The core expression and practice of Soto Zen Buddhist teachings is zazen. Zazen is the general term for Zen meditation. The practice began with Shakyamuni Buddha who devoted himself to zazen and eventually realized enlightenment. “Zen” refers to seeing into the reality of the way things are. This realization harmonizes the mind to be in synch with reality as we find it. We maintain this harmony of body, breath, and mind by sitting zazen in a stable position with a focused mind. This focus is on the present moment without attachment or aversion, paying equal awareness to the rising and falling of all experience.
Shikantaza [“just sitting” or “only sitting”] is the specific form that we practice in the Soto School. Shikantaza is not goal-oriented. It is the posture of Buddha; it is the posture and expression of enlightenment. We practice with “no gaining mind,” without techniques, mantras or visualizations. We simply sit, open to the rising and falling of all experience without judgment. In daily life, we tend to be influenced by attachment: grasping after what we view as desirable and by aversion: pushing away or avoiding what we see as not pleasurable. In shikantaza, we maintain a balanced awareness of the present moment, without attachment or aversion and we free ourselves from selfish motivations. We can then respond freely and spontaneously from wisdom and compassion rather than react from attachment and aversion.
This is really simple practice; we do nothing but sit in the zazen posture breathing easily, keeping the eyes open, staying awake, and letting go. That’s all we do in zazen; we do nothing else” ~Shohaku Okumura
Dogen Zenji, the founder of the Soto Zen Buddhist lineage in Japan also taught that shikantaza practice is more than simply sitting. Rather, it is a frame of mind and attitude that we bring into our everyday lives. This attitudes is represented by the notion of maintaining zazen mind in the “four postures of sitting, standing, walking and lying down.” In other words in every moment of our lives.
Introduction & Guided Practice Session with Seiso Roshi 10/24/21 27 minutes
Additional Audio Instructional Links
Mushotoku: Zen Prescription (11:30)
Mokusho: Opening to Whole Being (18:10)
Shikantaza: Just Sitting. (26:30)
Basic Fact of Sitting (17:56)