It doesn't specify how you sit. And if you're going to pull out the few lines from the Shobogenzo, I could counter that by saying that those postures were simply what was in vogue for any sort of sitting- eating, reading, watching exotic dancers- in medieval Japan.

Tink said...

does this really helps??

Mark Foote said...

The Gautamid specified "sit down cross-legged". I've had great experiences in a chair, myself, don't know if they had them in India in 500 BCE.

I sit the lotus, but it was a long time coming. I'm learning it backwards, first by recognizing that freedom of mind is necessary to feeling, and second by feeling what I feel give way to absorption with the acceptance of aversion and attraction. It's not about sitting with pain, it's about letting the place of mind act in the face of aversion and attraction, and for me seeing that if I do face myself I can let go.
If you sit half lotus when you show up to enter temple in Japan, they make you sit two weeks in the hallway instead of one, is that not right?
I can say that for me, I feel lucky to have inadvertently allowed the place of mind to develop enough feeling to accept the activity of the lotus; it's more about the free movement of mind than the lotus, but I could never have found the relationship between the witness of aversion and attraction and the free occurrence of mind without the lotus, and in particular without feeling for activity out of pitch, yaw, and roll at the sacrum.

an3drew said...

mysterion writes

"careful, your delusions of  grandeur  are showing through."

you have never had an authentic vision so you will never understand !

i didn't want the transmission and didn't even believe in the mind to mind thing but it happened and i can't repudiate it so i am just doing things in a quiet way !

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Hi Marke Foote,

You wrote: "The Gautamid specified "sit down cross-legged". I've had great experiences in a chair, myself, don't know if they had them in India in 500 BCE."

During a previous HCZ posture session the question of ancient India and chairs came up. I googled...

Check the bottom of page 219 of THIS BOOK, Ancient India By R.C. Majumdar. (The link should take you straight there. If not, scroll...)

The quote is from Megasthenes, whose dates Wiki gives as ca. 350 – 290 BCE, but I'm guessing his report is close enough to the time and culture of the Buddha to have some relevance?

Anonymous said...

Hi

anon #108 said...

Hi. Y'orite?

john e mumbles said...

I may just be sleepy but traditionally weren't the only dudes who could afford a chair kings or judges or something?

Isn't this where the mental image of Jehovah sitting up in the clouds in a throne chair twiddling his beard come from (or vice versa)?

So wherever it says in the Buddhist precepts for monks or layfolk, thou shalt not sit on a high bed or highchair, ever since we've reserved that spot for the baby in the house, the bal krishna non-personality??

ya habib.

anon #108 said...

That's got to apply to expensive, posh chairs, jem. But I'm guessing (assuming...hoping?) that even the poorest in ancient India were familiar with chairs of some sort - at least, familiar with sitting on something other than the floor or a grass mat/cushion. They may have been perfectly comfortable sitting on the ground - like East Asians nowadays - but the choice was there, it seems.

Buddha, we understand, came from a wealthy family, so his decision not to meditate in a chair, but in a yoga-asana must have something to do with (what he considered to be) the benefits of that way of sitting...it's my feeling that it had less to with rejection of the trappings of high office/authority/comfort than with the body/mind yogic training with which he was familiar.

Sitting Bull said...

I think chairs were around pretty early in the sitting game. Sitting on the ground wasn't always a good option as the ground could often be wet and uncomfortable. So let's include rugs and mats as early chairs. Even logs and rocks worked well. Add a pillow to a log or rock and you have something truly civilized.

Mysterion said...

"Buddha, we understand, came from a wealthy family, so his decision not to meditate in a chair, but in a yoga-asana must have something to do with (what he considered to be) the benefits of that way of sitting..."

Buddha became an ascetic.

