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Kusen

32. Undefended

In zazen we lay down our arms.

We place one hand on top of the other. The world is unmanipulated and not held at bay.

It comes right up to the heart.

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Kusen

29. The Ground of Zazen

We can talk of our practice and life in terms of form and emptiness, or delusion and enlightenment. We can also talk of both in terms of ground and space, earth and sky, heaven and earth.

In Inmo, Dogen comments on the phrase:

Those that fall to the ground get up relying on the ground. To get up without relying on the ground is, in the end, impossible.

One of the most difficult things for people to experience when they start zazen is their ungroundedness. They are caught up in a storm of thought and emotion. And through practice, they learn to experience falling back into the feeling, experiencing body, the ground.

We can experience this physically. If we sit properly, allowing our weight to drop down through our sit bones, then we can receive a reciprocal push upwards from the earth, up our spine and up through the top of our head.

This falling down and getting up is the activity of our lives. And in this activity, we actualise heaven and earth.

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Kusen

24. With All Of Us

Because zazen is wholehearted action in the present moment, it breaks down the false distinction between physical and mental.

For example, we will often come to zazen tired, or anxious, or distracted. We put our body into balance, and our breathing comes into balance. We breathe like a baby; from the belly, intercostally. And what we thought of as our mental process changes too.

Our heart sits on top of our breath.

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Kusen

16. Stillness

Dogen said [in Gyoji]:

Master Bodhidharma sat in stillness facing the wall, but he was not learning Zen concentration.

and also [in Fukanzazengi]:

Zazen is simply the peaceful and joyful Gate of Dharma.

Stillness is suchness. We fall backwards into it from the discriminating mind. It is always present. The trees are still. The wind is still. It is suchness, not the absence of movement.

At great cost, the ego keeps us suspended several inches above the ground. Zazen is not learning concentration. It is learning to fall.

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Kusen

9. Sitting is Buddha

In Zazen, do we rely on ourself? Or do we rely on Buddha?

In some schools of Zen, there is a plain reliance on the self. Sitting is the means by which we accumulate the capacity to experience enlightenment. Equally, in other Japanese traditions, particularly Pure Land, reliance is on the other, on Buddha; faith, devotion, surrender feature prominently.

Dogen’s view is that we rely neither on Self or other. We do not sit to become a Buddha and we do not sit in devotion to something other than ourself which we call Buddha. Sitting is Buddha.

We are lifted up by the same ground.