Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sitting Upright: An Amazing, Mysterious Feat Beyond Our Comprehension!!!

Someone last night asked the very sensible question: 'Why do you do it [zazen]?'

In response to this question Kodo Sawaki, the celebrated 20th century Japanese Zen Master, might boldly roar 'Zazen is useless!' or 'There is no reason!', one of his students, Kosho Uchiyama might say 'Do zazen for the sake of doing zazen'. Gudo Nishijima Sensei might say 'Do zazen to balance the autonomic nervous system', and that such balanced action brings clarity and poise to our life...

All these answers are valid and true. The most important thing is to actually do it if we want to understand it... And remember that doing it involves dropping off all our expectations of it, and all the demands of it that we will find ourselves thinking up (which is what Kodo Sawaki was getting at maybe):

'Be like an open gate'.

The issue came up of spiritual teachers who can (allegedly) perform miraculous feats (such as levitating, manifesting solid objects out of nowhere etc etc)... We can believe or disbelieve whatever we want about this stuff, but doing zazen is not directly a matter of belief, nor cynicism: What is of central importance is that we actually do it and just let go of our values, beliefs and disbeliefs for a while... and then maybe we can learn something about our values and beliefs, and ourselves.

Our bodies constantly manifest anew from moment to moment so that we may move and grow. We can know a person's mind by the smile on her face or the tear in his eye. We can fly in a plane, or hang-glide, or bungee jump or dance around like big kids... now that is miraculous!


  1. Hi Harry,

    nice post. What was your answer to that person's question?

    People have asked me the same question too in our group and usually I have answered "Because it helps me but only if I'm actually practicing it."

    Be well, Harry!


  2. Hello Markus,

    I've been asked it a few times; the most honest thing I can say is that I do it because I have trained myself to do it. My 'reasons' for doing it seem to be less pronounced than they were in my 'idealistic phase' maybe.

    I know its right, and people close to me see effects and know its good for me to do, but I don't contrive the results, and I don't notice the results so much, so I don't feel like I can really claim much credit or be too preachy about it or try to give it the hard sell to people.

    I try to explain that people should just do it themselves, should do it sincerely and regularly for a while, and give themselves a chance to really try it out for themselves.



  3. Very wise. There is no wrong answer since it may even be personal.

    And you do not reject miraculous feats. Only stressed that zazen must be done without expectation.

    Why do I do zazen? Hmm... causality is illusion, hahahahahahaha *escaping* :D

  4. Good post Harry. I really like this instructional side of you.

    I tell people I do it because its the most exciting sport I've ever been involved in LOL:)

    Seriously, I just say its a pivot point and leave it at that.

  5. Hi Harry,

    sounds good! I really like of your attitude!


  6. "I tell people I do it because its the most exciting sport I've ever been involved in LOL:)"

    'X-treme Sitting'?

    Don't forget to wear your cup. ;-)

    Thanks for dropping by, folks.