The 13 dhutaṅgas

There exist thirteen ascetic practices:

paṃsukūla : abandonned robes

tecīvarika : three robes

piṇḍapāta : collection by means of one's bowl

sapadānacārika : food collection without skipping houses

ekāsanika : a single meal

pattapiṇḍika : everything within the bowl

khalupacchābhattika : no longer accepting any extra food after having started to take the meal

āraññika : to remain in the forest

rukkhamūla : to remain beneath a tree

abbhokāsika : to remain on the bare earth without shelter

susānika : to remain among charnels

yathāsantatika : to sleep at the alloted spot

nesajjika : to renonce to the lying posture

Therefore, take your narrow definition of zazen, go to the forest, sit under a tree, and be 100% right - beyond question.

or

first, reject dualism.

ROFLMAO

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Hi Chas,

As your last comment starts by quoting something I'd written and ends with the words "Therefore, take your narrow definition of zazen, go to the forest, sit under a tree, and be 100% right - beyond question or first, reject dualism. ROFLMAO," I can't help but read what you wrote as some kind of correction - or perhaps, elaboration - of some point you think I've made, tried to make, or failed to make. But I'm afraid I don't get it...your point - or what you might have read as my point.

Would you care to try again?

anon #108 said...

'S'OK. I've decided what you meant ;)

Anonymous said...

Some people are inscrutable to the point of stupidity when trying to appear enlightened. The good thing is they find it a never ending source of amusement.

Fred said...

"why don't you front up and REPLY to what i say or can't you?"

You don't say anything, other than
that somebody's a wanker.

Fred said...

14. sit in void until the body dies.

Anonymous said...

100

Anonymous said...

Mr. Warner: You got mentioned in the About Buddhism e-mail:

http://buddhism.about.com/b/2011/11/08/sitting-in-chairs.htm?nl=1

I sit zazen now and again, but due to a knee blowout can't manage a crossed-leg to the floor pose, or even a kneeling pose - WAY too much pain overwhelming any meditative peace. I tend to cross my legs and bring the knees as far down as I can. Not saying it's perfect, but it's what I can do.

Brian

Mysterion said...

We have, in Buddhism, the equivalent of KJV only, Paulists (e.g. Dogenists), Deutoronomists (as in followers of Deut.), and Leviticans (as in followers of the Levi priestcraft).

The point that I was making is that no Buddhist in the last century as strictly adhered to the code set forth by the Buddha. Not one. Nor was there any need for them to do so.

Recall the 'last words' - work out your own salvation*.

The MOST the Buddha ever doled out was advice.

We have no tethered goat tradition in Buddhism.

Cheers,
Chas



*borrowed by Paul in Philippians 2:12

Un-Embellished Philippians 2:12
"So, as you have obeyed, work out your [own] salvation."

commentary HERE

Somewhat like the Tripitaka, there is very little agreement among scholars EXACTLY what the bible sez or is trying to sae.

CAPCHA = clingo

Mysterion said...

Blogger anon #108 said...
"Hi Chas,

As your last comment starts by quoting something I'd written..."

sorry, it's not YOU, it where the stream of consciousness is flowing. at best, each of us is a leaf being carried along by that stream.

(isn't that ultimately what the universe is, anyway???)

no offense meant. my apology is any was sensed.

cheers,
chas

an3drew said...

"You don't say anything, other than
that somebody's a wanker."

now fred that's not true at all ! what's with you, why are you even interested in this sort of thing ? just a pretend thing you can play at ?

repeat the usual garbage like the rest of the "morons"

well what else would you call them, toy trains rotating around their circular tracks ?

"pre lobotomized"

how

does

that

happen

i'd

like

to

know

:

O

)

anon #108 said...

Point understood on reconsideration shortly after initial confusion, Chas. No offence taken.

Rock and roll star Mick Jagger said...

This may be slightly off-topic, but when were toilets like we use in the West invented? I think we need to go back go squatting over holes, personally, but I'm willing to dig into this issue more deeply in order to fully see the positives where the classic sitting toilet is concerned.

john e mumbles said...

Hey Brad, congrats on the TRICYCLE mag interview/article.

an3drew said...

"Hey Brad, congrats on the TRICYCLE mag interview/article."

lol from rebel to buddhist establishment figure !

actually i think everyone is sick of the vapid patsies and sex maniacs that the japanese transmission system has turned/churned out

an3drew said...

zen these days, a sheet of white paper with illegible drawls by colourless people !

an3drew said...

