Study Practice

"Study Practice" number 70 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

Zen practice starts with zazen. No matter what we think or expect, zazen works us, lives us. Slowly, without our knowledge, we develop a spirit of concentration and presence. This spirit or what I like to call 'sense tone' becomes stronger not only while in classical zazen but also during our kinhin or walking meditation practice. This walking becomes infused with this same sense tone.

Taizan Maezumi said, "Kinhin is simply another way to do zazen."

My practice started to move when this occurred. At one recent sesshin I was just walking kinhin, around and around, following the person in front of me, hoping my sore legs would loosen up and suddenly I noticed I had been in deep concentration exactly like when I had been when sitting zazen. Realize that there is no 'purpose' to Zazen or kinhin, yet kinhin is an extension of zazen. Muster all the same energy and focus for your kinhin as you do for your zazen. Why wasn't this explained to me and emphazied when I was as a beginner. This is a downfall of my particular sangha or my own lack of inquisitiveness.

This "life as an extension of zazen" can at first be easily practiced in the quite and supportive environment of sesshin. Sitting, advances to walking which advances to sutra recital which turn to the opportunity to have 'eating practice'. Each step advancing and building.

Then comes work practice. Here we must actually communicate and interact with others. To do this with that same 'sense feeling' or the equanimity of zazen is hard. So easy for the mind to buck and run like a wild horse. But such is practice. Notice where you are, ask who is present, watch mind make mind-world and come back to practice. Let all that be as it is. Use what ever upaya available to drop into your zazen whether that is counting your breath, asking 'who hears', mindfully naming your experience or just being present to whatever is arising.

This has been a too long introduction to today's miniature. Study Practice.

Study practice fits right in with sitting practice, walking practice, sutra recitation, eating practice, work practice and study practice. Now I see that study practice is zazen extended. Approach study practice with the same energy and commitment as a sitting practice.

Early in my practice I only read modern Zen texts. Stuff like Three Pillers of Zen, Beginner's Mind, Alan Watts, Thich Nhat Hahn and Joko Beck. There is nothing wrong with these authors. They can help us frame the Buddhism and our practice into our Western culture. Yet something happens when we look directly at the classical texts and wiggle around the those antient words. There is a place for both 'pop-culture' Zen texts like Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master and also 'classical' Zen texts like Shodoka: Song of Freedom. I'm leaning towards classical Zen with modern commentary.

Right here I vow to "step up my game" and extend my zazen into my study.

Pico Iyer wrote a sweet article on simplicity that carries the sense of equanimity in just being present. Recommended.
The Joy of Less - Happy Days Blog -

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.