received a DVD in the mail. 

I don't know who sent it, so thank you anonymous benefactor!

There was a lot of pretty visuals of all the things you would kind of expect to see about Zen type stuff in Japan.  I have not seen anything like what I saw in the movie here in Okinawa, but I digress.

Other than the bountiful visual display,  The movie featured Dogen Sanga's Venerable Gudo Nishijima, who of course talked about the autonomic nervous system, and that did not really grind my gears.  

What did get me going were the Monks from the Soto Shu University talking about how they thought that the many people coming to Zazen for "Relaxation" was a great thing.  

I understand coming to Zazen for "Relaxation" as Bonpu Zen, or basically the kind of meditation people practice for health and well being.   

But as I think of it now, I guess that is OK too.  Just not how I envision the sincere practitioner of the Buddha way to start from.  

Who am I fooling...  Yeah it still grinds my gears.  

I just can't see someone coming to Zazen for "Relaxation" being willing to die on the cushion in pursuit of the truth.   Sure, you can get all blissed out and peaceful on the zafu, heck it happens sometimes, but the Zazen I practice, while it may be the Dharma gate of ease and Joy, is not about some "state of relaxation."   

So what is it about?

The ever unfolding activity of practice and enlightenment.

Or at least that is how it is for me right now as I type this at 1232 Japan standard time on Tuesday August 24th...


真行  said...

Hey Jordan -

How's life on the other side of the planet?

Your tendency torwards 'zealotry' is showing a bit, I think -- aren't you being a wee bit judgemental? People start meditating for any number of reasons -- relaxation, concentration, to quiet their minds, enlightenment, etc etc. It's where they go from there that's important. Do they get stuck in happy happy land, or are they willing to put up with, even recognize the value in, some discomfort to go further? Some will develop a genuine will to the Truth, though, unfortunately, many won't without meeting up with the proper sangha and teacher, which, of course, varies from person-to-person.

Speaking of which, what's going on with your Zazen Group? The link seems broken. Hopefully you haven't given up on that...

I guess while I'm here I might as well say Happy Birthday. May you be well and happy in the coming year.


真行  said...

PS, Any idea how long this Antaiji retreat hangover is supposed to last? (Or maybe its just a weeding and fertilizing the fields hangover...) Its a bit distracting while I'm trying to get work done...

SlowZen said...


No, it is not my zealousness showing through at all. That has been on display for all to see with no attempts to shroud it at all. I make no excuses for my zeal and have no problem wearing that on my sleeve. What is really leaking out, is my own tendency towards becoming that blissed out Buddhist. Which seems to me to be the case with most of the "judgments" I make, it is only railing against some undesirable quality I have in my own character. It is because I know it so well that I despise it.

I will have to check on the link for the Zazen group, I don’t know if it is still working or not. I am about to away for a bit, and the one sitter that had been joining me is now down in Florida, so it may be a moot point.

Thank you for the birthday well wishes.

真行  said...

Thanks for explaining, but isn’t despising a characteristic in self just as potentially problematic as despising it in others? ie, don’t be a Blissed Out Fatalist (couldn’t resist -- they’re 80s post-punk, so unknown that they’ve only got stuff on MySpace)

Re zazen group: don’t give up!

Safe travails and travels,


gniz said...

Well...you happened to tug my chain with this post, Jordan.

I know what I practice isn't Zen anyway...but the point about relaxation is one that I think people greatly misunderstand.

My entire practice has been based around breathing and relaxation of the body. My teacher has said (and I have found it true from my own experience) that when we are becoming tense is when we lose all mindfulness of the present.

If you look from the perspective of delusional thinking, being caught in anger and so forth--how much does that happen in the midst of deep relaxation?

Learning to relax my body in this moment and this moment, even in the midst of life, has been very powerful for me--and I do not liken it to bonpu zen or whatever.

To me, knowing that there is tension in my body (and mind) is the beginning of understanding my insane thoughts, my habitual patterns, etc.

Anyway, you probably were thinking of something different when you picture these zennists who are just trying to "unwind" or something through zazen.

But I still feel that people take an unnecessarily snobbish view towards relaxation. Even the most experienced zen masters have not "mastered" their own bodies! They still get trapped in states of anger, jealousy, greed, all kinds of delusion. Their bodies become tense, they yell and scream.

Is this bad? No we are all human. But learning to understand what this is, could just as easily be called "The Great Relaxing" as The Great Awakening, imo.

SlowZen said...

Hi Gisela,
I think my own faults may be distracting you from paying attention to your practice. You should find your true teacher, you won't cling to your true teachers words but you will understand what they are pointing at.

I checked the link and it appears to be working fine.
Please continue your great efforts to clarify your understanding of the Buddha dharma.

Hi Aaron,
Since you don’t practice the Mahayana, you should not have allowed your chain to be tugged by this post at all.

