“Zazen is just Action”

This is an unusual post, as a good part of it is a post from another blog – the Dogen Sangha Blog (http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com).  I would have linked directly to the post itself, but the permalink didn’t work. The blog is very charming in it’s language and it’s lack of technical savvy.

What I found in this post is a functional description of “shikantaza”, or “just sitting”, which is a zen form of meditation. The question is about what to “focus on” and the answer is amazing.

posted by GUDO NISHIJIMA | 10:10 AM |


Ven. silentbell San’s question 10/05/05

Even though I have received a following questions from Ven. silentbell San, but I have failed to answer to him, and so I would like to send my answer by this comments.

His questions

During zazen what is it exactly that I am supposed to be concentrating on? Do I try to “feel” my body sitting straight, and bring my awareness back to my posture again and again? Or do I focus on any stillness that might appear between my thoughts? Or do I just sit not focusing on any thing, just letting everything come and go? Thank you again so very much for the teaching you offer.

Gudo’s Answer : First of all we should make our efforts to keep the lower spine straight vertically, and then we should keep the backbone straight upwards as far as possible. Pull the chin downward and backward to make the back of neck as far as possibly straight. Master Kodo Sawaki taught us that we should stretch our spine as if it were possible for our spine to pierce the ceiling actually. By stretching the back of neck our sight might be directed about 45 degrees downward.


During Zazen it is the most important matter to keep the posture straight vertically. It is never only feeling, but it is just the real Action. It is never the feelng, but Action itself. Therefore it is not awearness, but Action itself.


Therefore it is the most important matter for us actually to sit in the Actual Posture, not the mental consciousness or sense perception. Zazen is just Action, and so it is just the traditional posture.

If you are inclined to these sorts of things, give this a try. Sit as prescribed and continue “doing this Action” for the duration of the sit.  I’ve been reading zen for years and years and I thought I was familiar with this kind of practice.. but this explanation just blew me away. I tried it for my 50 minute evening sit last night*.  With the clarity and concentration I’ve developed through vipassana practice, I actually had some steadiness in this “just sitting” practice.

I just love how sitting 100% still can be described as Action with a capital A!

*Side note: I know that it is good advice to “take the one seat” as Jack Kornfield suggests and do one type of meditation steadily instead of jumping around. I’ve primarily stuck with vipassana meditation for many years.  As I start to journal my experiences and share them here, I am also curious about different types of buddhist meditation and I am trying a few to see how they compare and contrast.  This blog is all about seeing where practice leads…

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