"Buddha became an ascetic."

he never left what he was which is a rether second rate story !

give me the daoist half of zen anyday, way more colour and interest !

brad. not warner said...

zazen. sitting in full lotus everyday.
what am i missing?
zazen. sitting in full lotus everyday.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Awesome interview, Brad!!!!!!!!!!!!

an3drew said...

"what am i missing?'

UNION !

zazen only looks like something in the absence of knowing what union is !

there

are

easier

ways

to

accumulate

joint

injury !

doesn't your grey world bother you, the lack of colour in it?

Anonymous said...

Buddhas and patriarchs cut to pieces;
The sword is ever kept sharpened.
Where the wheel turns,
The void gnashes its teeth.

Death verse of Shûhõ Myõchõ (宗峰妙超, titled Daitõ Kokushi, 1282-1337)

(Manual of Zen Buddhism 148)

"For many years Shuho had been unable to meditate in the full lotus position because of a crippled leg. When he felt death approaching, he broke his leg with his own hands and took the full lotus. Then, despite agonizing pain, he wrote his final words and died with the last stroke of the brush."

Fred said...

"Buddhas and patriarchs cut to pieces;
The sword is ever kept sharpened.
Where the wheel turns,
The void gnashes its teeth."

A man of no distinction leaves no
trace. Others will follow the
invisible footprints.

Fred said...

Night advances, the moon glows and falls into the ocean. The black dragon jewel you have been searching for, is everywhere.

Dogen

Fred said...

Swiss cheese enlightenment
In a swiss cheese brain
A Dingle howls
From the gum tress
Voynich everywhere
Nowhere calling

an111111drew said...

You are all fools.

Anonymous said...

You all seem to have a case of pretentious loser syndrome. That can be easily remedied. Sit more, read less, spend less time online and more time actually doing things, preferably with your hands and legs, for you are not as smart as you think you are, and even if you were it wouldn't help you at all.

Fregas said...

Brad,

I totally agree that Americans are addicted to comfort. I totally agree that people should try to sit semi-lotus if possible. I think there is a mental benefit to the physical position and the discipline from trying it. It took me a solid year to sit lotus and another year to sit with the off leg on top.

However, are you saying that if its not possible,and they really are one of those rare cases where their knees or back wont' let them sit on a cushion, then they really ARE doing zazen even if its in a chair? Because that seems inconsistent.

Either zazen requires a cushion and knees to the floor or it doesn't. If it doesn't than the people being lazy ARE doing zazen, but maybe just not in the most optimal way. If a cushion and position ARE required for it to be zazen, then the poor, sick people who have to use a chair aren't doing zazen either.

you can't have it both ways.

David Carradine said...

Zazen balances the autoerotic nervous system.

merciless said...

Treatment by sitting in a chair, five days a week for 40 minutes, while magnetic pulses stimulate the parts of the brain that controls mood. Cost: $10,000 U.S. dollars per treatment.

Anonymous said...

It ain't over till its over. -Yogi Berra

an3drew said...

"Night advances, the moon glows and falls into the ocean. The black dragon jewel you have been searching for, is everywhere.

Dogen"


the night wears on, fading moon and ocean froth

devoid

of

social

constructs

at rest in infinity

i

toss

dice

with

the

black

dragon

jewel !

an3drew said...

"Buddhas and patriarchs cut to pieces;
The sword is ever kept sharpened.
Where the wheel turns,
The void gnashes its teeth."

buddha rolls about like a toy

the sword is ever blunt

the

wheel

was

broken

long

ago

the

void

sucks
a
lolly
pop !

Convict said...

I don't think you can separate posture from attitude. I think that defending one's established posture is just the ego defending its lair. How else could a defective use of the spine have developed?

