Zazen is Buddha

An interview with Jôkô Shibata by Arthur Braverman

Joko ShibataJôkô Shibata lives alone in a suburb of Komoro, a town in northern Japan, known as the Japan Alps. He moved to Komoro over twenty-five years ago in order to be with his teacher, the late Yokoyama Sodô Roshi, otherwise known as ‘the grass flute Zen master’. Jôkô is of average height and build, wears horn rimmed glasses and samue (work clothes worn by Zen Buddhist monks). He welcomes me into his home with a reserve that drops away quickly as we get to know each other.

I had first seen Jôkô (we hadn’t really met) in 1971 when he accompanied his teacher to Antaiji, a small temple in Kyoto, where we both attended the yearly memorial service for Sawaki Kôdô Roshi. Jôkô leads me through a corridor lined with pictures of his teacher to a small chanoma (tea room) where we have tea. On one side of the chanoma is a kitchen, on the other a balcony with a view of Mount Yatsu­gatake. Across from where we sit is a newly built Zen meditation room, or zendo, with the distinct smell of fresh wood and new tatami straw mats. At the far end of the zendo is a small altar with pictures of Jôkô’s teacher, Yokoyama Sodô Roshi, and his teacher, Sawaki Kôdô, both sitting in the zazen [formal sitting] posture. Jôkô’s life attests to his devotion to these two teachers. Continue reading

There’s No Point in Punishing the Car, by Ven. Ananda Maitreya

Gandhara Buddha JAGood will, loving-kindness, friendliness, a friendly feeling, metta. How do you practise metta? You start by trying to understand the value of your own life; you must see how much you love yourself. The dearest thing for every individual in the world is their own life. Therefore, first of all, feel the love for yourself. I do not mean carnal appetite when I use this word ‘love'; I mean good will and benevolence. You must hope for the welfare of your own life.

Anyone who doesn’t love himself or herself cannot love others. First practise love for yourself, and then extend that very same love to your nearest and dearest — your child, for example. Do this until you feel that there is no difference between your child and yourself. Then go a little further and try to feel love for, say, a brother. Again, do this until you feel there is no difference between you, your child and your brother. Continue practising like this from person to person, from individual to individual. Extend love to relatives, friends, neighbours and all the people in your vicinity. Then direct your loving-kindness to those living further away, and on and on until you gradually encompass all the people in the whole country. Then continue; extend your love to those in surrounding countries, and further and further until all the human beings on the whole earth are the objects of your love. Continue reading

The Still Silence, by Ajahn Sumedho

White Stupa Burma. Photo © Sir John AskeThe first Noble Truth is the understanding of suffering and the second is the insight into ‘letting go’. The suffering that we are talking about comes from attachment out of ignorance, out of habit, greed, hatred, and delusion. We tend to react to sensory impingement, either wanting the pleasant, or not wanting the unpleasant. So the tendency is to react and grasp; and grasping also implies trying to get rid of things. Then the third Noble Truth is the realization of cessation, nirodha. Cessation doesn’t mean the ultimate cessation of everything where we go into a kind of blank vacuum; it is the mind empty of ‘I am’ where there is no grasping, no hatred, and no delusion, where there is simply the realization of what we might call ‘the empty mind’, or  ‘the silence’. Continue reading

Little by Little, by Maezumi Roshi

Bodhidharma scroll. Photo: © Hazel WaghornWe can see in both Soto practice and Rinzai practice sudden and gradual aspects. We can say it is a continuous process — first practise, then sudden realization, then further practise   and   further  realization continuing endlessly. From the experiential point of view, the gradual and sudden aspects together are a gradual  process.

In Soto Zen we also emphasize the intrinsic point of view. In other words, from the beginning, practice and realization are one. Practice is this life, and realization is this life, and this life is revealed right here and now as each of us. Realization is nothing other than seeing this plain fact. Whether we realize it or not, it is the fact. Whether we practise five years or ten years or not at all, it is the plain fact. In each moment the Buddha Dharma is completely revealed as this life. Every instant appears and disappears as the absolute truth. What could be more sudden than this? Continue reading

Forest and the Way Out, by Ananda Maitreya

May treeThere is a vast forest abounding in huge trees with thick foliage overshadowing and darkening everything underneath. Its inhabitants, being quite accustomed to its darkness, do not feel the real nature of the forest. The fruits of the trees which serve them as food bring on them a long slumber, in which they dream curious dreams, while worm-like reptiles emerge from the soil, waiting for opportunities to suck out their blood. When these unfortunate beings awake, they feel exhausted, thirsty, and hungry owing to the loss of blood. Then they eat the delicious but poisonous fruits, sip the juice thereof, and fall asleep, thus becoming a prey again to the blood-sucking reptiles. Very few see even faintly the frightful nature of this forest and even they are very forgetful of its dangers. One may rightly call this forest ‘an enchanted land’. Continue reading

The Heart Sutra, Harada Sekkei Roshi

Kwan Yin (Kanzeon) with thanks to Maurice AshThe Heart of Wisdom Sutra (the Heart Sutra) is the sutra we are most familiar with. It is a sutra in which Avalokiteshvara (Jap. Kanjizai) Bodhisattva, in place of Shakyamuni Buddha, clearly expounds Emptiness to his disciple Shariputra. In terms of compassion, Kanzeon is the Japanese name for this Bodhisattva and in terms of wisdom, Kanjizai is the Japanese name. In either case, this Bodhisattva is actually we ourselves.

The name Kanjizai (Seeing Freely) is derived from the sense function of sight and by being able to use this sense function freely and completely, it represents the freedom to use the other five func­tions in the same way. Shariputra was the leader of a group of more than one hundred people, and after Shakyamuni Buddha realised the Way, all of them took ref­uge in the Buddha. Shariputra was one of the ten main disciples of the Buddha and because he was reputed to have the deepest wisdom was known as Shariputra Sonja. Continue reading


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