Zazen Mind

“The Way is basically perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent upon practice and realization? The Dharma-vehicle is free and untrammeled. What need is there for man’s concentrated effort? Indeed, the Whole Body is far beyond the world’s dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from one right where one is. What is the use of going off here and there to practice?

And yet, if there is the slightest discrepancy, the Way is as distant as heaven from earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the Mind is lost in confusion. Suppose one gains pride of understanding and inflates one’s own enlightenment, glimpsing the wisdom that runs through all things, attaining the Way and clarifying the Mind, raising an aspiration to escalade the very sky. One is making the initial, partial excursions about the frontiers but is still somewhat deficient in the vital Way of total emancipation.

Need I mention the Buddha, who was possessed of inborn knowledge?—the influence of his six years of upright sitting is noticeable still. Or Bodhidharma’s transmission of the mind-seal?—the fame of his nine years of wall-sitting is celebrated to this day. Since this was the case with the saints of old, how can men of today dispense with negotiation of the Way?

You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.”


When we practice zazen, especially at the outset, we bring with us this thing we refer to as “ourself”, the “I am”. This is the self that exists in our thinking activity. This self thinks that zazen has something to do with controlling thinking, controlling our mind. It thinks that trying “stopping thinking” will result in enlightenment. But that “self” that you bring to zazen has nothing to do with zazen. It cannot think itself into awakening, peace, enlightenment or bodhichitta. Actually, there is no-thing that needs to be done with the mind. Zazen mind is mind “as it is”. As Dogen says; “Suchness”.

Zazen is not a cure for difficulties, evils and discomforts. There are times when the practice of zazen is nearly impossible to tolerate because of pain, frustration or boredom. The frustration we experience is just “I am” mind grasping for yet another preference that we take up like a battle flag hoping to triumph and gain ground, yet feeling that somehow we are lacking in our pursuit. During these times it is helpful to relax and remember our Buddha-self, recognize the inseparable nature of our-true-selves and our buddha-nature and lovingly guide ourselves, slowly and gently back to the cushion. It is helpful to remember that no-thing needs to be done, no-thing needs to be remediated, no-thing needs to be changed. We simply need to sit comfortably on our cushion and breathe.

When we focus on our breath, allowing the mind the distraction it initially requires, we can then lightly become aware of the distractions produced by the “I am” thinking mind. The breath guides us into the connection of heart-oneness, wordless Buddha consciousness. This in itself is awareness. Upon noticing the “I am” mind we neither reject or embrace it. By simply by noticing that its nature is emptiness, we are engaged in cognitive awareness. The more frequently we practice this, the more easily we gain stability in zazen-mind. The most accomplished practitioners are the ones who have recognized these “I am” generated thoughts as mundane distractions and allow them to dissipate completely.

There is no merit, no wisdom and no gain in practice. We practice because dogs wag, fish swim, birds fly. We practice because we are enlightened.

A student asked Taizan Maezumi: “What is enlightenment?”

Maezumi replied, “Enlightenment is an accident.”

The student questioned, “Then why do we sit zazen?”

Maezumi replied, “Because it makes us accident prone.”

May our zazen effortlessly encounter happiness, peace and the light of our true nature .

Deep peace, great love,

Issan & Zenho

PS: No Dream Koan this week…see schedule below.

Here’s Noah’s poem:

Some days I arise into ceremony

My cushion awaiting 

My going forth 

But other days

Those other days

When I wake up later than I planned

When the taste of self-pity

is addicting 

Like the hand-rolled cigarettes I smoke on my stoop 

I seem to forget that I ever knew what faith was 

And perhaps I don’t 

But I do know that the sun will bloom into evening

And the exhaustion of the day

Will taste better than self-pity 

And I will sleep 

And dream

SCHEDULE 10/23-10/29








One thought on “Zazen Mind

  1. Hello. Just curious: are you speaking as one in writing the weekly entry, or alternating, or is one of you the regular writer? Sometimes the musings or reflections have personal reflections. Just unusual to me that both Senseis listed at end, without attribution. I appreciate the writings and the calendar and all my experiences at Zendo, Buddha Dharma Sangha🙏 Thank you sincerely, Io


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