Among the impacts I have gotten lately in talking to Zen good friends concerning practice is a certain attitude towards breathing in zazen. For the sake of brevity, and also just for fun, I desire to describe it as “samurai breathing”. I believe it has its origins in the martial arts.
The “samurai breath’ goes like this: one must push down hard on the outbound breath, concentrating on the hara (solar plexus) and also in doing so, brush off any type of ideas, feelings, feelings, that obstruct, wrecking through them like a martial arts expert would certainly wreck their hand with a brick.
If you practise similar to this, it will provide you a substantial feeling of power, like winning a competition (with on your own), as well as additionally provide you a sense of function in a goal-seeking way (like settling the mortgage). This type of straining zazen creates a brave battle out of zazen and a feeling that you are attempting extremely hard, however it is ultimately self-defeating. Maybe it belongs to the process of finding out that we need to go with this struggle prior to we understand it is not productive.
When I see individuals practicing like this, I have a mental picture of someone on a stationary bicycle marketing intensely, in some way thinking that they are going to get someplace if only they try hard sufficient. I after that visualize someone coming near them and also whispering in their ear, “Excuse me, it doesn’t matter how fast you market, you won’t get anywhere on that bike.” This is like the story of brightening a floor tile, thinking so it is done hard enough, it will end up being a mirror, or thinking that will certainly come to be a Buddha after years as well as years of zazen, instead of understanding that we are Buddha right from the very start.
When I started my zen technique several ago in Japan with Kabori Roshi, I resembled the individual on the bike intensely pitching to get somewhere. I paid attention with keen rate of interest to other trainees speaking about various breathing strategies, which I berlieved, so I could get them right, would drive me in the direction of realisation in no time. Needless to say, I tied myself up in knots attempting to take a breath the “appropriate” way, even making myself sick in the process. After numerous months of this, I mosted likely to Kabori Roshi as well as informed him about it in sanzen (Rinzai for dokusan). All he claimed was “Simply take a breath normally”. I remember feeling a combination of alleviation, complication and also dissatisfaction at his comment. 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 exactly how difficult you try, you will not get anywhere on that bike.” The message got through a little however, looking back, I had not been rather prepared to truly give up my idea, that so I pushed harder, I would get somewhere.
This takes place all the way along in zen practice. Educators keep telling us there is absolutely nothing to acquire, however we don’t rather believe them, although we may mouth words to others. In everyday life we see individuals all around struggling to locate joy and also tranquility, thinking it will certainly come when they finally obtain what they desire, without seeing that this very minute holds all that one can desire. It is simple to see this misconception in others, however can you see it in on your own?
Returning to the analogy of the excercise bike, it is not the technique of peddling we have to give up however the idea we are going to get someplace if we do fit. As we surrender this belief, (which is underpinned with the concern of failing) we can appreciate just marketing, and also in zazen if we quit this idea, we can simply breath normally as well as our breathing includes the breathing of the currawong warbling in the crisp morning air.
The “samurai breath” besides ends up being theoretical breathing, a fixed concept of what breathing ought to be, unlike the breath of the Tao which is open and also simply comes and goes of its own accord. When our breathing attempts to fit some theoretical pattern of just how we ought to breath, we interfere with it, as well as run out touch with ourselves. The mind/will ought to take its lead from the breath, rather than the breath taking its lead from the mind/will. When the mind/will takes its lead from the breath, then the mind/will and also the breath are in harmony. When sailing, you cut the sails according to the toughness and also instructions of the wind, not the other method round.
Aitken Roshi, when he was a student of Soen Roshi, asked him “When I do zazen should I use effort or not?” Soen Roshi replied, “The inquiry advises of Joshu’s question to Nansen in Case l9 of the Mumonkan – ‘ordinary mind is the Tao'”.
Joshu asked Nansen, “What is Tao?” Nansen answered, “Normal mind is the Tao.” “After that should we guide ourselves towards it or not?” asked Joshu. “If you try to guide on your own towards it, you go away from it”, answered Nansen. Joshu continued, “If we do not attempt, just how can we know it is the Tao?” Nansen responded, “Tao does not belong to knowing or not understanding. Recognizing is illusion, not knowing is blankness. If you really achieve the Tao of no doubt, it is like the great void, so large and also boundless. How then, can there be right and also wrong in the Tao?” At these words, Joshu was instantly enlightened. Mumon, commenting on this stated, “Despite the fact that Joshu may be enlightened, he can absolutely get it only after studying for thirty more years.”
Should we route ourselves in the direction of it or not? Should we use initiative or otherwise? Does Nansen suggest just “go with the flow of the Tao” as this cliche has become recognized, as on some individual growth weekend where everyone exists about drinking natural tea, looking dreamy-eyed as well as talking about the entirety of deep space? I remember Aitken Roshi once stating to a trainee, “When are you mosting likely to stop going with the flow as well as get into action?”
“Going with the flow” is simply the theoretical reverse of “samurai breathing”. Boring as well as complacent zazen without any vitality or resolve, which is a lot more accurately going with the flow of Taoist fantasy and all-natural therapy mysticism.
What is the right perspective then with which to breath? The best perspective is to have no fixed attitude. Nevertheless from a practical viewpoint it can follow specific guidelines. I think of best zazen as like holding an infant in one’s arms. You hold an infant carefully otherwise you will hurt it. You additionally hold it securely or else you will drop it. Light yet consistent. Should you utilize effort or not? Try holding a child.