Zazen is good for nothing. We do it anyway.
Resources for Zazen
Our sitting practice is called zazen or shikantaza. We do only four things in our zazen; we sit in zazen posture, breathe deeply through the nose, keep the eyes open and let go of thoughts. That's all we do. Anything else is extra.
It sounds like a very simple practice, and it is -- but it's also profound, challenging, joyful and intimate. We are doing nothing more than being right here, right now with body and mind. Conditions change inside and outside of ourselves, but we just return to this moment over and over again.
When we sit down and let go of our ideas, we stop chasing after things we like and running away from things we don't like. The dust settles, and we begin to see more clearly: the interdependence of all things, the constantly changing causes and conditions of our lives, and the true nature of self. Our natural wisdom and compassion arise of themselves.
Zazen is not a matter of trying to get to somewhere else, have some peak experience or become people we like better. As our dharma ancestor Kodo Sawaki famously said, zazen is beyond gain and beyond satori. In other words, zazen is good for nothing . . . but we do it anyway. We don't need to look for meaning in it; we're released from chasing a goal. Zazen is good -- but not for something. Zazen is good in itself.
Shikantaza in the style of Uchiyama Roshi
Kosho Uchiyama was the teacher of our founder, Shohaku Okumura.
His approach to zazen is one of the main aspects of the Sanshin style of practice and it's characterized by three elements:
The study of the meaning of zazen in the context of Buddha's teachings, understanding the common thread that runs from the teachings of Shakyamuni through the Mahayana tradition, the teachings of Dogen Zenji, Sawaki and Uchiyama Roshis, down to Okumura Roshi and the practice of shikantaza at Sanshin today.
Keeping forms and ceremonies simple in order to understand what we're doing and why, and to maintain their connection with zazen. Rather than being merely performances, forms should come from the mind of shikantaza as an expression of respect and gratitude.
Understanding the significance of zazen and study in modern daily life so that we can find the middle way between progress and peace of mind. We live with a tension between chasing after or escaping from things and avoiding taking any action at all in order to remain calm. Shikantaza teaches us how to take the necessary wise and compassionate action without fanning the flames of our delusion.
Free virtual workshop:
getting started in home zen practice
Most Tuesdays, 7:30 - 9 pm Eastern time in the US
This free session is a great place to begin your Zen practice in the Sanshin style while staying safely at home. Become familiar with the sitting and walking practices that are at the core of what we do; explore what happens with body, breath and mind; ask your questions and participate in practice discussions; and get a preview of upcoming Sanshin activities and events. You may attend once or as many times as you like; activities will match the needs of those who attend on any particular evening. Experienced practitioners looking for help with practice questions are also very welcome. LEARN MORE
See our Sanshin Solo page for tips on creating a supportive home environment for shikantaza.