The Zennist blog used to "hook me" fairly often. The guy who writes it makes decisive, unwavering statements that often cut against the tenor of nearly everything convert Buddhists are doing. Some might call him a "hater," but I think that would be missing the mark.
Having read a lot of his posts now, I have a sense of where he's coming from. Dude still surprises me, which is a good thing. And I still rarely find myself agreeing with his conclusions because they so often point us back to textual studies of the sutras as THE only way to awaken. I don't buy that, and never will. However, I think a good cage rattling is helpful from time to time, so here's one especially for the Zen folks out there:
Doing zazen (lit., sit down meditation) will not open the door to enlightenment. Only mind can do that. In fact, zazen is almost counterproductive since enlightenment is independent of whatever condition the body is in, sitting or standing. This perhaps explains why Zen master Ma-tsu said that “Not cultivation and not sitting is the Tathagata's pure meditation.”
Yikes. Zazen is "almost counterproductive." It's gets better later in the post.
While there are benefits to zazen or even the practice of hatha yoga, the benefits don’t disclose ultimate reality. But both zazen and yoga can help us cope with the stresses of the everyday world. Sitting still in a quiet place recharges our batteries so to speak. When I used to sit in zazen in an abandoned mine on my ranch (especially during the summer when it was hot outside), it seemed like more of me calmed down as compared with doing zazen in a group.
Hmm, this guy doesn't think much of sangha, does he?
And then there's the final blow so to speak:
Especially in modern Western Zen, there is still the belief, although for the most part unstated, that zazen and shikantaza are sufficient unto themselves to get us to yonder shore of nirvana. But if this were actually the case, then every time a person did zazen, the Lankavatara or the Avatamsaka Sutra would become clearer. Every Sutra would eventually make perfect sense. But this is not the case.
Interesting stuff, eh? Here's what I have to say.
First, zazen (sitting meditation) is an expedient means, and really one amongst a myriad of methods. It could be considered one the more effective practices, but it's still just that, a practice which may or may not aid you in awakening. So, in this sense, I agree with The Zennist.
Second, it's curious to me that he ties awakening (or enlightenment) to an unfolding of understanding of Buddhist scriptures. I've sometimes heard comments that fall in a similar vain when it comes to reading Dogen, or other famous and often confounding Zen masters. The longer I sit and the more I sit, the better able I will be to figure out what that old rascal Dogen said. To which I say, maybe.
And yet this whole discussion makes me think of the lines from the Diamond Sutra:
"The Tathagata is not to be recognised by the thirty-two marks because what are said to be the thirty-two marks are told by the Tathagata to be no-marks and therefore to be the thirty-two marks. Subhuti, if there be a good man or a good woman who gives away his or her lives as many as the sands of the Ganga, his or her merit thus gained does not exceed that of one who, holding even one gatha of four lines from this sutra, preaches them for others."
The question for me always comes back to how you live your life in the world WITH others. Now, certainly, one could spend their life meditating in a cave, or in an abandoned mine, and becoming more and more lucid about every last Buddhist sutra. That could bring some benefit to others. However, that vast majority of us can't, or won't, be taking that route. So, then the issue is now what?
Third, and finally, I'd like to point out that I think it's worth investigating this point from The Zennist's post:
Especially in modern Western Zen, there is still the belief, although for the most part unstated, that zazen and shikantaza are sufficient unto themselves to get us to yonder shore of nirvana.
One could ask a similar thing about the nembutsu or Amitabha chants, or even exclusively relying on Sutras, as The Zennist frequently implores us to do.
How do you view The Zennist's post? Where does liberation come from anyway? And is such a question even important in the first place?