Among the impressions I have actually acquired lately in talking to Zen buddies regarding practice is a specific mindset towards breathing in zazen. For brevity, as well as just for enjoyable, I desire to refer to it as “samurai breathing”. I believe it has its beginnings in the martial arts.
The “samurai breath’ goes like this: one must lower hard on the outbound breath, focusing on the hara (solar plexus) and in doing so, dismiss any type of thoughts, feelings, experiences, that obstruct, shattering with them like a karate specialist would certainly smash their hand through a brick.
If you practice similar to this, it will certainly give you a significant feeling of power, like winning a competition (with yourself), and also give you a feeling of purpose in a goal-seeking means (like settling the home mortgage). This type of straining zazen creates a heroic struggle out of zazen and a feeling that you are trying very hard, yet it is inevitably self-defeating. Possibly it belongs to the procedure of finding out that we have to go via this battle before we know it is not effective.
When I see people practicing such as this, I have a mental picture of someone on a stationary bicycle peddling intensely, somehow believing that they are going to get someplace so they try hard sufficient. I then think of somebody coming up to them and murmuring in their ear, “Excuse me, it matters not just how rapid you peddle, you won’t get anywhere on that bike.” This is like the tale of brightening a ceramic tile, believing so it is done hard enough, it will become a mirror, or believing that will certainly become a Buddha after years and years of zazen, instead of becoming aware that we are Buddha right from the very beginning.
When I began my zen method numerous ago in Japan with Kabori Roshi, I was like the person on the bike furiously pitching to get somewhere. I paid attention with keen interest to other trainees speaking about numerous breathing techniques, which I berlieved, if only I can obtain them right, would certainly move me towards realisation in no time. It goes without saying, I tied myself up in knots attempting to breathe the “best” means, even making myself sick while doing so. After numerous months of this, I mosted likely to Kabori Roshi and also informed him about it in sanzen (Rinzai for dokusan). All he said was “Just take a breath normally”. I keep in mind really feeling a mixture of relief, complication and dissatisfaction at his remark. Exactly how could it be that basic?
Kabori Roshi was like the kindly person whispering in the ear of the fixed bicyclist, “Excuse me, regardless of just how tough you try, you won’t get anywhere on that bike.” The message got through a little yet, looking back, I wasn’t quite prepared to really give up my idea, that so I pressed harder, I would get somewhere.
This takes place right along in zen method. Teachers keep telling us there is nothing to obtain, yet we don’t quite think them, even though we may mouth words to others. In day-to-day life we see people throughout having a hard time to find joy and peace, thinking it will certainly come when they finally get what they desire, without seeing that this very moment holds all that one might desire. It is simple to see this deception in others, but can you see it in yourself?
Coming back to the example of the excercise bike, it is not the method of pitching we have to give up but the belief we are going to get someplace if we do fit. As we surrender this idea, (which is underpinned with the anxiety of failing) we can enjoy simply peddling, as well as in zazen if we give up this idea, we can just breath naturally as well as our breathing includes the breathing of the currawong warbling in the crisp morning air.
The “samurai breath” besides turns out to be theoretical breathing, a dealt with notion of what breathing should be, unlike the breath of the Tao which is open and simply comes and goes of its own accord. When our breathing tries to fit some conceptual pattern of exactly how we ought to breath, we disrupt it, as well as run out touch with ourselves. The mind/will needs to take its lead from the breath, instead of the breath taking its lead from the mind/will. When the mind/will takes its lead from the breath, after that the mind/will as well as the breath agree. When sailing, you trim the sails according to the stamina and also direction of the wind, not the other means round.
Aitken Roshi, when he was a student of Soen Roshi, asked him “When I do zazen should I utilize initiative or otherwise?” Soen Roshi replied, “The concern reminds of Joshu’s question to Nansen in Case l9 of the Mumonkan – ‘average mind is the Tao'”.
Joshu asked Nansen, “What is Tao?” Nansen addressed, “Regular mind is the Tao.” “Then should we direct ourselves in the direction of it or not?” asked Joshu. “If you attempt to guide on your own in the direction of it, you go away from it”, answered Nansen. Joshu continued, “If we do not try, how can we know it is the Tao?” Nansen responded, “Tao does not belong to recognizing or otherwise recognizing. Knowing is illusion, not knowing is blankness. If you really achieve the Tao of no question, it is like the great void, so huge and also boundless. How then, can there be right and also incorrect in the Tao?” At these words, Joshu was unexpectedly enlightened. Mumon, commenting on this stated, “Even though Joshu might be informed, he can genuinely get it only after studying for thirty even more years.”
Should we route ourselves towards it or not? Should we make use of initiative or not? Does Nansen mean simply “go with the flow of the Tao” as this motto has ended up being known, as on some individual development weekend where everyone exists about drinking herbal tea, looking dreamy-eyed and also talking about the entirety of deep space? I keep in mind Aitken Roshi as soon as stating to a trainee, “When are you mosting likely to stop going with the flow and also enter into activity?”
“Going with the flow” is simply the theoretical opposite of “samurai breathing”. Boring as well as complacent zazen with no vitality or resolve, which is more accurately going with the flow of Taoist fantasy as well as all-natural therapy mysticism.
What is the appropriate mindset then with which to breath? The appropriate perspective is to have no fixed attitude. Nevertheless from a practical perspective it can adhere to particular standards. I think of right zazen as like holding a child in one’s arms. You hold a child carefully otherwise you will harm it. You also hold it strongly or else you will certainly drop it. Light however steady. Should you make use of effort or not? Attempt holding a baby.