Suzuki Roshi said, 'When the back becomes straight, the mind becomes still.' Undoing the knots of the spine and developing the strength to hold it correctly is fundamental to sitting, surely. It scares some zennists because it is a solid & concrete thing which cannot be wished away in an illusory 'short path' fashion, meaning there is work to be done there. Bring all the awareness you can into it as part of your sitting.

an3drew said...

convict i would suggest you read the platform sutra, it's actually quite anti-sitting

the platform sutra is what distinguishes zen, it's not the same as other forms of buddhism !

it's chinese and daoist and it's got a distinctly different approach !

it's really quite intellectual, philosophical and poetic, you guys have brains why not use them rather than sucking on some samadhi lollypop!

Mysterion said...

The Platform Sutra (T'an Ching) is a Chinese Ch'an Buddhist writing from Kong Hua (Hui Neng).

He was considered by some to be the Sixth Patriarch. Blogger an3drew is, of course, the Seventh.

And I am, of course, the cat's meow.

or not.

or not some of the above.

or not most of the above.

or not any of the above.

or something else.

Anonymous said...

Buddha teaches that we don't have to be anything special. Practice is to be our life exactly as it is.
Buddha sit cross legged because that was the nothing special way of sitting in India.
Sitting in chairs in the west is the nothing special way of practice here.
We westerns trying to sit like people do in past India or Japan isn't the buddha way.
Buddha said that practice is to be what we already are, thus nothing special or exotic.
Japanese Zazen is cross legged. Nothing special.
Western zazen is sitting in chairs. Nothing special.
Buddha said that practice is to be ordinary, right Brad?

Anonymous said...

Buddha teaches that we don't have to be anything special. Practice is to be our life exactly as it is.
Buddha sit cross legged because that was the nothing special way of sitting in India.
Sitting in chairs in the west is the nothing special way of practice here.
We westerns trying to sit like people do in past India or Japan isn't the buddha way.
Buddha said that practice is to be what we already are, thus nothing special or exotic.
Japanese Zazen is cross legged. Nothing special.
Western zazen is sitting in chairs. Nothing special.
Buddha said that practice is to be ordinary, right Brad?

an3drew said...

"Anonymous said...

Buddha teaches that we don't have to be anything special. Practice is to be our life exactly as it is."

now can't you see that posting anonymously is not being your life exactly as it is ?

how can someone write so much voynich bilge ?

well if you are not prepared to be yourself?

afriad to say who you are on a blog
where it can't matter a crap ?

new heights of cowardice ?

i honestly feel what you have written is mentally ill !

Anonymous said...

zazem is the symbol of the nothing special ordinary life that we already are.
in japan/india ordinary sitting is/was cross-legged, but in west is in chairs. Thus zazen in west should be in chairs.

an3drew said...

the way people use "buddha" or dogen is like some wall to conceal themselves from behind which they then lob over the most disgusting putrid crap, all in the name of buddha and dogen of course !

it's
like

something

out

fo

the
lord

of
the

rings, orc's, slimeballs and other malevolancies !

an3drew said...

"Anonymous said...
zazem is the symbol of the nothing special ordinary life that we already are.
in japan/india ordinary sitting is/was cross-legged, but in west is in chairs. Thus zazen in west should be in chairs."

"anonymous", you must be afraid to cross the street !

an3drew said...

if you really are of buddha or god, buddha or god will visit originality and facility of expression upon you, you won't have to repeat mindless clichés forever !

get it ?

if you are of the devil or samasara these same clichés will turn you forever !

God said...

Whatever you say, Satan.

an3drew said...

god has no need to be anonymous has he, you fake !

Jon Lenvik said...

Does that mean paraplegics cannot be Zen practitioners?

Mark Foote said...

Alrightee.
Down to the business at hand.
Why the cross-legged posture?- because place in the occurrence of consciousness is utilized by the pulmonary and cranial-sacral respirations to impact stretch and open feeling, and the ligaments that guide place into pitch, roll, and yaw and an ability to feel are most intimately those that attach the sacrum to the pelvis.

The lotus on the cushion (or a tree root, back in the day) dictates that the cranial-sacral rhythm place consciousness so as to open feeling throughout the senses, all six. The opening of feeling allows the free occurrence of consciousness with respect to placement, waking up or falling asleep. The free occurrence of consciousness is the cessation (of volitive action) of perception and sensation. One thing after another.

