Among the perceptions I have obtained just recently in talking to Zen close friends about practice is a specific mindset in the direction of breathing in zazen. For brevity, and just for enjoyable, I want to describe it as “samurai breathing”. I assume it has its beginnings in the fighting styles.
The “samurai breath’ goes like this: one need to lower hard on the outgoing breath, concentrating on the hara (solar plexus) and in doing so, dismiss any ideas, feelings, sensations, that get in the way, smashing with them like a karate professional would shatter their hand through a block.
If you practice like this, it will certainly provide you a significant sensation of power, like winning a competition (with yourself), and also give you a sense of purpose in a goal-seeking way (like paying off the home mortgage). This sort of straining zazen produces a brave battle out of zazen and a feeling that you are trying really hard, yet it is ultimately self-defeating. Perhaps it belongs to the procedure of discovering that we have to go via this battle prior to we understand it is not effective.
When I see people practising such as this, I have a mental picture of someone on a stationary bicycle peddling intensely, in some way believing that they are going to get somewhere if only they try hard enough. I after that picture someone coming up to them as well as murmuring in their ear, “Excuse me, it matters not just how rapid you peddle, you will not obtain anywhere on that bike.” This resembles the tale of polishing a tile, believing if only it is done hard sufficient, it will end up being a mirror, or believing that a person will certainly end up being a Buddha after years and years of zazen, rather than understanding that we are Buddha right from the very start.
When I began my zen practice lots of ago in Japan with Kabori Roshi, I was like the person on the bike furiously peddling to get somewhere. I paid attention with eager interest to other trainees talking about numerous breathing techniques, which I berlieved, so I might obtain them right, would propel me towards realisation quickly. Needless to say, I tied myself up in knots trying to breathe the “right” method, also making myself ill in the process. After numerous months of this, I mosted likely to Kabori Roshi and told him concerning it in sanzen (Rinzai for dokusan). All he said was “Just take a breath naturally”. I keep in mind feeling a blend of relief, confusion and dissatisfaction at his comment. How could it be that easy?
Kabori Roshi was like the kindly person murmuring in the ear of the fixed biker, “Excuse me, regardless of just how tough you attempt, you won’t get anywhere on that particular bike.” The message survived a little but, looking back, I had not been fairly ready to actually quit my idea, that so I pushed harder, I would get somewhere.
This takes place completely along in zen technique. Teachers maintain telling us there is absolutely nothing to acquire, yet we don’t fairly think them, even though we might mouth the words to others. In everyday life we see people around battling to discover joy and peace, thinking it will certainly come when they ultimately obtain what they want, without seeing that this very moment holds all that one can desire. It is easy to see this deception in others, however can you see it in yourself?
Coming back to the example of the excercise bike, it is not the practice of pitching we need to surrender but the belief we are going to get someplace if we do fit. As we quit this idea, (which is underpinned with the fear of failure) we can delight in just peddling, and also in zazen if we give up this idea, we can just breath normally and our breathing consists of the breathing of the currawong warbling in the crisp morning air.
The “samurai breath” besides ends up being conceptual breathing, a dealt with notion of what breathing should be, unlike the breath of the Tao which is open and simply reoccurs of its independency. When our breathing tries to fit some theoretical pattern of exactly how we should breath, we interfere with it, as well as are out of touch with ourselves. The mind/will needs to take its lead from the breath, as opposed to the breath taking its lead from the mind/will. When the mind/will takes its lead from the breath, then the mind/will and the breath agree. When cruising, you cut the sails according to the toughness as well as direction of the wind, not the other method round.
Aitken Roshi, when he was a trainee of Soen Roshi, asked him “When I do zazen should I make use of initiative or not?” Soen Roshi replied, “The question reminds of Joshu’s inquiry to Nansen in Case l9 of the Mumonkan – ‘regular mind is the Tao'”.
Joshu asked Nansen, “What is Tao?” Nansen responded to, “Regular mind is the Tao.” “Then should we direct ourselves towards it or otherwise?” asked Joshu. “If you try to guide on your own towards it, you go away from it”, addressed Nansen. Joshu continued, “If we do not attempt, just how can we understand it is the Tao?” Nansen responded, “Tao does not belong to understanding or otherwise recognizing. Knowing is illusion, not knowing is blankness. If you really achieve the Tao of no doubt, it resembles the great void, so large as well as boundless. Exactly how after that, can there be right as well as wrong in the Tao?” At these words, Joshu was instantly informed. Mumon, commenting on this claimed, “Although Joshu may be informed, he can truly get it just after examining for thirty more years.”
Should we guide ourselves towards it or not? Should we utilize initiative or not? Does Nansen suggest just “go with the flow of the Tao” as this motto has come to be recognized, as on some individual development weekend where everybody exists around drinking natural tea, looking dreamy-eyed and also talking about the entirety of deep space? I keep in mind Aitken Roshi as soon as saying to a student, “When are you going to quit going with the flow and enter action?”
“Going with the flow” is just the conceptual reverse of “samurai breathing”. Plain as well as contented zazen without vitality or willpower, which is more properly going with the flow of Taoist fantasy and natural therapy mysticism.
What is the ideal mindset then with which to breath? The ideal mindset is to have no fixed attitude. Nonetheless from a practical viewpoint it can adhere to particular guidelines. I consider appropriate zazen as like holding an infant in one’s arms. You hold an infant gently otherwise you will hurt it. You likewise hold it securely otherwise you will drop it. Light but constant. Should you utilize initiative or otherwise? Attempt holding a baby.