Animals do Zazen Naturally, by Zen Master Kozan Kato

SamPeople who haven’t awakened to the true nature haven’t fulfilled their mission as humans. For other creatures, even insects, there is no need for awakening. They are nature as they are. Humans have fallen from their natural state because of delusion. So they awaken to their original nature that everything is one—to that original feeling. The mission of humans is to cease producing the waves [of thought] that have occurred up until now as a result of egotism. When that is done, a human being is born for the first time; that is the definition of a human being. Without that experience, no matter how renowned or eminent one is, no matter how great one’s achievement in history is, one is after all a scoundrel, no different than the criminal [waiting to die] on the gallows. Without that [experience], no matter how respectable one may appear to be, everyone (excuse me for saying this), even the emperor, is a villain on the ­gallows. . . . So we have to do zazen. It’s the most important thing in the life of a human being. Other animals are doing zazen naturally, so they don’t have to make a special effort. Even insects, bugs, and worms are all doing zazen.

Dogs and cats discriminate. They have true discrimination. Humans have deluded discrimination. Dogs, cats, and insects are hot when it is hot, cold when it is cold, but they don’t discriminate in delusion as ­humans do. Humans, too, if they practise zazen, will naturally attain this state.

[Extract from Living and Dying in Zazen: Five Zen Masters of Modern Japan, Arthur Braverman, 2003, courtesy of the author.]

Buddhism Now August 2004

Read more posts by Arthur Braverman here.

More about Zen here.


Zazen (Jap. lit. za ‘sitting’ and zen ‘meditative absorption’)

Zen BNow cover Feb 89 Art © Marcelle HanselaarZen teaches that zazen is the most direct way to enlightenment, awakening. Zen Master Dogen, the founder of the Japanese tradition of Soto Zen frequently referred to zazen as ‘casting off body and mind’. His own awakening came in China years earlier when his master, Ju-ching, told him, ‘You must let fall body and mind.’

Zazen is not sitting and thinking about life or methodically trying to work things out; that is just the mind trying to make sense of things; zazen is direct experience, directly being this very moment without descriptions, judgements, or any sense of self or separation from others.

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Categories: Arthur Braverman, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Chan / Seon / Zen

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4 replies

  1. All animals have budha nature, their acceptance of whatever comes in their way without fear or trepidation. Just being. We humans can learn from them.

  2. Animals are just like human beings they do feel, pray, have fear, have emotions just like us. I believe that we should all love the animals around us, blessing them along the way. It is the least that we could do to help them to have a better rebirth.

    Animals are just cute and lovely creatures, the least that we can do for them is to appreciate them as part of our lives.

  3. When I was recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the early 90′s, I wanted to learn about Buddhism and how to meditate as my path to healing. I studied with a wise human teacher, Jason Siff, and lived with a Feline Zen Master, Poohbear Degoonacoon.

    I later wrote about my journey to becoming a meditator, a story that has helped many people all over the world learn to meditate. That story is Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master, and the teachers are Jason Siff, Poohbear Degoonacoon, and his younger half-brother, Catzenbear Degoonacoon.

    I agree that we can learn much about zazen from cats and other animals. They communicate with us in ways that are very helpful, and in my case, essential, when our minds are fatigued and confused.

  4. I totally agree that animals are naturally living ‘in the way’ to use a daoist term. They are, however, unaware of the fact and so are still in samsara and subject to suffering, death and rebirth. The opportunity we, as humans, have is to be aware of our predicament. We too can live in total harmony with nature but also be unaware of the fact. The double edged sword that we can, with courage, engage is to become fully aware of reality both within and beyond samsara and so bring an end to the suffering. The other edge of the sword however is that since we can perceive samsara from without, we are able just as much to make ‘the waves’ to prolong our stay in future lives, which the animals (and others) don’t do.

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