Among the impressions I have gained recently in talking with Zen buddies about technique is a certain perspective in the direction of breathing in zazen. For the sake of brevity, and just for enjoyable, I wish to describe it as “samurai breathing”. I think it has its origins in the martial arts.
The “samurai breath’ goes like this: one need to lower hard on the outbound breath, focusing on the hara (solar plexus) and also in doing so, dismiss any kind of thoughts, feelings, sensations, that hinder, smashing through them like a martial arts expert would wreck their hand via a brick.
If you practice such as this, it will certainly give you a substantial sensation of power, like winning a contest (with on your own), as well as additionally give you a feeling of purpose in a goal-seeking way (like paying off the home loan). This sort of straining zazen creates a brave battle out of zazen and also a feeling that you are attempting really hard, but it is ultimately self-defeating. Perhaps it is part of the process of learning that we have to go with this struggle before we realise it is not efficient.
When I see people practising such as this, I have a mental picture of someone on a stationary bicycle marketing intensely, somehow believing that they are going to get someplace so they strive enough. I after that think of someone coming near them and also whispering in their ear, “Excuse me, it matters not how rapid you peddle, you will not get anywhere on that particular bike.” This resembles the story of polishing a floor tile, thinking if only it is done hard sufficient, it will become a mirror, or believing that a person will certainly end up being a Buddha after years as well as years of zazen, as opposed to understanding that we are Buddha right from the very start.
When I began my zen practice several ago in Japan with Kabori Roshi, I resembled the individual on the bike intensely marketing to get somewhere. I listened with keen passion to various other trainees talking about different breathing methods, which I berlieved, if only I could obtain them right, would propel me in the direction of realisation quickly. Obviously, I tied myself up in knots trying to breathe the “best” way, even making myself ill in the process. After numerous months of this, I mosted likely to Kabori Roshi and told him concerning it in sanzen (Rinzai for dokusan). All he said was “Simply breathe naturally”. I bear in mind really feeling a mix of alleviation, confusion and frustration at his comment. How could it be that easy?
Kabori Roshi resembled the kindly person whispering in the ear of the fixed bicyclist, “Excuse me, no matter exactly how difficult you attempt, you won’t obtain anywhere on that particular bike.” The message made it through a little however, recalling, I had not been quite prepared to really give up my idea, that if only I pressed harder, I would certainly get somewhere.
This occurs all the way along in zen practice. Teachers maintain telling us there is absolutely nothing to obtain, however we don’t fairly believe them, despite the fact that we might mouth the words to others. In everyday life we see people all over having a hard time to locate joy and peace, thinking it will certainly come when they finally obtain what they want, without seeing that this very moment holds all that one could want. It is easy to see this misconception in others, yet can you see it in on your own?
Coming back to the example of the excercise bike, it is not the practice of marketing we need to give up however the belief we are going to get someplace if we do fit. As we give up this belief, (which is underpinned with the concern of failing) we can take pleasure in just peddling, and in zazen if we surrender this idea, we can just breath normally and our breathing consists of the breathing of the currawong warbling in the crisp early morning air.
The “samurai breath” after all ends up being conceptual breathing, a dealt with notion of what breathing should be, unlike the breath of the Tao which is open and simply comes and goes of its independency. When our breathing tries to fit some theoretical pattern of how we should certainly breath, we hinder it, as well as run out touch with ourselves. The mind/will should take its lead from the breath, as opposed to the breath taking its lead from the mind/will. When the mind/will takes its lead from the breath, then the mind/will and the breath agree. When cruising, you cut the sails according to the strength as well as instructions of the wind, not the other means round.
Aitken Roshi, when he was a pupil of Soen Roshi, asked him “When I do zazen should I utilize effort or not?” Soen Roshi responded, “The concern advises of Joshu’s inquiry to Nansen in Case l9 of the Mumonkan – ‘ordinary mind is the Tao'”.
Joshu asked Nansen, “What is Tao?” Nansen responded to, “Normal mind is the Tao.” “After that should we guide ourselves towards it or otherwise?” asked Joshu. “If you attempt to direct on your own towards it, you quit it”, responded to Nansen. Joshu proceeded, “If we do not attempt, how can we understand it is the Tao?” Nansen responded, “Tao does not come from understanding or not understanding. Recognizing is illusion, not knowing is blankness. If you actually obtain the Tao of no doubt, it resembles the great void, so substantial as well as limitless. Exactly how after that, can there be right and wrong in the Tao?” At these words, Joshu was all of a sudden enlightened. Mumon, talking about this stated, “Even though Joshu might be informed, he can genuinely get it just after researching for thirty even more years.”
Should we guide ourselves in the direction of it or otherwise? Should we make use of initiative or not? Does Nansen imply simply “go with the flow of the Tao” as this motto has come to be understood, as on some personal growth weekend break where everyone exists around alcohol consumption organic tea, looking dreamy-eyed and also talking about the oneness of deep space? I bear in mind Aitken Roshi when stating to a student, “When are you mosting likely to quit going with the flow as well as enter into activity?”
“Going with the flow” is just the conceptual reverse of “samurai breathing”. Boring and contented zazen with no vigor or willpower, which is much more accurately going with the flow of Taoist fantasy as well as natural treatment necromancy.
What is the appropriate mindset after that with which to breath? The best perspective is to have no fixed attitude. Nevertheless from a functional point of view it can follow particular standards. I think of right zazen as like holding a baby in one’s arms. You hold an infant carefully otherwise you will certainly injure it. You additionally hold it firmly or else you will drop it. Light but stable. Should you use effort or not? Attempt holding a baby.