A teaching not dependent on letters and scriptures, Directly realize your True Nature, become a Buddha.
A person comes to Zen when he seriously reflects over questions like: What is human being? What is the meaning of life? Who am I? Ordinarily when one enjoys peace and good health, one does not feel any need for self-reflection and complacently identifies with his limited personality and body. But at some point the contradictions and transience of human life will cause a person to despair. He may then seek his True Self. The True Self is absolutely free human nature which transcends all dualistic categories such as mind and body, rich and poor, life and death.
A person might also come to Zen to develop strength and courage. The cultivation of the power of concentration means to cultivate the power that makes one the master of any situation. When a person is empty and plunges deeply into the surrounding world, all oppositions cease; the self and the world become One. Then one's actions are filled with extraordinary power. Daito Kokushi, a great Japanese Rinzai Master, lived among beggars to refine himself by living under the worst possible conditions. Once a degraded samurai came to test a new sword on a beggar. Daito told the others to hide and sat in meditation. The samurai approached Daito, drew his sword, and said, "Get ready. My sword is going to cut you in two." Daito did not move. An awe came over the samurai who hesitated and beat a retreat. Another master was able to make a temple bell peal from nine feet away with the power of his exhalation.
Admirable as they may be, philosophical or psychological insight and personal power are not the true aim of Zen. In the Zazengi it is written:
The Bodhisattva who wants to attain transcendental intuition should first of all entertain a great compassionate heart, take the Four Vows for the salvation of the world, experience samadhi (a state of concentration in which there is no subject and object) profoundly, save other people at any cost, and refrain from wishing for self-liberation alone.
It is the aim of zazen to awaken one to his True Self by bringing him in touch with boundless life and the absoluteness of being. If once a person touches the Absolute and returns to his originally True Self, he is instantaneously liberated from the illusory perception caused by self-centered desires and delusions.
Since ancient times very few people have had an insight into the fact that Dharma is none other than zazen. This means that zazen is not the means of attaining any other purpose than zazen. Zazen is not the way of learning Zen, but zazen is something that makes one sit in zazen.
– Omori Sogen
To sit in zazen well, posture, breath, and awareness must be realized as one. When they are harmonized, the self is naturally concentrated at the tanden (the vital center below the navel). Then kiai (spiritual power or life energy) will radiate throughout the body and the surroundings. Without this vitality, zazen is inert.
When Yamaoka Tesshu, a great lay disciple, swordsman, calligrapher, and statesman of the Meiji Era, sat in zazen in his youth, the rats which ran wildly in his house would suddenly disappear. Tesshu sat as though he were armed with a sword engaged in a life and death encounter. The dignity and power he exuded drove the rats away. In his later years, however, the rats played along his shoulders and arms while he copied Buddhist sutras. People who came to visit him left uplifted and freed of distress; the power of Tesshu's kiai gave them fearlessness.
It goes without saying that the authentic way of zazen consists in sitting in alert stillness and that one should sit hard and a great deal. But the essence of zazen is not a fixed form, but inwardly to see the immovability of the True Self and outwardly to be free from the notion of form. If a person grasps this point firmly, whatever one does is zazen. When reading, one only reads; when eating, one only eats; when walking, one only walks.
He sees through delusions like looking through the spinning blades of a propellor.
– Tenshin Tanouye
Mushin (No-mind or Absolute Mind) is life in its absolute form, an expression of its natural harmony, and a mark of life which has achieved perfection. It is the most dynamic and creative state of being which is nevertheless experienced as a profound tranquility. One fully experiences these things as they are without being spun around by them and naturally acts according to the Way.
Yamaoka Tesshu said:
When two swordpoints are crossed, there is no need to ward off. The best move is to return to the origin like the lotus flower blooming in the fire. Then the energy of heaven-soaring spirits springs spontaneously from the Original Nature.
Sitting in zazen provides the easiest conditions for experiencing mushin. To abide in this state amidst the clamor of the world is infinitely more difficult. For this, shugyo (the deepest possible spiritual training) is necessary. Shugyo is like taking a lump of raw iron ore, throwing it in fire and water, and pounding it, over and over again until a flawless sword is made. A fencing master once trained a student by hitting him at every opportunity. After some years the student learned to keep alert and dodge the blows successfully. But the master still was not satisfied. One day when the master was cooking, the student tried to hit him over the head from behind. Without intention the master blocked the blow with the cover of a pot and opened his student's mind to the working aspect of mushin.
One undergoes shugyo not to gain anything but to lose the attachments accumulated since birth. Losing day by day, one attains a great degree of maturity. One can see unity in opposition and can expect and not expect at the same time. Ultimately when all that is not real falls away, a person lives and dies as one with the life of the Universe.
All Ways are One in the end.
– Miyamoto Musashi
Training at Chozen-ji blends Rinzai practices with the martial and cultural Ways of Japan. By the endless practice of formal technique, the Ways refine sensitivity and dexterity within a limited field until natural principle is grasped. Techniques vary, but the deepest principle is the same in all Ways. Miyamoto Musashi who was peerless in swordsmanship and brilliant in painting, calligraphy, sculpture, and metalwork, best represents this truth. That all Ways are One in the end has great significance given the fragmentation of roles and functions in modern society. If practiced not only to gain immediate results but to perfect human being, any activity can become a Way and lead to harmony in both the person and society.
At the highest level of mastery in any Way, a student enters the world of Zen. Conversely by training in Zen, a student may attain the highest level of mastery in his Way. The Ways teach a person to enter Zen through the body. For instance, there is the principle of Shin Ki Roku Ichi which can be translated as the oneness of mind, energy, and body, or mind and body made one through breath. When this is grasped, tension and relaxation, calmness and alertness are correctly balanced. One's entire being enters the work which will exhibit graceful power and beauty whether it be a swordcut in fencing, a shot in archery, a character in calligraphy, or a bowl in ceramics.
When one's body works according to natural principle, a person transcends himself as a subject working upon an object and demonstrates Zen in activity. One uses space, time, and energy in a manner which is beyond conscious contrivance and can only be called wondrous. For the Zen Master, life itself is his art, and everything he does from routine activities to moral decisions shines with this wondrous quality.