Zen Study

"Zen Study" number 47 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

In the Vimalakīrti Sūtra there is this wonderful reference to "lean on nothing" or "stand nowhere". This is the activity of the Buddhas.

Aitken Roshi, encourages us to study Zen not as preparatory to sitting but in our everyday activities. To study Zen is to live closely to experience both as we read the sutras or as we walk the dog. To study Zen is not to be stuck in books, discussions or zendo activities. Zen is nothing unless it is found in every moment.

My teacher once encourgaged me to compare translations as a way into the experience of a sutra. So here are two very different translations of the part of the Vimalakīrti Sūtra Aitken refers to in this miniature. These remind me of the flavor of Linchi's talks.


Free of worldly attachments, like the lotus blossom,
constantly you move within the realm of emptiness and quiet;
you have mastered the marks of all phenomena, no blocks or hindrances;
like the sky, you lean on nothing - we bow our heads!

The Vimalakirti Sutra (Not yet available for the Kindle)
Burton Watson


You nullify all signs in all things everywhere.
You are not subject to any wish for anything at all.
The miraculous power of the Buddhas is inconceivable.
I bow to you, who stand nowhere, like infinite space.

Translated by Robert A. F. Thurman
Copyright 1976, The Pennsylvania State University
(Can be converted to PDF for the Kindle)