An Unauthorized and Incomplete Guide to Zazen–contents

Practice and Verification

Dragon tiling fractal image

If everyone realizes selfless activity as a part of their daily lives, then what’s the point of practice, and why would anyone care whether “zazen is sitting zazen” or not?

The stretch that is already in existence as consciousness takes place registers the shift in balance occasioned by a contact of sense or mind as an impact; the feeling that occurs in connection with that impact informs the sense of location in consciousness. The stretch that is in existence as consciousness takes place is a stretch of fascia and ligaments, and these tissues stretch and resume shape with our movement and rest. In particular, as we sleep, these tissues tend to resume a shape without stretch.

Through the occurrence of consciousness, impact, and feeling, the interplay of gravity and reciprocal innervation in an upright posture “grasps” the hoe handle of the sacrum. When we sleep, the “empty hand” releases the hoe-handle to some extent, even if we sleep in an upright posture.

Here is a portion of a conversation between the sixth patriarch of Zen in China (“the Ancestor”), and his successor Dahui (“The Master”):

The Ancestor said, “What is it that comes like this?”
The Master was without means [to answer].
After attending [the Ancestor] for eight years, he finally understood the previous conversation. Thereupon, he announced to the Ancestor, “I’ve understood what you put to me when I first came: ‘What is it that comes like this?’”
The Ancestor asked, “How do you understand it?”
The Master replied, “To say it’s like anything wouldn’t hit it.”
The Ancestor said, “Then is it contingent on practice and verification?”
The Master answered, “Practice and verification are not nonexistent; they’re not to be defiled.”

(Soto Zen Text Project, © Sotoshu Shumucho 2005, “Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma”, Shobogenzo, Book 13, “Ocean Seal Samadhi”, Kaiin zanmai, translated by Carl Bielefeldt with Michael Radich)

Only the spontaneous occurrence of consciousness, impact, and feeling in response to the necessity of the current circumstance develops the stretch in existence as a function of well-being.

Because the occurrence of consciousness, impact, and feeling is in the nature of beings, everyone realizes selfless activity in the course of their daily lives; because well-being depends in part on the stretch that is in existence as consciousness takes place, the activities and postures that lend themselves to the experience of stretch find their way into our lives.

The witness of a location of consciousness conditioned by feeling frees the occurrence of consciousness, and everyone experiences such a witness in the course in their daily lives, yet such a witness has no significance without the need to bring an end to suffering.