Gui Do said...

If the cushion was invented to make sitting more easy and avoid pain in the legs, logically it should be okay to follow that line of thinking and take further measures to avoid pain while sitting. The pain is distracting the mind and creating more barriers. Overcoming that certain pain is no guarantee that one overcomes much stronger pain later in life.

If someone like Kobun Chino Roshi is said to have been sitting in zazen without pain in the beginning, how could he be a good advisor for all those students who feel pain?

Just imagine a mine victim without legs. What would he do? No question of half or full lotus.

The question is how you develop bodhicitta which is the key characteristic of enlightenment. If one could prove that it is done quicker or more effectively by zazen, he should ask for scientists to collect that data. I am not convinced. I see a lot of other ways to realize, i.e. to practice, bodhicitta.

Harvey Daiho Hilbert-roshi said...

I have mixed thoughts about this. I try my best to make it possible for students to sit on zafus in the Zendo, but I have four who just either cannot or will not, so they use stools. I am not comfortable with the practice, but there it is. On another note, I cannot imagine how anyone can damage their knees from sitting cross-legged on a cushion, however. How is that possible?

Harvey Daiho Hilbert-roshi said...

I have mixed thoughts about this. I try my best to make it possible for students to sit on zafus in the Zendo, but I have four who just either cannot or will not, so they use stools. I am not comfortable with the practice, but there it is. On another note, I cannot imagine how anyone can damage their knees from sitting cross-legged on a cushion, however. How is that possible?

ricky said...

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Mr. Propter said...

Thanks for this, Brad. I've replied to it briefly in my last post: http://mrpropter.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I admit that I didn't read *every* post in this thread, so please excuse me if this has been answered already.

I have very specific back problems that I cannot imagine do not impact my seated meditation practise.

I find seated meditation uncomfortable, transitioning into extremely painful within an hour or two. However, this also becomes part of my zen practise. The pain really goes away after a while with proper concentration, and sometimes returns, like thoughts and emotions disappear and return.

One thing I like about zen is its emphasis on visceral learning. By letting my physical discomfort pass, I learned more about the transience of things and the attitude I should have to my mind during meditation than I could have just learned intellectually.

So anyway, re: is it/isn't it zazen: I appreciate the lineage of zen buddhism as authoritative, so I think what could settle this pretty quickly is an appeal to the earliest references to the actual practise of zazen as such that you can find. Academic databases or google books/scholar should help find these things.

Unknown said...

Despite knee problems from long-ago athletic injuries, I have managed to do the seiza posture (I never could do the lotus position). But after a recent knee injury from yoga that barely managed to avoid surgery, I have been compelled to do zazen in a chair for the foreseeable future. I miss seiza, and sitting in a chair is harder than seiza, but I do get a benefit from chair sitting, if I work at the posture of all body parts to get it right. Sometimes, you just have to deal with what IS.

Ray Burton said...

Thank you for those stretches Tom. Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Your patriarchal style is not zen.

Anonymous said...

So the chairs in the Zenshuji Soto Zen Temple Zendo in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles next to the zafus are for sitting not-zazen I suppose!

eustachio said...

I lost a lot of respect for Brad Warner over this post. It displays a kind of naive spiritual materialism, utterly attaching to the *form* of zazen. It also is deeply disrespectful to sincere practitioners to say they're not doing zazen if they're sitting in a chair.

Sekkei Harada in "The Essence of Zen" puts it better than I can:

"Zazen has nothing whatsoever to do with whether you are sitting upright or lying down...it is also all right to sit the way women often do in Japan with their feet tucked under them. Or to use various kinds of seats or benches. In any case, don't worry too much about the outer form. I would simply like you to find a position so you can sit comfortably for a long time, without feeling too much pain in your legs

..why is it that only the outer form has become emphasised in this way? The reason is that the essential Dharma has been lost, and in order to at least pass down something, a lot of emphasis has come to be placed on form"