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?