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arkasis in zazen_practice

Zazen without zazen

 I have not read Brad Warner's latest book, but only heard of it second-hand. I do remember reading Hardcore Zen, and thinking that it was lacking some substance. At the time, Warner liked to sum up his life and experience and frame it in terms of his current status as a Dharma Heir, whatever that means anymore. I went to the source after that and read Nishijima's books, including the Real Dragon one, and ultimately sold it for $3 at a local book store. 
Nishijima's approach is highly intellectual in nature, and aims to understand the Shobogenzo. In my opinion, the Shobogenzo reads like any other Zen writing in that it is not a compendium of 'Zen knowledge', but a means to point to the manifest nature of the human mind. True, Shobogenzo, which one can read excellent translations of at a site called the Soto Zen Text Project, is a compendium of Zen lore. However, this is not so much knowledge of Zen as it is a history or map of the Zen experience, which Dogen invites us all to experience in seated zazen in his Zazengi
So I have not been able to sit formal zazen for a week or so due to circumstances, and have found the practice of what Hakuin Zenji called 'the continual spirit of zazen' to be most helpful. Essentially, the idea behind it is to let the mind sit zazen while interacting with the world. The principal Way here can be found in the 6th Patriarch's Platform Sutra, when he speaks of Prajna. To have an unperturbed mind, while reacting benevolently and in a focused manner to one's Karma---this is called t'so-ch'an by Huineng, for whom as I recall, seated zazen was not a means of Enlightenment. However, Huineng is the subject of one of Dogen's Shobogenzo essays, Old Buddha

I would recommend anyone interested take a look at the Soto Zen Text Project, read Dogen there for free, and reflect on Warner's apparent need to manifest his 'Punk Rock Zen' via media and teaching appearances, as someone who 'understands Dogen Zenji'.
I realize this community has seen Brad Warner as a kind of hero, but in the interests of debunking hero worship in the tradition of Zen scepticism, I offer this as a thought to ponder, or rail against, or agree with. I just don't want to see this community die out, because zazen is truly beneficial, in my opinion.


Warner's got his own style. It's not for everybody. I like his directness and emphasis on dedicated zazen practice; on the other hand, I'm not so fond of his habits of downing other Zen practices (like koan study, for example) and teachers with whom he doesn't agree. I think his books are pretty good as a basic introduction to the practice of Zen, in plain English, which explain concepts in simple, effective terms. I actually like his use of autobiography, as it makes him more accessible as a regular human being (which all Zen teachers are, right?). OK, so everyone doesn't dig the punk rock theme, but that's just who he is. As far as modern Zen writers go, I'd much rather read him than someone like Thich Nhat Hanh, who's clearly a brilliant teacher who really gets it, but who's just too warm and fuzzy for my tastes. For the record, I also feel that Nishijima's philosophizing is cumbersome and unnecessary.

Of course, as you point out, any serious Zen student ought to read the classics. I'm curious, though: what contemporary Zen writers do you enjoy?
i was just going to make a reply saying pretty much the same thing. now i don't have to. thanks!
I have actually quit reading Zen books entirely. They are good for inspiration, but so are so many other things/books/art/music, etc. I was working from memory in that post.
I remember really appreciating Zen Mind Beginner's Mind, but Suzuki is dead now, so not contempo.
I think that Huineng says it so clearly, that there isn't much need for more books 'about Zen'. Robert Aitken is a strong writer.
Count me as another "agree with this comment."

May 2008

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