Dan74 wrote:Dave, to really do a proper comparative analysis of doctrine and practice of Theravada and various Zen schools is a huge undertaking and I am completely unqualified for it.
I'm really not asking for that. A quick summary of anapanasati and its steps as related to satipatthana, despite variations, could be conveyed in a forum post. Can shikantaza be described according to a similar sort of comprehensive summary? What about these koan practices?
As for the second part, I am sorry but your post sounded to me more than just some questions and ruminations, i thought that it had veered into ill-founded judgments. I apologize if I had misread it.
Well, it isn't just you, so I'd better pay more attention.
Dave, I don't think I can come close to doing justice even to this reduced scope of inquiry. I tried to find an answer from a reputable source but only managed to come up with a whole bunch of material that would take me a long time to process. So this is at best a personal account of why I see these Mahayana practices as leading to the relinquishment of delusion similarly to satipatthana.
Satipatthana, as I see it, is seeing things as they are, a direct clear vision, unimpeded by the conceit of self, reification in all its forms and all the delusions, distorted views and habits that result from them.
Shikantaza, is generally translated as "just sitting" which is sitting without the daydreaming, conceptualization about the sitting, the sitter or indeed producing anything other than the sitting. Of course whatever arises arises, but nothing further is added. So "just sitting" is none other than direct perception, with the perceiver and all his/her fantasies relinquished. Sometimes it is said that it is the mind that "sits", ie rests in the proliferation-free state, allowing all to be all, just as it is. The mind itself is not separate to this "all", but initially it has a space-life quality - containing everything, until the point when the container is also relinquished, This is called the "non-abiding" - because there is nothing to attach to, no sublime state, no Mind, no "All", no attainment.
Shikantaza as described above is of course not something that a novice can practice, but sometimes a novice might taste it a little. Rather what one does is generally develop some mental discipline and then commit to just sitting. Sitting alert with no agenda to attain what one does not have or reaching beyond what is and thereby dividing oneself from this very moment, one gradually recognizes and lets go of all that is superfluous to just sitting. It is a subtle practice and probably unsuited for most because we tend to spin in the same circles of confusion for very very long without a strong nudge.
Hwadu/Koan practice arose from the realization that many people sitting shikantaza (or silent illumination as the Caodong tradition's practice was called) simply vege out, get addicted to a jhana or reach a quiescent peaceful state and get stuck there. Koans/Hwadu cultivate a deep inquiry that does not let go. This inquiry focuses the attention around it until it becomes a deeply ingrained habit to keep looking and digging deeper. You can even start with these very words you are reading now. An uninstructed wordling just reacts, a practitioner will be aware of his/her reactions to them, a koan/hwadu practitioner may look at where reactions arise and what is it before they do. The moment before conceptualisation, this is what one digs for. Again - direct perception, just like in satipatthana.
Anyway, these are just ruminations of a third-rate practitioner with no solid learning and even less wisdom. My only hope is that someone who knows comes and corrects me before my words cause even more confusion. But I felt that saying nothing would've been even worse.
Thank you for asking, Dave, and may you be well.