Shikantaza and Vipassana

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Shikantaza and Vipassana

Postby OcTavO » Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:11 pm

I didn't want to put this in the Theravadin meditation section because it felt too diversionary, so I decided to just post it here.

My experience last night at the local Soto Zendo was very interesting. The meditative technique they use is Shikantaza ("just sitting") where there is no object of concentration like the breath as in Vipassana. The eyes are open, which I personally found made it more difficult for me to watch my own thoughts pass by without hooking onto them and daydreaming. I found that Shikantaza made me more aware of the external present moment (such as the minutae of the environment, sounds etc.) than it did of the the internal present moment (my thoughts) the way vipassana seems to.

It struck me that Shikantaza almost seemed like a "jumping in at the deep end" aproach to meditation. I felt like I was trying to drive a car without first being instructed what the steering wheel did. I found myself wondering how anyone in the Soto tradition could achieve the bright awareness in "just sitting" without first learning concentration practices. The instructor was a little cryptic but I couldn't help but think "if I was capable of just sitting down and achieving this state of perfect clarity without actually doing anything then wouldn't I be a buddha already?" :shrug:

Granted, I'm a complete novice at both techniques and maybe jumping in at the deep end may work very well, as it often literally does in swimming instruction I guess. Or maybe I'm missing the point of Shikantaza altogether?

Do any of you have experience with both techniques? What differences did you discover? Do you favor one over the other and why? What worked best for you in your earlier years of study?

I'm just full o' questions today and I really appreciate your insights... :bow:

~OcT
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Re: Shikantaza and Vipassana

Postby cooran » Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:33 pm

Hello OcTavO, all,

This might be worth reading:

Zazen and Vipassana
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=929

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Shikantaza and Vipassana

Postby bodom » Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:35 pm

In very simple terms, my experience with Zen practice has been to develop concentration through zazen practice and only then to turn to shikintaza. This is much like in the Therevadan tradition of practicing ie. anapansati to develop concentration then dropping the breath and turning to "choiceless awareness" practice. Its very similar but you will find a vast array of opinions on this matter.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Shikantaza and Vipassana

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Jun 03, 2010 11:11 pm

a lot of teachers do have you just sort of sink or swim, there are others however that start with breath counting. depends on your teacher, read zen mind beginner's mind and you'll learn breath counting my teacher just taught what dogen taught (or left behind at least) so i didnt get that benefit. i saw lots of people drop out of zen over my years with him.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Shikantaza and Vipassana

Postby Mukunda » Fri Jun 04, 2010 12:39 am

OcTavO wrote:It struck me that Shikantaza almost seemed like a "jumping in at the deep end" aproach to meditation. I felt like I was trying to drive a car without first being instructed what the steering wheel did. I found myself wondering how anyone in the Soto tradition could achieve the bright awareness in "just sitting" without first learning concentration practices. The instructor was a little cryptic but I couldn't help but think "if I was capable of just sitting down and achieving this state of perfect clarity without actually doing anything then wouldn't I be a buddha already?" :shrug:

Granted, I'm a complete novice at both techniques and maybe jumping in at the deep end may work very well, as it often literally does in swimming instruction I guess. Or maybe I'm missing the point of Shikantaza altogether?

Do any of you have experience with both techniques? What differences did you discover? Do you favor one over the other and why? What worked best for you in your earlier years of study?


I've always thought the same thing about shikantaza...jumping in the deep end, sink or swim. I believe that explains quite a bit of the "turnover" I've seen at Zen centers.

I found that both the Theravadin/Vipassana and Tibetan methods of teaching/practicing much easier to practice and stick to. I don't really understand how some one without experience in concentration avoids day dreaming in Shikantaza.
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