Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zazen and Zen-Samadhi, from Bodhidharma to Hakuin

 In the Zen lineage from Bodhidharma to Hakuin, zazen, i.e., sitting meditation, has been described as the method of practice and zen-samadhi (Skt. dhyanasamadhi, C. 禅定, chanting, J. zenjo)  is described as the realization of practice.

Bodhidharma (5th/6th century)(From "Great Master Dharma's Discourse on the Nature of Awakening”):

            “If a person knows that the six roots (i.e., 6 sense organs) are not real, that the five accumulations (skandhas) are provisional names, and that seeking everywhere for their substance is necessarily to dwell without samadhi, then one should know that such a person expounds the words of the Buddha.  The sutra says, "A home in the cave of the five accumulations is called the courtyard of zen.  When the inner illumination is opened and unbound, then the gate of the Great Vehicle could not be brighter!" 

`           To not bear in mind all things (sarvadharma),  therefore, is called doing zen-samadhi (dhyana-samadhi).  If someone understands these words, then walking, standing, sitting, and lying down are all zen-samadhi.  Knowing the mind is empty is called the act of seeing Buddha.  Because why?  For all Buddhas in the ten directions, in every consideration there is no mind.  Not seeing in (by) the mind, is called the act of seeing Buddha.

            To unstingily renounce the body is called Great Charity (mahadana).  The samadhi of detaching from the various activities is called Great Sitting Meditation (J. dai zazen).  Because why?  Worldly people are singly directed toward activities, and the Small Vehicle is singly directed toward samadhi.  Namely, to pass beyond the worldly people and the sitting meditation (zazen) of the Small Vehicle is called the Great Sitting Meditation. If those who act with this realization, in all the various appearances, do not seek to release themselves and, in all the various illnesses, do not cure their own errors, then this is entirely the power of Great Zen-Samadhi.

Dajian Huineng (638–713)  (From The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Ancestor, Chapter 5, “Sitting Meditation (Zazen)”):

Learned and virtuous ones, what is called zen-samadhi? Outwardly, to be free from characteristics is doing zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is doing samadhi. Outwardly, if one attaches to characteristics, inwardly, the heart-mind is immediately perturbed. Outwardly, if one is free from characteristics, the heart-mind is immediately not perturbed. The root nature by itself is pure, by itself is samadhi. Only by seeing conditions and thinking about conditions is one immediately perturbed. If someone sees various conditions and the heart-mind is not perturbed, this is real samadhi. Learned and virtuous ones, outwardly, to be free from characteristics is immediately zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is immediately samadhi. Outwardly, zen, inwardly, samadhi, this is doing zen-samadhi.

Dazhu “The Great Pearl” Huihai (second half of  8th century) (From “Discourse On The Essential Gate Of Entering The Way Of Immediate Awakening”):

Question:For a man to cultivate the fundamental root, what method (dharma) of cultivation should be used?

Answer, Only by sitting meditation (zazen) is zen-samadhi quickly attained. The Dhyana Paramita (lit. Zen Gate) Sutra says, ‘To seek the noble intelligence (arya-jnana) of the Buddha, then zen-samadi is necessary.  If there is no zen-samadhi, thoughts and ideas clamor and stir and spoil good roots.’”

Question: “Say, what is doing zen, and say, what is doing samadhi?”

Answer: “To not give birth to false thoughts is doing zen. Sitting to see the root nature is doing samadhi.  That which is the root nature is your unborn mind.  In that which is samadhi there is no mind that responds to the environment and the eight winds are not able to stir.  For that which are the eight winds, benefit and ruin, defamation and honor, praise and ridicule, and suffering and pleasure are called the eight winds.  If like this one attains that which is samadhi, even if one is an ordinary man, one then enters the rank of Buddha.”

Hakuin Ekaku (1686 - 1768) (From Ode to Sitting Meditation (Zazen Wasan)):

As to the zen-samadhi of the Mahayana, 
There is just too much to praise.
The several perfections such as charity, morality, and such;
Chanting Buddha's name, confession and repentance, austerities, and the like;
The many good deeds and various virtuous pilgrimages;
All these are coming from within it.

Also, a person succeeds by the merit of a single sitting
To destroy one's immeasurably accumulated crimes.
Where then should the evil appearances exist?
The Pure Land is then not far away.

This last quote is most interesting because in virtyually all translations of Hakuin's "Zazen Wasan" the term "zenjo" (zen-samadhi) is translated as "zazen" in order to make it easy for English readers. The fact is that the term "zazen" only appears in the title of Hakuin's "Ode to Zazen" and nowhere appears in the body. Unfortunately that kind of attempt to make the idea accessible for English readers leaves out the very essential nuance that is the difference between zazen as the activity of sitting-zen and zen-samadhi as the realization.

These great zen masters all directly stated the relationship between zazen and zen-samadhi. Today we hear a lot about zazen, but the recognition and realization of zen-samadhi is hardly spoken of.

I assert that without the realization of zen-samadhi, there is no true zazen, no matter how much zazen is talked about as a practice.


willy said...

What distinguishes zen-samadhi from zazen? What is the relationship between zen-samadhi and zazen?

Alan Gregory Wonderwheel said...

In one sense zazen and zen samadhi are identical. If one is practicing zazen, then one is realizing zen samadhi. If one is not realizing zen samadhi, then one is not practicing zazen. The history of zazen from Bodhidharma to Hakuin is to realize the identity of zazen and zen samadhi.

But in another sense zen samadhi is not identical to zazen if the sitting (za) is taken literally, because as Bodhidharma said, "If someone understands these words, then walking, standing, sitting, and lying down are all zen-samadhi." Sitting is sitting zen samadhi, standing is standing zen samadhi, walking is walking zen samadhi, and lying down is lying down zen samadhi. This is also called the Great Zazen because it is zazen that is not literally only the sitting posture but is just sitting within every posture and all activity so it is also called the Great Zen Samadhi.

willyh said...

Thank you. That was a very clear explanation.

rocket said...

As well if its authentic it saturates every moment, not just the times of sitting, standing walking….

I've been scouring the net for sites regarding / discussing samadhi. Disappointing, very.

Until I stumbed on your response to someones comment about samadhi junkies.