If you are interested in practicing the Mahayana, I think there may be some good teachers in your area. I am not any kind of religious or spiritual authority, just a loudmouth with strong opinions about the Mahayana that may be less than useless to your practice, unless you happen to be practicing the Mahayana. In which case I would be happy to point you in the directions of a lot of things that may be helpful. I have been watching you for a long time, and I think you have a lot of potential for awakening.

For what it is worth though, I am not saying my practice is better, I only know a little bit about your practice from what I have read when you used to write about it. I found your descriptions very interesting and admired your efforts. But I must clarify that I practice from a religious perspective, not a secular one. And our practice, while it may have some similarities, is not the same.

I am perfectly comfortable with you considering me a religious nut job, I am not asking you to drink the cool aid, so long as you do not pick up what I am laying down out of context.

You savvy?

* note that the above may read more over the top than it sounds when I am saying it in my head... Ah well.
With a smile,

Chana said...

Hi Jordan,
Liked the post, and agree, that meditation can be much more than just trying to relax. I just got a book called "The Unborn - The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei". He meditated like his "hair was on fire", seeking the deepest answer to an unquenchable question for many years, and suffered greatly by doing so. He eventually got so sick from his trying to get the truth that he almost died. Then he had a major insight, and his life changed completely. This also seems true with the story of the Buddha. So stick with your search, it will pay off. Somepeople golf to relax....:)


真行  said...

Jordan –

In the action-based Zen practiced at Antaiji, one of the main lessons, if not THE main lesson, was that an awareness of fellow Sangha members IS an essential part of practice. So while its true that one can only control one’s own actions and that one should make every effort to perfect one’s own activity, when the ideas of “self” and “other” are let go of, there is no distinction between “my practice” and “your practice”. It is in this way that Sangha is realized.

As far as clinging to words, how else are we supposed to grasp their true significance? In fact, I would venture to say that in Dogen’s Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha ancestors were an integral part practice, so borrowing from your post, we should be willing to die to understand them – not that I anticipate that being part of my immediate future – just that that sort of energy should be in one’s effort.

You’re obviously way ahead of me in the study of the Buddha-Dharma, and I’m aware your circumstances keep you from a vibrant in real life Sangha, just as my own circumstances have me searching for a teacher. It seems that in reality there is always something lacking. So these words are offered in the spirit of Sangha with some humility.

“Although we have accumulated much bad karma in the past, producing causes and conditions that obstruct our practice of the way, may the buddhas and ancestors who have attained the way take pity on us, liberate us from our karmic entanglements, and remove obstructions to our study of the way. May their merit fill up and hold sway over the inexhaustible dharma realm, so that they share with us their compassion. Buddhas and ancestors were once like this; in the future we will be like them.”

May we both recognize our obstructions and succeed in our efforts at removing them.



gniz said...

Hi Jordan,

Obviously I don't practice what you practice and I think I do sort of get where you are coming from with this.

Yes, you practice from a religious perspective, not a secular one.

There are lots of differences to be sure.

Does this make what I say something to be ignored? Perhaps.

But I certainly find that the perspectives I hear from Buddhists (be it Zen Buddhists or Tibetan or whatever) are something that I personally relate to.

However, I happen to have my own teacher and meditation practice that I am very happy with.

If you see no overlap I can understand that.

真行  said...

Just to lighten things up:

Moon always present,
Always full, seen or unseen,
In the day and night.


oxeye said...

Jordan, People and their karma are complicated yes? The way individual practice unfolds is always going to be unique. If you are anxious, anxiety is very important. Possibly a gateway.

Dying for the truth seems extreme but I will grant you the metaphor. It's only that when people start speaking of 'The Truth' instead of truth I get a little itchy.

The ever unfolding activity of practice and enlightenment takes only the will to start and the will to keep going..

Don't let your Buddhism get in the way of your Buddhism. Oh and happy birthday!

Sean said...

That's deep, teacher.

Granted, I didn't hear the respected monk's original statements. I notice that you mention that they're from a university. I wonder how that kind of an environment may differ from the environment of a monastery?

What you say at - precisely - The ever unfolding activity of practice and enlightenment - wow. Lotus stuff.

SlowZen said...

Thank you for the encouragement!

I followed the links on your profile and was also encouraged to learn of another monastic community in Missouri. How Wonderful!

It is interesting that after writing about not making distinctions, you then go ahead and make distinctions.

I agree there is some overlap.
And there have been some things, like when you have written about your practice, that I have personally related to.

Thank you for understanding.

Thanks, as always for your kindness and wisdom.
And also for the well wishes concerning my current lap around the sun.

Being called "Teacher" makes me uncomfortable. If you have to use an honorific, call me Gunny.

All my best,

Sean said...

Seen, Gunny. Will do.

In all due respect,


Thanks for looking!