The Practice of Zazen

‘Japanese monastic practice purposefully challenges the distinction between ceremony and meaning, between bodily form and understanding, in order to arrive at something close to the unity of practice and realization. This is why receiving the precepts in a ceremony, no matter what your mind is doing, is seen as more important than believing or or thinking about the precepts. In this way, I think the Japanese style of Zen practice is closer to Dogen’s articulation of the unity of practice enlightenment.  The Japanese style is closer to Dogen’s intention, but it’s also more challenging, and there is greater room for failure, for producing mean and ill-spirited practitioners. There is little space for confusion or doubt. Form is privileged over emotional or psychological processing. There is an understanding that embodying correct form is the same as having correct view.’ (Gesshin Greenwood – Bow First, Ask Questions Later)

‘The point is to enact the meaning of the teachings in actualized practice, and the whole praxis, including meditation, may thus be viewed as ritual, ceremonial expression of the teaching, rather than as a means to discover and attain some understanding of it. Therefore, the strong emphasis in much of this approach to Zen training is the mindful and dedicated expression of meditative awareness in everyday activity.’ (Taigen Dan Leighton – Zen Questions, quoted in Being-Time)

I had been chewing on Gesshin’s quote since I read the book, and wondering about giving it some context for those who might find themselves a little sceptical at the idea, since it does open up the possibility of going astray. Reading Taigen’s view, in a footnote of Shinshu’s book, offered a nice angle on it. Or, as Dogen puts it, so much better than I could, ‘To expound the dharma with this body is foremost.’

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