Saturday, 24 September 2011

Zen without zazen

In the Summer I had a minor operation hem hem which has made it difficult to sit zazen. For a time it was improving, but now it's got worse again and I'm left feeling rather distant from zen practice. There's a sesshin coming up in November that I'm hoping to be healed up enough for...
But my question is this: if you can't sit, are you outside the jurisdiction of Zen? Can one really be a Zen student if you can't sit for hours whether on a cushion or in a chair? Most Zen teachers of  both old and current times recommend two things: having a teacher, and sitting zazen. Nought out of two isn't so good.
People may say "It doesn't matter, it's the spirit of the thing, not how many hours you sit." But that isn't backed up by contemporary Zen culture. I'll admit, I haven't asked if I could stand or do a long kinhin. Not being able to sit of course means that all I want to do is sit. I am appreciating  zazen in a way that I haven't before. On the other hand, not being able to do it makes it seem...arbitrary. There. I said it, and various Zen luminaries are revolving madly in their graves...or maybe not. Despite their absolute insistence on zazen, I'm sure if you could ask Kodo Sawaki or Uchiyama Roshi for example, they would agree: there's nothing special about zazen. There's nothing magical about it. If you don't do it, it's not the end of the world. But that's exactly why it should be done (when "shoulds" come up I get nervous but there you have it...). Zazen is not in that karma-world of "I do it because of this result and this expectation". It's fairly unique in being in a realm of "just do." Not that this means I should endanger the health of my posterior and body in general in order to do it. That kind of thinking really is full of traps. When I can't do it, I can't do it. As soon as I can, I do it. Is that the zazen of non-zazen?

1 comment:

Ken Mattholie said...

I come from a martial arts background and the zen element in the practice is what I miss since giving up due to injuries. Started meditation (seated on end of bed ) daily about a year ago and feel I've got that element back . Have dabbled with Zazen as seems to home that element to a point but after finally being relatively injury free apart from arthritis in knee and dodgy hip reluctant to endure pain above the pain that one would expect in practice of zazen. Tried seiza ect but results in knee crunching and (I want to kill ) fucking pain once I get up which to me defeats object of meditation , and for which just sitting on end of bed has given me more ie awareness to thoughts monkey mind and all that bollocks but happy with it. Thing is you got people like brad Warner and other groups practically saying if you can't do Zazen position no point. The deepest zen experiences I ever had have been whilst in the midst of martial art practice . Me thinks there's a point of no point thang really. If you can't meditate seated without being in serious agony there's no point to doing meditation as the whole point is mind study and not yes I can sit zazen but the pain fills me with hate and a year from now I'll need one of those chairs like stephen hawkings has got.