Zazen and Dharma
Quotes from Kodo Sawaki,
a representative of Japanese soto zen buddhism
Kim's comment: I have always felt that the simple and often striking teachings of the zen buddhist masters, both from Japanese rinzai- and soto-schools, describe well what spiritual practice is ultimately about. The approach of the soto zen-school is very direct and simple, and therefore often difficult to understand conceptually. What is interesting however, is that the dzogchen-adepts say the same things. However, the greatest difference between zen and dzogchen, I feel, is that the latter uses concepts, techniques and pointing out instructions as tools in going beyond concepts, stages and so on in order for the practitioner to realise the empty nature of mind, while zen doesn't. For this reason the quotes I've gathered below might not be easy to understand. However, I feel, that they give valid advice to one on the path of dharma. At the end, I have also included a recommendation of another soto zen adept to study dzogchen. Perhaps this recommendation was given because skillful theory, mapping and study, together with committed practice, can make a real difference.
”People love emotional confusion... Buddha-dharma means not putting yourself at the mercy of emotional confusion. In the world, on the other hand, a big fuss is made over nothing.”
”If it’s even the slightest bit personalized, it isn’t pure, unadulterated zazen. We’ve got to practice genuine, pure zazen, without mixing it with gymnastics or satori or anything. When we bring in our personal ideas – even only a little bit – it’s no longer the buddha-dharma.”
”In true dharma there’s nothing to gain. In false dharma there’s something to gain.”
”The way of buddha means that there is nothing to seek, nothing to find [mushogu-mushotoku]. If there’s something to find, no matter how much we practice, it’s got nothing to do with the buddha-dharma. If there’s nothing to find [mushotoku], that’s the buddha-dharma.”
”What’s zazen good for? Absolutely nothing! This “good for nothing” has got to sink into your flesh and bones until you’re truly practicing what’s good for nothing. Until then, your zazen is really good for nothing.”
”As long as you say zazen is a good thing, something isn’t quite right. Unstained zazen is absolutely nothing special. It isn’t even necessary to be grateful for it... Without knowledge, without consciousness, everything is as it should be. Don’t stain your zazen by saying that you’ve progressed, feel better or have become more confident through zazen.”
”We only say, “Things are going well!” when they’re going our way.”
”We should simply leave the water of our original nature as it is. But instead we are constantly mucking about with our hands to find out how cold or warm it is. That’s why it gets cloudy.”
”If we don’t watch out, we’ll start believing that the buddha-dharma is like climbing up a staircase. But it isn’t like this at all. This very step right now is the one practice which includes all practices, and it is all practices, contained in this one practice.”
”If you do something good, you can’t forget you’ve done something good. If you’ve had satori, you get stuck in the awareness of having satori. That’s why it’s better to keep your hands off good deeds and satori. You’ve got to be perfectly open and free. Don’t rest on your laurels!”
”Even if I say all of this about the buddha way, ordinary people will still use the buddha-dharma to try and enhance their value as humans.”
”You study, you do sports, and you’re fixated on satori and illusion. So that even zazen becomes a marathon for you, with satori as the finish line. Yet because you’re trying to grab it, you’re missing it completely. Only when you stop meddling like this does your original, cosmic nature realize itself.”
”You’ve got it backwards if you talk about stages of practice...”
”Master Dôgen doesn’t expect anything from us that’s not humanly possible. It’s simply a matter of becoming natural, without empty thoughts or peculiarities. Buddhism in general doesn’t demand anything special from us, only that we become natural. Some verses in the sutras might seem special to us, for example,
“The white hair between his eyebrows illuminates the 3,000 worlds.” But that’s only a literary symbol for the samadhi that is the king of all samadhis.”
”Master Dôgen’s whole life was one uncompromising, penetrating inquiry into himself.”
”A bodhisattva is someone who awakens suffering beings. He’s an ordinary person who has the goal “buddha” clearly and decidedly in sight.”
”When you talk about Buddha, you’re thinking of something far away that’s got nothing to do with you, and that’s why you’re only running around in circles.”
”Ordinary people and buddhas have the same form. Awakening and illusion have the same form.”
”You lack peace of mind because you’re running after an idea of total peace of mind. That’s backwards. Be attentive to your mind in each moment, no matter how unpeaceful it might seem to be. Great peace of mind is realized only in the practice within this unpeaceful mind. It arises out of the interplay between peaceful and unpeaceful mind.”
Translation of Kodo Sawaki's teachings by Jesse Haasch and Muho Noelke, found here.
Someone wrote: "My first buddhist teacher was Kobun Chino Roshi*. In one class, someone asked him how to get closer to his lineage or more involved with his lineage. His answer was to look into dzogchen."
*the mentioned Kobun Chino was a student of Kodo Sawaki.