I've been pondering this community for some time. There sure are enough members now, I was surprised to see that we'd grown to 101 since I started it up over two years ago, with 93 active and watching. I'd thought about getting rid of the community as being perhaps divisive; the z_b community has been getting less posts for some time, too, maybe there's just too many communities and people don't bother posting because they're not sure where to post. But with so many members seemingly interested, I guess the community serves some purpose, even if no one is posting. Perhaps the lack of posts is a statement in itself, one that isn't unimportant to make.
Originally, I thought of posting my zazen practice here, how much I sat especially, and how I felt about that. I didn't expect much interest. Since then, my practice has evolved somewhat, mostly through the pressure I put on myself with schemes like, well, a community where I would record the quantity of my practice for all to see. Now, I wonder if such an idea, though part of the way, has a habit of divorcing Zazen from Zen somehow, inherently.
Zazen is Zen. Yes. But there are a lot of teachers out there, a lot said about the practice and about practitioners. Some of it wrong, okay, wrong-headed especially from novices who think their own navel is the center of the universe, downright misleading from people using their ideas about Zen philosophy as a prop for their own ego and/or ideal world systems. But perhaps all of that is necessary for actual Zazen practice.
The idea of sitting every day is propigated a lot in Zen literature, by Zen teachers (it seems especially true of modern Zen teachers, even moreso of those in the west perhaps). Now, that is an ideal ... but Zen itself is all about getting rid of ideals. At least in part. It certainly isn't about building new ideals, as any Zazen practitioner worth their salt should tell you. So where's this ideal creep in?
Shunryu Suzuki's "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" is often lauded as a Good Zen Book. But the same people often insist on establishing a daily Zazen practice, as if that was the only way to work through this thing called life and establish a truly enlightened existence. The only way according to Buddhism, anyway, or according to Zen Buddhism. Yet Suzuki makes a key point in his much-lauded work: Zazen shouldn't make you more busy. Zazen isn't calistetics or yoga or taijiquan, a practice to be done like brushing your teeth or going for your daily jog at 5am or whatever it is that fuels your body and mind. Zazen isn't some hobby to busy yourself with, or a commitment to brush your teeth regularly. It's often compared to such things. But it IS different. Suzuki says something like, "I think maybe doing Zazen once a week is enough for you." Once a week and maybe you'll see something besides another thing to busy yourself with, I think he's saying. Then maybe more. Maybe a daily practice sometime. Because Zazen is something to WANT to do. To need to do. Like drinking, like eating. Like breathing. Zazen isn't something to accomplish. Doing Zazen isn't a goal. Doing Zazen is liberation itself. And that can be a scary thing.
Those of us who practice without a teacher should also remember another hint Suzuki gives in that most famous of Zen books: you should have a teacher. Why? Because you shouldn't go too fast. A teacher will slow you down, so that you have time to digest your enlightenment. That's the Soto way, Dogen's way. Of course, that's just me saying that, draw your own conclusions. But teachers, even ones who tell us to have a daily practice, sometimes warn about Makyo and about attachment to emptiness, attachment to "enlightenment experiences". Kensho is dangerous, and one should run, not walk, to a teacher upon having it ... because a good teacher can slow you down, knock you down, get you back to the important bit, and save you a few years chasing Satori. Satori comes or it doesn't, Kensho comes and goes.
I know that many forms of Zen Buddhism do chase Kensho ... these are also forms which demand a teacher-student relationship, and that the student be directed by and meet with the teacher to discuss their experiences. I don't know a lot about them, actually, but I think maybe there are inherent dangers that can cost a practitioner years, Kensho propping up a triumphant false faced ego for who knows how long ... especially if the practitioner then stops practicing.
So, what I'm saying, I guess, is that we shouldn't be in a hurry. Just sitting, there's nothing else to accomplish: sitting, shikantaza, is the expression of Buddha Nature from the beginning. There's nothing else but that beginner's practice, everything beyond that feeling when we first sit down is just something extra, something added. Zazen shouldn't be a chore. It is a requirement for us Zen students.
So, how can this community exist? Why should it still exist? If Zen is all about this practice, shouldn't this all be discussed openly among the Zen philosophers and Zen game-players? Isn't that even part of the practice? Weeds are weeds, and, again in ZMBM, Suzuki says to not hate weeds, but to love them. Just sitting Zazen as our practice, it's just something empty, like the moon in a cloudless sky. When glimpsed through the weeds, through partially covering clouds, the roundness and beauty of the moon jumps out, silvered clouds parting as the full moon beams down on the white snow, broken by those weeds...
Just focusing on Zazen, turning away from the weeds, how are we guided? We forget the moon entirely.
Lately, I've been sitting, and enjoying the calm, mostly because there are more weeds, that I'm starting to love, growing in my life and my mind. I thought they were hazards and nuisances in my practice, but perhaps I'm learning that they are what makes my practice beautiful.
I still don't know if we need this community or not. But I'll let it stand. See what else grows.